News

1. Saltwire makes 109 layoffs permanent

Three months ago, Saltwire, the publishing company that owns most of the newspapers in Atlantic Canada, temporarily laid off 40 percent of its workforce. Yesterday, the company made those layoffs permanent, Yvette d’Entremont reports. Sixty-one of those who have lost their jobs are in Nova Scotia.

d’Entremont writes:

While some of those 240 people who were temporarily laid off in March did return to work in recent weeks, 109 of them weren’t so lucky.

“There are folks in editorial, sales, production and just about every department impacted,” said a Saltwire employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The employee said that as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, they still hadn’t been told the full extent of the layoffs. The media release came out shortly afterwards.

“When 40% were temporarily laid off, there was the notion that hopefully everyone would be back by the end of June,” the source said.

A couple of months ago, when I was listening to an episode of the On the Media podcast on the crisis in local journalism, I was surprised to find that most Americans (it’s an American show) surveyed had noticed a drop in local news coverage, but had no idea of the crisis in journalism. I run in circles where this is a constant topic of conversation, concern — even panic.

We can’t all subscribe to everything, but as others have written, if you want good journalism to survive, subscribe to something. (You can subscribe to the Halifax Examiner here.)

And you can read all of d’Entremont’s story here.

2. City adopts climate change plan

Yesterday, Halifax council unanimously adopted an ambitious climate change plan. (The image above, from the cover of the plan, is drawn by Emma Fitzgerald.)

Tim Bousquet reports:

Passing a plan is easy. One could build an entire library with mouldy city plans that were celebrated by councillors at adoption, and then were promptly ignored, unfunded, or superseded by more immediate political concerns, usually involving councillors wanting to be perceived as budget-conscious tax-cutters.

Not this time, tho, promised one councillor after another.

It helps that the HalifACT 2050 report claims that the municipality as a whole will save $22 billion by adopting the plan. “To put this in perspective, this investment is an annual stimulus equivalent to 4% of Halifax’s annual GDP of approximately $17 billion,” reads the report. “Much of the investment, for example in building retrofits, would be directed to local businesses and suppliers.” That’s an interesting appeal to the local building industry to provide its powerful political support for the plan.

“Of course it’s going to cost money, and I have to say — you know, one of my favourite authors, she writes science fiction, but there’s a line in one of her books, it says you can’t tax a wasteland,” said councillor Waye Mason. “I mean, that’s what we’re talking about if we do not address these [climate change] issues and build resiliency, built alternate power and do our part. What are we saving the money for? There is nothing you’re saving the money for. These things have to be done.”

Read all of Bousquet’s story here.

3. Nova Scotians sought heart attack and stroke help during COVID-19

Last month, I interviewed a doctor in northern Ontario who said patients in the remote community he served did not want to be evacuated to larger centres for treatment. The doctor said the patients were worried about COVID-19. Meanwhile, he and his team were worried they might die of a heart attack.

Cardiologist Ratika Parkash has been studying whether or not Nova Scotians with heart attacks or strokes have been avoiding the hospital during the pandemic. Short answer? People have been getting the help they need. Yvette d’Entremont reports on her preliminary findings:

“I focused on acute conditions. So this is acute cardiovascular conditions and stroke and so on, those are the things that can cause people to die at home,” she said. “Certainly from an acute care point of view, I think it’s a good news story.”

Parkash was a little surprised by the findings because of anecdotal reports suggesting Nova Scotia patients were staying home during the pandemic and becoming more sick rather than heading straight for the emergency department. She said those anecdotes weren’t enough to “move the needle” to a point where people were dying from not seeking care.

“That’s quite reassuring, because we may get a second wave,” she said…

Earlier this month, the European Society of Cardiology published an article suggesting COVID-19 fears were keeping “more than half” of heart attack patients worldwide away from hospitals. The ESC survey was conducted in mid-April and consisted of 3,101 health care professionals in 141 countries.

The Nova Scotia data so far appears to buck that trend.

It’s a really interesting story, and you can read the whole thing here.

Interestingly, CBC has a story this morning on a much higher-than-usual number of women skipping mammogram appointments during the pandemic.

4. WCB Appeals Tribunal privacy breach involved thousands of cases

This stock photo is the best I can do right now. Sorry.

Yvonne Colbert has the latest on a privacy breach at the Workers Compensation Appeals Tribunal for CBC.

She writes:

The Nova Scotia government has now disclosed the number of unredacted decisions posted online in a May privacy breach by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Tribunal totalled 10,599.

The decisions contained highly-sensitive information, including employer names, as well as employee names and their medical and psychiatric information. Until now, the government has said little about the error other than it was following the province’s privacy breach protocol, which includes conducting a thorough investigation.

A notice posted on the appeals tribunal website on June 23 said the unredacted decisions were issued between 1996 and 2009. It said the decisions were posted on May 7-8 and removed on May 12.

Colbert notes the tribunal hasn’t said how the breach happened. I think we tend to think of malicious hackers in these circumstances, when the truth is usually far more mundane: bad systems, carelessness, and so on. Hopefully we find out what happened and it won’t happen again. (It will inevitably happen again.)

5. New episode of the Dead Wrong podcast

The third instalment in the CBC’s Dead Wrong podcast, hosted by Tim Bousquet, dropped yesterday. The podcast is an investigation into the killing of Brenda Way and wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun, who spent 17 years behind bars.

This latest episode is called “The Trial.” I remember Bousquet telling me when he got the trial recordings, and how explosive they were. I look forward to listening. Download or stream it wherever you get your podcasts.


Views

Maddison Miles goes for the pin at a Kaizen Pro Wrestling show. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Maddison Miles flops onto the bed, leaning in towards her laptop camera. “I’m a free woman,” she tells me. “I’ve never felt better. There’s no secrets anymore.”

Over the last week, women professional wrestlers have gone on social media to share stories their stories of the sexual assault and harassment they’ve faced during their careers, using the hashtag #SpeakingOut. And last Saturday, 20-year-old Maddison Miles joined in, sharing her stories in a series of screenshots on Facebook.

Miles has been around wrestling since she was a child. For years, she was a fixture at local shows, dressed in a cape as a little girl, then selling merch, ringing the bell to start and end matches, and, when she got to her teens, getting into the ring herself. In a story I wrote about Miles for Halifax Magazine last year, she complained about double standards for male and female wrestlers:

“If you’re a wrestling fan, I’m sure you have seen there are multiple boys who are not in the best of shape,” she said.  “But if you have a girl that does not take care of herself, it’s going to be a little different… You have the hair and you have makeup and you have to make sure nothing falls out, and that everything’s in place properly. And that can be very stressful.”

But in her Facebook post, Miles went much farther than writing about hair and makeup. Among other stories, she said an adult wrestler she was dating at 15 shared her nudes with people who tried to blackmail her. That another wrestler “would shove me up against the ring, choke me – pull my hair and say ‘don’t pretend you don’t like it’” when she was 16 and he was in his late 20s. That a wrestler in his 20s made out with her when she was 14. And that she’s never spoken up before, because “I’ve been embarrassed – scared of the results of sharing my experience.”

Miles left Halifax last year, and now lives in Norwich, England, where she continues to wrestle and also works for a charity called Julian Support, who “work with the strengths of people with mental health difficulties, to help them lead an independent life of their choice.”

“Everyone’s biggest concern in wrestling is ‘no one is going to believe me.’ It can be scary to speak out,” Miles said in an interview

After all, the professional wrestling world in the Maritimes is pretty tiny. “I’ve been working up my courage for years,” she said.

Like any system in which young people arrive with big dreams — an old guard act as gatekeepers, and there is a strong culture of paying your dues (think academia, the literary world, or amateur sport) — wrestling is a natural setting for abusive situations to emerge.

Miles said, “Obviously it doesn’t just happen to women. Lots of men have come out with stories of being harassed. But there is definitely so much shit women go through getting into wrestling. So many of the stories were women saying ‘it was when I as 15 or 16 and starting to train.’ It’s such a dick-measuring competition. I am a full believer that people with power will do what they want. If you look at Maritime wrestling and the people who have come out, every time someone’s not popular [and accused of abuse], they’re out. But the second it’s someone in the cool kids club, it’s oh, you can’t believe everything, I don’t have proof… Women, people, go through this stuff and wind up sweeping it under the rug. And you get to this breaking point where it’s not OK anymore.”

For Miles, the tipping point came last Friday, as she read other wrestlers’ stories, and felt like staying quiet was “killing me inside.”

In addition to Miles, another young wrestler — New Brunswick-based Jasmine Hawkes — also shared her experiences of abusive behaviour from older wrestlers. In a lengthy public Facebook post, her mother, Tasha Hawkes, wrote about numerous incidents:

Shortly after Jasmine’s 16th birthday, she landed in the local hospital. It only came out then that an owner of a local promotion had been sending her extremely sexually graphic texts, messages, and attempting to lure her sexually for months. Jasmine specifically told me and her doctor that the reason she never came forward was due to the fear of hurting her friends, the very people who trained her and made a living with that promotion…

Because of everything Jasmine went through, she left wrestling. She was getting told off by people she cared about because of stories her ex-boyfriend was spreading about her. She was still being poked about the fact that she pressed charges on someone that obviously the industry still respected. She was penalized for being a minor instead of people understanding she stood up for herself. This is courage and should not have ever been made to seem shameful.

This isn’t the first time the local wrestling scene has been embroiled in scandal. In 2017, wrestler Steve Arsenault was sentenced to two years in federal prison for beating his girlfriend. At the time, Steve Bruce wrote in the Chronicle Herald:

Arsenault and Melinda Crowe got into an argument at her house in the early morning hours of Nov. 15, 2015, after a night out with two other couples they knew through the wrestling community…

A friend later agreed to tell police that Crowe already had the facial injuries when he picked the couple up at a bar that night. He agreed to say he had been told that she had been in a fight with a woman at the bar.

The friend got cold feet before the original trial date last summer and admitted to the prosecutor that his statement was false.

In a victim impact statement to the court, Crowe said her life was drastically changed by the assault. She said she still suffers from the physical and psychological effects of the assault but plans to return to work next month.

I asked Miles if seeing people in the wrestling community defend Arsenault, or hang out with him once he was released from prison, sent a chilling message to young women. She said, “I get the dilemma. When Steve did go to jail, I was about a year and a half into my wrestling career, and I would have considered him a good friend, [Arsenault was 36 at the time] because we are were always travelling together. I bawled my eyes out, and I knew he had to make a change in his life. He needed help. I have obviously made mistakes in supporting offenders in the past and I’ll tell you I have supported people beyond belief, including him… Keep in mind I was a child. I can openly admit I’ve made mistakes in supporting people I shouldn’t have. I’ve learned from my mistakes.”

Troy Merrick has wrestled on the local scene and internationally for 14 years. His most recent overseas stint was a tour of the UK in February. He said he watched the SpeakingOut stories unspooling over social media, and “when it first started, it was mainly within British wrestling.”

Despite the fact that the local scene is so small, Merrick said he was surprised by the revelations. “You hear locker room talk, stuff like that — it’s definitely diminished drastically within the circles I run over the last few years. But, you know, that subculture within wrestling definitely still exists. And the boys’ club mentality is there. To see some of the stories of inappropriate behaviour — that’s not surprising, but it pisses me off that it happened. But to hear about widespread sexual abuse? I got sick to my stomach… To hear the depth of experiences that these people had to go through just totally floored me. And then when the stories started coming out here, I’ve been sick to my stomach all weekend. I don’t know what to say.”

In February, Merrick wrote a fan code of conduct for local promotion Ultimate Championship Wrestling, saying that fans who use racist, sexist, or homophobic language will be asked to leave. Yesterday, he reshared it on Twitter, saying it isn’t only for the fans. Last year, Merrick broke character at a UCW show, to call out fans for their homophobic taunts.

Troy Merrick. Photo: Merrick’s Facebook page

“In recent years, I’ve been more open about who I am, and with that have become more hyper-aware of who the wrestling fans are. Widespread homophobia from the fans’ standpoint has been something I’ve had to kind of deal with. There was this tipping point last year, where somebody said something and I was like, you know, enough’s enough,” Merrick said. “And I went out to the ring to talk to the fans and explain that this is supposed to be an outlet for everybody. You can come and hate the bad guys and scream at a character and express yourself, have fun and get that off your chest. But at the same time, we have to be mindful of the real world around us. And I said specifically, what if there was a young kid in the audience who  was unsure about who they were? They weren’t sure if they were gay. They weren’t sure if they were straight. They didn’t know if they were comfortable in their own body. And they heard these hateful comments about people with regard to sexuality. How do you think that would make them feel? That wouldn’t feel like much of an escape for this kid at the show. So when we go to wrestling to escape, you can’t escape if there’s hate constantly around you. So I decided it was time to make a stand and address that with the fans.”

Promoter Dave Boyce is one of the owners of the newest promotion on the local scene, Kaizen Pro Wrestling. They’ve put on three shows at Alderney Landing since their debut last year. In an interview, Boyce said, “Our audience, for the most part, are very well behaved.” (He did point out his company has only put on three shows though, so it’s not a huge sample size.) But I’ve been to wrestling shows where the fans are terrible and they’re chanting racist remarks or homophobic remarks. And nothing was ever done because the old school was you’re not going to tell a fan that’s improper, you shouldn’t say it.”

Boyce has known Miles since she was a little girl, and he said he was “proud” that she was “strong enough” to tell her story — a story he said he had heard “bits and pieces” of over the years. Soon after Miles shared that story though, Kaizen was asked on Facebook if the company would book wrestlers accused of predatory behaviour. In a now deleted post, the company replied that they are not booking anyone right now.

That came across as deflecting and not taking the issue seriously, and several fans called the company out for it on Twitter. In a text message, Boyce told me, “We are all learning how to deal with all of this and yes, we do regret that statement and have apologized on our Twitter account.”

Yesterday morning, Kaizen joined other promotions in publishing a zero-tolerance code of conduct.

I asked Boyce in an interview if he would continue to book any of the regulars on his roster if someone new to the business accused them of inappropriate behaviour. He said, “I mean, we’re not investigators. But we would certainly take everything into consideration, and, and…”

At this point he stopped, then said, “We would take every allegation very, very seriously and we would have no problem — it wouldn’t matter who it was — we would remove them ASAP.”

Asked what she thought of codes of conduct, Miles said simply, “They need to take the code of conduct seriously… What it takes is people showing they actually mean what they say.”

Facebook being Facebook, the fallout from Miles’ post included counter-accusations, threats of lawsuits, allegations of playing favourites to boost one promotion over another, accusations she’s just trying to boost her career at the expense of others, people deleting their accounts, and so on.

“Calling out perpetrators is not something people do for fun,” Miles said. “In Maritime wrestling, this is the first time we’ve had to deal with an event like this. Until now, it’s been locker room only. It never gets to the fans. There’s no police reports, there’s nothing. This is the first time wrestling fans and wrestlers are dealing with these stories… I don’t want it to be two weeks of women’s empowerment and speaking out, and two weeks from now nobody cares anymore.”


Noticed

A Kentville Police cruiser. Photo: Kentville Police Facebook page.

Yesterday, the Globe and Mail ran an opinion piece I wrote about calling the police when people are having a mental health crisis. I said I’d done it before, but I wouldn’t do it again.

My piece opens with my son saying that the police kill people with mental illness all the time. Two of the interviewers I’ve spoken to asked me how he knew that. This was a question I wasn’t expecting. I told one of the interviewers I thought a better question was how did I not know it.

Underlying the question though, I think, is the assumption that people living with mental illness are somehow less intelligent than others, or completely unaware of their surroundings. Perhaps the impression is that someone with serious mental illness is in a constant state of psychosis? I really don’t know.

In each case, I think the interviewers were well-meaning. It just struck me how much more work needs to be done in terms not only of mental health care but in understanding. And we need a new approach, because years and years of raising awareness does not seem to be getting us anywhere, when it comes to mental illnesses beyond anxiety disorders and depression (for which I believe there has been an improvement in awareness, which is not something to dismiss).


Government

City

Wednesday

Special North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — teleconference; agenda here.

Thursday

Special Heritage Advisory Committee (Thursday, 3pm) —teleconference; agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
10:00: lka Sirius, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
11:15: Ef Ava sails for sea
15:00: Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field
15:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
22:00: Atlantic Sun sails for Liverpool, England


Footnotes

My kids took me fishing for father’s day. It was fun. We released most of the fish, then two of us had fish and chips for supper.

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. I’m pretty sure Tim Bousquet has less money than Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post, and can’t afford to hire 11 full time writers on a whim.

      There is something really creepy about the Washington Post’s “Democracy dies in Darkness” slogan – if democracy means “Multi-billionaire monopolists own all the newspapers”, then what’s so great about democracy?