1. Surgeries postponed; health care crisis deepens
Jennifer Henderson reports on the depressing state of health care in the province as elective or non-urgent surgeries are postponed at hospitals in the Halifax area and across northern Nova Scotia from Cumberland to Antigonish counties. The postponements were announced in a news release from Nova Scotia Health on Wednesday.
Nova Scotia Health is apologizing to patients who will be notified their operations are being postponed and is asking the public for “patience.” The government agency that operates all the province’s hospitals explained emergency departments “continue to see higher than normal visits and demands for hospital beds which are resulting in delays in care, including some surgical services.”
The news release goes on to say “considerable staffing challenges, including nursing vacancies” have been made worse by the pandemic. Earlier this year, the Halifax Examiner reported that Nova Scotia Health had more than 1,000 openings for registered nurses (RNs) and that a couple hundred had left bedside nursing and high stress jobs in the ER to work in vaccination clinics and assist public health with contact tracing.
Click here to read about some of the reasons behind the postponements, including staff shortages.
2. Brandon Rolle talks about IRACs
Matthew Byard recently sat down with Brandon Rolle, who is a lawyer with Nova Scotia Legal Aid, about Impact of Race and Culture Assessments (IRCAs). Back in April, a precedent was set making IRCAs now mandatory whenever a Black person is sentenced in Nova Scotia. Byard recounts that case in this article, and also talks to Rolle about what the use of ICRAs will mean for other Black people and their sentences, the limits of IRCAs, and what else needs to be done. As Rolle tells Byard:
For me, this is only part of the solution because at the sentencing stage, obviously, we’re talking about a point in the process where the person’s already been convicted. They may have encountered systemic racism all throughout the process from the very front end when they encounter police officers, and then the charges are laid, and then how the prosecution’s handled, and then evidence throughout the trial. There are a lot of opportunities to be exposed to systemic racism before sentencing.
3. Audit finds Halifax Fire’s building inspection program doesn’t pass the test
Zane Woodford has a report on the city’s auditor general’s audit of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency’s inspection program, which doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Yesterday, Woodford went to a virtual meeting of regional council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee on where auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd and audit lead Ashley Maxwell presented their Management of Fire Inspection Program Audit. Colman-Sadd told the committee, “Halifax Fire is not meeting its legislative obligations to establish an adequate fire inspection system.”
According to the audit, fire inspectors “assess buildings for compliance with the Nova Scotia Fire Safety Act, which includes consideration of the National Fire Code of Canada and applicable sections of the National Building Code of Canada that impact fire safety.”
Under the Nova Scotia Fire Safety Act Regulations, municipalities are responsible for conducting investigations of apartment or condominium buildings with more than three units, along with business, retail, and industrial buildings. In total, Halifax Fire estimates it’s responsible for inspections of about 15,000 buildings.
Halifax Fire established a new program for inspections in 2019, when the fire department started hiring fire inspectors on top of the fire prevention officers it already had. There are currently eight inspectors.
Colman-Sadd said management told her office “that there are not enough fire inspectors to complete all inspection duties in a timely manner,” but they haven’t figured out how many inspectors they actually need. Management plans to change the program, but it doesn’t actually have firm plans or timelines.
4. COVID update: 6 new cases
The good news on Wednesday was that there were only six new cases of COVID-19 announced in the province. You could almost feel the collective anxiety lessen after 66 cases were announced on Tuesday and Phase 5 was delayed. Tim Bousquet had the complete update here. So, there are now 159 active cases in the province and four people are in the hospital; no one is in ICU.
Of the six new cases:
• 3 are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone — 2 related to travel, 1 under investigation
• 2 are in the Northern Zone — both close contacts of previously reported cases
• 1 is in Eastern Zone and is travel-related
Also, the province finally reported the positive case breakdown for children under the age of 12 (who are not vaccinated) from those between the ages of 12 and 19 (who are highly vaccinated). Bousquet had been asking the province for that data for months. Here’s it is:
In total, since the start of the pandemic, 794 people ages 0-11 and 517 ages 12-19 have tested positive for COVID.
5. The Tideline, with Tara Thorne: Episode 46, Wildhood with Bretten Hannam
Bretten Hannam has been working on Wildhood, in one way or another, for the past decade, pausing to make multiple short films and their debut feature, North Mountain (2015), an experience that took years itself to recover from. Wildhood is the story of a Two-Spirit Mi’kmaq teen who sets off to find the mother he thought was dead, a gorgeously rendered, gentle journey of self-discovery. In 2020 it became the first feature film to shoot in Nova Scotia in a post-COVID world. Hannam met up with Tara Thorne on their way to the film’s world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival to chat challenges, considerations of community, and opening FIN tonight.
Standing up against street harassment
In May 2020 I interviewed Julie Lalonde, an Ottawa-based women’s right advocate and public educator about the bystander training she teaches. I’ve been wanting to take this training, which Lalonde offers in online sessions, since I heard about it. And finally, I got the chance last night (I asked Lalonde before the webinar if I could talk about what I learned, so I had her consent to write this).
I won’t give it all away because if you can, you should sign up for this. I found it interesting and helpful. (Lalonde is hosting another session on Sept. 21).
First, while this session is online, everyone’s video cameras and mics are turned off, so you’re anonymous. It’s interactive, though, and there are polls and questions Lalonde asks throughout. Basically, she covered how to better understand what street harassment is, how bystanders can help using the “5Ds” (we’ll get to that), and how to respond if you’re the one being harassed. Then there were a few scenarios in which we had a chance to practice what we learned. The session wrapped up with a Q&A. In total, it was about one hour and 15 minutes.
Lalonde is engaging, laid back, and makes everyone feel comfortable here. As she mentioned in the introduction, she’s worked as a women’s rights advocate for more than 20 years, and said that as a tall blonde she “cannot remember a time in my life when I didn’t experience street harassment.”
She said that during the pandemic one in three women has experienced street harassment. But street harassment affects many others, too, she added, and many of its targets come from marginalized communities. She added that she does this training and research around the world and the “stories are eerily similar” everywhere.
Lalonde told us this training is about creating “communities of care.” Basically, let’s look out for each other. She asked us to to consider this question:
Where do I want to live and what do I need to do to make that a reality?
Another poll of the session asked attendees if they knew knew what street harassment was. You could choose from multiple options, including inappropriate gestures and comments, public exposure, and stalking. Lalonde said street harassment is any interaction that is “unwanted and unwelcomed.”
We learned about the impact of street harassment, which includes social, financial, and community consequences: everything from anxiety, depression, job loss, switching schools, and wanting to move to avoid being targeted.
Then we reviewed the 5Ds on how to intervene. They are distract, delegate, delay, document, and direct. I won’t give this all away (take the training!), but these are really simple steps to intervene. “Direct” is the last resort, though, and which D you use will depend on the situation. But they are so simple — and maybe you already use them.
While the session focused mostly on gender-based street harassment, Lalonde said the 5Ds can be used in any other situations, including when a harasser is being Islamophohic, anti-Asian, transphobic, and so on. Lalonde reminded us to notice what’s happening in the scenario and assess your own safety, notice what keeps you from acting when you see that harassment happening, and then decide on which of the 5Ds works best. But always do something.
We also reviewed what we could do if we’re being harassed ourselves. Lalonde told us to trust our instincts, reclaim our space, and practice resiliency.
And finally, Lalonde took us through a few scenarios where bystanders intervened, including an actual situation on a New York City subway that was filmed on a phone. It was good to see these simple methods at work and be able to say to myself, “yeah, I could easily do this and I should do this.”
While she didn’t cover how to intervene in online harassment, Lalonde did provide a link to a resource, iheartmob.org that teaches how to use the 5Ds when someone is being harassed online (Lalonde is a target of this, too).
This was really worthwhile, easy, and thoughtful training. I really recommend you sign up, if you can. I left feeling like I had the specific skills to know what to do.
Remember this couple? They’re Tanya and Bruce Cameron who were interviewed by Brett Ruskin at CBC back in March 2021. The Camerons moved to Mushaboom on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore to a house they only saw through photos and video tours from their previous home in Toronto.
Ruskin’s story was about the number of homes being sold to out-of-province buyers. I remember reading the comments online about this, which included those warning the Camerons about the lack of family doctors, the terrible internet service, and the rough winters they were in for living here. I especially remember the story because some Nova Scotians hadn’t heard of Mushaboom; it’s just about 10 minutes from Sheet Harbour and 1.5 hours from Halifax. (I’ve been there and Highway #7 on Eastern Shore is one of my favourite road trips).
Well, on Tuesday night, their names and story came up when I was chatting with Iris the Amazing. We both wondered out loud, “did they stay in Nova Scotia?” I decided to find out.
I messaged Tanya Cameron early on Wednesday morning and she got back to me immediately. The Camerons just celebrated their one-year anniversary of moving to Nova Scotia (they moved here in September 2020). Tanya described the move as “unexpected, but incredible,” adding “there’s no looking back:”
Not once do we regret our decision. We knew it was going to be a one-way trip, especially with the price of real estate in Ontario. We did our research beforehand and checked out the areas and honestly every morning we look out our window and say, ‘How are we here? How is this possible?’
The decision to move to Nova Scotia had been in the Camerons’ plans for about five years, certainly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Bruce’s family is originally from the New Glasgow area, although he hadn’t been to the province since he was six years old. Tanya said they visited about three years ago and checked out the North Shore, including Tatamagouche, but it didn’t feel like home. They also thought about checking out the South Shore. But a trip to Sober Island Brewery in Sheet Harbour — they’re both big fans of craft beer — changed their minds.
When we drove along the shore here, we said, ‘This is home. This is where we want to be.’
Their search for a home on the Eastern Shore was a casual one at first. They already contacted a real estate agent and told her they knew where they wanted to live and asked her to send them listings if she had any. Then COVID-19 hit and they moved up their decision to relocate.
[COVID] helped us more than we thought it would. There were other factors. We were easy going about it. I could have gone back to work for another year if I had to.
Tanya told me while there were some challenges, they managed to work them out. They signed up with Nova Scotia Health and got access to a nurse practitioner in Sheet Harbour within the year. The internet service was bad, but Tanya said they signed up for new Star Link service last week, calling it a “game changer.” As for those winters, they expected snow, but had much less than they experienced in Toronto.
Bruce, 61, is retired. He worked for years as a paramedic for the City of Toronto. Tanya, 46, also worked for the city as a 911 dispatcher and now she’s back at school, studying online at Dalhousie.
The Eastern Shore is a quieter area of the province and I asked Tanya about their social lives. She said she’s “never been so busy.” She volunteers at the food bank in Sheet Harbour. She joined a book club, and she says because Nova Scotia has done well in managing COVID-19, they are often out to dinner, at parties, and attend live music shows. She and Bruce are going to a community barbecue in a couple of weeks hosted by the Sheet Harbour and Area Chamber of Commerce to welcome new residents. Tanya says:
Everyone is interested in meeting you, getting to know you, and having you as part of the community.
The Camerons do plan on going back to Ontario, but only to visit — they just booked a trip to go visit her stepson in Oakville. But otherwise, she says she doesn’t miss Ontario. She says they’re enjoying the scenery on the Eastern Shore. HMCS Summerside was in the cove near their oceanside house while the Bluenose II visited the area, too.
It’s such a change in lifestyle, but I am never bored. There’s always something. It’s much more exciting than people think it will be. There are a lot of skeptics out there; of course there will be that. But every morning I wake up and see seals in the cove and I am willing to sacrifice an hour’s drive if I need to, to appreciate that on a day-to-day basis.
Gee, I may have to move to Mushaboom. I’ll leave you with this song from Feist:
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — via YouTube
No meetings this week
Sexualized Violence Informational Panel (Thursday, 1pm) — online panel discussion and Q&A
In the harbour
22:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from New York
Another online session I registered for is this one hosted by Equity Watch, with guest Robyn Doolittle from the Globe and Mail’s investigative team, who will talk about gender discrimination in the workplace. It’s on Monday night at 4:30pm. Click here to register.