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News

1. COVID

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Nine new cases of COVID-19 have been announced in Nova Scotia since Friday — two on Friday, four Saturday, and three yesterday.

All nine recent cases are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone; two are related to travel outside the Atlantic bubble, three are connected to earlier cases, and four are still under investigation.

The “under investigation” wording is frustrating because Public Health never updates us on the status of those investigations. Do they ever result in any determinations? So far as telling the public, Public Health is silent.

What we do know is that Public Health has issued a flurry of advisories of potential COVID exposure, mostly in the Halifax area. These included two mistakes, and an apparently escalating matter of concern.

The Bitter End

The urgent update first: The Bitter End bar on Argyle Street is named in three advisories. The first was issued Thursday, and asked that anyone who was present at the bar last Monday (Nov. 2) between 9pm and 11pm to “monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.”

But yesterday, that was updated. The time was switched from 9pm to closing (I don’t know what time the bar closes), but more important, the update urged people present at the bar at that time to “immediately contact 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not.”

Then, last night, Nova Scotia Health tweeted out (but as of 8am this morning has not followed up with a press release), a warning directed at its own workers:

Any Nova Scotia Health employee who was at the Bitter End bar on Nov. 2 between 9pm and close should:
•NOT REPORT TO WORK
•immediately self-isolate
•notify 811 to arrange for testing and,
•contact Occupational Health at 1-833-750-0632 for tracking purposes

— Nova Scotia Health (@HealthNS) November 9, 2020

The other advisories, with mistakes corrected, are as follows:

Dollarama (Scotia Square Mall, 5201 Duke St, Halifax) on October 27-30 between 12 noon and 3 p.m. Anyone present at the location during this time is asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named dates may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 13.

WestJet flight WJ 254 on Oct. 30 from Toronto to Halifax. It departed Toronto at 9:45 p.m., landing in Halifax at 1 a.m. on October 31. Passengers in rows 15-21, seats A, B, C are more likely to have had close contact. Passengers in these seats are asked to call 811 for advice and to continue to self-isolate. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus on these flights may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 13. All other passengers on this flight should continue to self-isolate as required and self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

November 4
Gahan House (5239 Sackville Street, Halifax) on Nov 4 from 7:45 p.m. to 11:45 p.m.
Halifax Transit Route 59 from Portland Terminal to Alderney Terminal on Nov 4 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Anyone present at these locations during these times are asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at the locations above on the above date may develop symptoms up to and including November 19.

November 3
Braemar Superstore (9 Braemar Dr., Dartmouth) on Nov 3 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Fit4Less Bedford (1658 Bedford Highway, Bedford) Nov 3 from 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Anyone present at these locations during these times are asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at the locations above on the above date may develop symptoms up to and including November 18.

November 2
Canada Games Center (26 Thomas Raddall Dr., Halifax) on Nov 2 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Anyone present at this location during these times are asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at the location above on the above date may develop symptoms up to and including November 17.

November 1
BMO Soccer Centre (210 Thomas Raddall Dr.) Nov 1 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Anyone present at this location during these times are asked to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at the location above on the above date may develop symptoms up to and including November 16.

Older dates announced yesterday
All Nations Full Gospel Church (Worshiping at Saint Andrew’s United Church, 6036 Coburg Road, Halifax) on Oct. 25 at 6:00 p.m. Anyone present at the location during this time is asked to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing whether they are symptomatic or not. It is anticipated anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the above date may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 9.
Montana’s BBQ and Bar (196B Chain Lake Drive, Halifax) Oct. 25 from 6:00 p.m. to close. Anyone present at the location during this time is asked to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing whether they are symptomatic or not. It is anticipated anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the above date may develop symptoms up to, and including, November 9.

For now, and this is mostly guesswork, it looks like someone must have contracted the virus at The Bitter End and the worry is that still more people who were there the same night have contracted it and don’t know about it. As for the other advisories, no one should panic — most such advisories result in no further spread.

Dr. Strang and Premier McNeil have called a press conference for 3pm today, and will hopefully provide more details and some context to the weekend announcements. I’ll be there and will report back after.

Definition problems

Are we experiencing community spread of the disease in Halifax? Probably not, at least so far as Public Health defines “community spread.”

Most people, I think, have a kind of sensible understanding that if they go out into the community — to the grocery store, a restaurant, the gym — and catch COVID, then there’s community spread. But Strang has defined community spread much more narrowly. As Public Health sees it, if any new case can be traced back to travel or a previously known case, then it’s not community spread; for them, “community spread” only exists when the source of the disease cannot be traced.

I think this gives a false understanding to people, who are most concerned about the potential for themselves, their loved ones, and other people in the community for catching the disease. It’s not much comfort knowing that your grandmother caught the disease at the grocery store and subsequently died, but it’s not community spread because they could trace the transmission.

Public Health should use different terms. I suggest “traceable spread” and “untraceable spread.” Don’t confuse people with a technical definition for “community spread” that is counter to the intuitive definition.

Tighter restrictions on household members of travellers?

So far as I know, none of the recent advisories involve anyone breaking Public Health rules. Everyone who was required to self-isolate did self-isolate, or at least we haven’t been told otherwise.

So why are there so many advisories about potential COVID exposures? A good guess is that while travellers are required to self-isolate, their immediate household members who did not travel are not required to self-isolate. When the number of COVID cases in the rest of Canada was low, this didn’t translate into much higher risk here in the bubble, but now that case numbers in the rest of Canada are soaring, the risk here from household members of travellers is increasing — at least, apparently.

So should the self-isolation requirement be extended to household members of travellers? When I asked Strang that question last week, he said that the present system is working well, and that household members need to go to work, get groceries, etc. I’ll ask today if the current rash of advisories has changed his mind.

There could be a hybrid requirement on household members: you don’t have to completely self-isolate, but you can’t go to the bars or the gym.

Nursing homes

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

“The clock is ticking on the potential for a second wave of COVID-19 at long-term care homes in Nova Scotia,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The question is, despite what we know now, are we any better prepared to cope than we were last spring?

COVID units inside nursing homes could become unnecessary, but only if the Department of Health and Nova Scotia Health Authority proceed with their stated plan to send residents who test positive for COVID to be isolated and cared for in “regional care centres.” Aside from the plan to establish one centre in each of the four health zones, no concrete information on who will staff and operate these locations has been made available to the public or to the Nursing Homes Association of Nova Scotia. 

Click here to read “COVID clock is ticking on preparing nursing homes for a second wave.”

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2. Randy Riley

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) ordered a new trial for Randy Riley, the man convicted in 2019 for the 2010 murder of Chad Smith, a pizza delivery driver,” I reported last night:

The Supreme Court came in response to an application from Riley’s lawyer concerning something called a Vetrovec warningA Vetrovec warning is a warning given by the judge to the jury, which basically says the person who is testifying is a criminal, and so you have to be very careful about whether you believe the testimony.

Vetrovec warnings were established in order to guard against wrongful convictions — that is, to protect the accused. But in Riley’s case, it was used for just the opposite reason: to protect the Crown’s case. That’s because a witness called by the Crown, Nathan Johnson, said on the stand that he — Johnson — killed Chad Smith, and killed him alone; Riley had nothing to do with the murder, said Johnson. Obviously, this is not the testimony the Crown was expecting, and then the judge gave the Vetrovec warning about Johnson. That may have caused the jury to believe that Johnson was lying.

The Supreme Court of Canada unanimously ruled that the Vetrovec warning was used against Riley, not to protect him, and so the court ordered a new trial.

While Riley’s lawyers appealed to the court about the Vetrovec warning, and won on that appeal, they also made a second application to the court in relation to another witness against Riley — a man named Paul Smith (no relationship to the murder victim Chad Smith). And because they won on the Vetrovec issue, the second application hasn’t been considered by the court.

However, the second application is even more concerning than the first. It reveals that police paid Paul Smith nearly $18,000, and then Smith testified first against Nathan Johnson, and then against Randy Riley. Also, Smith now says he lied on the stand in Riley’s trial. Moreover, as alleged in the application, both police and the Crown knew that Smith lied on the stand in the Johnson trial, and did nothing about it.

El Jones first alerted me to Randy Riley’s trial, mid-trial. She told me there was something extraordinary going on, and she was convinced Riley was innocent. We were pressed for time, and El could attend some days of the trial, and I could attend some other days, but there were gaps in our coverage. I did, however, manage to catch the last couple of days, and then sentencing, when Riley gave his remarkable defiant statement.

The case has gnawed at me for the 18 months since. El and I have discussed it many times, and I’ve studied it in detail, reading the court transcript and walking the area around the murder scene. I hadn’t written a detailed analysis of the case, however, and then last week the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial, and suddenly a trove of new documents came available to me. So I spent the weekend writing the account of Paul Smith.

But as important as the Paul Smith story is, it’s not the only thing wrong with the case against Riley — not by a long shot. There are other concerns, related to police and prosecutorial conduct. I have questions that could fall either way in terms of finding guilt — Why couldn’t the provenance of the weapon be determined? Did anyone talk to the people at the Lawrence Street apartment, or to Riley’s girlfriend? — but the fact that these questions weren’t raised at trial suggests to me that the answers didn’t fit into the Crown’s theory of the case. There are a couple of minor witnesses whose testimony seemed dubious to me at the time, and I wonder about their motivations. More substantively, I have big problems with the way cell phone “pings” were used in the trial, and there’s one technology that probably could have provided definitive evidence one way or the other about Riley’s whereabouts at the time of the murder, but I’m guessing neither the Crown nor the defence know about that technology. And, as Riley himself asked, if he was present at the murder scene, where’d he go? No one has provided even a bad answer to that question. Also, there’s a contextual issue of how race played out in the trial, which is a conversation that no one is going to like.

All of which is to say, there’s much more to write about this case. We’ll see if the Crown decides to re-try, and go from there.

Click here to read “‘When I was in, on the stand or statements that I wrote, I guess that there was some stuff that was, was false.’”

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3. Paper profits

Photo: Joan Baxter

“Court documents show that after Northern Pulp made $59.9 million in loan repayments to its corporate owner Paper Excellence, it asked the province of Nova Scotia for $50 million in new financing, over and above the $85 million it already owes the province,” reports Joan Baxter. “The province declined to provide new loans, but did agree to a freeze on all payments from the existing loans.”

Click here to read “Excellence in paper profits.”

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4. Jaywalker

Gyasi Symonds was accused of jaywalking across Gottingen Street twice at this location — between the Nook and his workplace across the street — in January 2017. — Photo: Google Streetview

“A Nova Scotia Human Rights board of inquiry has heard conflicting testimony about the events leading up to a 2017 interaction described by one witness as ‘disturbing’ and characterized by the man at the centre of the inquiry as racial discrimination,” reports Zane Woodford:

Gyasi Symonds, a Black man, is arguing police discriminated against him based on his race in January 2017 when they ticketed him for jaywalking across Gottingen Street.

The interaction between Symonds and the police took place in front of the Nook café and across the street, inside 2131 Gottingen St., also known as the MacDonald building, where Symonds works as a provincial department of community services case worker.

Click here to read “Black man ticketed for jaywalking challenges Halifax police at human rights board of inquiry.”

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Views

1. I’ll take Bad Takes for $100, Alex

I used to think that the Mining Association of Nova Scotia (MANS) exists in order to lobby for increasing mining opportunities for mining companies. Just a typical industry group, trying to make a buck for its clients.

Increasingly, however, I’m thinking of MANS as a Russian-style trolling operation, using social media simply to fuck with us. What else are we to think of these tweets?

The quarry workers, mostly slaves, were employed through contracts from their masters. Freed men and stonemasons from the US and Scotland were also on site.#nspoli #cbpoli #novascotia pic.twitter.com/7MSV4SCVjN

— Mining Association of Nova Scotia (@MiningNS) November 8, 2020

Workers received housing and food, which included “…one pound good pork or one pound and a half of beef and one pound flour per day…” along with a 1/2 pint of whiskey.
Today, an African American woman, Kamala Harris, is Vice President-Elect of the United States.#nspoli #cbpoli pic.twitter.com/zQB8XAmH6D

— Mining Association of Nova Scotia (@MiningNS) November 8, 2020

“Our industry exploited slavery to make the institutions now occupied by the descendants of slaves” is one hell of a bad take. What were they thinking?

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Government

City

Monday

North West Community Council (Monday, 7pm) — the Shaw Group wants to build a 176-unit residential subdivision on 134 acres in Windsor Junction.

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — the first meeting of the new council. Mostly just setting priorities, but a couple of small action items on the agenda as well.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Community Services (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Department of Community Services with Tracy Taweel and Joy Knight; Lynne McCarron from United Way of Cape Breton; JoAnna LaTulippe-Rochon from Cape Breton Family Place Resource Centre. More info here.

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — Lori Barker and Alison Cogdon from Ronald McDonald House Charities Atlantic, and Matthew Campbell from IWK Health Centre. More info here.


On campus

Saint Mary’s

Monday

Managing your research with RefWorks (Monday, 7pm) — webinar info here.


In the harbour

00:01: Taipei Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica

East Coast. Photo: Halifax Examiner

04:30: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Les Escoumins, Quebec
06:00: Kyoto Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
08:30: Boreas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 28 for sea
10:30: Toronto, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Bremerhaven, Germany
14:00: APL Miami, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
14:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
16:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
16:30: Toronto sails for sea
16:30: Kyoto Express sails for New York

Algoma Mariner. Photo: Halifax Examiner

21:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at Pier 25/26 from Montreal


Footnotes

Once again, I’m pressed for time, as I have to run downtown for court research before attending the COVID briefing.

Remember, the November subscription drive is the Examiner’s primary fundraiser. Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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9 Comments

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  1. Re Gyasai Symonds case
    There is no such charge as “jaywalking”. It is perfectly legal to cross a street as long as you don’t interfere with traffic. In this case the charge may be related to that act of interference with traffic flow.
    Perhaps there should be a crosswalk placed there if pedestrian demand exists.

    1. Looking at the picture posted with the article, I believe there is a crosswalk already at each end of this particular block of Gottingen, leaving one to question why none of the people mentioned in the article couldn’t take a few extra steps to cross the street in the safest way possible. Too many people seem to think they can cross where and when they want regardless of traffic. I understand that if it can be done safely so that it doesn’t impede the flow of traffic that it is not illegal, but shouldn’t we all be encouraged to cross in as safe a manner as possible? All that said, if the officers in this particular incident are found to be racist Mr Symonds should prevail.

      1. I think the racism is perpetuated every time this conversation becomes about how Mr. Symonds could have avoided 2 encounters (one 45 mins long and in his workplace) with the police, and not police misconduct.

  2. Re COVID and “A good guess is that while travellers are required to self-isolate, their immediate household members who did not travel are not required to self-isolate” – that has been my assumption too re the advisories and spread. So what happens in December when travel from outside the bubble is greatly increased at Christmas but family members (with a self-isolating visitor at home) can still go out and do all the things? The bubble has done so well and I am grateful to live here in NS – I hope Christmas doesn’t become cause for the second lockdown.

  3. The definition of community spread that we are using wasn’t created by Dr Strang or NS Public Health – it’s the same definition used all over the world. We just happen to be be one of the few places in the world where we have the luxury of debating whether it’s happening or not, because in most other places it certainly is.

  4. RE: “Public Health should use different terms. I suggest “traceable spread” and “untraceable spread.” Don’t confuse people with a technical definition for “community spread” that is counter to the intuitive definition.”

    Of Course they should. Don’t expect to see it anytime soon, but happy to be proved wrong.

    This is Stephen& the gang’s o-so-typical “fancy-footwork-turn-of-a-phrase-to-keep-peeps-confused-calm” methodology. Similar to re-naming clearcutting to less traumatic terms such as “variable retention” or “shelterwood” but doing nothing about the issue (other than facilitating/enabling it)

    Apologies for getting off-topic . . .

  5. Thanks for explaining how Public Health defines community transmission. I agree that traceable spread and untraceable spread would provide more clarity to everyone.

  6. Great summary that explains a lot – with all of these community alerts getting more and more urgent the “no community transmission “ wording really didn’t make sense. Thanks for all your work straightening things out – despite the cloak of secrecy

  7. The idea of self-isolating in your home, per 811, is minimal contact with family members, separate room (if possible), and lots of surface cleaning. It sounds pretty thin to me, especially for anyone who has kids and who also breathes or sneezes. Most people I know are making arrangements to truly self-isolate. I recognize that this requires either money or strong-tie relationships that aren’t universally accessible.

    “you don’t have to completely self-isolate, but you can’t go to the bars or the gym.”

    … or schools? This life-is-kind-of-normal thing falls apart once we have cases in schools…