Hello and welcome to rabble radio. It’s Friday, January 14, 2022. I’m Breanne Doyle, your new  host of rabble radio. Thanks for tuning in.

You may have heard my name on this podcast before – I’ve been behind-the-scenes here at rabble radio since we launched in October. I’ve been the podcast editor and chase producer – so I’m no stranger to the show. I’m excited to be bringing you the news you need to know from rabble.ca every week! 

So, let’s jump right in.

The top stories of this week include Omicron in our schools. National politics reporter Stephen Wentzell asks: “What will it take to open schools safely?” Some authorities say children have to get back to the classroom as quickly as possible. But epidemiologists warn that if we re-open in-person education without smaller classes and better ventilation schools will become “the single largest contiguous block of unvaccinated people.” We’ll discuss that and more, a bit later on in our show.

First, a different story from Stephen: We listen to his conversation with Chris Draenos. Draenos is the Community Based Research Centre’s National Sexually Transmitted and Blood-borne Infection Testing and Linkage Implementation Manager. Draenos tells Stephen how the company supplies HIV rapid tests across the country. He also explains why – whether in COVID-times or not – having accessible sexual health-care is something the government should focus more attention on. 

Here are Stephen and Chris in conversation:

(interview – 20 mins)

That was Chris Draenos in conversation with Stephen Wentzell. You can read more about Chris’s work in Stephen’s piece on the site this week. The piece is titled: “With health resources stretched, self-tests for HIV/AIDs could be a valuable resource.” Thanks for that, Chris and Stephen. 

Now, it’s time for a segment we like to call, In Case You Missed It. This week at rabble, our biggest story was – you guessed it – the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Canada. 

Stephen Wentzell explores the many-sided issue of sending Canadian children back to school after the winter break in the face of the quickly-spreading Omicron variant. The World Health Organization tallied 9.5 million new cases of COVID-19 around the world over the past week. That’s a 71 percent spike from the week before. 

In Nova Scotia, students were supposed to return to in-person classes on Wednesday – that has now been pushed to January 17. 

The province has also announced it is suspending contact tracing for schools, and this could lead to fewer reported cases and a greater risk of exposure to the wider population. Most importantly, it won’t give Nova Scotians an accurate and up-to-date picture of how safe from COVID-19 the province’s schools are. 

Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Robert Strang nevertheless argues that schools are the safest place for children. The province’s teachers have a different view. Paul Wozney, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU), points out that Strang doesn’t work in schools. The research  Strang has based his opinion on “does not disclose the real truth” about how COVID-safe schools actually are, Wozney says.

Are we stuck in an Omicron cycle? Evelyn Lazare addresses the question in her latest column, writing: “in Canada, we are between a rock and a hard place. Remember when we were trying to flatten the curve? With Omicron, we are, one more time. The only thing that can help defeat Omicron — and the Delta variant — is to increase the number of people vaccinated. We must also continue with masking, hand-washing, social distancing and isolation/quarantine when necessary. 

This is old news, but it does not make either the rock or the hard place any softer.” she says.

Also on the theme of the pandemic, columnist Cathy Crowe shares how the collapse of Toronto’s shelters under COVID-19 could have been prevented. Crowe reflects on the recent disease history in Toronto. This analysis, she says, proves the decades of neglect has led to the collapse of the shelter system under COVID-19.

David Suzuki encourages readers to challenge large corporations on greenwashing habits; until we do, they’ll continue to grind up nature and spit out profit where rivers, forests and meadows once stood.

And on a different theme, Doreen Nicoll visits Bela Farm, a farming community in Erin, Ontario. Sustainability and community is at the heart of everything it does. In collaboration with Everdale Community Farm, Bela Farm was able to distribute 100,000 pounds of organic vegetables to locals in need this year. Nicoll writes that the story of Bela Farms proves: “It’s time to embrace new farming and food systems that benefit many while reducing our collective carbon footprint.” 

Finally, it is with great sadness that the rabble community mourns the loss of author and rabble contributor, Joyce Nelson, who passed away in hospital following an illness, last week in Toronto.  

Joyce Nelson was the author of seven books and many hundreds of articles and essays published by a variety of magazines and websites – including The Watershed Sentinel and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Over her more than 30 years as a full-time writer, Joyce’s work appeared in at least 25 book-length anthologies published in Canada and the U.S. She also created 23 hours of radio documentary broadcast by CBC Ideas, all re-broadcast by popular demand. A sought-after speaker, she lectured at locales as diverse as the Banff Centre for the Arts and Harvard University. Joyce taught at Queen’s University and the University of Victoria. She was also an artist and fiction writer, as can be gleaned on her website.

Joyce was a long-time and stellar contributor to rabble.ca — never more so than over the past year when she turned her attention to the climate emergency, exposing the dangerous liaisons between corporate interests and elements of the green economy, and Canada’s role in the world, in pieces on such diverse issues as Tech workers challenge the giants who employ them, Big Plastic’s trashy lawsuit, Canada’s ancient forests are being turned into toilet paper, and Sri Lanka shipping disaster and Canadian consumerism

We encourage everyone to read and share Joyce Nelson’s work. Joyce was a long-time and stellar contributor to rabble.ca — never more so than over the past year when she turned her attention to the climate emergency, exposing the dangerous liaisons between corporate interests and elements of the green economy, and Canada’s role in the world. Our deepest condolences to her family, friends and community.

That was In Case You Missed It. You can find all those stories and much, much more on rabble.ca. 

The last thing I’d like to leave you with today is this: rabble’s annual fundraiser is on the go and we are looking for indie media heroes! Is that you? Please consider making a donation at rabble.ca/donate. The generous support from our readers is what makes it possible for 

quality journalism to support transformative political action.

And that’s it for rabble radio this week. Thanks as always for tuning in. If you like the show please consider subscribing on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast app you use. And please, rate, review, share rabble radio with your friends — it takes two seconds to support independent media like rabble. Follow us on social media across channels @rabbleca. 

If you have feedback for the show – ideas, stories, opinions you’d like us to cover – I’d love to hear about. Get in touch with me anytime at [email protected]

Thank you to Stephen Wentzell and Chris Draenos for their interview this week. Thanks also to  Karl Nerenberg for supplying the music, and to all the journalists and writers who contributed to this week’s content on rabble.ca. 

I’m Breanne Doyle, and thanks so much for listening to rabble radio.


rabble radio

Hosted by Breanne Doyle, rabble radio is the flagship podcast of rabble.ca. rabble breaks down the news of the day from a progressive lens.

rabble radio brings you closer to the stories that matter to you. If you’re curious about the latest news in Canadian politics, labour, environment, or social justice, you’ve come to the right place. This is news for the rest of us – free of corporate influence.