1. Today is Prisoners’ Justice Day; here’s what it means to me
A former provincial prisoner writes about what Prisoners’ Justice Day, which is today, August 10, means to them. Prisoners’ Justice Day was started by a group of prisoners who got together on Aug. 10, to remember Ed Nalon, who died in a segregation cell in Millhaven Institution in 1974.
They share a couple of horrifying stories about their own experiences in segregation in Nova Scotia jails. You really need to read them. But they also share what Prisoners’ Justice Day means to them now.
But I’m thinking now that PJD is about trying to stop the next young woman or man from having to go through this shit. So they don’t have to get out of jail and try and block that fucking shit out with drugs and alcohol and by hurting other people and hurting themselves, all just to end up back there again so they can go through more of the same. I think that’s what PJD is about for me now, about being able to say, ”I don’t have to try and forget this happened. I can use what happened to try and help someone else and by doing that I can help myself.”
2. The ABCs and Maybes of school reopening
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free.
Jennifer Henderson takes a closer look at the back-to-school plan for students across Nova Scotia. Parents, teachers, and administrators have a lot of concerns and questions about what back-to-class will mean. Under the Department of Education’s plan, Plan A is a full return to class for students and teachers. Plan B has elementary-age and middle school kids still in school, while those in Grades 10 to 12 will head home to learn, although they could also attend school on alternating days. And Plan C has everyone learning at home, just like this past spring.
But there are still lots of questions, like what happens when a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19? The Halifax Examiner sent the question to the Department of Health and the Department of Education and here’s what Department of Health spokesperson Heather Fairbarn wrote back:
Whenever a case of COVID-19 is identified, public health works to understand the source of the exposure and does contact tracing. Those individuals who have been confirmed are being directed to self-isolate at home, away from school/child care/the public, for 14 days. Any additional steps would be guided by public health based on the situation.
The public health guidance as outlined in the back-to-school plan is designed to manage and contain the introduction of COVID-19 into the schools and reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 within schools by cohorting students together, limiting movements between classes, following other public health measures (i.e. hand hygiene, cough etiquette, environmental cleaning, etc). The specific guidance provided by public health in response to a confirmed case or cases will depend on the situation and based on the actions deemed appropriate to contain and manage the spread.
Henderson also asks about the mixed messaging around masks in schools. Here’s what the province’s back-to-school plan says:
The use of non-medical masks is not generally required within the classroom setting of a school… Students and staff may choose to wear non-medical masks at other times. It is recommended that students bring and wear their own masks. Masks will be provided to those students who do not have one.” (emphasis added).
Henderson asked the Department of Health for more details on masks and older kids and Fairbarn replied with this:
Advice on masking continues to evolve. We are taking advice from paediatricians and psychologists at the IWK and staying abreast of evolving evidence and direction/recommendations from Public Health Agency of Canada. As we have done throughout the pandemic, public health will continue to adjust our guidance based on the evidence and our experience with the virus.
Henderson also gets more details on social distancing in schools and contact tracing.
3. So long, Stephen, we knew you too well
Stephen Kimber writes about the defining characteristic of Premier Stephen McNeil’s career — his “righteously self-righteous confidence in the rightness of whatever he says is right, damn the consequences, dismiss the naysayers, dump on the media.”
Sometimes that self-righteousness was, well, right, including with his call to Stay the Blazes home in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, or in his 2014 public apology to the former residents of the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children who suffered physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. And more recently, for his decision in December to say no to Northern Pulp for another extension to clean up its environmental mess in Boat Harbour.
But that self-righteousness hasn’t always worked, like with the cut in 2015 to the province’s film tax credit, or the attempt the following year to increase premiums to Pharmacare for seniors, his attacks on public sector unions, and finally his rejection of a full, open and transparent public inquiry into the mass shootings in April.
4. Prisoners, acting mostly on their own, are changing the legal landscape of Nova Scotia’s jails
Tim Bousquet reports on Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Kevin Coady’s published decision on two prisoners at the Burnside jail and solitary confinement. Coady says solitary confinement is unfair and he wants the jail administrators to address the situation. If they don’t within 14 days, Coady wants to see the prisoners in court.
Bousquet reports how prisoners are fighting back by filing “habeas corpus” applications with the court. Bousquet has followed prisoners through the process. Writes Bousquet:
But it takes a day or two for the prisoner’s habeas application to make its way from the jail to the court, and then another day or two for the judge to decide to hear it, and then another day or two to actually hear the complaint. By that time, the harsh lockdown conditions have been relaxed, so the judge decides that the issue is moot — that is, since there are no long harsh lockdown conditions, there’s nothing to decide on.
Once that non-decision is rendered, however, the jail often again imposes harsh lockdown conditions, and round-and-round we go, with prisoners complaining, delays in getting those complaints heard, the jail at least temporary relaxing the conditions that led to the complaints in the first place, and the judge deciding the complaint is moot. Repeat. Repeat again.
Bousquet looks at the cases of Dylan Gogan and Dylan Roach, who — without lawyers or legal training — mounted a court challenge against being placed in solitary confinement.
Then there’s Maurice Pratt and his habeas application, which helped case law understanding the court’s role in taking these habeas corpus applications seriously.
And then there was Friday’s decision from Coady on Rae’Heem Downey and Andre Gray’s application.
5. Police were called to a Halifax-area water park the day before it announced it was closing for the summer
On Thursday, Atlantic Splash Adventure in Lucasville announced in a Facebook post it was closing for the season. But as Zane Woodford reports, the police paid a visit to the park the day before that announcement.
The Halifax Examiner contacted the RCMP about the call to the park after a report about a firearm. In an email RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Lisa Croteau confirmed police were there on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
“On August 5 at 1:15 p.m., Halifax District RCMP attended a business on Lucasville Rd. following a report of a firearm on the property. No firearm was located. The investigation is ongoing,” Croteau wrote.
“On August 6 at 6:55 p.m., Halifax District RCMP was contacted by a citizen to assist with keeping the peace among individuals at a business on Lucasville Rd.”
Ina Rivard, who works for the park, told the Examiner she couldn’t comment on the incidents, but did say: “We can however confirm that two senior employees who were critical to the operation of our park are no longer employed by Atlantic Splash Adventure, and as a result we no longer have sufficient staffing to operate the park.”
6. Dartmouth community council approves Portland Street development, next steps for Waverley Road proposal. and Burnside rezoning
Zane Woodford reports on Harbour East Marine Drive Community Council’s approval of a few projects in Dartmouth.
First up was the rezoning in Burnside. The municipality is looking to rezone parts of the Burnside Industrial Park to “protect and support the lands in this area for long-term industrial use.” As Woodford reports, the community council passed a motion to send the proposed land-use bylaw and municipal planning strategy amendments up to regional council for first reading and eventually a public hearing.
Next, a proposal for the corner of Waverley Road and Montebello Drive will head to regional council for consideration.
And finally, community council gave final approval for a three-building 110-unit residential and commercial development on Portland Street proposed by T. Chandler Haliburton, which has to sign within 120 days.
1. When will Nova Scotia finally have a woman premier?
It didn’t take long after Premier Stephen McNeil announced on Thursday that he was stepping down for the speculation to start about who would run for the leadership of the Nova Scotia Liberal party and therefore be our next premier. Michael Gorman at CBC wrote this article in which they said they reached out to a dozen people about the leadership, and two Nova Scotia cabinet ministers and one federal MP confirmed they are considering a run for the job. And guess what? They’re all men. Others who were contacted included Minister of Community Services/MLA for Bedford Kelly Regan, who replied via text saying she hadn’t given any thought to running.
Many said they’d like to see a woman finally serve as premier.
And I wholeheartedly agree.
Nova Scotia is one of four provinces and territories where a woman has yet to serve as premier (New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are the others). The history of women premiers is frustratingly too recent, and all of them led within my lifetime — so the last 50 years. The first woman premier in Canada was Rita Johnson in British Columbia in 1991. There’s only one woman serving as a premier in Canada right now; that’s Caroline Cochrane of the Northwest Territories.
Women still face significant barriers to political office, although there are programs to increase women’s participation in politics at every level.
Over the weekend, I was going through the documents for Campaign School for Women, a program run by the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, for women interested in politics at every level — from volunteering to running for federal office. While the school is occasionally offered in person, the documents are always online (you can read it all here) and they’re a pretty good overview of what women who want to run can expect, including what to consider before running, learning the political landscape, planning your campaign, getting your message out, and knowing your community.
The first section, Deciding to Run, includes a self-assessment exercise in which women are encouraged to assess themselves on strengths and skills such as patience level, impact on personal life, stamina and endurance, leadership, public speaking, political know-how, and stress management. This is a good exercise to go through, but I wondered how many men do the same self-assessment when they consider running for office. My guess is not many.
Women in the campaign school are encouraged to do this self-assessment every couple of years. How many men in office now meet all these strengths and skills? Let’s take a look at some of the questions:
Reporters and constituents may ask you inappropriate questions. You may be asked the same question many times. Can you remain calm when dealing with people whom you find annoying or frustrating?
Can you speak easily and comfortably in front of diverse groups and to the media? Are you articulate? Are you able to communicate potentially complex ideas in a way that everyone can understand? Are you able to handle unanticipated questions effectively?
Can you deal with the highs and lows during your campaign with a fairly even temperament?
Do you have family and friends who can take over your family commitments during the campaign?
And here are some of the questions under a section called Self-Assessment of Leadership Skills:
Do I try to be aware of how others think and feel?
Am I willing to accept responsibility?
Do I accept and appreciate other perspectives and opinions?
Am I willing to try new ideas and new ways of doing things? .
It would be an interesting exercise for constituents to do an assessment of their own and ask how their current male leaders stack up.
Then there’s Equal Voice, which has been working since 2001 to elect women in all levels of government. One of Equal Voice’s programs is Getting to the Gate, an online campaign with tools, a guidebook, and activity book to help women run for office. The first few pages of the guidebook get to the good, the bad, and the ugly of what women running for office need to consider — everything from the financial costs and intrusions on personal life, to negative attention about your appearance, to sexual harassment on the job. Is there an official guidebook for men who want to run for office? I can’t imagine one that has to talk about these issues.
Let’s face it: Many men have a sense of entitlement women don’t. This doesn’t just apply to politics, though; it applies to women looking to get a job or lead in any sector. Women often only apply for jobs they are 100% qualified for while men will apply if they meet 60% of the qualifications listed. Men, particularly white men, will hire other white men just because they’re white men, no self-assessment required.
Ambitious women in any sector know well the barriers they will face. They are the same ones women in politics have to face: lack of childcare and balancing work with responsibilities at home; concerns about intrusions on privacy and personal life; harassment and comments on appearance; being interrupted by men at meetings or pitching their ideas to silence, only to have those ideas then pitched by men who get the applause and credit.
Then there is abuse online and in real life. Twitter is especially toxic to any woman. Twitter users who don’t use their real names or photos dish out harassment and use words I won’t repeat here. I suspect seeing that harassment play out online is one of the first reasons some women decide not to get into politics.
I do see a lot of good women in leadership. At every election at any level I look for the women who are running. We already have many great women in office, but we need to see more. But seeing a woman — or anyone who’s not a white man, for that matter — lead this province as its premier won’t happen organically, just like the childcare that is supposed to happen for families (ie. women), struggling with raising families and working jobs during this pandemic.
Seeing more women in politics and more women as premiers will mean nominating them, electing them, supporting them, and addressing our biases about women in leadership, and the harassment and barriers they face on the campaign trail, online, and elsewhere. Until all of these factors are addressed many qualified women who are deciding if they want to run will simply decide against it.
Over on her blog, Judy Haiven talks about the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which will come to an end later this month. Some of the 8.4 million Canadians receiving CERB will get Employment Insurance (EI) instead. As Haiven points out, that seems like a simple transfer, but it won’t be sufficient for many.
In Nova Scotia, the average family income is $60,000 per year. Because men generally earn more than women, one could assume if a family consisted of two earners (often a man and a woman), that the man could earn $40,000, and the woman $20,000 annually. If CERB were available for a year, each unemployed partner would receive $24,000. For a woman, that could amount to $4,000 more that she would earn “normally.”
Now if those same people must collect EI, aside from the stigma of drawing the benefit, there is the problem of having to live below the poverty line. The EI benefit is only 55% of regular earnings. Don’t forget EI rarely lasts six or nine months, let alone a year.
Like Haiven says, getting CERB was far easier than getting EI will be. Fewer than 40% of unemployed Canadians even qualify for EI (for example, the program often leaves out workers in the gig economy who received CERB).
I had hoped CERB would lead not only to guaranteed basic income, but to a realization of what the Canadian workforce really looks like: too many Canadians patching together a livelihood with gig work or with a couple low-paying part-time jobs, with no benefits and no job security. I guess I was too optimistic.
Special Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm, virtual meeting) — agenda here.
No meetings this week.
In the harbour
04:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
10:00: MOL Mission, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11:30: Ef Ava, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Argentia, Newfoundland
11:30: Atlantic Sail sails for New York
16:30: Maersk Palermo, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
21:00: MOL Mission sails for New York
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