News

1. 10,000 litres a day?

Halifax Water’s headquarters in Cowie Hill. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford brings us the story of South End Halifax resident Aline Fineberg, who got a whopping water bill, based on her usage last fall. She normally uses about 112 litres of water a day. Now she was up to nearly 10,000.

Woodford writes that that’s “enough water to fill an average, 40-gallon bathtub 64 times a day, or flush an older toilet 734 times a day.”

Halifax Water sent her a bill, and she appealed to the utility’s dispute resolution officer, who turned her down and ordered her to pay. That decision came right at the start of the pandemic. Fineberg did not appeal within the required 30 days (hey, early days of the pandemic!) and Halifax Water ordered her to pay up. So she took her appeal to the Utility and Review Board, and those sweethearts at Halifax Water argued the UARB should not hear it. Here’s Woodford again:

Halifax Water argued the UARB had no authority to extend the appeal period and hear Fineberg’s case:

“Any reasons for why the Customer did not file the appeal within the 30-day appeal period cannot be considered because the Halifax Water Regulations do not grant authority to the Board to extend the appeal period.

“The jurisdiction to hear the Customer’s appeal has expired. The Board cannot hear this appeal.”

[Stephen] McGrath [of the UARB] disagreed, citing the board’s powers under the provincial Public Utilities Act to approve an appeal period and to investigate matters related to the utility. While he wrote that the board should not make a habit of allowing longer appeal periods, this was a special case due to the pandemic.

The UARB sided with Fineberg, so now she gets to have her appeal on the seemingly absurd water usage (which has since gone back down to normal) heard.

When I was in university, someone I knew was in tears over a clearly ridiculous power bill for her small apartment. Even though a Hydro-Québec rep jokingly asked her if she was running an amusement park out of her place, the utility still insisted on payment. As I recall, she resorted to some strategic crying and eventually got them to stop chasing her for the money.

2. Some cops don’t want to respond to mental health calls either

But phoning a friend is also not the answer to dealing with serious mental health problems. Photo: Dustin Belt, Unsplash.

Emma Smith at CBC writes that the Truro police chief and Bridgewater deputy chief both say their forces are not properly equipped to respond to calls for people in a mental health crisis:

Deputy Chief Danny MacPhee with the Bridgewater Police Service said his officers receive mental health training every other year.

“We have received really consistently multiple types of mental health training, crisis management training, different spectrums of it. So we’ve dealt with autism spectrum, some dementia, you know, because of our senior community as well,” he said.

But the problem, said MacPhee, is that the training doesn’t go much beyond being able to recognize when someone is in crisis.

“We’re not full-time mental health case workers. We’re not in crisis management every day. We don’t have that experience from working full time …. That’s not our profession.”

Both men call for the expansion of a service like the Halifax Mobile Crisis team, which is only available to respond in person within HRM.

Dave MacNeil, the Truro police chief, says his service has responded to 252 mental health calls so far this year.

After I finish writing Morning File, I’m going to wrap up a story I’ve been working on about Mobile Crisis, so check back.

3. Pavia cafe closes at AGNS

Tim Bousquet wrote this item.

Pavia has abruptly closed its location at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, hinting at a legal dispute. From a press release from the cafe:

After more than four years of serving customers from its Art Gallery of Nova Scotia location on Hollis Street, in Halifax, PAVIA Gallery – Espresso Bar & Café has closed its doors at that location.

“It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that we are announcing we have severed ties with the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia”, said PAVIA CEO and co-owner Victoria Foulger. “We are very proud of the work that we did during our time at the AGNS location. The business was successful from the day we opened until the day we closed.”

Co-owner Christopher Webb explained his long connections with the AGNS: the gallery “has been a part of my life since I was a child.” A visual artist, Webb exhibited at the AGNS in 2016 as part of “Terroir: A Nova Scotia Survey” in 2016. He was even on the AGNS’s Board of Directors for two years.

“For reasons relating to confidentiality PAVIA will not have any further comment on the closure of its AGNS location,” reads the release, and pointed reporters to lawyer Gavin Giles for questions.

Pavia’s two cafes in the Central Library remain open (or rather, will reopen when the library reopens next week), and by all appearances are booming (pre-pandemic, I was there a couple of times a week, at least). Pavia’s original location in Herring Cove is also doing quite well, and has grown to become a “community grocer.”

4.  Senators call for mass shooting inquiry

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard is one of a group of senators calling for an inquiry. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Yesterday, a group of senators from Nova Scotia issued a media release calling for the federal and provincial governments “to immediately launch a joint and equally-led public inquiry into the recent Nova Scotia mass shootings and related events.” The release says the senators — Mary Coyle, Colin Deacon, Stan Kutcher, Wanda Thomas Bernard, and Daniel Christmas — ” are now requesting that the ministers [Bill Blair and Mark Furey] provide concrete answers as to why an inquiry has not yet been launched.”

They continue:

It is the Senators’ belief that the current delay and lack of transparency is fomenting speculation regarding the shooting and the shooter himself. The longer the wait, the more conjectures will arise, potentially further eroding public trust regarding law enforcement. As such, Senators Bernard, Christmas, Coyle, Deacon and Kutcher must insist that a comprehensive, thorough and fulsome public inquiry, jointly and equally led by the federal and provincial government, that addresses the details of this event as well as the complex social and structural matters that are related to it, be announced in the coming days.

On June 5, Jennifer Henderson reported that a federal-provincial inquiry could be called “as early as next week.” Here we are, nearly a month later.

5. Owls Head protectors seek judicial review

Owls Head. Photo Courtesy Vision Air

The CBC’s Taryn Grant reports on an appeal to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, in an effort to have a judicial review called into the de-listing of the Owls Head protected area, on the Eastern Shore.

Owls Head is Crown land, and was on a list of properties designated for protection. The province quietly removed that designation when American billionaires expressed interest in building three golf courses there. (In the twisted logic of capitalism, this would open up the property and make it accessible to the public, or something.) The de-listing only came to light after the CBC’s Michael Gorman reported on it last December.

Grant writes:

Two parties — former provincial biologist Bob Bancroft and the Eastern Shore Forest Watch Association — filed papers with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in January seeking the review.

In the submission, the lawyer for the applicants argued for an extension to the usual six-month time limit for requesting a judicial review.

The normal period to file a review is six months, but the province’s decision was secret and didn’t even come to light until nine months after the fact.

Grant says the province’s lawyer, Jack Townsend, calls the idea of a review “a waste of time.”

He also argued that any interested parties would have an opportunity to consult on the proposed project at Owls Head because in a letter of offer, signed by the province and Lighthouse Links, the company is required to create a public engagement plan.

How much faith do you have in that process?

6. Rules? What rules?

The unofficial Lockview High grad event produced lots of photos of people very close together. Photo tweeted by councillor Steve Streatch.

Maybe I’m not the best person to write about endangering people’s lives by attending some kind of grad ceremony and ignoring the distancing rules, since I skipped two of my three university graduation ceremonies and probably would have skipped the high school one too, if I’d been willing to argue long and hard enough about it. (I wasn’t.)

Councillor Steve Streatch tweeted a bunch of photos from an unofficial grad ceremony for Lockview High students, held at Scotia Speedworld. CTV’s Allan April reports the event was sanctioned by public health, as long as distancing guidelines were maintained – which they clearly were not.

April writes:

Initially, the more than 260 graduates were assigned seats spaced six feet apart, while their families were assigned parking spots with an empty space in between and told to stay in their vehicles.

But the appearance of a surprise musical guest – rapper, Classified – quickly turned the ceremony into a concert-like atmosphere, as graduates got up from their seats and gathered together in front of the stage. Attendees could also be seen exiting their vehicles and moving around the parking lot.

“(Dr. Strang) is disappointed to hear about a lack of physical distancing at a number of community-based celebrations,” wrote Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness spokesperson, Heather Fairbairn, in a statement on Monday. “COVID-19 is still an issue. Until there is a vaccine, we must remain vigilant and follow the public health measures and guidelines that are in place.”

The story is filled with quotes that make me want to bash my head onto my desk repeatedly. My favourite is this one:

“Yeah, it could be dangerous,” said another graduate. “But I’m not feeling too bad about it.”

It’s easy to blame the kids, but any organizer should have foreseen this.

7. Trying to make the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre a reality

Elizabeth McSheffrey reports for Global on fundraising efforts to make the vision of the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre a reality.

The project is the brainchild of Mi’kmaw historian Donald Julien, who came up with the idea in 1989.

McSheffrey writes:

Mi’kmaw historian Donald Julien. Photo: Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre

For more than 30 years, Mi’kmaw historian Donald Julien has envisioned a place where his people could share their stories.

It would be owned and operated by Indigenous people, he explained, celebrating more than 13,000 years of Mi’kmaw history in Nova Scotia. It would feature ancient artifacts, the truth about residential schools, tales from Mi’kmaw war veterans, and analysis of the Peace and Friendship Treaties.

Unlike many existing museums, it would not paint a monolithic picture of Mi’kmaw people by cramming nations and cultures into small exhibits, tucked away in a corner somewhere.

“I think what we really need is for the Mi’kmaw to be able to tell their own stories, ask their own questions about their own history,” he told Global News…”

The project has raised $27 million and is putting on a fundraising push for the remaining $5.2 million needed to get the centre built.

8. Newcomers groups host anti-racism forum

Photo: Clay Banks, Unsplash

The Pakistani Canadian Association of Nova Scotia and East Coast Filipino Portal are hosting an online forum tonight called Black Voices, Amplified, Noushin Ziafati reports for the Chronicle Herald.

According to Rana Zaman, founder of the Pakistani Canadian Association of Nova Scotia and one of the organizers, the free event is a “wonderful opportunity” for Pakistani Canadians, Filipino Canadians and all other Nova Scotians to show solidarity with Black people and the BLM movement.

“I felt that we as (diverse communities) should step up, come forward, extend our hands and say, ‘We are here, we understand, what can we do support you? And help us to learn,’ because a lot of immigrants do not know much about the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Zaman…

“It’s important for newcomers to realize the country that they come in, what its history is and that it has its skeletons in the closet, and there are people that have been living here that are affected by the policies of this country to this day,” she said, pointing to Black and Indigenous folks.

“And if as a society we do not address the wrongs that have been committed against these communities, how will we prevent further wrongs committed against other communities as time goes by?”

You can access the forum on Facebook Live through the East Coast Filipino Portal page.


Views

“First tattoo.” Stock photo by Jordan Bauer from unsplash.com used by SaltWire to promote the launch of its SALT weekly.

Here at the Examiner, we’ve taken to using stock photos, particularly from Unsplash, when we don’t have any other pics handy. When I’m writing Morning File or Examiner features, I’ll check the media library, dip into my own stash of photos, and, as a last resort, look up stock photos. I confess that I have no idea what the business model is for Unsplash, which makes all its pics available for free, with no copyright. I also don’t understand why anyone would upload their photos so others use them for free, but whatever. The service is there, and we use it.

Some stock photography is great, and some is ridiculous, which becomes particularly evident when you gather a bunch of images of a particular trope in one place (in this case women laughing while eating salad).

But stock photography is also a kind of cultural barometer too, showing trends in what we think represents particular people or circumstances.

This struck me a couple of weeks ago, when I was writing about film and TV production restarting, and I went looking for photos to illustrate the piece. An Unsplash search for “film director” brought up photo after photo of 30-ish hipsters behind cameras.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

You had to do a whole lot of scrolling before hitting a woman. A bit less scrolling before hitting subjects who are not white. (After I mentioned this, a few people pointed me to Elena Rossini’s Twitter account, and the #thisiswhatafilmmakerlookslike hashtag.)

I find stock photography searches for “mental illness” particularly disturbing. There are the horrifying images depicting, say, a man in agony who looks like he’s trying to claw his eyes out (no, I’m not linking to it) and sometimes there are the jokey ones of straitjackets and so on. Ha ha ha.

But far more common is the trope of the person who is all alone, often holding their head.

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

A couple of years ago, the Globe and Mail ran a piece I wrote about the failings of mental health awareness campaigns, and illustrated it with a black and white photo of a person on the edge of their bed, head bent and held in their hands. To my editor’s credit, before I could complain about it, he emailed me and asked for a headshot to replace the stock image running with the piece.

Suzanne Rent has pointed out that if you search for “victims” you will get lots of pictures of women who are victims of violence. Unsplash doesn’t have much at all under “victims”, but you can see the accuracy of her observation if you look at iStock. Here, a search for “victims” brings up images of women crouched on the floor hugging themselves, women with marks of violence on their faces, a woman looking frightened on a dark street, and on and on and on.

One interesting change I’ve noticed at Unsplash over the last couple of months is the change in results for a search for “racism.” This used to produce many images like those of the women victims, only featuring Black people. Sitting alone, looking sad, etc. Now the results lean heavily towards Black Lives Matter and anti-police-brutality marches.

Photo by Hayley Catherine on Unsplash

This is why some people and groups have started producing their own stock photography. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for instance, has its own “Immunization Image Gallery,” with photos available for free download. Their reasoning? Too many stock photos of vaccines show crying toddlers or are otherwise scary.

An image from the American Academy of Pediatrics immunization gallery.

Why does any of this matter? It’s just stock photography, right? It is, but stock photography offers a snapshot of a particular kind of mainstream view of people and events.

If victim = woman, and mental illness = being in perpetual pain and crisis, and filmmaker = man, and racism = sad Black people, that just reinforces longstanding cultural stereotypes.


Noticed

Himalayan blue poppy. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stop reading bad news for a bit and take a walk around the Cove with Stephen Archibald. Enjoy his rhododendrons and Himalayan blue poppies. Really, just do it.

This is part eight of Archibald’s Spring in the Cove series, and presumably his last, since we are now into summer.

Rhododendrons have a fascinating history in Nova Scotia, and Himalayan blue poppies are just incredible. I got the chance to see a whole lot of them at Reford Gardens, an amazing place near Rimouski a few years ago. But it’s getting late, so I’ll leave that for another time.


Government

City

Tuesday

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (6pm, virtual meeting) — T. Chandler Haliburton, who owns LMNO Properties Limited, wants to build three buildings south of Portland Street, across from the recycling centre by Maynard Lake: two six-storey apartment buildings on Portland Street, with a four-storey apartment building behind, on a sort of stranded lot that will need to be rezoned from its current R2 designation (which allows for duplexes) to R3 (which allows for apartment buildings).

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (10am, teleconference) — Agency, Board and Commission Appointments

In the harbour

11:00: Vole au Vent, offshore supply ship, moves from IEL to Irving Oil
11:00: Acadian, oil tanker, moves from Irving Oil to Imperial Oil
13:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 30 for sea
18:00: AS Federica, container ship, sails from Bedford Basin anchorage for Saint John


Footnotes

I’ve already said enough, don’t you think?

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. HRM mobile crisis doesnt come outside of Metro HRM. I am in Porters Lake and I believe it wouldnt come out here for my neighbours son – who has since committed suicide last summer. He was 17. If you are interested, I am sure she would talk to you about their encounters with mental health and also her experience with the police response.

  2. that mobile crisis support position sounds like my daily routine… how does one get involved to help in that field?

  3. The Reford gardens are lovely. A couple of the family members retired in part to the south shore. They’d built a big house behind crescent beach and as a child I was always told that one was a Hawaiian princess. Lovely couple, thanks for the reminder.

  4. So many levels of irresponsibility in the graduation story that it made my head hurt. Professional organiztion is not a guarantee of appropriate organization.

  5. There is a huge problem with Halifax Water that needs to be addressed. They do not seem to have any reasonable dispute mechanism for people who have obviously been mis-billed. I know several people including myself who have had bills which obviously were wrong. Since they forced to new water meters on us there have been problems but they will not admit it. I think the UARB needs to do something to protect users.

  6. Why not do a call-out for stock photos of local people/places/events? There are some excellent amateur photogs who may enjoy the unexpected exposure of a photo credit (not that I endorse getting art for nothing, but you never know who is looking for just such a break, and still retain copyright), historical photo groups, 4H or school photo projects, and so on.

  7. I recently had occasion to search for a stock photo of a baseball player to illustrate a metaphoric post. I had generally three options: Professional (male, white) baseball players; kids (almost all boys); or Sexy (white) Women who I suspect were not serious about the game of baseball judging from the impracticality of the cleavage and makeup. I finally found one picture of an “African-American Woman” who looked like she was hanging with a fun local league. Yeesh.

    1. So true! And when I worked as a graphic designer, I always found good photos of Indigenous folks especially difficult to find.