News

1. Northern Pulp

Northern Pulp Mill at night. Photo courtesy of Tony DeCoste Photo-Video

Friday, three Examiner reporters covered the breaking Northern Pulp story. I was at One Government Place for Premier Stephen McNeil’s announcement, then darted over to a nearby hotel for Northern Pulp’s press conference. Joan Baxter spoke with members of Pictou Landing First Nation and PLFN legal council to get their reaction.* And Jennifer Henderson chased down various other players via telephone for their reaction.

The result was “What it all means: the closure of Northern Pulp Mill, the future of forestry, and an act of reconciliation.”

And on the weekend, Stephen Kimber weighed in:

I don’t want to criticize Stephen McNeil’s announcement Friday. It was hard to watch without feeling just how emotionally wrenching and personally difficult it had been for him. He was genuinely caught between the rock of an important and necessary promise he had made to the Pictou Landing First Nation and the hard place of knowing keeping his promise would mean the end of vital jobs for workers at Northern Pulp and beyond in the province’s forest industry. But the thing is… Should it really have come to this?

Click here to read “Northern Pulp: planning the future five years too late.”

These two articles come atop of dozens of in-depth articles examining the pulp mill and its environmental and social effects. Linda Pannozzo was responsible for many of those.

And we’ll stay on top of the story, looking at forestry issues generally, and the impacts of the mill closure.

Because it was such an important breaking news story, over the past week, we’ve kept the Examiner’s Northern Pulp coverage in front of the paywall, for all the world to read for free. But of course it sill required considerable resources to produce those stories. To support such work into the future, please consider subscribing. Thanks.

2. Rana Zaman

Rana Zaman offers a TED Talk (Facebook)

On November 10, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission recognized Rana Zaman with an award “in recognition of her extraordinary advocacy efforts in bringing together diverse communities in Halifax.”

Stephen Kimber has written about the kind of work Zaman does:

According to a 2016 story in Canadian Press, Zaman had complained to police after seeing a Halifax police officer make horrific Islamophobic comments on social media, accusing “Mussies,” as he referred to them, of trying to recruit child sexual abuse victims. When Zaman reposted the officer’s tweet on social media, she blacked out the officer’s name and photo because she didn’t want to start a “witch hunt… My heart does not want to have this person fired or degraded in any way, but seeks the opportunity to speak with him and perhaps others of the police force who may share similar sentiments.”

She got her wish. The Halifax police department’s equity and diversity officer organized a meeting between the two during which Zaman says she discovered the officer had been dealing with what the story described as “personal issues and a ‘personal loss’ at the time.”

Without excusing his behaviour — for which he’d offered a written apology — Zaman noted that the officer’s comment “is coming out of pure anger, and there’s something behind it, there’s pain and anger behind that comment.”

It was the beginning of an ongoing discussion. Zaman organized meet-and-greet sessions for Halifax police officers to allow them to ask questions and get to know members of the Muslim community. She even invited the officer who’d made the original Islamophobic comments to a meal during Ramadan.

But now, on Friday, just 10 days after receiving the award, the Human Rights Commission rescinded it via press release:

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has formally rescinded the Human Rights Award presented to Rana Zaman of Halifax on Dec. 10.

Nova Scotia Human Rights Awards are presented annually by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with Partners for Human Rights, to acknowledge the good work of Nova Scotians helping to advance human rights by creating stronger, more inclusive communities. The selection committee of volunteers that reviewed the nomination packages, made decisions based upon the information that was submitted demonstrating Ms. Zaman’s outstanding volunteer work at the grassroots level. The committee was unaware of public statements made by Ms. Zaman that were directly contrary to the principles of the award.

The commission asks all Nova Scotians to consider how they can help to promote human rights, inclusiveness and dignity in their communities.

Is it really possible that people who work in the human rights sector were “unaware” of the multiple news articles about Zaman and that the NDP essentially fired her as a candidate? Of course not. We’ll get to what happened in a bit, but first let’s review. Again, from Kimber:

On May 1, 2019, the NDP members in that riding actually nominated someone else. It chose Rana Zaman, whom the party at the time described as “a dedicated social activist,” a Pakistani immigrant who came to Canada in the 1970s, a former delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a volunteer with more than a dozen community organizations, a wife and mother of three who has lived in Dartmouth for more than 35 years. She was chosen to run against incumbent Liberal MP Darren Fisher in October’s federal election. Norton finished second for the nomination.

That was then. Between then and the end of June, however, someone dredged up a number of Zaman’s impassioned social media posts, which focused on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.

The NDP almost instantly dumped her as a candidate, calling the language in her tweets “unacceptable. We expect our candidates to engage on important issues respectfully.”

What had she said that was so awful?

Frustrated by seeing what she described as “unarmed Palestinian protesters” being shot during the Great March of Return in the spring of 2018 — Amnesty International, in fact, reported “over 150 Palestinians have been killed in the demonstrations [and] at least 10,000 others have been injured, including 1,849 children, 424 women, 115 paramedics and 115 journalists — Zaman angrily accused Israel of “committing genocide against Palestinians because Israel is not willing to share! Tell me what are Palestinians supposed to do,” she asked? “Just die… oh wait! They are!! Where’s your heart?”

Genocide? Among other things, the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says it means “deliberately inflicting on [a] group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

Notes the progressive US-based Center for Constitutional Rights:

“prominent scholars of the international law crime of genocide and human rights authorities take the position that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people could constitute a form of genocide. Those policies range from the 1948 mass killing and displacement of Palestinians to a half-century of military occupation and, correspondingly, the discriminatory legal regime governing Palestinians, repeated military assaults on Gaza, and official Israeli statements expressly favoring the elimination of Palestinians.”

Or consider this catalogue of Israeli actions from a 2014 investigation by VICE:

“Israel is a state that openly discriminates on the basis of identity, denying Palestinian refugees the ability to visit their old villages in what is now Israel while granting citizenship to anyone with a Jewish mother who wants it. Israel is a state where the deputy speaker of parliament openly calls for replacing the indigenous population of Gaza with Jewish settlers, and where a leading newspaper just published [a later deleted] article titled “When Genocide Is Permissible.” It’s the sort of place where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu feels comfortable calling the 20 percent of the population that isn’t Jewish—the indigenous people who weren’t pushed out—a “demographic threat” to apartheid, their continued reproduction posing a serious challenge to continued ethnic supremacy west of the Jordan River. So why are people afraid to use that word: ‘genocide’?”

To be clear, this is not the mainstream view of what the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians constitutes, but it is far from radical and it is not — or should not be — to use the NDP’s words, “disrespectful” to raise it.

More succinctly, Robert Devet notes:

Those public statements involved tweets that, correctly, called Israel an apartheid state that shot unarmed Palestinian protesters, two allegations that have been widely reported in the international press. 

As well, she compared Israeli soldiers shooting these unarmed Palestinians to Nazis. That was wrong, she publicly acknowledged that it was wrong, and she apologized for it. “I appreciate that comments referencing the Nazis were inappropriate, hurtful and sadly may be perceived as anti-Semitic,” Rana said. 

I know Rana, and the idea that she is antisemitic is utter nonsense. It’s just not true, it’s that simple.  

So what happened in the 10 days between Zaman receiving the award and the Human Rights Commission unceremoniously rescinding it, without so much as an explanatory phone call to Zaman? A couple of rabbis wrote a letter to the Chronicle Herald complaining about it.

Yet again, from Kimber:

But, as Zaman herself allowed in the aftermath of her ouster, “it is an unfortunate fact of current political discourse that the words we use to describe injustice are often perceived as worse than the injustice itself.”

It is unfortunate.

Larry Haiven, who is Jewish and a strong critic of the Israeli occupation, has organized a rally in support of Zaman, today between noon and 1pm in front of the Human Rights Commission’s office at Park Lane Mall, 5657 Spring Garden Road.

3. Oval

Some people actually enjoy cold weather sports.

The Oval is open.

4. Peggy’s Cove parking lot

Peggys Point Lighthouse. Photo: Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Scoiety

[Long-time resident Roger Crooks is] concerned about a plan to build a new parking lot in a designated preservation area,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

The parking lot, proposed to be constructed between Peggys Point Road and Prospect Road, is part of a slew of changes pitched by the provincial Crown corporation Develop Nova Scotia.

Crooks said the area is “like a sanctuary” for animals and nesting birds.

Develop Nova Scotia spokesperson Deborah Page acknowledged that most of the land surrounding Peggys Cove is a preservation area.

She said she wasn’t sure what the process would be to allow a parking lot there, except that it would involve working with the Department of Lands and Forestry, which manages preservation land owned by the province.

5. Offshore

The heavy lift ship Forte, carrying the Noble Regina Allen drilling rig, was anchored near McNabs Island in November 2017. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The Noble Regina Allen oil rig is being towed into harbour this morning, marking the decommissioning of the Sable Island field. The rig was moved to the offshore in November 2017 to begin well plug and abandonment (P&A) at 22 well sites throughout the Sable field; last week, the last of those P&As, at a well site called Alma 4A, was completed.

In other offshore news, “the oil regulator for the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador has ordered Suncor Energy’s offshore Terra Nova site to shut down, finding the company’s fire water pump system was non-compliant,” reports Rob Nickel for Reuters:

Terra Nova, operating in the Atlantic Ocean 350 kilometres (217 miles) east of St. John’s, failed to maintain and inspect critical safety equipment, carry out timely repairs and ensure it mitigated potential hazards, the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) said in a statement on Thursday.


Noticed

I was on the Dalhousie campus Saturday and took the above photo, which shows an architectural rendering of the Dalhousie Arts Centre project.

The rendering depicts 15 white people, and zero people of colour. When I tweeted about this, Dal English prof Julia Wright pointed me to the Dal website, which shows a second rendering that has nine white people and again zero people of colour:

How do we get renderings of a public building on a university campus that show 26 white people and zero people of colour? This is not a simple case of an unthinking architect. It goes much deeper than that.

To begin, it reflects software packages put together by computer geeks and graphic artists who are themselves white and who built stock image catalogs that depict mostly or solely white people. Those catalogs are then used by architects.

But then there’s the architect who used those images and the architect’s firm, neither of which cared enough to complain about the lack of diverse representation in the catalogs. Then there’s the university, which both allowed the sign to go up, and never thought, even after-the-fact, that the lack of diversity in the image was a problem.

In the couple of minutes while I was assessing the rendering, about 20 people passed me on University Avenue. About half of those people were people of colour. So this is no small deal. The rendering speaks directly to people on the sidewalk in front of the location for the new building: “This ain’t about you.”

The fact of the rendering, and the multiple decision points that led to it, shows that it’s literally unthinkable that people of colour be included. This reflects unchallenged and unthinking institutional biases that very likely will be reflected in the forms of the structure itself, and its offerings.

Which is to say: Representation matters. How we envision our institutions, who’s included and who’s not, speaks to the public, and gets expressed in the actual created reality. I sadly expect this from a developer shilling a new condo project. But this is from a university.

Barbara Darby points me to a piece by Margaret Ravenscroft in the architect and design magazine dezeen that explores this very issue, headlined “By failing to represent diversity in CGIs, we are normalising whiteness and othering everything else.”

“Too many CGIs are whitewashed and it is to the detriment of our industry,” writes Ravenscroft:

Worse, it is to the detriment of people of colour who historically have been, and clearly continue to be, designed out of our cities.

These inaccurate and offensive misrepresentations show future cities as homogeneous spaces, where whiteness is omnipresent and people of colour are erased. They are symptomatic of the institutional bias in the architecture industry and they perpetuate lack of inclusion and unfair treatment. All of us who produce, use and even consume visuals must affect change by setting a standard for realistic representation when it comes to diversity.

The widespread whiteness in our CGIs is both a clear reflection of the people making the renders – we are an undeniably white industry (89 per cent in the UK) and we’re producing images that reflect that – and a historic, ingrained, subconscious issue that believes whiteness is more worthy.

Racism isn’t just spewing the N-word. It’s historic and institutional systems that are set up as disadvantageous to people of colour. It’s also a white person refusing to listen to people of colour who say their lives are affected by these systems.

By failing to represent diversity in design CGIs, we are normalising whiteness and othering everything else. And in our industry, by not including people of colour in architectural visualisations, we are not only writing them out of our future spaces, we are suggesting they never belonged in the first place.

Paul Vienneau additionally points out that there are no visibly disabled people or wheelchair users in the renderings.


In the harbour


05:00: YM Enlightenment, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:15: MOL Paradise, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Port Said, Egypt
06:00: Torino, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
06:00: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
07:30: APL Yangshan, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
08:30: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
10:00: Noble Regina Allen, oil platform, arrives at Woodside Multi-Purpose Marine Facility from the offshore
11:30: Torino moves to Autoport
12:00: Maersk Mobiliser, supply ship, arrives at Pier 31 from St. John’s
15:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:45: YM Enlightenment sails for Rotterdam
16:00: Maersk Mobiliser sails for sea
16:00: Tropic Lissette sails for Palm Beach, Florida
17:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
18:00: Cabera, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for Skagen, Denmark
19:30: Kitikmeot W, oil tanker, sails from Pier 9 for sea
20:30: Torino sails for sea
22:00: Atlantic Sea sails for New York

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

Morning File is on a reduced schedule this week. Philip Moscovitch will write tomorrow, and Suzanne Rent on Friday. I’ll be back next Monday. Enjoy your holidays, however you note them. Remember the lonely.

* Originally, we wrote that Joan Baxter was at Pictou Landing First Nation for the announcement. In fact, she attended the press conference by teleconference, and was in touch with PLFN members.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I was present at the nomination meeting, going with an open mind, not personally knowing either nominee, but having been contacted by both. I was mildly leaning towards Norton as she brought up climate change without my asking, but I had met neither candidate. Under very difficult circumstances as the sound system was not functioning Norton delivered an excellent address covering many subjects of interest such as employment, social justice, housing, and connecting all these things to the necessity of looking after our environment. She gave specicfic examples. Zaman went next, the sound system was restored so she was well heard. There was a vocal claque supporting her and my heart sank because personally I really dislike gungho electioneering. Zaman’s address focused on her experience but was very short on details or policy. By the end of both speeches I felt Zaman’s personality was probably the more electable, but I personally preferred Norton’s lower key and more substantial platform. And that was that. The vote was extremely close, they had to count the ballots more than once and took a long time to announce the result. Now, as far as Zaman’s removal as candidate is concerned, I believe she showed extraordinarily poor judgement in referring to Israelis as Nazis. There is certainly more than enough blame to go around for all parties in the Middle East and I do not defend Israeli actions. As for the human rights award it seems from what I’ve read that it was unfair to award it and then rescind it.

  2. Not to minimise the valid concerns about lack of representation in the architectural graphic, but I will sleep better tonight knowing that finally, that woman found a cab.

  3. The proliferation of architectural renderings has become rampant. Virtually all of them represent essentially a lie in visual form. Not sure why this is seen to be acceptable. I remember the rendering done to show that the Doyle building on SGR would not block the view of the Citadel from the library. Guess what: It did exactly that. Nobody was called to task for that.
    I think it is about time that professional architects adopt a code of ethics with respect to these high-end cartoons which in some cases are deliberately presented to create a false narrative. The failure to reflect diversity is a significant part of that but there is more. I know the Examiner frequently makes fun of renderings, but there is in my opinion a serious side as they are often constructed to mis-inform rather than give a true representation of any given architectural concept.