News

1. COVID-19 update: 149 cases and a pause on AstraZenena

Tim Bousquet has the latest COVID-19 update and all the details, graphs, and breakdowns. The province announced on Wednesday there are 149 new cases of COVID-19. One hundred and nineteen of those cases are in the Central Zone. There are 73 people in hospital and 14 are in ICU.

The other news yesterday was that the province “paused” the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Here’s what was said in a news release:

The decision is based on an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition linked to this vaccine and because Nova Scotia has enough mRNA vaccine to immunize people age 40 and older.

Anyone who is scheduled to receive their first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will be contacted by their clinic for a new appointment for either a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine in a timely manner.

A decision on second doses will be made once more information is received from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization. Nova Scotia’s vaccine plan will be adjusted based on this guidance.

At yesterday’s COVID-19 briefing, Premier Iain Rankin assured Nova Scotians that the vaccine rollout would continue as planned, and everyone would get a first dose in June.

This news caused a lot of anger and frustration on social media, including from those who had appointments booked to get a first dose of AstraZeneca yesterday and then found those appointments were cancelled. And people who got a first dose of AstraZeneca are asking about their second dose.

Bousquet talks about the confusion and messaging around AstraZeneca and the safety issues, and recalls this exchange he had with Strang at the daily briefing on March 9:

I asked Strang specifically whether I should get the AstraZeneca shot or wait for the Pfizer or Moderna. That’s because I was in the age group that could access the AstraZenecas vaccine some weeks before I could get the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Here’s our exchange:

Bousquet: I’m hoping you could help me run the calculus with the AstraZeneca. And I’ll just use myself as an example because I fall into the age group that is eligible for that. Should I go to one of these pharmacies and attempt to to get vaccinated even though I’m at relatively low risk? I don’t have a lot of social contacts. Or should I wait for the Pfizer, thinking that, you know, bartenders and people at higher risk should go get the AstraZeneca first?

Strang: So, I mean, ultimately that is an individual choice. But I would say I, like Public Health officials across the country — if you get an opportunity to get a vaccine, take it. All of the vaccines we have, the three we have now and the evidence on the ones that are in the pipeline, they’re all effective at preventing the worst outcomes, which is severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Some of them may may have left with us more of a slight increased risk of getting mild disease. But that’s not really what we’re protecting. The vaccination first and foremost is about building enough immunity and preventing severe disease. So if you get a chance to get a vaccine, I would I would recommend people take that opportunity.

So on April 14, I received a dose of the AstraZeneca.

If you’re 40 and older and want to book an appointment for your first dose of vaccine, you can do that here. 

If you want to get tested, here are the pop-up testing sites for the next couple of days (the complete schedule is here):

Thursday
Halifax Central Library, noon-7pm
Halifax Convention Centre, noon-7pm
Canada Games Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
Alderney Gate Public Library, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Bridgewater Cineplex, 2-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Friday
Canada Games Centre, noon-7pm
Central Spryfield Elementary School, noon-7pm
John Martin School (Dartmouth), noon-7pm
Bridgewater Cineplex, 2-7pm
Centre 200 (Sydney), 3-7pm

Getting tested on a regular basis makes me feel like I’m doing something to get back to normal. I got tested at the pop-up at the Keshen Goodman Public Library last Friday and I’ll go again this week. (The library pop-up has since moved across the street to the Canada Games Centre). It’s inspiring to see people lined up to do their part, too.

The lineup at the pop-up testing site at Keshen Goodman Public Library on Friday, May 7, 2021. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Click here to read Bousquet’s complete article. 

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2. Paid sick days on the way

Photo: Unsplash

Yesterday, the province announced that Nova Scotians who are sick with COVID-19 can qualify for up to four paid sick days. The announcement was shared in a news release here. According to the release:

People who cannot work remotely and miss less than 50 per cent of their scheduled work time in a one-week period due to COVID-19 may be eligible. This includes those who need to take time off because they are awaiting a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test appointment, and those who are getting tested, are self-isolating while awaiting test results, or are going to get vaccinated.

The sick days do not have to be taken consecutively. Any sick days taken between May 10, 2021, and July 31, 2021, may be eligible for the program.

“We want employees to stay home if they are feeling unwell and follow public health protocols to help reduce the spread of COVID,” said Premier Iain Rankin. “Paid sick leave means they won’t have to make a difficult decision between their health and the health of others, or their own financial well-being.”

Under the COVID Sick Leave Program, Nova Scotians can get paid up to a maximum of $20/hour or $160/day. Nova Scotians who are self-employed can qualify too — which is great news, for sure.

This program complements the federal program, Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).

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3. Pandemic poetry, Black writers, and the publishing industry

Maxine Tynes. Photo: Albert Lee

I love a Morning File with a story from Evelyn C. White. In her latest article, White writes about Maxine Tynes, the beloved African Nova Scotian poet and educator. Tynes contracted polio when she was four years old. She died in 2011 of complications from that disease at the age of 62. Tonight, White will attend the virtual Atlantic Book Awards Gala, which will include the inaugural presentation of the Maxine Tynes Nova Scotia Poetry Award. White talked with Tynes’ sister, Mickie Nyajeka, who said Tynes “would be over the moon about the prize.” 

And she’d give all praises to our mother who taught her basic reading, writing and arithmetic because polio kept her out of school until Grade 2 or 3.

Maxine would be sitting in her little wheelchair with a book and Mummy would be scrubbing clothes on the washboard and they’d have lessons that way. By the time she started school, she was in braces and then later she used crutches.

There’s so much more to White’s article here, including stories about the way the publishing industry treats Black writers. Read all of it here. 

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4. Stories of Ontarians wanting to move to N.S., but being denied entry

Okay, this is not a photo of Ontarians moving to Nova Scotia, but rather of the lineup of traffic at the Nova Scotia/New Brunswick border after the opening of the Atlantic Bubble last year. Photo: Darlene Singh

Stephanie Villella with CTV Kitchener talks with a family from Cambridge, Ontario who bought a house in Nova Scotia in February, but now find themselves facing a closing date of May 25 on their Ontario home and restrictions in Nova Scotia that are denying them entry.

Jacqueline Herd and Ben Hellerschmed, who have three children, said they have applied for Compassionate Exception three times, but haven’t heard back. Under the current rules, those people moving to Nova Scotia can cross the border if they purchased a home and can show that an offer had been accepted on or before April 21. The closing date must be on or before May 20. The family wants the province to grandfather all home purchases, regardless of the closing date.

Herd and Hellerschmed said they want to move to Nova Scotia for a better life for their kids. Says Herd:

A big push for us was the school system is open.

Meanwhile, Alex Cooke at Global talks with an Ontario couple who spent two nights in their car and another at a hotel in Quebec during their move to Nova Scotia. Jay Strickland tells Cooke he and his partner, Megan Brannen, planned for months to move to Nova Scotia. Strickland tells Cooke he was worried about his own health living in Ontario with its “disgusting” COVID situation:

I’m sick all the time, I have severe asthma, I’m just at risk of catching this. I wanted to go somewhere that was smaller, and I’ve been trying to get home for years.

The pair spent two nights in their car, along with their dog, three cats, and several fish (some of which didn’t make it.) Strickland told Cooke they applied for Compassionate Exception and the request was granted, but only after he told officials with the province he was going to the media. The couple is now on their way to Nova Scotia, but Strickland tells Cooke about the experience of waiting:

I literally couldn’t believe it. I was just left homeless on the side of the road with all of my animals, with nothing and nobody, in a province I’m not from, in an area where they don’t speak my language.

My voice is gone from talking and making so many phone calls. My animals are traumatized. My partner’s had a mental breakdown. It’s been a very, very hard time.

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5. Parents looking for support beyond online learning

Photo: Unsplash

Jean Laroche with CBC interviews parents who are struggling with online learning and are asking the province for more supports. One mom, Heather Langley, tells Laroche about the challenges she’s facing teaching her daughter, Lucy, at home. The nine-year-old is non-verbal and needs constant support. Langley tells Laroche:

I would like the premier to know that they’re not going well, they’re not going at all. For my child, there is nothing. Lucy and children like her, I think have just disappeared from their classroom. They’re not online. They can’t be.

Laroche also talks with Tracey Edwards, who’s the mom to seven-year-old twins, Zoe and Zachary, who are on the autism spectrum. Edward describes what online learning is like for them:

They come on and they sing a song with the kids. They show a video. We do a dance. We do some stretching. We read a poem, and then they’re gone. And it’s 30 minutes a day.

With special needs [children], there is no online version of learning. I am sorry. There is just not.

Edwards and Langley tell Laroche they’d like Nova Scotia to follow the lead of other provinces in Atlantic Canada, which have allowed some students to return to school, even during lockdowns. Says Langley:

I think they have the time right now to vaccinate the EPAs [Educational Program Assistants], vaccinate the learning centre teachers so that they are protected.

We would happily take daily rapid tests, whatever kind of test they asked us to, if that meant that Lucy could safely return.

This is all such a struggle for families — balancing working from home, working outside the home, school and online learning. It’s more organized than this time last year, but it’s certainly not ideal, and not working at all for many.

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Views

Finding the Pathways to Justice

From left: Courtney Brown, Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW), Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, Sue Bookchin, co-founder and executive director of Be the Peace Institute, Stacey Godsoe, Be the Peace Institute project officer, and Danielle Hodges, a student who did her placement at ABSW. Photo: Contributed

On Wednesday, May 19 at 6 p.m., the Be the Peace Institute is hosting a screening of the documentary, Pathways to Justice. A panel discussion will follow. I plan to attend, so this week I spoke with Sue Bookchin, co-founder and executive director of the Be the Peace Institute, to learn about the documentary, its background, and what was learned through the project.

The Be the Peace Institute works on addressing the roots and consequences of gender-based violence, as well as advancing systemic change for gender equity.  

The Pathways to Justice documentary came out of a project of the same name, in which Be the Peace partnered with the Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW). Says Bookchin:

For us it was such an opportunity to understand what gender-based violence looks like for women of colour. And it did, indeed, change us in terms of our perspectives, what we now understand a little better about what happens for women of African descent from a community level, from a family level, from the kinds of biased — and frankly sometimes terrifying responses — they get from various systems just because of the racial bias and stereotypes they face. It was a real eye-opener for us. 

As that project came to an end, Bookchin says they thought the stories they gathered needed to be shared so others could hear and learn from them, and people could “really understand the depth of pain and the breadth of the kinds of experiences women have, and the long-term impact it has on their lives.”  

Bookchin says they asked a handful of women if they wanted to be part of a documentary, and a number agreed to take part. She says the women in the documentary wanted to prevent other women going through what they went through, but they also wanted to be part of systemic and social change. 

I have to say, not only does it take tremendous fortitude for women to come through being subjected to violence at the hands of people who are supposed to — or profess to — love them, but to actually tell one’s story and, additionally, to allow one’s story to be put into the public domain takes unbelievable courage and commitment.  

Through those stories and the making of the documentary, Bookchin says they learned that the criminal justice system is still a barrier for a lot of women for “valid and complex reasons, which are very individual for any woman.” 

Women have told us — and this is part of other research projects we’re in the midst of as well — if they encounter one person in the system who treats them with dignity instead of blame and shame, or affirms the harm they have experienced, or says to them, ‘I have your back. I’m going to support you and be here for you, I’m going to help you through in order to find justice,’ that one person who actually understands something about intimate partner violence or gender-based violence, can not only change the course of that woman’s path through the systems … but getting a person like that, whether it’s your first experience with police or a Crown prosecutor or a person from Victim Services, is really the luck of the draw, as opposed to a reliable expectation. It’s not common and women know that.

She says they learned that women don’t want to be characterized as “victims” as that label has an impact on them, too, and on how the women see themselves. She says the reluctance to report already comes from self-blame and shame, and she adds women also feel the burden of the time and energy needed to go through the court system. 

We’ve had women say, ‘He’s the one who committed the crime against me, but I’m the one who has to take time off work, go to court (even if he doesn’t show up,) find childcare, fill out these forms, I have to go talk to this person, this person, and this person. And then, of course, if women have children, especially if they have children with the person who’s harmed them, there’s a whole other level of torture going through child protection and family court, which is separate from criminal court.* The level of burden on their shoulders at the same time they’ve been traumatized, and the same time there’s not a moment they feel safe, as long as that person is at large.  

Bookchin says society doesn’t always acknowledge the long-term impacts of gender-based violence for women. She says in many cases, the violence wasn’t just one incident, even if the court is focused on one incident.  

It’s such a delicate process and the criminal justice system is anything but delicate. 

Through the women’s stories, Bookchin says they learned that even if women go through the justice system, they often don’t feel a sense of justice, even if there’s a conviction. So, this documentary looks at what justice could feel like and look like for women.  

The justice system is often foreign to those who go through it. There is language and processes not everyone will understand. Bookchin says many women need navigators who not only understand gender-based violence and its complexities, but also understand the system, so they can accompany, translate, and be a one-stop place for women going through the system.  

To ask someone who’s been traumatized to go to a courtroom without their full emotional capacities, I think it’s untenable for a lot of people. 

We wanted to use the film to open dialogue about how we can do better with these things. 

Ultimately, Bookchin says there need to be changes in the systems, which can take a long time. 

When you don’t even have in the Criminal Code of Canada, the drastic emotional, psychological, financial, spiritual violence that often accompanies or strips a woman of any sense of self-confidence or agency in her life, that is equally as damaging as physical harm, but it doesn’t appear in the Criminal Code. Transformation is a long-term effort and we’re not getting fast enough for the women going through the systems right now.

The documentary was first launched at the Domestic Violence Conference in March 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Bookchin says they have so much footage they couldn’t fit into the film, they hope to use some of it in teaching modules. 

What I learned is that [justice] is really elusive for women. We may not be hearing from women who have said ‘thank god for the justice system.’ We don’t hear those kinds of stories, although I hope they exist. 

And Bookchin says she’s learned women need and want to tell their stories, but in a place where they’re not judged, blamed, or shamed. 

That’s so much part of the territory of being victimized in that way. Being affirmed and validated that it was not okay that person did that to them, that they were harmed, they deserved to be helped and supported, and the person who did that should be held accountable in some significant ways. The telling of stories and not just silence. Each time you tell your story in a place of acceptance and non-judgement, it’s almost like you’re reauthoring your story. Each time you go on your healing journey, that becomes part of the story about your strength and resilience. I don’t think we have enough opportunities for women to tell their stories in that way. That’s quite different than telling your story over and over again in the system.  

Bookchin believes more people in the system should be trained to help these women. There are specialized Crown prosecutors and those in legal aid who are trained to help these women navigate some systems. But women with lived experiences should also be at the tables where they can inform policy. Bookchin says: 

Without giving them the choice and without offering them the opportunity to use their agency to contribute in that way, I think we’re missing an opportunity to design things for women who come with those experiences.   

I’m really looking forward to watching this documentary. Again, click here to register for the screening on May 19. It’s free to register. But if you’d like to see the documentary but can’t attend that night, Bookchin says they can set up virtual screenings for any groups that would like to organize one. Get in touch with her at sue@bethepeace.ca. 

* This article was amended to correct an error in the name of the court.

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Noticed

Photo: Michael Amadeus/Unsplash

We’re all so used to wearing masks now that it’s kind of tough imagining a day when we don’t have to. I’m looking forward to going out in public without a mask, eventually. Masks are a reminder of the last 14 months that I will want to leave far behind. But I also see the benefit of wearing them, especially during flu season or if I have a cold. I now think of wearing a mask like putting snow tires on my car: I get snow tires not only to reduce the chances of being hurt or damaging my car, but also to reduce the harm I could do to someone else. Wearing a mask is about collective safety. 

But there are people who plan on wearing masks long after going without a mask is considered safe. Julie Carrie Wong at The Guardian talked with a few of these people, mostly women, who will continue to wear masks. Wong talks with Francesca, a 46-year-old New Yorker who says her mask is like an “invisibility cloak.” 

I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous. It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’. 

And then there’s Becca Marshalla, a bookstore clerk in Chicago who says wearing a mask helps hide her facial expressions from belligerent customers: 

I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them. I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘fuck you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that. 

A screenwriter named Aimee said wearing a mask means not having people tell her to smile, adding, “It’s almost like taking away the male gaze.”  

Even men don’t want to be told to smile. (Don’t tell people to smile!) Bob Hall told Wong: 

In the United States there is an obligation to appear happy, and I get told to smile and ‘be happy’ a lot, which is very annoying. The mask frees me from this. 

For others, a mask means protection, especially from hate crimes. Jane C Hu, a science journalist in Seattle said this:  

The night of the Atlanta murders, I was messaging with another Asian American friend and she mentioned making sure to wear sunglasses and a mask before she went out, just so that no one could see her eyes or nose and guess she’s Asian. I definitely feel a sense of protection when no one can see my face. 

(Reading this piece made me realize that despite all the “Be Kind” messages, many people are still horrible to other people.)

There are other heartbreaking reasons some people will still continue to wear a mask. Shayla Love with Vice learns that hanging onto pandemic norms like mask wearing is a response to the collective trauma we experienced the last year. Love interviews Lauren Albanese from Staten Island who tested positive for  COVID-19 after her grandmother died in April 2020. Albanese tells Love that transitioning back into “normal” life has been tough. Wearing a mask is part of that transition, and also part of the grief and stress of the last year.

I’m still very much living in a reality where COVID-19 is a part of me. It’s a part of my story at a deeper level. We’re all dealing with the physical and psychological impact of losing people we love in such a tragic way.

Love also talks with Sophia Carter who lost her younger sister to COVID after their entire family contracted the virus. Carter told Love she’s fully vaccinated now, but still wears a mask everywhere she goes, saying, “A huge reason that I still wear my mask is to honor and respect Anna.”

Will you still wear a mask for a bit or will you leave it behind for good?

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Government

City

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm) — live on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Daughters of Immigrants Symposium Keynotes and Creative Showcase (Thursday, 1pm) — Asha Jeffers hosts two public lectures and a creative showcase, where scholars from around North America and Europe will be brought together to discuss their research. Today’s lecture is “American Dream, Conservative Immigrants” by Erin Khue Ninh​​ from the University of California Santa Barbara.

SURGE Discover Coding Python (Thursday, 2:30pm) — six-week workshop series to learn the basics of coding with Python

Friday

Kitchen Poets and Sister Griots: Storytelling in the work of Edwidge Danticat (Friday, 12:30pm) — Susana Morris from the Georgia Institute of Technology will talk.

Daughters of Immigrants Creative Showcase (Friday, 6:30pm) — featuring a short film by Kourtney Jackson, a poetry reading by Doretta Lau, a film and talk by V. T. Nayani and a musical performance by Falana


In the harbour

Halifax
05:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Atlantic Eagle, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Saint John
11:00: X-press Irazu, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Mariel, Cuba
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
08:30: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker arrives at Aulds Cove Quarry from Port Cartier, Quebec


Footnotes

As Tim Bousquet announced on Twitter yesterday, I’m taking on a new role as editor with the Examiner. I’ll still be writing Morning File, which I love, and writing the occasional other story, too. I always say I’m so grateful to get to work with Bousquet and the Examiner team whose work I’ve followed for years. Our readers are such an important part of this work, too, so thank you all for subscribing. If you’d like to sign up,  please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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  1. Re. Wearing Masks
    “… I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous. It’s like having a force field around me that says ‘don’t see me’. ”

    Agree totally.
    There are surveillance cameras everywhere, allegedly for our security but that depends on who does what with the footage.

    Our cell phones constantly track our location, our credit card transactions are constantly recorded, who we email (if not what the conversation details, although those too could be accessed under the right conditions), what location we sought on Google Maps etc. paint a minute by minute account of our lives. To that can be added video surveillance and real time face recognition supported by the requirement that we have standardized portraits on government issues drivers licenses and passports.

    That masks offer us a way to roll back some part of that in favour of our privacy feels to me like a big upside to the minor nuisance of having to wear them due to covid-19. It almost feels like masks push back against two threats to our personal security at the same time. I’m all for them.

  2. Glad to see the Premier choosing 20 Dollars as a fair amount to be awarded as sick pay. Might bode well as an election promise to make that amount the new minimum wage.