News

1. Election

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

As we head into Week 2 of the provincial election campaign, the Halifax Examiner has been contacted by a broad range of interest groups with questions they want the leaders of the three political parties to answer. Their responses will influence the way members of these groups intend to vote on August 17. The Examiner will forward these questions to the parties and publish their responses so other citizens can follow the exchange. 

From the Construction Association of Nova Scotia and NS Prompt Payment Coalition. They want to know which political party will commit to enacting legislation by the end of 2020 that will set minimum standards for when contractors get paid:

“Delinquent payments are hurting our economy and continues to worsen. Every year, 35-40 construction-related companies go bankrupt, resulting in 700-800 jobs lost, and these impacts are increasing at an alarming rate,” says Duncan Williams, CEO of the CANS. “Companies cannot invest in hiring workers, provide training and most importantly, offer a safe place for their employees to work.”

According to the Coalition, the previous provincial government, led by Premier Stephen McNeil, made a commitment to introduce prompt payment legislation at the Nova Scotia legislature’s fall sitting in 2020, however, that was delayed due to COVID-19. The group says enacting minimum standards and an adjudication process would improve productivity, reduce the cost of both public and private construction projects, and reduce the number of disputes burdening the court system.

From Nova Scotians for Long-Term Care Reform, the NS Health Coalition, and Advocates for Care of the Elderly (ACE): 

1. How many new single bedrooms will you build during your first mandate for people who require Long-term Care (LTC) ?

2. Will your party commit to implementing national long-term care standards for nursing homes when they are released? (standards are currently being discussed)

3) Will your party commit to improve staff-to-resident ratios to provide at least 4.1 hours of direct care for each LTC resident?

4) Will your party commit to harmonizing the wages of LTC health providers with workers in other health care settings to help retain and recruit staff?

From the Disability Rights Coalition that is seeking a time-frame for when the next government will implement the recommendations of the Roadmap endorsed by the Liberals in 2013 to close large institutions and provide smaller homes in communities for people with physical and intellectual disabilities:

“Will you commit to the full implementation of the Roadmap within the 10 year timeframe adopted by the Liberals and end institutionalization of people with disabilities by 2023?”

From Bicycle NS, which is asking each political party for a clear commitment to finance a 3,000 kilometer Blue Route around the Province and fill in the gaps in infrastructure that exist in some municipalities.

“During COVID 19, we have witnessed an unprecedented growth in cycling, for transportation, recreation, and sport. What is needed now is a clear financial and policy commitment, including under the Sustainable Development Goals Act and the Traffic Safety Act, to solidify Nova Scotia as a safe and inclusive place for people of all ages to travel on two wheels”.

Obviously, these are just a few of the many questions politicians can expect to receive during this short one month campaign.

Election Trivia 2021

Photo: Jennifer Henderson

PC candidate Sheri Morgan’s fingers are generating a lot of chatter on Twitter. Is she flipping the bird (giving the middle finger) or flashing a V for Victory sign as British PM Winston Churchill did during WWII? None of the above, explains Sheri on her Facebook page. Her Vee-shaped fingers stand for vagina.

“The state of women’s health care in Nova Scotia is deplorable,” says 56-year-old Morgan, a retired business woman who recently lost a close friend to cervical cancer. “Women are suffering in silence with treatable vaginal and pelvic floor conditions, unable to get timely care. I’m running in this election to be a strong voice around the government table. I’ll be an advocate to raise awareness, eliminate the shame, and provide medical professionals with the resources they need.”

Morgan is the current partner of the well-known broadcaster and former PC party organizer, Jordi Morgan. She moved to Halifax a few years ago to take care of her parents and has also been outspoken about the need for more timely care for seniors.

2. COVID

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Two new cases of COVID-19 were announced Friday — one was a close contact to a previous case and the other was a sailor on the HMCS Halifax (the third case on the boat). The province has stopped reporting daily COVID case numbers on weekends, but last night the following “low risk” potential COVID exposure advisory was issued:

Anyone who worked at or visited the following location on the specified date and time should visit covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/ to book a COVID-19 test, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms. You can also call 811 if you don’t have online access, or if you have other symptoms that concern you.

Low-risk exposures
For the following location, if you do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to self-isolate while you wait for your test result. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 you are required to self-isolate while you wait for your test result.

• Sobeys (60 Tacoma Drive, Dartmouth) on July 21 between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. It is anticipated that anyone exposed to the virus at this location on the named date may develop symptoms up to, and including, August 4.

The woman in her 50s who died last week from COVID was not vaccinated. Since March 15, there have been 27 COVID deaths; of those:

• 1 (3.7%) was fully vaccinated
• 3 (11.1%) were partially vaccinated
• 23 (85.2%) were unvaccinated

(“Fully vaccinated” means received the second dose and two weeks had passed. “Partially vaccinated” means received one dose and two weeks had passed. “Unvaccinated” means those not in the other categories.)

The graph above shows the progress of vaccination over time, as captured weekly on Fridays. The blue line is people with one dose only; the green line is people with two doses; the yellow line is people with at least one dose, and the orange line represents 75% of the entire population.

As the graph shows, the pace of vaccination slowed just a bit last week, but 117,000 doses of Pfizer were expected to arrive in Nova Scotia Friday, and I see that this morning there are lots of open vaccination appointment slots for next week (and some this week). Once that green line meets the orange line, most public health restrictions will be removed in Nova Scotia; that’s when the Roaring 20s begin and we all resume our old filthy habits, touching each others’ faces and such.

I still worry about children under 12, who can’t be vaccinated. On Friday, I had this exchange with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang:

Bousquet: Dr. Strang, the largest pool of unvaccinated people is, of course, the children under 12. There was a case in the US of a five year old dying with no symptoms previous. Are you still confident that opening up or doing away with restrictions among that group is safe?

Strang: So even though there are occasional cases of very severe disease, we know by and large that COVID produces relatively mild illness in the vast majority of younger people. We also don’t have a vaccine for them. It’s a reason why we need everybody else who can get vaccinated to be vaccinated. I’ve said it many times: where you get vaccinated, you don’t just protect yourself., you protect those around you who cannot be vaccinated, whether because of age or underlying health reasons. But again, we do know — it shouldn’t make us complacent — but it does give us reassurance that the vast majority of COVID illness in children is mild.

Yesterday the New York Times reported about the alarming rate of COVID deaths among children in Indonesia, where vaccination rates for the adult population are low and the lack of health services generally contribute to a higher percentage of deaths among those who contract the disease — so no comparison can be made to Nova Scotia, but the Times does note that “the jump in child deaths coincides with the surge of the Delta variant, which has swept through Southeast Asia…”

I worry that as we reopen and tourists and others start coming to Nova Scotia, the virus might find its way into schools and day cares, and I fear that this potential threat is being ignored or downplayed. I don’t really know what to do about it, and it would be beyond perverse if the rest of us were partying like nobody’s business while young kids have to continue masking and social distancing and such. But still.

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3. Street checks

NDP leader Gary Burrill, NDP Preston candidate Colter Simmonds and community activist Quentrel Provo discuss police street checks on campaign stop in Cherrybrook

“The NDP candidate for Preston in the upcoming election, Colter Simmonds, met with party leader Gary Burrill and community activist Quentrel Provo in a Cherrybrook playground Saturday to publicly discuss police street checks,” reports Matthew Byard:

They were joined by Suzy Hansen, the NDP candidate for Halifax–Needham; Angela Downey, the candidate for Hammonds Plains–Lucasville; and Matthew Green, a federal member of parliament for Hamilton Centre in Ontario.

Provo also talked about an incident in his teens when he was pulled over by RCMP on Lake Major Rd. in North Preston and handcuffed while his vehicle was searched. He said he was crying and felt embarrassed.

Provo is on a basketball team. Over the past couple of years, he said the six Black players have been pulled over about 30 times whereas the roughly 10 white players, they were only stopped twice. Once, when one of the white players was a passenger in one of the Black players’ car when pulled over, the police officer asked the white player “was he OK?”

Burrill said that “An NDP government will fully ban, completely ban, street checks in all of Nova Scotia.”

Click here to read “NDP candidates say they will close suspicious activity ‘loophole’ and end police street checks.”

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4. Nicole Gnazdowsky

Andrew and Nicole Gnazdowsky

“I can understand why Nicole Gnazdowsky might have become a ‘hostile individual,’”:

I can’t understand why Premier Iain Rankin can claim — as he did last week — that he doesn’t have the authority to act in her case because there’s an election campaign underway.

Huh?

Let’s start with Gnazdowsky. Her 26-year-old “little brother,” Andrew, is dead, and she hasn’t — despite her best, never-give-up efforts — managed to get clear answers to her many questions about how and why, and who, if anyone, will be held accountable.

Click here to read “The premier who won’t get involved versus the sister who won’t give up.”

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5. Bryson Syliboy

Bryson Syliboy. Photo: Stephen Brake

“A second Mi’kmaw person is running in the Nova Scotia election” [the first is Liberal candidate Nadine Bernard], reports Maureen Googoo for Ku’ku’kwes News:

Bryson Syliboy is the New Democratic Party candidate in the provincial riding of Richmond in Cape Breton.

If elected, Syliboy would be the first openly gay Mi’kmaw elected to the Nova Scotia legislature.

“I decided to run in this election because representation matters and we don’t have a lot of Indigenous candidates that had run in recent years,” Syliboy said during an interview at his home in Port Hawkesbury on Wednesday.

“I want to give a chance for our Mi’kmaw youth to see that they can do stuff like this,” he said.

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6. Shambhala sexual abuse

Walrus illustration by James Lee Chiahan

The Walrus has published Matthew Remski’s “Survivors of an International Buddhist Cult Share Their Stories,” an authorative overview of the history of sexual abuse at Shambhala. There isn’t much new in the account, but Remski, a yoga teacher and author of Practice and All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, and Healing in Yoga and Beyond, brings a deep understanding of the dynamics of Buddhism and abuse to the story.

Here’s the thing: everyone in Shambhala knew about the sexual abuse. As Remski tells it, that abuse, including the abuse of children, was inherent to the organization:

It wasn’t only women who were caught in Shambhala’s abusive culture. Ex-member Michal Bandac, now living in Germany, says that, in the 1980s, Shambhala adults introduced him to cocaine use when he was twelve. The scene was considered safe, Bandac says, because they were taught that, “according to Buddhism, the children are always better than their parents.” Bandac’s mother, Patricia, was a senior Shambhala teacher for thirty years and the director of the Nova Scotia retreat centre. Since leaving Shambhala in 2015, she has struggled to understand how the group affected her family. While she wasn’t aware of her son’s exposure to cocaine, she does remember him telling her about Shambhala women in their thirties luring him into his first sexual experiences. “I was kind of shocked,” she says. “But I didn’t do anything about it. It was so normalized. There was statutory rape going on all over the place.”

There still hasn’t been an accounting for that abuse. Mipham Rinpoche is attempting to regain his hold on the organization, and who knows how that will play out? But what about the inner Shambhala court here in Halifax — the two dozen or so people, including prominent business people and high-profile leaders of the community, who had to have known about the sexual abuse, but rationalized and even facilitated the abuse when it was happening, failed to report it to the proper authorities, and then downplayed it when it became public? So far as I can see, they’ve suffered no repercussions for their role in the sordid criminal affair.

And there are lots of victims who still need help.

I also wonder about the long-term effect on an entire generation. Just before the abuse became public knowledge, I was having a beer at a local bar, and started a conversation with the young guy on the next stool over. He was a smart, good-looking 20-something, and he had just come back to town from a music festival attended by some of the younger Shambhala set, children of the Buddhists who moved to Halifax with Trungpa back in the day. Those younger people, my barstool neighbour told me, were disturbingly overly sexualized. It wasn’t just normal young people being sexual, he said, but rather there was an element of expectation — his word — to it; I understood him to mean that it was performative. It so upset him that he up and left the festival after the first day. I suspect that for a long time there will be lots of people struggling to understand their own sexuality.

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Government

No meetings; it’s July.


On campus

No events; it’s July.


In the harbour

Halifax
03:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails for Liverpool, England
06:30: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
09:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten
09:45: NACC Alicudi, cement carrier, sails from Pier 27 for sea
11:45: Selfoss sails for Portland
12:30: John J. Carrick, barge, arrives at McAsphalt from Saint John
18:00: Thunder Bay, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Charlottetown

Cape Breton
03:00: Thunder Bay, bulker, transits through the causeway north to south, en route from Charlottetown to Halifax
05:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Baltimore
19:00: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Sydney for sea
21:00: Harmonic, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from John Agyekum Kufuor, an offshore terminal near Ghana


Footnotes

Four hours of sleep seems the norm nowadays. I’m working through Wednesday, but then taking a few days off. I need it.


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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. I am a onetime Shambhalian, who left the community well over a decade ago. I just want for the record to say that the story is much more nuanced than what Mr. Remski has chosen to tell and what the Walrus and CBC and now the Examiner have amplified. Remski cannot be “authoritative” because he has no experience with Shambhala or Buddhism, much less a “deep understanding” of the dynamics of Buddhism. He is well known for his fear and distrust of any Shambhala practitioner, and even of the Buddhist teachings themselves. How could he possibly produce a non-biased “analysis”? Could someone please investigate HIM?
    I have a “smart, good-looking 20-something” child and I know many of his Shambhala-parented friends. They are not at all “oversexualized”; most even have steady monogamous relationships, something many so-called “normal and well-adjusted” people lack. Remski has hurt a great number of past, present, and future practitioners with inaccurate hearsay that paints an entire community with the same colour, and each publication just seems to love to spread that paint around. I wish the Examiner did better examination…

  2. Saying “here’s the thing: everyone in Shambhala knew about the sexual abuse” is totally irresponsible reporting. I grew up in the Shambhala community. As with most people, my family wasn’t close to Chogyam Trungpa. Most people did not have a window into his life. And the same goes a generation later, as Osel Mukpo (Sakyong Mipham) assaulted numerous women and was generally an awful person in most regards. Unless you were in the inner circle around him, you weren’t aware of this. He and his inner circle portrayed themselves as relatively clean cut – a commonly discussed difference between him and his father, Chogyam Trungpa. This was the image I had of Osel Mukpo, I thought he was extremely low-key and boring. I’m far from alone in that.

    To say that “everyone” knew about horrendous sexual assaults and other acutely harmful behaviour is to insinuate intentional complicity of the thousands of locals, immigrants and Nova Scotia-born, who at some point have been involved with Shambhala. That’s a whole lot of people you’re casually painting with the same brush: “enablers,” “accomplices,” “monsters.”

    Beyond notions of slander as a legal issue, it’s just really shitty and dumb on a personal level. I know tons of people who have been involved with Shambhala and hearing you make wild public accusations that they all hid serious abuses is really, really messed up.

    1. And for what it’s worth, it’s infuriating to me too that the inner circle people haven’t faced any accountability or justice.

      1. I’m with John here (though not actually a “member” of Shambhala, I did take part in many retreats, training sessions, and the weekly meditation nights for a number of years). To generalize so ridiculously is to appear not only sloppy but also malicious towards those in the organization who *didn’t* know. For the poor women who suffered the worst abuses, it’s probably reasonable to assume that they didn’t know anything about it (until it was too late). Do better, Tim.

  3. Along with editing and publishing Shunpiking magazine, our New Media Services Inc. had a few clients, well-known realtors, who were members of this Buddhist sect. They were uniformly nickel-and-dimers, consistently trying to drive an extremely reasonable fee for design and marketing work into the basement, while all the while professing high ideals. They were Americans who had moved to Halifax. We called them ethical capitalists, ethics for themselves, capitalism for others. Their religious and social sectarianism had an economic base characteristic of private property. We got rid of them by tripling our fee. As I recall, they also put the grass roots organic food store in the South End out of business. Their store on Quinpool tried to get Shunpiking to include a free advertisement in exchange for stocking it (Shunpiking was free). I did not know but am not surprised about these revelations. I second your comment : “But what about the inner Shambhala court here in Halifax — the two dozen or so people, including prominent business people and high-profile leaders of the community (sic – TS), who had to have known about the sexual abuse, but rationalized and even facilitated the abuse when it was happening, failed to report it to the proper authorities, and then downplayed it when it became public? So far as I can see, they’ve suffered no repercussions for their role in the sordid criminal affair.” The answer may lie in their business interests and social standing.

  4. Ditto for me. Same as Anhaga and Carol B. The climate crisis is getting the short end in this election cycle. There are numerous horror stories in our province. I’ve only been in NS for a few years, but the appalling way this tiny spit of land has been razed, raped and poisoned was my biggest shock moving out here. My most recent shock is the annual Shark Derby being held in southern NS. They are actually KILLING sharks for fun! The article I read (on CBC.ca no less) painted it as a scientific research project.

  5. Anhaga speaks my mind about the total lack of understanding apparent in government, candidates and much of the general public about the crisis facing all humans (and other species) due to heating from overuse of use of fossil fuels. There is a Climate Catastrophe heading down the track at us, fast. . All these problems — gold mining, coal burning, pesticide spraying, fish farming, killing of orphan bear cubs…conversion of farmland to housing — are symptoms and our next government could work to stop them.. But will it?

  6. Although the questions for candidates submitted by the special interest groups are important, it’s beyond disappointing to see that no one mentioned the existential crisis facing all humankind and the Nova Scotia government’s lackadaisical attitude: namely climate catasrophe and species extinction. Where is the concern, nay outrage, regarding clearcutting our major carbon sink aka forests, gold mining, coal burning, pesticide spraying, fish farming, killing of orphan bear cubs because there is no longer anywhere safe to release them into the wild, and the list could go on for pages.

    1. Add to the list the sale of Owls Head Provincial Park which is critical habitat. It is to be pulverized and sterilized into ecological wasteland of golf courses.
      Our house is on fire and politicians are still arguing over what colour drapes to hang.

  7. Surprised to see the Halifax Shambhala Centre still lists the former leader as the ‘principle entity’ of its governance with sessions from him in the calendar as recently as this month—https://halifax.shambhala.org/about-us/governance/

    Business as usual