News

1. It’s heartbreaking that Beth MacLean didn’t live to see the largest human rights award in Canadian history

Beth MacLean. Photo courtesy Alice Evans.

Tim Bousquet reports on the Nova Scotia Court of Appeals ruling yesterday that the Province of Nova Scotia systematically discriminated against people with disabilities.

He writes:

The court extended a previous Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission Board of Inquiry decision that gave $100,000 compensation to each of three people, awarding one applicant, Beth MacLean, $300,000 in damages, which is the largest human rights general damages award in Canadian history. Unfortunately, MacLean died two weeks before the ruling.

The court also awarded $200,000 in damages to Joey Delaney. The third party in the case, Sheila Livingstone, died in 2016.

Bousquet notes the significance of this ruling:

But besides the awards to the three people, the Court of Appeal sent the issue of systemic discrimination back to the Board of Inquiry, which could potentially affect up to a thousand other people in provincial care. The Court of Appeal found that the province had systemically discriminated against people with mental disabilities, but the exact contours of that discrimination are up to the Board of Inquiry to decide.

MacLean, for instance, spent 35 years in inappropriate institutions, including four years in a locked psychiatric ward.

After MacLean died last week, Alice Evans, executive director of the Prescott Group, told me:

She loved music and home cooked meals and her new home with RRSS services, where she was building a life full of choices and possibilities.

Back to Bousquet:

Yesterday’s decision is ground-shifting. As the law firm Pink Larkin comments:

The Court of Appeal found that the Province of Nova Scotia did discriminate against three individual complainants, Beth MacLean, Sheila Livingstone, and Joey Delaney, by keeping them in segregated institutional settings for many years without any medical or legal justification.

The case also involved a human rights complaint of systemic discrimination brought by the Disability Rights Coalition. The Court found that the Disability Rights Coalition succeeded on a prima facie basis in establishing that the Province systemically discriminated against persons with disabilities by keeping persons on years-long wait lists for necessary supports, by institutionalizing some persons with disabilities unnecessarily, or by requiring people with disabilities to move communities in order to receive support.

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2. Mandatory vaccines for city employees

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Steven Cornfield

Zane Woodford reports that just days after saying it would not require municipal employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Halifax has reversed that decision.

The change comes after the provincial government announced a vaccine mandate for provincial civil servants.

In a release, the city says:

Any municipal employees who are not fully vaccinated by Dec. 15 will face employment consequences, including unpaid administrative leave, unless they have received an employer-approved exemption. Full vaccination will also be a condition for new staff being hired.

Woodford writes:

During Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang, CBC reporter Jean Laroche asked Premier Tim Houston about the municipality’s stance.

“I think where I’m at is we want more people to be vaccinated. I think we’ve been pretty clear, we want our vaccination rates to go up. And we’ve taken the steps as a province to capture as many people as we can in the vaccine policies. And I think we’re at a place where we’re comfortable with the steps we’ve taken,” Houston said.

“Do we wish others would follow along and support us? Yes, we do. I think that extends to individual employers of all kinds, but HRM made their decision and I respect their right to make that decision.”

I was struck by a CBC Radio piece yesterday morning, in which people who had gotten vaccinated at a walk-in clinic were essentially asked: why now? One person said she found computers too complicated and it was hard to book an appointment. Someone else said he’d never really gotten around to bothering, and this was easy. And one guy said he’d hesitated, but now if his family (all of whom were vaccinated) wanted to go out to dinner, he wouldn’t have been able to go with them otherwise.

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3. One new death from COVID-19; cases in 32 schools

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang at the COVID briefing, Oct. 6, 2021. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Tim Bousquet’s daily roundup of all things COVID covers yesterday’s briefing, the latest case and vaccination numbers, information on testing and exposure notifications. (Relieved the Montreal and Toronto flights I was on recently have not turned up.) Bousquet puts handy links at the top of the piece, so if you are only interested in, say, testing, you can jump straight to that section.

Understandably, the issue of schools came up yesterday. Here is part of what Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, had to say:

Like everything with our COVID response, our approach to school cases is about balance. We need to balance the rare risk of severe illness in children with their overall well-being, which is impacted by not being in school. Our goal is to keep students learning in classrooms, if at all possible. It’s critical to their learning and their emotional, social, and psychological well-being. And this is especially true for elementary school ages where online learning is much harder and social interactions are so important. Will we get cases in schools? Absolutely, yes. If there is COVID in the community, it will also be in schools. But we are not at a point where we need to take extreme measures like closing schools.

He continued:

Right now, we have 32 schools with COVID cases. Eight of them involve spread to another person within the school. And in all these eight cases, there is secondary. This secondary transmission was within a single classroom and typically involves one or two other students. But there have been no schools where there has been a wide spread within the classroom or spread beyond a single classroom. In some schools, there are multiple cases, but no spread within the classroom and in these schools, as we know that COVID is being introduced through to a school in different ways, from multiple multiple points from the community, rather than being spread within the school or the classroom.

There were 25 new cases announced yesterday, most in the Central Zone. Because of concerns around transmission in Clayton Park, Bousquet notes there is drop-in PCR testing at Clayton Park Junior High today, from 4:30pm to 7:30pm.

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4. Sipekne’katik First Nation and Dal researcher study effects of moderate livelihood fishery

Cheryl Maloney holds up her aunt’s copy of the Treaty of 1752 in front of Province House in Halifax on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

Nicola Seguin reports for CBC on a Sipekne’katik First Nation research project into the quality of lobster caught in summer and early fall.

Seguin goes aboard the vessel Mamma Ain’t Happy, owned by the Sipekne’katik First Nation, as lobsters are hauled up and assessed. Also aboard is Dalhousie University professor Megan Bailey, Canada Research Chair in integrated ocean and coastal governance.

From Seguin’s story:

“What proportion are getting thrown back because they’re too soft, too small? And how does that compare with the commercial fishery? And is that a problem or not a problem?” Bailey said. “Those kinds of things can’t be answered without collecting the data.”

She pointed out that DFO does collect data on the quality of the catch during the commercial season, but very little data has been collected from June to October…

This study is also culturally significant for Sipekne’katik First Nation.

“It’s really important because it gives us the information we need,” said Cheryl Maloney, a Sipekne’katik band member and political science instructor at Cape Breton University.

“It’s being done by our people, and it’s an important topic that we have to have in this country because a lot of the time we face race-based political decisions and laws.”

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5. New Tideline, with Vinessa Antoine and Floyd Kane

Vinessa Antoine

The Halifax-set Diggstown, which launched its third season this week on CBC TV, was part of the wave of #NSFilmJobs able to shoot in the COVID-light province over the past year and a half, with the added bonus of being able to employ tonnes of local actors. Star Vinessa Antoine joins the show from Toronto to chat about Marcie Diggs’ emotional evolution, what she learned from her years in soaps, and her favourite place to eat in Dartmouth. Creator Floyd Kane — a Dalhousie law grad before he moved into producing, writing, and directing — also beams in to talk about threading the pandemic into the current season, how the team fits so much story into such a short episode run, and what’s up with that Fox broadcasting deal that was announced off the top of the year.

Listen here or subscribe using your favourite podcast app. (I like Pocket Casts myself.)

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Views

Moral panic and a “fantastic claim”

Photo: Colin Davis / Unsplash

On October 5, CBC ran a head-scratching story about cocaine in Cape Breton.

Why head-scratching? Because it relied almost entirely on quotes from street crimes officer John Campbell and school liaison officer Danielle Campbell.

In the story, John Campbell says:

“I think the best word to describe it is shocking when you actually see how much cocaine there is in this community and how many different groups of people that are trafficking in it.”

Well, OK. How much is there?

Cape Breton police would not provide CBC News with numbers showing how much more cocaine they’re seeing.

OK then.

Campbell also — without evidence — blamed CERB for the unsubstantiated rise in cocaine use:

But police say they believe the rise in cocaine use on the island has been fuelled by government financial assistance handed out during the pandemic. Campbell said the Canada Emergency Response Benefit — the federal government’s primary source of support for households affected by the pandemic — has resulted in some locals purchasing street drugs with the extra cash.

There was a fair bit of mirth online with respect to this part of the story:

For those who end up hooked on cocaine but can’t afford their new habit, petty crime sometimes becomes the only way to get the money they need.

“People go to No Frills [grocery store] and they’ll steal hundreds of dollars in meat products and then take it to a drug dealer’s house in exchange for cocaine,” said Campbell, adding that “it all starts at organized crime.”

After the story ran, Manisha Krishnan at Vice decided to look into the meat and CERB claims.

She writes:

A drug dealer source told VICE World News that people steal meat as a result of poverty. But he said while that type of trade may happen among low-level dealers and drug users, “Hells Angels doesn’t want ribs.” He said he was once offered a freezer full of meat in exchange for cannabis, which he declined.

More importantly, she talks to Rebecca Haines-Saah, a health sociologist at the University of Calgary. Haines-Saah strongly objects to the framing of the story and the tone of moral panic that it takes. And she calls the baseless CERB assertion “dangerous.”

Overdose deaths have worsened during the pandemic, but that’s due to myriad factors, including an increasingly toxic drug supply, more people using drugs alone, and more people using drugs to cope with the stress of the pandemic.

“It’s a fantastic claim to say that a government assistance program is what fundamentally altered an illicit drug market,” Haines-Saah said…

Haines-Saah said Campbell’s comments show the arbitrary nature in which people judge the use of different drugs.

“Just like many people who use alcohol are not addicted to it and don’t die from it and don’t require treatment from it, it’s the same with cocaine,” she said. “When a substance is illegal, that’s what makes it unsafe, not the nature of the substance.”

Haines-Saah said journalists should be careful when quoting police as their main source on drug stories, because they can advocate for the role of policing in the continuation of the war on drugs.

Anyway, in today’s drug-panic news we learn that cocaine sometimes arrives on Cape Breton — are you ready for this? — by courier and by boat. And we turn once again to John Campbell for the scoop:

“Like the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, you know, there’s multiple ways for it to get here because we’re an island,” said Const. John Campbell, who has spent four years working with the department’s street crime unit.

“We’re seeing pure cocaine as it enters, as it’s imported onto the island, and then as it’s handed down to the different levels of trafficking, then it’s cut accordingly.”

I am no expert on drug trafficking, but I would assume this is what usually happens, no?

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Noticed

Quilts made some 160 years ago by Stephen Archibald’s great-great-grandmother, Mary Bailey (1816-1894). Photo: Stephen Archibald

Somehow, all of us here at Examiner headquarters seem to have missed Stephen Archibald’s latest “Noticed in Nova Scotia” blog, published on September 26. This time around the theme is quilts. Specifically, a couple of quilts made by Archibald’s great-great-grandmother, Mary Bailey.

As with all things Archibald, he starts with something relatively simple (here are the quilts my relative made, which we have decided to give away), and then goes beyond that. I appreciate Archibald’s talent in meandering through a piece in a way that invites readers to just come along and follow him wherever he’s going.

In this case, we’re physically going to Brier Island, where Mary Bailey lived, and to Long Island, where the quilts have taken up residence at the museum of the Islands Historical Society. But we also take a detour into the quilting styles and family history.

We have a tendency to folklorize the past, and Archibald comes up against it, when he has a revelation about one of Mary’s quilts:

The first quilt is an eye-popping design that feels very fresh. I once thought that old quilts were assembled from scraps of fabric that perhaps had a previous life, but this was not universally true. The fabrics used in this red and white quilt were probably acquired just for that project. The design is a variation of a pattern known by the memorable name “hearts and gizzards.” Scott Robson, the curator at the museum who embraced the study of quilts, was excited when I showed him this quilt because the pattern was put together in a way he had never seen before.

When doing research in the early 1990s for a museum quilt exhibition and publication, Scott and Sharon MacDonald discovered an illustration of this pattern variation in an 1857 edition of Godey’s Lady Book, the most influential woman’s magazine of the day. Suddenly I realized that Mary, my ancestor, did not make a piece of folk art; she created something stylish and of that moment, the equivalent of interpreting a pattern from Martha Stewart’s magazine in her heyday,

The other quilt uses a pattern called “courthouse steps.” Archibald writes:

There are 378 squares and over 6000 individual pieces of fabric in the piece. This object is a statement about available time, and a record of countless decisions. Such a quilt was probably not made for a bed but would have glowed in a parlour, along with other treasured objects.

Before the quilts go to the museum, he and his wife, Sheila, take them to visit their creator.

Mary Bailey’s headstone and her courthouse steps quilt. Photo: Stephen Archibald

As always, I encourage you to not just rely on my summary here, but to read Archibald’s whole post.

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Government

City

Thursday

Board of Police Commissioners (Thursday, 12pm) — via YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Energy matters: Axonal mitochondrial transport and energy metabolism in neuronal regeneration and degeneration (Thursday, 11am, Room 3H1, Tupper Building and online) — talk by Zu-Hang Sheng from The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health

Bring your own mitochondria.

Secularizing Blasphemy, or, The Hidden Global History of the Indian Penal Code (Thursday, 7pm, Room 127, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — Barton Scott from the University of Toronto, Mississauga, will talk

Friday

Apartheid Internationalism: Canadians in Solidarity with White Rule in Southern Africa, 1965-1994 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building and online) — Will Langford will talk; Teams meeting here

Saint Mary’s

Building Leaders for the Future: Creating a Positive Impact Through Mentorship (Thursday, 11:30am) — Zoom webinar in advance of the Sobey Women in Business Symposium on October 15

King’s

Jungle flower workshop (Thursday, 6pm) — a space for those who have experienced abuse and sexual violence


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Seaspan Melbourne, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
07:45: USCGC Tahoma, US Coast Guard cutter, arrives at Dockyard from sea
10:45: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
12:00: Mitera, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
18:30: Seaspan Melbourne, container ship, sails for Kingston, Jamaica

Don’t mix up your Tacoma and your Tahoma.

Cape Breton
09:00 John P Oxley, tank barge, and Svitzer Bedford, tug, conduct a spill containment exercise at Point Tupper
14:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, transits through the causeway to Aulds Cove quarry from Montreal


Footnotes

From left to right: kombucha, hot sauce, hot sauce to be, and kimchi. Photo: Philip Moscovitch
  • I’m giving a free Zoom talk on fermentation this Sunday at noon. I’ll be covering the basics (what fermentation is and how it works) along with equipment and food safety, and I’ll discuss specific foods and drinks you might want to try making. (These include various pickles, sauerkraut and kimchi, hot sauce, and kombucha.) I take an informal approach, so there’s lots of time for questions and discussion. The event is part of a series called Earth Salon. It is free to attend. The link is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81262050347 and the passcode is “sacred”. I was all geared up to give this talk last week and then realized I had the wrong date. Oh well. Now I get to tell you about it.
  • There is now a Facebook page for those who would like to share memories of Robert Devet, and John DeMont has written a remembrance of Devet for the Chronicle Herald. You may recall that Devet was a tireless supporter of the paper’s journalists when they were on strike a few years ago. Sherri Borden Colley, now at CBC, wrote on Twitter, “When Chronicle Herald newsroom staff went on strike in 2016, Robert supported us in many ways. He will be so missed.”
  • I wrote much of this Morning File while listening to Boîte aux lettres by Les Hay Babies. Highly recommend.

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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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  1. It should be noted that Dr. Megan Bailey, the Dalhousie researcher now working with Sipekne’katik to gather data on its moderate livelihood fishery, made strong statements a year ago in support of the right of Sipekne’katik to fish outside the DFO-mandated lobster season. She claimed that it would not hurt the lobster stock — a statement repeatedly taken up by Sipekne’katik in defense of their outside-DFO-mandated lobster season. Thus, she cannot be considered to be an objective, disinterested scientific observer, as she now undertakes research into the issue. I would have expected the Halifax Examiner to include this information in the coverage of her research endeavor. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/mi-kmaw-fishery-moderate-livelihood-megan-bailey-conservation-dalhousie-university-1.5734030. Dr. Bailey’s take on the threat to lobsters by out-of-season fishing was contradicted by Dr. Michael Dadswell, a retired Professor of Biology at Acadia University, who testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans last year. https://threadsandborderscowbay.blogspot.com/2021/04/nova-scotia-lobster-dispute-unlikely-to.html

  2. Good story on the veracity of the wildly subjective claims about drug use proliferation in Cape Breton. If history has taught us anything, it is that police are the least reliable and almost always biased source of information relating to drug use. Drug dependency and addiction is actually a medical problem that for various reasons, few if any of which are supportable, has become criminalized. The so called “war on drugs” should not be characterized as that because it invariably leads to more resources being directed at the futile efforts of police to combat a problem for which they are uniquely non equipped to deal with.

  3. Here’s a fascinating piece of Halifax history that I’ve never heard about before:

    https://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2021/10/how-to-build-a-low-tech-solar-panel.html

    What will be interesting is when the goalposts move again and you need three doses (the last one, they will promise) to stay officially vaccinated. I still remember the days when the vaccines were supposedly so effective that people would not need to be coerced to take them to protect the vaccinated from the virus. The Israeli government is unironically referring to people with two doses as “unvaccinated” – and everything that has happened in Israel (passports, etc) has happened elsewhere in 3-6 months. I am vaccinated (for now), but know it won’t last. Pfizer and Moderna do not exist to make us healthy, they exist to generate shareholder value, and selling a pseudo-mandatory product is a great way to do that.

    1. As long as I can still access essential services (as currently defined), I will not be getting a third shot. I got my two and that’s it for me. I rarely, if ever, have the means to do any of the non-essential things, so there is no reward attached to any additional doses. I know that protection will wane over time, and I accept the possible consequences of my choice.

      1. I lived for years not able to afford to do just about anything you need a passport for. I still almost never do anything you need the passport for, and will be pretty ok with getting demoted back to untouchable status. The obsession with bars and restaurants in the messaging around Covid really drives home the class distinction in our society for me.