To read the section connected to the headline, scroll down to Views. But first, let’s get to the Examiner’s stories for today…
1. Council votes: independent review of RCMP-HRP arrangement coming
If you’ve been following the Examiner recently, you’ll know that last week Zane Woodford reported on HRM Coun. Tony Mancini’s recent request that a report be made regarding the effectiveness of Halifax’s current two-police-force system. The municipality is currently policed by Halifax Regional Police, who cover the metro area of the city, and by the Halifax RCMP, whose jurisdiction covers the broader municipality.
Following up on that story, Woodford now reports that Council has voted in favour of an independent review of HRM’s two-police-force system:
Coun. Tony Mancini brought the motion to council’s meeting on Tuesday, seeking a “review of the current model of delivering policing services in Halifax Regional Municipality, to provide an evaluation of and make recommendations with respect to the effectiveness along with community safety standards of the current division of policing responsibilities in HRM between the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP in their capacity as Nova Scotia Provincial Police.”
The current model of policing the municipality with a local force and along with the RCMP has been in place for 25 years. What would a more integrated police force mean for the future of policing in Halifax? How would it affect the municipality’s ability to reform and regulate police in Halifax?
That’s what the review — which council estimates could cost upwards of $200,000 and would likely take place in the fall — aims to find out. For more details on the possibilities of integrating HRP and RCMP, check out Woodford’s full article.
2. COVID-19 Update
Jennifer Henderson has the latest COVID-19 update from yesterday’s briefing from the province:
Tuesday’s numbers: six new cases
-Five in Central Zone
-One in Eastern Zone
There are now 36 known active cases in Nova Scotia, with one hospitalization (but none in ICU).
Premier Rankin said yesterday that vaccine distribution is ramping up. He expects 40,000 Nova Scotians to get vaccines this week. Also, 54 pharmacies and doctor’s offices will be working to distribute 38,800 shots of Astra Zeneca for people aged 55-64 (last week the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended an immediate pause in the use of Astra Zeneca vaccine in anyone under the age of 55 in Canada). And the first community clinic specifically for African-Nova Scotians over age 55 will open Wednesday at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Hammonds Plains.
As always, the full COVID-19 report has information on upcoming pop-up testing in the province, where to book a vaccination appointment online, Tim Bousquet’s virus exposure site map, and a fuller breakdown of the numbers.
Some restrictions are easing slightly in Nova Scotia today, though Dr. Strang says it’s premature to relax limits on the size of gatherings yet, given that variants of the virus have spread rapidly in other provinces and are “all around us outside Atlantic Canada.” Although we’ve seen two variants in Nova Scotia, Strang says limiting gatherings in homes and public places, as well as diligent mask-wearing, has so far kept them contained here.
Here are the restrictions that are lightening:
- Newfoundlanders can travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate or quarantine. Newfoundland’s provincial briefings report no new cases of the virus since Monday and, as of yesterday, the province was only reporting three active cases.
- Sports practices, training, games, as well as rehearsals and performances in the cultural scene, can now have up to 75 people participate (games at schools excepted). Public Health still recommends masks at these events, but does not mandate them.
- Malls, retail stores, fitness centres and gyms may resume business at 100% capacity, provided they follow physical distancing guidelines. That sounds good, but is there a business that can keep people six feet apart from each other and operate at full capacity? I don’t remember lines at the Apple Store being too spread out before the pandemic…
Also, Rankin said he remains hopeful Nova Scotia will still be entering into the Atlantic Bubble when it’s planned to reopen on April 19. A recent outbreak of the virus in Edmundston, NB has been a cause for concern for interprovincial travel and Nova Scotians are being told to avoid that area of New Brunswick right now. It’s a shame, because one of my favourite road trips is the 10-hour drive through the endless entirety of New Brunswick against the scenic backdrop of the province’s tree-lined, rock-blasted stretch of the TransCan.
In all seriousness, good luck to the people of Edmundston and the surrounding area during what sounds like an incredibly trying and uncertain time. Stay safe.
Temporary Foreign Workers in Quarantine
Nine new cases identified over the weekend in the province’s Western Zone, as outlined by Nova Scotia Health, involve temporary foreign workers (TFWs) flying in to help the province’s farmers put their crops in.
Here’s Tim Bousquet’s chart for active cases in the province since October, when the second wave began:
You can read the full COVID-19 update here.
3. Question Period
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
At yesterday’s Question Period, there were a couple of interesting exchanges. First, between PC Leader Tim Houston and Premier Iain Rankin about vaccine rollout:
Houston: Is the premier satisfied that his government continues to be the worst in terms of getting vaccines in arms?”
Rankin: I don’t accept that we’re worst in anything related to the pandemic. Nova Scotians have done very well listening to public health restrictions. We continue to keep our cases low. Our cautious approach on how we look at taking those restrictions off has worked very well. As we’re rolling out our vaccine, we’re very happy that we’re continuing to increase our numbers day by day. We have over 100,000 doses in arms. When you look at how we’ve held back our second doses for those Nova Scotians, we actually are above many provinces that have delivered second doses, especially to health care workers”.
Houston: Nova Scotians have done hard work to keep our infection rates low. Now we’re watching as people in other jurisdictions emerge from lockdown sooner because they have their vaccinations, because their vaccination program has been quicker and ours has fallen behind.
The national average for one dose of vaccine is 15%. That’s the Canadian national average. The average in other countries is well in advance of that, but it’s 15.4% in Canada. In Nova Scotia, it’s just 8.6.
Nova Scotians have done the work to put us amongst the leaders in dealing with the virus. This government has put us amongst the worst — probably last — in dealing with the vaccine. What can the Premier say to Nova Scotians about why we continue to be last?
Rankin: He’s one of the only people, I think, saying that Nova Scotia is last. When you look at what has been reported in the Globe and Mail article, it said, ‘Can we put Nova Scotia in charge of the country yet?’ That’s not what I’m hearing across the province.
I continue to hear, continue to listen to Public Health, continue to listen to Dr. Strang, continue to follow that advice to get us to where we are today, so that we’re not cancelling vaccinations — as a province did today, because they committed to those as a just-in-time delivery system, whereas we are guaranteeing, when we set an appointment for Nova Scotians, that they get their vaccine.
And then there was an exchange between Claudia Chender, the NDP MLA for Dartmouth South, and Education Minister Derek Mombourquette about differing pay scales for early childhood educators.
Chender: All early childhood educators in Nova Scotia have the same professional training and credentials, regardless of whether they work in a licensed child care centre or a pre-Primary classroom. However, most Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) working in licensed child care are paid far less than their colleagues in pre-Primary.
Given that the government sets both fees and wages in child care, will the premier demonstrate his commitment to pay equity by ensuring funding is adequate to provide all early childhood educators fair compensation?
Mombourquette: When we came into government, our ECEs were the lowest paid in the country, and that is why we invested in the wage floor to ensure that we could support their wages. This budget that we just tabled also has $75 million towards a sector that continues to support the sector whether it is through wages, training, and other education opportunities for the sector.
As a government, we are one of the few jurisdictions to ensure that we continued to fund the sector during the pandemic to ensure that when we could open back up, that the centres were available. I’m happy to report that 98% of them are open.
Chender: Wage floors came in a long time ago. They were a great step. It is time for the next step. The implementation of pre-Primary has intensified worker shortages. Those working in pre-Primary have access to affordable health and dental benefits, which are not available to most ECEs working in licensed child care. Extending health and dental to all ECEs is a small step the government could take to recognize the value of the work they do and the instability caused in the sector by the introduction of pre-Primary. Will the minister commit to providing affordable health and dental benefits to all ECEs as is already done for ECEs in pre-Primary?
Mombourquette: There are a couple of pieces to that question. I’ll say this: that pre-Primary has been a huge success. We now have 900 additional staff working within the system, supporting those four-year olds. As we all know, only 25% of those four-year-olds were accessing some form of early childhood education leading into school.
I know that there are hundreds of people enrolled in the programs across the province to get into the sector. They see a future for this. I’ll make the same commitment that I made during debate last evening, that we are fully engaged with our federal counterparts on a universal system and what supports may be there.
4. Council news: Halifax deals with two of the municipality’s past racial failings
Zane Woodford has the report this morning on two different stories, both dealing with lands that showcase the darker sides of HRM’s history of racial relations, and the municipality’s efforts to heal, amend and move on.
Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children could see new development
Last summer, the Examiner reported on a development proposal for the old Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children:
Akoma Holdings is proposing to transform its 320-acre property, located along Highway 7 where Westphal meets Cherry Brook.
The first stage of the project will see the old home building renovated and turned into a heritage zone to recognize the site’s history.
The second phase is a two- or three-storey seniors home on the property and the third phase includes an affordable mixed-use residential and commercial building, a new children’s centre, townhouse units and eight single-family homes.
“All in all, we want to basically change the land. There’s no point in having it just sitting there, not doing anything with it,” says Spencer Colley, a member of Akoma’s board.
On Tuesday, regional council voted unanimously to send the plans to a public hearing. There are bylaw amendments in the proposal that would create a new “Mixed Opportunity District” for low-rise and single use buildings as well as multi-unit dwelling and more complex uses. The amendments would also allow new roads to be built to the property.
Should it go forward, the development would mark a new chapter for a site with a dubious past.
Vision for Africville and its descendants
Another bit of news to come out of Tuesday’s meeting: “Councillors voted in favour of a motion from Coun. Lindell Smith for a staff report on a process aimed at doing right by former residents of Africville and their descendants.”
The motion, which Smith developed with the help of community members and municipal staff, gives a preliminary outline of what will become an “Africville Visioning Process,” a plan for the future of the lands and those affected by its racist legacy. The outline looks at seven issues that the final vision for Africville should include, such as “identifying all municipal led or partnered projects and initiatives that have a direct impact on the lands at Africville” reviewing the 2010 Africville Agreement.
“We know that government has played a piece in causing the issues of the past,” says Smith in the article. “And we can now play a piece in supporting the future of Africville,”
You can read the full list of proposals for the Africville Visioning Process in Woodford’s full article here.
5. Longterm mental health study seeking teen subjects, observing impacts of pandemic
How are teenagers coping with the pandemic? What’s the impact of all those TikToks and classrooms on Zoom? A group of researchers at Dalhousie want to know.
Yvette d’Entremont reports on a longterm study, Families Overcoming Risks Building Opportunities for Wellbeing (FORBOW), now in its ninth year:
The long-term observational study is examining what promotes mental health development in children.
“Our goal is to learn how to predict who may be most at risk for future mental illness and then work to develop interventions to prevent this onset,” FORBOW research coordinator Emily Howes Vallis said in an interview.
Over the course of its nine-year history, the program has recruited more than 280 participating families, with more than 550 children participating on an annual basis. Howes Vallis said one of their long-term goals is collecting information on risk factors.
“We’ve learned a lot about cognitive performance in kids, which hopefully can go on to create interventions in the future. We’re not fully there yet,” she said.
Since data has been collected on some subjects for years now, the study has been able to compare data and interviews from the past year to get a better idea of the impact that lockdowns in the pandemic are having on mental health now:
“…one of the advantages to being a longer term study is that when COVID-19 hit, FORBOW already had a substantial amount of pre-pandemic data to draw on.
Some participants had been part of the study for up to eight years, so when things were shut down early last year, their principal investigator recognized a great opportunity to learn more about how the pandemic was impacting Nova Scotian parents and youth. Researchers conducted hundreds of interviews — typically over phone or Zoom in those early days — to learn about participants’ pandemic experiences.
The article explains other findings too, like how age and gender seem to impact certain groups of children and adults differently. But some groups are underrepresented in the study. According to d’Entremont, the researchers are looking for more teenagers to better examine mental health development, especially BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour), trans and non-binary adolescents.
For further reading on the pandemic and mental health, check out d’Entremont’s previous reporting on the issue from 2020 here, here and here. More recently, you can read Jennifer Henderson’s piece from January on how the pandemic has exacerbated mental health problems for those who had them previous to the shutdowns.
6. Adsum says it’s already spent thousands this year on hotels that have provided temporary women’s shelters
The charity Adsum for Women and Children has spent $50,000 on hotels so far this year, “as shelter space is hard to find in the Halifax region during the COVID-19 pandemic,” reports Jesse Thomas for Global Halifax:
Adsum for Women & Children executive director Sheri Lecker says this is a new expense for the charity organization that’s been operating since 1983 and provides housing supports to women and families who are homeless and lack resources.
Safe shelter space has been at a premium during the COVID-19 pandemic and especially during the cold winter months, and so Lecker said they’ve had no choice to but rent hotel rooms to keep people from having to sleep on the streets, amid the brutal winter conditions.
“We just started booking hotel rooms, in part because people were either calling or coming up to the door and asking for a place to stay and we were full and so was everybody else,” said Lecker.
Adsum supports on average more than 125 people a night, and during the pandemic they started helping other charities as well. Lecker says they couldn’t say “no” to anybody and so the charity was putting people up in hotels, who they otherwise wouldn’t be supporting.
Thomas notes that the $50,000 spent on hotels could’ve been put toward Adsum’s new federally-funded affordable housing project, a development Zane Woodford previously reported on for the Examiner in January. The development is meant to create “25 units for women, families and trans persons at-risk of homelessness” at the Adsum Centre in Lakeside.
As the Examiner has previously reported, the municipality declined to use empty space in Halifax’s Convention Centre for sheltering the homeless. Will they help foot the bill for money spent by a charity to keep people warm and physically distanced during a pandemic instead?
I spent some time working in a temporary homeless shelter run out of a hotel last year. The stress coordinators face in finding funding to keep people housed for another week, and the stress that those relying on these shelters face not knowing if they’ll have a bed in a few days, is tragic.
At that particular hotel, the band-aid was ripped off in the summer when funding finally ran out and, although we found other beds and housing for many of the men staying who lost their hotel rooms, many others had to move back on the street. When it comes down to it, hotel shelters just aren’t a sustainable way to provide the necessities of life to our most vulnerable citizens. They cost a lot of money to house people for a very short period of time.
When publication bans harm those they’re meant to protect
I’ve been doing some research on publication bans for a freelance story I’m currently working on.
Publication bans, as the Department of Justice defines them on its website, are “intended to allow victims, witnesses, and others to participate in the justice system without suffering negative consequences.” They’re meant to protect the vulnerable and encourage witnesses; in cases of sexual violence, for instance, these bans are meant to protect the privacy of victims so that they aren’t deterred from coming forward and seeking justice through the courts.
And it’s no wonder that victims in these particular cases might want to keep their names private as they go through the public court process. Beyond having to share intimate, personal details with the courts, recent cases have shown just how harrowing the experience can be for victims of sexual violence, who can face rebukes from judges who tell them they should “just keep [their] knees together” or that they can still consent to sex even if they’re too drunk to remember what happened the next day. Why would anyone want their name splashed across social and traditional media when it could be connected to disgusting comments like those? It’s clearly important to balance the openness of the courts with the privacy of individuals who are bringing what could be the most horrible experience of their lives before the bench.
But what about those who want their story told? Speaking with a few lawyers over the past month, it’s become clear to me just how difficult that can be. Even if a victim wants to use their name, it can be difficult to overcome a publication ban — a ban, I’ll re-emphasize, that’s only there in the first place to protect that victim’s privacy. If a victim wants to come forward publicly, what use does a publication ban have?
Yesterday I came across a story from Ontario that shows just how ridiculous the enforcement of these publication bans can be.
An Ontario woman who’d been the victim of a sexual assault was fined $2,000, plus a $600 “victim surcharge,” for violating a publication ban in her case, which had already been decided. What had she done? She’d emailed the transcript of the judge’s decision to some friends and family. From there, someone shared it on social media. The offender in the case saw the post and brought it to the attention of the court. The offender’s name was also under a publication ban, not to protect his privacy, but to further protect the privacy of the victim. The offender was the victim’s partner at the time of the assault, so identifying him would easily identify her.
Technically, the victim in this case did breech the publication ban, but the court’s decision to penalize her — after the offender initiated the review of the victim’s actions — is baffling. How is justice served here?
I first found about the case when someone forwarded me an episode of the podcast the Docket, which examined the case on Monday. The Docket is hosted by two Ontario lawyers, Michael Spratt and Emilie Taman, who discuss and debate legal issues in Canada. Both were rightfully disgusted with the ruling in this case and the episode is full of rants deeming this decision a “miscarriage of justice” that brings the justice system’s handling of sexual assault cases further into disrepute. The two question how a Crown prosecutor decided to bring these charges to court, as well as how the victim’s lawyer allowed his client to plead guilty to breaking the ban.
The discussion begins at the seven minute mark and the whole thing is worth a listen. But I think Taman best sums up the argument this decision raises, that victims who are willing to tell their story — or just trying to share some court details with friends, as was the case here — have too difficult a time overcoming a ban that was only meant to protect their right to privacy in the first place, a right they’re clearly willing to waive if they want to go public with their name:
“This signals to me that the law needs to be changed. We’ve heard more and more, recently, of cases of complainants trying to get a publication ban lifted, because at some point everybody reacts differently and some people want their story to be out in the public. Not only because they want the offender’s name to be public, but because they want to tell their own story. And they want to be free to do that without worrying about getting dragged in front of the court.”
“And I think we also need to make it easier for complaints to apply for and get exceptions to a publication ban… because it’s actually still quite a process. It’s not like you can just tell a judge you don’t want it anymore; you have to bring an application to court, you have to show that circumstances have changed since the time a publication ban was imposed.”
It seems to me that, if the person who was meant to be protected by a publication ban no longer wants that protection, for whatever reason, that should adequately “show that circumstances have changed,” and the ban should be lifted without a drawn-out bureaucratic process. And should that victim break the ban meant to protect them, perhaps they shouldn’t be penalized for…I don’t know, harming themselves, I guess? What public interest does that serve?
In Nova Scotia, enforcement of publication bans have had a controversial history too. Here at the Examiner, Tim Bousquet looked at how the police used a publication ban to hide a botched investigation — not exactly the intended purpose of the law. More well-known is the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, whose publication ban held strong despite the widespread dissemination of her name before the ban was implemented, as well as her parents’ request that the ban be lifted in the public interest.
It ultimately took the breaching of the ban by a few local publications (like the Herald, pictured here) to force the hand of the Minister of Justice, who finally issued a directive that no publication would be penalized for breaking the ban.
Publication bans have their purpose, but the way they’re enforced can be confusing and downright counterproductive.
Can the justice system ensure that, when it comes to publication bans, the spirit of the law and the enforcement of it don’t contradict each other?
As restrictions ease here in Nova Scotia, they’ve tightened again this week in Ontario.
Over the past few days, I’ve spent a bit of time talking on the phone with friends and family living in the province (mostly Toronto). I was concerned about how everyone was doing, what with things shutting down for the umpteenth time since the start of the pandemic. But, according to everyone I spoke to, no one’s noticed much of a change. Even if the patios that were reopened not even a month ago have been shut again. I mean, the province has been on some form of lockdown the whole time, whether it’s called an “emergency brake”, or a “circuit breaker”, or given some colour code.
It makes you feel lucky to be out east, where changing restrictions still have some impact.
To help explain the feeling of most Torontonians toward the “new” ban, my sister, who lives on Queen Street in the Beaches, sent me some TikToks — AKA the highest artistic form of expression for the modern age.
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve noticed a shift here in the Maritimes. With our (mostly) successful handling of the pandemic, some of us have started to adopt the smug air of superiority usually held by Torontonians. How can you not feel some guilty schadenfreude in seeing a place that, for so long, has considered itself the centre of the universe, willingly isolating itself from the rest of the country, now being forced to isolate itself from the rest of the country? (When I lived in Alberta, people would ask me where I was from, and when I’d tell them I was from out east, they’d respond nine times out of ten with, “Oh, you’re from Ontario?”)
Now people are actually moving back east from Toronto, where they can work from home and enjoy the extra space and eased restrictions.
I mean, who would want to live in a city where rents are outrageously high and vacancy rates are ridiculously low? Where high rise condos are springing up unfilled, while homelessness remains prevalent? Where roads don’t have the capacity to get people in and out of the city quickly at rush hour; where locals refuse to swim in the large lake that the city sits beside (even on the hottest days of the summer) out of fear of pollution?
We’re still talking about Toronto, right?
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting, with live captioning on a text-only site
Public information meeting – Case 23058 (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting
Public meeting – Portland Street / Cole Harbour Road improvements (Wednesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting
North West Planning Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 7pm) — virtual meeting
Legislature sits (Wednesday, 12pm)
Legislature sits (Thursday, 11am)
New functions for an old favourite: Lysine polyphosphorylation as an evolutionarily conserved post-translational modification (Wednesday, 4pm) — with Michael Downey from the University of Ottawa
Mount Saint Vincent
No public events.
Tactics for Staying Home in Uncertain Times (Thursday, 2pm) — tune in for an informal virtual chat with Liuba Gonzales de Armas, curator of the show at the MSVU Art Gallery, online until May 16. More info here.
The COVID-19 pandemic has radically centered home as the site of daily life. The question of home (namely “what and where is home?”) is made no simpler by this fact. Indeed, this crisis has exacerbated existing inequalities and precarity in housing access. Co-opting the language of public health directives to stay home and shelter in place, this online exhibition invites viewers to consider the meanings of home through the lens of diaspora, asking, how do we stay home when home is away?
Tactics brings together five emerging Black, Indigenous and racialized (BIPOC) artists living across Canada whose works articulate ideas of displacement, domesticity, and the limits of belonging. By tracing connections to present and past homes, the artists render visible everyday gestures that enable feelings of belonging and solidarity across complex and diverse communities. The featured works borrow from the fabric of lived experience: familiar fruit, objects of utility and comfort, the light of an electronic screen. In recreating a domestic space that is unique and yet familiar, Tactics reveals common ground on their shared experience of making home in times of global crisis. The exhibition includes work by rudi aker, Cinthia Arias Auz, Michelle Campos Castillo, Bishara Elmi, and Camila Salcedo.
Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Wednesday, 5pm) — Zoom discussion with Kamiru Collymore
In the harbour
07:00 – High Trust, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for Baton Rouge, Louisiana
08:00 – Acadian, oil tanker, moves from Irving Oil to Imperial Oil
08:45 – Elka Bene, oil tanker, moves from Anchorage #5 to Irving Oil
13:00 – Algoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond (National Gypsum) for sea
10:45 – Ocean Castle, bulker, arrives at Government Wharf from Antalya, Turkey
20:30 – Hisui Horizon, bulker, sails from Anchorage C (off Canso) for sea
20:30 – CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Anchorage C (next to Hisui Horizon) for sea
In yesterday’s Morning File, Suzanne Rent gave her two cents on easing public drinking restrictions in Halifax.
I thought I’d post a photo of my first public drinking experience below. Here’s a flattering picture of 16-year-old Ethan enjoying a baguette and a beer by the Seine, watching the final laps of the Tour de France go by:
And below you can see the final leg of the Tour de France just beyond the crowd:
Leave it to a North American teenaged boy to make something so sophisticated look so unrefined. (At least I felt pretty cool).
Would public drinking work here? Or would it be the downfall of society? What do you think?
And the most Toronto story I have? After Game 2 of the Raptors/76ers series in 2019, my sister tried to strike up a conversation with Shawn Mendes who was waiting for his car outside the arena. She was snubbed in gloriously hilarious fashion before his entourage swarmed him and swept him away. It has three key T.O. story ingredients: 1. A local pop star. 2. A cold city interaction. 3. One of the city’s sports teams losing (they would win the championship that year, though.)