News

1. Port Wallace Gamble, Part 3

Contaminated tailings at Montague Gold Mines are popular with ATV and motorbike riders. Photo: Joan Baxter

Tim Bousquet wrote this item.

Joan Baxter’s investigative series “Port Wallace Gamble” continues with “Part 3: Cleaning up the historic tailings from Montague Gold Mines – Does Port Wallace development hang in the balance?”

Baxter has done an excellent job showing us the present-day hazards of Nova Scotia’s historic gold rushes, and drawing us to obvious concern that a renewed gold rush will have its own toxic legacies.

Click here to read Part 3.

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2. No Nova Scotia cases of COVID-19 yet, but international school trips may get cancelled

Nova Scotia school trips may get cancelled en masse due to worries over the spread of COVID-19.  Photo by Hello I’m Nik ???? on Unsplash

According to Health Canada, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia. There are just 30 in Canada, with 20 in Ontario, 9 in British Columbia, and one in Quebec. CBC News reported yesterday that seven people have been tested for the new virus.

Meanwhile, Education minister Zach Churchill will have to make a decision soon on whether to outright ban international school trips, many of which are happening the week of March 16th, to coincide with March Break. Haley Ryan of CBC News reports:

Principals are meeting with staff from the regional centres of education over the next couple of days to discuss plans for the upcoming trips, Churchill said, and the government is waiting to get their feedback before making a final decision.

Churchill said in each region there are different trips at “various” risk levels depending on the destination, so the province wants to hear from parents and education centres on whether a “system-wide decision is necessary.”

“The situation is evolving, anxiety levels are increasing,” Churchill said Tuesday. When asked if he’s contemplating ban, he said it “is a possibility, but we have not made a determination on that yet.”

Health Canada says, “the risk to Canadian travellers abroad is generally low but will vary depending on the destination.” The government is warning Canadians to avoid non-essential travel to Northern Italy, but doesn’t warn against travel in the rest of the country. Warnings are also in place for travel to China, Iran, Japan, and South Korea.

3. Carrie Low pursues being heard by Police Complaints Commissioner

Photo: Halifax Examiner

The CBC’s Shaina Luck continues to follow the Carrie Low story first told by independent journalist Maggie Rahr for the CBC in September.

Luck reports from a court hearing where Low and lawyer Jessica Rose are asking that her complaint against the police handling of her violent rape case be reviewed. The complaint had been dismissed by the Police Complaints Commissioner because it fell outside the 6-month time limit, which the commission counts from the occurrence of the original crime the police are investigating, and not the conclusion of the police investigation being complained about.

The province announced legislation in January that will extend the time period and give the commission more discretion to extend it, but reports Luck, “the legislation is not retroactive and will not apply to Low’s case.”

Shortly after Low’s story became public, police chief Dan Kinsella ordered a review of the case.  In January, Low filed a suit against HRM and the federal government. Then, earlier this month, police charged a man with sexual assault and forcible confinement related to Low’s reported abduction and assault in May 2018.

But Low’s complaint about how the police handled the investigation of her assault has yet to be heard by Nova Scotia’s official police complaints system. And that’s why Low and Rose were in court Tuesday. Luck’s report summarizes Rose’s arguments:

Rose said the ultimate goal for Low and her supporters is “a functional, accountable police complaints system.”

Rose argued that due to the way police investigate, there may be no way for a citizen to know when an investigation has failed or police have been negligent.

Rose said that is why the six-month limit must apply not to the date when Low first complained to police, but to the date when Low discovered police had failed her.

Rose argued those failures were “ongoing” and “cumulative” with every day the police did not take steps such as processing Low’s toxicology report or visiting the scene.

Rose argued the legislation for police complaints is meant to serve the public interest. She said the complaints commissioner exists to be an independent check on police powers and to improve police relationships with communities in the province.

4. Government rescinds “back to work” bill for Crown prosecutors

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

It’s time to ditch legislation that was apparently just a negotiation tactic all along for Nova Scotia’s Liberal government. Michael Gorman reports for CBC News:

The Nova Scotia government will repeal a controversial piece of legislation that led to a strike by Crown attorneys last fall.

The Liberal government introduced Bill 203 last October as contract talks with the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys’ Association seemed to break down. The bill, which forced the Crowns back to work, would have stripped the prosecutors of the contractual right to arbitration.

But after the government passed the bill, Justice Minister Mark Furey announced it would not be proclaimed and the two sides would return to contract talks, a move that eventually resulted in a new four-year deal. The contract is retroactive to April 1, 2019, and includes a seven per cent pay increase over the life of the agreement.

Furey is sticking to his guns, though, in insisting that the legislation was sound, just no longer necessary.

Furey said Bill 203 was a good piece of legislation “given the circumstances at the time,” but noted talks with representatives for the Crown attorneys were very productive and removed the need to keep the bill on the books.

5. Ending ambulance fees

Fifteen-year-old Julia Wright wants Nova Scotia to stop charging people for calling an ambulance, and she’s working on a plan to make it happen. Wright has a website and an online petition (nearing an impressive 20,000 signatures as I write this) and is now working on a film to help explain the issue and rally more support.

“I thought a documentary would be a good way to collect a lot of people’s perspectives,” says Wright, “and also a relatively shorter way to show people what my movement is all about.”

Wright started the project after she herself needed an ambulance and was later shocked to see her parents get a bill for $146.55 from EHS. “My family, we have medical insurance and were able to pay for it, but I realized that not everybody in Nova Scotia is able to pay for an ambulance.”

Fifteen-year-old Julia Wright is taking on ambulance fees in Nova Scotia. Photo: Erica Butler

So Wright decided to take on the project of making ambulance fees disappear. She got a small #risingyouth grant from TakingITGlobal, decided to put it towards a documentary. Wright has roughly 20 people lined up for interviews so far.

I’m especially talking to people who don’t necessarily have the means to be able to pay [the fee]. And they are saying that “if I knew that I was going to get that fee, I wouldn’t have taken the ambulance to the hospital…” which is just horrible and I don’t think that should have to happen, especially in Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia’s ambulance fees go up considerably for anyone out of province, or from outside of Canada. “So especially for university students if they just moved here and then they get an ambulance to the hospital, it can be quite expensive,” says Wright. (I’ve actually had this out-of-province fee hike experience while visiting New Brunswick. The bill I got in the mail weeks later was just shy of $700.)

EHS Ground Ambulance Service Fees (As of April 1st, 2015) from novascotia.ca

Eventually, Wright would like to see ambulance service covered in the Canada Health Act, requiring all provinces to provide it free of charge, but she wanted to start with a smaller target, her home province of Nova Scotia. In addition to nearly 20,000 signatures on her petition, and a documentary in the works, Wright has also been working the political angle. She met with MLA Labi Kousalis who said he would ask Health Minister Randy Delorey for a jurisdictional scan of areas that have eliminated fees, and what effects there are.

Wright says estimates of the cost of removing ambulance fees is about $10 million, but that’s just an estimate, because (surprise, surprise) Nova Scotia won’t release stats.

The one thing that’s a bit problematic about Nova Scotia is that they don’t actually release coordinated ambulance statistics, whereas every other province in Canada does it.

One of the arguments in favour of ambulance fees is the idea they might deter misuse, says Wright. Kousalis’s proposed jurisdictional scan would try to gauge how much misuse might increase with the $146.55 fee no longer there to affect whether people get in an ambulance or even call 911 in the first place. (It’s a little know fact that getting treated by EHS does not incur a fee, but getting a ride with them back to the hospital does.) Of course, the deterrence effect of the fee doesn’t just work on inappropriate ambulance use, it works on all ambulance use. CBC Marketplace surveyed Maritimers in 2015 and found that 23% of people had decided not to call an ambulance due to the fees involved. The concern is that people are delaying treatment, and making their health problems worse in the long run.

Wright thinks that misuse is ultimately a non-issue.

I don’t really think ambulance misuse would go up a whole lot, and there are measures that you can implement. Like for example, creating a fee for those who misuse ambulances on a regular basis so that you don’t get as much of that misuse happening.

And the deterrent effect of the fees is far more powerful the lower your income is. In Nova Scotia, people with low incomes can apply to have their fees waived by submitting a detailed form and Notice of Assessment.

The problem is that a lot of people don’t really know how to access that. It’s not very well publicized… I know a lot of people who’ve just said, “we can’t pay it, so we just don’t pay, and we hope that they won’t come and track us down.”

Wright is feeling hopeful that she can help change the system.

I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people being supportive so I believe that, you know, if we all keep campaigning eventually the government is going to realize the error of its ways.

She plans to screen her documentary on Saturday March 28th, at the Halifax North Memorial library.


Views

1. Artist Letitia Fraser on walking to Africville

Barrington Street looking northward to Africville Road. On bike or foot, you will need to hop the guard rail to walk along a narrow path on the side of the road. Photo: Erica Butler

Letitia Fraser writes and illustrates the cover story for this week’s Coast, using her attempts to walk to Africville as a jumping-off point for an essay on community, family, and roots, and how they play out in different Black Nova Scotian communities. Fraser opens by pointing out the sad truth that, “getting to Africville on foot is next to impossible.”

The site of the former community is severed from the rest of the city by the four lanes of Barrington Street, a rail corridor and Africville Road; no sidewalks lead there, and no matter which route you choose, you’re taking your life in your hands.

Fraser’s piece goes deeper than the current inaccessibility of the former community. Fraser shares her own memories of growing up in Mulgrave Park, and of visiting family in Beechville and North Preston. She also shares the recollections of Gary Steed and Nelson Carvery, two former Africville residents, and then hits on one of the more intriguing questions about Africville… what if it had remained?

After talking to Steed and Carvery, walking through Mulgrave Park was different. Instead of my own experiences, I thought about how Africville could have developed and grown. What would it have looked like today? Would Halifax have more Black business owners? More Black teachers? If its growth wasn’t violently disrupted, would it have thrived?

2. File under: “World Class”

Corner of Demone and Robie Streets, Halifax. Photo: Erica Butler

This is a picture of the sidewalk at Demone and Robie, right across from the big, relatively new, Point North building (148 rental units plus a ground floor filled with six different shops and services.)

I passed through here without much issue yesterday, but I know many people who would not have been able to do the same.

And you might be thinking, no problem, throw up a “sidewalk closed” sign and have people cross the street, right? But this particular obstacle is on Robie Street between Almon and Young, a 400-metre stretch with five lanes of fast and chaotic vehicle traffic, and exactly zero marked crossings for pedestrians. While pedestrians have the legal right to cross Robie at any of the four different side street T-intersections between Almon and Young, no-one does, because no-one actually can. There’s simply no way to get vehicle traffic to yield.

A person in a wheelchair coming upon this intersection has two choices: turn around and make the 700-metre round trip back to Almon just to get across Robie, or head down Demone Street and try your luck circling the block, a mere 400 metres out of your way.

Either way, this is a giant ‘FU’ to people in wheelchairs, people pushing strollers, people using scooters or other mobility devices, and the people travelling with them.

The building under construction, and the source of the small but mighty obstacle, is the new Lion’s Head Tavern, being built at this corner so that a new 114-unit rental building can rise up where the original sat, in the middle of the same large city block.

With the money at stake here, and the relatively high profile of the projects under development, I find it slightly astounding that this was allowed to happen. It’s almost like an instance of broken windows theory, except that instead of broken windows, we have vehicle-centric, anti-pedestrian street design, and instead of encouraging additional crimes and anti-social behaviour, this bad design is encouraging developers to ignore standards and leave physical barriers across sidewalks.

Everyone involved here should be embarrassed, from the city’s traffic and transportation planners and bosses, to architects and builder WM Fares (whose name is plastered on the hoarding beside this mess of a sidewalk), to the owners of the Lion’s Head Tavern and the new 114-unit building that will get built in its place.

Heck, even Banc Properties, the owners of the Point North building across the street, might want to perk up and pay attention here. They run a 148-unit residential and retail building on a street with no crosswalks and actual physical barriers in place. That’s bad for business.

But the people who should be most embarrassed work for the city, because ultimately they are responsible for the state of Robie Street on the whole, the state of which turns this relatively small obstacle into a massive detour for a good chunk of the population.


Noticed

I didn’t realize last week, when featuring an article covering a 2015 talk by Ted Rutland, that he was due in Halifax again to share more of his research on displacement in Halifax’s North End.  This Friday and Saturday is the (free and open to anyone) annual conference organized by Dalhousie planning students, Shift. And for a second year in a row, the theme is equity.

In addition to Rutland, David Wachsmuth will share research on the impact of Airbnb, Lezlie Lowe will talk pubic toilet access, and former Haligonian Houssam Elokda will talk about how urban design can impact your health and happiness.

I like the Shift conference. Of all planning-type talk and events, Shift consistently brings in someone who makes me rethink an assumption I had made or a conclusion I had drawn. I wonder who and what it will be this year.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Voice Recital with ORA Ensemble (Wednesday, 11:45am, Sculpture Court, Dal Arts Centre)

Probing the intersection between natural competence and transduction in Streptococcus (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Gerd Prehna from the University of Manitoba will talk.

Reclaim Your Voice (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 303, Dal Student Union Building) — “Warrior Poet, Fear Facer, Frequency Raiser” Jungle Flower will talk. More info here.

Thursday

Dalhousie Reading Circle (Thursday, 9:30am, Indigenous Student Centre Community Room, 1321 Edward Street) — weekly meeting for “Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.” More info here.

Sounds of Strength and Songs of Woe: Making Quechua Music in the Peruvian Andes (Thursday, 12pm, Room 406, Dal Arts Centre) — with Joshua Tucker from Brown University.

The Impossible Museum Opening Reception (Thursday, 5pm, Thomas McCulloch Museum, Life Sciences Centre) — artists D’Arcy Wilson and Amy Malbeuf “reimagined” the museum. More info here. Note: Near the bottom of the page it says that “Doors to the Learning Centre and Life Science Centre have push-button entrances. The Museum entrance does not, but Eyelevel staff will be on hand to open doors during events.”

Joan M. Schwartz. Photo via dal.ca

Picturing Place and the Writing of History: The Lens and Legacy of Frederick Dally (Thursday, 7pm, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Joan M. Schwartz from Queen’s University will talk. More info here.

Caroline Merner. Photo from youth4nature.org

Emerging from Emergency: From Local to Global (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Caroline Merner will talk.

With the natural world and climate in crisis, the coming decade is critical for action. How do we emerge from emergency? How does local action contribute to international aspiration? How can taking action help alleviate climate grief? How can youth co-design our future? In this talk, Caroline will address these questions with practical examples of mentorship, storytelling, capacity-building, and knowledge-sharing. Caroline will draw from her experience co-founding a youth-led non-profit in Vancouver, BC and mobilizing youth at the United Nations COP25 on the international stage.

More info here.

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

Telephone Accessibility (Wednesday, 9am, Room SC309D, 3rd floor, O’Donnell-Hennessey Student Centre) — Until 3pm, customized telephones with enhanced audio and visual accessibility features and specialized software will be available to test and make a call. More info here and here.

Brave Black Voices (Wednesday, 6pm, McNally Main Auditorium) — panel discussion for African Heritage Month.

SMU 2020 Writer-in-Residence (Wednesday, 7pm, SMU Art Gallery) — poetry with Rob Taylor, plus Robin Metcalfe, Annick MacAskill, and Sue Goyette.

Mount Saint Vincent

Wednesday

ADVANCE: International Women’s Day Breakfast (Wednesday, 7:30am, Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel) — Lisa Ali Learning, founder & CEO of AtlanTick Repellent Products Inc. will talk; it’ll cost you $45 to $60 for the experience. More info here.

Pioneers in Skirts (Wednesday, 6pm, Multipurpose Room, Rosaria Student Centre) — a screening of the documentary film about ambition and the ongoing effort to achieve gender parity in the workforce. Pre-registration required, more info here. $5/$15 includes light refreshments.

King’s

Wednesday

Will You Taste Our Blood? (Wednesday, 8pm, The Pit) — Katie Clark’s play explores themes of violence, consent and hook-up culture while re-imagining the Dionysus-worshipping Maenads. Continues to Saturday. More info and tickets  here.

Thursday

Will You Taste Our Blood? (Thursday, 8pm, The Pit)


In the harbour

05:00: MOL Motivator, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
07:00: X-Press Makalu, container ship, moves from anchorage to Pier 42
12:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 42 from Saint-Pierre
13:00: Glovis Symphony, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Berth TBD for bunkers
19:00: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
21:30: MOL Motivator sails for Dubai


Footnotes

Thinking back to my school days, wondering how I missed that “rite of passage” trip to Europe.

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  1. For a while last year the construction of the big glass rectangles near Doyle St. resulted in the closure of the sidewalks on both sides of Brunswick. Each sidewalk had a sign saying “Sidewalk closed, use other side.” Apparently no one with the city thought this was a problem.

    It shouldn’t surprise me that contractors are constantly given a pass on this stuff because “cranes in the sky!” but it still really bothers me. If you leave some garbage on the curb for a day too long the city will fine you at incredible speed, but rendering sidewalks completely useless is fine I guess, as long as you’re a contracting company and not a citizen.

    1. Well said.

      So many hypocrisies in this city. Active transportation? Walkable city? Bullshit.

  2. We don’t pay other emergency services like fire and police for responses, so why should ambulances be different? I have been in two situations where an ambulance should have been called, but the injured person pleaded for that not to happen because they couldn’t afford the charges. Fortunately neither one was a life threatening situation but there were serious injuries and immediate assistance from paramedics would have made a positive difference.

  3. Halifax, a walkable city, No way! The downtown sidewalks are narrow, filled with holes and cracks and barely protected from the noise and fumes of diesel buses and cars, and filled with construction hazards pictured in the article. (By the way, guide dogs cannot read the “Sidewalk Closed” signs and will guide right up to the sign and cross mid block if that is where the sign is placed.) Then there are the crossing intervals at various crosswalks across wide roads which require the athletic walkers to sprint across if they are to make it before the stop hand starts flashing. The residential streets in the Centre and around the Centre are filled with parked cars from folks who don’t live in the neighbourhoods; but drive in and park on residential streets because it is cheaper than paying for parking downtown. These residential streets are local speedways for commuters racing without a care, trying to bypass the larger streets on their way in and out of the Centre. Frankly HRM should be the poster child for shameful treatment of its pedestrians.

  4. If there is going to be a charge for an ambulance ride, why don’t the provinces at least agree among themselves that they will charge people from other provinces the same amount as residents?

    1. I broke a hip in BC. Ambulance to the village $530; then an ambulance to Whistler another $530 and after an assessment to determine the urgency it was back into an ambulance to N Vancouver for another $530. If they had determined that the my condition was urgent it would have been a $2,746 an hour helicopter trip.
      Don’t know what 10 days in hospital cost but I could not have bought better treatment.
      Excellent treatment by everyone from the moment I fell.
      Nice view of the mountains from my bed.