Dec 212014

By Judy Haiven, professor in the Management department of the Sobey School of Business – Saint Mary’s University. She is chair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-NS and a member of Solidarity Halifax.

Originally published at the Halifax Media Coop.

Restorative justice does not adequately address systemic problems

My mother was a Dentistry graduate at the University of Toronto in 1943. As I look at her class graduation photo, I count 44 men and three women. She practiced dentistry, then taught dental hygienists, for 40 years. When I was a child, she never attended class reunions and, as far as I know, was never friendly with the men who graduated with her. Years ago I asked her why.  She said, “The boys in my class were awful. They insulted me and the other two women. They played nasty tricks on us.”

More than 70 years have passed since that class photo was taken.  I look at it now and wonder if those male graduates would have posted their misogynist comments, jokes and photos to Facebook.

In the media, I heard Dalhousie University’s president explain that he had received many emails urging him to take action, including expelling the 13 male dental students in the ‘DDS 2015 Gentlemen’ Facebook page.  The ‘gentlemen’ have been active on the Facebook page for some years. Online, the male students talked openly about using chloroform to drug and then rape women classmates (for what else does “hate sex” mean?).  They debated the women’s appearance, rated women in bikinis, and wrote in praise of using the penis “to wean and convert lesbians and virgins into useful, productive members of society.” One dental gent wrote to clarify, “And by productive I’m assuming you mean it inspires them [the women] to become chefs, housekeepers, babysitters, etc.”

This is the class of 2015 – 38 students, at least 19 were men and 13 of them were involved with serious sexual harassment, threats of rape and degradation of women classmates.  That’s 68 per cent of final year male dental students were involved in DDS 2015 Gentlemen.  Of course it wasn’t just them. It was also at least one male faculty member who thought nothing of denigrating the women students when he showed a video of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models to ‘wake up’ the men dental students in his class.

Dalhousie University’s president Richard Florizone started to cry on the TV news when he recounted his pain when he listened to the women dental students — yet he had been told of these outrages at least six months previously and had done nothing.  We now learn that several women fourth year students (including one who made a prior complaint) were not consulted on how this issue would be resolved.

So what are we to think? The Dalhousie ‘community’ chooses to take the restorative path. Of course by definition that means finding a “middle ground.”  I predict the women students will not call for expulsion, because they fear the backlash they could face if they end the men’s career prospects.  After all, the thinking goes that after paying high fees, and enduring four years of education, the women and the men both ‘earn’ the right to high status jobs with high pay.  Statistics Canada tells us that on average dentists earn $175,000 per year.  Doctors earn $180,000 but they have to complete at least two more years of post-graduate education than dentists.  Much has been said of the of the high fees dental students pay for their education.  Dalhousie charges about $18,000 per year for the four year dental program (three time more for foreign students). This means the students entering dentistry are part of the elite and seriously privileged.  Either their parents pay, or the students take out loans which are quite easy to get because dentists’ huge earnings for decades after graduation tend to make them attractive borrowers.

While some of the women featured on the Gentlemen’s site may settle for a glorified apology for the miscreant soon-to-be dentists, how will this help to solve the problem of misogyny, power and privilege?  It will not.  Frequently women who suffer at the hands of men are told ‘education will help.’  Will it? We’ve seen all the education and training available at universities across this country have not turned the tide against misogyny.  The education almost never zeroes in on men, race, class, power and privilege which are the underpinnings of misogyny.  The education never tackles our misogynist culture. Only by making serious examples can institutions curb this sort of behaviour.  Maybe we could all agree to follow a few simple rules which could help change the culture.

·      On TV and radio interviews, on platforms, at political meetings, and at any presentations, if there is no woman speaker, then the event does not take place.  The interview is forgone, the political meeting is cancelled. One cannot get around the rule by using a woman as an emcee or a moderator. It does not count if the woman is used as ‘window-dressing’, to host or emcee the event.  She has to be a full participant.

·      Any sports team, group of students, or social club which has one or more members who have sexually assaulted, verbally assaulted, sent out tweets or posted anything misogynist on social media gets banned from playing their sport, banned from the university for a minimum of six months.

·       Any person in public office, if found to have engaged in harassment, assault or other form of misogyny (such as the two Liberal MPs if the allegations are proved against them) has to make a public apology and write an open letter of apology to the woman or women he targeted. The letter has to be published in a display advertisement in a national newspaper.

·      Women get to speak first, in classroom discussions and in question periods at public events.  Men should not be allowed to monopolise these forums.

We have seen rape chants erupt on campuses from UBC to Saint Mary’s; we’ve noted the denigrating tweets and rape threats against women on social media; we’ve exposed the long-running reign of terror against women by Jian Ghomeshi; we’ve heard men cat-calling and abusing women on the floor of the House of Commons; we’ve had the tragic case of Rehtaeh Parsons.  When are we going to get sick of being forced down the middle road of apology and fake contrition?  A slap on the wrists merely enables repetition.  When are we going to act?


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Dec 182014

Judy Haiven, associate professor in the department of management at SMU and member of Solidarity Halifax, sends her thoughts to The Chronicle Herald following yet another publicized case of misogyny on our university campuses.

After the rape chant at Saint Mary’s University, after the SMU athletes’ texts that threatened and disparaged women, after the Ghomeshi scandal, after the tragedy of Rehtaeh Parsons, a dozen Dal dentistry students on Facebook openly discuss drugging female classmates and raping them.

There have been complaints about these students’ activities to the Dalhousie University administration since last summer. But the university did nothing at the time because no one was willing to put her name to a complaint.

Bear in mind that these male dentistry students are planning to graduate this spring. Bear in mind that dentists are highly privileged and highly paid professionals. Bear in mind that the only suitable punishment for these male students’ conduct — since they are on the verge of graduation — is not to permit them to graduate.

Sorry is clearly not enough. Otherwise what is the message — that “boys will be boys,” and that it’s fine to threaten to drug and rape women? Would any woman be willing to become a dental patient of these soon-to-be graduates? Would anyone allow their daughter to become a patient?


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Dec 172014

James Hutt, provincial co-ordinator of the Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network and member of Solidarity Halifax co-authored this Chronicle Herald article advocating for more Community Health Centres in Nova Scotia. The article was co-authored with Kathy Blois, chairwoman of the Nova Scotia Federation of Community Health Centres.

 Registered nurse Pamela King demonstrates the preparation of a suture cart at the Collaborative Emergency Centre of Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital in Musquodoboit Harbour earlier this month. (ADRIEN VECZAN / Staff)

Registered nurse Pamela King demonstrates the preparation of a suture cart at the Collaborative Emergency Centre of Twin Oaks Memorial Hospital in Musquodoboit Harbour earlier this month. (ADRIEN VECZAN / Chronicle Herald Staff)

“Every Nova Scotian should expect same or next day access to a doctor or primary health provider.”

That was one of the conclusions of a Dec. 10 report evaluating the role of Collaborative Emergency Centres in the province. The former NDP government brought in CECs as a way to tackle frequent emergency room closures in rural areas. The review, led by health consultant Mary Jane Hampton, found that CECs succeeded in keeping emergency rooms open, but that this was a symptom of a larger problem of a lack of regular access to family physicians and health providers.

Now the Liberal government is considering opening six new CECs. While CECs have improved much-needed access to health providers in rural communities, Hampton is clear that six new centres will not provide the ability for everyone to see a health provider on the same or the next day.

This is the next step in the evolution of our province’s health-care system, and something that all citizens should demand as our right.

We need to be thinking of ways to provide timely access to a doctor or nurse for everyone in Nova Scotia, regardless of where he or she lives. How much would we save if, instead of waiting until the point of emergency (and the most expensive point of the health system), patients could nip problems in the bud?

Most rural areas have shortages of doctors, and long wait lists for the physicians they do have. So the task of recruiting enough doctors for same or next-day care for everyone is a huge one indeed.

Fortunately, we have other options. Nurse practitioners are extremely qualified and cost-effective — they can treat 80 per cent of the cases that a physician deals with, for a fraction of the salary. Surely we need to increase the use of these skilled professionals.

The biggest advancement our health system could make is in creating team-based collaborative care. CECs did this well, by combining doctors, nurses and paramedics. We can go far beyond this. The best model for comprehensive team-based care is a community health centre.

Community Health Centres (CHCs) are internationally recognized as the most holistic way to provide care for patients. At community health centres, physicians work with a team of health-care workers including nurse practitioners, social workers, mental health workers, dietitians and others to ensure all of a patient’s health-care needs are being met. This means the right care by the right providers at the right time.

CHCs are not-for-profit, and democratically run by the local community and the patients registered at the centre. CHCs focus not only on treating patients when they are sick or injured, but on keeping people healthy in the first place. Their democratic structures and community engagement allow them to address the social determinants of health, such as poverty, education, housing and support networks. These deter-minants are the most influential factors in our health.

Countless reports and studies have recognized the importance of addressing these determinants as a means to reduce costs and improve health outcomes, both for individuals and society as a whole.

Over 700 CHCs currently provide care to over two million Canadians. While they flourish in other parts of the country, there are only nine in Nova Scotia. Still, the few we do have are accomplishing incredible work.

The Rawdon Hills Community Health Centre is an excellent example. After years without primary health services in the area, Rawdon residents came together, pushed local government and donated countless hours to making the centre a reality.

The health centre opened in a temporary location in 2000. Community members fundraised for eight years before the centre could finally open at a permanent location in June of 2008. Today, the clinic offers a wide range of services, including blood collection, a foot care clinic, mental health services, occupational therapy, the Hants County Community Access Network for people with disabilities, and several programs for seniors. On top of that, it has created a vibrant and close-knit community.

Unfortunately, most of the nine community health centres in the province receive no core funding from the province. District Health Authorities pay for the salaries of physicians and nurses, who pay rent to the health centre.

CHCs seek services and providers to elevate the issues caused by the social determinants of health affecting the population they serve. Yet, in Nova Scotia, they receive no core funding for this. If this government wants to improve health outcomes and cut health costs, then this needs to change; the Department of Health and Wellness needs to adequately fund CHCs, and start opening up more.

CHCs provide the highest levels of care at the lowest cost, with maximum patient and community participation. They are the model for the future of public health care. Ontario and Saskatchewan are already leading the way.

Hampton’s review makes it clear: CECs are good, but not necessarily the best investment. So at a time when our health system is strapped for funding, why wouldn’t we choose the best return on our investment? CHCs will provide the highest quality of care to the most patients, for the best price. It should be a no-brainer.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Dec 162014

Solidarity Halifax member Tori Ball writes to the Chronicle Herald in response to Health Minister Leo Glavins’s comments following the release of a new report on Collaborative Emergency Centres.

Re: “New vision for collaborative care,” Dec. 11 story. Health Minister Leo Glavine’s comments are unhelpful, to say the least. His response to the recent review, paraphrased in your article, was that “collaborative emergency centres aren’t intended to be for emergencies and so closing the sites at night would not limit people’s access to emergency care.”

Infallible logic, considering CECs have the word “emergency” in their name. As usual, the only thing Mr. Glavine is concerned with is cutting costs in the short term. Have a way to slash spending, privatize services or offload bills onto patients? Then Glavine wants to hear from you. Don’t worry about the long-term effects — those will happen much later than the next election.


Note: Articles published by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.

Dec 052014

James Hutt, Provincial Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Citizens Health Care Network and member of Solidarity Halifax, discusses public health care and the need for a provincial strategy to improve service and accessibility.


>>LISTEN HERE [place marker to 19:00 minutes]


Note: Statements by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.