The N.W.T. integrity commissioner notified the territorial health minister that a journalist was asking questions about her family business.
The integrity commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly required to remain impartial. The role includes providing advice to members and ministers about avoiding conflicts between their public duties and their private interests.
On Dec. 14, CBC News sent an email to David Phillip Jones, the N.W.T.’s integrity commissioner and an Edmonton based lawyer. According to an annual report, Jones has been the N.W.T.’s integrity commissioner since Dec. 1, 2013.
The email requested details on funding provided by the territorial government through the social services department and health authority to clients of the McKenna Funeral Home, which Health Minister Julie Green refers to as “the family business” in her bio.
Jones responded over email, he did not provide the requested information but said as the McKenna Funeral Home is one of the few funeral service providers in the territory, he had determined there was no conflict.
About an hour after the request was sent, CBC News received another email, this time from Green but directed to Jones.
“Hi David, Thanks for the heads up. Best wishes for the holidays,” Green wrote.
When Jones was asked if he had forwarded the media request to Green, he said “sure.”
It’s unclear if Green accidentally hit reply all, or intentionally wanted CBC News to be aware that she was in receipt of the media request which was only sent to Jones.
Trista Haugland, the N.W.T. cabinet press secretary, said in an email Green wouldn’t be available for an interview by publication deadline.
CBC News reached Jones by phone. Jones objected to the interview being on the record, claiming he is unable to be quoted for his role. But this was not agreed upon.
He said he forwarded the media request because it “involves the minister” and “a fundamental rule is everyone knows everything.”
When asked if he has forwarded other media requests to the members in question, he said “I expect that I have.”
Jones said he would “probably” do the same if a member of the public sent a request, but has never come across that.
He said a complaint would be “a different matter.”
According to the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act, the Integrity Commissioner “shall take an oath to faithfully and impartially perform the duties of the office” before undertaking the position.
Jones said he doesn’t think sharing a media request with a cabinet minister breaks his oath of impartiality in “any way, shape or form.”
This was echoed by an email from the press secretary with no sign-off.
“It is not uncommon for the Integrity Commissioner to share the details of a media request received with an MLA or minister who is implicated in the request.”
A normal practice?
Andrew Sancton is a retired political science professor at Western University. He has published work on municipal integrity commissioners.
He said he doesn’t know the territorial legislation on the position but said an integrity commissioner alerting a cabinet minister about a media request is “not normal practice.”
“If I heard that for an Ontario municipal integrity commissioner, which is what I know more about, I would certainly say that was improper,” he said. “The integrity commissioner’s job is not to alert ministers or municipal councillors onto possible media stories.”
David Wasylciw is the founder of Open NWT, a non-profit that develops tools to make government information accessible to the public.
He says Jones notifying Green is “odd” but not the “the worst thing ever.”
“It’s fairly benign,” he said. “In some ways it demonstrates them having a working relationship.”
He doesn’t believe the integrity commissioner is breaking any rules as a media request isn’t confidential information and he would be following oath impartiality as long as he alerts every member and minister equally.
“As long as [it is] consistent, I don’t think there’s any issue,” he said.
But Wasylciw added, a good practice would be if the integrity commissioner informed journalists that the requests may be shared.
He said the situation is definitely strange and brings up an interesting question around the role.
Bronwyn Johns-O’Hara is the communications manager of the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada.
This is different from the territorial integrity commissioner, as it covers unelected federal public service employees.
As a result, Johns-O’Hara said it wouldn’t be appropriate to comment on the specific incident.
But she did discuss the importance of remaining impartial, describing it as “paramount” for the role.
“There absolutely can not be any, even perception, of a conflict — it’s absolutely essential that people trust our office,” Johns-O’Hara said.
Tics and TikTok: Can social media trigger illness? – Harvard Health
A student suddenly develops leg pain and paralysis; soon hundreds of schoolmates have similar symptoms. Nuns begin biting each other, and soon the same thing is happening at other nearby convents. Three schoolgirls begin laughing uncontrollably, sometimes going on for days. When nearly 100 classmates develop the same problem, the school is forced to close down.
Yet in each case, no medical explanation was ever found. Eventually, these came to be considered examples of mass sociogenic illness, which many of us know by different names: mass hysteria, epidemic hysteria, or mass psychogenic illness. Over the years, many possible sources for these illnesses have emerged — and today TikTok and other social media sites may be providing fertile ground.
What is sociogenic illness?
The hallmark of these conditions is that multiple people within a social group develop similar, medically inexplicable, and often bizarre symptoms. In some cases, those affected believe they have been exposed to something dangerous, such as a toxin or contagion, although thorough investigation finds none.
The suffering caused by these illnesses is quite real and profound —even in the absence of a clear cause and presence of normal test results. And no, a person with sociogenic illness is not “just looking for attention” or “doing it on purpose.”
Labeling people as hypochondriacs or “crazy,” or illness as “hysteria,” isn’t helpful. Hysteria and hysterical — drawn from hystera, the Greek word for womb — are loaded terms, often used to diminish women as psychologically unstable or prone through biology to uncontrollable outbursts of emotion or fear. And while some researchers suggest these illnesses more commonly affect women, most of the published literature on this condition is decades old and based on a limited number of cases.
Common features of mass sociogenic illness
Past outbreaks include illnesses in which people suddenly fainted; developed nausea, headaches, or shortness of breath; or had convulsive movements, involuntary vocalizations, or paralysis. Usually, these outbreaks occurred among people in close proximity, such as at a school or workplace. Rarely, cases appear to have been spread by shows on television. Now, social media is a possible new source.
Certain features are typical:
- experiencing symptoms that have no clear medical explanation despite extensive investigation
- symptoms that are temporary, benign, and unusual for those affected
- rapid onset of symptoms and rapid recovery
- those affected are connected by membership and interaction within a social group or by physical proximity.
Generally, treatment includes:
- ruling out medical explanations for symptoms
- shutting down a facility where it occurred
- removing people from the site of supposed exposure (online or not)
- separating affected individuals from one another.
Reassurance regarding the lack of danger, and demonstrating that the outbreak stops once individuals are no longer in close contact with each other, generally reduces anxiety and fosters recovery.
Tics and TikTok: a new driver of sociogenic illness?
The first known examples of social media-induced sociogenic illness were recognized in the last year or two, a time coinciding with the pandemic. Neurologists began seeing increasing numbers of patients, especially teenage girls, with unusual, involuntary movements and vocalizations reminiscent of Tourette syndrome. After ruling out other explanations, the tics in these teenagers seemed related to many hours spent watching TikTok videos of people who report having Tourette syndrome and other movement disorders. Posted by social media influencers, these videos have billions of page views on TikTok; similar videos are available on YouTube and other sites.
What helped? Medications, counselling, and stress management, according to some reports. Avoiding social media posts about movement disorders and reassurance regarding the nature of the illness also are key.
Geographic boundaries may have become less relevant; now, the influences driving these illnesses may include social media, not just physical proximity.
Dancing plagues, mad gassers, and June bugs
Sociogenic illnesses are nothing new. If you had lived in the Middle Ages, you might recall the “dancing plague.” Across Europe, scores of afflicted individuals reportedly began to involuntarily and deliriously dance until exhaustion. And let’s not forget the writing tremor epidemic of 1892, the Mad Gasser of Mattoon during the mid-1940s, and the June bug epidemic of 1962.
The anxieties and concerns of the times play a role. Before the 1900s, spiritual or religious overtones were common. When concerns were raised about tainted foods and environmental toxins in the early 1900s, unusual odors or foods sparked a rash of palpitations, hyperventilation, dizziness, or other anxiety symptoms. More recently, some residents of the West Bank who thought nearby bombings released chemical weapons reported dizziness and fainting, although no evidence of chemical weapons was found.
Closer to home, reports are swirling that Havana syndrome may represent another example of mass sociogenic illness, although no firm conclusions can yet be made. Initially described among members of the US State Department in 2016 in Havana, Cuba, individuals who experienced this suddenly developed headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and memory loss.
These symptoms have been reported by hundreds of people in different parts of the world. Many are foreign service workers attached to US diplomatic missions. Soon after the first case reports, suspicion arose that a new weaponized energy source was causing the illness, such as microwaves fired from some distance. Cuba, Russia, or other adversaries have been blamed for this. Thus far, the true nature and cause of this condition is uncertain.
Nocebo, not placebo
One theory suggests that sociogenic illness is a form of the nocebo effect. A placebo — like a sugar pill or another inactive treatment — may help people feel better due to expectation of benefit. The nocebo effect describes the potential that people could have a negative experience based purely on the expectation that it would occur.
Think of it this way: you may be more likely to experience a headache from a medication if you’ve been warned of this possible side effect, compared with another person warned about a different side effect. Similarly, let’s say you see people fainting. If you believe this is caused by a substance they — and you! — were exposed to, you may faint, too, even if there’s no actual exposure to a substance that could cause fainting.
The bottom line
We don’t know why some develop sociogenic illness while others don’t. Plenty of people have lots of stress. Millions of people were stuck inside during the pandemic and turned to social media for more hours each day than they’d like to admit. Many people are prone to the power of suggestion. Yet, sociogenic illness remains relatively rare. Despite existing for hundreds of years, much about this condition remains mysterious. An open mind is important. Some cases of sociogenic illness may be due to an environmental toxin or contagion that wasn’t detected at the time.
If you or a loved one spends a lot of time on social media and has developed an illness that defies explanation, talk to your healthcare providers about the possibility of social media-induced sociogenic illness. We may soon learn that it’s not so rare after all.
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Federal Electoral Boundaries Commissions Launch Redistribution Website and Social Media Accounts – Canada NewsWire
GATINEAU, QC, Jan. 20, 2022 /CNW/ – The federal electoral boundaries commissions are pleased to announce the launch of their official website and social media accounts for the 2022 redistribution process. This is the first time that the commissions will have a presence on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The role of the commissions is to propose new boundaries for federal electoral districts, consult with Canadians and create the new electoral map for their province. While each provincial commission works independently, the website and social media accounts will publish information for all 10 commissions.
The ten electoral commissions will begin their work in February 2022 with the release of the 2021 census population counts by Statistics Canada. Also in 2022, each commission will hold public hearings, following the publication of their proposal. The website and social media accounts will provide more information in the coming weeks to help Canadians understand the redistribution process, and participate in the consultations of this important democratic exercise.
- The commissions were established by a proclamation issued on November 1, 2021.
- The commission chairs are named by the chief justice of each province, and the other members by the Speaker of the House of Commons.
- The redistribution of federal electoral districts is based on the new allocation of seats in the House Commons, as calculated by the Chief Electoral Officer using the representation formula found in the Constitution.
- The redistribution will start in early February 2022, once the population counts from the 2021 Census are available.
- The commissions have 10 months after receiving the Census data to submit their initial boundary proposals, hold public hearings, and present their reports.
- The new federal electoral map will be ready in spring 2024 at the earliest.
Elections Canada will support the commissions by providing them with various professional, financial, technical and administrative services. These include liaising with Statistics Canada, Natural Resources Canada and the Speaker of the House of Commons on behalf of the commissions, and preparing the maps showing the boundaries proposed by the commissions and assisting them with data collection and management.
SOURCE Elections Canada
For further information: [email protected]
Nature School returns this winter at Fanshawe Conservation Area (media release, January 18, 2022) – thamesriver.on.ca
Nature School returns this winter at Fanshawe Conservation Area (media release, January 18, 2022)
Community Education staff are excited to once again offer their outdoor Nature School program at Fanshawe Conservation Area. This nature-based, outdoor education program was first offered in the fall of 2021 in response to the pandemic and it has returned thanks to its popularity.
Nature School is land-based education that is centred on giving children access to the same outdoor space over an extended period of time so that they can build a relationship with the land. Children have the opportunity to learn and grow through play and exploration outdoors with educators who support inquiry-based learning led and inspired by the children.
Julie Read, Community Education Supervisor, shared that, “Our first session of Fanshawe Nature School was fantastic! Caregivers expressed how happy they were to be involved in a program where their children could be outside in nature and have so many opportunities to express their natural curiosity and engage in free play. While staff offered invitations for the children each week, like songs, stories and different materials, it was wonderful to see the participants develop their own ideas about what was possible during Nature School and deepen their imaginative play and nature observation skills as the weeks progressed. One child said ‘I wish Nature School was every day!’ To us, this is the most positive feedback of all!”
Children aged two to five years, along with an accompanying adult, can participate in the Owls and Owlets program on Tuesdays from 10:00 to 11:30 am.
Children aged 5 to 8 years can participate in the Sparrows program on Tuesdays from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.
Contact: Julie Read, Community Education Supervisor
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