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.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The K'jipuktuk-Halifax Week of Climate Action kicks off with interfaith gathering and climate action rally

Hundreds of Haligonians gather to mourn the destruction caused by climate change and request government action.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 6:04 PM

Kelly Daphne sits on the ground before the rally. She is attending to support a future for her grandchildren. - ISABEL BUCKMASTER
  • Kelly Daphne sits on the ground before the rally. She is attending to support a future for her grandchildren.
  • Isabel Buckmaster

Hundreds of Haligonians gathered at Grand Parade Square on Friday to mourn the destruction caused by climate change and request government action.  

“The planet is in crisis, there is no planet B and unless we take that seriously then our home is gone,” said David Walmark, an attendee of the rally. “Everybody can do their own little bit individually but it’s not going to be enough, it has to be Halifax speaking.”

The Interfaith Gathering and Climate Action Rally marked the beginning of the K’jipuktuk Halifax week of Climate Action, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future. This gathering was designed to honour the victims of climate change with a moment of silence and hear from faith leaders and climate change activists about the state of the climate crisis. It also aimed to educate attendees on how they can make a difference. 

“If everyone shows that they care about the climate then we can make it, we can change the laws, we can change the system,” said Willa Fisher, 17-year-old climate activist from Citadel High School and one of the organizers of SchoolStrike4Climate HFX. “All this response means we are winning, that we can do this.”

The crowd watches as a Mi'kmaq ceremony takes place on stage. - ISABEL BUCKMASTER
  • The crowd watches as a Mi'kmaq ceremony takes place on stage.
  • Isabel Buckmaster

Working in collaboration with Extinction Rebellion, Our Time Halifax, Climate Strike Canada and more, each day there will be a series of events following the rally designed to generate climate change awareness. Events range from the Youth National Die-In to Veg Fest and will end with a General Strike on Friday, September 27. 

“With this event, we want to scare the shit out of the establishment. People say this is an interesting event—well it’s not just an interesting event, it’s an existential crisis,” said Richard Zurawski, HRM District 12 councillor and chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee for HRM. “When was the last time you had a big ol' glass of oil? Or chowed down on some coal? Or took a good deep breath of natural gas? Because that’s what is supplanting through big businesses across the HRM.”

One of the main themes the interfaith gathering and climate action rally sought to promote was the importance of unity. Bringing together leaders of various faiths, it encouraged all people to unite under one cause and stand up for everything being affected. Representing the Anglican church, reverend Tory Byrne both spoke at and attended the rally because she is worried about the state of god’s creation: “This creation is a creation for all people,” said Byrne. “We need to raise awareness, not only to make people aware but to make people commit to actions that aren’t always comfortable but give life to all.”

“Climate is life. If we ignore our climate then we don’t have anything,” said Joan Smith, a water walker for the Mi’kmaq nation. Smith believes that there needs to be an emphasis on the importance of water within the climate change fight. “Water is also life. Without water, we don’t have a climate, we don’t have land, we don’t have animals, we have nothing,” said Smith, “An elder told me once that we need to step up to the plate and I think that’s what’s happening now.” 

With Canada’s federal election on the horizon, the climate crisis has been a popular subject of debate. After Elections Canada’s decision to declare human-made climate change as partisan, the environment has become a hot topic as citizens wait to see whether Canada is going to vote for the climate. 

“I’ve lived in multiple places across Canada and I’ve seen effects of climate change from all over,” said Lindsay Eagleson, a rally attendee. “We need government and we need individuals to fight for a planet that we can all actually live on.”

Deborah Ross, another climate striker, agrees with that sentiment. “The time is now. We don’t have much time left to act for climate justice and to reverse the effects of climate,” said Ross, “We owe it to our children to protect their futures.”

One company in Halifax is already working to counteract pollution in the environment by reducing the number of personal-use vehicles in HRM.

“We need to show that we are together on this and that there is a huge movement to get people’s attention. This is a crucial moment,” said Pamela Cooley, the founder of Carshare Atlantic, who was at the rally. “I think it’s important that with everything we do we consider the environment and the future of the world.”

Events are happening all week in the city, culminating in the Strike for Climate next Friday, September 27. 

A Green Party supporter waves her flag as she takes part in the rally. - ISABEL BUCKMASTER
  • A Green Party supporter waves her flag as she takes part in the rally.
  • Isabel Buckmaster
Tina Yeonju Oh speaks to the crowd on stage. - ISABEL BUCKMASTER
  • Tina Yeonju Oh speaks to the crowd on stage.
  • Isabel Buckmaster
Joan Smith holds up a banner during the climate rally. - ISABEL BUCKMASTER
  • Joan Smith holds up a banner during the climate rally.
  • Isabel Buckmaster
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The city's Centre Plan gets big approval from regional council

Let it be known, Halifax Regional Council did not let perfect be the enemy of good.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 20, 2019 at 5:54 PM

HRM's 481 different planning zones. (Not for long!)
  • HRM's 481 different planning zones. (Not for long!)

An infinite future of changes to Halifax and Dartmouth’s streetscapes and planning zones got their first big seal of approval this week. After months—really years…decades even—of back and forth on big ideas and tiny details, Package A of the city’s Centre Plan was unanimously passed by regional council this week. 

The plan aims to streamline and strengthen the rules and by-laws around the physical buildings that make up city life in HRM’s centre, as well as simplify some

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 of the processes around who gets a say in further development decisions, and gives the city a concrete start on the “what do we do about housing affordability” question. It covers the land of peninsular Halifax and across the bridges between the harbour and the Circ.

Councillor Sam Austin called it a “huge, huge step forward,” in agreeing on where growth should go, what form it will take, and eliminating one-off arguments over site-specific developments. He said if anything, it should give citizens and developers a more consistent expectation of what’s to come in your area.

At a public hearing on Tuesday, for over two hours local residents and developers spoke to councillors about the plan. Many were developers or developer-adjacent asking for site-specific changes to the plan. Some were previous planners who were just there to say, "great work, folks," and a few residents who were disappointed in the way the changes would affect their own or neighbouring streets.

After clarification and debate from councillors, a large number of the site-specific requests were shelved in amendments to be revisited in Package B—which also includes decisions around parks and open spaces among other things.

Then staff held their breath as councillors went back and forth on a few more contentious items.

The first of which was the plan’s plan for affordable housing or as mayor Mike described it, “the big nut.” The city has moved forward with a density bonusing program, which will let developers construct a building bigger than the now set rules around size as long as they pay a “density bonus” AKA cash money into a fund earmarked for affordable housing initiatives—permission to colour outside the lines in exchange for funds that will likely be directed to housing-related non-profits and organizations. Staff has six months to figure out what exactly that looks like.

Density bonusing won out over not inclusionary zoning—which would have put set rules around which kind and how many units (read: affordable units) must be included in a development in certain areas—after the province decided to give density bonusing the green light and red-light the latter.

At the public hearing, developer Peter Polley said opting for density bonusing over inclusive zoning was like encouraging non-profits to open grocery stores, instead of working with grocery stores to help with food affordability, calling the density bonusing too restrictive.

Developers asked staff to reconsider charging the density bonus—applied to any proposed development exceeding 2,000 square metres of floor area (an NHL sized hockey rink is about 1,500 square metres) at the early permit stage in the building process. Staff said they had looked into it but there was no spot in the process after the initial permit issuing where they could hold developers on the hook for the money.

Some councillors argued that charging this fee upfront would result in increased rents, minimizing affordability.

Staff have maintained throughout the process that a goal of the plan is to increase the housing supply. General economics tells us that increased supply—as long as it’s not accompanied by even higher increases in demand—should keep prices down. Vacancy rates hit their lowest point in 2018 at 1.6 percent and word on the street is they’re even lower right now. (In The Coast’s recent Renter’s Survey, 43 percent of the over 500 respondents said their rent is going up in the next  year.) 

Councillors Matt Whitman, David Hendsbee, Russel Walker, Stephen Adams and Tim Outhit voted against the chunk of the Centre Plan that was separated from the big vote, which called for a reorganization of the sub-committees that got to make decisions about which buildings went where and what they were like. Outhit said he hit the wrong button and meant to vote yes. Hendsbee, who asked for this bit to be separated from the main vote argued that this would strengthen the rural-urban divide on council.

The plan, with its goal of simplification, will mean no more as-you-go public hearings for big buildings as we know the process now.  Their permission is baked into the new rules—or can be achieved by paying into the density bonusing purse—to dig down and build up. But Package B is still to come and up for debate, so Halifax as we know it could stick around for a couple of more years yet.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

HRP to purge street check data by December 2020

Board of Police Commissioners waits on other stakeholders to move forward on Wortley report recommendations.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 at 11:20 AM

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella - THE COAST
  • Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella
  • The Coast

At this week’s board of police comissioners meeting Halifax police chief Dan Kinsella said HRP is keeping its plan from June 2019 to purge all data and metadata regarding street checks in December 2020.

In March 2019 the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and Scot Wortley released their report on street checks which reported on racial bias in the street check practice finding that Black men are six times more likely to be stopped by police than white men in Halifax, among other things. 

Action on the report’s 76 recommendations are dependent on four main pillars, first being the province and the department of justice, second being an inquiry into the legality of street checks from the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, Halifax’s board of police commissioners and finally the HRP and Halifax RCMP. 

Kinsella says the decision to retain metadata only until December 2020 is in part because of the risk of it being a large data set.

“If we take information out names, gender, dates, of birth, ages…all those kind of things…and the data set is still very large, there are individuals around who could potentially rebuild the data set, which could lead to identification and potential privacy issues down the road.”

He says with the questions raised by Wortley, ensuring they ask what the data is being kept for and how long it’s kept for led to the determination that “there is no real value to us keeping it beyond December 2020.” 

The report recommends that if the province goes forward with regulation, a research committee should be convened to discuss best practices around data collection.

But in a regulation scenario the Wortley report also says “for ongoing research and evaluation purposes, all historical, pre-regulation street check data should be de-identified and retained,” adding that “historical street check dataset will further assist researchers in their examination of the relationship between race, gender, age and police surveillance activities.” Wortley suggests that should provide go-ahead with regulation of street checks, the historical data will assist in the evaluation of said regulation.

Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners Natalie Borden. - THE COAST
  • Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners Natalie Borden.
  • The Coast

At the meeting commissioner and chair Natalie Borden also brought a motion asking for HRP to look into data collection on police stops in an attempt to keep the street check file moving forward. Police stops are distinct from street checks but often included in the umbrella of opportunity for racial bias in policing. This piece, like many of the Wortley report recommendations are dependent the upcoming Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission consideration of the legality of street checks, which Borden says should be on the agenda at next month’s Board of Police Commissioners meeting. 

Borden also updated the board of police commissioners on the status of the province’s working group, saying they are doing some restructuring and reconsidering—read: soul searching—what the mission of the group is as the province moves towards regulation.

City councillor and commissioner Lindell Smith also brought forward a motion that at the next meeting HRP and the RCMP walk the commissioners through the process for sexual assault reporting and investigations, in light of a recent CBC article by Maggie Rahr, telling the story of the mishandling of Carrie Low’s sexual assault by Halifax Regional Police.

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Back on the field: NS high school rugby a go for 2020 season

After a strong debate over player safety, students can return to the field with some changes.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 18, 2019 at 8:29 AM

Scrum kind of wonderful: rugby is back in Nova Scotia high schools. - SUBMITTED
  • Scrum kind of wonderful: rugby is back in Nova Scotia high schools.
  • Submitted


Ruck yeah! The Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation announced the full reinstatement of rugby in Nova Scotia high schools after numerous conversations, a vote over player safety and proper training for coaches.


With the start of a new school year, Nova Scotia high school students were wondering if they would have the chance to hit the field this season after the unexpected cancellation of rugby back in May. The decision to cancel the sport was made by the NSSAF after the injury of a student during a game last season. The news came as a shock to both players and Rugby Nova Scotia. 


In reaction to the cancellation, over the past summer representatives from Rugby Nova Scotia, the Department of Education and Early Child Development and the NSSAF researched and created a list of recommendations for the sport in the upcoming season. The recommendations focus on various topics like player safety, minimizing contact, and proper training for staff and coaches in the sport. One change limits tackling to from the waist down only. Coaches will also receive concussion training before the start of the season.


Recommendations were then presented back to the NSSAF's board of governors, and a motion was carried to reinstate rugby. “We are obviously extremely happy with the decision by the NSSAF,” states RNS president Geno Carew in a press release. “We were pleased to be involved in the creation of the recommendations and we look forward to continuing a positive relationship moving forward.”


Jack Hanratty, provincial coach for Rugby Nova Scotia, says in a statement he has seen the benefits of the sport with students. “We have seen the benefit of rugby in junior high schools for a number of years in specific regions but having the sport officially recognized by the NSSAF is a great way for student athletes to learn the great fundamental movement and evasion skills before playing the contact game in high school.”


Allen Vansen, the CEO of Rugby Canada, congratulated Rugby Nova Scotia in a statement on the reinstatement of the sport in the province, and for its guarantee to ensure safety among students who participate in the sport: “Rugby Canada commends Rugby Nova Scotia for their continued commitment to offering quality training opportunities for coaches and referees, and initiatives which raise awareness of game welfare. We are thrilled to see such a positive outcome, and will continue to work closely with Rugby Nova Scotia to ensure that opportunities to participate in rugby are done so in a safe and inclusive environment.”


The Nova Scotia high school rugby season will begin in February 2020 with a shortened season, so students take part in fewer games.

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Counter-protestors share message of tolerance at NCA rally

The Halifax Against Hate counter demo rallied in opposition of the NCA's anti-immigrant rhetoric

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 6:08 PM

SANDRA C. HANNEBOHM
  • Sandra C. Hannebohm

The National Citizens Alliance of Canada returned to Halifax as part of a pre-election tour Thursday September 12 at Cornwallis Park. NCA leader Stephen Garvey is running for MP in the Cumberland-Colchester riding in Nova Scotia.

Close to 100 counter-demonstrators organized by Halifax Against Hate showed up early to disrupt the event. More than a dozen police arrived with two police vechiles and eventually brought a barricade to separate the NCA leader from chanting counter-demonstrators with noisemakers, bubble blowers, snacks, pamphlets and signs.

Garvey said the chosen location was symbolic to him. “This is where the Cornwallis statue has been removed,” he said. “Let’s get that statue back up.” Otherwise, Garvey didn’t mention the statue in his election platform or make any promise to return it, if elected.

Garvey speaks to a row of police officers and counter-protestors who are probably not even listening to him. - SANDRA C. HANNEBOHM
  • Garvey speaks to a row of police officers and counter-protestors who are probably not even listening to him.
  • Sandra C. Hannebohm


Garvey said his party supports “all Canadians” as long as they’re not refugees or new immigrants.

Counter demonstrators chanted in reply, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

Garvey said the counter-demo was “ridiculous,” “unnecessary” and “nonsense” but at the same time, he respects their right to protest.

During his campaign tour Garvey made headlines for harassing politician Gurratan Singh, brother to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, at MuslimFest in Toronto last week. Singh was applauded for withstanding the anti-Mulsim attack even though he himself is not Muslim. The NCA was also met by counter-demonstrators in Charlottetown on Wednesday.

Laura Krabappel says she went to the counter-demo to make it clear that hate speech isn’t welcome in Halifax.

“We have free speech and they have free speech,” she said but “there has to be a limit.”

Krabappel says in her view, the NCA platform is violent. If enacted, their policies would target ethnic minorities and immigrants. “If you get down to it, they want to directly harm people. They want to legislate violence against these certain groups of people,” meaning Muslims, 2SLGBTQ and non-white immigrants. “Is this free speech or is it hate speech?” 

Khadija Abawajy was on her way back from celebrating her birthday with friends when they passed through Cornwallis Park.


“I have always felt safe here in Halifax as a Muslim,” she says but “walking by the NCA protest made me feel unsafe.”


Abawajy was born and raised in Halifax but when she realized what was going on she was suddenly terrified. “The fact that this group is in Halifax, walking amongst people, trying to further their political agenda is scary,” she says.


NCA has tried recruiting in Nova Scotia several times but has been banned, booed, denounced or escorted off the premises each time. The group was banned from the Apple Blossom Festival in Annapolis Valley last year. In June they were met with about 100 counter-demonstrators at Grande Parade Square in Halifax, where pepper spray was deployed and one was arrested. On the same day the town of Truro–which is in Garvey’s own electoral riding–publically denounced the NCA party.

A list of platform positions are detailed in a comparative breakdown Garvey posted on social media. NCA proposes an immediate moratorium on all immigration into Canada, severe limits on global trade, a full recall of current MPs, 10 amendments to the Charter of Rights, a reduction in foreign aid by a whopping 75 percent and a declaration that climate change is a hoax.

There are only three NCA candidates running in Nova Scotia: Darlene Lynn LeBlanc in Cape Breton—Canso, Patrick Pearle in King's—Hants and Garvey. The NCA only has candidates running in 11 of Canada's 338 electoral districts.

———
This story was updated on September 17 to include Khadija Abawajy's experience.

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Halifax federal candidates kick off election campaign with debate on women's rights and gender issues

From the MMIWG inquiry, to poverty and access to housing and childcare, candidates discussed their ideas and parties' platforms.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 13, 2019 at 6:04 PM

Jo-Ann Roberts, Christine Saulnier, Bruce Holland and Andy Fillmore at the all candidates debate on women's rights and gender equity. - SHERRY COSTA
  • Jo-Ann Roberts, Christine Saulnier, Bruce Holland and Andy Fillmore at the all candidates debate on women's rights and gender equity.
  • Sherry Costa

Candidates for the Halifax riding met at the Spatz Theatre on Thursday for the first debate of the federal election campaign since the writ dropped—official Canadian politics slang for the kick-off of a federal election campaign—on Wednesday September 10. Jo-Ann Roberts of the Green Party, Christine Saulnier of the NDP, Bruce Holland for the Conservative party and Andy Fillmore of the Liberals answered questions about women’s rights and equality posed by organizations like YWCA Halifax, the Immigrant Migrant Women’s Association of Halifax, Nova Scotia League for equal opportunities and more. 

Over 150 people—mostly women—showed up to hear what they had to say about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, gender-based violence, women and poverty and rights for migrant women. 

As a debate on women’s issues, it’s little surprise that the two candidates who identify as women got the most positive responses from the audience. Able to quip from personal experience and not rely on “things they learned from their sisters,” while being in the luxurious position of being able to say how much better things could be than they are now, they spoke passionately about why what matters to women should matter in parliament. (If only more men had shown up in the audience to hear what the candidates had to say.) 

On gender-based violence, Holland spoke of multi-year funding to give organizations the ability to do better future planning, and Fillmore said, “the time has come to take this seriously.”

Roberts stressed the importance of support for trans students and spoke of the countless women who have gone to the police and not been believed.

Saulnier spoke of her experience working for Adsum for Women and Children, saying women of colour or those with disabilities are “facing…just…disgracefully high rates of sexual assault. We need a government that's going to stand up and say enough.” 

On poverty, Roberts spoke of the Green Party’s plan for a universal basic income, saying “poverty is a lack of cash, not a lack of character.”

Saulnier says her work producing the annual child and family poverty report card for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives for the last ten years “has been a depressing thing to do every year.”

Fillmore spoke of the $22 billion Opportunity for All funding for poverty reduction that’s been invested since 2015.

On the MMIWG report Holland, the Conservative candidate said “We would implement all the recommendations in the report,” though his party leader, Andrew Scheer, has already disputed the inquiry’s use of the word genocide. The Conservative platform has still not been released, so what they actually promise to do or not do is unknown. (On the 2015 campaign trail, the Conservative party leader Stephen Harper said there wasn’t need for a national inquiry.) 

Fillmore said, “There is no relationship more important to Canada than its relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada.” Fillmore said their official platform will be announced soon.

On safety and rights for migrant women, both Roberts and Saulnier spoke of eliminating the Safe third country agreement which says those seeking asylum in Canada via the US, can’t do so.

Fillmore mentioned that the bilateral agreement between the province and the federal government on housing was only finalized in August—much later than many other provinces—so that’s been a large hold up on housing projects in Halifax.

Saulnier criticized the national housing strategy as being “built in the bubble of Ottawa for maybe Ontario and Quebec but is not fitting so well in our community.”

Questions from the audience covered childcare and abortion. All candidates agreed childcare is super expensive, expressed different ways of making it better. And all candidates spoke against any “reopening of the abortion debate” in parliament. Holland said the debate has been settled among his party.

To applauds, Saulnier said about the debate of women’s rights: “There isn’t one,” adding, “This is fundamental and essential to our bodily autonomy and integrity. And it is ours. Hands off.”

In their closing remarks, candidates rounded up their promises with a neat little bow, calling for action and change and asking for support.

Roberts, summed things up in her closing remarks saying “Women can make their voices heard in Ottawa. Just send more women to Ottawa.”

———
The Coast will be publishing the list of questions submitted by audience members and inviting the candidates to answer some of them. Stay tuned.
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Friday, September 6, 2019

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way to Halifax, surfers and the city prepare

Big waves and bigger winds will arrive on Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Sep 6, 2019 at 5:47 PM

img_5429.jpg

Batten down the hatches, stock the pantry and hold on to your hats. While Haligonians prepare for Hurricane Dorian, which will likely be a category 1 storm by the time it hits the shores of Nova Scotia on Saturday evening, the province’s surfers are keeping an eye on swell reports.

“Hurricanes bring the big waves,” says musician and surfer Rich Aucoin. He joined many surfers along the province’s southern coast on Friday morning to make the most of the coming storm, before it touches down at full strength on Saturday, where the clean waves will give way to a “messy, violent looking ocean.”

As of Friday afternoon, the wind had already changed, so surfers will have to wait until at least Sunday morning for the good waves—which Aucoin says could be twice as tall as him at their highest. 

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s warning preparedness meteorologist Bob Robichaud, warns that they do expect some very high waves, “but those conditions can be extremely dangerous.” 

He adds that Nova Scotians will feel the storm’s high winds on Saturday morning, and the worst of the storm is expected to hit overnight on Saturday.

“We're looking at a fairly nasty, late afternoon over much of the southern Maritimes,” Robichaud says. 

The strong winds on Saturday will keep the surfers out of the water, and also mean many other things in the city will be shut down. 

Halifax Transit has suspended bus and ferry service from noon on Saturday until at least noon on Sunday. (This means all shows for Halifax Fringe Festival are cancelled on Saturday, too.) 

Halifax Regional Municipality is also asking residents on the south shore to “consider other accommodations” during the hurricane. Saying the waves could reach heights of 15-metres—surely high enough to knock your sailboat out of the water. 

But Robichaud says the storm is luckily going to be coming to land at low tide, for at least the Eastern Shore area, which should help mitigate some of the potential damage. 

Robichaud expects a lot of the damage to be fallen and uprooted trees and Nova Scotia Power is mobilizing extra staff—who, please remember, aren't to blame for the outages, Emera Inc. is—to deal with the damage and outages.

Lots of events around the city have been postponed and cancelled, even Parks Canada has closed Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site for the weekend. Essentially, everything is closed and you should just stay home.

The provincial government says Nova Scotians should have enough supplies to last at least 72 hours from the storm's arrival—so hopefully you have enough peanut butter to carry you over until Tuesday at noon. (If you've left your supply gathering until the last minute, read this.)  

Halifax has been keeping an eye on Hurricane Dorian since it lashed the Bahamas earlier this week, in an uncharacteristic hover over one spot. Hurricanes typically keep moving but the pause has led to at least 30 reported deaths so far and huge amount of damage to property and homes.

Starting at noon on Saturday, The Red Cross will be opening three evacuation shelters for anyone who needs a safe place to stay. One at the Dartmouth East Community Centre, one at the Canada Games Centre in Clayton Park and one at St. Margarets Centre in Tantallon.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Environment and Sustainability committee to consider Electric Vehicle infrastructure

Charging stations and electric city vehicles could be coming to Halifax

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 3:58 PM


city-_electric_car.png

Almost two years after asking staff to figure out what Halifax can do to make the city more electric-car friendly, HRM’s environment and sustainability standing committee will see what’s being proposed. 

The report, which will be discussed by the committee and then passed forward to regional council as presented or with specific amendments on Thursday, lays out a plan to continue the city’s “if we build it, they will come” approach to environmentally friendly city life. 

As of 2018, there were only 170 electric vehicles on the roads here in Nova Scotia, but more than 41,000 across Canada. The plan focuses on ways to increase that use over the next five to 10 years.

The price of electric vehicles is higher than traditional cars, but as prices fall, it has been predicted they will even out with traditional cars by late 2020—when considering the money and fuel costs saved when driving an electric vehicle.

The strategy for electric cars will align with the city’s HalifACT 2050 plan which aims to reduce emissions—almost one quarter of which currently come from transportation. 

The move, says committee chair and councillor Richard Zurawski, is “an obvious one.” 

The strategy will cost $60,000-$75,000 to develop, and will look at priority actions, capital investments, lifecycle costs, estimated savings and emission reductions. It proposes $600,000 for public infrastructure and $200,000 in fleet (vehicles owned and operated by the city) conversion over the next one to two years. It could see charging infrastructure of varying quality installed across HRM, and options around making new developments totally set up for charging cars, sort-of set up for charging cars, or somewhere in between. (The more complete, the higher the cost.)

There are currently no provincial or federal subsidies for personal electric vehicles, something Zurawski says is essential for an update of these changes. 

“We’ve consistently offloaded climate change on the individual,” he says, adding that without government subsidies, it’s difficult for people to get ahead of the curve with environmentally conscious—and often expensive—changes which “we all recognize we have to make.” 

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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Should we let the children vote?

Adults have been making bad decisions for centuries, maybe it's time for change.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2019 at 1:00 AM

Prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks to children at the N’dilo Aboriginal Head Start program in the Northwest Territories. - VIA INSTAGRAM
  • Prime minister Justin Trudeau speaks to children at the N’dilo Aboriginal Head Start program in the Northwest Territories.
  • VIA INSTAGRAM

Young people have been speaking out for their rights. Many are wise beyond their years. Without the blinkers of ideology, workaday priorities and ingrained values, they can see clearly what’s happening. They’ve had to step up for their own futures because too few of their elders are willing to accept that rampant consumerism has been an illusory quest for happiness at the expense of the planet’s life-support systems.

“We have learned that if we don’t start acting for our future, nobody else will make the first move,” a Guardian article signed by 46 young people, including 16-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, said.

Kids understand that their well-being, safety and lives depend on a healthy planet, with clean air, good water, nutritious food and a stable climate. And many are skilled at distinguishing truth from lies. 

But while tens of thousands are marching in streets worldwide—for the #FridaysForFuture youth climate strikes that Thunberg started and more—they don’t always see much evidence that adults with the power to make change are listening. 

“We’re feeling the burden of it, so it makes sense that I would care the most,” 15-year-old Lily Gardner of Lexington, Kentucky, told the Guardian. “But I think it’s really difficult to get politicians and legislators to take our voices seriously, especially because they believe that we do not have any voting power.”

What if we gave them that power?

A cheeky movement to lower Canada’s voting age from 18 to eight might sound...out there. But I’m not seeing much evidence that adults are any better at making political decisions than young people. So many grown-ups are electing politicians who don’t even accept climate science, let alone the need to treat climate disruption as an emergency. Many governments and politicians around the world seem more beholden to the fading fossil fuel industry than the people they’re supposed to represent.

“Politicians have known about climate change for decades,” Thunberg and her fellow youth wrote. “They have willingly handed over their responsibility for our future to profiteers whose search for quick cash threatens our very existence.”

This is not hyperbole. Every reputable scientist in every climate-related discipline, from oceanography to atmospheric physics, is saying we have little time—not much more than a decade, if that—to turn things around, to keep from pumping so many greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that they can’t be re-absorbed or broken down before Earth heats beyond its ability to support human life.

Every legitimate scientific academy and institution in the world agrees. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has worked with scientists and researchers worldwide to regularly compile and summarize the research and evidence to share with government leaders and policy-makers. There’s no shortage of solutions. Many are being deployed and new ones are being developed all the time, but not quickly enough. The only thing holding us back is lack of political will.

Yet many grown-ups are willing to risk that all these scientists and their research are wrong—even though we’d still end up with cleaner air, water and soil and healthier people if we took their advice and it turned out they all somehow missed something. Those who are gambling away our youth’s future often support politicians who are likewise willing to bet against impossible odds.

Young people may not always make the best or most informed decisions, but given that their futures are at stake and they understand that change is possible and necessary, I can’t imagine they would make worse decisions than their elders.                  

As adults, we must do all we can to support our youngers.

The Friday youth walkouts are expanding to a Global Climate Strike on September 20, kick-starting a week of activities that people of all ages are invited to join, and culminating in another strike on September 27. We should encourage our kids and grandkids to take part and get out there ourselves. Let the children speak, and listen to them.

We should also make sure to take our election responsibilities seriously, asking candidates about their climate plans and voting for those who are committed to a cleaner, safer, brighter tomorrow.

Should we let the kids vote? As the 18to8 campaign says, “Let the future decide the future.”

———
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

What can we do about endangered species?

Captive breeding programs are simply not enough.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 1:00 AM

This is not a spotted owl, but if it was, it'd be only one of six left in the world. - STOCK
  • This is not a spotted owl, but if it was, it'd be only one of six left in the world.
  • Stock

BC is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a captive breeding program to protect spotted owls. With an estimated six of the owls left in the wild in Canada, all in BC, that seems like good news. But while the program includes some habitat protection, the province is also approving logging in habitat the owl needs to survive.

It’s a major flaw in government-led conservation efforts. Stories of captive breeding programs that lead to successful animal re-introduction are happy, but they’re often born out of sad stories about the animals’ plight.

Captive breeding programs are last-ditch efforts to save animals after humans have degraded or destroyed their habitat to the point where it’s difficult for them to survive. In almost every case, experts and regulators are aware of the species’ decline and the reasons behind it, but calls for habitat conservation go unheeded, or efforts are inadequate to ensure the animals can continue.

Species don’t disappear overnight. Activities that degrade and destroy habitat are allowed to continue until a species is driven to a point where it can no longer function in the wild and needs human help.

Conservation would work better if land-use management regimes focused on maintaining habitat wildlife needs to survive before it’s too late. Instead, we wait until tipping points have been passed and then scramble to capture animals for breeding.

When humans handle wildlife over generations, animals can become semi-domesticated and lose intergenerational knowledge about survival in nature.

Captive breeding itself is often controversial, riddled with risks. When humans handle wildlife over generations, animals can become semi-domesticated and lose intergenerational knowledge about survival in nature. Once they’re re-introduced into the wild, many don’t make it.

The odds of captured predators such as tigers and wolves surviving freedom are only 33 percent, according to recent research, and studies show captive-bred animals are more likely to interact and mate with other captive-bred animals and lose their ability to communicate with wild peers. Another study concluded captive-bred animals may develop behavioural changes such as “decrease in predator avoidance, decrease in foraging abilities, increase in sleeping patterns, decrease in overall activity, and some problems in social behaviours.”

The intergenerational effects are biological as well as cultural. One study showed captive breeding can result in genetic changes between captive and wild lineages, and confinement can make animals more susceptible to disease outbreaks. (A tragic lion-breeding program resulted in the deaths of nearly two dozen “struck by a mysterious disease aggravated by inbreeding and a weakened gene pool.”)

The main issue is the risk of releasing captive-bred wildlife into degraded habitat that couldn’t support it in the first place. Most examples of successful endangered species recovery involve animals facing threats other than habitat loss. Eagles were declining because of DDT contamination until it was banned. Condors were being poisoned by lead in the bodies of the carrion they ate until lead shot was limited.

Some programs pair captive breeding with habitat restoration, such as one run by the Burrowing Owl Conservation Society of BC, which takes an active approach to protecting and enhancing burrowing owl habitat through stewardship programs with landowners and First Nations. The burrowing owl is listed as endangered by the federal government, which says populations in Canada declined by 90 percent from 1990 to 2000 and a further 643 percent between 2005 and 2015. The grasslands it and many other species depend on have been all but wiped out by agriculture and development.

As with the spotted owl case and others, most captive breeding programs omit or fail to adequately address the crucial habitat part of the recovery equation. Boreal woodland caribou are being penned in Alberta and British Columbia while status quo oil and gas and logging operations continue to fragment their forest habitat. The provinces are also killing predators such as wolves and competitors such as barred owls as part of recovery initiatives for caribou and spotted owls—a stopgap solution.

Unless captive breeding programs are combined with meaningful habitat protection and restoration initiatives, efforts will be more about show than success.

For the sake of animals taken from the wild, and for staff and volunteers who spend countless hours nurturing wildlife from birth to releasable ages, we must demand that governments work to repair destroyed and fragmented habitat driving many species to the brink.

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Monday, August 19, 2019

New IPCC report flags diet and land-use changes to curb climate chaos

Suggests planting trees, eating less meat and reforming agricultural practices

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 4:56 PM

Producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions
  • Producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions
Land and agriculture are critical components in the climate crisis. According to a new Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change report, land use—including agriculture and forestry—accounts for 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions, while “natural land processes absorb carbon dioxide equivalent to almost a third of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry.”

Simply put, the way we manage forests and grow, process and distribute food is contributing to climate disruption, but protecting and restoring natural landscapes will help absorb excess Carbon Dioxide.

Our footprint is huge. Climate Change and Land, by 103 experts from 52 countries, says human use directly affects 69 to 76 percent of ice-free land surface, and agriculture accounts for 70 percent of global freshwater use. It notes “the per capita supply of vegetable oils and meat has more than doubled and the supply of food calories per capita has increased by about one third” since 1961, while 25 to 30 per cent of total food produced is lost or wasted, all of which increases emissions. Changing consumption patterns have also created a world where two billion adults are overweight or obese while at least 821 million are undernourished.

The report examines food security, desertification, droughts, soil erosion and degradation, and solutions ranging from plant-based diets and sustainable animal agriculture to reducing deforestation and protecting green spaces. “Sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change, on ecosystems and societies,” it says.

“Land already in use could feed the world in a changing climate and provide biomass for renewable energy, but early, far-reaching action across several areas is required,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of the IPCC working group that prepared the report.

“Many land-related responses that contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation can also combat desertification and land degradation and enhance food security,” the report says. David Suzuki Foundation research shows protecting and restoring natural systems provides benefits beyond sequestering carbon and addressing climate disruption—such as reducing flood risks, filtering water, controlling erosion and more—at much lower costs than built infrastructure.

Some say the IPCC study doesn’t go far enough. Because governments around the world must approve its reports, they tend to be conservative.

UK climate writer George Monbiot calls the report “a tragic missed opportunity” that “shies away from the big issues and fails to properly represent the science.” His Guardian article questions the IPCC’s tendency to play it safe. “Was the fear of taking on the farming industry—alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely—too much to bear?”

Monbiot argues the report authors underestimate agriculture’s contribution to emissions by failing “to capture the overall impact of food production,” noting, for example, that producing one kilogram of beef protein uses an average of 1,250 kilograms of carbon—“roughly equal to driving a new car for a year, or to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.”

Rowan Jacobsen writes in Outside that developments like “Beyond” meat products spell the end of commercial beef consumption. He notes producing 1,000 calories of beef takes 36,000 calories of feed, uses more than 430 gallons of water and 140 square metres of land and generates nearly 10 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions. “In comparison, an Impossible Burger uses 87 percent less water, 96 percent less land, and produces 89 percent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions.”

In Wired, Megan Molteni suggests gene editing crop plants with Crispr technology could reduce land-use pressure and fertilizer use, and make crops more nutritious and less environmentally damaging. “But it’s still early days,” she writes, “and the impact Crispr could have is not fully understood.”

International director and co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association Ronnie Cummins argues in the Independent that “regenerative food, farming and land-use practices” could “fix our climate, restore the environment, improve the livelihoods of farmers and rural communities and produce more nutritious food.”

Planting trees, protecting green spaces, eating less meat and reforming agricultural practices won’t save us from climate chaos on their own. But, along with reducing waste, increasing energy efficiency and conservation and shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy, they’re all part of the solution.

———
David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.
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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

John Perkins says he'll see Atlantic Gold, RCMP in court

"I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings."

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 4:58 PM

John Perkins after making his lawsuit announcement. - THE COAST
  • John Perkins after making his lawsuit announcement.
  • The Coast

John Perkins has filed a lawsuit against Atlantic Gold Corporation and
the RCMP after his hasty caught-on-video arrest at a public information session on mining in Sherbrooke this past May.

The information meeting was hosted by Atlantic Gold, whose plans to construct three gold mines in Nova Scotia put them at the forefront of this province's new frontier in gold mining.

Two months after the incident Perkins told The Coast, “my physical injuries are pretty much healed. My emotional, cognitive injuries are still an issue” He says he can’t bring himself to watch the video of the incident, which has been viewed over 11,000 times.

Perkins, the founder of Sustainable Nova Scotia, says in a press release that he is standing up "to counter the chilling affect the arrest could have on public discourse about the environment: 'I feel strongly that it is my duty to hold them accountable for the injuries and harm they have done to me and to do what I can to stop this from happening again. I have done this because I do not want people to think that corporations are legally permitted to make false accusations against members of the public in order to have them arrested and removed from public meetings,.'"

In the world of Nova Scotia gold mining, as one government department spends millions to clean up polluted sites from previous gold rushes, another department’s involved in making the next gold rush happen. Globally, the price of gold is on the rise, and last week hit the highest it's been since 2013. Good news for those set to profit off the mining industry, bad news for the rest of us as gold's value "tends to rise at times of geopolitical uncertainty."

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Thursday, August 8, 2019

Deniers deflated as climate reality hits home

As it gets harder to deny the reality of climate change, ridiculous claims and agendas arise

Posted By on Thu, Aug 8, 2019 at 1:00 AM

"Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments."
  • "Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments."

Climate science deniers are becoming desperate as their numbers diminish in the face of incontrovertible evidence that human-caused global warming is putting our future at risk. Although most people with basic education, common sense and a lack of financial interest in the fossil fuel industry accept what scientists worldwide have proven through decades of research, some media outlets continue to publish inconsistent, incoherent opinions of people who reject climate science.

Over the past few weeks, Canada’s Postmedia chain has run columns denying or downplaying the seriousness of climate change, by Fraser Institute senior fellow Ross McKitrick, defeated politician Joe Oliver and fossil fuel executive and Fraser Institute board member Gwyn Morgan, who is also former chair of scandal-plagued SNC-Lavalin.

McKitrick, an economist, has also signed the Cornwall Alliance Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming, which says, in part, “We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence—are robust, resilient, self-regulating and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception.” Other prominent deniers, including Roy Spencer and David Legates, have also signed.

South of the border, the Heartland Institute, a leading US denial organization with ties to Canadian organizations such as the misnamed International Climate Science Coalition, still holds its annual denial-fest. But even that organization is feeling hard times in the face of evidence—similar to the proof that made it walk back its previous support for the tobacco industry to the point that its members now admit smoking is bad but defend vaping and other “smokeless” tobacco industry products.

Heartland’s 13th International Conference on Climate Change—held at the Washington, D.C., Trump International Hotel—was down from three days to one. It once attracted more than 50 sponsors, but this year drew just 16—and one was fake. Fossil fuel companies have also cut funding, realizing denial is not an effective way to gain social licence. Attendance was limited to a couple hundred mostly older white men.

As usual, the conference speakers’ reasons for denying climate science were all over the map.

Some simply rejected all evidence. According to British eccentric Christopher Monckton, who has no scientific credentials, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes are decreasing; sea levels are falling, not rising; and rising carbon dioxide emissions are improving life on Earth!

Others argued that Carbon Dioxide levels aren’t rising, while some claimed the planet is cooling. In other words, the arguments were mostly easily debunked, contradictory nonsense in service of the most profitable and polluting industry in human history.

You’d think Heartland would be riding high under a government that shares its anti-science views. But even holding the conference in a Trump hotel blocks from the White House didn’t gain it the profile organizers would have liked. Tom Harris, a discredited Canadian fossil fuel promoter who works with Heartland and the International Climate Science Coalition, penned a sad article with fellow denier, Heartland “science director” and convicted criminal Jay Lehr, crying, “no one from the Trump administration will be in attendance,” which, they whined, is “a huge loss since ICCC-13 will reveal that neither science nor economics back up the climate scare.”

Lehr, a groundwater hydrologist by training, also worked for The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition, an organization founded by Phillip Morris and by PR firm APCO Worldwide to cast doubt on the scientific evidence regarding harms caused by tobacco. Harris also worked for APCO Worldwide.

It’s getting harder for anyone to deny the reality staring us in the face. Those who continue to spread doubt and confusion about climate science are starting to look even more ridiculous with their many conflicting, insubstantial arguments.

Even some prominent deniers have come around. Political consultant Frank Luntz—who once advised the US government to cast doubt on scientific certainty around climate change and to use the term “climate change” rather than “global warming” because it sounds less scary—now says, “I was wrong in 2001.” In recent testimony before the US Senate, Luntz said, “Rising sea levels, melting ice caps, tornadoes and hurricanes more ferocious than ever. It is happening.”

Yes, it is happening. And it’s time for deniers to accept evidence and reason or get the hell out of the way.

———

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David SuzukiFoundation Senior Editor and Writer Ian Hanington.

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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Next stop: transit fare increases

Posted By on Thu, Jul 25, 2019 at 6:20 PM

web.jpg

Proposed changes to transit fares for kids, adults and seniors were approved by the transportation standing committe this week.


If things go ahead according to schedule, adult fares for Halifax Transit will go up from $2.50 to $2.75 on September 30—an increase that was approved during the 2019/2020 budget process.


The extra quarter will fund increased wages, more expensive fuel and service increases like new routes from the Moving Forward Together Plan.


Staff supported the increase by comparing Halifax Transit’s fares to other similar cities in the country, and the fare here was one of the lowest. To make up for the fact that wages in this region are also much lower than those in other parts of the country, staff say they looked at fares in other parts of Atlantic Canada, where Halifax Transit fares were relatively similar.


Councillor Sam Austin says if you look at “where inflation is, in some ways, it’s not really an increase at all.”


Staff recommend changing passenger classifications, removing the student classification, redefining youth and increasing the age where children can ride free from under 4 to twelve.

Councillor Waye Mason put forward an ammendment to give a bit more thought to the implications of staff's final classification change, removing the senior fare category.


Marc Santilli, manager of technical services for Halifax Transit, says part of the reasoning behind removing the senior category was census data that showed populations over 65 were now doing better economically than they were in the 2001 census. He adds that since it's early in the process, the city hadn’t done any actual consultation with seniors yet.


Mason hopes his amendment will allow the other changes to go forward while doing further research into the effect of changing or removing the senior fare. “The first thing is to determine who our riders are and then determine what their needs are,” he says, making sure seniors who don’t fall below the current low-income qualifications, but still by other measures would be considered low-income and benefit from the lower fares, are considered.


Robert Young, a low-income senior, says, “I would expect a big pushback from seniors on this issue.” He uses transit often—when not riding his bike, which he’d ridden to the meeting to see what committee members had to say—and while he says he doesn’t have a problem with the 25-cent fare increase, he also says that the free rides for seniors on Tuesdays, outside of rush hour, aren’t very beneficial. The free Tuesday rides for seniors won’t see any change.


Staff also recommends increasing the cost of the UPass given to university students in line with other areas in Canada, which usually is an automatic cost folded in to their tuition costs. As well, staff recommended increasing the airport fare from $3.50 to $6, but councillor Waye Mason says he hopes to be able to make sure that doesn’t affect people getting on and off in Fall River, who use the 320 airport route for regular commuting—though that wasn’t included in staff’s recommendation passed by the committee this week.

The committee also approved the recommendation to look into charging for parking at the Halifax Transit Park and Rides, specifically those at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, which sees increased parking from NSCC Waterfront students who park there instead of paying for parking at the school.


And while a utopic end goal of the Moving Forward Together Plan could be to have entirely free transit, Mason says there’s “about 35 million reasons” Halifax Transit couldn’t adequately make that change, as fares currently generate $33.68 million according to the staff report, so taxes would have to increase to make up for the revenue loss.


The approved recommendations with Mason’s amendment will go to regional council in a few weeks for further discussion before any final decisions are made.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Martha Paynter talks about abortion on the big screen

Don’t worry about missing Unplanned in theatres, here’s seven on-screen representations worth watching

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 11:52 AM

shrill_abortion_.png


The Coast sits down with Martha Paynter to talk about abortion on the big screen. From drawn-out, dramatic representations to quick and empowering montages—set to “Silent Night”—Paynter shares her thoughts on seven noteworthy examples of abortion on TV and in the movies. 

“How many billion labours and births have we seen on screen? There are 100,000 abortions a year in this country. So, we absolutely need to have these representations to normalize this aspect of reproductive health care,” says Paynter. “But misinformation is a really big problem in health care. The danger of misinformation, of incorrect portrayals is that people will be afraid, and not even seek the health care they need.”

1. Dirty Dancing

"So, Penny has to have an abortion, but not everything is shown. It's just shown that she basically ended up butchered, and needed help.

That was early exposure. Dirty Dancing was pre-Morgentaler decision in Canada. It just shows that if you do not have safe access to abortion, people will use other means. Dirty Dancing was a really important movie, and a cult favourite watched by I can't even imagine how many people, how many times. Everybody’s seen Dirty Dancing more than once.

I know in her research prior to all the changes in PEI, Colleen MacQuarrie was involved in a research team that did hear about women in PEI using illegal and self-harming means to get abortions. So we know it happens.”

2. Degrassi High
season 1, episode 2

"In 1989, immediately after the Morgentaler decision, Degrassi High was an incredibly popular show. And that does show realistically what people faced going into a clinic [at the time]. The intimidation and scare tactics, lies, violence that people face. In in the late ’80s, early ’90s, that was a time of a lot of lawsuits raised, a lot of Morgentaler's work was happening at that time. And there was very aggressive anti-abortion protesting, including the firebombing of [Morgentaler's Toronto Abortion] clinic in 1992. It was an intense time in the history of abortion access in Canada. And that clip on Degrassi shows very realistically what people would face.

So here in Nova Scotia, our only abortion clinic is within a hospital. It's a locked unit, you can't get into it. It's several stories up. And we do abortions every day of the week. And so we don't really have protesters that come. You don't know what somebody is going into the QE2 for. Having services within a hospital anonymizes people and makes it a lot safer in that sense.

The other thing that's interesting about that, is that the twins…weren’t pro-choice people. And Heather gave her sister a really hard time. What Spike says [when asked for advice from Heather] is beautiful, and a really important message that everybody should hear: That what's right for me is not necessarily right for somebody else. And it is it's not up to me to determine what somebody else does. And it's pretty basic, but it's really profound. And I like that Heather supported her sister at the end."

3. Grey’s Anatomy
season 7, episode 22/season 8, episode 1

"It's just very straightforward. And that's the reality. Yes, a lot of abortion patients are young people who haven't quite figured out how to manage their reproduction and end up with an unplanned pregnancy. But it also happens to professionals. It also happens to people who already have a bunch of children. It happens to all kinds of people.

In 2011, this had to be shown terms of…she had to have an extraordinarily valuable career and be this force who contributes so much to society as a brilliant surgeon. And that makes it justifiable. And almost 10 years later, I think we are at a point where you can just not want it.

Christina's abortion [is] very medical, very anaesthetized, very sterilized. They make it seem like it's a big operation. That's not the reality at our abortion clinics. And it's not the reality in a lot of places where abortion is a procedure. A surgical abortion isn't always done an operating theatre with full sterile fields."

4. Rita
season 2, episode 1

rita3.png

"In Rita, you get a woman in Europe, who just gets the pills and goes home and takes them. It's not a big deal. In Europe, they've had Myfegymiso for 30 years, it's a normal part of reproductive health care. Rita is an older professional, and she has an affair, and she has an abortion. It's the only of these examples where the medical abortion is chosen. And when you choose medical abortion, it's not very dramatic. You take the pill, and you have a miscarriage at home. And so you don't have the operative theatre, you don't have all the health professionals looking at you. None of that happens. So it's not as cinematic I guess. But that's what happens. In reality, you get your prescription at the pharmacy, and then you go home, and you take the pills. So I appreciated that, because it's the only representation of medical abortion that I can think of, and it's very straightforward. Which is 99 percent of the time how a medical abortion proceeds.

[Right now in Canada], it’s mostly an issue about eligibility. Do people have access to the things they need to have access to, in order to be eligible for medical abortion? Are people aware of their bodies enough that they catch that they're pregnant? And depending on the circumstance you might need a little bit more time off work. Because the surgical abortion is done in 15 minutes, whereas a medical abortion can take a couple of days."

5. Obvious Child

"The only thing [that’s different] about this one is that she struggles to find the money. [The difference in Canada is] that only at a few places, as reported recently by the Globe and Mail, would you ever have to find the money [for an abortion]. You should not have to pay for it anywhere. But then it just depicts it as a positive experience in her life. And she makes the right decision for herself and she's well-received. And that's the reality. For most people. This is a pretty straightforward decision. 

We don't talk enough about how every single one of us knows someone who's had an abortion. We also saw when her mom tells her that she's had an abortion, you know, a third of women have an abortion. So that means a third of our mothers have had an abortion. It just does a really good job of normalizing it."

6. Scandal
season 5, episode 9

"It's the same with Grey's Anatomy in that a lot of people saw it. It’s very similar: It’s by Shonda Rhimes, it’s a woman of colour. It’s important that it's not just white women who are represented having abortions. It's an extremely professional, has-her-stuff-together woman. But also, the actual procedure isn't given much airtime... Just think about that. When we only give a minute of airtime to a really positive decision for someone, that's censoring the reality of how normal and generally positive this decision and health care experience is for people, right?"

7. Shrill
season 1, episode 1


"It is the best. I love how they covered how the pharmacist didn't educate Annie about how Plan B doesn't work if you're over 175 pounds. So the show is doing some sexual health education right there. 

And then in the actual abortion, the physician was very realistic, she's freezing the cervix, and she starts the dilation, opening up the cervix. She's talking her way through it and explains ‘I’m two-thirds of the way done the procedure.’ 

And I loved her friend was at her side but unfortunately, that's not how things work at our clinic here. Friends and family have to wait in the waiting room. But there is a nurse at your side, holding your hand and just supporting you, and I just loved how it was so supportive, and realistic, and kind. 

And then afterwards, Annie is able to say, ‘Oh, I made that decision about my body. And I'm going to make some good decisions about my life. And I'm not going to let people treat me badly.’ This show recognizes that this is not a horrible part of people's lives. It's the time that they can take some control and can direct their future. And that's not bad."

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Vol 27, No 17
September 19, 2019

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