1. Protecting yourself and others from COVID-19
With the end of COVID-19 restrictions in Nova Scotia, Yvette d’Entremont talks to Dr. Scott Halperin, director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology and a professor of pediatrics and microbiology and immunology at Dalhousie University and infectious disease at the IWK Health Centre.
In other words, someone who knows his stuff.
Halperin says he has “concerns” about restrictions lifting, but also understands it. At the same time, he says people need to understand the consequences of being out and about when they are sick:
If you’re walking around and you say, ‘Well, I’ve got COVID but I’m feeling okay, so I’m going to go out the next day, this is just the mildest cold, I’m doing great,’ you’re spreading that virus around.
You don’t know who you’re going to come in contact with. You may come in contact with a 70-year-old whose immunity has waned from their last vaccine and they get infected, they end up in ICU, and they die.
Halperin says the end of the isolation requirement does mean people can safely carry out some daily activities without putting others at risk:
Before when you had to self-isolate, you couldn’t drive your kids to school if you had COVID. Now you can drive your kids to school or you can drive them and drop them off at their activity and pick them up. But you can still decide that you’re going to not do anything else and not say, “Well, while they’re swimming, I’m going to go walk around the shopping mall.”
You can say I’m going to just go home, or I’ll sit in the car and read a book and still have the non-mandatory part, but still protect society. And people can still be a little bit freer because mandatory before meant you are not allowed to go out of the house except to go on a walk.
It’s an interesting and wide-ranging discussion, and I encourage you to read the whole thing. Maybe it’s the cynical journalist side of me, but I have to say I don’t feel quite as confident as Halperin that the people will grasp the difference between people being told they don’t have to wear masks and it being “strongly suggested” they wear them. And don’t get me started on employer pressure to come in, no matter how you’re feeling.
2. It’s not the police board’s problem if cops violate the Charter of Rights: lawyer
The meeting comes just days after the city sent eviction notices to people living in Meagher Park, aka People’s Park. HRM resident Robin Tress, who had been booked to speak before the eviction notices, raised concerns about the lack of a policy on enforcement of the city’s encampment policy. Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella has said in the past that police won’t kick people out of parks if they have nowhere else to go, but Tress says she witnessed just that one morning in a Dartmouth park.
Speaking about the Meagher Park eviction, Tress said, “It never ceases to amaze me the ability of this municipality to invent new ways to criminalize unhoused people and strip away their dignity… It’s really incredible. Until yesterday, I didn’t know that you could get renovicted from a park.”
Tress said she’d like to see a policy created to set out who should be the primary intervenor in situations where people are living in parks in tents, and she’d like the primary intervenor to be civilian, not police.
“What it should do is formalize what I think everyone’s been saying, is that there’s this intention that no one wants to displace people living in tents before there’s a real option for where they should go and where they can live and real connections to housing,” Tress said.
“And so I’m asking for that to be formalized in policy because so far we’ve only heard it said in statements, but it’s not a formal policy that anyone can be held accountable to.”
At the meeting, commissioner Harry Critchley raised concerns, based on recent court decisions, that ordering people living in parks to leave could violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
Critchley argued that means if there are no available shelter beds, clearing tents from parks in unconstitutional. In HRM, there are about 200 shelters beds and more than 600 people on a by-name list looking for housing.
John Traves, HRM’s executive director of legal services, argued that whether the police are acting in accordance with the Charter is not the board’s problem.
“Those are concerns for the administration of HRM,” Traves said.
3. EHS hiring transport operators to ease pressure on ambulance system
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont
In an attempt to free up more ambulances for emergencies, Emergency Health Services (EHS) is hiring 100 more transport operators to handle routine patient transfers across the province.
In a media release on Wednesday, the Department of Health and Wellness said these new, non-paramedic staff will help reduce pressure on the province’s ambulance system as it will allow paramedics to focus on responding to emergency calls.
The union representing the province’s paramedics has long been advocating for changes (most recently reported here) as its members struggle under an overwhelmed system and with “code criticals” becoming increasingly common.
“We recognize the pressure the Emergency Health Services system is under and how this impacts patients, paramedics and the delivery of emergency care,” Michelle Thompson, Minister of Health and Wellness, said in the release.
“Reducing our reliance on ambulances to transport non-critical or non-urgent patients was a recommendation of the 2019 Fitch Report and will mean more ambulances will be available to respond to emergencies.”
The department said the 100 new hires will more than double the stable of 80 transport operators who currently support EHS’s medical transport service and its patient transfer units.
The EHS medical transport service is for low-risk patients who have been assessed and don’t require medical care during transport between hospital facilities or between their home and a hospital.
Patient transfer units are used between healthcare facilities for transfers that are deemed not critical or urgent.
The news release said both transfer services use “specifically designed vehicles” staffed by transport operators who have training in first aid, vehicle operations, and EHS equipment. They also have direct radio access to the EHS Medical Communications Centre.
According to the province, EHS responded to 182,000 calls last year, an average of 500 per day. About 30% of those calls didn’t require medical care during transport.
The transport operators job posting can be accessed here.
4. Natural Resources quadruples reclamation security amount required for Touquoy mine
This item is written by Joan Baxter.
The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables has increased the reclamation security for Atlantic Gold’s Touquoy open pit mine in Moose River from $10.4 to $41.2 million.
According to Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) spokesperson Patricia Jreige, the amount of securities is “calculated based on any revisions to the plan” for mine reclamation of the site “to a condition that satisfies the requirements of DNRR.”
The province posts a “security tracker” online, which shows that when the document was last updated on March 29 this year, the security to be paid by Atlantic Mining NS (which operates the Touquoy mine for Atlantic Gold and its Australian owner, St Barbara Ltd) had been set at $41.2 million.
This is a dramatic increase from the previous amount for the reclamation security of $10.4 million, which was established by the Industrial Approval issued to Atlantic Gold in 2021, five years before the mine went into production.
Jreige said that the amounts of the reclamation securities are reviewed every three years, and that “acceptable reclamation securities are cash, bank letter of credit, or surety bond.”
“The change to Atlantic’s reclamation cost estimate was part of the review process outlined above,” said Jreige. “The review was done in 2021 and the reclamation security was finalized and the full amount was posted in March 2022.”
The Halifax Examiner asked Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change why the most recent Industrial Approval, updated April 7, 2022, Section 24 (5) still states that “reclamation security in the value of no less than $10.4 million (M) shall be posted with the Province of Nova Scotia.”
NSECC spokesperson Tracy Barron replied that this section of the Industrial Approval was written before the mine went into construction.
However, Barron noted that the approval requires Atlantic Gold to “update the reclamation plan, including associated cost, every three years” The company must adhere to it, she told the Examiner.
This change to the reclamation security came just before St Barbara issued a statement last month saying that if it does not get permission from NSECC to increase the height of its tailings facility while waiting for environmental approval for expansion of the mine site and for storage of mine tailings in the open pit, it could suspend activities at the mine. (The Examiner reported on that statement here.)
Atlantic Gold’s most recent report to Natural Resources Canada under the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) on payments it made to federal, provincial and municipal governments in 2021, shows that for the very first time since the mine went into production in late 2017, Atlantic Gold paid income tax to the government of Canada. In 2021 it paid $9,147,216 to the Canadian Revenue Agency.
While it paid just over $1.8 million in royalties to the government of Nova Scotia, Atlantic Gold has still not paid a cent in taxes to the provincial government. In 2021, the year with the highest gold prices on record, St Barbara reports that production at the Touquoy mine was 101,000 ounces.
The value of the gold produced in 2021 at the Touquoy mine exceeds $220 million.
Atlantic Gold has produced many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gold since it produced its first gold bar in 2017.
5. Pulp giant Paper Excellence becomes even more gigantic, and regulators don’t seem to care
Paper Excellence, the company that owns Northern Pulp, has purchased Resolute Forest products, Joan Baxter reports. Just seven months ago, the company bought Domtar, another large pulp and paper company — and that was on the heels of other acquisitions. Paper Excellence, Baxter writes, “is part of the massive Sinar Mas Group owned by the multi-billionaire Sino-Indonesian Widjaja family.”
Northern Pulp has received creditor protection in BC, and Paper Excellence is suing the Nova Scotia government for $450 million.
Baxter says environmentalists are concerned — and regulators should be too:
Sergio Baffoni, coordinator of the Environmental Paper Network’s Indonesian rainforests campaign, says people in Canada should be very wary of the rapid and dramatic expansion of Paper Excellence in North America…
In his view, the takeover of mills across North America is part of a long-term plan to secure a supply of fibre, and especially the long fibres from northern forests in Canada…
Baffoni finds it “a bit scary” that so few people, including Canadian regulators, seem to know much about Paper Excellence and its owners, not just one of the richest but also considered one of the most powerful families in Indonesia.
6. More than 17 million Canadian Omicron infections
“Omicron has been a tsunami,” COVID-19 Immunity Task Force (CITF) executive director Dr. Tim Evans said in a media release Wednesday morning.
“Across the country, our analysis of the data suggests that 17 million Canadians had an Omicron infection in the period December to May, for an average of more than 100,000 infections per day.”
Atlantic Canadians saw the largest relative increase in people who have been infected, based on blood samples.
“Through sheer numbers of infections, the Omicron variant exacted a substantial toll in services and lives disrupted, as well as hospitalizations and deaths. It clearly did not spare healthy young Canadians” CITF Co-Chair Dr. Catherine Hankins said in the news release.
“As well, we’re still learning about who gets a post COVID-19 condition or long COVID, why, and the repercussions. This summer may be free of public health restrictions, but Omicron is still spreading so masking and distancing are smart in risky settings. To minimize further disruptions to our lives, Canada has to track the situation closely as it evolves.
7. The Tideline, Episode 86: Martha Paynter
The new Tideline podcast is out. A reminder: The Tideline, hosted by Tara Thorne, is free, whether you subscribe or not.
Here is the blurb for this week’s show, featuring Martha Paynter:
Martha Paynter is a registered nurse who works in abortion and reproductive health care. Her new book ABORTION TO ABOLITION (with illustrations by Julia Hutt) was published the same week Roe v Wade was overturned in the United States — her launch party was the day after — and couldn’t be a more timely introduction to the history of abortion in Canada. She’s on the show this week to talk about how different the two countries’ laws and health care systems are, why reproductive justice is so tied up with abolition, and various provinces’ wins and losses over the years.
I’ve been following Paynter’s social media with interest. She regularly writes about how conflating the Canadian and US situations is not helpful, and leads to people who need abortions thinking access here is far worse than it is. Is there room for improvement? Of course. But Paynter has argued (and presumably does so on the podcast, which I have not listened to yet), that outdated information is an obstacle to care. On July 1, she wrote on Twitter:
If you haven’t stayed up to date on abortion access progress in Canada in a decade, your misinfo is a huge impediment to care for our patients. They won’t seek care that we have worked so damn hard to make available.
Paynter has also been tirelessly making the case that Canada does not need an abortion law, any more than it needs a knee replacement law, and that trying to get such a law passed is counterproductive.
Vision, lobbying (and a few high-profile stunts): How Montreal became a cycling city
On Monday, the Globe and Mail ran an editorial applauding Montreal’s vastly improved livability. The star feature of this improvement? The “humble bike lane,” the editorial board writes, adding, “Other cities should take note.”
Under mayor Valérie Plante and her Projet Montréal party, first elected in 2017, the city has become more walkable and bikeable. Not everyone loves the changes, of course, but enough people do that Plante was re-elected last year.
From the Globe and mail editorial:
Projet had many weapons in its self-confessed war on the car in the Plateau. It narrowed streets, made others one-way, expanded and beautified sidewalks, and above all built bike lanes… In the past five years, Ms. Plante has taken that ethos citywide. The defining policy of her first term was the 184-kilometre REV bike highway. It has been a hit, even producing an unexpected and quite wonderful problem: bicycle traffic jams…
Making cities livable also benefits society as a whole. As [Plante] likes to explain, cycling represents a concept of the city that Canada could use more of. Bike lanes are part of a broader vision designed to ensure that dense city centres stay attractive to young families, to curb urban sprawl.
Sure, I can hear you saying, but that’s Montreal. Halifax is different. We have, uh, hills and rain and winter.
The thing is, like so many other great cycling cities, Montreal was not always like this. In fact, it was pretty much a cycling nightmare. Sure, there was the odd bike lane, like the one I used to ride on de Maisonneuve, which just petered out before a high-traffic complex intersection, tossing cyclists into traffic featuring drivers gunning to beat lights or change lanes. In fact, it was much like some of the Halifax bike lanes that just end, sometimes with feeble “share the road” signs, like some kind of pathetic consolation prize. (Hello, St. Margaret’s Bay Road bike lane.)
That de Maisonneuve lane now connects with other protected lanes. You can ride it more than 15 kilometres from to the Olympic Stadium if you want. But there was a time when it would have seemed ridiculous to propose such a thing. Especially in a city with hills and heavy winter.
That change didn’t happen by itself. It was the result of years of organizing and direct action — and an activist with a flair for the dramatic gesture. The activist was Robert “Bicycle Bob” Silverman, who died last February, at age 88. Silverman co-founded the cycling lobby group Le Monde à Bicyclette back in 1975. He once dressed as Moses, trying to part the St. Lawrence River so cyclists would have a route to commute between the suburban South Shore and downtown. He went to jail for illegally painting bike lanes on city streets. He led protests in the city’s Metro system to show how ridiculous the rule against allowing bikes on board was.
For years, Silverman was a fixture on local news. A seemingly quixotic figure fighting for something that was never going to happen.
But the funny thing about some changes is that they seem impossible — until suddenly they’re not impossible, but inevitable.
In 2016, at age 82, Silverman sat down with Montreal Gazette reporter Andy Riga, to look back at what had changed in Montreal and what it took to make those changes happen.
One of the keys was allowing bikes on transit. Silverman said that was important, because if bikes break down, or bad weather hits, cyclists need a way to get to their destination. Lawrence Hanigan, the transit authority at the time, was not sympathetic. So cyclists protested:
We entered from various stations, and we took big, heavy objects — ladders, skis … bikes were stopped but the objects got in. The third time, we were told by our lawyer, pay your tickets and when they ask you to leave, you don’t. We wanted to test the constitutionality of the internal rule against bikes. We got arrested and there was a trial. We lost in municipal court. On appeal, we won. The judge said there was nothing specific in the law against bikes. Hanigan announced publicly that we still wouldn’t be allowed. But that night, we went out and posted rules on the métro cars — take the last car and be very respectful of other riders. Two days later, Hanigan quietly changed the rule so you could take bikes on the métro on weekends. That was the first big victory.
Silverman told Riga that things were very different in the mid-1970s:
There were virtually no facilities, it wasn’t even in the vocabulary. No bike paths, no bike parking. And we had a very anti-bike mayor, Jean Drapeau. All the budget went into cars and roads. Even worse than that, they destroyed houses to build things like the Ville-Marie Expressway. We needed bike paths, bike parking, access to the métro… We were cyclofrustrated.
Silverman said the rise of cycling in Montreal “brings tears to my eyes.” And this was in 2016, before the massive expansion of the city’s cycling network. But, he also makes the point that while the high-profile stunts helped make the issue visible, what really won the day was the hard work of organizing and lobbying. Speaking about trying to get a bike connection between the South Shore and downtown Montreal, Silverman said:
We once put a bike on a canoe and sent it across the (St-Lawrence) river. We thought of getting Moses to help us as he did the Jews in the Bible needing to get across the Red Sea. Two of us dressed up as Moses. We had the 10 Commandments. But it was the lobbying that won it — we had the support of MNAs and MPs and resolutions from municipalities.
The Toronto Star is using data from police reports to automatically generate news articles like this one:
One new residential break and enter was reported in Thorncliffe Park. It took place at an apartment near Overlea Boulevard and Thorncliffe Park Drive on Friday, July 1 at approximately 8 a.m. There have been 10 residential break and enters reported in Thorncliffe Park this year.
The stories carry this notice at the bottom:
This story was automatically generated using open data collected and maintained by Toronto Police Service. The incidents were reported by police in the past week and reportedly occurred in the past two weeks, but recent crime data is preliminary and subject to change upon further police investigation. The locations have been offset to the nearest intersection and no personal information has been included for privacy reasons.
What could possibly go wrong?
You could argue that these auto-generated stories are no worse than pieces like this one, on yesterday’s shooting on Cunard Street. Is there a difference between just publishing a police press release and auto-generating stories from police data? Journalist Jordan Heath-Rawlings thinks so.
In a thread on Twitter, Heath-Rawlings writes:
At a time when it’s never been more important NOT to just report what cops say…
I’m not saying THIS particular series of articles (which seems to be writing a piece based on reported break-ins for each Toronto neighbourhood) is bad. But I think streamlining the process that goes from police through the media even further is … a choice.
I’m just wondering. Let’s say I had a vested interest in “proving” a street or neighbourhood was unsafe. Maybe I want a better price on a house there. Maybe I AM a cop, worried about my job. This project turns reported crimes into actual newspaper articles and headlines.
But then that’s it. They can get fixed later, the police can take them out of records, nobody ever gets caught or charged bc there is no criminal. “Ooops after investigation it was a raccoon.” But thanks to the way this works, I’ve already jacked up the “crime rates” here.
Heath-Rawlings notes that the technology to do this has existed for awhile, notably in turning sports data into stories. I’ve also seen it done for municipal council meetings and… well, let’s just say I don’t think Zane Woodford needs to fear for his job.
It’s not a bad idea to solve an inconsequential problem like making copy from a box score. But even there, these things have been around for a while and haven’t caught on. Because they can’t actually capture what happened. So why would you try to apply that to policing?!
In conclusion, I understand by now that less scrutiny is the reality of a really tough news media business. But that doesn’t mean we should replace “less” with “no” wherever possible.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — if required
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting, if required
Weave with Sharon Kallis (Friday, 1pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — from the listing:
“Straddling an Island: West Coast and East Coast Intertwined” is an interactive installation featured in the exhibition Plant Kingdom. Join Kallis via the Gallery’s Zoom set up and try weaving for yourself!
In the harbour
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
08:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, sails from anchorage for sea
08:00: Majestic, yacht, sails from Foundation Quay for sea
11:00: Ijzerborg, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Rotterdam
11:30: CMA CGM Christophe Colomb, container ship (153,022 tonnes), sails from Pier 41 for New York
15:30: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
The National Film Board of Canada has several historical films on abortion, many of which are available to stream free. You can find a selection of them here.