News

1. COVID-19 update

Tim Bousquet has an update on COVID-19. There are 11 new cases in Nova Scotia. Nine of those are in the Nova Scotia Heath Authority’s Central Zone and the other two are in the Northern Zone. 

One of the cases in the Central Zone includes someone connected to Citadel High School. The school was closed for a PD day yesterday and will remain closed today and Monday for deep cleaning.  

Here’s the graph of new daily cases and 7-day rolling average since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1):

The graph of the active caseload for the second wave:

Here’s the updated possible exposure map:

Click here to read Bousquet’s entire article.

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2.  There’s been a difficult struggle for space between hospitals and nursing homes since the pandemic began

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item was written by Tim Bousquet

Back in April, the Nova Scotia Health Authority feared a huge surge of COVID cases, and so began emptying 152 hospital beds of people who had no actual need of hospitalization. Some of those patients should have been placed in nursing homes, but the homes had their own space needs, as they were trying to reduce the number of double-roomed residents.

Thankfully, that huge surge in COVID hospitalizations didn’t arrive with the first wave, but perhaps they were merely displaced: the 53 COVID deaths at Northwood were blamed in large part on double-rooming, allowing the virus to spread from infected residents to their non-infected roommates through shared facilities.

The space/placement issue between hospitals and nursing homes hasn’t gone away, as nursing home operators continue to try to free up space in order to give residents private rooms.

Through the summer, reported Jennifer Henderson:

…the province-wide vacancy rate for beds in nursing homes has increased from 1% to 5%. That translates into 346 beds. The waiting list to be admitted to a nursing home has grown by the same amount. There are now approximately 1,450 people waiting to be admitted to a nursing home.

Besides ridding themselves of double-roomed residents, the homes were preparing themselves for a possible surge in COVID cases during an expected second wave. No one wanted to be the next Northwood, so they were trying to clear entire wings that could become isolated COVID wards where resident/patients could be cared for without risk to the other residents. So, new admittances were delayed, and the waiting list grew longer still.

The backlog led to the province threatening homes with defunding in September, reported Henderson:

Health minister Randy Delorey told reporters after a cabinet meeting yesterday that it is unacceptable for long-term care homes to maintain more than a 3% vacancy rate when the wait list for care has ballooned to over 1,500 elderly people, many of whom are taking up hospital beds.

On Sept 14, deputy Health minister Dr. Kevin Orrell sent a letter to nursing homes with more than three empty beds per 100 residents, notifying them they had 30 days to fill vacancies above that threshold or they would lose government funding for them.

Since then, there’s been a bit of a detente between the Health Department and the nursing homes, and a dual strategy has been developed to address the issue.

First, the province has decided to fund six — one in each Health Zone — “regional care centres” where COVID patients from nursing homes can be transferred to and cared for. Five of the six are located in regional hospitals and the sixth is being set up  at Ocean View Continuing Care Centre in Dartmouth.

And yesterday, Nova Scotia Health (it’s dropped the “Authority” from the name) announced a strategy for reducing the number of elderly people in hospital who don’t need to be there — the same issue it faced back in April in anticipation of the first wave. From the press release:

To increase capacity in our healthcare system as we move into wave 2, Government, Nova Scotia Health and Northwood have set up a temporary Community Transition Unit.

“The pandemic has created pressures and challenges across the healthcare system,” said Vickie Sullivan, operations executive director, Central Zone, Nova Scotia Health. “When Nova Scotians who need nursing home care, home care or other services and supports to live on their own, and are waiting in a hospital bed, it can have a ripple effect across the larger healthcare system.”

The unit will support patients waiting in hospital to transition back into the community. It will also help reduce pressures in acute care by making more hospital beds available for those who need that level of care.

The unit has space for 50 patients. Nova Scotia Health will begin to discharge patients who are waiting for placement to long term care, for home care or for other supports, and who have assessed care needs that can be met at this location. Moves will begin in early December and will continue to take place as patients are transitioned into the community. Northwood will oversee operations and provide care.

The unit will be setup on two floors of a local hotel that have been adapted to support patients’ care needs. Infection prevention and control measures, public health guidelines, and COVID-19 measures and restrictions will be in effect at the unit.

The hotel is the Holiday Inn Express on John Savage Avenue in Burnside.

No doubt this takes space pressure off the hospitals as they prepare for a feared surge of COVID patients in the second wave, but it leaves unaddressed the larger, long-term problem: there simply aren’t enough nursing home beds. That’s been a problem decades-long in the making, reflecting a failure of governments of all three political parties.

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3. Raising awareness and funds for a “cuddle bed”

Taff Cheeseman cuddling with her husband Rick Cheeseman in hospital in August. A post featuring the photo and her campaign to raise funds for a “cuddle bed” at the South Shore Regional Hospital has struck a chord, going ‘south shore viral.’ Photo: Contributed

Yvette d’Entremont is so good at writing stories like this one about Taff Cheeseman and her goal of fundraising for a “cuddle bed” at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater. On Wednesday, a photo of Cheeseman and her husband, Rick, cuddling in a hospital bed was shared by Health Services Foundation of the South Shore.  

The South Shore Regional Hospital doesn’t have a palliative care unit, but Cheeseman started a fundraising campaign called Cuddles for Rick to get palliative care beds known as “cuddle beds” at the facility. Cheeseman says such a bed would be a comfort to families whose loved ones are in hospital. Cheeseman did get to spend time with Rick in a larger bariatric bed before he died. D’Entremont writes:  

The bariatric bed made a huge difference, allowing her to crawl in and be close to Rick. The two were able to cuddle and connect, something that calmed Rick “substantially.” The larger bed also helped her and their three children as they prepared to say goodbye. 

“To be able to actually lay there with him was all I wanted. And he died in my arms,” Cheeseman said, her voice breaking. “We were in the bariatric bed and I was able to hold him while he died. If people want that, they should be allowed to be given that opportunity.” 

Click here to read d’Entremont’s complete story.  

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4. Halifax on the hook for $2.65-million deficit for former Metro Centre

The $48 NSF Fee Centre last May as the Halifax Mooseheads practiced ahead of the Memorial Cup. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports on the $2.65 million deficit facing the HRM-owned former Metro Centre (I’m not calling it by the other name).  

Events East, which runs the arena and the Halifax Convention Centre, posted its 2020-2021 business plan this week. Woodford writes: 

Much like the convention centre, COVID-19 “has had a substantial impact on the planned performance” of the arena, according to the business plan. 

“In early 2020-21, the prolonged impact of COVID-19 on the events industry became evident. The combination of physical distancing requirements, gathering limits and travel restrictions had created significant limitations for hosting sports and entertainment events that are expected to continue throughout the year and into 2021,” the plan says. 

While the arena was basically shut down to all events for much of the year, the Halifax Mooseheads were playing again, albeit briefly. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is now shut down again until January. The updated budget numbers are based on the Mooseheads playing their shortened season, so a continued shutdown could widen the deficit. 

“As uncertainty continues throughout the current year and into 2021, the revised budget reflects the loss of planned revenue and a low volume of event activity that does not reflect the typical event mix,” the plan says. 

Click here to read Woodford’s complete article. 

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5. Embracing ‘friluftsliv’

The Forsey kids of Cape Breton embracing winter. Photo: James Forsey

Mary Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator wrote this article about embracing winter through the Norwegian concept of friluftsliv, which Campbell learns roughly translates to“open-air living” or “free-air living.”  

But there’s more to it than that, and Campbell interviews a few folks to learn how they embrace the winter during the colder months and how friluftsliv might look Cape Breton style. Campbell writes:

I thought friluftsliv sounded like the opposite of the last Scandinavian concept to take the world by storm, the Danish hygge (prounced HEW-guh), which was all about indoor coziness and involved candles and hot beverages and woolen sweaters and roaring fires, but Leslie Anderson of the National Nordic Museum told Seattle Times reporter Megan Burbank that it’s more like a corollary: 

While the two concepts are associated with different environments (hygge is internally focused) and different areas of Scandinavia, she said, “It’s about finding contentment … you can see a kind of shared fondness for both spaces and an approach to life where you have designated a space and a way of living with time to recharge.” 

I am not Norwegian, nor have I ever been to Norway, so I’m approaching this subject with caution, as one should when reading a bunch of non-Norwegian accounts of a Norwegian phenomenon. (I’ve also been hesitant about comparing Canadians to Scandinavians since 1973, when that ParticipACTION ad said 30-year-old Canadians were “in about the same physical shape” as 60-year-old Swedes.) 

Campbell askPaul MacDougall for his thoughts and he wrote a complete article for the Spectator. Campbell also talks with James Forsey, who works as a probation officer and whose winter activities include ice fishing, snowshoeing with the kids, and building a backyard rink. Next, Campbell interviewed Corinne Cash, a professor at the Coady Institute at St. FX, who shared ways for municipalities to embrace the winter by making their cities more bike-friendly.  

I don’t consider myself an outdoors type, but I like getting outside. I love my horseback riding lessons, although they are cancelled now under new COVID-19 rules. But I expect to take them year-round. I even bought a bunch of thermal clothing to wear, which has become a staple of my wardrobe since I am often cold (I’m wearing it now). In the spring lockdown, all that staying home wore on me. I especially like going for drives, which Campbell says don’t count as friluftsliv. I guess I better get back to horseback riding soon.

Like the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is supported by subscriptions. You can click here to get a joint subscription.


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How Kevin Little is helping North Dartmouth through the pandemic

Kevin Little is a community navigator with the Public Good Society in Dartmouth. When the pandemic hit in March, Little had to change up the way he connected with clients. Photo: Contributed.

I met Kevin Little about 10 years ago when I started as the volunteer editor of the North Dartmouth Echo. Little is the outreach facilitator with The Public Good Society, which works with other agencies in Dartmouth to address complex issues like poverty. Each week, Little heads to the food banks in Dartmouth, including those at Stairs Memorial, Christ Church, and First Baptist. Little’s job is to connect clients with supports for mental health, housing, and employment. He doesn’t have an office, but works on the street, carrying supplies in a backpack slung over his shoulder. 

But when the pandemic hit back in March, Little had to change the way he did his job. Like many organizations, the food banks had to close doors and asked clients to pick up food instead. There was no more sitting around and chatting. These food banks also lost a number of their volunteers, including those over the age of 60 who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. Little and I spoke this week about how his work changed.  

I went to the food banks longer than I should have. People were locking down all over the city. My sense was I didn’t want to abandon the clients. I didn’t want them to think there was nobody. All the agencies had stopped. Everybody stopped. At that point, the food banks were giving out food at the door. The clients would line up outside. 

But the society’s board members, including Matt Spurway, Robert Chisholm, and Ralph MacKenzie, had an idea. In 2012, the society got a community van that was purchased with a grant from former councillor Jim Smith. That van is used by about 14 community organizations in Dartmouth, including the food banks and the Freedom Foundation, which provides housing and support for men who are in recovery from addictions. In the last eight years, the six-seater van has moved more than 25,000 people. But when the food banks stopped delivering food, the society’s board thought Little could take over the role as delivery driver.  

Ralph MacKenzie says the pandemic has exposed a lot of challenges for people in Dartmouth. 

There are people struggling, people are isolated, there’s a real sense of food insecurity. There’s a real sense of all sorts of these things. What this pandemic did is expose them, bring them up to the forefront even more. Before I retired from teaching, I knew there were food banks, I knew there were night shelters, but I didn’t really know what it’s like. I think for a lot of people who knew all those things this pandemic opened a window so that the ordinary Joe gets to see. People don’t have food in some situations. It’s hard for some people to believe that’s the case, but it is. 

Little showed up at the food banks on April 1. He was given masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, and a whole bunch of boxes of food with names. Says Little:  

The names were all familiar to me and that was important, too, because when I called the client and said I’m coming to your apartment building, I have food, they knew who I was. There was trust immediately.  

Little didn’t go into any buildings, but the client would come out or have someone else go out to meet him and pick up the box of food. Most of his clients live in Dartmouth north. 

April turned to May, and then June, and Little says clients were feeling the isolation. So, besides dropping off food, he’d stay a bit with clients a talk, all at a safe social distance. 

Little started calling the clients on the phone to check in with them. Sometimes they would call him on the weekend or a Friday night. They’d often say he was the first person they spoke to in a week. A lot of his calls were from clients who were losing their homes to renovictions. 

He remembers talking on the phone with one client who had relied on using the computer at the local library. But that access was gone during the lockdown. Little knew someone who had a laptop who gave it to the client — suddenly he was connected again.  

It was obvious they were lonely and there was no support for them. I’m only part time, so when I do this as a navigation job, it’s not my policy to call people in the evening or the weekend. But in this pandemic, you pivot, so I would take any calls and all calls. I would be on the phone for any length of time, any day, just chatting with people and give them a sense there was someone on the other end of the line. 

Little, who is also a minister at two different churches, is a talker. He calls himself the extrovert’s extrovert. That makes him good at his job. He’s built trust with these clients over the years.  

The one thing I can do is talk to anybody. I can find a way to make a conversation work. It’s the one skill my mother gave me that has stood me in good stead all these years. It’s amazing how far you can go in life when all you can do is talk to people. 

When the weather got warmer and places started opening up again, Little got fewer calls. He’s back to visiting clients at the food banks, but his job looks different now. Pre-COVID, Little would spend time inside the food banks, sitting and talking to clients, while they drank coffee, had a snack, and read the newspaper. These days, everyone sits in a chair just to wait for food and they leave when it’s ready. There’s no coffee, no food, and no time for chit chat. For now, Little is doing both jobs, navigating under the new restrictions and delivering food to clients.

Little says in his navigating experience, the clients visit the foodbanks not just for the food. There are people they know, including other clients and the volunteers. Local ministers will visit, too. He says the pandemic confirmed something he says he’s been standing on the rooftops shouting for years.  

Every time I go to gatherings, we talk about housing, and we should, because it’s terrible. Poverty is terrible, mental health supports are terrible. I go to advocacy meetings all the time to convince the government to do more. But the one thing I don’t hear much from people, is we need more spaces where people can come together and be a community. This is something I’ve been on for a long time.  

Little says for the people in the middle class, they have social networks, all kinds of places where they connect with people.  

If you’re poor and you’re moving from apartment to apartment and you’re never staying anywhere long, and maybe you have a lot of challenges in your life, where does that [social networking] happen? How does that happen?  

MacKenzie agrees:  

Social isolation is a huge deal. It’s been very impactful and Kevin has been at it for a very long time and he’s good at it. The people in the food banks know exactly who he is. They know how to talk with him and they’re comfortable with him. They have a rapport. It allowed him to participate to a certain degree and he still had that contact. But he says most of the time people just wanted an ear. You’re by yourself in an apartment in north Dartmouth and you don’t see a lot of people. So, when Kevin comes, and Kevin’s a talker, he knows that world and the challenges they face and he understands it; he was a comfort to a lot of people. 

Little says there are already examples of how this can work, adding that the one place that has this figured out is The North Grove, a non-profit in north Dartmouth with a community food centre, community garden, and family centre that offers programs and services. He says it reminds him of the show Cheers where everyone knows your name. Says Little: 

A lot of agencies don’t do that. They don’t want people hanging out. And I get that. But there have be spaces in our community where people can walk in and feel comfortable. Where someone is going to know their name, they’ll know their story. And that’s something we don’t talk enough about in our society.  

Little says this is not even a new concept, but one we have to start thinking more about, especially when there’s a crisis. Little says he remembers someone telling him about Ray Oldenburg’s book, The Great Good Place. Your first place is your family, the second place is where you work, and your third place is your hangout spot or a home away from home.  

There aren’t that many third places. And if you’re poor, there are fewer. As much as middle class people were heartbroken about not being able to see their buddies, we managed through Zoom and bubbles to stay connected. I think people forget that as much as these food banks are there for food, they are there for community. I don’t know that people really get that. If we get the vaccine and turn the corner, it would be good to think about the third places in our communities for people when all hell breaks loose.

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Noticed

Steve Skafte, with the Facebook group Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia, created a map of abandoned cemeteries in the province. Most of the spots located so far are in the Annapolis Valley, but others will be added. Photo: Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia

Steve Skafte, one of the founders of the Facebook group Abandoned Cemeteries of Nova Scotia, created this Google map that pinpoints all the locations of abandoned cemeteries he found himself. Most of them are located in the Annapolis Valley, but the map is a work in progress and more will be added. Here’s a message Skafte shared in the group:  

This is so far focused mostly on my home area of Annapolis County, where I’ve discovered a total of 38 abandoned cemeteries so far. When I first started this project, I had no idea so many were out there, hidden in nearly every community. These cemeteries are regularly tangled and overgrown, often invisible from just feet away. I’ve found stones along fields and treelines, in back yards, and buried in the woods – even in a crawlspace under a home! 

This map is, and I cannot stress this enough – accurate. If you’re like me, and have found yourself inflicted with the work of armchair cemetery cartographers, you’ve discovered that few have ever tried to follow their own directions. Some offer 50% success at best, a coin toss whether they’re off by 100 meters or half a kilometer. So for my part, I’ve recorded these coordinates standing dead center to every cemetery. My map will take you where you need to go. 

Most of these sites can be easily accessed from the roadside, but I’ve made notes where it would be best to introduce yourself first at a house or business. Be respectful in these cases, but also be aware that your right to pass is guaranteed as per the Cemeteries and Monuments Protection Act of 1998: 

“Any person may go on foot upon and across any uncultivated lands or Crown lands for the purpose of visiting a cemetery or monument during daylight hours for purposes usually associated with cemetery or monument visits, as the case may be.” 

This is such a great resource for historians, genealogists, and others looking for the final resting place for their ancestors.

I love looking at maps. I often look at a map of Nova Scotia, pick a place, and just drive there to check it out. I don’t visit cemeteries, though. The Abandoned Cemeteries group has photos of the cemeteries, too (another really good resource on cemeteries is the Twitter account Dead in Halifax by Craig Ferguson).

Skafte went to a lot of work on this project, searching for and clearing the cemeteries himself. If there are good things to come out of this pandemic, maybe it’s the time and commitment people put into projects like this that others will use for years to come.   

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Government

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

The Academic Sensibility of Genocide and Our Post-Racial Sensibility of Anti-Black Violence (Friday, 2:30pm) — Lissa Skitolsky will

talk about her recent work that examines how the categories and lines of inquiry in the academic field of genocide studies were shaped by and still reinforce the neoliberal and post-racial sensibility of systemic anti-black violence as a series of tragic accidents. This “morbid sensibility” of genocide rests on the non-appearance of anti-black violence in the academic discourse and histories of genocide in the modern world.

Info and link here.


In the harbour

05:00: MOL Maestro, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
08:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier 9 to Fairview Cove
100:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10:00: Augusta Unity, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Moa, Cuba
16:30: Taipei Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
16:30: MOL Maestro sails for New York
16:30: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
17:30: ZIM Shekou, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York


Footnotes

This is my last Morning File for a bit. I’m taking a hiatus to continue on the Not Without Us project I started in May 2019, which gathered and shared the stories of women with disabilities who experienced violence. Now we’re working on next steps, which will take up a lot of time. Perhaps I’ll share some of that work here.

I will miss writing the Morning File. This is a place where I can explore all kinds of stories from observations, to conversations, and just general interest. I counted last night and I’ve written more than 100 Morning Files and articles for the Examiner. I’ve also learned so much from the other writers. I’ll keep reading, of course!

When I told Tim I had to take a break for a bit, he told me I could always come back because there will be a place for me at the Examiner. This is what makes the Examiner so special. It really is a collaboration of people who support each other and their work.

I’ll be back …

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. Call me strange, but the idea that food banks are a place to build community and companionship is something to lament rather than admire. It’s like saying funerals are a great way to connect with people…if you can forget that somebody had to die to get you there.

    Human connection is essential, and we should take it wherever we can get it. But the fact we are reduced to eek it out at places where hungry people gather for shelter from the storm is yet another measure of how uncivilized we really are and of the massive indignities we accept as just the way things are.

  2. If ever there was someone who deserves an appointment to the Order of Canada it is Kevin Little. I have been aware of Kevin and his work for well over 30 years. Even with all that is said about him, there is still more that goes with little notice. Kevin certainly does not seek fame, but I have trouble thinking of very many people who contribute more to the well being of communities and individuals.

  3. Another great Morning File!

    I think I met Kevin only once and it was years ago, so I may be wrong. Dartmouth North community members certainly know his name. The service he provides delivering food needs to be expanded and continued throughout the winter. I regularly go to The North Grove to pick up for myself and others, but that’s going to get harder to do as the weather gets colder and the ground underfoot gets icy.

    I love the colder weather, and hope to still get out for a walk everyday, but I cannot carry as much when the ground is slippery. Really hoping city council has prioritized keeping sidewalks clear and accessible this winter – outdoors is the safest place to be – but not if a broken bone (in my case, the greatest risk is a broken hip) is the result.

    Does anyone have a working wagon that can go through snow they are not using and might be able to lend?

    1. For the record, Tim’s comment that the shortage of nursing home beds reflects “failure of governments of all three political parties” is arguable but the failure of the current Liberal government stands out. In 2006 the Conservative government launched a ten-year strategy, inherited by the NDP, to add 1,320 beds. I believe most of the additions took place before the NDP government was defeated, but good data is hard to find. The Liberals have added few or none, and have justified that with the claim, published in a 2015 policy paper while Leo Glavine was minister that emphasis would be put on home care because NS had one of the “best-funded” long-term care systems in Canada, with a ratio of long-term care beds to population that is one of the highest in Canada. Given the scarcity of reliable data, one cannot say definitively that the statement was BS when made, but the 2016 Census indicates that may be factual for nursing home beds but when supported living is included, Nova Scotia has one of the lowest ratios of long-term beds to population. So, blame where blame most belongs – with the McNeil government.

    2. Bikeways and bike lanes have a higher priority for snow clearing. The sidewalk plow goes through Dartmouth Common and then motors off somewhere else; leaving the sidewalks for some hours/days later. For pedestrians the walk through the Common is a brief respite from miles of snow covered and uneven sidewalks.

      1. If bike lanes have a higher priority for snow clearing officially then the peninsula sure isn’t following official guidance.

  4. It would be nice if HRM made the city pedestrian-friendly with nice wide and flat sidewalks.
    A friend pointed me to a recent twitter post from someone in Nova Scotia showing the town of Oulo, Finland and a comment about how people cycle there in the winter. Oulu is at latitude 65 North and that is 100 miles further north than Iqaluit. The city of Oulu gets very liitle snow and let us not forget that weather forecasting for Nova Scotia is quite difficult. Halifax is closer to the equator than the North Pole and 1,400 miles south of Oulu and we get far more snow than Oulu

    1. In general I am very tired of people mindlessly comparing the rest of the world to the Nordic countries. The Nordic countries have some advantages relative to just about everywhere else:

      1) Very large endowments per capita of natural resources
      2) They have generally been spared the ravages of the European wars of the last few centuries, with a minor exception of WW2 Finland
      3) It is not nearly as cold as people think, except in the northern hinterlands
      4) Their populations are clustered in two or three cities per country

  5. Nice piece on Kevin Little.

    I have also known Kevin for a long time. Interesting guy, and an excellent thrifter too. (He has given me a couple of Expos items he has found in his thrift-shop adventures.)

    Several years ago I made a radio documentary about him, focusing on his two very different churches — St. Luke’s in Tantallon and Brunswick Street United. (Kevin is no longer at St. Luke’s.) You can listen to it here: https://soundcloud.com/philipmoscovitch/one-shepherd-two-flocks