1. Province rejects bail housing plans for women; spends $150,000 on electronic monitoring instead
El Jones writes about the Department of Justice’s plan to spend $150,000 on electronic monitoring, even though the province’s Criminal Justice Transformation Group advised against it. Jones writes:
Members of the group’s bail committee who studied community solutions to incarceration informed the Department of Justice that electronic monitoring does not work. Studies show that monitoring is expensive, has no effect on recidivism, and is less effective than programming and other social supports.
Nova Scotia has some of the highest remand rates in the country, with a 192% increase in the last decade. Over two-thirds of people in provincial jail are now on remand, meaning they are awaiting trial and have not been convicted.
Back in June, the province cut funding for community housing. That housing was used to support incarcerated people during the pandemic. The Elizabeth Fry Society and its executive director, Emma Halpern, asked the province to extend that funding. As Jones says, it costs $271 a day to incarcerate someone in jail, but $125 a day for the supportive housing program. Writes Jones:
Rather than investing in community solutions such as housing, addictions treatment, mental health programs, employment assistance, and other measures that address poverty and trauma, governments prefer to avoid any attempts at reform and simply try to technologize themselves out of the problem, throwing even more money at a system that is fundamentally broken and that does not prevent crime, recidivism, or address harm in communities.
I wrote here about how corporations like Amazon are investing heavily in policing technologies, recognizing that surveillance is the new frontier of policing and incarceration. Telmate, the company that runs the phone system used by the province’s jails that offers monitoring and recording technologies pays the province a commission for their services: they make money from the predatory charges added on to the calls.
2. Council agrees to sell properties in Dartmouth north to Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia
Zane Woodford reports on council’s agreement to sell four properties in Dartmouth north to the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia (AHANS) for $1 each, plus closing costs. AHANS plans on building 25 townhouses on the lots with 56% of those designated as affordable. AHANS still has to provide proof of CMHC financing and an environmental assessment for the site. Jim Graham, AHANS’ executive director says the locations on True North Crescent are “ideally suited for family housing.”
In an interview with the Examiner, Graham says AHANS submitted a version of the project for that $8.7 million in federal government housing funding the city got to build affordable housing. Graham says if they can get that funding and build without debt, all of the units would be deeply affordable.
We wouldn’t be changing anything. We would be starting from scratch.
Click here to read Woodford’s complete article.
3. COVID-19 update: Community spread is here
Three new cases of COVID-19 were announced yesterday, bringing the current total of active cases to 24. That number includes two cases that were announced on Monday night; both of those cases are students in Dartmouth schools, Graham Creighton Junior High and Auburn High School.
Jennifer Henderson reports on Tuesday’s daily briefing where Dr. Robert Strang says the numbers are worrying and show there’s now community spread of the virus. Strang says everyone now must reduce how often they go out and how many people they socialize with. Strang sent out a special plea to younger people.
The current outbreak is really focused around people age 18-35. It’s a group that’s mobile and very social and I know people are just trying to have some normal social life,” said Strang. “But I am going to appeal to young people directly. You might think you are healthy but please think about how you might be putting other people at risk. We need you to step up and be a leader so we can get back to a normal life much sooner.
4. Austin calls for name change “as a matter of respect” for Mi’kmaq
Zane Woodford reports on Coun. Sam Austin’s motion that he brought forward to council on Tuesday, asking for a staff report on renaming several streets, a park, and a bus terminal that now all have Micmac in their names. Says Austin:
From what I understand, it’s not necessarily a slur but it’s not the proper pronunciation of their name.
It’s very antiquated, very colonial, it’s just very outdated. As a matter of respect, I would think that it’s incumbent on us to use the proper name.
Austin’s motion includes Micmac Boulevard, the Micmac Transit Terminal, and Micmac Drive in Dartmouth, and Micmac Street and Micmac Court in Halifax. Coun. Pamela Lovelace made an amendment to Austin’s motion to include the Micmac Drive and park, which are in her district, in the staff report as well. Austin’s motion passed unanimously.
Mi’kmaw poet and activist Rebecca Thomas says the names shouldn’t be changed to the proper spelling and pronunciation, but rather the renaming process should consider honouring members of the Mi’kmaw or African Nova Scotian communities. Thomas also says the names could be changed to those of animals or plant life that no longer exist in those areas because of colonization. Says Thomas:
There are ways that you can pay homage to the place that you are in without necessarily having to find a person.
5. COVID-19 in Nova Scotia: “A very small New Zealand”
Journalist Stephanie Nolen writes about living in Halifax in this opinion piece for The New York Times. Nolen talks about living and gathering in Nova Scotia without fear of the coronavirus. Her kids go to school, she goes to the gym, and hosts dinner parties at home (with fewer than the 10 people under the restrictions). Says Nolen:
This magical, virus-free world is just one long day’s drive away from the Empire State Building — in a parallel dimension called Nova Scotia.
The timing of this article is unfortunate, and were we ever virus free? We can’t live without total fear now that there’s community spread of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia and we’re just heading into the winter months. I am feeling the collective anxiety increasing, although I know we have been very fortunate, too. All of those social gatherings may be severely limited or come to an end. But Nolen points out how different life is here right now compared to the U.S. or even western Canada.
The horrific pandemic news from south of the border feels like a looming shadow these days. The numbers coming from the United States are almost ungraspable: 120,000, 140,000, 180,000 new cases a day. When I talk to friends there, they are locked up in their houses, trying to work with the kids running through the room, or, increasingly often, sick or recovering from Covid-19. Case counts are also climbing in other parts of Canada. My brother and his family in Montreal are once again in lockdown. The pictures I post in our group chat, of slumber parties and speedskating races, are a surreal contrast to their circumscribed days.
Nolen says the geography and demographics have helped keep the virus at bay, calling us a “very small New Zealand,” but she says we also followed the rules.
When I asked Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s avuncular public health chief, what he thought allowed us to maintain this level of normality, he added another ingredient to my list: Public health officials, not politicians, set the policy here about what opens. And people (mostly) follow the rules on closures and gatherings and masks. “The message has been that we need to do it to keep each other safe,” he told me. ”I think there’s something about our culture, our collective ethic, if you will, that means people accept that.”
6. Christmas in July?
At the Nova Scotia Advocate, Judy Haiven makes a pitch to celebrate Christmas in July. As the numbers of COVID cases increase exponentially the country, all those indoor family gatherings during the holidays could only make the numbers worse. But celebrating with picnics at the park and the beach could keep us safer. Says Haiven:
What is unambiguous is this: The more we allow stores, supermarkets, hardware stores, gyms, libraries, restaurants, bars, shops and cafes to remain open – even with social distancing and masks — the more Covid cases we will have to track due to community spread. It’s tough to socially distance all the time, and few customers wear masks when they sit down to drink or eat at cafes, bars and restaurants. But more than that, we know the number one problem is gatherings of friends, relatives or groups of people. Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Strang, is discouraging any get-togethers in groups, including sports events, weddings, funerals, or even family meals and parties.
Christmas is a time full of family meals. It’s a time to visit homes of friends and relatives. It’s a time when sons, daughters and grandchildren come from across the country for a handful of days just to see family. This will be a Covid disaster for Nova Scotia. The 14-day self-isolation period – which is now mandatory for outside travelers to our Atlantic bubble – will go out the window. Few have 14 days to spend in isolation before Christmas day at grannie’s – fewer can budget an extra four or five days on top of 14 days for vacation. Then there is the prospect of self-isolating when they return home. With cases climbing across the country, when people return to Ontario, Manitoba or BC they might have to self-isolate. Suddenly a family has to budget nearly a month for what was a week-long Christmas holiday.
I’m not against celebrating Christmas in July. It will be too hot to wear my nutcracker onesie, though. But I am seeing a lot of people now putting up their decorations, including those who are usually cranky about celebrating the season too early. Go for it, I say.
Who’s paying less than a living wage during a pandemic
I haven’t done a roundup of jobs that pay less than a living wage in quite a while. I put out a call and got a few, then I went looking for postings myself. I’m including those here today. And it looks like not much has changed for workers since my last roundup, which was in the pre-COVID times.
A reminder: Minimum wage in Nova Scotia is $12.55/hr. A living wage is $21.80/hr as calculated by the Centre for Policy Alternatives. Zane Woodford reported on the increase back in September (click here to read that article).
Now, let’s see who’s not paying a living wage in Halifax and across the province. To read the entire job posting, just click on the title.
The pandemic has created some new job titles, including COVID screeners, and Kings Rehab is hiring its own. According to the ad, COVID screeners “will play a vital role in the safety and security of the staff and clients in our building as part of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requirements,” yet the job only pays minimum wage.
Anyone looking to apply for the job has to be available for any shift, including holidays.
Former staff members left reviews about their employer (click here to read those). The reviews range from those that say “great place to work” to one that says, “Mental Break Down!” Lots of complaints about management treating frontline staff poorly.
Housekeeping room attendant
I guess the pandemic didn’t teach employers that cleaners are some of the most essential workers we have — because their wages haven’t gone up.
This job requires dusting, mopping, bed making, and vacuuming of hotel rooms in a part-time role, 16 to 24 hours each week. The ad says workers are provided with masks and gloves and there’s minimal interaction with hotel guests. Still, that virus can linger. Maybe people are spending quarantine in these hotels?
I searched cleaners here and found several jobs listed, with wages ranging from minimum wage to about $17/hr. None pay a living wage. Look closely and the workers who are doing most of the cleaning of all the places we visit, including restaurants and retail shops, are those staff who never made great wages before the pandemic. Now their workloads have increased. Over the summer, I was in New Brunswick for work and chatting with the motel cleaning staff, who told me cleaning rooms takes twice as long now with all the COVID-19 protocols. The pay didn’t double, though. Cleaners are on the frontlines of this pandemic and their work is essential. They need to be paid properly.
Long-term care assistant, part time and casual
Northwoodcare Inc. Halifax campus
This job requires candidates provide residents with help for daily routines, as well as screening visitors.
As Northwood says in its ad, they are a top Nova Scotia employer for 2019 and a top Atlantic Canadian employer for that year. The ad reads: “Northwood is one of the largest, innovative and most progressive long term care facilities in Eastern Canada, offering a continuum of services and programs based on a philosophy that helps older adults make the most of life.”
Yet, this doesn’t translate into better pay for its staff.
Northwood is also looking for staff for its pandemic relief team. The pay isn’t listed, but the last time they posted for these jobs the pay was $16.33/hr. I wrote about that here.
Caregiver for nights
Part time, temporary
The poster of this ad is looking for someone to take care a male with disabilities overnight from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. Duties include helping the client get into bed, helping in the morning, and making breakfast. The person hired can sleep at the house. The pay works out to $8.5/hr.
Here’s a similar one for a home care assistant for an elderly woman and her son who is undergoing chemo. The schedule is every day, including long shifts on the weekends, and the pay is $13/hr. Duties include providing companionship, housekeeping, meal preparation, personal care, and grooming assistance, running errands, and looking after a dog and a cat.
I really struggle with these job postings because I think they demonstrate not just a problem with the pay for the workers, but a crisis in home care for those who need it.
I don’t know anything about catching chickens. How do you catch a chicken? The ad says it’s physically demanding work (how could it not be?), you need good hand-eye coordination, and be used to bending, crouching, and kneeling in a fast-paced, dusty, and smelly environment. At any rate, chicken catching pays a bit above minimum wage.
Here’s another rural job with some of the same requirements as the chicken catching, but this one is as a vineyard worker for a winery in Wolfville. The pay is $13/hr to $14/hr. Like the chicken catcher, the vineyard workers must be used to physically demanding work, have good hand-eye coordination, and be used to bending, crouching, and kneeling in a fast-paced environment. No mention of dust or smells. The vineyard worker needs their own transportation because they’ll work at various locations. Owning and operating transportation is pretty pricey.
When I search for terrible paying jobs, I always get several jobs that pay nothing. These volunteer roles always seem to require a long list of skills, a significant time commitment, and yet don’t pay. Volunteering is important; I do volunteer work. But I’m always surprised at the demands put on some volunteers. Here are a few I found or were sent to me.
Green Party of Nova Scotia
This role asks that the volunteer write one piece of about 500 to 750 words, each week for the party’s new digital news and editorial platform.
There are a few lines that jump out here.
The gig requires a journalism/communications degree with some level of experience or as the ad says, “(we know we are asking for a lot from volunteers, and we understand that the definition of “news” has gotten a little vague of late).”
Then there’s this: As we expand the movement and budget, strong contributors may be selected to editor roles. (P.S. Never work for free for the promise of work with pay).
And this line under the subhead “Accuracy” in the list of requirements: This is not the Washington Post and we cannot in good faith ask for public trust but obfuscate on sources or get facts wrong.
The person who sent this posting to me says the role seems to be out of place with the party’s 2017 platform “Expect Better,” which included this plank:
“. . .relevant employment opportunities within the province for all Nova Scotians, but particularly those who receive post-secondary education. . .”
And the new, snazzy YMCA in downtown Halifax is looking for volunteers, too, including a volunteer fitness instructor and a volunteer weight floor monitor. Both of these roles require a lot of experience in fitness and recreation, plus all the criminal background checks, CPR, first-aid training, and more, all of which cost money.
Yesterday, I hosted a session on reporting and editing for a Grade 10 class at J.L. Ilsley. The sessions are part of the Writers in Schools program with the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. I hosted a few of these sessions before, back in 2019, but this was the first virtual session for me this school year. And it was the first virtual session for the class, too. Despite a few technical glitches at the beginning, it all turned out quite well.
Over the course of two hours, we went over writing and editing. I had a couple of students take part in an interview, one as the interviewer and another as the interviewee. We also did a copyediting exercise and headline writing, which they seemed to enjoy.
I have a kid in high school, so it was interesting to get at least a virtual peek inside a classroom. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits, and they were all wearing masks.
While students, teachers, and administrators have been accommodating and resilient through all of the new rules and restrictions, like many parents, I wondered how much longer classrooms will look this way. Will we be learning from home again? Kids in high school will be the first to be sent home for virtual learning. Certainly, my kid asks about it all the time as we check in with the numbers of cases each day. We’ve been mentally preparing for at-home learning since before school even started.
I just wanted to send a thank-you to librarian Erica Smith, English teacher Natalie MacDonald and her Grade 10 class for allowing me to teach for a couple of hours. I have another session coming up soon at the high school I graduated from in the late 80s. I’m looking forward to it and crossing my fingers we can move ahead as planned.
Halifax and West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting; info and agenda here.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) —virtual meeting; agenda and info here.
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — virtual meeting; info and agenda here.
Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Honours Student Research Presentations (Wednesday, 4pm) — Anjali Kapilan will talk about “Ablation of The Neuronal Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter Exacerbates Calpain Activity in Mice Subjected to an Experimental Model of Multiple Sclerosis”; Maggie Lawton will talk about “Insight into the Pelagophyceae: Long-read Sequencing of Novel Genomes.” Link contact here.
Resistance as Practice: Acts of Anti‑Racism Through Architecture & Planning (Wednesday, 7pm) — a lecture with Craig Wilkins, architect, artist, activist, and scholar of race and hip-hop architecture. From the listing:
This series will extend into the spring of 2021, and feature architects, planners, scholars and activists whose work focuses on anti-racism on scales local to Halifax, in other Canadian contexts, and internationally. Other speakers and panelists will include Mindy Fullilove, Frank Palermo, Jennifer Llewellyn, Ingrid Waldron, and more.
We are organizing this event at a critical moment for architects, planners and other disciplines grappling with difficult histories and professional cultures. This means questioning how designed spaces are embedded with power structures that stratify our society, and how practitioners are implicated in this. Just as importantly, we must acknowledge that this is not a new conversation or area of analysis: racialized communities have developed their own planning and design practices in cities when they have not been heard by the faces of power. This lecture series builds on the ongoing powerful response to racialized violence by presenting the work of practitioners, academics and activists who have pursued these acts of anti-racism as a central focus of their work.
Reclaiming Power and Place ‑ Virtual Read (Thursday, 10:30am) — a group reading of Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (2019). More info here.
Shedding light on a novel sensory system in the vertebrate spinal cord (Thursday, 11am) — Claire Wyart from ICM Brain and Spine Institute will talk. Info and link here.
Project (Thursday, 12pm) — architecture lecture with Tanja Herdt from TU Delft and Milica Topalović, ETH, Zurich. Zoom link here.
Advancing concepts in occupational transitions: Analyzing the micro and macro dialectical using work transition narratives (Thursday, 12pm) — from the listing:
This presentation will focus on how people with illness, disability, or those experiencing expected and unexpected work loss make sense of their in-transition experiences of work disruption or change. We draw on concepts of micro and macro occupational transitions to deepen the understanding of the confusing, contradictory, or opposing information in finding a way back to work. In particular, we identify through N=15 narratives the mechanisms that people use to tackle uncertainty and the seemingly impossible odds to succeed in finding a way back into work.
Growing your Network in a Virtual World (Thursday, 2pm) — “Dal and King’s students and alumni who are new to networking and starting to build their network (or) familiar with networking and want to further develop their network”, can “join our partners from Halifax Partnership…to grow your professional network!”
If you say “networking” enough times it becomes meaningless. Try it. Register here.
No public events.
Cyborg Futures: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (Thursday, 12pm) — online discussion with Theresa Heffernan. Info and registration here.
Ideathon (Thursday, 12pm) — in which “an interdisciplinary group of students… entrepreneurial peers…find a problem worth solving and propose an idea worth validating…no experience or startup idea is needed to join!” All that in a “mini one-hour hackathon.” Also: networking. More info here.
No public events.
Spelling Bae (Thursday, 6pm) — alumni from across the globe compete on Zoom. Tune in to find out why they spelled it like that.
In the harbour
I’m one of the emcees for this virtual event called SHEroes Rising on Dec. 3. The day is dedicated to celebrating women with disabilities. That morning, I’ll be presenting the findings from a report I did called Not Without Us on women with disabilities. Maria MacIntosh from Bryony House will be there telling us about the new, fully accessible transition house now under construction. That afternoon, six women, all with different disabilities, will share their stories. The speakers are Anna Quon, Grace Han, Jillian Banfield, Julianne Acker-Verney, Michelle Mahoney, and Milena Khazanavicius. The event starts at 9 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. Guests will have a chance to ask all of us questions, too.
Please check it out and sign up. It’s free to attend! Click here to register and learn more about our speakers.