News

1. It’s all just paperwork, right?

Aureus East property from Aurelius Minerals technical report

A gold-mining company claims to have permits to proceed with an open pit mine on the Eastern Shore. Not so fast, says Joan Baxter.

In her story, Tall tales about Nova Scotia gold: investors should beware of Aurelius Minerals’ spin job, Baxter gets curious about claims of millions of ounces of gold to be had at a location referred to as the “Aureus East mine”. And she also digs into the company’s claim that permits are in place for them to start mining for gold.

“Aureus East” turns out to be a site on the Eastern Shore that’s been owned by a whole bunch of companies. And what about those permits?

Baxter writes:

Perplexed, I wrote to Nova Scotia Environment spokesperson Barbara MacLean to ask if Aurelius Minerals or Aureus Gold or any related companies did indeed hold valid environmental and industrial approvals for the Aureus East property.

MacLean replied that an Environmental Assessment was issued to Gerald McConnell, then president of Dufferin Resources Inc., [a former owner of the site] on June 13, 1994 — nearly 27 years ago.

MacLean… went on to say: “The company has not made an application to the department to transfer the EA to Aurelius. Approval is required by the department to transfer an EA.”

Please read Baxter’s full story for all the details, including some of the reasons a permit issued nearly 30 years ago is unlikely to fly.

I understand money is at stake and business is, well, serious business, but there is something about all this puffery — the shallow boasting and misleading claims — that never ceases to strike me as just incredibly juvenile.

Baxter’s story is available to everyone, but we can’t do this work without your subscriptions. Please subscribe.

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2. What’s the deal with the vaccine rollout?

Nurse Suzette MacLeod administers the COVID-19 vaccine to elder Patsy Paul-Martin of Millbrook First Nation on Feb. 24. Photo: Communications Nova Scotia

Tim Bousquet has all your daily COVID-19 news, including an exchange with Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang, on criticisms that the vaccine rollout is going too slowly.

Strang said the province will still be holding back second doses for a few weeks — which was a prudent strategy when supply was a concern. But as larger amounts of vaccine arrive, the province will switch over to getting them all into arms as soon as possible.

In response to a question from Bousquet, Strang said:

That 40,000 [doses], that’s what’s going into arms this week. People are forgetting that we are actively immunizing people every day. So we have to have a bunch of vaccine at the start of the week that we roll out and deliver to clinics across the province and by the end of the week it will be delivered. So the vaccine we get in one week has to come in centrally and then gets distributed out to vaccine clinics and is used throughout that week and into the next week. So there’s always going to be a chunk of vaccine — if people are looking at how much vaccine is in the province today, what they’re missing is that there is a portion of that vaccine that’s going into arms today, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday.

I can’t hear the word “rollout” now without hearing Eugene Levy as Johnny Rose on Schitt’s Creek saying it.

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3. Feds and province announce funding to upgrade several hospitals

The IWK is one of a number of hospitals getting upgrades. Photo: iwkfoundation.org

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

Nearly $24 million worth of upgrades has been promised for several major hospitals in Halifax and Cape Breton. Eighty percent of the money comes from Ottawa through the COVID-19 Resilience Stream, which is funded through the Infrastructure Canada Investment Program. Last August Ottawa broadened the definition of the type of projects to include Health and Education. They must be underway by September.

Here are details about the first projects announced yesterday by the Government of Canada and Province of Nova Scotia.

A total of $19.1 million will be shared among the IWK Hospital for Women and Children, the Halifax Infirmary, and QE2 Health Sciences Centre. Money will be spent at the Halifax Infirmary to deal with chronic overcrowding at the Emergency Department. A news release from the province says “the expansion of supplementary spaces will improve functional needs and efficiency”.

At the IWK there will be upgrades to the hospital’s cooling systems, electrical systems, water pump, exterior caulking, air-handling units, hand-washing sinks, and audio-visual infrastructure (this is in addition to planning underway for a four-year, $100 million expansion of the Emergency Department).

Projects at the QEII Health Sciences Centre include window renovations, a fire booster pump replacement, and generator system upgrades to make sure operations can continue during an emergency.

A total of $5.7 million will be spent to remove and replace the roof of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital in Sydney. Flooring in parts of the hospital will also be replaced.

Under the COVID-19 Resilience Program, Nova Scotia has an allocation of about $82 million worth of infrastructure improvements. The province has applied for funding for other infrastructure projects, but those have not yet been publicly identified. Long-term care homes and schools are also eligible for the funding.

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4. Maritime Bubble announcement may be on the way

Does the bubble come with free comics and fortunes?

Yesterday, New Brunswick premier Blaine Higgs said we should expect an announcement on the re-opening of a Maritime — and later Atlantic — bubble soon.

A CBC News story says Higgs said the bubble would open in mid-April, and to expect an announcement in the next couple of days.

“We hope to nail that down in the next day or two,” Higgs said, noting that all of the premiers are watching what’s happening in western and central Canada with the variant and case counts in general…

As well, Higgs noted, Newfoundland and Labrador is “obviously cautious right now, they’ve seen first hand how quickly cases can explode.

“We’d like for it to be a full Atlantic bubble, but initially it will likely be a Maritime bubble.”

Last weekend, my partner and I walked into a trendy downtown restaurant and found the place completely packed. Many of the tables were booths, and they were all full. Other tables sat very close to each other. It was appalling. The place probably pulled in a ton of revenue that night, but we walked out the door and headed to an establishment that was respecting the public health rules instead.

The experience made me think about both how lucky we are and how tenuous it all could be. I could see how one infected person in that first restaurant — especially one carrying one of the more infectious variants — could easily lead to hundreds of cases spread out across the municipality and beyond.

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5. Dramatic rise in sexual assault complaints doesn’t translate into more charges

Image: Statistics Canada via cbc.ca

Sally Pitt at CBC PEI writes about a sharp rise in reported sexual assaults — especially on Prince Edward Island. There, reports have more than doubled over the past five years. But there has been little increase in charges as a result, the story says.

Pitt writes:

P.E.I. has seen the highest increase in the country of level 1 sexual assaults (which are the most common) reported to police. Those reports rose from 59 to 131 between 2014 and 2019 (the most recent year available), according to Statistic Canada — that’s a 122 per cent increase.

However:

The rate of people charged for reported sexual assaults on P.E.I. has dropped, from 42 to 28 per cent between 2014 and 2019. Regionally, it’s dropped from 38-40 per cent in 2014, to between 27 and 36 per cent in 2019 and nationally, it’s dropped from 44 to 35 per cent.

The reasons for both the increase in reporting and the fact that charges have not kept pace are multi-faceted. There’s increased awareness of what constitutes sexual assault, and we’ve just been through a year in which many people are stuck at home and at increased risk of sexual violence, plus they may be without access to the usual supports.

On the police side, it may be the case that reports of sexual assault are not taken seriously (we’ve seen no shortage of that), but there are also changes to how police classify cases and the fact that investigations into reports made in 2019 could yield charges later.

I’ve got to say though, that the RCMP national media relations statement Pitt gets by email sure does not do a great job of communicating that the force cares:

“The RCMP is one of hundreds of police agencies in Canada and unfortunately we’re not in a position to speculate as to why the percentage of incidents cleared by charge may not be increasing proportionally with the volume of reported sexual assaults,” it said.

I appreciate feature reporting like Pitt’s that digs into the issues.

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Views

Representation is not enough — but it matters

Elliot Page, fashion icon

On his “Thinking Out Loud” video podcast, Sheldon MacLeod interviews Jay Aaron Roy, owner of Cape and Cowl Comics and Collectibles in Sackville about Elliot Page.

Roy, who ran for council last year, is a trans man, and in the 11-minute interview, MacLeod speaks with him about Page’s coming out as trans, what it means for the trans community in Halifax. Roy notes that he tries to generally not speak for the community, but he was moved by Page’s coming out and said he found they’d had many similar experiences growing up in Halifax in the 90s.

Jay Aaron Roy. Photo: LinkedIn

Roy says:

I am not a totally famous person, but I’m pretty well-known in Halifax and I know the impact my coming out had on the youth and people in my life… Representation is not enough in the grand scheme of things, but you have to start with representation before you can do the rest. I did not even know the word transgender until I was in my late 20s…. Learning about this later, you really, I think, gain a passion about helping the generation that’s coming next. Maybe not everyone, but I suspect many of us do. Just the representation alone is enough to help the lightbulb go off in other people.

MacLeod says he has a non-binary sibling and, “I understand that not everyone wants to be an advocate, but why would you want to be an adversary?”

It’s a good interview. I miss MacLeod on the radio.

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Noticed

I’m getting into Suzanne Rent territory here, but I have to share an ad for a tutoring company looking for not one, or two, but six (six!) multimedia content creator/writers who are willing to work for free.

An ad posted to indeed.ca lays out the responsibilities for these “volunteers”:

  • Creates written and visual content for digital applications, such as: videos, graphics, animations, and photography for social media, websites, blogs, articles, and other marketing materials that will support promotional and content calendar vision.
  • Films and edits product videos
  • Own all areas of video pre-production, production, and post-production
  • Writes engaging copy for videos and social media posts
  • Creates weekly social media photo and video content
  • Works independently to create social media content and accelerate the overall social media growth strategy
  • Researches and gains approval on story materials and topics, to ensure accuracy in final delivery
  • Works collaboratively with the team to ensure consistency in messaging and alignment to overall communications
  • Researching and pitching new story ideas both independently and collaboratively with digital strategists and communications team members
  • Contributes out-of-the-box ideas and translate the brand image into stunning visuals
  • Assists in monitoring social media metrics

(Note: someone tell the tutoring company owners about parallelism in lists.)

Free. Did I mention you are supposed to do this for free?

After six months, you get the opportunity to perhaps be hired in a paid role. But why would the company hire you when they can just go find more people to work for free?

Just what is Curious Minds, you may ask? It’s a tutoring company in Toronto whose “about” page says it was founded by Farida and Tasneem (no last names). Farida writes:

While trotting the globe and having my own children studying in different educational boards, I realized that communicating concepts in a language that THE STUDENT understood was KEY in this noisy world. But we are ALL unique and teaching young minds and making their learning journey successful is a huge responsibility. What is easy for one student may be difficult for another. It’s crucial to understand each student and their obstacles to customize and deliver lessons effectively. So I threw a peace sign ✌️ to my corporate life in the Life Sciences to start my own thing and help students grasp concepts, cultivate curiosity, and create a legacy in this world. Since then I’ve taught students globally in India, Singapore, USA & Canada! Come embark on your learning journey with us!

There are no links to pricing on the website, but if you dig around a bit, you can find it.

You will work for free, but the clients will pay.

The company also has an orphan swag page on their website that they clearly never got around to fully setting up.

Care to buy a product? Maybe a tutoring company bra?

The company doesn’t even bother trying to dress this up as an internship. It’s just straight-up “hey, we are a for-profit company and we want you to work for us for free.”

Look, it’s easy to make fun of these ads and the companies that run them, but asking people to work for free causes real harm. As a freelance writer, I am in a business in which we are constantly undercut by people willing to work for little or nothing.

There are a number of harms here. First, normalizing working for free makes it harder and harder for people trying to get started in their careers to actually make a living. Sure, you’re doing six months for free to get experience, but if it just leads to more free or underpaid work, you’re no farther ahead. Plus, as I said above, there’s no motivation for the company to hire you after six months, when they can just replace you with someone else who will work for free.

At the other end of the spectrum you’ve got people who work for free not because they are desperate for any kind of work or experience, but simply because they can, and they don’t care about money. As a freelance writer, I run into this all the time. I can’t tell you how often I’ve spoken with people willing to write for free for a publication that normally pays, because they don’t personally care about or need the money. Buddy, you are making life worse for the rest of us.

A fine example of this type appears in the SaltWire opinion pages, where retired professional engineer Alan Walter writes of the pleasure he gets — as a volunteer contributor — hearing from readers around the world:

It’s been a while since the Amherst News ceased printing its weekly edition and while that was disappointing to volunteer contributors like myself, there was a silver lining – our writings could be read in the SaltWire Network online edition – and around the world!

I  mean sure, if Alan Walter or anyone else wants to write for free nobody can stop them, but providing free labour to profit-making companies serves nobody but the companies in the long run.

It’s not as though there is no value in this writing. Remember when Arianna Huffington built a media empire on the backs of unpaid bloggers, and then sold it for hundreds of millions of dollars?

I’ve used the phrase for-profit company here. I should note that there are also many well-financed non-profits, and you shouldn’t do free work that ought to be paid for them either.

Work has value. Don’t work for free.

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Government

No meetings this week


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

On the NeverEnding Serial Crisis and the Need to ReThink Scholarly Publishing (Thursday, 6pm) — Philippe Mongeon will talk; lecture will be recorded and posted on Youtube.

Academic libraries around the world have been in an enduring “serial crisis” for now more than three decades. Despite the massive decrease in the costs of publishing brought by technological advances, the rise of the Open Access movement, and the “big deals” negotiated with scholarly publishers, the costs of access to scholarly literature never ceased to increase and the crisis remains unresolved. This talk will provide a quick overview of the evolution of scholarly publishing over the last 30 years and present the results of an ongoing study on the costs of access to scholarly literature in Canadian universities. The talk will also provide a critical perspective on the so-called transformative agreements (some prefer the term “big deal 2.0”) that recently emerged as a solution proposed by scholarly publishers.

Working Alongside AI (Thursday, 6:30pm) — a livestreamed seminar hosted by Shaina Luck

Artificial intelligence and machine-learning systems are presenting new choices in many domains, from healthcare and law through to journalism and advertising. From diets of data, machines produce bodies of knowledge. As this exchange accelerates and becomes more complex, so do the questions. When algorithms make predictions that are beyond human verification, how do we know what results to trust? As we teach machines to discover previously unfathomable answers, do we need to ask better questions? This seminar explores the dimensions of a coming time when pursuing knowledge is an equal partnership between humans and machines.

Friday

AIDS Quarantine in BC: Metaphor or Reality? (Friday, 12:10pm) — Eli Manning will give this Health Law Institute seminar via Zoom.

Mary Bibb Cary: Nineteenth-Century Transnational Teacher, Abolitionist, Publisher, Artist (Friday, 3:30pm) — Afua Cooper will talk. Email here to get the link.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Basics of Open Access (Thursday, 12pm) — an online session with Amy Lorencz, Patricia Langille, and Jennifer Webb:

What does it mean when something is Open Access (OA)? Is it the same or different from a textbook that is an Open Educational Resource (OER)? What about Open Data, Open Pedagogy? Open is an increasing trend in scholarship and academia but not without its concerns and confusions.

In this session, we will help you navigate what it means to be Open, how Creative Commons licenses come into play (and how to understand their symbols), as well as areas that need extra consideration before they are made open.

King’s

Thursday

Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual discussion with professor and author Michael Rothberg.

Friday

Counter Memory Activism Speaker Series (Friday, 7pm) — online discussion with visual artist, editor, community activist, youth advocate, and educator Syrus Marcus Ware.


In the harbour

07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
12:00: BBC Edge, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Freeport, Texas


Footnotes

Please enjoy this photo, shared by hockey writer Dave Stubbs on Twitter, of birthday boy Guy Lapointe (l) and fellow Montreal Canadiens player Yvon Lambert (r) in a 1970s Stanley Cup parade.

Party time in Montreal.

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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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6 Comments

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  1. I’m a little confused. You said there is money to upgrade the emergency department at the Halifax infirmary. The emergency department is at the QE2 health sciences centre

  2. I volunteer for a few non-profit organizations and, because I am a writer, that volunteer work often takes the form of writing. In fact, I would rather volunteer my writing ability instead of my money, of which I have little, or my building construction expertise (ditto). Volunteers give what they can to the causes they espouse. The said organizations could not, would not, hire anyone to do this work. It just wouldn’t get done. That, I believe, is a fine, careful line.

    1. Even so, you should send them a bill; they pay you; you donate the pay back to them; they give you a tax receipt. That way your work gets valued and the non-profit can show it is fiscally responsible.

  3. Philip,

    I took a look at that tutoring ad thinking “well maybe its only a couple hours a week or something!”. Heck now! Eight hours a day, monday to friday! 40 hours a week in other words. That’s appalling on so many levels.

  4. PEI should ask a person to select a group a people to seek views on defunding the police in the hope that money can be diverted to reducing sexual assaults.