1. Polygraph tests
“Among their concerns arising from a review of the Halifax Regional Police budget, the Nova Scotia Police Policy Working Group is highlighting the large amount spent by the force on polygraph tests,” writes El Jones:
Polygraph tests, popularly known as lie detectors, are notoriously unreliable. In 1987, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the tests are inadmissible in court. In 2000, however, the court ruled that it is acceptable to use the tests to extract confessions from suspects. In other words, despite being unscientific and unproven, the police are allowed to use the tests to deceive suspects into often false confessions.
According to the 2020-2021 police budget, $260,600 was initially budgeted for the tests. In the revised budget reflecting the city’s budget cuts to all services, that number dropped slightly, to $260,300.
In contrast, while the police initially budgeted to spend almost the same amount on victim services as they do on polygraph tests ($261,600) in the final budget, that number was cut by more than $50,000, to $211,000.
Jones discusses the very problematic uses of the tests, including for prompting false confessions and for hiring purposes — potential police recruits are asked if they’ve ever thought about having sex with animals, which I understand to be some sort of perverse power play to screw with rookies’ minds.
Oh, and I added the Editor’s note:
In 2017, Mary Campbell reported for the Cape Breton Spectator on the Cape Breton Regional Police’s use of the tests. The article covers the history of the tests, their high price, the “dodgy” science behind them, the issues with the tests being used as evidence, and their role in false confessions and wrongful convictions. It is well worth a read.
Editor’s note: related to “dodgy science,” the Halifax Regional Police Department made use of a psychic in the Kimberly McAndrew case. For many years, the department also had a detective who doubled as a hypnotist. As with polygraph tests, in 2007 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that witness testimony provided through the use of hypnotism is almost always not admissible as evidence at court, but the Supreme Court did not make that decision retroactive; the Examiner is aware of one conviction that still stands that in part involved witness testimony brought forward with the aid of the police hypnotist. The convicted person served 14 years in prison, and we are investigating this case as a possible wrongful conviction.
I’ve been looking at this case for four years. There are many aspects to the case that are worth public attention, and I’ll get to writing about them in detail some day. But so far as the hypnotist goes, I can say this: A couple of days after a gruesome killing, the suspected murderer went with their friends to a restaurant. Police found out about that and went to the restaurant; the server couldn’t remember anything the group discussed. But that server was working their way through university, as an eager Criminology student. Criminologists often end up working in law enforcement, so it’s possible this person already had a bias in the case. In any event, they went to the police hypnotist, and lo and behold, recalled a detailed conversation, in which the suspect was being schooled about how to defeat a polygraph test. This police hypnotist-aided memory was part of the evidence presented at trial, resulting in a guilty verdict and 14 years in prison. That evidence would not be allowed in court today.
2. Indigenous fishing
Writes Stephen Kimber:
The real reason for the recent confrontations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers is that Ottawa has failed abysmally for more than two decades to negotiate with First Nations to define what constitutes a moderate living.
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3. Bus v. Bike
“Halifax Transit is to blame for the destruction of a man’s bicycle last spring, a small claims court adjudicator ruled in a decision released Friday,” reports Zane Woodford:
Adjudicator Augustus Richardson introduced the decision:
When a bicycle falls off a bus operated by the Halifax Regional Municipality (“HRM”) and is damaged beyond repair when the bus rolls over it, is there anyone to which liability should attach? In the specific circumstances of this case the answer must be “yes.”
Richardson heard the case by teleconference on Tuesday, with testimony from claimant Curtis Heddon, HRM lawyer Elise Martino, and Halifax Transit mechanic Jason Kehoe.
4. Council candidate questionnaires
We continue with our series of council candidate questionnaires, on Friday by publishing answers from candidates in District 6 (Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East) and District 7 (Halifax South Downtown).
Well, some of them, anyway. Richard Arundel-Evans seems to be running something of a stealth campaign in District 7; he’s taken out a bunch of ads on News 95.7, but has no known campaign website or social media presence, and otherwise has made it impossible for us to contact him. And in District 6, Douglas Day did not respond.
I’ll just note Waye Mason’s answer to the living wage question:
I think that should be a goal, but I think it needs to be phased in over 3-5-7 years, otherwise the budget impacts would be severe — don’t want to cause job loss due to having to contract out radically less.
Two points. One, a councillor making $92K a year is telling people working at or near minimum wage that they’ll have to wait up to seven years to get a raise.
Two, no one can completely predict how the contracting out / -in house mix will change due to a living wage policy, but Mason seems to think there are city workers sitting around doing nothing at all, and those people will take up the work contractors used to do. I think it more likely a living wage policy will mean that some amount of additional work will have to be done in-house (as opposed to by contractors), and so the city will have to hire more workers. It’s not like the work load disappears. If we need (I dunno) 100 workers to plow streets, so long as they’re all paid a living wage, does it really matter if it’s 70 contractors and 30 city workers or if all 100 are city workers? (Recognizing that city workers will have better union protections.) The only “job loss” I can see is the contracting companies’ managers, who have been helping their companies profit on the backs of people living in poverty.
We’ll publish the questionnaire answers from District 8 and District 9 candidates later today.
5. Port of Sydney
Mary Campbell with the Cape Breton Spectator brings us up to speed on the imagined container terminal in Sydney:
So, it’s done — Albert Barbusci of Sydney Harbour Investment Partners (SHIP) has completed his work and all that stands between the Port of Sydney and a multi-million dollar terminal for ultra-large container vessels is our decrepit railway. Barbusci told the Cape Breton Post‘s David Jala (who described the former Montreal advertising executive as a “powerbroker,” you know, the kind of powerbroker who runs tree-climbing parks in Florida):
Everything else is in our hands, we have all the necessary shipping lines and port operators, we’ve been in discussions for years — but the rail needs to be rehabilitated and running again before we put a shovel in the ground.
Do you believe him? That’s what this comes down to. Do you believe he has shipping lines (plural) ready to transform the way they service the East Coast of North America by offloading cargo hundreds of miles from major population centers for transport by rail?
And how do we know this is “real?”
Because Albert Barbusci says so. Because, according to his website, he has “all permits in place and major global shippers and international port operators at the table.”
Which is what he’s been claiming since the beginning of this long, strange trip.
I’ve never met anyone from Cape Breton I didn’t like (there’s that one arsehole, but I’ve never actually met him). But Capers! Listen: the longer the empty promises go on, the less regard the world is going to have for your collective intelligence. If someone tells you he has “all permits in place,” there should be, ya know, actual permits, like pieces of paper in a government office and records on a government database that are public and anyone can ask for and see. You should be able to go into that government office and fondle the permits while you fantasize about giant container ships passing the giant fiddle, well, until the clerk calls security.
Or, you know, it could all be bullshit, and you’re just a sucker.
Oh, Campbell goes on to deconstruct some port propaganda, including the use stock photos that stand in for the lacklustre reality.
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6. Nursing homes
This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.
The Nursing Homes Association of Nova Scotia meets today and the operators of 76 homes in the province have plenty to discuss. Among the topics are changes announced by the Department of Health last week after reports on Infection Prevention and Control and a review of what happened at Northwood in Halifax where 53 people died and more than 300 cases of COVID-19 emerged.
The Health Department has told nursing homes they will be provided with more resource people (Registered Nurses) to help control infections. And money will be immediately available to hire more cleaners as well as assistants who have been helping Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) arrange visits to residents from family members. Funding for those assistants had been made on a short-term basis and was scheduled to expire at the end of this month.
Michelle Lowe is the managing director of the Nursing Homes Association of Nova Scotia. She is encouraged by the additional $26 million the provincial government is providing long-term care this year and $11 million over the next two years. But she notes the funding will not go far to address the need for better pay and to hire more permanent, front-line caregivers as recommended by the Association’s “Enough Talk” position paper last July.
“The sector has identified the same thing as Dr. Lata and Dr. Stevenson did in their Quality Improvement Review,” said Lowe speaking on behalf of the Nursing Homes Association. “I guess you wonder how many times do we have to say the same thing, dress it up differently but it’s still saying the same thing, before we really see substantive change?”
The same recommendation to hire more front-line caregivers was made last week by both the Northwood Review and the team who looked at Infection Prevention and Control, as well as the Expert Panel on Long-Term Care nearly two years ago. To act on it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gary MacLeod founded ACE — Advocates for the Care of the Elderly — 14 years ago. “Long-term care has to be covered as part of the National Health Act,” says MacLeod. “It was purposely left out. Now it’s the only way enough money can flow to make meaningful changes in how we take care of elderly people. I’m so frustrated.”
“What happened to the urgency during the pandemic when the government promised ‘we are going to do better’?’,” asks MacLeod bitterly. “It was just talk. Until there is more money to hire more staff, nothing changes.”
Nursing home operators are also expected to discuss the loss of insurance coverage for COVID-related illness. And pressure from the Department of Health to fill vacant beds that some nursing home operators are holding to slow down the spread of infection in facilities where double-bunking is the norm. The government has not revealed any new plans to add capacity.
On Friday, As It Happens reported on Montreal-born Jamie Gagne, now living in a small town in upstate New York:
Jamie Gagne insists it was his wife’s idea to carve a giant wooden penis with a chainsaw and erect it on their front lawn, but he’ll gladly fight for it in a court of law.
The Montreal-born man says he first crafted the 2.1-metre tall “anatomically correct” statue in June to protest the bureaucratic red tape that was preventing him from getting a permit to complete a shed outside his home in Wilton, N.Y.
“[The town] stopped communicating with me, so I was getting a little frustrated, and I kind of wanted to draw their attention and kind of brute force a conversation,” Gagne told As It Happens host Carol Off.
There’s more; it gets increasingly funny.
We were talking about the story in the Examiner’s virtual discussion space, and it turns out Linda Pannozzo has an entire collection of photos of “wooden penises and painted penises, on the walls of houses in Bhutan. It’s considered a good luck symbol there — literally they are everywhere!!”
Wikipedia explains that:
Phallus paintings in Bhutan are esoteric symbols, which have their origins in the Chimi Lhakhang monastery near Punakha, the former capital of Bhutan. The village monastery was built in honour of Lama Drukpa Kunley who lived in the 15-16th century and who was popularly known as the “Mad Saint” (nyönpa) or “Divine Madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching, which amounted to being bizarre and shocking.
These explicit paintings, have become embarrassing to many of the countries’ urbanites and this form of folk culture is informally discouraged in urban centres. However phallus paintings can still be seen on the walls of houses and buildings throughout Bhutan, particularly in villages, and are credited as Kunley’s creations. Traditionally symbols of an erect penis in Bhutan have been intended to drive away the evil eye and malicious gossip.
But I think some of those penises are going to generate some gossip all the same.
And Philip Moscovitch points us to the Twitter hashtag #phallusthursday, where archeologists post photos of historic penises.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Monday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda here.
Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm) — virtual meeting, agenda here.
Design Advisory Committee (Monday, 4:30pm) — the committee is rubberstamping away, today inking up the drawings for the convent replacement building on North Street with a big giant “looks good!”
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am) — virtual meeting, agenda and info here.
Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, Province House) —a per diem meeting.
No public events.
Opera in a Digital Age (Tuesday, 4pm) — Michael Hidetoshi Mori and Asitha Tennekoon will “explore the positives that this time of change can have on our art form” in an online DalVoice Discusses session. More info here.
Social Entrepreneurship Workshop (Monday, no time given) — an “informative and engaging webinar.” This stuff cracks me up:
In general, a social entrepreneur recognizes a social problem and uses innovative principles to organize, create, and manage an idea to make a change. This creates a positive impact on the community and the world using its product or service.
“Innovative principles”? If you can analyze innovation and lay a set of principles, isn’t it no longer innovation? It just sounds like capitalism to me, dressed up with a bunch woo-woo.
And can we kill the word “innovation” already? Just because something is innovative doesn’t make it, ya know, good. Consider, say, the V-2 rocket. Totally innovative — the world had never seen anything like it — eating up some 20,000 lives in the process. I’m not exactly comparing the V-2 to the local kombucha distillery, but maybe restrain the innovation fervour a bit, eh?
Info and registration here.
Navigating the Unchartered: Impact, Investing, and the “Three Rs” (Response, Recovery and Resilience) (Monday, 11am) — webinar with Terry Cooke of Hamilton Community Foundation. More info and registration here.
No public events.