News

1. Search of Shubenacadie residential school grounds ongoing and may expand to other sites

The Shubenacadie Indian Residential School

Zane Woodford reports on ongoing efforts to search the grounds of the former residential school at Shubenacadie, in light of the discovery last week of the remains of 215 children buried on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC.

From Woodford’s story:

In a Facebook post on Monday, the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (KMKNO), the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative, wrote, “In light of the recent heartbreaking news out of BC, we want community members to know that similar work has been ongoing here in Nova Scotia.”

Expressing condolences to the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, the KMKNO wrote in an attached letter that its staff are part of the Indian Residential School (IRS) sub-committee of the Tripartite Forum’s Culture and Heritage Committee. That sub-committee “has been working for several years to conduct similar investigations to those that took place in Kamloops, at the site of the former Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia.”

“Under the guidance of Survivor and respected Elder, Dorene Bernard, various locations at the Shubenacadie school site have already been examined using ground-penetrating radar (GPR) — which is a non-intrusive method to survey what is underground,” the KMKNO wrote.

Sixteen students are known to have died at the school. Woodford links to historian Daniel Paul’s website, which provides more information on residential schools in general, and Shubenacadie in particular.

Isabelle Knockwood’s book Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia, published by Fernwood recounts the experiences of Knockwood and others at the school. From the publisher’s website:

Survivor Isabelle Knockwood offers the firsthand experiences of forty-two survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School. In their own words, these former students remember their first day of residential schooling, when they were outwardly transformed through hair cuts and striped uniforms marked with numbers. Then followed years of inner transformation from a strict and regimented life of education and manual training, as well as harsh punishments for speaking their own language or engaging in Indigenous customs.

I confess that I have not read Knockwood’s book, though I am told it is excellent. I have read and do recommend the remarkable memoir Doug Knockwood, Mi’kmaw Elder: Stories,Memories, Reflections, from the same publisher.

I think for some non-Indigenous people there is a real desire to not want to have to face the legacy of residential schools and the damage they did. There’s a tendency to make excuses — that was all in the past, the kids died of diseases like tuberculosis, which were rampant at the time and that’s sad, but there’s nothing that could have been done about it — and so on. Perhaps this minimization comes simply from the desire to not want to feel uncomfortable, to not want to engage with the horrors that were perpetrated and with the ongoing damage they’ve caused. But you have to face discomfort, and institutions have to recognize the harm they’ve done.

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2. HRM and CBRM students return to school, local travel restrictions removed

Chart of new daily COVID-19 cases and 7-day rolling average from March 28 to May 27, 2021

Thanks to the drop in COVID-19 cases represented by that nice downward curve on the right side of the chart above, Premier Iain Rankin and Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang announced at a briefing yesterday that  students in Halifax and Sydney will join those in the rest of the province and return to school this week. The government is also removing restrictions on travel in and out of HRM and CBRM effective today. So you don’t have to look at a map and wonder what constitutes your community anymore.

Tim Bousquet covers the briefing and more in his daily COVID-19 update. Seventeen new cases were announced for Nova Scotia yesterday, and we are down to 448 active cases, with 40 people in hospital and 16 of those in ICU. One of those no longer hospitalized is musician Asif Illyas, who wrote in a public Facebook post breathing with COVID-19 felt like “the walls were closing in on me” and that being in the ICU “felt like being adrift in space alone on forced oxygen.” He is home now and gently playing his woodwinds in an effort to work his way up to being able to take deep breaths again.

Bousquet includes information on where to get tested, the latest vaccination numbers, and a more in-depth look at the school situation. He quotes Strang’s response on the issue of the safety of schools, which boils down to two things: while many students and staff became infected with COVID-19, little transmission took place at school, and the safety of schools depends on the safety of the community:

We said from the beginning, since classes went back in September, that our schools are a safe place.

But they are safe when our communities are safe, and by and large, we’ve been able to keep our schools open. During this third wave, we had enough spread in communities that we had to close down schools for a period of time, but that situation has come under control faster than I even imagined. So we’re back to a place where our schools are safe. We have good protocols. But what makes them really safe is we have no indication of general community spread anywhere in the province. There’s some little bits of spread within HRM, but mostly in confined populations. So I’m very comfortable giving the recommendation to the premier. I want to assure students and teachers that I look at this very carefully and I am extremely comfortable to say that our our schools are safe right now as they have been through most of the past year. And I’m glad that we’re able to get students and teachers back into the school for June.

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3. Housing commission report calls for 60 actions on affordable housing

A sign reads, “HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT,” behind Kevin, a volunteer with Mutual Aid Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford has a new story on the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission’s report, released yesterday. There is a lot to Woodford’s story, so I’m going to summarize the key points, but you should definitely read the whole thing.

Among the key takeaways: Nova Scotia needs to quickly spend $25 million to ease the current housing emergency, the province should create an independent housing agency, and rent controls should be lifted because, if the report’s recommendations are implemented, rent control won’t be necessary.

Woodford writes:

With increasing population and low vacancy rates, the report said “wages have not kept up with increasing rents and more Nova Scotians are being forced to spend a greater proportion of their income on housing.”

To fix those issues the commission’s report made 17 recommendations with 60 “key actions.”  The commission also recommended four “quick start actions” — groups of the 60 recommendations — totalling $25 million in spending in the next 100 days.

Those quick actions include spending $20 million on mixed-income developments, funding for Rapid Housing Initiative projects, and rent supplements. Other quick actions include $2.5 million in spending in a “Community Housing Growth Fund” to build non-profit capacity, $2 million “to modernize the provincially-owned stock,” and $500,000 to help municipalities assess their housing needs.

As for rent control, the commission recommends looking at other ways to keep rents affordable, Woodford says.

The commission agreed with the government’s use of rent control in the short term, but doesn’t think it should stay.

“For the long-term, we must identify the most effective measures for Nova Scotia to create and preserve affordable housing supply with as little distortionary impact on the housing market as possible,” the commission wrote.

“The Commission carefully examined recent research, practices in other jurisdictions, and stakeholder input, and we believe the implementation of our recommendations as a whole will result in better long-term outcomes for all.”

In lieu, the commission recommended the province, with municipalities, tenants, and landlords, “explore opportunities to support eviction prevention, provide temporary assistance to low-income households facing evictions due to planned renovations, improve access to legal aid services, and consider developing retention plans to prevent the loss of long-term renters that are at risk of being priced out of their neighbourhood.”

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4. COVID outbreak at the Halifax Infirmary

Halifax Infirmary. Photo: NSHA

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

An outbreak of COVID-19 on a 36-bed unit at the Halifax Infirmary three weeks ago remains under investigation by Nova Scotia Health (NSH) and Public Health. At least one former patient of the 8.1 orthopedic unit has died of complications from COVID, as stated in the May 26 obituary of 78-year-old Joan Thomas of Bedford. There could be more.

Twenty patients on the 8.1 unit have tested positive for COVID. Seven staff who work directly on the unit and five people described as “allied support staff” who work at the Infirmary also tested positive.

NSH senior communications advisor Brendan Elliott said all hospital staff are now recovered. “To date, there are five patients in the hospital who are considered recovered and we expect more in the coming days,” said Elliott in an email response to a question. “There are some patients at home and they will follow Public Health guidance on recovery.”

That still leaves as many as a dozen of the 20 infected patients unaccounted for. The Halifax Examiner asked Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang how many patient deaths have been connected to the COVID-19 cluster on 8.1.

“As far as I am aware, there was one death for a patient initially exposed on that non-COVID unit,” said Dr. Strang during yesterday’s briefing.

With five COVID-related deaths over the weekend in the Central Zone, which includes the major hospitals, investigations continue to try and determine how many patient deaths may be connected to the outbreak at the Infirmary. The cause of the cluster is still unknown, weeks following the onset.

“A cause for the outbreak in the non-COVID-19 unit is still under investigation, however, we are in the process of analyzing the information and links between cases,” said Elliott. “It is possible the virus was introduced into the unit by a patient who initially tested negative for COVID-19, but that hypothesis is still being explored.”

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Views

1. Bending to the machine

If you are not a baseball fan, don’t despair at seeing a baseball video here. This segment of Morning File takes this baseball video as its starting point, but it’s not actually about baseball. It’s about how technology affects behaviour.

In the video above, William Flores of the San Francisco Giants drives a ball into left field and runs to second with what seems like an easy double. Flores slides into second feet first, then pops up and stands on the base. David Bell, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, asks the umpires to review the play. They do, and Flores is called out at second. Why? Because for the briefest moment, as Flores bounces up, both his feet are in the air, and therefore not in contact with the base. At the same time, infielder Jonathan India is holding a tag on Flores. Because of the momentary lack of contact with the bag, and because India was tagging Flores at the time, Flores is out.

What is significant about this play is that India would most likely not have tagged Flores at all if not for the existence of video review in baseball. Before video, this would have been a clear play. Flores arrives at the base in plenty of time, he’s safe, there’s no need to tag him. It would be pointless.

If you watch the video, you’ll note the announcers have no idea what’s going on when the umpires review the play. Flores’s lack of contact with the base is so momentary, so marginal, that they have missed it. This is India’s first year in the majors. He’s never played Major League Baseball in an era without video review. So he holds the tag on Flores, just in case. And it pays off.

This play got me thinking about some of the small, everyday ways in which we modify our behaviour for the benefit of the technology that surrounds us — or, in some cases, so that technology can benefit us more.

Take Spotify. Despite the promise of the ability to discover millions of songs (and indeed, a personally tailored playlist called “Discover Weekly”), Spotify seems determined to relentlessly narrow the offerings it presents to me. I used to like Discover Weekly. It pointed me to bands I had never heard of, with music I often found interesting. Now, it seems designed to reinforce my choices. Spotify also changed the way its search function works last year, so that it prioritizes songs and artists it thinks you are more likely to be interested in.

As a result of this, I noticed a change in whether or not I hit the little heart icon to indicate that I like a song on Spotify. I have an occasional weakness for April Wine (it was hard not to as a Montreal teen in the 1980s), but I’ll be damned if I’m going to like any April Wine on Spotify, because it means the machine will keep feeding me more of the classic rock that I don’t really need any help discovering. (I’ve joked in the past that I want a button that means “I like this song but I don’t like any other songs like this one.”) Sometimes I’ll spend a week listening to, say, only instrumental jazz just so the recommendation engine starts firing some more interesting stuff my way.

What about voice to text? Do you have words you pronounce differently when speaking to the machine so that it will recognize what you are saying and render it properly in text? I regularly mispronounce my daughter’s name when using voice to text, because it seems to be the only way the Google voice typing will actually write her name properly.

And now that so much of the job application process has been automated, the internet is awash in tips on how to write your CV so that you can make it past the first round of AI screening.

Because I use transcription software so much of the time now, I’ve also noticed when I interview people I am much more conscious of not interrupting or interjecting, because that makes it harder for the software to accurately transcribe the interview. This is a case where the behaviour modification is a net benefit.

I am sure there are many, many other examples out there and I am curious about them. How have different recently developed technologies affected your life in everyday, mundane ways? I say recently developed, because I realize if you expand the “technology” net far enough you can come up with answers like, “I drive to work instead of going on horseback.

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2. Words matter, ancient Greek edition

Professor James Diggle, editor-in-chief of the new Cambridge Greek Lexicon. Photo: Cambridge University

For the past 23 years, a team of scholars at Cambridge University have been to create a new ancient Greek-English dictionary.

Why? Because older dictionaries published by Victorians tended to obscure what they considered the rude bits.

The project was originally supposed to take five years, which clearly was overly ambitious.

In a piece published at Cambridgeshire Live, Diggle explains some of the differences:

 We do not translate the verb ‘khézō’ as ‘ease oneself, do one’s need’. We translate it as ‘to shit’. Nor do we explain ‘bīnéō’ as ‘illicit intercourse’, but simply translate it by the f-word.

Beyond just the swearing though, the dictionary update is important, Cambridge classics chair Robin Osborne says in the piece, as a way of helping ancient texts remain relevant:

“It is hugely important that we continue to engage with the literature of Ancient Greece, not as texts frozen in a past world, but which engage with the world in which we live.

“There’s been continual engagement with them since antiquity, so we are also engaging with that history, which is the history of European thought.”

One thing I learned reading about this lexicon is that Greek movie posters would deliberately transliterate Charlton Heston’s name as Tsarlton (there is no “ch” sound in Greek) Easton, because “Heston” in Greek means “shit on him.”

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Noticed

“Modern girls” getting vaccines

Smallpox Vaccination (1934) by Ota Chou (1896-1958). Image: Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art, beside vaccination selfie by Megan LeForte, from Twitter.

On May 21, Tim Bousquet noted that people are taking vaccine clinic selfies in Halifax Examiner t-shirts. The previous day, the Nursing Clio blog had a really interesting piece, by art historian Alison J. Miller, on  what we can learn from a 1934 Japanese painting of a young woman getting vaccinated.

The painting, by Ota Chou, is called “Smallpox vaccination. ” It is in the Kyoto City KYOCERA Museum of Art.

Miller writes that Japan embarked on a large-scale campaign to eradicate smallpox through vaccination starting in 1849. Vaccination was mandatory, and there were registries of vaccinated individuals.

Original dimensions of “Smallpox vaccination.”
Original dimensions of “Smallpox vaccination.”

What I found particularly fascinating about Miller’s piece was her description of “Modern girls” — like the women in the painting. She writes:

The two women in the painting can be classified as “modern girls,” or modan gāru. Notoriously difficult to define, representations of modern girls in 1920s and 1930s Japan were filled with contradictions. The term “modern girl” became popular after appearing in Junichirō Tanazaki’s 1924 novel Naomi, and referred to young women, generally urban, who perhaps worked outside of the home or lived away from their parents, and enjoyed the many pleasures the city had to offer, such as café culture. Modern girls were not representative of all Japanese women, but they exemplified the new consumer culture, presented challenges to social norms, and exposed shifts in women’s public identities.[9] Stereotypes in literature and mass media were plentiful: such women were criticized as too liberal for the social good, but simultaneously were a popular public face for modernity; they were too unpolitical for leftists, but not demure enough for conservative voices. Yet there was flexibility in how the modern girl was interpreted by differing interests, and by the mid-1930s the modern girl became less controversial, occasionally co-opted for corporate or state interests… It is also worth mentioning that the medical practitioner is a woman, a position that in 1934 was only recently opened to women.

As of May 2021, Japan’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign was slowly getting off the ground, with just 2.2% of the population vaccinated on May 7. A history of vaccine controversies in the late twentieth century have left many Japanese people wary and have led the government to proceed slowly with new medical approvals and rollouts. While living through a pandemic may feel never-ending, smallpox, the disease imagined in this painting, was eradicated in Japan in the 1950s, as it was in most of the world. Today, smallpox is a distant memory, and we can imagine that one day COVID-19 will be too.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Public Information Meeting (Tuesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting for Case 23374, development of a 6-storey building at the intersection of Waverley Road and Montebello Drive

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

Province

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 10am) — Via video, Eiryn Devereaux from the Department of Infrastructure and Housing, and Art Fisher from the Family Service Association of Western Nova Scotia will talk about “Housing and COVID-19 and the Homelessness Crisis.”


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Reflecting on the Intersection of Occupational Therapy and Homelessness (Tuesday, 5pm) — Becky Marval will present this Kelly Bang Memorial Lecture online:

Becky Marval knew even before she completed Dalhousie’s Occupational Therapy Program that she would creatively and dynamically push beyond any preconceived parameters of what an occupational therapist does.

Marval supports the homeless community through the Mobile Outreach Street Health program, commonly known as MOSH. Through the MOSH program Marval works with a primary health care team to provide immediate and ongoing support to individuals who are homeless and street-involved. Marval’s involvement ranges from individual client support to identify and move forward with meaningful goals, to working towards systems-level change.

Kelly Bang was a nationally known occupational therapist, lecturer, writer, artist, and counselor for survivors of child and sexual abuse. The Kelly Bang Memorial Lecture was established by her family to honour those whose research, practice, teaching, and advocacy advance opportunities for women and other marginalized adults who are learning to live in their communities.

King’s

Tuesday

No public events

Wednesday

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


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: MSC Lorena, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
08:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
14:30: MSC Lorena sails for New York
17:00: Conti Annapurna, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai

Cape Breton
08:00: MIA Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
15:00: Tanja, bulker, arrives at Port Hawkesbury Paper from Portland
19:00: MIA Desgagnes sails for sea


Footnotes

I did not consume any alcohol yesterday, but I feel like I have some kind of hangover after watching the Habs defeat the Leafs last night. I know it is far too early to think about this, but you gotta dream a little bit.

The Stanley Cup at the Hockey Hall of Fame. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

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Philip Moscovitch

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

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