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Kapow! Blasting Schmidtville–

bang (1)First published in the NSAdvocate.org

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – What is the point of the city declaring downtown Halifax’s Schmidtville a Heritage Conservation District when hundreds of houses in the area are at risk of cracking, shifting and even falling apart?

Wednesday’s soaring heat brought out demonstrators from the Schmidtville neighbourhood, which includes Dresden Row, Birmingham, Clyde, Brenton and Morris streets.  They protested the powerful blasting by developer WM Fares who is building a residential tower on the corner of Clyde and Brenton streets. Demonstrators included an octogenarian life-long resident, several retirees, young professionals who live in Park Victoria, the adjacent apartment building, and condo-owners from the Trillium on South Park St.

The strong blasting takes place five to ten times each day and the vibrations can be felt in houses, apartments and even while walking along the streets.  Vibrations and shaking can be felt on the upper floors of the new Central Library. Fares did meet with some residents and gave them a choice: power hammering to break the rocks for his building’s foundation, or blasting.  It’s Hobson’s choice – or no choice at all. It seems the developers are entitled to build and to disrupt and the residents are entitled to bear the consequences. This is social dumping – the rich and powerful are allowed to take away local residents’ right to quality of life.

It’s not just the one developer and one building.  It’s been five huge excavations for buildings over the better part of 10 years – including the Central Library (but because it is a wonderful place and a ‘public good’, Haligonians were willing to put up with that inconvenience).

But why should local people have to put up with more excavations and blasting so some rich guys can get richer?   Residents’ concerns include cracks in their buildings’ foundations, excessive noise, cement mixers and heavy trucks rumbling up and down the very narrow streets of Schmidtville, well into the evenings five days a week.   Afterwards, the historic jewel of Schmidtville is left in a canyon – surrounded by tall, expensive buildings.

Schmidtville residents, who fought for over a decade for their community to be recognized and preserved, are expected to sacrifice their quality of life on the altar of profits for developers and a city hall which tends to give in to most of their demands for variances, for private roads, for truck parking or for ‘extras’.

The affordable housing is supplied by owners of existing old buildings in Schmidtville – not by the developers.  Statistics Canada reveals that the neighbourhood has a median individual income of $25,500 — which means rents in the older buildings have been affordable.  Schmidtville and the surrounding apartment buildings constitute one of the densest areas of the city –rivaling the density of Manhattan.

Homes, small storefronts, apartments and cottages dating back to the mid 1850s and 1870s make Schmidtville’s built heritage of special significance to Halifax. A mere two weeks ago, Halifax Regional Council unanimously passed a motion to declare Schmidtville a Heritage Conservation District.  Yet what is it all worth if city hall does not protect the community from developers whose blasting and relentless construction and street-obstruction damages the historic buildings.  Fares and other developers have a wanton disregard for the local owners and tenants and think nothing of destroying their quality of life.

Canadians need a reality check about who exactly is victimised by hate crimes

A longer version of this article was first published in Rabble.ca

Muhammed Abu Marzouk

Abu Marzouk of Mississauga, Ont. courtesy of LaunchGood.

 

While anti-Semitism is a scourge and should be dealt with seriously, the main targets of harassment and violence in Canada are not Jews. Rather it is people of colour, notably Blacks, Muslims, Arabs, and Indigenous people who have been attacked and brutalised in Canadian communities. Most recently, it is Muslims who have been the target of violence, and even murder.

This week, the media highlighted 5 racial attacks.

  • First was the brutal assault of a 39-year old man in Mississauga, Ont. who tried to drive home from a community picnic. Was he or anyone in his community Jewish? No. Two white brothers shouted “Fucking Arab people—terrorists” while they kicked his car. Mohammed Abu Marzouk got out of his car and –while his two young daughters looked on — the two assailants beat him so badly he barely survived.

 

  • We were reminded about the men shot to death while at prayer in January 2017. Six months previous, a pig’s head had been left on the steps of the same house of worship. Were the victims Jews? Did the attack take place at a synagogue? No the murder rampage happened at a mosque in Quebec City. A 28-year-old white Quebecois, Alexandre Bissonnette, took an assault rifle into the mosque killing six men, and injuring five more.

 

  • Two months after the shooting at the mosque, 80 protestors barged into a meeting of the Peel District School Board (near Toronto). They demanded the board ban a religious group from praying together on Fridays—as had been allowed for twenty years. One protestor ripped apart a holy book – scattering the pages then stomping on them. Did the man tear up the Five Books of Moses, or the Torah? No—he tore the Qur’an from cover to cover, as others in his group shouted out Islamophobic slurs.

 

  • Last week a young man with a beard was terrorised while shopping in a Sobey’s grocery store in London, Ont. A white man in a red t-shirt screamed that the bearded man was an “illegal alien” and tried to prevent him from leaving the store. The bearded man was not a Jew but a Muslim. The police later said the victim didn’t want to press charges.

 

  • Four months ago, a group of friends were eating at Denny’s in Lethbridge, Alberta. A woman at the next table taunted them with a racist diatribe and told them to “go back to your fucking country.” Were they targeted because they were Jews? No, they were Muslim.

 

  • And this just in, last week a white half-ton truck drove onto the sidewalk in a residential area of Saskatoon, nearly killing one man. Was he Jewish? No, he was a Muslim who had just walked home from morning prayers. So far the police have laid no charges.

 

Statistics Canada’s figures show there has been a 60% increase in hate crimes against Muslims from 2014 to 2015; there has been a 253% increase from 2012 to 2015. In 2015 there were 159 incidents reported against Muslims, versus 99 the previous year.

Police classify hate crime incidents in two ways. One includes violence, such as assault, threats, or criminal harassment. They account for 38% of police-reported hate crimes –- up 15% from 2014 to 2015. The other kind of hate crime is classified as non-violent. Incidents can include mischief, vandalism or graffiti. Non-violent incidents have increased by 5% in the same time period

While in terms of hate crimes motivated solely by religion, police reported Jews were targets in 213 incidents, and Muslims were targets in 178 incidents. While Statistics Canada claims nearly half (48%) of hate crimes based on religion are against Jews—only 16% of all hate-motivated crimes are based on religion.

However 50% of Canada’s hate-motivated crimes involve race. In 2015, nearly 35% of hate crimes happened to members of the Black community; 14% of hate crimes targeted people of middle eastern descent. But the numbers could be higher as experts warn that often racially marginalized people do not report incidents for fear of further victimization, or concern the police will do nothing about it.

However, despite the fact that Blacks and Muslims are the main targets of racial violence, B’nai Brith, in it’s Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents 2017, deliberately conflates their evidence of actual personal harm or violence done to Canadian Jews with vandalism to buildings and verbal harassment. Looking at the Audit’s own figures in each of 2015 and 2016, far less than 1% of incidents against Jews involved violence. What is more telling is that B’nai Brith never gives any examples of person-on-person attacks, or violent incidents that happened to Jews. This tells us there were probably no violent attacks on Jews, as we have seen against Muslims.

Of course we don’t want to see anyone hurt or killed in Canada – being targeted for their religion, race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or other grounds proscribed by the provincial Human Rights Acts. B’nai Brith– in trying to establish that Jews face the most hate crimes –are doing a disservice to us all and deflecting the reality that Jews are not the predominant victims of violent hate crimes in Canada. Every week, Blacks, Arabs and other racialised Canadians are the targets of violent crimes – crimes that maim and sometimes kill – which is something no Canadian Jew has to face.

kanadada_islamofobi_protestosu_h250367_d97fb.jpg

Please note:  There was one case of a Jewish man killed in Canada.  In 2002, David Rosenzveig, 48, bearded and wearing a skull-cap and suit , was killed on a Toronto street.  The murderer, Christoper Steven McBride was sentenced to second degree murder and sentenced to at least 15 years in prison.  Both the crown and the defence agreed the killing was not a hate crime; it was attributed to McBride’s  “escalating anti-social behaviour”, his drug and alcohol abuse and his long criminal record. 

The Holiday That Isn’t — Natal Day in NS

MACPASS Natal Day Fireworks

Photo:  Destination Halifax

Could the NS government be any stingier with regard to legislating paid holidays in our province? Probably not! We are now coming up to one of what I call the ‘unrecognised’ holidays – Natal Day.

Natal Day, celebrated the first Monday of August, is a holiday only for employees represented by trade unions, or those employed by government offices which tend to close that day. If your employer has a custom and practice of closing for Natal Day – and paying you for the holiday – Labour Standards will try to enforce it.

But for almost everyone else in the province, here’s what you need to know.

Natal Day is not a paid holiday, or what some call a statutory holiday. Natal Day is also not a retail closing day—stores and services can remain open for whatever hours they like. Employees have no right to refuse to work that day, if the employer is open and wants you to work. There is no overtime or holiday pay if you do work that day. If your employer opts to close for the day, you could get the day off with no pay.

With only 6 paid holidays a year, the Atlantic provinces boast the least number of paid holidays in Canada.

If you are looking for a paid holiday in August, think about organizing a union at your workplace. Ask me how.

 

Restorative Justice Caseworkers on Strike in Halifax

Day two of the restorative justice caseworkers’ strike and it must have been more than 32 degrees on Barrington Street in downtown Halifax.

CUPE-L4764Armed with opened umbrellas, sun-screen, tri-colour popsicles and new t-shirts, members of CUPE Local 4764 walked the picket line. They were not alone, as today supporters from another union, PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, joined the picket on their lunch hour.

HRM’s restorative justice caseworkers are demanding equal pay for equal work. A job evaluation found that the work they do scores at 90% of what provincial probation officers do. Yet probation officers earn nearly twice as much. This helps to explain why one caseworker recently left, and others have to hold down more than one job to make ends meet.

“We earn $37,690 a year,” says Shila LeBlanc, a striking restorative justice caseworker and the media liaison person for CUPE Local 4764. “We earn $37,690 whether we have one day or 12 years on the job! We get no salary steps, and no cost of living increases.” The caseworkers have not had a raise since 2016 – which is like taking a wage cut of $1300-– accounting for inflation.

“Our workload has increased by nearly 150 percent, with no adjustment in pay,” explains LeBlanc. Nova Scotia’s restorative justice program once created for youth aged 12-17, changed in 2016 to include adults. That is why the caseload is so high.

NS probation officers are part of the province’s civil service, while restorative justice workers are employed by an independent agency, Community Justice Society (CJS), which is totally funded by the Department of Justice. CJS employs six people in HRM, five of whom are women. That is another factor that explains why their wages are lower than those of probation officers. LeBlanc notes that 65% of probation officers are men, while 5 out of 6 of the restorative justice workers in Halifax are women.

HRM’s restorative justice workers are unionized, unlike the other 50 caseworkers across the province who are not. Halifax caseworkers have been without a contract since 2016. The Dept of Justice has offered no increase in funding to date.

 

First published in NSAdvocate.org — 31 July 2018

Victoria Day in NS — if you’re not in a union, you will have to work Monday, for no extra pay!

 

The good news is that the annual May Two-Four weekend is coming up. The bad news is, unless you are covered by a collective agreement at your workplace, you will not get the Monday off with pay.   More bad news — if you do work that day, you earn only straight time: there is no holiday pay.

This is because Victoria Day, which is celebrated on Monday, May 21 this year, is not one of the 6 paid holidays in Nova Scotia.

Pretty well every mall, every store, garden centre, restaurant, and commercial service in Nova Scotia is open on Victoria Day. That is because Victoria Day is not one of the 9 days that the provincial government declares a retail closing day, as per the Retail Business Designated Day Closing Act. But government offices, the libraries, schools, hospital clinics and universities are closed.

 

If you get the day off with pay, thank your union –- better still get actively involved in your union. If you don’t get the day off as a paid holiday, consider asking a union to represent you and your fellow workers. That way the union can negotiate for you to get the Monday of the May Two-Four weekend as a paid holiday. Contact me for further information: equitywatchns@gmail.com

Want more rights at work? Want to fight bullying and discrimination in the workplace: contact equitywatchns@gmail.com and join our Equity Watch site on FACEBOOK.

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch.

US & Israel celebrate in Jerusalem, as the Whole World watches the Bloodbath in Gaza

embassy1fromAP

On May 14, 52 Palestinians in Gaza were killed and 2,400 others have been wounded—500 of whom were hit by live ammunition — while they protested the US embassy move to Jerusalem. Of those killed, at least six were under age 18, including one female. 200 of the wounded were also under the age of 18, 78 were women and 11 were journalists. What was their protest? Gazans set up tent camps 500-700 meters from the border fence that Israel built to contain them.

The Gaza Strip is only 32 km from Jerusalem, where functionaries and diplomats from the US and its client states such as Cameroon, Czech Republic, Paraguay, Honduras and Guatemala helped the US celebrate it’s embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Months ago, at the United Nations, only 9 states supported the US moving its embassy from Tel Aviv, while 128 countries, including German and France, opposed it.

embassy2Monday’s massacre was in addition to the more than 39 Palestinians killed by Israel and the nearly 8,000 injured during the last six weeks of protests, called the Great March of Return. According to B’tselem[1], of those injured, the Israeli Defence Fores (IDF) have shot more than one-quarter, or 2100 Palestinians, with live ammunition. Gaza doctors have reported particularly serious injuries, mostly to the lower extremities, that “include an extreme level of destruction to bones and soft tissue, and large exit wounds that can be the size of a fist”. According to Palestinian Ministry of Health Data, as of 30 April 2018, Gaza doctors had performed 24 amputations on wounded individuals, 19 of them of lower limbs. To date not one Israeli soldier or civilian has been killed or injured.

Though the CBC insists on calling the cutting down of Palestinians “clashes”, there have been no “clashes” in Gaza. The IDF shot unarmed Palestinians as thousands massed near the fence which imprisons the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza, the biggest open air prison in the world. While some Palestinians did carry stones and slingshots, none had guns. The IDF had tanks, helicopter gunships, machine guns, drones loaded with teargas and snipers.

Israel’s defenders often say of the Palestinians,

“They must have done something wrong,” or

“What did they do to be killed?” or

“Why protest when you’re gonna get killed?” or

“They send their children out to be killed.”

We hear Israeli Jews, and many Canadian Jews, echo these questions. These are typical questions the Occupiers ask about the Occupied. In the wake of Land Day 2018, Palestinians launched protests over six weeks to demand the Right to Return to their homes, which were stolen by the Israelis, some in1948 and more in ’67, and protest the blockade of the Gaza Strip.  

In response, after all the carnage and the terror the Israelis unleashed on Gaza, we heard the Israeli Occupiers blame their Palestinian victims. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor minimized concerns about the Israeli army killing unarmed civilians in Gaza. “We stand with Israel because we both believe in human rights, democracy worth defending, and believe that we know that it is the right thing to do,” he said.

His comment means that whatever Israel does is just fine with the US. This resonated with Israeli Jews, who encountered protests by Israeli Arabs at the embassy event Monday.

According to some journalists on Monday, they saw dozens of unarmed Arab-Israelis beaten and arrested by Israeli security forces outside the embassy, which elicited cheers from Israeli demonstrators who came out to support the embassy’s opening. As Israeli security grabbed the Arab-Israelis, the Israeli Jews chanted, “Burn them”, “shoot them”, “kill them”.

Israeli army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner insisted that all the killing and maiming the IDF carried out in Gaza did not “change the fact that Hamas set out 7 weeks ago to ruin this day in Jerusalem.” Unarmed Palestinian civilians are mowed down by the army and that same army blames Hamas for “trying to ruin” Israel and the US’s celebration in Jerusalem!

If not now when is the time to protest what Israel is doing? When is the time to “break ranks” with the establishment Jewish community in Canada – and say enough is enough. Now is the time for Canadian Jews and anyone who supports human rights and opposes the Occupation to speak up.

 

 

 

[1] See: https://www.btselem.org/gaza_strip/20180510_failing_healthcare_system_barely_handling_injuries

Good Friday’s a Holiday in Nova Scotia — Will you get paid?

 

Whether you work or not, you will be paid for Good Friday 30 March, if you qualify.

To qualify for a paid holiday on Good Friday you need to

  1. be “entitled to receive pay” for 15 of the last 30 calendar days

and

  1. have worked the last scheduled day or shift before Good Friday and the first scheduled shift after the holiday.

If your employer tells you not to work on the day before, or the day after Good Friday, you should still get paid.

If Good Friday falls on your day off, and you qualify – you are entitled to another day off with pay. rom-rabbit

So with all that in mind, if you qualify (see above), whether you work or you don’t work you are entitled to your normal day’s pay for Good Friday.

If you do have to work that day you get your normal day’s pay plus one and a half times your regular rate of wages for the hours worked on the holiday.

Let’s say you earn $12 an hour, and on a Friday you normally work 7 hours. You should get $84 (gross) whether you work or not on Good Friday.

If you do work on Good Friday, let’s say it is for a shorter shift of 5 hours. You will earn $12 x 1.5 x 5=   $90 for the day. So you take your day’s pay ($84) and add the $90 to determine how much you will earn if you work on Good Friday.

Remember: this pertains to you only if there is no union where you work. If there is a union, there is a higher likelihood the employer will not try to evade the law. The collective agreement might also entitle you to more than the legal minimum.

However, as for those workers without a union, there is a wide range of workers who are not covered by Labour Standards, and not guaranteed a paid holiday on Good Friday. These include: most farmworkers, real estate agents and car salespeople. People who work on fishing boats are not covered, nor are domestic workers who work in a private home for fewer than 24 hours in a week. If you work in the petrochemical industry, or manufacturing dependent on petrochemicals you are not covered. Finally, if you are an athlete, you will not be covered if your paid work is related to athletics.

One Paid Holiday: Two Retail Closing Days

In Nova Scotia, Good Friday is a paid holiday. It is also a Retail Closing Day. That means all businesses, and most stores must be closed.

Easter Sunday (1 April) is also a Retail Closing Day. Businesses have to be closed, but workers are not entitled to holiday pay.

There are more than 20 exceptions to the rule about closing! Many businesses can remain open on a Retail Closing Day including:

  • gas stations
  • hotels, restaurants
  • private clubs
  • cinemas, theatres
  • excursions for tourists
  • handicraft or souvenir shops
  • drug stores (limited in size)
  • fish shops
  • art galleries
  • laundromats

And if you do work on Easter Sunday, you are not entitled to holiday pay. You just get your regular rate of pay.

Easter Monday is neither a paid holiday nor a Retail Closing Day. Many unionized workers do have the day off – with pay — because their workplace is closed. This is true for teachers, library workers, civil servants and Canada Post workers to name a handful.