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July 25, 2017

The Sixth Fisherman

Province cracks down on popular lobster pound near Peggy's Cove reads the CBC headline.  The article goes on to say that Ryer Lobsters is being closed by Food Safety regulators until they have a washroom, a sewage disposal system and potable water.

This is a topic I happen to know something about, having filed with four others a Human Rights complaint for exactly the same public health reason.  It was twice denied, then allowed on judicial appeal.

This may be an effort to demonstrate stricter enforcement in order to fend off a Human Rights Board of Inquiry, which may be coming soon.  Or it could just be a coincidence.

Probably unknown to the food scientists are the seven exceptions they granted province-wide for businesses similar to Ryer's:
  1. Gorham Eliott & Co, Ltd, Foodshop and Gas Station, Tiverton, Long Island, Digby County
  2. de Molitor Brothers, 4619 Highway 103, Jordan Falls
  3. Parker General Sore, 4181 Hwy 359, Hall's Harbour, King's County
  4. Porter's Farm Market, 627 Belcher Street, Port Williams
  5. Gibson's Kwik Way, 5148 Highway 1, Newport, Hants Co.
  6. Corey's Place Cafe, 3417 Highway 217, Tiverton
  7. Name redacted, 901 Hwy #12, Chester Grant
Each of which  received a letter with variations on this theme:
(a) This facility has been in existence and operating as a Food Establishment since (1905/1945/1917) without running water or approved drainage disposal systems
(b) The installation of these services cannot occur at this time due to other Regulatory restrictions
(c) The facility must alter it's operation so as to offer only prepackaged food for sale
(d) The facility must practice all possible risk reduction through the provision of temporary or portable hand washing facilities designed in consultation with an Food Safety Specialist and ensure that all wastewater collected be disposed of in an approved manner.
Except the last, where employees are permitted to use a washroom in a nearby home.

I know of these because of a FOIPOP filing in the spring of 2015.

Based on the seven exemptions, I think Ryer's could make a strong case of unequal treatment.  Still, they should have a washroom as the regulations demand.
Washroom facilities
20 (1) A food establishment must have washroom facilities for staff and washroom facilities for the public available in a convenient location, unless exempted by the Administrator.
Ryer's Facebook page says they are a restaurant, so it's hard to argue otherwise.  They're probably making a ton of money, so they could afford a washroom and keep the charm.  They might even get a trailer-mounted privy like the Stubborn Goat on the Halifax waterfront.

Still, this seems an odd place to begin.  Have the food safety officials finally accepted the germ theory of disease transmission?  If so, they should start with the many patio restaurants in the province without accessible washrooms which are the subject of our Human Rights complaint.  Like the Five Fisherman.

July 20, 2017

Don't confuse privacy and secrecy

Monday I attended a meeting about the upcoming Federal Disability Legislation hosted by the Alliance for an Inclusive and Accessible Canada. One big issue for me is how government at all levels is just clueless about discrimination against people with disabilities.

Since the Mayor was there, I took the opportunity to ask about progress on the diversity and inclusion front for employment.

HRM has only the vaguest policy on this subject, without specific targets of any kind: "The Halifax Regional Municipality strives to create a diverse and inclusive work environment. Its goal of a strong and diverse workforce that accurately represents the communities it serves will capitalize on the strength and talent of those communities."

I believe that some categories, protected under section 15 of the Charter are under-represented in the 4,000 person HRM workforce. Whether this is due to deliberate discrimination or the piling on of external factors is anyone's guess, but the result is the same. Does HRM have few indigenous workers because their access to housing, education and transportation is insufficient or because someone doesn't like them? It doesn't matter - it's all discrimination.

I wrote an unflattering review of a staff report last fall. The diversity and inclusion initiative is two years old and we still have no idea of the number of employees in various categories. There was to be a self-identification survey, but it ran afoul of privacy considerations says Laughie Rutt, HRM Diversity Adviser and wheelchair user. One is tempted to conclude that, like many situations where it doesn't want to be held accountable, government invokes the privacy defense.

Here's the charter:

15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

If I asked the mayor how many men and how many women worked for HRM, I think he could get his human resources department to provide the answer. Similarly, the age of employees is generally known for pension and salary considerations.

Asking how many 25-year-olds work for HRM doesn't identify individuals. In fact, there are lots of interesting questions that can be answered without impinging on privacy. Rather than throwing up his hands, the mayor should ask each department head for the following employee information:
  • Number of men
  • Number of women
  • Number of visible minorities
  • Number of wheelchair users
  • Number of employees with service animals
  • Number with screen reading software provided by HRM
  • Number with job assistants
Furthermore, In their job application process, HRM asks this question:

*Employment Equity - By voluntarily providing information about yourself in these areas, you will assist Halifax Regional Municipality to more effectively meet its commitment to improve employment opportunities for members of under-represented groups. If you would like to self identify, please choose from the list:

  • Member of Aboriginal Persons of Canada
  • Member of Racially Visible group
  • Persons with Disabilities
  • Women
  • Choose not to Identify

This is where I believe HRM is failing, and it doesn't want you to know. Numbers of applicants and numbers of hires are probably both disappointing. But let the public be the judge. What are the numbers? It's easy to provide the answer, it reflects government policy and doesn't have anything even remotely to do with privacy.

Again, HRM has a policy favoring diversity and inclusion.  It has the means to establish a benchmark and measure progress.  It has an obligation to do so.

It's not a secret.

And a very timely article from Huffington Post Canada..........

July 15, 2017

Grace for Sarah

Carrie Ernst, Operations Manager at Independent Living Nova Scotia, has written to tell us about an effort underway to remember Sarah Dube, first recipient of the James McGregor Stewart Award in 2015.  As you remember, Sarah died late last year, and her friend Grace McNee is cycling across Canada as a personal tribute to Sarah and fundraiser for Independent Living Nova Scotia, to which Sarah was so devoted.


Carrie writes: "Sarah touched the lives of so many and inspired others with her spirit, kindness and light. I am hoping to share this with your society and it’s members."

Grace on a Bike – The Sarah Dubé Memorial

On June 22, 2017 Grace McNee began her incredible journey in Vancouver, BC. Over the next few months, she will be cycling across Canada on her trusty bike Beto to raise money for Independent Living Nova Scotia in loving memory of Sarah Dubé.
Grace explains why she is traveling across Canada in Sarah’s memory:

“Sarah came into my life last year, and while I had far too short a time with her, she touched me deeply and inspired me beyond measure. Although I was her care worker, Sarah cared for me as much as I did for her and quickly became my nearest and dearest friend. She had many passions, from travel to philosophy, to the environment, to animal rights, and many more, too numerous to count. I learned a lot from her and she has inspired me to tackle the trek across Canada by bicycle. Nothing was ever too much for Sarah, and she never let her disability define her.
Sarah was a strong believer in the importance of independent living, and chaired the Board of Independent Living Nova Scotia (ILNS). We attended many meetings and events together, and I have been privileged to see the impact of some of the work they do. Through Sarah, independent living has become a cause near and dear to me. Sarah opened my eyes to new ways of looking at the world, and of living in it. She will always be one of the strongest and feistiest people I ever had the pleasure of knowing.
I am riding by bicycle across Canada, from the West Coast all the way to Newfoundland, and am raising money for ILNS in Sarah’s honour. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated.”
Grace’s website has an interactive map and blog of her locations, adventures and hard work.
Please check out Grace’s website and consider supporting her efforts: