Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact news@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Keep showing up for Black Lives Matter with more events

An anti-racism rally tonight in Spryfield and public resistance event tomorrow at the Public Gardens.

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 3:20 PM

Signs at the June 2 Halifax protest for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has four officers charged with murder. - VICTORIA WALTON
  • Signs at the June 2 Halifax protest for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has four officers charged with murder.
  • Victoria Walton
Tonight, June 17, there will be an anti-racism rally at the Captain William Spry Community Centre (16 Sussex Street), beginning at 7pm. "This rally is in support of the global Anti-Racism and Black Lives Matter movement happening around our globe, while highlighting the impact of individual and systemic racism that has happened, and continues to happen, right here in Halifax," a press release offers.

Tomorrow, June 18, from 7-10:30pm, Black Power Hour presents a walking tour, demonstration and film night. Beginning at the Public Gardens (5665 Spring Garden Road), event organizers will deliver a colonial tour of downtown, before gathering at City Hall, where a screening of the documentary It Takes A Riot will be shown.

At both events you should remember rules of social distancing and wear a mask.
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Thursday, June 4, 2020

See you at the vigil

Because Black lives matter, let's gather at Grand Parade on June 5 at 5pm.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 4, 2020 at 5:08 PM

Signs at the June 2 Halifax protest for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has four officers charged with murder. - VICTORIA WALTON
  • Signs at the June 2 Halifax protest for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has four officers charged with murder.
  • Victoria Walton
We're all wondering what to do right now. Wondering what to say. (Remember that really, for non-Black folk, right now should be about listening.) Wondering how to be better.

A good place to start? Educate yourself. Give money if you can. And show up, as often as possible, for those more marginalized. Here's three ways to do that:
1Make a plan to go to the Halifax #BlackLivesMatter vigil, happening June 5 at Grand Parade from 5-7pm. Remember to wear a face mask and keep social distance, and check out the Facebook event for more info.

2 Register to be part of EVERYSEEKER Festival's anti-oppression workshop. Held online on Wednesday, June 10 at 1pm, the workshop will help you learn how to be a better ally. Fill out your application form through EVERYSEEKER's website.

3 Watch the forum on anti-Black racism, Speak Truth To Power, on June 5 from 6-7:30pm. Held via Zoom and put on by Dalhousie University's Human Rights & Equity Services and the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus, you can tune in here.
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Monday, May 25, 2020

The class of 2020 feels quite blah, to be honest

Sheltering in space instead of celebrating convocation means finishing a degree looks a lot different.

Posted By on Mon, May 25, 2020 at 6:47 PM

TIM MOSSHOLDER PHOTO
  • Tim Mossholder photo
May in Halifax usually means a few things: The leaves come back in Point Pleasant Park after a long winter away; The Public Gardens become a living Monet painting stuffed with blooms; Halifax's student population shifts and jolts towards new beginnings as degrees wrap up and graduations draw near.

While the ending of one chapter always leaves a feeling of uncertainty, few other grads have ever had to wonder what's next the way the class of 2020 will. On the week that would've been convocation for many, we caught up with five new grads to ask how it feels.

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Ann Lin celebrated the end of her Dental Hygiene program by throwing a zoom party with her classmates. She should’ve had a convocation to attend on May 21 instead, but since COVID-19 caused campuses to shutter, an online party would have to do. “It’s definitely connected me more with my classmates,” Lin says of learning and graduating during a pandemic. “It’s been a lot of FaceTime meetings, zoom calls, late-night calls and texts, tagging each other in pictures.”

It feels like it won’t be until 2021 that Lin will be able to hit the workforce and job hunt in earnest. “There are a lot of feelings—I think I went through a rollercoaster there for awhile,” she says. “You just take it one day at a time but you have these moments where you're like ‘was this the right choice going into this program? is there job security once this is over?’ A lot of regret and also a bittersweet end to two years of work.”

It doesn’t feel real. It doesn’t feel over. But it is: “I went to campus yesterday to clean out my locker, which was just the saddest thing.”

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Catie Mace had big plans for the best season: “I was dreaming of this amazing, last university summer before I start my real life and now I feel like I don’t have that transition,” the Bachelor of Social Work grad explains. “I’ve moved back in with my parents. I lost one of my jobs with COVID. It’s a little painful at times because I definitely went through the past four years, I had this idea set in my mind and now that it’s all changed it feels a little anti-climatic,” she says. “I was working three jobs and going to school this year so I could have this nice relaxing summer—and I’m certainly relaxed during quarantine, but not the way I wanted to.”

(Yes, she knows others have it worse, adding: “Sometimes I’m sad and upset that I didn’t get to have the thing I was working for but then I’m also thinking about the broader scope of what’s happening in the world right now and there’s a lot of people who have lost a lot more than an epic summer or a graduation day.”)

With a summer job on pause and her plans for school in the fall feeling less certain, Mace sums it up: “My school is having this online convocation, but I don’t even think the majority of the people in my class are going to participate in it—because it’s not the same, you know? For me personally, I’m not going to get the same feeling of watching this online thing as with my actual convocation and walking across that stage,” she explains. “It’s just—I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s just not it, it’s not what I was looking for. I wasn’t dreaming this whole four years of having a 30-minute zoom call with the Dal chancellor.”

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“When I graduated from Saint Mary’s in 2013, the economy was really bad for teaching—it seemed like a waste of money so I didn’t go into it,” starts Julie Cameron, who’s just graduating from her Bachelor of Education degree this month. “I worked a number of other jobs; I worked in the banking industry for a number of years, and it finally started to turn around in 2017-2018 and I was like OK, now’s a good time to go into teaching. So, I decided to go back to school,” she says before calling it “a big decision,” as her household’s income structure would have to change while she became a full-time student.

Now, of course, Cameron’s dreams are on pause again—because as she reminds us, school in September is still being discussed and “You can’t get a subbing job right now because they don’t need substitutes and everything’s online.”

“This year was the year I’d been waiting for, 2020 was. All the sacrifices of the last three or four years, this year was the reward from all that hard work,” she adds. “A lot of people have lost a lot of things this year. I just spent $18,000 on a degree that I hope still has a career in September—but it’s gonna be impossible to say until they tell us.”

“The Mount has offered to do a grad in the Fall if gatherings are even allowed by then but it just feels irrelevant,” Cameron says. “Like, I was supposed to graduate a week ago today and it already feels irrelevant. It’s over, it’s done—it feels like a moment in time you just never get back.”

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“It’s very different than I saw April and May to look like back in February,” says Shana Graves, who moved into a new, more central apartment in May as her Bachelor of Education wrapped up and she began prepping to substitute teach more. Graves made the jump to study education after thinking of how her time teaching in Japan in the 2010s made her feel.

She’s nervous about finances, about what opportunities her new career might have left.

But she’s staying positive: “I’ve been using this time to think about and make steps towards the type of person I want to be in The After, whereas when you’re working and worrying about school and whatever you’re worrying about in The Before, you just don’t have time to work on yourself and grow,” she explains. “So that’s been a big thing for me: Just making myself a better person.”

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Katie Billard, like all of us, doesn’t quite know how to explain how it feels to live through COVID-19. “I would just say weird—it’s the first thing I can think of,” the Bachelor of Arts student says. “We are connected and even if something is going on somewhere else, we all need to work together—and this virus has kind of taught us that.”

Finishing her honours thesis this spring, Billard planned to go on to take her Master’s this fall in Montreal or Ottawa—plans she’s shelved for a year: “I’m going to wait to next fall because both those places, Ottawa and Montreal, have been really hit by the pandemic and I want to give them time to recover.”

“With graduating at this time, it feels kind of odd because I was expecting more celebration—all the events that were planned, and now it kind of is like ‘maybe I did finish, maybe I didn’t, maybe I’m on summer vacation’,” she continues.

Hours before her phone call with The Coast, Billard watched her live, virtual grad. “The virtual graduation had all the names of those of us graduating and it felt like ‘yes! now I finally feel like I’m graduating’,” she says—making up for the flat feeling of just picking up your parchment across the street. “They let them scroll up the screen like Star Wars, it as exciting waiting for your name to go up—it did make it feel a little more better about graduating. I knew my family was watching at home and my friends were watching and that everyone was gonna see my name scroll across that screen at the same time,” Billard adds. “At least everyone got to see my name who knows me; just like if they got to see me walk across that stage.”

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coronavirus on the east coast

Graphing the spread of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in Atlantic Canada.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 11:43 AM

The first confirmed case arrived on the east coast March 11, in New Brunswick. Three days later it was found in PEI. And on the fourth day, COVID-19 was in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. This Coast chart shows how the disease is spreading throughout every Atlantic Canadian province; it will be regularly updated with the numbers each province reports.

With social distancing measures put in last week and tightened earlier this week, we won't be able to see any flattening of the curve until a week or two from now. Most diagnosed and confirmed cases on this chart caught the SARS-CoV-2 virus before social distancing and self-isolation went into full force.

As of today, one percent of the population of Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan have confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses, putting them ahead of Ontario—even though it has the highest number of cases with 489. 

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Nova Scotia government says COVID-19 is inevitable, urges people to "do their part"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 13, 2020 at 4:15 PM

Chief medical officer Robert Strang gave an update on Nova Scotia's response to COVID-19. - THE COAST
  • Chief medical officer Robert Strang gave an update on Nova Scotia's response to COVID-19.
  • THE COAST
A
t a press conference in Halifax today Premier Stephen McNeil and chief medical officer Robert Strang gave an update on Nova Scotia's response to COVID-19.

There are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus yet in Nova Scotia, but Strang said its arrival in the province is "inevitable."

McNeil announced that all public sector employees who travel outside of Canada will be required to self-isolate for 14 days afterwards (with pay), urging those heading out on March break vacations to take precautions.

Schools are not being closed—but children and youth who go away on March break must self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Canada before going to school or daycare.

The province also recommends that gatherings of more than 150 people are cancelled or postponed. This includes large assemblies or gatherings in schools. (One of the arguments for not closing schools—some of which have thousands of students—is that extending March break until later in the month or April doesn't ensure that students aren't travelling internationally within 14 days of returning to school.)

"It is all [sic.] incumbent on all of us to be responsible for others," said McNeil, explaining that precautions being taken now are an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 and manage the burden on health care systems and providers. These precautions are also important to ensure the safety of vulnerable populations (such as those who are elderly or immunocompromised—like people undergoing chemotherapy or living with immunocompromising conditions).

"It is irresponsible," said McNeil, "for any of us, if we've gone to a place where this virus has been, and come home and not isolated ourselves to protect our fellow citizens."

The number of phone lines at 811 has been doubled this week to keep up with demand. The province is urging anyone feeling sick to call 811 before heading to a health care facility—and now urging Nova Scotians to check the 811 checklist first, before calling 811. 

Concerns were raised about the spread of misinformation around the virus and Nova Scotians are urged to check official sources and media (like The Coast) to stay up-t0-date on information—especially considering that things are changing by the day. 

As of this morning, 226 tests have been completed and come back negative in NS—which have to be sent off for national testing before being officially declared. 

Strang warned that there's a possibility there may be more specific direction from the province in the coming weeks around travel, quarantine and protocols. Travel within Canada has not been restricted, but that could change if the virus spreads. 

This week, the World Health Organization officially called the spread a pandemic (a disease is an epidemic when it spreads over a wide area and many individuals are taken ill at the same time. If the spread escalates further, an epidemic can become a pandemic, affecting an even wider geographical area and a significant portion of the population becomes affected.)

Come back here or check with NS public health for the latest reliable updates. In the meantime, wash your hands, cover your cough, wipe commonly used surfaces and stay home if you feel sick.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Over 500 people march in solidarity with Wet’suwet'en in Halifax

Photos and video from the rally in downtown Halifax.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 5:45 PM

Over 500 came out to rally and round dance in Halifax on Sunday in support of Indigenous hereditary chiefs in Wet'suwet'en First Nation. - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • Over 500 came out to rally and round dance in Halifax on Sunday in support of Indigenous hereditary chiefs in Wet'suwet'en First Nation.
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson

The energy was palpable as hundreds of people gathered at Cornwallis Park in Halifax on Sunday to listen to community leaders speak about the importance of Indigenous sovereignty and voice their support for the Wet’suwet'en nation.

Wet’suwet'en hereditary chiefs have been opposing a pipeline project that would cut through their traditional territory in British Columbia. 

In early February, RCMP moved in to enforce a court order against opponents blocking the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. 

In response, solidarity actions sprung up across the country, including several railway blockades, demonstrations, and this gathering in Halifax, several thousands of kilometres from the centre of the conflict. 

“There is only one path out of this struggle and that is stopping CGL pipeline, and removing the RCMP from the Wet’suwet’en territory,” said event emcee Darius Mirshahi as the crowd erupted in cheers.

"It is beautiful to see people rising up across Turtle Island right now in defence of the Wet'suwet'en nation, in defence of the Unist'ot'en hereditary chiefs that have been saying no for the last decade,” he said. 

"There is only one path out of this struggle and that is stopping CGL pipeline, and removing the RCMP from the Wet’suwet’en territory" said Darius Mirshahi. - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • "There is only one path out of this struggle and that is stopping CGL pipeline, and removing the RCMP from the Wet’suwet’en territory" said Darius Mirshahi.
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson

Speaker Sakura Saunders highlighted that Mi’kma’ki and Wet’suwet'en have something important in common: both territories are unceded and unconquered. 

"We know that the future is Indigenous sovereignty, is environmental justice," she said, "We need to disrupt business as usual. We need to disrupt the way things are operating because it is putting us on a crash course to climate catastrophe.”

"We know that the future is Indigenous sovereignty, is environmental justice," said Sakura Saunders. - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • "We know that the future is Indigenous sovereignty, is environmental justice," said Sakura Saunders.
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson

The crowd chanted “Consent means the right to say no,” and  “We support the Wet’suwet’en Nation, this is not reconciliation,” as they marched down Barrington Street and up Spring Garden Road. 

At the intersection of Spring Garden and South Park, the group concluded the day with a large round dance to the rhythm of drums while onlookers watched from the sidelines. 

The crowds held hands, danced and sang in a circle at the intersection of Spring Garden Road and South Part Street. 

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Friday, February 21, 2020

Group marches to the legislature to protest proposed sale of Owls Head

Covert delisting of the land from park protection rallies community members.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 21, 2020 at 9:44 AM

“We’re taking the government to task," Chris Trider told the Owls Head rally, "because this is our property, this is our environment, this our legacy for our children. And it’s not theirs to sell!” - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • “We’re taking the government to task," Chris Trider told the Owls Head rally, "because this is our property, this is our environment, this our legacy for our children. And it’s not theirs to sell!”
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson
A determined group of Nova Scotians gathered yesterday at Grand Parade Square to protest the sale of Owls Head, a planned provincial park that was recently de-listed by the provincial government. Despite cold temperatures, approximately 120 people were in attendance, wearing hats and mittens, chanting “Stop the sale, save Owls Head.”

Owls Head is a property on the Eastern Shore, near Ship Harbour, that was included in the government's Our Parks and Protected Areas Plan in 2013 and known to locals for decades as “Owls Head Provincial Park.”
Owls Head parkland is about an 80-kilometre drive east from Halifax.
  • Owls Head parkland is about an 80-kilometre drive east from Halifax.

Unknown to the public, the provincial government agreed to sell the land to a private developer with plans to build three golf courses on the property. It was only after CBC broke the story a few weeks ago, on December 18, that citizens became aware of what was happening. And they became angry.

“The government wasn’t going to tell us,” said Chris Trider, one of the main organizers of yesterday's rally, addressing the crowd. “They were doing it in secret. No denials. No apologies. No remorse.” Trider is a former provincial park planner, and he said this is the worst he’s ever seen when it comes to secrecy and deceit within the government. He says he just couldn’t sit by and watch.

“We’re taking the government to task,” he told the crowd, “because this is our property, this is our environment, this our legacy for our children. And it’s not theirs to sell!”

Owls Head protest, February 20 2020. - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • Owls Head protest, February 20 2020.
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson
Although many protesters are opposed to the idea of golf courses replacing an ecologically sensitive and unique area, the anger is mostly directed at the “government that conducts business in secrecy, and that makes vital land decisions without consultation,” said Pam Baker, a resident of the area near Owls Head, who also spoke at the gathering.

Baker said that not much has changed on the Eastern Shore in the last 30 years, and that jobs are needed. “Development would be welcome. But none of it should come at the expense of a rare ecosystem,” she said. “And with apologies to Joni Mitchell, let’s not pave paradise and put up a parking lot,” she added, to cheers from the crowd.

This week the developer published a letter via his lawyer that his plans for the golf course are on hold, CBC reported. Though Chris Trider said he thinks it doesn’t really change much, and that “on hold” could mean anything.

Giving a hoot about Owls Head. - MIRA DIETZ CHIASSON
  • Giving a hoot about Owls Head.
  • Mira Dietz Chiasson
Trider also pointed out Owls Head is one of 197 other properties in the province that have the same status—“Provincial Park Reserve”—awaiting legal designation, and that if the sale of Owls Head were to proceed, it would set a dangerous precedent for those other properties. “Protected should mean protected,” he said.

The group marched from Grand Parade to the legislature building, where provincial opposition leaders and local community leaders took to the microphone to share their concern or voice their support. Green Party Leader Thomas Trappenberg assured the protesters, “we will get Owls Head back.”

NDP party leader Gary Burrill said his party would be introducing legislation that would make it illegal to de-list a provincial park behind closed doors in the future. “We’re going to call this legislation...the Owls Head Act,” he said. PC Leader Tim Houston said he hasn’t seen the proposed legislation yet but his party would have a look at it, and that his party would continue to listen to the concerns voiced by citizens.
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Friday, February 14, 2020

HRM's budget committee settles on tax rate and extra spending for 2020/21

Funding for splash pads, more books and menstural products en route in Halifax.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2020 at 5:11 PM

Laughin' straight to the bank. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha) - JESS REDLARSKI
  • Laughin' straight to the bank. (Ha ha ha ha ha ha)
  • Jess Redlarski
Halifax Regional Council's budget committee settled on a tax rate and some extra spending for the 2020/21 year this week. The way the budget process unfolds in Halifax is set up to increase clarity and create more space for filtering out wants versus needs. The result, if given final approval from council, will be a 1.4 percent increase in the average tax bill—about $27 for the average household per year.

After a good 30 minutes of pontification about fiscal responsibility at Wednesday's meeting, the committee got around to green-lighting almost every single item on the parking lot (the name for the holding space where wants from different departments are pushed after council approves their initial budgeted needs).

At the beginning of this year's budget process back in November, the committee heard that capital spending would outstrip funding to keep things as they are, so staff recommended that the municipality take on more debt than normal ($13 million) to cover the costs. Thanks in part to a projected $16 million in surplus money and another $4.5 million extra from property value assessments, budget committee was able to cancel the plan to take on debt and say yes to almost all of the $9.2 million parking lot still be in the black.

Some of the parking lot items approved were:
$500,000 for splash pads around HRM.
$300,000 for extra staff in the clerk's office and for the legal team.
$50,000 for Halifax Public Libraries programming to prevent social isolation through food programming. (Last year, the committee said no t0 the $50,000 in the parking lot for after school snacks provided at Halifax Public Libraries.)
$34,000 for overnight winter parking ban enforcement. (The committee also voted to increase municipal parking tickets from $25 to $35 which is projected to bring in an extra $175,000 in the year.)
$50,000 for increases to municipal lifeguard's salaries.
$150,000 for Halifax Regional Police (Police Chief Dan Kinsella said at the meeting that it'd likely go towards new staff positions).
$125,000 for The Bus Stop Theatre (which will be funded from a reserve account).
$225,000 for increasing the collection at Halifax Public Libraries. (Did you know if you have a library card you can request any book in the whole entire world for the library to add to its collection? This money will go towards those requests—and increasing the number of copies of books to decrease wait times, which are currently about 65 weeks.)

But not everything in the parking lot was funded in full. The budget committee approved only $100,000 for the accessible taxi grant program. Staff say the full-blown program will cost around $500,000 but since HRM  has to wait on a provincial exemption to get things rolling, it's not likely all the money would be used in the 2020/21 year. (Right now there are only 11 accessible taxis on the road in Halifax.)

In a win for period poverty, Councillor Lorelei Nicoll's initiative for menstrual products in all HRM facilities was approved—but not on the parking lot list. Apparently there's enough money in the corporate and customer services budget for the program, which also means it's being rolled into regular operations and likely won't have to be debated in the parking lot in future years.

The $2 million for upgrades to the Keshen Goodman Public Library was also in the parking lot but ended up being funded from the capital reserve fund (earmarked for big infrastructure upgrades or builds on things like libraries—it's the same fund that the $20 million for a stadium will come from if it can find a place to call home.)

Staff will now go and draft an official budget, which will be voted on by Regional Council in March. 
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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Get yourself a lover with The Coast's Valentine's Day card

Print forever.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 4:00 PM

bemyvaleninue.png

Love is hard. Dating apps are harder. Take it easy with a classic paper Valentine.

Click on the download icon at the top left corner of the PDF below. Then open the file and click print. Fold on the marks in half and half again. Then go out into the world with love and optimism in your eyes. The rest is history. 
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Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Child soldiers Omar Khadr and Ishmeal Beah speak at Dalhousie

Dalhousie's Institute for Child Soldiers marks 10 year anniversary with talk on child soldiers and modern war.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2020 at 6:09 PM

THE ROMÉO DALLAIRE CHILD SOLDIERS INITIATIVE
  • The Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative

It was a dark and stormy night in Halifax, which meant the event hosted by Dalhousie's Roméo Dallaire Child Soldier Initiative was delayed, as its namesake founder was stuck on the tarmac at Stanfield airport.

On Monday, hundreds of Haligonians of all ages gathered at the Rebecca Cohn auditorium for Children’s Rights Upfront: Preventing the Recruitment and Use of Children in Violence.

The event, a conversation between child soldiers Omar Khadr and Ishmael Beah, was lined up in advance of February 12 the International day against the use of child soldiers.

Security was tight, which meant there was a long wait to get inside from the rain— giving ample opportunity for the attendees to be heckled by a vocal veteran. The medals on his jacket indicated he’d been to Afghanistan, maybe more than once.

“I thought this was the city that named a ferry after Chris Stannix?” he shouted. It is—in 2014, after public voting the city named the Woodside ferry after the soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2007.

The interesting parts of the conversation at Dalhousie centred around the difference between Omar Khadr and Ishmael Beah, in how the two men are treated. As a child soldier coming out of Africa, it was easy for Beah to earn sympathy. Years of Sarah McLachlan-scored commercials conditioned Canadians to feel sympathy for child soldiers in his part of the world. Khadr's reception by Canadians has been decidedly different, a point which Beah himself made.

“If Omar Khadr was your child, would you feel differently?” asked Beah. “I don’t want your sympathy if it’s selective.”

One of the issues facing Khadr is that he was brainwashed as a child into fighting for al-Qaeda. The veteran outside the event believed that his colleagues have been abandoned by the federal government, with many of their ranks homeless, struggling to access benefits and ending their suffering by their own hand.

Khadr, goes the argument, is undeserving of the $10.5 million settlement he received for the violation of his rights as a citizen after 10 years of imprisonment in Guantanamo Bay. And the human-rights argument for giving him a payout doesn't wash with veterans who have lost friends to al-Qaeda or government neglect.

Of this resentment, Khadr said: “It’s hard to forgive when people think you hurt them directly," adding “My critics are human. They are in pain and need help.” When asked what he would say to the veteran outside, he said “I wouldn’t say anything...it’s a free country.”

Beah spoke of how recovering from his time at war took years. He says it’s unrealistic to think that a single conversation will change anyone’s point of view, but it starts the process. “I’m really proud of what happened tonight,” said Beah after the event. “Otherwise we’re just polarized. Everybody just clings to their version of the story and nobody can contest it.”

For the veteran in front of the Cohn, perhaps shouting into the wind was part of a healing process. Maybe it’s an expression of anger that of the two men, only one is seen to have been adequately compensated by the government for being a Canadian who suffered through war.

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Friday, January 17, 2020

Halifax Regional Police review suggests reorganization, more civilian input

Halifax Regional Council passed almost all recommendations from a recent review to improve the organization.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 17, 2020 at 6:40 AM

Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella says a new support division might lend a hand to traffic enforcement. - THE COAST
  • Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella says a new support division might lend a hand to traffic enforcement.
  • The Coast

It’s time for a little re-organizing at Halifax Police Headquarters now that regional council has approved a slew of recommendations designed to amp up the “effectiveness and efficiencies” of policing in HRM, including new roles for civilians.


In November 2019, Vancouver-based Perivale and Taylor Consulting prepared a $195,000 report on the internal workings of Halifax’s policing, resulting in 29 recommendations to help streamline the organization.


The report itself, including the justifications for those nearly 30 suggestions, won’t be made available to the public. Staff told council there was a significant amount of “sensitive information” in the report, and even a redacted version would be too “heavily redacted” to be worth releasing.


Still, council approved all but three of the recommendations, noting that the consultants made some suggestions that wouldn’t be feasible under HRM’s unique joint-policing model—which shares policing responsibility between the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) and the RCMP.


Police Chief Dan Kinsella told council he’s been working on reviewing and reshaping the organization since being hired in July, though this external process was initiated at council in April 2018. 


“I've taken that time trying to learn the organization see how and where we're deploying and ensuring that we put our members in the appropriate positions, making sure that we have appropriate lines of command, oversight accountability and risk management mechanisms in place,” Kinsella told reporters on Tuesday.


Kinsella said some of the suggested changes are already underway in upper management: the HRP is currently transitioning from one deputy chief to two (though neither have been hired just yet)—one to oversee an administrative branch and the other to oversee an operational branch.


“The organizational chart really balances out the workload across the organization and allows for that better accountability,” Kinsella said.


Part of the new organizational flow is the addition of a support division, intended to provide support to the patrol division and “anywhere else in the organization that's required,” Kinsella said.


He noted that one place the support division might lend a hand with is traffic enforcement, an area many councillors noted was a high priority for their constituents.


Speaking of constituent priorities, the HRP is now planning to conduct a regular, HRM-wide survey to collect information on community priorities and service expectations. The ball is already tentatively rolling on this, staff said, and the aim is to have the first survey ready by the spring.


Amid these suggestions and discussion, there was no mention of the recent report on street checks conducted by Halifax Regional Police, which found that Black people in Halifax were six times more likely to be stopped by police than their representation in the population would suggest. 


The report also recommended the ‘civilianization’ of nine HRP positions, though there’s some lingering mystery as to what that process could look like: The report outlines nine specific roles to be shifted from sworn officers to civilian employees, but HRP can’t say exactly which roles they are.


What HRP have said so far is that they’ve hired their first civilians in the forensic identification section and IT and are looking to civilianize the evaluation of electronic evidence.


“We have to look at the impact on the organization, number one as it relates to public safety, number two there is collective agreement issues that we have to look at,” Kinsella said. “We also have to look at making sure that we have the right people in the right positions with the appropriate skills.”


There’s no official timeline on these shifts, or any indication that an official timeline is to come, but Kinsella said his team is committed to reporting to council through the Board of Police Commissioner as changes come into play.


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Friday, December 20, 2019

Ahead of premier's decision on Boat Harbour, Unifor members rallied for jobs

Upholding the Boat Harbour Act means Northern Pulp will run out of time—and have to shut down.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 5:21 PM

Forestry workers came to the Province House to push Premier McNeil to extend the 2015 Boat Harbour Act. - MALLORY BURNSIDE HOLMES
  • Forestry workers came to the Province House to push Premier McNeil to extend the 2015 Boat Harbour Act.
  • Mallory Burnside Holmes



Hundreds of Unifor protestors gathered outside of the Halifax Legislature Building on Thursday, rallying for an extension for the closure of the Northern Pulp mill from Premier Stephen McNeil.


Premier McNeil announced Friday that there would be no extension, and the Boat Harbour Act—which called for the closure of the effluent treatment facility that poured toxic waste into Boat Harbour—would move forward as legislated. 


Scott Doherty, Executive Assistant to the President of Unifor, began speeches by saying, “Our message today to the Premier is to extend the Boat Harbour Act and save at least 11,000 jobs.”

There are over 300 employees at at Northern Pulp. The other jobs Doherty is including consider a spinoff of the decision–the loss of truck driving and transport jobs, among others. 


The messages of the six speakers centered strongly around three primary arguments: That the initial construction of Boat Harbor was unethical, that the Boat Harbour pulp mill should be closed, and that it should be closed in a manner that maintains forestry jobs according to a realistic timeline.


Surrounded by protestors holding signs bearing “Houston, We Have a Problem” and “Nova Scotia Needs Forestry,” Unifor’s Atlantic Regional Director, Linda MacNeil, addressed her statement directly to Premier McNeil.


“Do not make another mistake," said MacNeil, "We can support good jobs, protect the environment, and respect First Nations. And that, Mr. Premier, is what we need to do."


Sawmills across the province ceased work today in solidarity with Unifor workers. Richard Freeman, a part-owner of Freeman Lumber c. 1832, stated in his speech, “I see a lot of signs around that say ‘Houston, We Have a Problem,’ but who is at mission control, folks? Nobody is at mission control.”


This week, all parties were anxiously awaiting a decision from the Premier. These parties include Northern Pulp, the fisheries industry, Mi’kmaq communities, and Friends of Northumblerand Strait that have been involved in this contentious saga for decades. 


Friends of the Northumberland Strait are gathering Friday in Pictou, calling for promise to the community with the Boat Harbour Act to be honoured, urging Premier McNeil to respect the initial January 31st closure date.



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Nova Scotia will uphold its promise to Boat Harbour

Northern Pulp mill sure to close because it can't dump waste as of January 31

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 5:20 PM

Boat Harbour
  • Boat Harbour

Premier Stephen McNeil will enforce the Boat Harbour Act, which says as of January 31, 2020 the waters of Boat Harbour can no longer be used as a place to dump waste effluent. By standing behind the 2015 law, McNeil keeps his promise to the Mi’kmaq people of Pictou Landing First Nation and seals the fate of the Northern Pulp mill, the heart of Nova Scotia’s forestry industry.

The premier’s decision has been hotly anticipated for three days, during which time he said he was putting together a $50 million plan to bail out the workers who will be affected when the Abercrombie, NS mill closes—now an inevitability.

McNeil’s environment minister, Gordon Wilson, announced Tuesday the mill could not start building a new effluent treatment facility and pipeline into the Northumberland Strait, because its proposal for a replacement to Boat Harbour hadn’t met the province’s standards for environmental protection.

For the mill to keep operating, the premier would have had to extend the legislated closure date for the mill’s current effluent treatment facility.

For more than five decades, the mill has emptied industrial wastewater into Boat Harbour, a former tidal estuary that is now a polluted lagoon. The people of Pictou Landing First Nation—whose land is adjacent to, and used to encompass Boat Harbour—have long decried the mill’s use of the lagoon and have been counting down the days until its closure.

Previous governments have promised to close Boat Harbour but none have followed through, which McNeil said factored into his decision.

But he had to weigh his commitment to Pictou Landing against the economic fall-out of losing the mill. Mill executives have said Northern Pulp supports 2,700 full-time jobs, including woodlot owners who sent the bulk of their chips to the mill, and truckers who transport the materials around and out of the province.

To ease the transition away from Northern Pulp, McNeil said his government will put $50 million toward emergency relief, retraining and education.

McNeil’s decision was one of the biggest of his political career and will undoubtedly shape his legacy. He blamed the mill for putting the province in a difficult situation.

“Northern Pulp has had a number of chances to get this right and yet here we are,” he said at a press conference Friday morning.

McNeil welcomed the mill to stay in Nova Scotia if it could modernize its operations and meet the government’s environmental regulations.

“It is now up to them. They’ve had five years to do the right thing and I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. I am disappointed, to say the least.”

The CEO of Paper Excellence, Northern Pulp’s parent company, disputed the premier’s comments, saying the province hadn’t given the mill a “definitive process” for environmental assessment of its proposed replacement to Boat Harbour.

“Northern Pulp put forward an excellent plan,” said CEO Brian Baarda in a statement, “informed by third party, subject matter experts, based on sound science that showed no meaningful environmental impact, represented a significant operational improvement, and ensured Nova Scotia’s forest sector and the thousands its employs could remain a vital part of our economy.

“It also enabled timely closure and remediation of Boat Harbour. The Premier chose to disregard these facts.”

Baarda said the mill plans to start cancelling contracts and issuing lay-off notices to its employees.

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Board of Police Comissioner's last meeting of 2019 gives update on street checks

HRM residents have one year to see their own street check records.

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2019 at 11:38 AM

Halifax's Board of Police Comissioners meet on Monday December 16. - VICTORIA WALTON
  • Halifax's Board of Police Comissioners meet on Monday December 16.
  • Victoria Walton

At a Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Monday, both the HRP and RCMP Chiefs gave updates on how community engagement is going following the Wortley Report.

The 186-page report from University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley found that street checks overwhelmingly target people of colour. On average, from 2006 to 2017, Black people were six times more likely to be profiled than white people. It confirmed what the Black community had been saying about treatment from police for decades. 

After the report was published in March, a permanent ban on street checks went in place in October and HRP Chief Dan Kinsella made a public apology on November 29.

On Monday, Kinsella told the Board that community engagement is continuing in several different ways.

“I’ve contacted a number of community representatives for input and had a lot of positive interest in getting involved personally and particularly there’s some excitement around the advisory committee,” he said.

Kinsella said HRP are also working on specific programs like the Know Your Rights campaign which partners with community groups to inform residents of their rights when stopped by police.

Kinsella said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the RCMP "have both shown interest in participating in the program and the DOJ particularly would like to take it province-wide."

Another program is teaching Nova Scotians how to navigate the Freedom of Information system to see if historical street check data was collected on them.

“We continue to have outreach with the community to let them know if they are interested in going through the FOIPOP process to try and find out what may or may not be in the system as it relates to them,” Kinsella explained.

Police say street check data will be anonymized by December 2020, so anyone who wants that information must request it before then.

“We want to make sure we get that message out and we’ll continue to focus on that and into the new year we’ll ramp up our social media campaign to make sure that if individuals are interested in gong through that process that they know how to do it,” Kinsella added.

In an update from RCMP Chief Superintendent Janice Grey, she told the Board that the Worley report is affecting how data is collected across the province.

“We have three internal—within the RCMP—working groups specifically for Wortley,” she said, including one on data collection alone.

The Board also approved a motion that Kinsella and Grey put together a plan on how they will address recommendations 1.1-1.7 of the Wortley Report which discuss what to do in the case there is a full ban. The plan must include notes on estimated timelines, specific actions steps, a method of tracking progress, and which organization should be held accountable.

Kinsella and Grey said they would not be able to give all the specifics but were willing to prepare a plan. “The majority of the recommendations have already been completed in one form or another,” Kinsella explained.

Natalie Borden, chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, said part of the goal of the motion was to hold other institutions accountable for their part in the Worley Report recommendations.

“There are a number of recommendations as well that are not the responsibility of HRP, RCMP or even the Board,” she said. “Part of our tracking from my perspective will be to identify those, because we certainly want to communicate back to whether it’s Human Rights or the DOJ, that some of these are their responsibility.”

The Board’s vice chair, Carole McDougall, said the RCMP and HRP should report to the Board for accountability’s sake. “This is pretty fundamental and really is a way for the board to track what’s going on. It’s not necessarily to say ‘Do this by this date,’ but it’s to keep us up to date,” she said.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

One step closer to Uber, baby, is one step closer to you

On the heels of sweeping reform to taxi industry, HRM considers next steps towards Uberization

Posted By on Fri, Dec 13, 2019 at 4:02 PM

THE COAST
  • THE COAST

Just over a year after 88 percent of survey respondents told HRM they wanted services like Uber and Lyft in the municipality, the transportation standing committee took the first step toward making it a reality. 

Halifax Regional Municipality’s Transit Standing Committee saw staff’s first draft of the by-law changes this week that will allow Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft to operate in the municipality.

Staff recommend that HRM regulate TNCs—from a $25,000 of the top fee to operate in the municipality, a 20 cent per-trip fee, and mandating that drivers have a criminal record check, a vulnerable sector check and a child abuse registry check.

The province requires that taxi drivers have a class four license—one step up from the class five license that you, regular person reading this, likely have—but the report said class five was sufficient. So council also voted to write the province and ask to have that rule changed.

TNCs will be required to share all their trip data with HRM, and take on the responsibility of insurance themselves. (Taxi drivers are insured individually). All these rules for TNCs would be the responsibility of the company—HRM would have no record of the drivers or keep data on who has qualified requirements.

One of the main concerns coming out of the report from members of the Transportation Standing Commitee on Thursday was safety.

A recent report from Uber in the US released this month reported 5,981 incidents of sexual assault 2017 and 2018 involving either a driver or a passenger. The data was part of a larger report on safety in ride sharing. 

Uber has made improvements in recent years to increase safety standards, like adding a button in the app for passengers to hit if they feel they are in danger, and passengers can share their ride with a friend’s app.

But Councillor Sam Austin still worried if it was enough. Noting the strengthening of rules around licensing in relation to sexual assault for HRM taxi drivers, he wonders what is stopping drivers from switching between companies in the instance of assault if HRM has no record of them.

“I have some discomfort that we are relying on the business to do everything on this front,” says Austin.

Since 2015, Halifax Regional Municipality has suspended 10 taxi licences as a result of sexual misconduct accusations.

He says as we live in a world where sexualized violence is a reality: “I want to be able to look at myself and say as a municipality we did all we could to prevent that.”

The survey conducted by HRM in 2018 also found that 32 percent of respondents who don’t take taxis in HRM said they don’t because of safety concerns, and 65 percent said they would like the opportunity to take a taxi from an all-women taxi service.

Since updating the Taxi and Limousine industry by-laws this Fall—increasing the cap on the number of roof lights from 1,000 to 1,600—HRM has only handed out 40 new licenses and none so far have gone to women. The increase was so large in part to get the women who were near the bottom of the waitlist on the road. 

The proposed changes will also affect brokers—AKA Yellow Cab or Casino Taxi. Anyone who drives a taxi in Halifax and doesn’t want to be affiliated with a broker would need to become a broker to remain independent. The yearly fee for brokers is proposed at $300. 

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