News

1. Halifax’s board of police commissioners is confused

‘Black Lives Matter’ is projected onto Halifax City Hall during a film screening in Grand Parade in June. — Image by Stacey Gomez

Zane Woodford reports on the confusion at Monday’s meeting of the city’s police board. The confusion yesterday was over the rejection of a controversial staff-written motion from the board’s meeting on July 9 and its deferral of debate on a new, similar motion. That motion was to get a full debate, but board chair Natalie Borden and city lawyer Marty Ward said that motion had passed last meeting and they were to move in-camera to discuss who would be on the committee.

But all the other commissioners were confused. Eventually, commissioners Carole McDougall, Lisa Blackburn, Lindell Smith, Tony Mancini, and Carlos Beals all agreed to move on so the process wouldn’t be delayed.

The board also agreed to take a second look at body-worn cameras for the Halifax Regional Police. The board’s next scheduled meeting is on Aug. 17.

I follow Woodford on Twitter and was reading some of his tweets about Monday’s meeting. He’s so on top of this stuff, even if everyone else isn’t.

You can read Woodford’s full story here.

2. Bridgewater looking for man in stabbing of cop

Bridgewater police are looking for a man who stabbed a cop at a hotel in the town last night.

Around 5 a.m., the police tweeted out that the cop was stabbed by the man after responding to a domestic dispute. Steve MacArthur with Halifax Today reports the police said the officer was stabbed in the neck and is in serious condition.

An emergency alert was sent out this morning.

Photo: Matt Dagley

3. Bye big tickets, hello mobile app

A Halifax transit bus at the Sackville Terminal, March 18, 2020. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont
A Halifax transit bus at the Sackville Terminal, March 18, 2020. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

Today, council will be looking at a proposal for a new mobile app for users of Halifax Transit. Carolyn Ray at CBC reports on the proposal, which is getting approval from local transit advocacy group, It’s More Than Buses. The group’s chair, Scott Edgar, says the mobile app could increase ridership by making paying the fares easier and more convenient.

It doesn’t matter if they don’t have change in their pocket. It doesn’t matter if they haven’t managed to pick up tickets in the last week.

As Ray reports, Halifax Transit already changed its mind on those giant tickets it proposed as a way to ease into a mobile system.

A report that looked at four options for fare payment systems does say the mobile option has its disadvantages, including an increase in fares and accessibility because not everyone has a cellphone. Edgar tells Ray other options will still have to be available.

Eventually, it should be possible to move to some kind of smart card, so if somebody doesn’t have a cellphone or a smartphone, they can get a smart card.

4. WE proposal would get a nay from Cleary

Councillor Shawn Cleary at Transportation Standing Committee, February 1, 2018.

Councillor Shawn Cleary says he has “some concerns” about a request by WE charity for $25,000 contribution from the city that was still on the agenda for council’s meeting today, even through the WE Day Atlantic for 2020 has been cancelled. Francis Campbell at The Chronicle Herald reports on the proposal and Cleary’s concerns. Says Cleary:

Given the controversy right now around how the charity is run, a number of complaints around harassment and racial bias, speeches being rewritten for black employees, that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that most people would support.

As Campbell reports, WE Day Atlantic has received funding from two HRM event grant programs, the Marketing Levy Special Events Grant and Regional Special Events, and funds from the general contingency reserve since 2013. The recent proposal of $25,000 is far less than past requests by WE. The charity has applied for past grants of $65,000.

WE charity has been steeped in controversy in recent weeks. Federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion launched an investigation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the government’s decision to have the WE Charity administer a its summer student grant program. Members of Trudeau’s family have spoken at WE Day events.

Last week, I read this article by Rebecca Klassen in the Huffington Post about the problems with the WE charity and its voluntourism programs. Klassen is a former volunteer with WE, who in 2012, spent time in Rajasthan, India, where she and other WE volunteers helped to build a school. Klassen says the volunteers were really just moving bricks around and given other busywork to do. Klassen says the experience fell short of expectations, but says it’s also time to look at the culture, contracts, and conditions of WE.

In my experience, WE does not do enough to show their largely privileged program participants the role that Western countries have played in causing global poverty (ahem, colonialism) and continuing to benefit from it. Following my Me to We trip, I went into my undergraduate degree thinking that I would go forward to help save the world, perpetuating a problematic concept of white saviourism. I had to learn to step back and acknowledge that supporting social change isn’t about centring ourselves in the process.

We have a problem here, and it’s not just with WE. It’s with how our society chooses to selectively view and contribute to local and global issues. If you are turning away from Black Lives Matter, Indigenous sovereignty, poverty and homelessness in Canada, but are paying thousands of dollars to go on an international volunteer trip, the outcomes may be more self-serving than impactful.

I get it because I’ve done it — it’s easier to go on an exotic trip where you do a bit of work, tour around, and then get to upload your pictures to social media. It’s easier to view the problems of others as simpler than our own. But easy isn’t intentional, or impactful, or ethical, or right. Let’s do the harder work to untangle the deeper, systemic issues at play. And unless there are some major organizational changes, we will be doing it without WE.

5. Advocates call for immigration status for all

At the Nova Scotia Advocate, Stacey Gomez, Asaf Rashid, Jessica Tellez and Wanda Thomas write about migrant workers who are susceptible to abuse, fatalities, and illness, including most recently, COVID-19. The feds are expected to announce new policies for migrant workers, but Gomez, Rashid, Tellez, and Thomas ask if those policies will be enough.

In Nova Scotia, approximately 2000 migrant workers arrive each year through Temporary Foreign Worker Programs (TFWPs), including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP), to plant and harvest crops, and to process our agriculture, as well as seafood products.

Abuse of migrant workers is rampant in Nova Scotia and across Canada. The recently released report Unheeded Warnings includes accounts from migrant workers in Nova Scotia about being coerced into speaking positively of their employers during a government inspection under threat of deportation. Other workers report having racist slurs used against them when they spoke out about poor conditions. We’ve also received reports of migrant workers being unlawfully prevented from leaving Nova Scotia farms.

The problem is not just some bad apple employers: since 2009, more than 89 complaints have been made by Mexican migrant workers on Nova Scotian farms, including for wage theft, and inadequate, as well as cramped housing conditions.

Gomez, Rashid, Tellez, and Thomas say these essential workers should get permanent status, which “would ensure that they have the same protections, rights and essential services as all other workers, including access to healthcare, education and the possibility of being united with their families.”


Views

1. Volunteering and paid work: Don’t sell yourself short

Volunteering has a social benefit, but when should volunteer work be paid work?

After I read Rebecca Klassen’s piece on voluntourism and the We charity, I started thinking about the volunteer roles I see posted on job boards like Indeed.com. I’m not sure when volunteer roles became so demanding, asking for degrees, long lists of skills, and significant time commitments. I certainly started noticing it when I was looking for jobs that paid less than a living wage. Volunteers can do what they want with their time, of course, but when I read these postings, I think maybe some of these roles should be paid jobs.

I have nothing against volunteering. I volunteer myself, but I have never applied for a volunteer role through a job site, interviewed for a volunteer role, or been asked to commit to a mandatory set of hours each week. I actually cut back on volunteering because, well, a woman has to eat and pay her bills first.

Charity Village, a career resource for the non-profit sector in Canada, is one of the websites where I find those volunteer roles. To its credit, the website separates volunteer roles from paid work and it’s a very good site to learn who’s who in the non-profit sector. I messaged Amanda Dexter, Charity Village’s territory manager for Eastern Canada. She’s volunteered for grassroots organizations for more than 30 years and worked with Charity Village for more than 15 years. She says she doesn’t see exploitation of volunteers, but added, “there will always be a few bad apples who try to take advantage of people, but they are generally called out pretty quickly (and even viciously on Twitter) and then seem to slink away.” (We have called out these bad apples at the Examiner).

As for the rules organizations have around volunteering, Dexter says:

There are no set ‘rules’ so organizations can ask volunteers for whatever skills they need. Some organizations have always had long lists of requirements for their volunteers (e.g. to be the Treasurer on a Board of Directors, they might want a volunteer with significant financial skills and experience), while others have very little. Some are willing to train people for the opportunities they have available, while others do on-the-spot training. Some have ‘perks’ for volunteering (e.g. volunteering at a community theatre event means you get a free pass to watch the performance), some do not. It’s really a huge variety and depends on the non-profit or charity.

We do have some organizations who choose to pay to have their volunteer opportunity on our job board because it will be seen by a much larger audience. They do this for a variety of reasons and we are always very careful to ensure it is perfectly clear to any job seeker that the position is a volunteer one with no pay whatsoever. This happens very rarely as generally organizations looking for volunteers have very little revenue.

There are no laws in Nova Scotia regarding volunteering. Shannon Kerr, a spokesperson with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education sent me this statement:

The Labour Standards Code does not address volunteer work or internship work. The Code applies to employment relationships. However, if we were to receive a complaint from a worker who was not receiving pay, such as a volunteer or intern, we would assess the nature of the relationship to determine if the worker should be treated as an employee.

I spoke with Jason Edwards, who practices employment law with Pink Larkin in Halifax, about the legal issues around volunteering. Edwards say he does volunteer work, too, and says there’s a balance taking place with volunteer roles and the law.

The law doesn’t want to discourage volunteering because of obvious social benefits of volunteering. But the other side of the balancing act is the purpose of employment standards legislation. The reason we have things like minimum wage and overtime, and all of that, is because there’s a power imbalance between employer and employee, and that legislation is remedial, so it tries to alleviate that power imbalance. For example, you can’t contract out of the minimum wage. I can’t go to an employer and say, “Let’s enter into a contract where you’ll only pay me $5 an hour.” That legislation has to apply to everyone or it will lose its remedial impact. So, that legislation, because it’s remedial, is interpreted in a very broad and purposeful way to remedy that power imbalance of employers and employees. On one hand you have the importance of volunteering and you don’t want to discourage it, but on the other hand you don’t want unscrupulous employers taking advantage of the potential to weasel out of employment standards legislation.

What the volunteer role is really depends on the organization. Non-profits are the biggest users of volunteers, but Edwards says there are limits to what they can ask of their volunteers.

The problem for an employer, if you have a volunteer, you can’t really control their volunteering as much as you can with an employee. The effect on a volunteer of ruining the relationship isn’t quite the same as an employee. If you’re an employee, you’re depending on the relationship to pay your bills. If you’re a volunteer, it’s more fly-by-night and you don’t have the same structural attachment to the employer.

If you’re an organization and you have a volunteer and that volunteer won’t commit, I guess you could just say okay I guess we go our separate ways. It would be hard to see any damage an organization would suffer as a result of a volunteer ceasing to work for them.

Volunteers need to know what they’re going into when offering their time and expertise to an organization. Edwards says that means not selling yourself short.

If you’re doing valuable work … the test in law in the difference between an employee and a volunteer is largely based on what the expectation of the volunteer role. If you think you have a job and you go to the job and the employer says, “No, you’re volunteering,” well I would suggest you shouldn’t stick around and they’re probably trying to take advantage of skills that you have that maybe they should be paying for.

There are a lot of good reasons to volunteer: The experience, the contribution, so the person has to think of that balance and where they fit into that.

In the end, volunteers and organizations both should know their boundaries and expectations.

Organizations that have high expectations of their volunteers should be very clear with their volunteers up front and not blindside anybody who’s coming into a relationship thinking it will operate in a certain way and then surprising them with too heavy expectations, too deep a time commitment, too high expectations in terms of quality of work. But if people do want to volunteer, then they should, and they should take advantage of opportunities that are available, but not sell themselves short.

Always be cognizant that if you’re volunteering and you’re doing the same work as someone who’s an employee, you should always consider that because you could be undermining employees as well.


Noticed

A couple of weeks ago I made a joke that all “Karens” must have those Live, Laugh, Love decorative signs in their homes. After thinking about it, this joke is probably not original, it’s certainly not accurate, and it’s just inappropriate. If you don’t know what a Karen is, it’s a meme about an entitled middle-age white woman who famously likes to speak with managers.

If you’ve worked in hospitality or retail, you know these Karens well. They complain about the food, tip poorly or not at all, and demand exchanges or refunds that go against store policy, even when that policy is clearly stated on a sign, receipt, or website. And yes, they will ask to speak to your manager to get what they want.

While these situations are frustrating and stressful, and these Karens will be your worst customers, they’re also very dangerous to people of colour, particularly Black men. A friend shared with me the Decoder Ring podcast hosted by Willa Paskin from Slate, which looks at the origin of the Karen meme. The Karens have always been with us, although the name has evolved over the years.

Says Paskin:

No wonder why people keep getting murdered by the police. Naming and mocking and meming these women, and very occasional man, may be funny, but it’s not a joke. It’s calling attention to what is still happening and has been happening for centuries. White women weaponizing their privilege and martialling the power of the state to … protect themselves and their preferences from people of color, even though it’s the white women who represent the much more grievous and immediate threat.

Paskin learns the first name used to describe these dangerous white women was Miss Ann. The name was used to describe the mothers, wives, daughters of slave owners who would patrol enslaved Black people to make sure they were working. Little Richard used the name Miss Ann in his song of the same name. There was a similar name for men called Mr. Charlie.

Then there was Becky, from the 1992 song, Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot. Becky was “quintessential white girl” who is racially obtuse and “doesn’t get it.”

But the use of Karen is the most recent. Comedian Dane Cook used the name Karen in a 2005 routine to describe someone in your group no one likes. And then a Reddit user used the name Karen to rant about his ex-wife. Other Reddit users picked up on that, creating the Karen jokes, including those about her notorious haircut, an inverse bob (or reverse mullet), chopped in the back and longer in the front. Think Kate Gosselin of Jon and Kate Plus 8.

One of the many memes mocking the “Karen,” who’s not funny at all. Meme: imgflip.com
One of the many memes mocking the “Karen,” who’s not funny at all. Meme: imgflip.com

There are other names attached to these women. There’s Barbecue Becky, whose real name is Jennifer Schulte. She called the cops on a Black family barbecuing in a park. There’s also Permit Patty, whose real name is Alison Ettel, a white woman who called the cops on a young Black girl for selling water.

But the speak-to-your-manager Karen is not necessarily the racist Karen. It was COVID-19 that helped create this Karen. Think of Amy Cooper, who called the cops on Christopher Cooper who asked her to put her dog on a leash in the ramble in Central Park. Amy Cooper became known as Central Park Karen.

The entire podcast is here and I recommend listening.

In the meantime, I won’t make jokes about Karens and their Live, Laugh, Love signs because it’s no joke at all. Says Paskin:

Having certain names in this country comes with real concrete and punitive consequences far beyond just being made fun of, which is pretty much all that’s happening to Karens right now. And if even that seems painful to some people, that’s kind of the point. The Karen is supposed to hurt because that’s what she does to others as much as we joke about her. The things she does that make her a Karen can be lethal. That’s why Black people have always given this type of woman a code name because they needed to talk about the specific threat she presents to Black life. What’s really different about the Karen is that now white people know this code, too. That’s the change. This episode is really tracing. The carrot has been here all along, but it’s only recently that many white people are beginning to recognize her and to take seriously what it means for black people to encounter her. So instead of trying to shrug her off, to brush her aside, to get past her, instead of focusing on how the term can be misused or trying to pass the blame, or asking why white men aren’t being called out to make sure you’re not being a Karen. And that no one else is either, because that is the only way, whatever name she goes by, we’re ever really going to be rid of her.


Government

City

Tuesday

City Council (10am, virtual meeting) — items on the agenda include new electronic fare boxes for buses and the recommendations about that Cornwallis committee. Tim wrote about this yesterday.

Wednesday

Special Community Design Advisory Committee (11:30am, virtual meeting) — agenda here.

Special Heritage Advisory Committee (3pm, teleconference) — agenda here.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

05:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the Sable Island field
06:00: Maersk Cutter, offshore supply ship, arrives at IEL from the Sable Island field
06:00: Maersk Detector, offshore supply ship, arrives at IEL from the Sable Island field
06:00: Boabarge 34, semi-submersible barge, arrives at IEL from the Sable Island field
06:15: Venture Sea, offshore supply ship, arrives at IEL from the Sable Island field
06:30: Algoma Victory, arrives at National Gypsum from Charleston, South Carolia
09:00: Maersk Cutter sails for sea
13:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, sails from Dockyard for sea
19:00: Maersk Mobiliser moves to Irving Oil


Footnotes

I’m not anti-hand sanitizer, and will gladly use it at a store that requires customers use it before they enter, but some hand sanitizers smell as bad as 2020 feels.

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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19 Comments

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  1. Unfortunately, especially if your real name is Karen, that horse is long gone. You can try to close the barn door, or rename the horse, but it’s out there frolicking around with the cat that got out of the bag.

  2. No funding to We from Halifax. Obviously past it’s Prine if indeed it ever had one.
    There are lots of worthy and credible organizations out there far more worth of support.

    1. WE may have started with the best intentions but it has been distorted into a monstrosity preying on youthful desire to make a positive difference in the world.

      Someone should really dig into the Kielburgers’ financial stake in their “charity”.

  3. I truly despise the whole “Karen“ thing. I know several women with that name that are nothing like the description, it has gotten to the point that I don’t use their first name in public in case it is misunderstood.

  4. I am not going to compare oppressions and I’m fully familiar with the Karen phenomenon. But I agree with many of your comments this morning. Is it really helpful for progressive people to support another negative stereotype, particularly one that is being embraced with such glee by the raging misogynists over at reddit and by MRAs everywhere? Probably not.

    1. I don’t support the stereotype, but I think it’s useful to learn its origins and better understand and call out the behaviour.

      1. Sorry, Suzanne. I should have been more clear. The issue — as most issues are — is complicated and many-sided. I can see that you do not support the stereotype but unfortunately, many progressive people do. I see them on a daily basis, waving around their progressive credentials and happily coming down hard on the latest scapegoat — who, in fact, has little power but makes a handy distraction as she deflects attention away from the real problems.

        It has now, in some circles, reached the point of doubting the danger that some women are living with by dismissing it. “Whatever. She’s probably just another Karen.”

        I’m afraid I’m verging on going on for too long. I’ll just say I’m not satisfied with the Karen-analysis that seems to be current and I’ll leave it there.

  5. Wow, a lot of words & a headline devoted to praising the “Karen” insult. This is disappointing from the Examiner.

      1. I suspect you are not sincerely asking me whether I’m literate, but yes, I read the piece. I generally think long and hard before I comment online here or anywhere, often agonizing over days whether or not the issue is worth opening my mouth about. It seems many Examiner readers took issue with the framing of the “Karen” insult. Would you like to share your thoughts on the piece and add to the discussion?

    1. I’m not sure where I lost some people, but I’m definitely not “praising” the meme. Yes, it’s hurtful to good women named Karen, but more importantly, it undermines the atrocious and dangerous behaviour of some people with any name. It’s not funny at all. This was a look at the origin of the term.

      1. And, specific to the Karen meme, that look includes the misogyny at the root of it – per Wikipedia, a whole subreddit devoted to a user “denigrating his ex-wife Karen who he alleged had taken both his children and, later, his house during divorce proceedings.” It sounds like the original Karen of the memes was a victim of misogyny. That thing that might cause a man to kill his two daughters to cause his ex suffering or to physically assault his spouse before murdering 22 people.

  6. Three dynamic parts in Canadian society’s fabric and strength are – our country’s small and micro business & farm/fish families, The Salvation Army, and Volunteers from 5 – 100 yrs. old.
    In 1914 my grampa volunteered to serve in the Canadian Army, and once in uniform he became a paid recruit.
    That’s another meaning for the word volunteer.

  7. I agree the Karen meme is unfunny. “And then a Reddit user used the name Karen to rant about his ex-wife. Other Reddit users picked up on that, creating the Karen jokes …” sounds like it started with misogyny.

  8. Enjoy watching the ship movements. Why would all (4) offshore supply ships and a semi-submersible barge, have come into port the same day. Storm at sea forecast??

    1. They’re decommissioning the platform, and capping the well site. Ships have been going back and forth for the past couple of weeks; it’s a huge operation.

  9. Speaking of Karen, you might want to truly consider the real life consequences of denigrating a name. It’s not an uncommon name and so an awful lot of women are being hurt by this. You try to justify this by saying that now they know what it’s like to be called names. But it doesn’t have any effect on the people who aren’t called Karen so it seems rathe pointless and needlessly hurtful. What about the “good old days” when you could just say someone was a WASP or a similar anagram which didn’t single out any individuals and actually was descriptive of the group being criticized?
    And why the media didn’t universally call the Islamic group ISIL instead of ISIS (another female name) beats me.

  10. A reasonably competent journalist would have used the past week to determine the source of the mysterious motion now being discussed at the BOPC.
    Other reasonably competent journalists would be asking Mayor Savage and Premier McNeil for an opinion regarding the defunding of police in HRM.
    Do we want to go back to 2016 when there were 12 murders https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/halifax-homicide-murder-crime-victims-deaths-police-2016-1.3552342#:~:text=Nova%20Scotia-,Halifax%20homicides%20in%202016%3A%20Remembering%20the%20victims,of%20one%20week%20in%20April.

    1. Cops don’t stop murders from happening, and when they investigate you get Dead Wrong. A civilian investigator could do it, and do it better.