News

1.  Fixing the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission

Liane Tessier, one of the founders of Equity Watch.

Zane Woodford reports on yesterday’s media conference held by Equity Watch, at which the group released its report on the systemic flaws in the provincial human rights commission, and how to fix them. Co-founded by former firefighter Liane Tessier, Equity Watch, Woodford writes, “works to promote workplaces free of bullying, harassment and discrimination and monitors institutions like the human rights commission.”

In 2018, Tessier won a human rights case after a years-long fight.

The Equity Watch report identifies 35 problems with the Nova Scotia human rights regime and makes 25 proposals to fix them.

Woodford writes:

According to Equity Watch’s analysis of the commission’s annual reporting between 2014 and 2018, the commission only referred 30 of the total 9,683 complaints made it to a board of inquiry — 0.4%.

“To put it in the obverse, 99.6% of inquiries do NOT lead to a Board of Inquiry,” the group wrote.

Only 445 of those 9,683 complaints — 4.6% — were even “accepted,” meaning the commissions deemed them “worthy of processing.”

Of those 445, 130 (29.2%) were concluded with a settlement.

Those settlements often include non-disclosure agreements forced upon the complainants, Equity Watch wrote, “Thus the crucial element of public education is sabotaged.”

Read the full story, including some of Equity Watch’s 25 recommendations, here.

In Tessier’s case, Woodford writes:

Her employer, Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, agreed to apologize, pay a settlement and make six promises, including education programming, new policies and programming and data collection.

But despite asking annually, neither the municipality nor the commission has updated Tessier on the progress in implementing those promises.

The Examiner has asked the municipality for an update, and Woodford will update the story if or when it comes.

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2. “Excellence” indeed

Photo: Joan Baxter

Does this story sound familiar?

A pulp company discharges pollutants, then enters bankruptcy proceedings, and gets government money to remedy the problem.

It’s a story that’s played out in Pictou County, and is now playing out in France — and in both cases, the same company is involved, Joan Baxter reports.

Baxter writes:

The pulp company in France that has “entered bankruptcy proceedings,” and sought millions of tax dollars (in this case Euros) is Fibre Excellence, which is owned by Paper Excellence.

Just in case anyone has forgotten, Paper Excellence also owns the Northern Pulp mill, which — under five different corporate owners — polluted air, water, and politics in Nova Scotia for 53 years, benefitting from hundreds of millions of tax dollars in loans and grants and other perks over the decades…

Given the clear relationship between Sinar Mas, APP, and Paper Excellence, it’s not surprising that the Paper Excellence game plan in France so resembles the one in Canada. 

Just like Fibre Excellence, which has entered bankruptcy proceedings in France, Northern Pulp and its affiliates have also sought creditor protection here in Canada, although they chose to do so thousands of kilometres from their Nova Scotian operations home, making their case instead with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. 

Read Baxter’s excellent and extensive reporting to get the whole sordid tale.

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3. Small jump in Nova Scotia COVID-19 cases reported

Tim Bousquet reports that 12 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Nova Scotia yesterday.

Most of the cases are related to travel or are close contacts of previous cases. The one person who had been in the hospital with the disease has been released.

As usual, Bousquet has updated all the charts, graphs, and the map of potential exposure sites.

A colleague in another province has been chronicling her family’s experiences with COVID-19 on Facebook. (She, her husband, and her adult daughter have all tested positive, despite, she says, assiduously taking precautions.) We’ve read about the tremendous range of symptoms that people experience, but it is still remarkable to see how much they vary just among a couple of people: aching legs, vertigo, diarrhea, coughing, and on and on.

On Twitter, writer and editor Robert Jago has also written in some detail about not just the physical symptoms, but also the terror:

During COVID, my left lung was paralyzed. It just wasn’t “there”. Dr said clots of whatever made it not work. The thought of it gives me panic attacks. Can you conceive how f-ing terrifying it is, to have one lung stop working & think about what happens if the other stops?

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4. New episode of The Tideline podcast, featuring Craig Jennex

Craig Jennex

Episode #12 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne is published.

Author and academic Craig Jennex (currently: Toronto, heart-wise: Dartmouth) stops by the show to discuss the research, culling, process, and writing of Out North: An Archive of Queer Activism and Kinship in Canada, his recently released collection with Nisha Eswaran. Fun fact: He was also the first drummer ever in Tara’s band. They have fun. Plus: Some New Year’s resolutions for the after-times, whenever they come.

This episode is available today for premium subscribers; to become a premium subscriber, click here, and join the select group of arts and entertainment supporters for just $5/month. Everyone else will have to wait until tomorrow to listen to it.

See how this goes? By paying a small amount — less than a MAGA hat! — you will be supporting local independent arts journalism, you’ll help get Tara paid, and you’ll get The Tideline goods one day early.

Please subscribe to The Tideline.

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5. Sonar? No thanks, we’re good

The Chief William Saulis. Photo: Facebook

A Nova Scotia company doesn’t understand why the RCMP turned down its request to help find the wreck of the Chief William Saulis, Paul Withers reports for CBC. The scallop dragger was lost at sea in December, with six men on board. Only one body has been recovered.

A local company called Kraken Robotics says it has high-resolution sonar equipment it thinks may be able to locate the boat, and they’ve offered it to the police at no cost. But the RCMP aren’t interested.

Withers writes:

Sgt. Andrew Joyce, a spokesperson for the RCMP, said the force frequently gets offers to assist in high-profile cases. He said the force may still take Kraken up on its offer, but for now it has the resources it needs, including sonar.

“I think we have access to that capability internally. And from speaking to the persons on the ground, they feel that the next immediate steps that must be taken are currently resourced to a satisfactory level,” he said.

Why, why, why do police feel they have to communicate in this robotic way?

Anyway, I understand that the cops can’t take up every offer that comes along. I am sure all kinds of grifters and self-promoters want to be able to say they helped solve this or that case. (Does the provincial RCMP ever turn to psychics?)

But do they have the same capability as Kraken? Is there any harm in taking them up on the offer? From here, it’s hard to see a downside.

Withers says Kraken CEO Karl Kenny feels a personal stake in helping to find the dragger:

His grandfather was a schooner captain who drowned off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in 1935. His body was never recovered — only a single mitten.

“My mother went through that experience and our family has never forgotten about it,” he said.

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Drawing his way through the pandemic

Drawing by Bill Liebeskind

Bill Liebeskind is an artist who teaches art to Grade 9 students at a public school in Harlem. In April 2020, as the pandemic raged in New York, Liebeskind started writing a blog called 91 DIVOC (read it backwards) on Medium.

But Liebeskind didn’t just write about what he was feeling and what was going on in the city around him. He illustrated each of the daily entries with a drawing of someone in a mask. Guys in Yankees caps. People on benches staring at their phones. Black Lives Matters demonstrators, NYPD cops.

Like his weightlifting, push-up, and sit-up regimen, drawing people in masks became a part of Liebeskind’s daily life. The strength of Liebeskind’s writing is its intimacy and deliberate lack of polish. He’s one guy, writing and drawing his way through the pandemic, and sharing all the contradictory feelings that come with that. The drawings are simple and evocative. I’m sure capturing emotion when drawing masked subjects is a challenge, but Liebeskind pulls it off.

In a post from Tuesday  of this week (day 262 of the blog), Liebeskind writes:

I remember well those many times when I was six or seven, sitting between my brothers in the back of our station wagon. It was Sunday and we were taking a thirty-five minute ride to visit the grandparents at their house near the beach.

“Are we there yet?” We never seemed to get there…

And really, where is there? Where do we want to go? Surely we’re not going to go backwards and return to normal. Normal will never happen again. Will there ever be a day where we won’t want to cover our faces before joining the world? Will we ever shake another hand or give someone a casual hug? Will there ever be a day where we feel like once did?

That long haul feeling is in contrast to the start of the blog when Liebeskind, like so many of us, was antsy about all the time spent indoors:

The world is a little backward these days. A lot backwards. All the things we do now are the things we didn’t do before. Wash our hands, wear face masks, fear touching people. We didn’t do that before. We didn’t watch nine hours of Netflix before six P.M., we didn’t make phone calls, we didn’t read twenty-five articles about the same thing.

I’ve been inside for the past three weeks. I’m beginning to lose it…

This is the strangest moment in my lifetime. Not as sad as when my mother died, not as scary as when I was tripping in Chicago and thought I was dead. And certainly it’s not very fun. But what is it? How do I feel? Mostly empty. And that’s not a very good feeling. I think it might be worse than sad. Empty is a bit like being dead. Empty means nothing is happening. There is no inspiration, no meaning.

I’ve read the suggestions for how you’re supposed to spend your time. Make a painting, read some poetry, do a puzzle, Zoom with friends and together, from different places, smell the same scent. I’m the creative person and yet these artsy suggestions don’t move me. I want to go outside and breathe fresh air without hoping the air I’m breathing isn’t contaminated.

When the Black Lives Matters protests and other actions for racial justice hit, Liebeskind blogged about that too.

Drawing by Bill Liebeskind.

We’ve spent the past three months contemplating this. Until this past week, we were thinking of it differently. We were thinking about life changes in a non-coronavirus world, but we weren’t thinking about race. Well, actually, many of us were thinking about race. The black and latino people who were forced out of their homes because their minimum wage lifestyles demanded them to show up at work during white people’s isolation — they were thinking about race. Some of them died.

Now we are all thinking about race. If we aren’t, then we’re blind to the reality of our nation. We are four hundred years into this mess.

I also find Liebeskind’s writing about his teaching interesting. He has 55 students he knows almost nothing about, he says, since he is teaching virtually. He does know some have family members who have died of COVID-19. When a students says an assignment will have to come in late because the family is quarantining after the mother tested positive, Liebeskind writes, “Ten points off for being late? — I don’t think so.”

Here’s what he says more generally about virtual art class:

There’s so much press about the failed virtual learning experience. Thousand of stories of failure. Well, I’m the lucky teacher who has students who want to be in my class and are succeeding. I teach art students art. Many of my students are struggling in their academic classes. Online Algebra and Chemistry is a confusing headache and they hate it. But when they come to me they smile. They are happy to have an hour to draw and paint and tap their creative spirit.

An added benefit to our virtual experience is that the kids are home alone. Not good for socializing, but it’s great for making art. When it’s time to draw, they are alone, in their own rooms, with nobody to talk to, just like real artists who work alone in their studios. They are learning what the life of a real artist is like.

In all the reporting of virtual learning, there has never been a mention of this. Nobody really thinks or cares much about art class. It’s not on the test, so why bother.

Liebeskind seems like an interesting guy. His website showcases his art and other projects, including The Gift Project, which “is dedicated to the belief that the value of art is defined more by the people art comes in contact with than by the price tag associated with it.” Artists in the project send someone a piece of art. The person hangs onto it for two months, then sends it on to someone else. A map shows all the locations to which the works of art have travelled.

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Noticed

An image from the Tree.fm website.

Remember WindowSwap? It’s the site that allows you to use your monitor as a window onto someone else’s view of the world. The idea is simple: contributors record video out their window and upload it. People anywhere in the world can then see that view on their monitors.

It’s one of those simple yet brilliant little ideas that represents the Internet at its best: user-created, easy, designed to make life just a bit better. WindowSwap got a fair bit of press during the spring lockdowns. If you’re stuck at home, why not see out of someone else’s window instead of just looking out your own?

You don’t choose windows. You just click and get taken somewhere at Random. Here is the view out the window of someone named Gordon, in Oakland, California.

“Gordon’s window” in Oakland, California. Image from WindowSwap

I liked WindowSwap well enough, but I am by nature much more oriented to print and audio than I am to images. So I was delighted to learn about Tree.fm — a site that is in some ways similar to WindowSwap, but featuring audio from forests around the world.

The site’s homepage is dead simple: a photo, a picture of a forest, and a “play” button beside the words “listen to a random forest.”

The first one I got featured the sounds of rain in a forest in Ghana.

Ankasa Forest in Ghana. Photo: Tree.fm

One of the forests features the sound of Golden monkeys in China’s Sichuan Province. You can listen to birds in a Moscow nature park, the stillness of an arboretum in Istanbul, or the mix of birdsong and waves at a coastal forest in Ibiza.

Nobody has uploaded any Nova Scotia forest sounds yet, but I will get on it. The closest to us is a recording from Schoodic Woods, in Maine, recorded by Zach Nugent. He writes:

I took this recording on the Schoodic Peninsula which is part of Acadia National Park. Its where the woods meets the ocean. You can hear the bells from buoys in the distance – I thought that might make for an interesting contrast with other recordings.

Unlike Window Swap, which is (I believe) purely random, Tree.fm also provides a map showing the locations of recordings. Click on a marker and you can hear the sound from that place, along with, in some cases a little write-up. All sounds are covered by a Creative Commons licence, meaning they can be shared.

Location of Tree.fm recordings.

Early in the pandemic, my father-in-law and I would practice Qi Gong together remotely, following the instructions of a teacher in Sydney, Australia. (I wrote about the experience for the book Gathering In.) The videos were recorded outdoors, in a large, wooded park, and I was struck by how different the sounds of the birds were. Occasionally, I would practice outdoors, and the sound of our local birds and the Australian birds seemed both comforting and dissonant.

If you’re only interested in the hits, you can find the most popular forest sounds all on one page, here.

We could all use some forest sounds about now, don’t you think?

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Government

City

Thursday

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — virtual meeting

Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting with a live webcast

Province

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Teaching The Marrow Thieves (Thursday, 2pm) — A Pedagogical Roundtable with Andrew Brown, Brian Gillis, Aiden Tait and Erin Wunker, moderated by Margaret Robinson. E-book, info and link here.


In the harbour

05:00: Augusta Luna, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
05:30: Viking Queen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
10:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
11:30: Viking Queen sails for sea
11:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Autoport
15:00: Maersk Nimbus, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from New York
15:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
16:30: Taipei Trader sails for Kingston, Jamaica
21:00: YM Mandate, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka


Footnotes

Kind of hard to get any work done yesterday afternoon, watching various live feeds of the goings-on in Washington, DC.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. This is likely to sound strange, but I just want to thank you for the Bill Liebeskind piece with the links to his actual personal website. As a proponent of the IndieWeb it’s refreshing to see links to personal websites instead of to a Facebook (or similar) page. It’s just nice to see a little personality come though ya know? Same goes for the link to your own site in your bio.

    1. Thanks. I see it the same way as you. I’ve always liked the idea of having some control over my own stuff, and I appreciate how people’s personalities come through, like in Liebeskind’s artist’s statement in comics form.