1. Class action lawsuit filed against Archdiocese
Last week, Halifax lawyer John McKiggan and the Toronto law firm of Koskie Minsky announced they were filing a class action lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Halifax–Yarmouth on behalf of children they allege were sexually abused by priests from 1960 to the present.
After the lawyers issued their press release, there were news reports about it, but the actual lawsuit, which was filed in Halifax Tuesday, provides more details.
Douglas Champagne of British Columbia is the “representative plaintiff” in the lawsuit.
In 1960, Douglas was eight years old. His father abandoned his family, and Douglas’s mother contacted Father George Epoch at Canadian Martyrs Church to arrange counselling for the boy. The priest suggested Douglas become an altar boy, and by 1962 Douglas was a “Knight of the Altar.”
At some point in 1962, alleges the lawsuit, Epoch sexually assaulted Douglas in the garment room of the church. “Father Epoch told Douglas that he loved him. These acts of sexual abuse went on for months.”
Moreover, says the lawsuit, “Eventually Father Epoch brought Douglas to the residence where all the priests lived and sexually assaulted him in Father Epoch’s room within the residence. Other priests that lived at the residence looked at Douglas with a combination of disgust and sympathy. They did not lift a finger to prevent the abuse they knew or ought to have known was taking place.”
The lawsuit claims the abuse continued until Epoch was transferred out of the parish, but even after that, “Douglas received many love letters from Father Epoch over the years.”
Douglas was a troubled student, skipped school for as long as a month at a time, and was suspended. He then left school completely and became something of a drifter out west, moving from job to job. Douglas tried moving back to Nova Scotia in 1972, says the lawsuit, but “the memories of the abuse by Father Epoch aggravated his psychological injuries. In 1974, he left Nova Scotia and did not return.”
Epoch is accused of abusing dozens of children. He died in 1986. Canadian Martyrs Church was torn down a couple of years ago.
The lawsuit places the alleged sexual abuse in Halifax churches in the context of the church’s long history of covering up such abuse:
In 1962 Pope John XXIII issued instructions to every Bishop in the Church regarding the procedures to be followed in cases involving allegations of sexual abuse against a priest. The instructions state that all allegations of sexual abuse against a priest were to be kept strictly secret under penalty of excommunication.
In 2001 then Cardinal Ratzinger (who became Pope Benedict XVI) issued instructions from the Vatican to all Church Bishops confirming that the 1962 instructions remained in place.
The Church and the Archdiocese knew or ought to have known that keeping allegations of sexual abuse against priests secret posed a risk that sexually abusive priest’s [sic] would commit further assaults…
In particular, the lawsuit says that Halifax area priests suspected of sexually abusing children were sent to Southdown Institute in Ontario for “treatment,” and then returned to Halifax to abuse again. No notification or warnings about the priests’ histories were given to parishioners.
The lawsuit says that four other diocesan priests were proven to be sexual abusers. They are:
• Angus McRae, who in 1980 pleased guilty and was convicted of sexual assaults against three youths;
• Edouard Joseph Theriault, who in 1993 received a suspended two-year sentence after being convicted of indecent assault for assaults in the 1960s;
• Robert MacDougall, who in 1999 pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent sexual assaults in the late 1960s and early 1970s; and
• Albert LeBlanc, who in 2012 pleaded guilty to six counts of sexual assaults against young boys in the 1960s and 1970s while he was a priest with the Diocese of Yarmouth.
According to the press release, John McKiggan, the Halifax lawyer who filed the lawsuit, “has received national recognition for his work over the past 25 years representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He is the author of Breaking the Silence: The Survivor’s Guide to Abuse Claims in Canada.” McKiggan was successful in a $16 million class action lawsuit against the Diocese of Antigonish.
None of the allegations in the current lawsuit have been tested in court.
2. “Unconquered peoples”
“A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has blocked the province from using the principle of solicitor-client privilege to stymie a lawsuit filed against it by a former government lawyer,” reports Jack Julian for the CBC:
Supreme court Justice John D. Murphy ruled Thursday that Premier Stephen McNeil and former Justice Minister Diana Whalen waived solicitor-client protection when they publicly assailed the legal arguments made by government lawyer Alex M. Cameron on the province’s behalf.
Cameron is currently suing the provincial government for defamation and constructive dismissal from his job, which he left in May 2017.
You’ll recall that Cameron was the lawyer who wrote in a court filing that the Sipekne’katik First Nation didn’t have a right to be consulted about the Alton Gas project because they were not “unconquered peoples.” Continues Julian:
That argument triggered immediate outrage from Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq leaders and from opposition parties.
The premier and the former justice minister publicly repudiated Cameron’s approach and, within two weeks, the lawyer was removed from the case.
“I believe that brief went way beyond where it needed to go,” McNeil is quoted as saying in documents presented to the court. “I am looking for an explanation from the Justice Department.”
Those same documents later quote McNeil as saying he had “no idea” that Cameron was putting forward that argument.
Cameron wants to introduce documents into his defamation case against the province that the province has said constituted solicitor-client privilege; Murphy’s ruling allows him to do so, but the province has 30 days to appeal.
The sudden collapse of OpenHydro, the firm that built the tidal-powered turbine placed in the Minas Basin, continues to affect Maritime businesses. Yesterday, Jamac Painting and Sandblasting Ltd. of Saint John, New Brunswick filed a lawsuit against OpenHydro for $342,485.59, money it says OpenHydro owes for services Jamac provided related to the turbine. The money owed is outlined in this chart:
The allegations have not been proven in court.
Relatedly, “As the blades on the 16-metre tidal turbine deployed on July 22 in the Minas Passage continue to spin with no monitoring for their potential effects on sea creatures, Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures Inc. (CSTV) is scrambling to put a contingency monitoring plan in place before government regulators intervene,” reports Bruce Wark:
In an e-mail to The New Wark Times, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) warns that Cape Sharp must deploy a monitoring platform as outlined on pages 35-36 of its Environment Effects Monitoring Program (EEMP) within the two-week period that began on July 27, 13 days ago. DFO warns that if the company does not meet that deadline, “DFO will assess and determine the appropriate action.”
However, judging by an e-mail from Stacey Pineau, who speaks for Cape Sharp Tidal, the company is not yet in a position to deploy a monitoring platform 30 metres from the centre of the turbine as required under its monitoring program or EEMP.
Instead, she writes that a team “will execute an interim monitoring plan to ensure environmental monitoring data is recorded.”
Pineau did not respond to a request for details about the interim plan, but photos taken at the testing site on Thursday, appear to show placement of a platform on the beach at low tide that when submerged could be hundreds of metres from the turbine.
4. Harvard Street residents go to court over bikeway plan
In yet more legal news, yesterday 20 residents in the Harvard Street area asked the court to stop the city from building a “diagonal diverter” at the intersection of Harvard and Allan Streets.
The residents are Lance Barney, Wendy Brookhouse, Trevor Brumwell, Manuel Cierra, Glen Ginther, Sue Goyette, Scott Hodgson, Kelsey MacAulay, Gary MacLellan, Peter Munro, Nancy Murphy, Geraldine O’Shea, Kim Plaxton, Donna Rammo, Janet Stevenson, Jolyn Swain, Michael Teehan, Pat Thompson, Ross Thompson, and Kristin Tweel. All live on either Harvard Street north of Allan Street or Lawrence Street; Lawrence Street is a block north of and parallel with Allan Street.
In May, Halifax council passed a resolution for the “Implementation of Local Street Bikeways on Vernon-Seymour and Allan-Oak Corridors.” The bikeway plan calls for various design changes to the roadway, the biggest of which are curb extensions at Oak and Oxford Streets and the diagonal diverter at Harvard and Allen Streets.
The staff report for council described the diverter as follows:
A raised intersection median will placed diagonally across the intersection of Allan and Harvard Streets from northeast to southwest corners. The diverter will force a left hand turn on approach from Allan Street, and a right hand turn on approach from Harvard Street. Two 1.8m gaps in the median permit through passage by bicycles only — cyclists can proceed left, right or straight. Pedestrians may proceed as usual crossing at any four legs of the intersection with painted crosswalks. This treatment will help to reduce traffic volumes on the street.
City staff had conducted an online survey of residents in the area; surveys were submitted by 36 residents “immediately abutting” both the Allan-Oak and the Vernon-Seymour bikeways proposals, while 77 surveys were submitted by residents of streets adjacent to the proposed bikeways. It should be noted that Lawrence Street is not an adjacent street. The survey results were:
Because of the diverter, Allan Street between Oxford and Harvard would be renamed Oak Street, and the “portion of Harvard that has the least number of residences” would be renamed to something chosen by the residents.
As for emergency concerns, “Staff in Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency (HRFE) were supportive of the project,” reads the report. “As long as HRFE is informed where the impasses will be, they can plan their route to go around them without issue.”
The residents who applied to the court are having none of it, however. The application claims that the diverter will serve to increase traffic on Harvard Street between Allan Street and Chebucto Road, as well as on Lawrence and Duncan Streets.
“Most detrimental,” reads the application:
the proposed diagonal diversion will prevent emergency vehicles from taking the quickest and most efficient route to reach any of the residents in the Project Area in an emergency situation. Such increase of time could have dire or even fatal consequences.
“More generally, diverting all vehicular traffic to one direction only at the intersection of Havard and Allan Streets will increase travel time throughout the Applicants’ residential community, will block the current and direct availability of access to the local shopping area, will make access to neighbourhood stores much more difficult to reach by vehicle, will unnecessarily increase air pollution and gas consumption, and will prohibit the Applicants and all other vehicular traffic from accessing Allan Street to travel east from the north part of Harvard Street.
The applicants say they’re not opposed to the rest of the bikeway plan, just the diverter and the name change for their stretch of Harvard Street.
I don’t live on the street, so don’t have the day-to-day knowledge that the residents have, but it seems to me that Harvard Street is now being used by drivers as a way to avoid the congested Quinpool Road (I’ve used it that way myself), and so the diverter will stop at least that traffic. Moreover, if built right, the diverter can actually bring a sense of place to the intersection.
On the other hand, the diverter breaks the now-unbroken street grid that planners supposedly like. And the residents suggest that a “mini traffic circle, curb extensions, or speed bumps” might be acceptable; those sorts of things might also bring more of a sense of place to the intersection.
We’ll see what the court does.
5. The Glory Hole is a mess
Grafton Street through the Nova Centre has only been open to the public since January, but already the Grafton Street roadbed is crumbling.
I experienced the joys of the Grafton Street Glory Hole yesterday, and published a photo essay. Read it here.
6. Roadside memorial
There’s a sad argument over a roadside memorial between two grieving families in the Fall River area.
In June, 87-year-old Joseph Dominix and 15-year-old Kylie Cooper were killed in a collision at Abilene Avenue and Highway 2 in Wellington. Kylie’s family constructed a roadside cross near the intersection, but after a complaint was received, city crews removed it.
It appears that relatives of Dominix asked that the cross be taken down because they don’t want to be constantly reminded of the tragedy.
The removal blew up on Facebook, and then councillor Steve Streatch himself returned the cross, but placed it farther back from the roadway.
In a post on Facebook, Marlene Cooper, Kylie’s mother, implies that Dominix was at fault in the collision. “He had health conditions and if someone, anyone would have stopped him from getting behind the wheel of a deadly weapon, my baby girl would still be here today! So to the family. Yes he passed away too and honestly I am very very sorry about this! But he lived a good long life. My daughter was a baby!”
People will deal with grief however they must, but it’s interesting to me that roadside memorials have taken on such importance. I wrote about the phenomenon back in 2014, and remembered a similar dispute over roadside memorials in California:
There was a horrible drunk driving accident in Chico, the town I lived in. The drunk driver was killed, as were two young men driving in the vehicle the drunk driver hit. The friends and family of all three men set up roadside crosses at the intersection, but the loved ones of the two men objected to the cross being erected for the drunk driver, and they kept tearing it down. I’m not sure how that situation was resolved, or if it was resolved, but everything about it broke my heart.
No public meetings.
No public events.
In the harbour
0:30am: Almi Galaxy, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Scapa Flow, Scotland
5am: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Valencia, Spain
6am: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain
6:30am: AIDAvita, cruise ship with up to 1,582 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Charlottetown
8am: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea
8:30am: Nordkap, bulker, arrives at anchorage for bunkers from Porto Trombetas, Brazil
10:30am: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
11am: Dalian Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11:30am: Berlin Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
3pm: Navig8 Excelsior, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from sea
4:30pm: ZIM Constanza, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
7:30am: AIDAvita, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Saint John
Toes go in first.