News

1. COVID-19

Nova Scotia announced 25 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday, five of which were people 12 years old or younger living in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone. There were additionally two new cases of people 13-19 in the Central Zone, one of whom is presumable a student at Citadel High.

I’m travelling over the next couple of days, so had to pay $79 for a certified COVID antigen test at the Praxes site downtown (as opposed to getting a free one around the corner at the convention centre).

I’m not complaining — I recognize that these rules are designed to protect all of society, and the lines can be somewhat arbitrary but have to be drawn somewhere. Between the cost and the timing of tests with my travel, I’m in a worst-case situation, but so it goes.

The good news: I tested negative. That’s no surprise; I’ve been testing myself regularly with the take-home tests and I don’t do anything much risky in any event.

The bad news: the test result “certificate” sent to me via email by Praxes — which I need to show to the airline — came in the form of an unlocked fillable PDF, so I could change my name and details to anyone else’s, like, say, Elmer Fudd’s:

So at this point, the testing requirements and even the proof of vaccine requirements are something akin to security theatre — we’re told that simply having our cell phone on during takeoff can crash and burn a plane, but we all take our shoes off and let them take x-rays that see through our clothes because we pretend the terrorists haven’t thought of the cell phone thing yet.

The other day, someone showed me a pitch for a fake vaccination verification email that was being sold for $100. Seems a bit pricey; even with my extreme low-tech abilities, I think I could put one together in about 20 minutes.

Obviously: don’t do that. But let’s not pretend other people won’t.

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2. Are the Public Health rules being enforced fairly?

Speaking of security theatre, can we discuss enforcement of the Emergency Measures Act?

While most people will agree with the intent of the Public Health measures — containing the coronavirus and limiting its spread — enforcement comes with the same potential social baggage and biases as all other police enforcement and court rulings: Is the law being applied fairly? Are some people being singled out for enforcement, while others are let go?

Last summer, I saw lots of social media posts of rich people, or at least indebted people, having large wedding parties that were in clear violation of the 10-person gathering limit then in effect, but those wealthy and/or indebted people never seem to have been charged with violating the emergency measures.

I wondered: would denizens of a North Dartmouth apartment building be treated with the same kid gloves? A Preston barbecue? A  small, struggling retailer on Quinpool Avenue?

A “third party representative” (lawyer, I’m guessing) of that last was the person who filed a Freedom of Information request asking for hard data about enforcement of the Public Health restrictions. Specifically, that person asked for:

(1) Any and all records of charges and tickets related to evictions and violations of the March 27, 2020 Declared State of Emergency that occurred at 6293 Quinpool Road, Halifax, from March 27, 2020, until August 1, 2021.

(2) The total number of tickets issued under the Direction of the Minister under a Declared State of Emergency dated March 27, 2020, made pursuant to Section 14 of the Emergency Management Act, 20-001 , with respect to the restrictions on retail and other commercial landlords.

(3) Records related to tickets, fines, warnings, orders, or other penalties issued under the aforementioned Directive, including the names of the offenders, nature of the offence, and the amounts fined. (Date Range for Record Search: From 3/27/2020 To 7/31/2021)

The retail space  at 6293 Quinpool once housed Garden of Eat’n and then Riot Snack Bar, both of which closed before the pandemic. It is now occupied by The Feasts, a Thai and Indian place. I’m not sure if any other operations preceded The Feasts, or if there is more than one business using the same street number.

In any event, this strikes me as a reasonable request for a lawyer to make: Has my client been treated any differently than other business owners have been treated under the same rules? Is there racial or class bias at work? There’s no way to fully understand that without looking at who has been charged, and how those cases have fared in the courts.

But Robert Bay, the Information and Privacy Administer assigned to process the request, declined to provide all the requested data. He wrote:

You are entitled to part of the records requested. However, we have removed some of the information from this record according to subsection 5(2) of the Act. The severed information is exempt from disclosure under the Act for the following reasons:

• Section 20: unreasonable invasion of personal privacy.

The attached records reflect the available information responsive to bullet #3. Data to identify which tickets relate to retail or commercial landlords is not available. In response to bullet #1, there was one ticket issued for an offence occurring at 6293 Quinpool Road under EMA 23(b); it is reflected in row 38 of the attached spreadsheet.

The remainder of the records are enclosed.

And so the requester got a spreadsheet of 188 people charged under the Act,  the dollar amount of the fine, what happened to the ticket, and how the case was resolved in court — except the names of those charged is redacted from the spreadsheet.

Those 188 charges had the following resolutions:
• 104 pending
• 22 voluntary payment
• 28 sentenced
• 20 dismissed
• 17 withdrawn
• 13 void, cancelled, withdrawn
• 4 quashed

But with the names redacted, how are we going to conduct an analysis of potential bias or favouritism — either to confirm or discount it? When the court dismissed the charges, was it because the judge goes easy on conventionally attractive defendants? Did police or prosecutors withdraw charges for wealthy people but proceed with cases against the underclass? We just can’t tell.

In redacting the names, Bay, the IAP administrator, relied on section 20 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the relevant parts of which reads:

Personal information
20 (1) The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose personal information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy.

(2) In determining pursuant to subsection (1) or (3) whether a dis- closure of personal information constitutes an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy, the head of a public body shall consider all the relevant circumstances, including whether

(a) the disclosure is desirable for the purpose of subjecting the activities of the Government of Nova Scotia or a public body to public scrutiny;

(b) the disclosure is likely to promote public health and safety or to promote the protection of the environment;

(c) the personal information is relevant to a fair determination of the applicant’s rights;

(d) the disclosure will assist in researching the claims, disputes or grievances of aboriginal people;

(h) the disclosure may unfairly damage the reputation of any person referred to in the record requested by the applicant.

(3) A disclosure of personal information is presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if

(b) the personal information was compiled and is identifiable as part of an investigation into a possible violation of law, except to the extent that disclosure is necessary to prosecute the violation or to continue the investigation;

[emphases added]

By my read of the above, there’s nothing unfair about releasing the names of people who have been charged with offences. “Unfair” would be releasing some of the names but not all of them.

Would it be “unfair” to release the names of those charged with, say, bank robbery? What’s the difference?

But even if one comes to the opposite conclusion — that the Freedom of Information Act protects this information — this is in direct contradiction to the open court principle, which states that:

The Open Court Principle makes the judicial process transparent so all those involved, including the Courts, can be held accountable.

Are the rich and powerful held to a different standard than the rest of us? You tell me:

A wedding party at the Nova Centre held in August 2020, when Public Health rules limited gatherings to 10 people

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3. Crematorium fire

On April 26, 2020, a fire destroyed the crematorium at the Mount Hermon Cemetery in Dartmouth. This came at a difficult time — a week after the mass murders, and when the city was in lockdown and no one had any idea what the pandemic would bring. The burning of the crematorium somehow seemed emblematic of our collective angst.

The cemetery, which is owned by the Halifax Regional Municipality, is at the corner of Victoria Road and Nantucket Avenue. The crematorium, which was on the back side of the property, across a service road from the McDonald’s on Nantucket, and was leased to a company called Dartmouth Crematorium Limited (DCL), from about 1985 until 2017. Starting in 2017, the property was leased to another company, D & D Removal Services (D&D).

As alleged in a lawsuit filed by the municipality, both companies are at fault for the fire that destroyed the building in 2020. According to the municipality’s statement of claim, when DCL was leasing the building, the company had installed a furnace and chimney. Then, after D&D took over, there was a “small fire,” and D&D built relined the chimney but it “was not installed with sufficient clearance from the surrounding structure of the building and its roof.”

That insufficient clearance was the cause of the 2020 fire, according to the claim.

The municipality says that according to its lease, DCL was never required to obtain insurance for the building, but it was required to properly maintain the building. As alleged, DCL breached the terms of its lease by “failing to repair and maintain the Property in installing and operating a furnace and chimney that it knew or ought to have known was unsafe and improperly installed.”

D&D was required by its lease to have fire insurance and name HRM as insured, but failed to do so, according to the claim. Likewise, D&D failed to maintain and repair the facility.

Given all the above, the municipality says the two companies are jointly liable for the loss of the structure, the cost of the fire response and subsequent investigation, and the repair of the building.

The municipality’s claims have not been tested in court, and neither company has yet to file a defence.

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4. One of Ours

This item is written by Evelyn C. White.

Earlier this year, the Nova Scotia government passed the Act to Open Adoption Records; legislation that paves the way for a greater exchange of information between adoptees (at least age 19) and birth parents.

Now comes filmmaker Yasmine Mathurin with a riveting feature documentary that is sure to leave viewers thinking about adoption in new ways.

One of Ours takes as it subject twenty-something Josiah Wilson, a native of Haiti who was orphaned shortly after his birth and legally adopted by an Indigenous family in Calgary. As a registered member of the Heilstuk First Nation (by way of his adoptive father) and holder of a status card, Wilson played in an annual Indigenous basketball tournament until 2016 when organizers of the celebrated event banned his participation. Their rationale? Wilson could not claim one-eighth First Nation ancestry or “blood quantum.”

“Everybody heals differently and I was trying to heal on my own,” notes Wilson in the film that raises provocative questions about identity, kinship, family, racism, and belonging.

Viewers will experience a range of emotions as Wilson struggles to process the heart-rending rejection he suffered in a community that had initially embraced him. A narrative filled with unexpected twists and turns, the film also includes poignant insights from Wilson’s parents and three siblings, including a sister who was also adopted from Haiti.

Set against the backdrop of recent changes in provincial adoption laws, the release is a timely addition to the FIN Atlantic International Film Festival. One of Ours screens today at 2pm at the Park Lane Cineplex. For more info check www.finfestival.ca or phone the box office at (902) 332-1530.

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5. SIRT

A decision released by the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), which looks into allegations of alleged police misconduct, leaves me scratching my head. Explained SIRT director Felix Cacchione in the decision:

On August 12, 2021, SiRT received a referral from the RCMP concerning an allegation that the Subject Officer (SO) had, in the preceding days, pointed their service pistol at their spouse, the Affected Party (AP). An investigation began that day and concluded on September 7, 2021.

The AP and SO began seeing a counselling therapist because of the SO’s infidelity. There were only three sessions with the therapist; the first on July 27, 2021, attended by both the AP and the SO and separate ones on August 10, 2021, with the SO and on August 11, 2021, with the AP.

The therapist called a social worker with the Department of Community Services on August 12, 2021 and advised they had been told by the AP that the SO had pointed their service pistol at them. The social worker in turn contacted the RCMP who then attended the AP and SO’s residence to ensure the safety of the AP and their family.

The AP denied, to the attending police officers, that they told the therapist the SO had pointed their firearm at them.

The AP was interviewed by a SiRT investigator and again denied the allegation against their spouse. The AP also offered to take a polygraph examination.

The AP denied ever being threatened, subjected to physical violence, or having a firearm pointed at them. After having read the disclosure made by the therapist to the social worker, the AP questioned whether what they read was even their words. The AP believed the therapist had misunderstood what they said when referring to the SO pointing a gun at themselves many years before in another province. The AP was adamant that the SO had never pointed a firearm at them.

The SO and the AP both denied that the SO ever pointed a firearm at the AP. There was, during the only one on one session the AP had with the therapist, reference made by the AP to the SO pointing a firearm. This was a reference to the SO pointing a firearm at themselves many years before in another province. Given the unusual nature of these therapist/patient sessions, because of circumstances beyond the therapist’s control, there exists the strong possibility of a misinterpretation or misunderstanding by the therapist of what the AP said.

Based on the totality of the information obtained in this investigation no reasonable grounds exist to believe that the SO pointed a firearm at the AP. Therefore, no charges are warranted.

I mean, OK? It’s good that a cop didn’t point a gun at their spouse, but shouldn’t we be concerned that a cop pointed a gun at themselves? That’s either a sign of psychological problems, or extreme emotional manipulation of their spouse, or both. I suppose that’s outside the purview of SIRT, but still.

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Government

City

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — on YouTube

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Moral leadership and courage from different perspectives (Wednesday, 7:30pm) — online panel discussion

The first in a series of lectures on Leadership in Times of Conflict and Crisis. Join General Roméo Dallaire and world experts in PTSD, children’s rights, war crimes, humanitarian law, and peacekeeping for a series of important conversations about leadership and moral dilemma during times of conflict and crisis…[including] former child soldier Michel Chikwanine, former UN Force Commander Roméo Dallaire, and the Executive Director of the Dallaire Institute for Children, Peace, and Security Dr. Shelly Whitman.

Thursday

Women In Entrepreneurship Speaker Series (Thursday, 8:30am) —student founders Rafaela Andrade, Stephanie Arnold, and Serena Jackson speak with Alice Aiken

Spinal cord mechanisms of mechanical pain after nerve injury (Thursday, 11am) — Reza Sharif-Naeini from McGill university will talk

Finding Confluence: Hildegard’s Enduring Green Voice (Thursday, 12pm) — Janet Youngdahl from the University of Lethbridge will talk

Making a Universe with Axions (Thursday, 2pm) — online lecture by Chanda Prescod-Weinstein from the University of New Hampshire

In this talk, I discuss ongoing efforts to understand axion and axion-like particle (ALP) dark matter. I focus in particular on self-interactions and how they shape astrophysical phenomena in ALP scenarios. I will discuss work that shows that the self-interaction should not be ignored and that the sign of the interaction makes a significant difference in the evolution of the system, both for QCD axions and fuzzy dark matter. I will give some insight into how I am using a range of tools – model building, computation, and high energy astrophysics – to get at the basic question of “what is the statistical mechanics of axion dark matter?”

Democracy on Edge (Thursday, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium and online, 7pm) — in the first of the Stanfield Conversations: Talking Democracy series, Charles Taylor and Simone Chambers

will engage in a wide-ranging conversation on the sources of sinking trust in democracy, and new directions to address contemporary challenges. Beginning with the rise of ‘populism’ and what it means for democracy, they will also discuss the role of disinformation in our new, hyper-partisan and increasingly splintered digital landscape as well as institutional reforms to restore citizen trust.

Celebrating 30 Years of the Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award (Thursday, 7:30pm) — register for this Zoom webinar to win a basket of books by the featured authors. With Anne Simpson, Don Hannah, John Steffler, Alistair MacLeod, Alexander MacLeod, Lisa Moore, Linda Little, and Michael Crummy.

King’s

Thursday

Jungle Flower Workshop (Thursday, 6pm) — Zoom workshop for students in Nova Scotia who have experienced abuse and sexual violence


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Conti Contessa, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
07:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:00: MSC Shristi, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
16:30: Conti Contessa sails for New York
18:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Portsmouth, New Hampshire
19:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal

Cape Breton
05:30: NS Laguna, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
07:00: My Lady, yacht, sails from St. Peter’s for Sydney
11:00: Algoma Victory, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea


Footnotes

Sorry this is so short. I have a bunch of documents to go through that I think relate an interesting story, but I wasn’t feeling great last night so it will have to wait.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. Regarding your concern and comments on Covid-testing how protected are many of us that have had mixed doses of CovidShield (AstraZeneca) and Pfizer, as there seem to be no numbers about long-term proctection, and many countries do not accept this as being fully vaccinated?