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IBM is using the SAP contract, providing at least $100 million in revenue to the company, as a core operation for supporting a new "global delivery centre" in Halifax, which will bid on other government and commercial SAP work. For establishing the global delivery centre, IBM will additionally receive up to $12.4 million in payroll rebates from the province, over and above the money received for the SAP work.
Still, while we know the general outline of the deal with IBM, the province refused to make the contract itself public. So, late last year, The Coast asked for the contract, and for ministerial briefing notes related to it, through Freedom of Information legislation. After considerable back-and-forth with the Department of Finance, we received a stack of documents this week.
Citing confidentiality, personal and financial exemptions written into the Freedom of Information law, the province has redacted many hundreds of pages in the documents.
The ministerial briefing notes, for example, are entirely redacted. This is becoming regular practice with the provincial ministers: They now routinely claim that they don't need to turn over the briefing notes at all.
As well, nearly all the schedules to the main contract are completely withheld—hundreds and hundreds of pages, simply removed. And throughout the contract, there are hundreds of other, smaller redactions.
With our first cursory scan of the documents, it appears that if there had been any reference to where, precisely, IBM is to set up its operation, that information has been removed. The company has a temporary office in the RIM campus on Hammonds Plains Road, but it is understood that IBM will in the next few years move to downtown Halifax. We speculate that part of the deal between the province and IBM includes a requirement that the company rent at the Nova Centre complex, in the office tower above the new convention centre. If so, that requirement would serve as an additional provincial subsidy to Nova Centre developer Joe Ramia.
Despite the redactions, there are probably interesting things in the information we did receive. And here's where you, readers, come in. We'd like you to peruse the contract, and tell us if there's anything you find noteworthy, worrisome or worthwhile. You can leave your insight in the comments, or email news editor Tim Bousquet at email@example.com.
You can find all the documents we received, here. This is a very large PDF (136MB) and will take several minutes to load.
It was the Strategic Urban Partnership's Cogswell Shakeup event, which brought in a crowd of private citizens and public officials to hear Cogswell redevelopment ideas from over a dozen groups.
Perhaps symbolically, the crowd ended up jammed together while moving along the winding paths between displays—creating a bottleneck of traffic not unlike what one might see on the Interchange.
There were plenty of nifty concepts on display, including an edible garden, new ferry terminal and open air theatre spaces. Everyone from Dalhousie, to the Shambhala school and even Hal-Con offered up ideas, while large posters featured spaces from other cities meant to inspire Haligonians. Developments like the Kamppi Centre in Helsinki, Place Jean Paul Riopelle in Montreal, and the High Line in New York were all represented.
Whether any of this will lead to tangible plans when the input is taken back to council in the fall remains to be seen, but mayor Mike Savage says he's still excited by the whole process.
“We have to start thinking about what's possible before we say what can't be,” says Savage. “I'm not anybody particularly important in the process. I'm just the mayor. I'm not a planner, an architect, a developer, an artist or any of that sort of stuff. So, it all excites me, and we'll have smart people take the ideas and turn them into what's possible.”
Savage, along with CAO Richard Butts and councillors Waye Mason, Steve Craig and Matt Whitman, took in the fun, flirty atmosphere of Shakeup Cogswell. It was a land development consultation that featured slam poetry, celtic fiddlers and a kids corner where tots could doodle with crayons.
Despite the intense public interest, Peninsula South Downtown councillor Waye Mason says there isn't any additional pressure on the city to get things right in this rare do-over.
“I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the mistakes of the past,” he says. “All we can do as councillors and as citizens is we can look at where are we today, what works and what doesn't work, and what are the best choices to fix what doesn't work?”
The dismantling of the latticed concrete Interchange has been talked about nearly since it went up in 1968. Should Cogswell come down in the next few years, and it certainly seems like the city is committed to that course of action now, 6.5 hectares of public land at the entrance to downtown will suddenly become available.
“I think it's safe to say that now matter what we do at Cogswell, it'll be better than the overpass,” says Mason. “If it was a boring financial sector of 16 towers and no life at night, that's still better than concrete that no one can walk or bike on.”
The port's senior vice-president, Paul MacIsaac, gave a quick overview of the financials, then vice-president Paul Duvoisin reviewed the growth of the port's container business. The gist of it is that port business has increased, roughly paralleling the recovery of the global shipping industry from the nearly complete shipping stoppage for a few weeks in 2009. Due to some large capital expenditures, however, the port's overall earnings dipped a bit, from $14.5 million in 2011 to $14.2 million in 2012.
Most interesting was port president Karen Oldfield's "walk and talk" presentation. Roaming around the front of the stage, Oldfield addressed some of the challenges and opportunities facing the port.
Oldfield repeated the old port line that Halifax is well-positioned to become a large shipping destination. Pointing at a map that showed the US and Europe, with Halifax represented by a star, Oldfield said that Halifax is "the ham in the sandwich," an oddly un-kosher reference to being positioned between two large economies, the implied take-away being that we can profit immensely because we're roughly half-way between the geographic hearts of both economies. This is also the notion behind the "gateway" concept, which has led to the four-laning of Highway 1 through New Brunswick, a new border crossing at St. Stephen and a proposal for a four-lane superhighway all the way to Buffalo.
The arguments supporting the gateway concept have been repeated ad nauseam by every bureaucrat or crown corporation looking for a federal handout. They've been given academic cover by now-retired Dal professor Mary Brooks, who has written dozens of papers, none that I know of peer-reviewed, promoting the gateway. Here's how Brooks put the geographic argument in 2007:
Canada’s geographic advantage stems from the fact that Shanghai is closer to Prince Rupert and Vancouver than it is to Los Angeles, and Halifax is closer to Antwerp, Belgium, than ports on the U.S. eastern seaboard. Both Vancouver and Halifax are closer to Asian ports than their west and east-coast American competitors—in most cases by a full day or more.This reasoning is entirely ass-backwards.
Shippers don't want to go to the closest port—they want to go to the port that's farthest away. More succinctly, shippers want to get to the port that's closest to their ultimate destination, in order to reduce the much more expensive land-shipping (i.e., trucking) costs.
Here's an analogy. Suppose I need to travel from my office in north end Halifax to the Beford police station, and the bus isn't an option. I could drive from my office to a halfway point, say, Fairview. This would be, in Oldfield's words, the "ham of the sandwich." But then, I'd have to walk the rest of the way. Which is clearly ridiculous.
A much better plan would be to drive to as close as I can get to the police station, say, the Bedford Sobey's parking lot, and then just walk the two blocks up to the police station.
I don't want to travel to the ham in the sandwich. I want to travel from one slice of bread to the opposite slice of bread.
In much the same way, a merchant shipping a container from Antwerp to, say, Indianapolis, doesn't want the ship to end up in Halifax, and then pay for a three-day truck shipment the rest of the way. He wants to get that container as close as he possibly can to Indianapolis by ship—which probably means to New York City or Norfolk, Virginia.
Sure, Halifax can optimize its operation, improve its turn-around times, etc. And for the time-being the port of Halifax has some advantage handling deep-water ships. But New York is dredging its harbour, and both New York and Norfolk are investing billions of dollars into their facilities, especially in rail connections to the US midwest. Halifax will never be able to match that kind of investment.
I don't mean to disparage the operation of the Halifax port. I accept at face value that those in charge are doing a well-enough job, and the port will likely always be a significant part of the local economy (albeit if Melford ever gets up and running, they may as well call it a day). Rather, my point is that these fantasies of Halifax as an east coast version of Vancouver are over-the-top ridiculous. It simply won't happen.
The Seaport issue is too complex to detail here, and Evans told me that the investors will meet May 29 to consider their options. I'll have a more detailed report after that meeting.
In 2010, a settlement was made between HRM and the Africville Genealogy Society. The deal included the city-financed rebuilding of the Seaview African United Baptist Church, as well as an official apology for the eviction made by then-mayor Peter Kelly on behalf of HRM.
But Carvery and the Justice for Africville Society reject the 2010 settlement.
Carvery, a 71-year-old truck driver, was born and raised in Africville, the African-Nova Scotion community which sat on the southern shore of the Bedford Basin. His family has played an important role in Africville history.
The Carvery home sat on eight acres “around the turn”---at the western edge of Africville, past a turn in Barrington Street, near where the container terminal now sits. Carvery remembers Africville fondly, as a thriving tight-knit community where fishing was an important part of daily life. On their land, the Carverys farmed, owning “cows and horse, picks and chickens.”
Carvery left Africville to find work in Toronto in 1961, when he was 18 years old. Through the course of the 1960s, Africville was bulldozed for “urban renewal” purposes. Carvery’s father, Aaron “Pa” Carvery, was the last person to be forced out of his home in Africville, in 1970.
According to Nelson Carvery, his father accepted $14,000 for his house. The eight acres of the elder Carvery’s land were expropriated in five separate increments. The parcels were differently valued. The city decided one was worth a single dollar, while the priciest was valued at $30,000.
For comparison sake, just across the street from the Carverys’ former eight-acre homestead is a 10-acre lot, with equally spectacular views of Bedford Basin, currently assessed at $4.2 million.
Because Aaron Carvery’s land had been expropriated, when Nelson Carvery returned to Halifax in the early 1970s, he found himself living on Prescott Street, where his father had been moved.
Nelson Carvery’s cousins, the brothers Irvine and Eddie Carvery, have also been involved in the fight to reclaim Africville. Irvine leads the Africville Genealogy Society, which accepted the 2010 settlement with the city. Nelson says Irvine represents just “eight or nine” of the former Africville residents, while the remainder are with his Justice for Africville Society.
For his part, Eddie has for many years squatted permanently in a trailer on the former Africville land, now Seaview Park. Nelson now squats with Eddie part-time, in an act to reclaim the land and raise awareness. Though city officials used to occasionally send police to harass, evict and fine Eddie, Nelson says officials now leave the pair alone.
Nelson Carvery says he has taken the position as spokesperson for Justice for Africville Society because no one else will.
“A lot of people see the wrong but people don’t know how to correct,” he says.
The 38 plaintiffs specifically want land to be given back, monetary compensation and rights to the water. The group is in talks with a legal firm.
Carvery is asking the public to financially support JAS's legal action against the city. Donations can be made at any branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, directly into the Justice for Africville Society, Branch 02533, Account number 003 100 3888. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
“The lawyers say it’s going to be a lot of money,” says Carvery.
Wednesday is also the deadline to submit an emerging artist to be Halifax Pride’s Featured Visual Artist. This is a new initiative to promote and highlight creative talent in our province.
Additionally, there is an open call for the Halifax Pride Parade Grand Marshal. If you wish to suggest a nominee, the deadline to submit a nomination form is Monday, Monday 20.
Don't be late as this is a great opportunity for the LGBTQ community.
Ticket sales went through the roof. Games one and two of the series were both sold out. For tonight’s game, fans were lined up as early as 2am to buy tickets that went on sale at 10am. Enter: scalpers, buying tickets at face value and selling them to desperate fans for double or triple the marked price.
But if the thought of spending $200 for seats in the upper bowl has you down in dumps, some Haligonian kijiji users have offered comic relief. There are number of ads parodying typical offers on the website.
“Offering 2 seats on my couch to watch the game on Eastlink," reads one ad. "Clean non-smoking home. You can bring your own beer and put it in my fridge. I will be selling 50/50 tickets to both of you, which guarantees that one of you will win! The seats are $25 each, but if you want to pay $40 each, I'll make them 'all inclusive' and I'll provide the beer and popcorn. Free parking too, right next to the venue. The TV is HD and has surround sound. Washroom facilities on site.”
Another user from Ketch Harbour posts about her voluntary donation of an eye, kidney, ovary, slightly damaged lung or liver for a seat anywhere in the Metro Centre.
Other honourable mentions include someone longing for the winning 50/50 ticket so he or she can afford tickets to go.
There is also a ticket-holder willing to give the ticket for free to an underprivileged or sick child.
Lastly, there are tickets up for $400 but the description states that the ad is a joke and that “people are douchebags trying to make money off people that actually want to see the game.”
Oh, if you happen to be a Drakkar, one Kijiji user has a ticket for you, at face value! But prepared to show ID proving you're from Baie Comeau. "If I do not get any interest from fellow Baie Comeau fans, will rip all the tickets up and go by myself," says the philanthropist.
If you are ticket-less and unwilling to donate organs but still want to show your support for our beloved hockey team, the game will be broadcasted on Eastlink at 7pm.
Wills has worked for over 25 years with the Nova Scotia chapter of the national advocacy group, which lobbies all levels of government to “defend human life” against abortions and other "threats to the family."
“Campaign Life supports traditional families, there's no question about that, but we don't impose on anybody. We try to point out the advantages of that,” Wills said when contacted for this story.
A past president of the CLCNS, Wills retired from his position in 1997 but still serves on the board of directors. At the time of his retirement, a press release announced that “Herm's trademark has been a constant stream of pro-life messages and updates to every government member, church leader and community activist whose fax number or e-mail address he could get.”
In the same release, Wills expressed his displeasure towards the state of Canada, and its “appalling expansion” of sex education, “militant homosexual activism” and “virulent anti-family legislation.”
A soft-spoken, polite speaker over the phone, Wills says he tries to offer opportunities instead of imposing intolerance.
“People come to our door in need, we help them. We don't turn them away,” he says, noting that “family life is the first community we have.”
Talking to him, Wills doesn't come off as a raving misogynist. Despite his organization's clear message to legislate women's bodies, he in fact took some time to bemoan the Canadian media's lack of equal coverage of women's sports (in 1974, Wills was responsible for introducing the game of ringette to Nova Scotia).
It's possible Wills has no malicious intent towards women or gays, but organizations like the CLC will often cloak their ideological mission under the banner of "family values," making any opposing viewpoints seem inherently immoral.
“It's frankly laughable, says Jude Ashburn. “I think that putting out some sort of notion of what the family is is really funny in terms of reproductive justice. I mean, whose life are you valuing? Whose family?”
Ashburn, of Dalhousie's sexual and gender resource centre, South House, says phrasing any battle for reproductive rights in terms of “values” misses the point.
“Reproductive justice is not a moral issue. It's a health care right,” she says. “Anyone else is just anti-women and anti-autonomy. It's not a philosophical standpoint. It's not a moral dilemma. It's health care. Deal with it.”
The Campaign Life Coalition recently hosted its 6th annual "March for Life" rally on May 9 in front of the Legislature. The group claims to specialize in political action, identifying and supporting pro-life politicians in all parties. They're currently working against an “anti-bullying” bill in Manitoba which, in part, seeks to create Gay Straight Alliances as "safe spaces" for high school teenagers. The CLC warned its national members that the bill “could force all schools to promote morally depraved sexual concepts,” while also contradictorily reaffirming its stance opposing “bullying against any child for any reason.”
Organized by the public affairs council for the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints, the Family Values Awards are being handed out on May 24 at a ceremony in Dartmouth. Other recipients this year include Margit Weschler, who has fostered 40 children since moving to Canada from Germany 17 years ago, and MITE theatre education instructor Janice Cruddas. Messages for the organizers were not returned by press time.
In January, in The Coast’s annual “Fix the city” issue, we called for more concession stands and cafes in public parks. Now, one community group is taking up the challenge.
The Shubenacadie Canal Commission is a non-profit organization charged with stewarding and promoting the Shubenacadie Canal, which stretches from downtown Dartmouth to the Bay of Fundie. The Commission owns the Fairbanks Centre in Shubie Park, and is looking for a vendor to open a cafe or kiosk on the building’s patio, overlooking the canal lock.
“The park is busy,” says commission volunteer Suzanne Roy. “And we noticed that every other person was carrying a Tim’s cup, so we thought this might be a good way to generate a bit of revenue. Also, it would make the Fairbanks Centre a more user-friendly building, and we’d increase visits to the canal museum.”
The commission has asked for expressions of interest. It can provide water and electrical hook-ups, and possibly free wi-fi. “We think this first season a vendor would just want to test the waters, with maybe a kiosk selling ice cream and water,” says Roy. “But down the road we envision a full-fledged cafe.”
Interested parties should email email@example.com, or call (902) 462-1826.
After two baristas were allegedly dismissed from the roastery and cafe chain for unionizing, labour activists continue pressuring the company with protests and informal boycotts. But for the Spring Garden cafe, business has remained reliable. “Business always slows down this time of year, with the mass exodus of students,” says head barista Stu Cochrane.
Currently, a labour board hearing date has been set for June 27, between Just Us! and the union. However, both parties are still trying to come to an agreement before that date. They’re meeting this week about the two dismissed employees; they’ll also discuss how Just Us! can create a friendly environment for the union. “I’m pretty optimistic at this point,” says Jason Edwards, a union organizer with the SEIU.
Meanwhile, the SEIU keeps pushing back. Backed by the union, three employees filed a new complaint to the labour board on Monday, alleging that the company has repeatedly overlooked work breaks on shifts over five hours. Edwards says the complaint “shows the obvious nature of why people wanted to organize.”
At press time, management hadn’t yet received the document and couldn’t be reached to respond to it. But Cochrane has said that he regularly receives a break on his shifts and that Just Us!’ policy around breaks is one of the best in the food and beverage industry.
“We’re not really sure what they’re talking about at this point because nobody’s putting their cards at the table,” says Debra Moore. “Adversarial stuff just isn’t in my nature. Solutions that are win-win for everybody: that’s my goal. It might be naïve.”
Neither is the appointment of Honsberger controversial. The pick of the former executive director of the province’s prisons to the police commission might strike an odd tone in a department that is increasingly promoting itself as a progressive voice trying to address the root social causes of crime, and moving away from old-school knock-heads-and-throw-them-in-jail policing, but there’s no reason to think Honsberger won’t perform well on the commission.
Still, whatever else Honsberger may be, he’s not a visible minority. A white man, Honsberger joins five other white men and two white women on the commission.
The racial make-up of Nova Scotia police commissions became an issue in 1989, after the royal commission on the Donald Marshall Jr., case found that an insensitivity to minorities was prevalent in police departments across the province.
“I drafted the entire section on policing for The Marshall Inquiry,” says Don Clairmont, a sociologist at Dalhousie University. “Yes, it included a recommendation about having visible minorities on police boards.”
In the aftermath of the Marshall report, the Nova Scotia Advisory Group on Race Relations suggested “all municipal police commissions be encouraged to reflect the racial diversity of the communities they serve.”
In 1992, then-provincial solicitor general Joel Matheson wrote two letters, one to all the mayors in the province, the second to all the police commissions. “Although the appointment of municipal designates on the boards is clearly the responsibility of municipal councils,” wrote Matheson to the mayors, “I would strongly encourage the consideration of visible minorities. As you know, boards of police commissions have a pivotal role to play in the establishment of policing policy. It is critical, therefore that they be sensitive to the policing needs of all members of the community.”
The former cities of Dartmouth and Halifax both appointed visible minorities to their respective police commissions, as did the newly created HRM in 1996. But the last visible minority on the HRM police commission was Eartha Monard, whose term expired in 2004. Monard, a black woman, was, and still is, the principal of Dartmouth High School.
Three years later, in 2007, Clairmont, who had written the draft for the Marshall report, was hired by then-mayor Peter Kelly to oversee the Mayor’s Roundtable on Violence, and in 2008 published his findings in a report titled Violence and Public Safety in the Halifax Regional Municipality. That report criticized the city for letting the Community and Race Relations Committee become moribund, and pointed out the need for racial sensitivity in the decision-making process.
Clairmont declines to speak publicly about the lack of a visible minority on the commission, because he is currently conducting a review of the Mayor’s Roundtable on Violence, interviewing commissioners and other city officials. He says he doesn’t want to complicate the interview process with his comments.
Mayor Mike Savage, however, acknowledges that appointing a visible minority to the commission wasn’t a consideration until The Coast raised the issue. “It’s on our radar screen now,” he says over the phone from Houston, where he’s attending a conference. “One of things that has occurred to me and other councillors, in the nomination process for boards and commissions, is that we can do a better job in a whole bunch of areas---soliciting applications, how we make judgments as to who should be on them.” The appointments of visible minorities “is something else we have to factor into our decision-making.”
Savage says the city and the police department are doing a better job on the race relations front. “But clearly, we need to consider things we never considered before.
“One of the real measures of effectively dealing with diversity,” continues Savage, “is not just how many people you employ in a certain area, or do you do sensitivity training, but are you grooming people for leadership positions, whether it’s boards or commissions or even running for office. There are a lot of places doing that well, and we can learn from them. I know we can do better.”
Last Thursday, the Halifax Association of Black Firefighters and the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Department officially buried the hatchet, effectively setting aside a human rights complaint the black firefighters had filed against the department.
As The Coast detailed in 2009, the black firefighters' complaint cited a series of racist incidents dating back to 1996 and continuing right up to that point.
The relationship between the black firefighters and the department was acrimonious, but took a decidedly better turn after former chief Bill Mosher retired and current chief Doug Trussler arrived, in 2011.
"It was my very first order of business," Trussler tells The Coast. "We're going to address that human rights complaint."
By all accounts, Trussler has presided over a sea change in racial relations at the department, which started an 18-month series of meetings cumulating with a "reconciliation circle" Thursday at the north end YMCA. Present were members of both HABFF and the recognized union for the department, Halifax Professional Firefighters/International Association of Firefighters Local 268, as well as representatives of the department, city legal and human resources staff and from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.
There, Trussler read an apology to the black firefights. This was part of a broader agreement that also involved the adoption of a restorative plan by the city and the dropping of the human rights complaint by the black firefighters.
At the circle, each party of the circle spoke at length about repairing relationships and moving forward with a better understanding of the issues at play in the past.
The truth and reconciliation process is becoming increasingly important in Canada, perhaps best illustrated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which held hearings in Halifax to detail the wrongs committed at the Shubenacadie Residential School. The foundational premise of the process is that the wrongs of the past have to be named and detailed, before victims and the society that has wronged them can build a more just relationship.
Trussler's apology was certainly heartfelt and welcomed by HABFF, but it hits nowhere near the level of detail found in most reconciliations. It relies on weasel phrases like this:
When allegations of poor treatment were brought forward by individual firefighters and the Association of Black Firefighters, the allegations were not addressed as effectively as they could have been; allowing old hurts to reopen instead of heal.It contains a vague nod to "allegations," not enumerated. The "top of command" is mentioned, but Mosher's name not used, and Trussler declined to elaborate when asked to by The Coast. In total, the apologize comes off with a bit of a "I'm sorry if you were offended" feel.
In any fire service, the standards of behaviour are established at the top of the chain of command. I apologize for our failure to bring a swift end to any discriminatory behaviours you experienced in the workplace.
Of course, it's not up to newspapers to decide these things. The black firefighters themselves accepted the apology and clearly want to move on, continuing their jobs and setting the bad blood with the department behind them.
Still, there's one black firefighter who feels re-victimized by the reconciliation.
Cromwell says now that originally the HABFF agreed not to settle their human rights complaint unless Cromwell was hired back into the department.
"I know Blair feels bad," said HABFF rep Ray Adekayode Thursday. "But there's nothing we can do for him."
Chief Trussler declined to discuss Cromwell with The Coast, but acknowledged that Cromwell will not be offered his job back.
There seems to be a double standard at play. Trussler's apology makes vague reference, no doubt vetted by city lawyers, to problematic actions at the "top of the chain of command," but the specifics of Cromwell's past sins have been enumerated in enough detail to first get him fired, and now un-re-hirable.
"Racism is violence," says Cromwell, and certainly the various targets of racism are going to respond in different ways, some more "acceptable" to the racists than others.
This part of the reconciliation is awkward, and mean-spirited. Now that the apology has been issued, at least obliquely acknowledging past racism towards the black firefighters, including against Cromwell, it's as if the city and the department are saying to Cromwell: "your response to our racism was unacceptable."
“I felt like a proud mother the day I realized a former student had her own business,” says Swinemar. “That's the reason why you keep doing it.”
Swinemar won’t be doing it for much longer, though. She announced her plan to step down as executive director last Tuesday, effective June 2014. The search for her successor will begin after the board revisits the job description.
“There will be some time that will overlap,” she says. “There are a lot of people here who make this place hum: the staff, the volunteers, the donors and other supporters. I'll try and introduce them to as many people as possible, and then just step aside and let the new person take over.”
Swinemar says she’s tired, and now just feels like the right time.
“It’s going to mean a huge hole for that organization,” says Kathy Large, program manager at CBC Nova Scotia. Large helps organize the annual Feed Nova Scotia Day and the Sharing the View Calendar Project, which collectively raised over $260,000 for the food bank last year alone.
“It’s not just a job with Dianne; it’s a calling,” Large continues, “but we wish her a great retirement; she’s certainly earned it.”
In addition to her position at Feed Nova Scotia, Swinemar helped found Beacon House Interfaith Society and sits on the committee for the Nova Scotia Leadership Prayer Breakfast, among many other projects. But just because she’s retiring, doesn’t mean she plans to disappear.
“I'd like to get involved in a couple boards that deal with issues I feel very close to,” says Swinemar. “That, and enjoy my grandson.”
While the guilt or innocence of Rehtaeh's alleged rapists is a matter for the courts to decide, there's no question that the entire sad story is wrapped in a context of degrading girls and sexual relations as a power relationship, rather than of mutual pleasure between equals. In fact, there's no other possible explanation for the distribution of the photo of the event, as well. And while the alleged rapists' friends and family have an understandable, and not necessarily bad, bias in favour of the boys, they expressed that bias by relying on that old standby, slut-shaming. "She wanted the d," explained one Facebook post.
I don't pretend to have a deep philosophical understanding of misogyny. If you're interested, read some second-wave feminists, who spoke directly to the issue in ways that are currently out of fashion, considered bad form. But I don't need to be a philosopher to know what I see, and that's misogyny at every turn. Our culture reeks of it.
Women have talked about these issues forever, but men still don't get it. And the amount of casual, off-hand misogyny is simply stunning. We might expect this from teenage kids who haven't the experience to get a little wiser about these things, but what are we to think about adult male journalists, college grads mostly, people who work in a profession that regularly discusses and explores issues of misogyny?
As Rehtaeh's story unfolded, I watched as a series of self-styled wise men, older male journalists, stroked their chins and expressed reservations, caution, "let the system work" commentary, even though the system had obviously failed.
Stephen Kimber worried about a rush to judgement against the accused boys, but penned not a word about the casual sexism demonstrated in Rehtaeh's story.
Parker Dunham patiently lectured us that our legal system has a presumption that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, but he too overlooked the blatant sexism that drenched every other aspect of this story beyond the guilt or innocence of the accused boys.
Andrew Douglas, at the Frank Magazine blog, was "guessing" that there "wasn't enough evidence" to charge the boys, but he seems pretty certain that the real guilty person here was Rehtaeh's mother, Leah Parsons, who didn't stop Rehtaeh from tweeting about drugs at 3am: "My mother wouldn't have given me the chance to kill myself," wrote Douglas. "She would've done it for me."
Now, caution and careful consideration are required, but I got the sense that these wise men will never agree to calling the sexual encounter "rape" until they themselves see the photo in question, and use their profound powers of discernment to give thumbs up or thumbs down to the rape allegation. The contextual issues of a culture of misogyny don't seem to matter to these men. It's all about "was this rape or not?"
Females in the media brought a much more nuanced view to the story. Marilla Stephenson, with whom I rarely agree about political issues, concentrated on the slut-shaming of Rehtaeh, even after her death.
Lezlie Lowe discussed how women's allegations of rape are often ignored or not believed by the police.
Hilary Beaumont interviewed people who argued that Rehtaeh's story underscored the need for broad societal change.
Halifax is in the centre of global attention because of a story couched in misogyny, and yet men in the media continue to reflexively fall back on cruel and crass misogyny. Consider, for example, this throw-away tweet from Frank Magazine presumably written by the same Andrew Douglas who blames Leah Parsons for Rehtaeh's death:
That a Canadian journalist will just casually use the word "whore" to describe a woman, and that there wasn't an out-falling of criticism for it, shows just how little we have progressed.
But it gets worse.
Wednesday, I woke up at 3:30 and couldn't get back to sleep, so got up and read the Chronicle-Herald on line, finding a piece by crime reporter Dan Arsenault. Headlined "Missing woman battled addiction," the article detailed Reita Jordan's problems with drugs and multiple arrests for prostitution.
Jordan has been missing since March 19, and of course the big fear is that she is the victim of foul play.
I tweeted my first reaction to Arsenault's article:
But I had just woken up, and wanted to think about it some more. I started a pot of coffee, sat down and thought about it some more. Two hours later I summarized my thoughts with this tweet:
Arsenault is a great reporter. He's done good work, and has a knack at getting information that others can't find. And I certainly understand the joy—there's no better word—at discovering new information that advances a story. But in this case, how exactly does the new information advance the story? Tuesday, we knew that a woman was missing. Wednesday, we knew that that woman was, in Frank Magazine's word, a whore.
Of course the fact of Jordan's addiction and history as a sex worker could very well be part of a well-crafted article that put those facts in context of a life struggle, or dealing with loss, or whatever Jordan's story may be. That's the point: we don't know what Jordan's story is, and Arsenault doesn't bring us one iota closer to understanding that story.
All the article does is leave the reader with the vague notion that "oh, a drug-addicted prostitute is missing, it's not like it's a respectable person. I don't need to worry about it." Arsenault doesn't even explore the small idea that sex workers are more likely to be victims of violence, which might at least give some redeeming value to the piece. Without that small fig-leaf, the article comes off as slut-shaming, pure and simple.
Moreover, it's a horrible article, even besides the slut-shaming. Arsenault relies on an anonymous source, but doesn't give us context for why the source doesn't want to be identified. (I have rules for using anonymous sources, and this violates all three of them.) And then there's that issue of using the past tense, implying that Jordan is dead. Let's hope not.
The response on Twitter to Arsenault's article was swift:
Rene Ross is the director of Stepping Stone, an organization that works with sex workers. At 1pm Wednesday, she was the first to use the "if I go missing..." phrase, which was picked up by others and resulted in hundreds of tweets with the hashtag #ifigomissing:
And on and on.
Slut-shaming-shaming is an absolutely appropriate response in this situation. Here's hoping it does some good. Maybe one day, men in the media will realize that not only are they missing the big crime in this story, they're contributing to it.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Société Radio-Canada’s Enquête
CBC’s Investigative Unit and Enquête demonstrated links between industry funding and “independent” research that had downplayed the health risks of asbestos mining in Canada to support a “safe use” policy of continued exports to Third World countries. The compelling series forced government finally to act on a serious public health issue. The newly elected PQ government rejected a proposal to re-open a Quebec asbestos mine. Ottawa withdrew its opposition to putting warnings on asbestos exports, Saskatchewan created an asbestos registry of government buildings, and the asbestos lobby, the Chrysotile Institute, closed. The Coast
In the lead up to the 2012 municipal election, the investigation by The Coast, an independent alternative weekly newspaper, revealed that Halifax’s popular three-term mayor had taken more than $160,000 from an estate of which he was the executor. More than seven years after the death of Mary Thibault, Peter Kelly had not dispersed hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and her heirs. The impact of this exemplary reporting was immediate: Mayor Kelly chose not to seek re-election, which changed the focus of the election campaign. Postmedia News and The Ottawa Citizen
The detailed and sustained reporting exposed the use of “robocalls” to mislead and harass voters during the 2011 federal election campaign. The coverage shed light on how technology can subvert our most fundamental democratic value: the right to vote in a fairly run election. The impact has been resounding: Elections Canada is investigating a deluge of complaints about calls sending voters to non-existent polling stations; a Federal Court ruling is pending on a legal challenge to overturn results in six ridings; charges were laid against a PC campaign worker. La Presse
The death of a young woman led to this investigation into the business of miracle cures in Quebec. The multimedia inquiry tracks the tentacles of these healers in hospitals and schools, exposing fraudulent receipts for insurance claims and tax receipts, and few prosecutions. The series shocked the medical community into action. The Association of Psychologists and the Quebec College of Physicians launched inquiries into these fake healers. The College has asked the Ministry of Justice to enact laws to prosecute such charlatans. The Toronto Star
The autism project turned the spotlight on the failure of Ontario’s health and social policies to address the challenges faced at different stages of life by those with autism. The comprehensive series looked at all facets of the issue – from groundbreaking scientific research to the heartbreaking stories of young people, homeless or in jail due to the severe shortage of services and funding. The series sparked an intense debate and put questions about treatment squarely on the political agenda. The province is reviewing children’s services and looking at ways to bridge gaps for young adults. The Vancouver Sun
Catastrophic explosions that killed four workers at two northern B.C. sawmills led The Sun to investigate gaps in public safety concerning the risk of wood-dust explosions. Using inspection records from WorkSafeBC, the provincial fire commissioner and local fire departments, The Sun created databases to analyze the documents. They found that frequently wood dust was involved in fires and that fire-code inspections were lax. The impact was swift. The B.C. government created a program to reduce the risk of dust explosions, and major forest companies promised an independent audit of dust levels.
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