News

1. Cops make the case for body-worn cams (aka how police reform ends up increasing police budgets)

A police officer with a body-worn camera.

At yesterday’s Halifax Board of Police Commissioners meeting, Halifax Regional Police made the case for the purchase of body-worn cameras, to be deployed across the force.

Well, maybe “made the case” is putting it a bit too strongly. As Zane Woodford reports, chief Dan Kinsella came to the meeting with no research on the cameras’ effectiveness, no proposed policy on how they would be used, and no suggestion that they be tested in a pilot project first — because that would be a waste of time, since the force would wind up adopting them after a pilot anyway.

The board was not impressed. Woodford writes:

“At the end of the pilot, the recommendation will be that we get body-worn camera program here with HRP,” he said. “That is the consistent message from all police services across the country, and particularly major police services such as Halifax.”

That’s not true. As the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group noted in its letter in opposition to the cameras this summer, Montreal’s police force concluded after a year-long trial that the cameras weren’t worth the money or the hassle. Edmonton’s police force ran a three-year pilot project, and “found no quantitative evidence that [body-worn video] has an impact on complaints” and that there was “no evidence from the pilot that it reduced use of force incidents.”

Coun. Lindell Smith challenged police on the efficacy of the technology and the lack of any research in the report.

“What would have been beneficial for me, and I’m not sure if other folks feel the same way, but it would’ve been good to see cited some of the research that has happened around body-worn cameras,” Smith said.

Body-worn cameras are not cheap. It’s not just the cost of buying them; there are also costs associated with storing footage and retrieving it. Without effective policies, you can wind up with footage that takes ages to release, or forces that charge exorbitant rates for the service.

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2. Man with bipolar spared eviction by adjudicator

From the annual mental health community Festival of Hope. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Yvette d’Entremont writes about a really interesting — and, I think, heartening — small claims court case involving a man with mental illness facing eviction. (To protect the tenant’s identity, adjudicator Augustus M. Richardson granted everyone in the case anonymity.) This case was an appeal brought by the landlord to small claims court, after his application for eviction had been turned down by a residential tenancies officer.

The landlord wanted to evict the tenant, who lived in a triplex, in part on the grounds of his behaviour. d’Entremont writes:

Starting in May 2020 the tenant’s conduct became erratic. Two other tenants living in the triplex and a neighbour living next door testified to his conduct in May, June, July, and August.

“The conduct included abusive and aggressive language directed at Ms HG (neighbour adjacent to triplex) and the other tenants; loud music playing at all hours of the night; and, at one point, a threat to burn down the triplex,” notes the findings of fact.

“The police were called at least twice, resulting in him being taken away in handcuffs.”

Sounds like few would argue that this is acceptable behaviour on the part of the tenant.

But there’s more to the story.

The tenant has bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a manic episode — likely a result of having stopped his medication. This is not an uncommon cycle for some people on psychiatric medications: start taking medication, feel better, stop taking medication, experience some kind of relapse. The landlord had an emergency contact for such situations, but the judge saw no evidence he had reached out. The tenant is now on a long-acting injectable, which means he gets a monthly shot instead of taking oral medication.

I’ve summarized here, but you should read all of d’Entremont’s story, in particular for the tone of Richardson’s decision.

Look, this is the hard stuff we have to grapple with as a society. It’s the kind of stuff that doesn’t typically come up in your Let’s Talk and other similar campaigns. Raising awareness is well and good, but what are we raising awareness for? If we want to be a truly inclusive society that embraces difference with compassion, it’s not enough to share the heart-warming stories of people in recovery. We also have to figure out how to deal with people in crisis without throwing them out onto the street.

When I told my partner about this story, and judge Richardson’s ruling, which included the plan that the tenant remain on his medication (as now mandated because of his arrests) and that the landlord reach out to the emergency contacts if the tenant has another episode, she said, “So, a plan instead of punishment.”

How about that?

On another note, a recent story in Montreal’s Le Journal de Montréal says that a tenants’ rights group in that city studied 363 eviction notices over a five-year period and found that 85 percent of them constituted “fraud or malfeasance” on the part of landlords.

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3. Shots on the water: Four men arrested for shooting at Indigenous fishers

A “No Pipe” rally of Mi’kmaw chiefs and other opponents of Northern Pulp’s proposed effluent treatment system. Photo: Joan Baxter

On Sunday afternoon, Pictou Landing First Nation chief Andrea Paul wrote this on her Facebook page:

Today – actually about 15 minutes ago a white male (3 of them actually) were seen pulling up our Netukulimk Fishing traps. Our fisher went out to see who it was. They SHOT at him!!! They were there with a rifle and shot at my community member!!! My fisher was alone. This is wrong on so many levels and it is not going to be ignored.

The RCMP arrested three men in connection with the incident.

The local Indigenous community and non-Indigenous fishers have been allies in the past several years over issues related to the Northern Pulp mill — in particular, their successful protests to stop the mill’s plan to pump effluent into the Northumberland Strait.

Joan Baxter writes about the latest events:

In an interview with the Halifax Examiner, lobster fisherman and interim president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Association, Dennis McGee, stated that his organization “does not condone violence on or off the water.”

“This is a very, very, very, very unfortunate thing that happened,” he said. “And it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever heard anybody doing.”

Read the full story here.

None of the stories I have linked to this morning are behind the paywall. Anyone can read them, free. But that doesn’t mean they don’t cost money to produce, and that money comes from subscribers. If you don’t already subscribe, we can help you fix that. Subscribe here.

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4. Latest COVID-19 numbers for Nova Scotia

Get your latest COVID-19 charts, numbers, and potential exposure site map here. Look at that nice downward curve.

We were originally slated to get an update from Premier Stephen McNeil and Dr. Robert Strang later today, but that’s been pushed to tomorrow. Today we get a technical briefing on vaccine  delivery. Yesterday saw the first vaccinations of Canadians.

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5. Controversial St. Margaret’s Bay development dies

Sign from a public meeting on a proposed controversial housing development. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

In April 2018, I wrote a piece for the Examiner on a proposal for a housing development at the head of St. Margaret’s Bay. The proposal was for 112 units — most in apartment buildings, and 18 in town homes — and was so controversial that the first public meeting about it had to be cancelled because the number of people who turned up far exceeded the capacity of the room.

As I wrote in 2018:

One after another, speakers got up to raise questions about the development. [Planner Shayne] Vipond asked them to state their names and community of residence for the record — and in a peculiarly Nova Scotian way, many also added whether or not they had moved here from elsewhere. The first speaker opened with, “I’m Frank Mosher. I’m a CFA. Been here 43 years,” and was followed by a couple of dozen others, many opening in a similar vein. “I’m a CFA too…”

Over the course of the evening, only two speakers spoke strongly in favour — Fred Dolbel, who volunteers with the Seniors Association of St. Margaret’s Bay, and former councillor Peter Lund, an enthusiastic proponent who did some early work for the developer, surveying wells on neighbouring properties. “I like the village concept,” Lund said. “You need livability and walkability within the village. This is a real opportunity to have a livable, walkable community.”…

Many who spoke in opposition to the project — like Nick Horne, chair of the St. Margaret’s Bay Stewardship Association, and Geoff Le Boutillier, one of the association’s founders — reiterated support for the vision of the area laid out in the village plan, and said the variance requested — 112 units instead of 12 — was simply too great.

Le Boutillier pointed out that the plan came about after lengthy consultations with residents and with the city. “The spirit of the village plan must be respected and can’t be thrown out because of a development agreement. I would encourage planners not to throw out all that hard work,” he said.

Yesterday, District 13 councillor Pamela Lovelace posted a screenshot on the “Ask St. Margarets Bay” Facebook group saying, “Due to the lack of progress, HRM planning has made the decision to close this application” — and the whole debate got to play out again in Facebook comments.  Then it took what seemed (to me, anyway) an odd turn (but it is Facebook after all) when a few people said what the area really needs instead is a Giant Tiger.

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6. HRP lay charges after driver strikes pedestrian

Just a partial collection of Vision Zero’s representation on Google Images. Vision Zero is a strategy aimed at reducing traffic deaths and serious injuries to zero, largely through design. It has been adopted by a growing number of North American cities and towns.
From a police press release:
Police have charged the driver in a vehicle/pedestrian collision that occurred in the 600 block of Herring Cove road.
At 7:20 p.m., Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision. The 32 year old female pedestrian was crossing on a marked crossed walk when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a 39 year old male. The  female pedestrian was taken to the hospital by EHS and suffered what is believed to be non life threatening injuries.

 The male driver of the vehicle was not injured and was issued a summary offence tickets for failing to yield to pedestrian within a marked crosswalk and failing to carry valid insurance.

 The driver is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court at a later date.

Once again, a proofreader would be nice.

I know many people have said this before (I’ve probably written it in this space before) but I really think we need a better delineation of type of injury than the “life-threatening/non-life-threatening” binary. “Non-life-threatening” gives the impression that the injuries are not so serious. You could wind up having your leg amputated after a being hit by a car, and that would still be non-life-threatening. And then, of course, there is the mental trauma.

I’ve seen papers in the UK use “life-altering injuries” which, I think, is helpful for cases where they are serious, but not life-threatening.

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Views

Italian tomato label. Photo: Stephen Archibald

For years, I’ve struggled with time management. In part, this is because I don’t like the whole notion of time as something we can chop up, buy, and sell. (I just finished David Graeber’s book Bullshit Jobs, in which Graeber argues that this notion of time would have seemed exceedingly bizarre for most of human history.) I also tell myself that I can’t really divide up my day into discrete tasks and then focus on one at a time, because I am a freelancer, and stuff comes up. For instance, if I were to follow the common advice to not check email fist thing in the morning, there are a whole bunch of jobs that I would have missed out on, since I have clients who send me rush work with some regularity.

But the downside of all this is that there are days when I feel like I am flailing away and not really sure what I am doing, flitting from task to task, falling prey to distractions, and then feeling like crap by the end of the day.

Back in my very brief tenure as a regular 40-hour-a-week salaried employee, my department paid for me and a bunch of my colleagues to do a Franklin Covey time-management seminar. I remember very little, but we all got these fancy, expensive planners, which included all kinds of stuff on planning our long- medium- and short-term goals, and which I mostly used to just make lists of daily tasks. Eventually I gave that up and went back to flailing.

Enter the tomato.

I don’t know where I heard of the pomodoro technique, but I was taken with the idea right away. “Pomodoro” is the Italian word for tomato, and the creator of the technique, Francesco Cirillo, named it after a commonplace site in Italian kitchens: a tomato-shaped timer. Cirillo writes in his book The Pomodoro Technique that when he was a student and was having trouble focusing, he wound up the timer and decided to focus for as long as it was ticking. (The first time he did this, he only wound it up for a couple of minutes.)

Eventually, Cirillo would develop a more elaborate technique. It involves working in 25-minute increments, with short break. Each increment plus break is called a pomodoro. Three or four consecutive pomodoros are a set. After each set, you take a longer break.

Ideally, you plan out your tasks for the day, estimate how many pomodoros each will take, and go from there. (Cirillo makes concessions to changes that arise.) He suggests using sheets of paper to track your pomodoros, but all kinds of digital tools exist too, from apps that simulate the ticking of the timer to the My Tomatoes website.

I am still not at the stage where I plan out the day, but I do find it helpful to use pomodoros. You set an intention at the start of each one (eg: Write Morning File) then work 25 minutes. I have an app that ticks, and there is something about that ticking that facilitates focusing. Start to tab over to Twitter, hear the ticking, stick with the task.

I tried using pomodoros years ago, when my kids were little, and one thing I noticed was if they walked in and heard the ticking and realized the thing they wanted to tell me about wasn’t that important, they would recognize I was working and come back later. Before that, it was a free-for-all.

After a very long absence (my kids are all adults now) I’ve started taking up the pomodoros again. There are a few things I like about this system. First, it’s simple: You set the timer and go. Yes, you can make it more complex, but it doesn’t have to be. (When I told my therapist that a lot of people seem to be into bullet journals she emphatically told me NOT to buy a bullet journal because I would spend all my time futzing with it.)

Second, unlike so many systems, you don’t have to buy anything. I mean, we live in late-stage capitalism so of course you CAN buy all kinds of accessories — but you don’t have to. A free app, a timer, a piece of paper — whatever works for you, and off you go.

I asked Halifax-based writer and researcher Mary-Dan Johnston what drew her to the pomodoro technique, after I saw “between pomodoros” in her Twitter bio.

She said she first encountered the technique when she was an undergrad at St. Thomas. She recalls a prof who “kept this full three-ring binder of all of her tasks and pomodoro sheets, which is legendary. At a time when people were moving everything to digital, she was lugging around this huge piece of analogue time-management equipment, and it struck me as interesting and made sense.”

As a grad student at Oxford University, Johnston “really struggled with time management and focus” and read Cirillo’s book (which was available free online). She told me, “I was kind of charmed by the fact that someone wanted to think through how we manage tasks and use our brains, and it didn’t seem as capitalist as the general culture of time management. You’ve got to take breaks, rest, do something with your body.”

Indeed, Cirillo encourages people to get up and move around during their breaks and to not succumb to the “five more minutes” syndrome, which sees you sitting at your desk for longer and longer. Ultimately, it’s counter-productive.

What about emergencies? Cirillo says there is very little that cannot wait 25 minutes, and he is probably right.

If you check off your pomodoros on a sheet of paper (or in an app) Johnston says it also helps generate a sense of accomplishment: “As I started something, I would write a focus — what the task is and why it was important to me. I’d use the pomodoro timer, and when I was finished, I would write it in the “done” column. Seeing the things pile up during the day made me realize ‘I’ve accomplished things!’” If you struggle with perfectionism and anxiety, she said, that’s really helpful.

The other day a student in law school told me that a lot of her fellow students were into pomodoros, so maybe the technique is having a moment. I (mostly) used it to write Morning File today, but as I started running out of time, I skipped my last break and just kept going.

Poor planning, I guess, but as Cirillo writes repeatedly (and in bold) in his book: “The next pomodoro will be better.”

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Noticed

Still from the 1959 short film “Jobs that Are Different.” Photo: National Film Board of Canada

The National Film Board of Canada has about 14,000 titles in its collection, and it has been steadily digitizing them and putting them online. (I do freelance work for the NFB, mostly as a French-English translator.) I noticed a Tweet the other day pointing to the latest batch of additions, and a few of the films relate to Nova Scotia.

One of them is Jobs that Are Different, a seven-minute 1959 film that opens with blacksmith Mason Welch of Economy (“a Canadian village with an unusual name”). He makes shoes for horses, but as the number of horses declines, he’s taken to travelling to farms to do his work. In the erasure of women’s labour department, he pulls up at “the farm of Alden Knight” where we meet “Mrs. Knight,” who brings out two Percherons. It’s a nice little portrait.

Donna Davies’ 1999 film on women psychics in the Maritimes, The Kitchen Goddess, is here, and so is one on  Moses Coady, which I wrote about a few months ago. There is also a 1943 wartime propaganda film called Coal Face, Canada, set in an unnamed town. A young man returns from the war to the mining town where he grew up. His father was killed in the mine, and he has no intention of going to work there. But then:

When the young dischargee attends a union meeting he hears the labourers speak of their relation to the war effort and, realizing the importance of coal to victory, he joins a night shift and goes to work in the mine.

Looking at the newly digitized films is also a lesson in the NFB’s history: propaganda, harder-hitting docs, service films (there’s a 25-minute one with winter driving tips) and some that are real time capsules.

In the latter category, Graphic Variations on Telidon jumped out at me. The film’s description says this:

The Telidon System is a telephone communication process which enables the exchange of visual information.

Telidon was produced by a federal government agency in the 1970s, and was supposed to revolutionize communications by using phone lines to transmit data. It had now seemingly-goofy graphics reminiscent of Tron. Here’s a still from the film.

Still from Graphic Variations on Telidon. Photo: National Film Board of Canada

I remember being captivated by a Telidon terminal the first time I saw one, at some kind of Expo or fair. I think I may have used it to do some kind of quiz, whose results were then spit out by a dot-matrix printer. (Or I may just be confusing memories.) What happened to Telidon? Well, the Wikipedia entry says this:

Initially in multiple tests, Telidon failed to demonstrate compelling functionality, and the auxiliary equipment costs remained high. Although projects like GRASSROOTS for the Province of Manitoba, SOI for Venezuela, Compuserve, LA Times in California, EPIC for General Motors, NOVATEX for Teleglobe Canada and the Swiss PTT nationwide application, demonstrated the concepts,[2] eventually government support for the project ended on 31 March 1985, and the various commercial services based on it closed shortly thereafter.

Leave it to someone at the NFB to use it to produce an animated film though. There is something almost bittersweet about watching past, failed technologies of the future.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Regional Council and Budget Committee (Tuesday, 10am) — Regional council agenda here; budget committee agenda here.

Wednesday

No meetings.

Province

Tuesday

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference: Department of the Environment — Lead in the Groundwater: Provincial Testing and Notification Regime. With Deputy Minister Scott Farmer, Andrew Murphy (Sustainability and Applied Sciences), and Elizabeth Kennedy (Water Branch.)

Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm) — video conference for agenda setting.

Wednesday

No meetings.

On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

No public events.

Wednesday

Sounds of the Season (Wednesday, 11:30am) — a virtual YouTube event with performances from students of the Fountain School of Performing Arts, and greetings from the Dal community. The event will be available to view and share immediately afterwards, and the archived stream will be closed captioned.

Caregiving support and discussion group (Wednesday, 12pm) — led by Janice MacInnis. Info and registration here.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

No public meetings.

Wednesday

Virtual Round Table (Wednesday, 2pm) — Mitch Harrison leads this hour-long weekly advice session for entrepreneurs.

King’s

Tuesday

Holiday Happy Hour (Tuesday, 5pm) — Zoom party with a festive cocktail demonstration, King’s trivia, and fireside chat. Bring your own cocktails (and fireside.) Register here.


In the harbour

06:00: Carmen, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 31
09:30: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
13:00: MSC Poh Lin, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
13:00: Carmen sails for sea
17:20: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
18:00: Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai


Footnotes

Co-host Jay and I have released the latest episode of our Dog-eared and Cracked podcast. We discuss a different book each episode, and this time around it is The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. I have to say that this is a book I would probably not have picked up on my own, and it made me realize my co-host is more of a romantic than I had thought. Give it a listen. If you want previous episodes (I’m quite partial to the Jane Eyre and Fargo: Rock City ones), you can find them here — or, of course, in your podcast app of choice.

Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

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. re: “driver strikes pedestrian”. If I did as much damage to someone using a baseball bat, I’d be immediately charged with a criminal assault. Why does being well-armored inside a motor vehicle under my control while doing that damage to another person give me a “get out of jail” card that the police supply? Oh yeah, the NS Motor Vehicle Act, and the forthcoming Traffic Safety Act says it’s not assault. Lots of comfort in that.

    1. As a pedestrian, this continues to scare me. I lost my mother (the pedestrian) after she was struck not once, but twice, in the same marked crosswalk. I go for a walk almost every day and most days I have at least one close call in a crosswalk – and I am definitely a very cautious crosswalk user. I push the buttons, I wait until I have the walk signal, and I cross as quickly as I can. This morning was great fun with traffic lights out in my part of Dartmouth. Perhaps a refresher course for some drivers on the fact that pedestrians get a turn as well when the lights are not working is in order. If only I could get enough information as the car speeds past, narrowly missing me, to actually file a report with the police……

  2. Just for the record, Gus Richardson is not a judge. He is a really, really good adjudicator, but not a judge. Small Claims courts in Nova Scotia designate lawyers as adjudicators but they are not Bench appointments.

  3. I’m constantly on this quest for better self-management at work too. I use the bullet journal method (the very simple one, not the highly creative version) for keeping track of my notes and to-do list. I remember trying pomodoro years back but it didn’t stick. Maybe I’ll try again.

    1. I still laugh thinking about my therapist going “YOU SHOULD NOT” when I asked her about bullet journals.

  4. Do police body cameras save money in legal costs? Also, $400k a year is enough to do what? Hire four social workers, or subsidize half the rent on 60 crappy apartments? You could buy everyone in HRM a small coffee from Tim’s every two years I guess.

    1. $400k is enough to build eight (or more) tiny homes. I imagine Liam O’Rourke of Lake City Woodworkers could find places to set those up in Dartmouth North now that backyard suites are approved. That would be eight more places available in a very tight rental market.

      I don’t think we should have police with body cameras. I don’t think the current research shows that they are beneficial overall. And if they can be turned off and on by the officers as the article states, I don’t think they will prevent things that shouldn’t be happening from happening.

      1. I confess that I don’t know whether or not they work or not, either. It does seem like now that a few major cities have deployed them there has been a left/right switch in terms of who wants body cameras and who doesn’t.

        I agree that the cameras should not be able to be shut off, there should just be a privacy toggle that seals that part of the video without a court order.

        Given the number of violent incidents with the police that involve a person who is mentally ill, on drugs or some combination thereof, more people who are experts in that sort of situation seem gravely needed. There was a little-reported on (why?) incident of a 28 year old man dying in Halifax after a police wellness check this March. But there needs to be a lot of such workers, because they need to respond to crises quickly and so have to be somewhat geographically distributed. That’s going to cost a lot more than 400k a year.

        1. Agree, more people who are trained to deal with those who are mentally ill and/or altered due to drug/alcohol abuse are definitely needed. I would rather see $400k/year go towards that than towards body cameras. There are groups and organizations that have expertise in these areas. With an extra $400k/year perhaps they would be able to expand their reach and their hours of operation so that they could cover more situations and, thus, free up the police to do what they should be doing – catching criminals. My opinion, of course, but police are not who I would want called if I were having a mental health crisis.

          Now that we are entering what could be a very difficult winter thanks to the ongoing pandemic and its restrictions, mental health issues and/or increasing instances of altered behavior could increase. I don’t want to read about another person losing their life because the police were called out for an EDP (emotionally disturbed person) and the situation escalated to where the only option left for the officers was the use of lethal force.

          1. Neither do I. On the other hand, I am tired of passing the buck to police. When someone is on drugs, is mentally ill, is disadvantaged and dies in an encounter with the cops, the idea that the officer who fired the gun is the only guilty party is absurd. Nearly everyone the cops kill unjustly has been failed repeatedly by society for years.

  5. Another advantage I found with Pomodoro’s is I got a bit better at estimating how long things were going to take me.

    1. I use it to keep track of my time on a contract, and to make sure I don’t sit too long without taking a break. Really important when your body gets older …