Step out of lockdown and into “PHASE 1” of reopening, Nova Scotia. May we never look back …

News

1. COVID-19 update

A sign approaching Burnside on March 23, 2020, reminding drivers about the state of emergency. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Reopening, “Phase 1”

As of 8am today, lockdown restrictions in Nova Scotia are lightening (slightly).

We’re now in “phase 1” of the province’s reopening plan. Among the changes in restrictions:

  • You can now meet outdoors with a consistent social group of 10 people, so barbecues and picnics are back on the table.
  • Public and privates schools are reopening to in-class learning. (In-class learning in Halifax and Sydney schools will return on Thursday).
  • All retail stores will reopen at 25% capacity and outdoor patios can reopen with physical distancing.
  • Provincial park campgrounds are open.

Here’s a link to the full reopening plan for Nova Scotia.

Numbers

Numbers remain promising as of Tuesday’s provincial COVID-19 briefing.

There were 12 new cases of COVID-19 announced Tuesday. Eight of the new cases were in the province’s central zone. There are now 369 known active cases in Nova Scotia — 38 people are in hospital, 15 of whom are in intensive care. There were 91 people considered recovered as of Tuesday’s briefing.

Wanna see a pretty picture? Check out Tim Bousquet’s chart tracking new case numbers and the seven-day rolling averages in Nova Scotia since the start of the third wave:

Nothing like a nice, relaxing denouement after some harrowing rising action.

You can find graphs like this charting all the important pandemic stats you need to be aware of in this province, as well as news on testing, vaccinations, exposure sites, and more on Tim Bousquet’s daily COVID-19 news roundup from Tuesday.

You can also find Bousquet’s ongoing answers to some of the FAQs he receives about the pandemic, here.

Just a reminder, the Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.

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2. More COVID-19 news: AstraZeneca available for second doses

Registered nurse Natalie White holds a dose of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in a syringe at a clinic at Dalhousie University in Halifax on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.  Photo: Zane Woodford

On May 12, the province put a pause on the AstraZeneca vaccine, following concerns that it could lead to blood-clotting in rare cases.

On Tuesday afternoon, Jennifer Henderson wrote this:

Thousands of Nova Scotians vaccinated with AstraZeneca have a pointed interest in what their second jab will contain. They’ve been waiting for scientists and public health officials to determine both the safety and effectiveness of mixing AZ with a second dose of either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

It’s from Henderson’s full article about Dalhousie research that seems to be showing that Pfizer could be used successfully as a second dose. Well, a few short hours after that article was published, the province seemed to agree with DAL’s findings.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, the province OK’d AstraZeneca as a second dose for those who’d already received it as a first dose. Nova Scotians will also have a choice to receive a shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a second dose, if they don’t feel comfortable getting an AstraZeneca injection again. (On top of that, if you got the Pfizer vaccine the first time around, you can now switch to the Moderna brand for your second dose if you so choose, and vice versa). From the news release:

As part of the province’s plan to reduce the second-dose interval, anyone who received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine will receive a notice by email to reschedule their second dose appointment. Notices will be issued starting this week and will continue to be sent out over the coming weeks.

The release states that the province came to this decision after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) updated its guidance on vaccine “interchangeability.” It also states that Nova Scotia has about 2,000 doses of AstraZeneca set to expire at the end of the month, but will request more from the federal government if demand for a second dose of it is high. According to the province, about 58,000 Nova Scotians received a first dose of AstraZeneca.

Want more information on the science behind combining doses of different vaccines? Henderson’s article goes into more of the details from Dalhousie researchers on why they’re optimistic, what the (minimal) side effects of their experiments were, and how their research compares to similar studies and findings from around the world.

You can read the whole thing here.

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3. We already told you about the 32 environmental charges against Atlantic Gold in this province. Turns out they’re facing three federal charges, too

Clay excavation near Atlantic Gold Moose River mine Photo: Mitchell Glawson

The Examiner continues its resource coverage this morning with an update on Atlantic Gold’s legal dealings from Jennifer Henderson:

A lawyer for Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia was in court yesterday to enter pleas on a total of 32 charges laid under the province’s Environment Act related to the company’s open-pit gold mining operation at Moose River and gold exploration at Fifteen Mile Stream on the Eastern Shore — but those pleas weren’t entered.

In addition to the 32 provincial charges, the Halifax Examiner learned Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia, an affiliate of Atlantic Gold that is owned by Australia’s St Barbara Ltd, is also facing three charges filed under the federal Fisheries Act.

Joan Baxter wrote about those 32 provincial charges for the Examiner in January. Locals have long been concerned about the environmental impact of the Moose River mine, including sediment that’s run off from the site and into the freshwater brooks and streams surrounding the area.

Now the Examiner has learned that Environment Canada laid three new charges all related to sedimentation and fish habitat under the Fisheries Act. Those charges were filed on March 21 and deal with non-compliance with federal regulations between Sept. 27, 2018 and April 29, 2020. The three charges, to put it very simply, allege that Atlantic Mining failed to sample effluent for “an acute lethality test from an unauthorized deposit of deleterious substance,” failed to notify of an unauthorized deposit of a deleterious substance, and failed to provide a written report of an unauthorized deleterious substance.

Check out the full article to see what comes next for the company and what the environmental harm to the Moose River area might be if these allegations prove true.

This article is behind the paywall. To get the full story, you can subscribe here!

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4. Housing Crisis: Liberal MLAs vote in favour of another meeting, but against more data collection on Nova Scotians at risk of eviction

Members of Nova Scotia’s Standing Committee on Community Services vote on a motion from PC MLA Brian Comer.  Screenshot: YouTube/Nova Scotia Legislature

On Tuesday, Nova Scotia’s Standing Committee on Community Services met virtually to discuss “housing and COVID-19 and the homelessness crisis.”

Zane Woodford reports that the committee and department heads were light on answers and statistics when MLAs questioned them about what target percentage of affordable units has been set for the province, what number of income assistance recipients are being housed in hotels right now, and whether homelessness has increased since the start of the pandemic.

Despite this, the legislature voted against a motion to compile more housing data; in this case, the motion would have led to compiling data on how many people will be at risk of eviction once the pandemic is over. One MLA was concerned that there was no definition of “at risk,” so the motion was voted down. The Liberal MLAs did vote in favour of scheduling a new committee meeting this summer, when the committee usually breaks until September. There, the committee would further discuss the aforementioned “at risk” definition, as well as to ask questions about the recent Affordable Housing Commission report’s recommendations.

Woodford wrote about that report for the Examiner last week, which urged the province to spend $25 million in the next 100 days to start working toward a solution for the affordable housing crisis. The report made 17 recommendations with 60 “key actions” for this funding to be used on. Another report, this one from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia, also came out last week, saying the province currently needs to create 30,000 affordable housing units.

Will there ever be a time when affordable housing becomes the norm, not the need?

Read Woodford’s full article to hear what the Standing Committee on Community Services, the Department of Infrastructure and Housing, the Department of Community Services and the executive director of the Family Service Association of Western Nova Scotia had to say about the housing crisis, the impacts the pandemic has had on it, and what the province plans to do about it. Or at least, when the province plans to meet to plan to do something about it.

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5. Will proof of vaccination be as essential to travel as your passport? And what could that mean?

What we need to know about travel certificates. Photo: European Travel Commission

Let’s get back to pandemic news, shall we?

Yvette d’Entremont has this Black Mirror-esque story:

“At some point in the not too distant future, vaccine certificates are expected to be a requirement for international travel.

But what should they look like and what issues must be taken into consideration?

Dalhousie University Research Professor and bioethicist Françoise Baylis says policies around COVID-19 vaccine certificates must be evidence-informed and ethically sound, and we all need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of such a document.”

According to a recent poll, 76% of Canadians support mandatory vaccination proof for travel to the US, and 79% say it should be mandatory for international travel beyond the States.

For one, do we only have to present our certificates when we travel? Can police stop us to see if we’re vaccinated when we’re out walking amongst the public? Halifax has had problems with that kind of street check before. Will we be increasing inequality? Some people can’t get vaccinated for health reasons. Should they be punished? And can people really opt out of vaccines when it might mean it could hinder their freedom when they can’t get a vaccination certificate? Should we just mandate them if that’s the case? That raises a whole other level of questions. And when can we stop using these proofs of vaccination if they are implemented? Will proving you’re healthy just become as routine as removing your belt at airport security?

This piece makes for some really interesting reading. It’s an issue that can seem pretty black and white before you do a little deeper reading. So, why not challenge your current opinions on the subject and do some of that deeper reading right now by heading over to d’Entremont’s full article to see what all the fuss is about?

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6. Writers cancel talks at Halifax Public Libraries as activists continue to call for removal of “transphobic” book

Here, Philip Moscovitch continues to follow the story of the controversy surrounding a book that activists are calling “transphobic,” and Halifax Public Libraries decision to keep carrying it.

Here’s an excerpt from Moscovitch’s April article on the book in question:

The library currently owns two copies of the book by Abigail Shrier, called Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. As of this writing, 21 people have it on hold. The book’s description on the library website says:

Unsuspecting parents are awakening to find their daughters in thrall to hip trans YouTube stars and “gender-affirming” educators.

Using the type of language you may recognize from other moral panics — like the teen oral sex “epidemic,” ritual satanic abuse, and gang violence — the book blurb continues:

Today whole groups of female friends in colleges, high schools, and even middle schools across the country are coming out as “transgender.” These are girls who had never experienced any discomfort in their biological sex until they heard a coming-out story from a speaker at a school assembly or discovered the internet community of trans “influencers.”

Activists have been asking Halifax Public Libraries to remove the book, even starting a petition to do so. For its part, the library’s senior manager gave this response last week:

We have further reviewed the book Irreversible Damage by Abigail Shrier against Halifax Public Libraries’ Collection Development Policy, the Canadian Federation of Library Associations’ Statement on Intellectual Freedom, and have made the decision not to censor the book.

Public libraries exist to provide equal access to resources for everyone and support individuals’ freedom to seek information and form their own opinions. When we act to suppress access, we engage in censorship.

They’ve opted to promote other works that promote trans culture instead.

Is it censorship to remove it? Are we just keeping hate speech on the shelf, free for anyone to pick up and read?

A number of writers have made a stand against the book’s inclusion, choosing to cancel talks at Halifax Public Libraries, and activists continue to push back against the Libraries’ decision to keep it.

In his full article, Moscovitch talks with a number of writers and experts about the merits of keeping and ditching this book. As well as the nature of free speech and censorship in today’s increasingly polarized world.

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Views

A week for reflection

The Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.

I think I first heard of the history of Canada’s residential schools when I was in middle school. 

It would’ve been a social studies class, I believe, and I was probably 11 or 12. I remember passing around grainy, photocopied pictures of Indigenous children from the 40s, 50s, and 60s, all dressed in tight-fitting uniforms with short, clean haircuts and priests and nuns posing high above them. A few of the photos showed Indigenous children with their families — dressed in tanned clothes, their hair long and flowing. They looked like they were from completely different worlds. And they were.

We were told about some of the things that happened at these schools. How old personal possessions were confiscated and children were forced to act and dress like people from another culture, how they were punished for speaking their own language, how those punishments were severe, and how some of the children didn’t survive their stay.

At the time though, what struck me most was the separation from the parents. At that young age, I pictured these schools as the kind of nightmarish place a child in a children’s book might be forced to go in order to help make ends meet back home, or as a punishment from some evil relatives. Something out of Dickens, Roald Dahl, or Lemony Snicket. 

Within a year or two, Stephen Harper formally apologized for the schools on behalf of the Canadian government and, still a young kid, I figured that terrible chapter of the country’s history was over. And the idea of residential schools remained just that for me: an idea. An abstract nastiness from a distant past that took place in black-and-white photographs.

Then, in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report on residential schools, which included 94 “calls to action,” whose purpose was to galvanize Canadians to “redressing the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation.” The Prime Minister accepted the report and the federal government made promises to create a “national reconciliation framework” in partnership with Indigenous leaders.

In my undergrad, parts of the report were assigned reading. The report as a whole is massive, but I did become familiar with some of it.

The fourth volume deals entirely with “Missing Children and Unmarked Burials.” It’s 140 pages without the appendices and notes.

That volume of that report — now almost six years old —  found that at least 3,200 children died in these schools or shortly after discharge. Here’s the heartbreaking penultimate paragraph from that volume:

Students who died at school were rarely sent home unless their parents could afford to pay for transportation. Unless they lived in close proximity to the school, most parents could not afford such costs. As a result, it is likely that most students who died at residential school were buried in either a nearby mission cemetery or a residential school cemetery. Although some of these cemeteries remain in operation, many more have been abandoned after the closure of either the school or the mission. In recent years, in a number of important instances, Aboriginal communities, churches, and former staff have taken steps to rehabilitate cemeteries and commemorate the individuals buried there.

All this is to say that, while I’m no expert, I was familiar enough with the disturbing details —  the separation of families, loss of culture and tradition, severity of punishments, and overall callousness of care — when I read the news about the 215 dead children found buried in Kamloops last week. Well over a decade since I first learned about these schools. Over five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s Final Report.

And yet, I’ve never felt the implications —  the true impact and horror of these schools until I read this story and saw those pictures of the 215 pairs of shoes placed together as a tribute to those unknown children who died and were laid to rest so far from their families and homes. I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that’s been the case, to some degree, for many Canadians this week.

I don’t know why that is. It was the same, for me at least, with the Syrian refugee crisis. For four years I’d heard constant reports of the civil war in Syria and saw constant video footage of Damascus in rubble. But I only really felt the desperation and terror of the situation after seeing the photograph of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, dead on the Turkish shore, after his family’s boat capsized while they attempted to flee the country. Some would say it made the Canada’s approach to refugees a major issue in the federal election that year.

Why is it that I could have known that that war was going on, tearing apart families, forcing them to make death-defying trips to run, and yet one image made it real for me? And why is it, that I could have been taught about these residential schools, seen videos of survivors breaking down while recollecting their experiences, seen a report hundreds of pages long that documented ruined lives, ruined families, and only now get a bit of a grasp of the full impact of these institutions?

At the very least, it’s been heartening to see the overwhelming outpouring of grief Canadians have shared in this past week, and the push to further the progress of reconciliation. Looking at those shoes though, and what they represent, the job seems even more overwhelming. How do you reconcile a lost generation? How do you make reparations for not just the loss of life, but the loss of a culture, the loss of family for the generations that survived these schools? How do we move forward as a country, learning to live with our history while righting it as best we can?

The Truth and Reconciliation report has some suggestions, at least as far as remedying the harm of residential schools.

Here’s the very last paragraph of the volume on Missing Children and Unmarked Burials:

The measures recommended in this report are intended to serve as a framework for a national strategy for the documentation, maintenance, commemoration, and protection of residential school cemeteries. Such a program, carried out in close consultation with the concerned Aboriginal communities, is necessary to properly honour the memory of the children who died in Canada’s residential schools.

I think it’s time I gave that report a deeper reading. I think the federal government will have to do the same.

Here are the 94 calls to action listed in the report.

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Noticed

Lockdown is loosening and apples are blossoming

Photo: Bruce McGaw

This weekend would have been the Annapolis Valley’s annual Apple Blossom Festival. I only realized it Friday when I was running along the Acadian dykelands and was overwhelmed — in the best, most aromatic way possible — by the smells of the spring bursting back into the world.

I’d tell you what those smells were, but I’m one of those modern kids you’re always reading about who can identify more corporate logos than plants.

The motto for this year’s festival, according to the website, would have been “Let Imagination Blossom.” You’d have to use a lot of imagination to see any of the events this year, so it’s still fitting.

We’ve gone two years now without any parades, pageants, ox pulls, county fairs, or crowded fireworks displays. I’m sure a few Hantsporters got drunk and played washer toss at some point over the weekend though, so in a way the festival didn’t really die.

Running around the trails this weekend, it was refreshing to see the blossoms back. Even more so than usual. I missed them last year, being in Halifax. The smell, the soft white in the sun, the buzz of the bees around them … it really lifts the spirits.

Ultimately I think it’s just nice to know that some things can’t be restricted, locked down, or covered up with plastic, rubber, and glass. The spring pushes through all the same.

I figured I’d share a quick family story from this time of year to finish the Morning File on a light note. Like all family stories, to the best of my knowledge, this one’s true.

My grandparents and I used to watch the Blue Jays every Sunday when I was a kid and they were still around. They loved ball, and they helped pass that love for the sport on to me.

My grandfather had been a catcher for his hometown Waterville team in the 30s and 40s. Sometimes when a catcher would be shaken up by a foul ball to the facemask, he would laugh and tell me he only got hit in the face once in all his years catching. He never wore a mask in his playing days. In fact, only he and the first baseman were lucky enough to have gloves. Apparently electricity and running water predated protective equipment in rural Nova Scotia.

Photo: Bruce McGaw

Anyway, he’d met my grandmother at a wedding just before Apple Blossom. She’d been maid of honour and he, the Best Man. They’d made a date to meet at the Apple Blossom Ball at the Old Cornwallis Inn that weekend.

As my grandfather told it, he took a foul ball straight to the eye the day before the dance. The only time he was ever hit in the face in his decade-plus of catching.

He showed up to the dance with an eye as big and blue as a ripe plum. People joked that he’d made a pass at my grandmother and she’d slugged him. He put up with the jokes, she put up with the shiner, and they wound up putting up with each other for over 60 years.

Happy Apple Blossom, everyone. Even you, Halifax.

And thanks to my friend Bruce McGaw for the photos. I did take one myself on Monday, but they weren’t Apple Blossoms. If you look closely, you can see Blomidon in the background though. Always worth a photo.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am) — live on YouTube

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — live on YouTube

Overflow meeting for Case 23374 (Wednesday, 6pm) — if needed; development of a 6-storey building at the intersection of Waverley Road and Montebello Drive

Thursday

Environment and Sustainable Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live on YouTube

Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm) — live on YouTube

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — live on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

King’s

2021 Alumni Association Annual General Meeting (Wednesday, 4pm) — via Zoom


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
08:00: Atlantic Marlin, cargo barge, moves from Woodside Industries to Halifax Shipyard

Cape Breton
12:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove Quarry for sea
20:40: Louisa Bolten, bulker, arrives at Mulgrave Station from Safi, Morocco


Footnotes

  • Iris was kind enough to send me some Examiner merch in the mail last week. Just in time to wear it to my first vaccination appointment tomorrow too — seems to be all the rage these days! I’m politically opposed to taking selfies, so I’ll have to try to get someone to snap a pic. Just in case that doesn’t materialize, here I am, completely unvaccinated, dressed in the team uniform, finishing up today’s Morning File.

Putting the finishing touches on the Morning File. Yet to put even the starting touches on my hair. Photo: Wes Booth
  • If the patios are open, I might just go on the hunt for a little sangria and sandwich lunch now that this is published. Enjoy the sunshine, Halifax.
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    Ethan Lycan-Lang

    Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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