News

1. Street checks

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“On Friday, Justice Minister Mark Furey announced that street checks would be permanently banned following a legal opinion written by former Nova Scotia Chief Justice Michael MacDonald and researcher Jennifer Taylor that concluded street checks are illegal,” writes El Jones:

We should, of course, not have needed this opinion to ban checks, which the Black community has already pointed out are illegal and where the harms have been documented for years. And at any point, the province could have sought a reference from the courts or an opinion from the Department of Justice without Black people having to seek reports, opinions, and to protest for years.

While this is not a court decision, taking it seriously has implications beyond simply banning street checks in Halifax. If this opinion is to be considered more than an exercise that allows the government to save face with police in banning the practice (bowing to legal expertise rather than Black protesting), then questions have to be asked about what the further effects of this decision will be.

Click here to read “Street checks are banned. Now what?”

2. Stephen McNeil’s collective bargaining game

Writes Stephen Kimber:

Let’s play a game. A shell game. You say it’s not a game to you. I say it’s always a game, and I always win. That’s the game.

You say no one told you we were even playing. That’s part of the game too. I get to decide when it’s game on.

So take that shell in your hand — the one that says “Arbitration” — and hand it over. Right now.

Don’t worry, I have another, shinier shell for you to replace it with. It says, “Right to Strike.”

Now isn’t that better? Much more impressive?

But no! Don’t even think about trying to use it. If you do, I’ll magically transform your “Right to Strike” shell into an “Essential Services” shell. Do not pass “Go.” Do not collect a penny more than I say you’re entitled to.

That’s my game. What do I call it? Why, “Stephen McNeil’s Collective Bargaining Game,” of course. Did I mention I always win?

It might be amusing if it weren’t so consequential.

Premier Stephen McNeil is once again using his yes-master Liberal legislative majority to attack yet another group of public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights. This time it’s the province’s 100 Crown prosecutors, the overworked, under-resourced, “drowning” men and women responsible for bringing criminal cases — murder, sexual assault, child pornography, fraud — to court every day in Nova Scotia.

Last week, without bothering to consult, or even notify, the prosecutors, the McNeil government introduced Bill 203. It will unilaterally amend the Crown Attorneys’ Labour Relations Act to replace the prosecutors’ right to binding arbitration with a new right to strike, which is not really a “right” at all since the government will almost certainly declare their jobs essential if they ever try to use it.

Click here to read “Stephen McNeil’s Collective Bargaining Game.”

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3. Prisoners and voting

Through her prisoner advocacy, El Jones has met many prisoners who have interesting things to say, and so the Halifax Examiner is starting an occasional series we’re calling “From the Inside,” featuring the voices of prisoners in their own words. We published the first this weekend: “I’m a prisoner and I vote.”

We have a couple more essays at various stages of completion and will be running them soon.

4. Crane

A broader view of the crane removal operation. Photo: NSTIR

Lawyer Ray Wagner is representing Thornbloom Boutique as the “representative plaintiff” in a proposed class action lawsuit related to the crane collapse on South Park Street.

A statement of claim filed with the court Friday afternoon names W. M. Fares Architects Inc., W. M. Fares & Associates Incorporated, Lead Structural Formwork Ltd., and The Manitowoc Company, Inc. as defendants. The Fares companies are the developers of the Brenton Place project, from which the crane collapsed. Lead is the Moncton-based builder and operator of the crane. And Manitowoc is the Milwaukee-based company that designs and sells such cranes.

Wagner proposes to represent businesses and residents affected by the crane collapse.

I believe that the class has to first be certified before the lawsuit can progress, but I’m not sure on that point.

5. Yellow Floating Heart

Yellow Floating Heart. Photo: Michigan DNR

The city this morning issued a Request for Proposals asking for plans to eradicate the invasive species Yellow Floating Heart from Albro Lake.

Yellow Floating Heart “is a perennial aquatic plant native to Asia and Europe,” explains the Ontario government:

Introduced to North America in the late 19th century, it has been used as an ornamental plant in outdoor gardens. Since its introduction, accidental and intentional releases and flooding, have aided in its dispersal into other waterways.

Yellow floatingheart [both spellings are used] is most commonly found in slow moving waters, about 0.5 to 4 m deep, such as rivers, lakes or ponds. Its ability to reproduce by broken stems and seeds and its availability to be purchased online make it an easily dispersed species.

We want to get rid of it because, among other reasons, it decreases the level of oxygen in the lake, which increases the number of mosquitoes.

The RFP is for a two-year contract. The winning proponent will develop a plan and acquire all the necessary permits in the first year, and then implement the plan in the second.

6. Our disgustingly sick tourists

“Health officials report investigating three norovirus outbreaks onboard voyages with Aida Cruises vessel, AIDAdiva,” reports Outbreak News Today, and isn’t it great there’s such a publication, which also helpfully provides the above descriptive graphic?

The first outbreak was on a September 5–23, 2019 voyage. 125 passengers and crew had symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. The causative agent was determined to be norovirus.

The second outbreak was on a September 28–October 12, 2019 voyage. On this trip, 95 passengers and crew were infected with norovirus.

The most recent voyage was  October 3–13, 2019. On this voyage, 93 passengers and crew were affected.

The AIDAdiva stopped in Halifax on each of those three cruises.

7. Bull riding

Councillor Shawn Cleary wants to ban bull riding.

Cleary is bringing forward a motion at tomorrow’s council meeting that would ultimately result in banning bull riding in city-owned facilities. The motion reads:

That Halifax Regional Council requests a staff report on restricting all Animal Acts for Entertainment, including Bull Riding, on or in all HRM owned and maintained facilities and property. The restriction is not to prohibit the following:
 – Displays or showing of animals in agricultural fairs, exhibitions or pet shows including horse or ox-pulls as traditionally practiced at county fairs and exhibitions within the municipality
– Horse races/dog races
– Performances where individuals ride horses or ponies
– Exhibition of animals for educational purposes.

PBR (Professional Bull Riders) holds an event each year at the $48 NSF Fee Centre in Halifax, which is a city-owned facility.

I’m a carnivore, so I risk being accused of hypocrisy here, but much of our relationship with animals is debased and unseemly.

For example, last week’s Reply All podcast looked at the wild pigs in the US. The pigs are an invasive species responsible for much environmental damage and a real threat to human health, but they continue to be introduced into new areas by “hunters.” I put “hunters” in scare quotes because these are not the kind of hunters I know — people who like to get out into the woods, respect nature, and value animals (even if, like me, they eat them). Rather, the pig “hunters” are, well, assholes. The podcast played video clips of pig “hunters” shooting the creatures from helicopters and blowing them up with bombs, giddy like drunk teenagers. I came away from the podcast thinking there is a deep and wide sadistic streak running through much of America.

Bull riding isn’t quite as sadistic, but it is cruel and unnecessary.

8. Stadium

Also on tomorrow’s agenda is councillor Sam Austin’s attempt to end all city planning for a stadium.


Noticed

Remember the hysteria about the Cubans supposedly using secret sonic weapons to attack American and Canadian diplomats in Havana? Turns out, the real story is more prosaic.

Stephen Kimber sends along the following press release from the organizers of the “Cuban Revolution at 60” conference being held at Dalhousie University next week:

Dizziness, blurred vision, memory loss, problems focusing… Something serious seemed to be affecting US diplomats in Havana in late 2016 and 2017. But what? And who — or what — was responsible?

The new Trump administration, without evidence, blamed the Cuban government and hinted darkly American diplomatic personnel had been targets of “sonic attacks” using a previously unknown secret weapon.

That was the first of many theories put forward to explain what was happening — from mass hysteria to the call of the Indies short-tailed cricket. Most were debunked; nothing was proved.

But American diplomats weren’t the only ones reporting symptoms. Some Canadian diplomats complained as well and, in the spring of 2018, Global Affairs Canada commissioned Dalhousie University’s Brain Repair Centre in Halifax to investigate and report back.

On Nov. 1, 2019, Dr. Alon Friedman, the Brain Repair’s Centre’s lead researcher on the project, will discuss the findings in a keynote talk at “The Cuban Revolution at 60,” a major, three-day international academic symposium in Halifax. The conference is free and open to the public. You can register here.

The Dalhousie researchers — 15 principal investigators and their teams — began by trying to replicate the results of a preliminary study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania. The UPenn researchers reported that what had happened to the Americans represented a “new syndrome that resembles persistent concussions,” but they were unable to identify its cause.

The Halifax researchers wanted to take the next step and figure out what had actually caused the symptoms.

They began by testing the Canadian diplomats who’d reported the symptoms using a multi-disciplinary approach for studying brain injury, including new methods of brain scanning. Perhaps most importantly, they also performed before-and-after scans on the brains of eight other diplomats who had been posted to Havana during the time of their study.

All those who’d spent time in Havana showed similar damage to distinct brain regions, which are associated with memory consolidation, concentration and the sleep-wake cycle.

Friedman — an Israeli-trained medical doctor with a PhD in neuroscience — recognized what he was seeing on the scans from his own research 30 years before. “There are very specific types of toxins that affect these regions of the brain,” he explains. Those included insecticides, specifically organophosphate pesticides as well as other organophosphates – neurotoxins that actually work by inhibiting the actions of cholinesterase, a key enzyme required for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

But that raised a critical next question. How had the diplomats come into contact with those neurotoxins?

While there were potentially nefarious explanations — a sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995, the poisoning of Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s half-brother in 2017 — both involved single high-dose exposures that didn’t explain what had happened in Havana.

“It was like a detective story,” Freidman recounts. The researchers explored various potential avenues of explanations, tested them and found them wanting.

“With the help of Dr. Google,” Friedman jokes, they eventually connected the dots back to a very public mass fumigation campaign the Cuban government itself launched in 2016 to combat a major outbreak of mosquito-borne Zika virus in the Americas, including in the Caribbean.

Toxicological analysis of the Canadian victims confirmed the presence of pyrethroid and organophosphate, two compounds used in the fumigation products the Cubans had sprayed.

Using the Canadian embassy’s own records, the researchers also discovered spraying had been carried out inside and outside their residences. The facilities were sprayed far more often than expected — sometimes every two weeks. And the researchers also found a correlation between the number of fumigations performed at a diplomat’s residence and the seriousness of the symptoms they reported.

Which brought the researchers to their working hypothesis. “We report the clinical, imaging and biochemical evidence consistent with the hypothesis of over-exposure to cholinesterase inhibitors as the cause of brain injury,” the study concluded.

That isn’t the end of it, of course. More research needs to be done, including figuring out how to better understand the danger levels of the various toxins and, of course, there is still the public health concern. Who else might have been affected, including Cuban citizens working at the embassies, living around the same neighborhoods or involved in the spraying?

The good news is that Dr. Friedman has met with Cuban health professionals and they are currently working together to determine those next research steps.

Click here for the entire conference schedule. The conference is free and open to all. “Welcoming remarks” are being offered to the attendees by well-known revolutionary fighter Mike Savage.


Government

City

Monday

Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — the commissioners are still not talking about the wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun, but they might additionally ignore the street checks issue.

Tuesday

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — Here’s the agenda.

Province

Monday

No public meetings.

Tuesday

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Monday

Thesis Defence, Pathology (Monday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Zheng Pang will defend “Regulation of Inflammation During Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Lung Infection.”

SURGE Women Entrepreneur Panel (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 2660, Life Sciences Centre) — Christine Ward-Paige from eOceans, Gabrielle Masone from Coloursmith Labs, and Cat Adalay from Aurea will talk. Register here.

Additive decomposition of polynomials over unique factorization domains (Monday, 2:30pm, Chase Room 319) — Manar Benoumhani will talk.

Tuesday

Meeting the Housing Needs of Older LGBTQ2S+ Canadians (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 1020, Rowe Management Building) —  a panel featuring Liesl Gambold, Jacqueline Gahagan, Shawn Harmon, and Ren Thomas. From the listing:

The seventh panel in the MacEachen Institute’s ten-week Policy Matters Speaker Series.

The purpose of this panel discussion is to situate the housing issues facing older LGBTQ2S+ populations in the national policy debate currently underway in light of the recently released Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation National Housing Strategy.

Given the dearth of data on the needs of older LGBTQ2S+ Canadians, our team is conducting a 1-year Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) grant to uncover the specific policy and programming gaps and needs of older LGBTQ2S+ Canadians using a 3-phase process: 1. A scoping review of existing housing policies, 2. An online survey of key policy considerations, and 3. In-person consultations in 5 Canadian cities. The key analytic frameworks utilized in this housing study included: 1. Sex and gender-based analysis, 2. PESTEL analysis, and 3. Thematic analysis.

Seating is first come first served. Streamed live here.

Thesis Defence, Microbiology and Immunobiology (Tuesday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Vinothkumar Rajan will defend “Enhanced Tools to Model Preleukemia to Leukemia Transformation.”

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

Dorris Lessing: Life and Legacy (Tuesday, 1pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library) — Russell Perkin will talk. More info here.


In the harbour

01:00: YM Movement, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
02:00: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
05:00: YM Essence, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
07:00: Star Pride, cruise ship with 254 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Charlottetown, on a 30-day cruise from Montreal to Bridgetown, Barbados
15:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida
17:00: YM Essence, container ship, sails for Rotterdam
21:00: Star Pride sails for Bar Harbor
21:00: CSL Argosy, bulker, arrives at Pier 27 from Belledune, New Brunswick

Where are the Canadian military ships?



Footnotes

There’s an election today.

Just for balance, have some Corb Lund:


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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. The AIDAviva has a dozen or so wheelchair accessible cabins – behindertenfreundlich – as they say. So that German tourist sitting next to you in his wheelchair on the deck at some tony restaurant on Argyle Street probably just came off the boat. Willkommen!
    If you’re worried about Norovirus, you know Germans have a thing for hygiene – putzfimmel.
    So even though the guy with the wheelchair has rolled over all the vomit in the ship’s elevator, you can rest assured that it’s safe to get behind him in the salad bar lineup because he certainly washed his hands before digging into the radishes.
    Oops! I forgot, even though there’s a Human Rights order 13 months old and you just spent a bundle in taxes upgrading Argyle Street, the washroom is down a set of stairs and unavailable to that nice man who suddenly looks a little pale.
    Your chief public health official doesn’t care, the food inspectors don’t care, the Human Rights Commission doesn’t care, the Justice department doesn’t care and the restaurants certainly don’t care.
    You remember those special throwup sinks they had at the Hofbrauhaus when you went to Munich two years ago. You hope they have them downstairs. You’re feeling a little queasy……