News

1. More pot, more booze: How Canadian parents coped with work-from-home and virtual school

Photo by monica di loxley on Unsplash

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Canadians consumed more port and cannabis as a way to cope with kids doing school from home, Yvette d’Entremont reports.

In a new paper, Dalhousie University researchers Helen Deacon, Sherry Stewart, and Simon Sherry write:

There were significantly lower levels of optimism and greater use of cannabis to cope and marginally higher use of alcohol to cope in couples who were vs. were not homeschooling… These levels were higher than pre-pandemic norms.

I have written about this before, but consciously deciding to homeschool (as my family did for a couple of years) is completely different from being required to do home education. I am not at all surprised that parents found it hard.

d’Entremont speaks to a woman who describes how she started drinking more as a result of the pressure:

One parent told the Halifax Examiner that she found herself turning to alcohol “regularly each night” amid the stresses of trying to juggle working from home and helping her children manage their online school work last year. We’ve agreed not to disclose her name to protect her privacy and that of her children.

“I remembered thinking back to how people used to say ‘you’re going to drive me to drink,’ and thinking that that was me. The pandemic and the stress of everything all at once sort of seemed to drive me to drink wine. A lot of wine,” she recalled. “I knew it wasn’t the best idea but it was what I had at the time. Looking back it wasn’t a good choice. But since they’ve been back to school I scaled way back.”

Simon Sherry, one of the paper’s authors, tells d’Entremont:

“But if you piece together our data with other data available throughout Canada or throughout North America, you can see that there are shifts occurring in terms of a meaningful subset of the population drinking more or using more cannabis.”

Sherry calls this the “COVID-19 paradox,” explaining that people are willing to take extreme measures to protect themselves from the virus while also engaging in behaviours that compromise their health and shorten their lives. He said alcohol disrupts the immune system and undermines the body’s defences against infection, while cannabis can impair immune system functioning and also impact lung health.

Read the whole story for more insights, and more specific data on Nova Scotia. d’Entremont also includes a helpful set of resources for those seeking help for addictions.

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2. Question Period focuses on vaccine rollout

The COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

As the supply of more vaccines becomes available — there are now 140 locations in the province where people age 55 and older can make an appointment to receive their first shot — elected Members of the Legislative Assembly are raising questions about the fairness and effectiveness of the distribution process.

During Question Period yesterday, Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin appeared visibly angry as she asked Health Minister Zach Churchill why Pfizer vaccine earmarked for seniors over the age of 70 living in the Springhill area had been removed last week.

Smith-McCrossin: My question is who made the decision to take vaccine planned for Cumberland and re-allocate it to Halifax?

Churchill: I certainly haven’t heard that has happened. We will look into that situation for the Member.

PC Allan MacMaster from Inverness South questioned why Nova Scotia has not done more to give rotational workers priority when it comes to getting vaccinated. Rotational workers include long-haul truck drivers and oilfield workers who live in Nova Scotia but whose work schedules mean they travel regularly to work in another province.

MacMaster: Most of our recent cases in Nova Scotia are travel-related. All of our Atlantic Bubble partners recognize the sacrifices made by rotational workers by prioritizing them in their vaccination plans now. What is the reason why travelling rotational workers have not been prioritized to receive a vaccine?

Churchill: I believe rotational workers have been prioritized for Phase 2 of the roll-out which begins in May. Right now we are using quarantine measures to protect Nova Scotians.

This issue is heating up because of the alarming rise in hospitalizations connected to new variants of COVID-19 in other provinces. And the rules dealing with workers who travel regularly for work are different, depending on where the worker lives. New Brunswick no longer requires rotational workers to quarantine for 14 days if they have been fully vaccinated:

Effective March 26, 11:59 pm rotational workers who are at least 14 days post-vaccination no longer need to self-isolate upon return to New Brunswick and are free to move around as other New Brunswickers. Until we vaccinate more of the New Brunswick population, at this time, vaccinated rotational workers must also be tested for COVID-19 on day 5 and day 10 on each return to New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, the news out of New Brunswick yesterday was anything but reassuring. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell announced that a record 20 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19. She said four of those people tested positive after having been vaccinated but before the immunization had completely taken effect. Six of the seven new cases in New Brunswick are in the Edmundston area, where 115 of the province’s 146 cases are clustered and the outbreak is not under control.

Nova Scotia continues to require rotational workers to self-isolate even if they have been vaccinated. But the definition of self-isolation has been relaxed.

Nova Scotia Directive re Rotational Workers:

Rotational workers must self-isolate for 14 days when they return from outside Atlantic Canada. Recognizing that they often spend a significant amount of their time at home in isolation, they are allowed have a modified form of self-isolation that gives them some more freedom.

In Nova Scotia, “modified” self-isolation means that family members who live in the same household as the long-haul truck driver or the oilfield worker do not have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms of COVID-19. Rotational workers are permitted to leave the house to go for a walk, jog, drive, or grocery run as long as they do not enter the store. They must also go for regular testing .

At Tuesday’s briefing, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang acknowledged the rise of highly contagious variants of COVID-19 in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, and Quebec are making him “very nervous.”

Meanwhile, Tory Rushton, the Progressive Conservative MLA for Cumberland South, wanted to know why family members of rotational workers are being denied access to vaccines here in Nova Scotia.

Rushton: If you qualify by age and you live with a family member who may be a long-haul trucker who is travelling outside the province, the online system will not allow you to book an appointment. There’s a question that asks if you have been in contact with anyone who travelled outside the province. Why are people living with those travelling outside the province refused access to vaccines?

Churchill: I’m happy to take this issue and discuss it with Public Health to get some clarity on it. It’s something I want to dig into and get an answer.

Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage MLA Barbara Adams (PC) questioned why on March 31 the operator of a supportive living home for elderly people in Dartmouth had appointments to vaccinate staff and residents cancelled. Adams said the Department of Health provided no explanation for the cancellation and she has heard from operators who claim there are still elderly people living in Residential Care Facilities who have not received their first shot.

Adams: Why are frail seniors in Residential Care facilities who are much older and more at risk from the complications of COVID-19 still not vaccinated?

Churchill: We are leaders in the country when it comes to vaccinating our long-term care facilities. Close to 70% of those facilities have been vaccinated and close to 40% of those residents have received their second dose. So the priority was focussed on the public continuing care sector but the privately-owned homes the member is talking about are being vaccinated this month.

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3. Five travel-related cases of COVID-19 announced yesterday

Street art – graffiti with facial mask on the wall during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash
Street art – graffiti with facial mask on the wall during the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Warsaw, Poland. Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

In his daily COVID-19 update for the province, Tim Bousquet notes five new cases, all related to travel outside Atlantic Canada:

All five cases are men. Four are aged 20-29, and one is aged 40-59.

There are now 40 known active cases in the province. One person is in hospital with the disease, but not in ICU.

Pop-up testing this weekend is in north Dartmouth, at the following dates and times:

Saturday: North Dartmouth Community Centre, 10:30am-5:30pm
Sunday: North Dartmouth Community Centre, 1pm-5:30pm

As I’ve said before: If you have the opportunity to get tested, do it. Sure, it may not be fun, but it’s fast and the discomfort is minimal.

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4. Prince Philip has died

Prince Philip By PolizeiBerlin, from Wikipedia

CBC (among many others) has “full coverage” of the death of Prince Philip. As someone with approximately zero interest in the monarchy (I have watched one or two episodes of The Crown”) I have no idea what such coverage would consist of. I do follow  the Monarchist League of Canada -Halifax South West Nova Scotia Branch on Facebook, so I’ll head over there for reaction.

Also on Facebook, in a public post, writer Allan Lynch tells a couple of stories about Prince Philip, including one about the time his car nearly ran Lynch over in London. (Lynch remained a monarchist nonetheless.)

As part of a project I was working on, I recently listened to an interview with Moses Znaimer, and he said he came close to being fired from CBC during his brief tenure there in the 1960s, when he helped produce a piece questioning whether or not Canada should retain links to the monarchy. He said the only reason he didn’t get fired was that it probably would have required also firing those whose job it would have been to have kept an eye on him and preventing him from getting the question on the air.

Some things never change, others change quite dramatically.

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Views

Full-page ad on the back page of community newspaper The Masthead News, serving part of the former Halifax County.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the latest issue of the The Masthead News, the community monthly that serves a swathe of western HRM. I flipped through the local business stories, the profiles of members of the community, and a couple of articles on environmental themes. There was one by Geoff LeBoutillier, a longtime opponent of open-pen fish farms, on the importance of protecting and restoring salmon habitat.

And there was a piece by freelancer Sharon Jessup-Joyce, titled “Stewardship Association Says Biodiversity Act Needs Our Support.” The story quotes St. Margarets Bay Stewardship Association chair Nick Horne (who ran for council last year, coming second to Pamela Lovelace) and forester Mike Lancaster, who is the organization’s stewardship coordinator on their disappointment with the gutting of the provincial biodiversity act.

Jessup-Joyce writes:

“While progressive protections have been accomplished,” Nick says, “our association is very disappointed by revisions in late March that reduce
the Act’s scope on private lands, because nature doesn’t function in silos…

Mike Lancaster… says protecting biodiversity is both a legislative responsibility and an opportunity, because we all rely on healthy biodiversity. Mike says some environmental damage can be remediated in relatively short order… “But other ecological concerns, such as forest degradation, need generations for recovery.”…

“We don’t oppose forestry,” says Mike. “Forestry that incorporates multiple values is possible. A strong Biodiversity Act can contribute to many things, including more sustainable forestry.”

Then I flipped the paper shut and saw the ad pictured above, from the fake Concerned Private Landowner(s) Coalition. I put that “s” in brackets, because the CPLC Facebook page uses both “Landowner” and “Landowners”.

Let me remind you that, as Joan Baxter has pointed out, there is no actual CPLC. It is a coalition in name only. Baxter writes:

The campaign against the Biodiversity Act began on Saturday, March 13, 2021, just two days after it was introduced, with a full-page ad in the Chronicle Herald from a mysterious entity calling itself the “Concerned Private Landowner Coalition.”

The ad called on “all private landowners” to “act now before it’s too late.” It spuriously claimed that “agriculture, Christmas tree growing, housing and road construction, forest management, farming livestock, and development” would all be “impacted.”

And the “Coalition” urged everyone to contact their MLA to “voice their concerns” about the new legislation.

In fact, no such coalition even existed.

In an interview with the CBC’s Preston Mulligan on NS Information Morning on March 17, Forest NS executive director Jeff Bishop admitted that the Concerned Private Landowner Coalition was “not a formal organization.”

Similar ads have appeared elsewhere of course, but there was something seemingly incongruous about the fearmongering and polarizing language about “Halifax activists” in a paper published in HRM, and which frequently features some of those same people.

Carole Burnett, who has lived on St. Margaret’s Bay for 16 years, said in an interview she couldn’t decide if she was more upset with the people behind the ad, or with the newspaper.

Saying she was “angry” about the changes made to the Biodiversity Act, and calling the ad “propaganda”, she added:

“I’m trying to figure out if I was angry at the Masthead for even running it, because I think of it as covering church suppers and so on… Why would they even run this? If you think about Saint Margaret’s Bay and who lives out here, I think they probably just alienated 2/3 of their readership. And I’m obviously upset about the industry group posing as landowners.”

Burnett is a cabinet-maker (“so I have mixed feelings about logging”). But she didn’t have mixed feelings about the ad:

“None of it made sense… It was upsetting. I felt disbelief that I would see this in my community newpaper more than anything.”

I called Richard C. Learmonth, the owner and publisher of The Masthead News (he bought the paper last year) to ask him if he’d had any concerns or hesitation about running the ad.

He did not. “I didn’t see anything wrong with it,” he told me. He said in the end the ad was actually “useless” because it was placed before the government had introduced changes to the act. “They called me and asked if they could stop the ad, because the province had pulled most of it off the bill, but I said no, it had already gone to print.”

When I asked Learmonth if he regretted his choice now, he said, “No, no no.” He also said he was pleased about the changes to the Biodiversity Act, because “From what I read of it, they were actually asking for a little too much.” Government, he said, already has too much say in what people can do with their land.

I told Learmonth he might be getting messages from upset readers and he said:

Good, I hope so. The more I get, the more I’m pleased, because it means more people are reading the paper…. I get into it all the time with people about what the government is doing and not doing, and I welcome people that say they object to this stuff…. If you object to what it said in that ad, and you send a letter to the editor and it’s not vulgar, I will publish it.

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Noticed

Sexism and schools: women fight back

West Kings District High School. Photo: google street view

Seventeen-year-old Kenzie Thornhill was suspended from school after sharing a photo of a t-shirt online. At Saltwire, Ian Fairclough has the story.

Thornhill snapped a pic of the back of the t-shirt worn by a student sitting in front of her in class on April 1. It included the line, “Tis the season to be rapey.”

Fairclough writes:

When she arrived at school after the Easter long weekend, she was called to the office and told by a vice-principal that the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education ordered the school to suspend her for five days for taking a picture of another student and posting it in violation of school rules, even though the photo only shows the shirt and not the student.

The board [ie, the Centre for Education] also alleged that she ruined the school’s reputation because the photo she took and posted had a SnapChat filter that showed the school’s name.

He adds:

Then, [Thornhill] said, someone from the Annapolis Valley Centre for Education contacted her and said if she didn’t stop sharing what had happened on social media, that she may not be allowed to graduate. There was also a suggestion that she could be charged with cyber-bullying, even though she didn’t name or show the student.

“He basically tried to scare me into keeping quiet about the situation.”

Upsets about Thornhill’s treatment, students at the school rallied yesterday, with several of the girls wearing clothes that violated the school’s dress code in protest.

I’m always amazed — although, you would think after this many years I no longer would be — about the ham-fisted way in which schools and school administrators handle these situations, treating damage to reputation as though it were the worst possible reputation. I mean, what do you think is worse for the reputation of the King’s District High School? An image of a t-shirt on SnapChat, or media covering their and AVRCE’s ham-fisted handling of the affair?

I do find it heartening that students — and often in these situations the students are girls — seem less willing to put up with this bullshit, and that other students are willing to support them. See, for instance, the dress-code protest in Sydney.

Cato Fortin, Stephanie Roussel, and Amelie Bouchard. Photos from social media

In Montreal, the university UQAM sued a student for posting a photo of herself online, holding a diploma from the school and wearing a graduation cap and gown, with the gown pulled aside to show part of her breasts. The student, Hélène Boudreau, apparently used the pic on her OnlyFans page. A couple of female doctoral students at the school then led a protest that saw others posing in what some media referred to as “suggestive” poses while holding UQAM diplomas. (UQAM and Boudreau have since settled the suit.)

Cato Fortin said on Instagram that she received funding for her doctoral research on “the treatment reserved for the bodies of women and queer people.”

She added:

I am paid — very well — to look at how literature and institutions try to control bodies. UQAM’s lawsuit against Hélène Boudreau tells me that bodies are supposed to remain in books, and that the theories you learn are supposed to remain just that: theories. Papa Uqam, you have to understand that students have bodies and sexuality, and for many of us the body informs our intellectual work. (My translation.)

Daniel J. Rowe at CTV quotes Fortin:

Fortin called herself a boring mom, and did not want to pose in her underwear to make a point, but felt rewarded when sex workers reached out in support.

“I don’t like to be in underwear on the Internet, it’s my first time,” she said. “I felt I had to do this. I’m doing this in solidarity… We’re weaponizing our bodies to help them (sex workers). I’m happy about that.”

And he speaks to another student who really gets to the heart of the issue:

“For me, as well as showing support for sex workers — and women in general — it was a great opportunity to shed light on how hypocritical and incohesive that lawsuit is,” said former UQAM literature student Stephanie Paquet. “It’s quite infuriating to see l’UQAM invest so much time, energy and money into such a small matter while they’ve been avoiding addressing some major issues that take part inside their walls regarding sexual harassment.”

And isn’t that usually the case with these kinds of stories? Institutions make a big deal over something minor, or over someone calling attention to a bigger problem. Just deal with the bigger problem.

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Government

City

No meetings

Province

Legislature sits (Friday, 9am) — cancelled due to Prince Philip’s death


On campus

Saint Mary’s

Is Criticizing Immigration Racist? (Friday, 2pm) — virtual debate with Liban Abokor from Youth LEAPS, Rohini Bannerjee from Saint Mary’s University, Carey Newman from the University of Victoria, and moderated by journalist and podcaster Hannah Sung.

Canada is one of the most multicultural countries globally, where more than one in five people is an immigrant. Immigrants have contributed to Canadian society in every way, from politics to the arts to science to industry. But in every generation, there has been a recurring wave of criticism of immigration in Canada. So, we ask this simple question: is criticizing immigration a debate around the efficacy of immigration policy, or is attacking immigration or criticizing specific immigrants masking a deeper problem that centres around race and ethnicity?

Mount Saint Vincent

Saturday

Artist Talk (Saturday, 2pm) — with Cynthia Arias Auz, whose work is included in Tactics for Staying Home in Uncertain Times, online at the MSVU Art Gallery until May 16. Registration and more info here.


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: ZIM Tarragona, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
11:30: Tannhauser, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:30: Atlantic Sky sails for New York
16:30: ZIM Tarragona sails for New York
18:00: Ilios, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s

Cape Breton
09:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
10:00: NS Laguna, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
19:00: Maritime Amity, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea


Footnotes

Last night I watched a  film with friends that goes by either Russian Ninja or Russian Terminator. The actors are Swedes speaking English, the plot is completely incoherent, and the fight and chase scenes are among the slowest and most inept I’ve ever seen. An enjoyable evening.

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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. It is disgusting that this went as far as it did, and will only be resolved, the way it should have been resolved in the first place, because of the media attention. It seems nothing has changed in schools since I was there many moons ago, and in fact, it seems to be worse. There are many questions to be asked about this incident, the first being why is there is a dress code in school for the girls regarding all their clothes (so as not to “incite the boys”, I believe it was expressed), for which they could be suspended, but with boys, if their shirts had slogans with something that was inappropriate, threatening or degrading, they were simply asked to not wear it again. This, in itself is a double standard, which should never be tolerated. We need to ask why this policy is there at all. Everyone needs to feel safe and know that the behaviour of those around them will never harm them, no matter what. The only thing that needs to exist in this, and indeed all schools, is an education on consent and anything less than an active yes, means no, with no exceptions., no matter what any one wears, whether they are intoxicated, sick, asleep, nothing but a yes states consent.
    The second, one of the issues raised, that this girl, Kenzie Thornhill, was suspended for bringing up this problem, and then posting a photo of what the shirt said, not a photo or name of the student that wore it, to only call attention to the horror of any woman being confronted with these words. She did not want the other student harmed or harassed by others, just the problem corrected, along with the students beliefs about wearing or thinking things like this. The other student wearing it wasn’t suspended at all, even though that shirt was threatening at the minimum. With at minimum, 1 in every 4 women experiencing some form of sexual violence and/or assault, this is not asking much., that every student should feel safe. She broke no rules doing this but got pulled in by the vice principal who said the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education (AVRCE) wanted her suspended for a week for sullying the name of the school, and threated with cyberbullying, even though she only posed the shirt photo, not the person. The only wrongdoing – for standing up for what is right. She was put down for that. She then was called and threatened by someone else from AVRCE with not being able to graduate, oh, and that throwing out she could be charged for cyberbullying, if she kept making waves. Again, the fact that anyone in this institution would advocate for any punishment for her, order it enacted, and then threaten her, goes beyond anything that could be forgiven. Every member that had a role in this needs to be exposed and hopefully fired. No one who could think and do these things as adults responsible for the safeguarding of these teenagers, should be in that position. No student protesting for Kenzie Thornhill should be punished in any way. And finally, the teaching of what makes consent alone needs to be immediately instituted and taught in all schools. ( And get rid of that hypocritical dress code now)

  2. Note: administrators (now “managers”) at the school are not named; note: person in the regional centre office not named. note: school boards ,other than the French board, have been disbanded.

    Had school boards been in place, there is the chance that the action taken in the name of appropriate discipline could have been appealed to the discipline committee of that school board. Elected school board members did take part in such meetings( Discipline Committee).

    Maybe the school’s School Advisory Council (SAC) will play some role in resolving this matter/ controversy. Perhaps the SAC, if there is one, will consider-

    Did the process used amount to being “due”? Is there any evidence of libel; hate; incitement to riot? OR
    is there evidence of a student exercising appropriately her right to free speech?

  3. Tim,

    how did you overcome your strong republican (non-US Party) tendencies long enough to swear allegiance to Her Majesty and Successors to gain Canadian citizenship? !!

    1. He may not have sworn an allegiance. These days a citizenship ceremony consists of all applicants acting and supposedly speaking in unison. When I became a citizen each person rose from a seat, walked to a position in front of the judge and recited the pledge,shook hands with the judge and returned to a seat.
      The change in ceremony is to be deplored as is the attendance of various politicians. The only politician at my ceremony was a personal friend and was joined by several other personal friends.

    2. They didn’t define allegiance. I had no problem thinking that I meant no harm upon a nice old lady. In my mind, that was separate from my opinions about systems of government.

  4. High school boys wearing t-shirts suggesting and supporting rape culture should be removed from the school for a ‘time out.’, and if they are too dense or rebellious to understand the implications of their actions, they should be forced to attend some form of counselling. However, look at the environment in which they feel free to be sexually aggressive! Really unbelievable, sounds like something you read happening in an Islamic nation where women are regularly confined and controlled- a vice-principal at the Annapolis Valley Regional Centre for Education threatens the girl who complained, and the school board even more shamefully followed suit! Who are these people ???? This is the kind of story that makes me weep. I stand up and applaud all the girls who stood up and said we won’t take this behaviour. Bless every one of them !

    1. Agreed. But god forbid the power balance is upset! Then there would be anarchy and white men might feel persecuted! (I’m a white man, but I have no desire to keep power from over 50% of the population; it’s ludicrous that this conversation even has to happen …)