1. CBC’s “explainer” on North Preston
Upset with a CBC “explainer” about the community of North Preston, eight protestors descended upon CBC’s Halifax offices Friday and demanded a retraction. I was there, and wrote this article about it.
Besides the clear misrepresentation of North Preston — CBC executive producer Ken McIntosh readily admitted the explainer was “factually flawed” — I’m particularly interested in the competing claims about “North Preston’s Finest,” or “NPF.”
Police have long reported that a prostitution and trafficking gang by that name operates out of North Preston, that the gang has ties to similar operations in Niagara and Calgary, and that it “evolved” into a gang in Toronto called “Heart of a King.” McIntosh defended the CBC’s reporting on “North Preston’s Finest,” correctly noting that the gang is repeatedly referred to by police and in court documents.
But people from North Preston say there is no such thing as a gang called “North Preston’s Finest”:
After the protest, I interviewed protestor Lameia Reddick at length about this claim. Reddick told me that the term “North Preston’s Finest” has long been used in the community as a sort of aspirational, community-building slogan. “When I was young, I used it in my email address,” she said.
“Of course there’s criminal activity in the community,” she continued. “There’s criminal activity in every community. But everyone in all of North Preston said ‘North Preston’s Finest.’ It was only when police couldn’t figure out who were committing crimes that they started saying ‘North Preston’s Finest’ is a gang. So what they’re saying is the entire community is a gang.
Through my own research for the DEAD WRONG series, I know that it is undeniable that men from North Preston have been involved in pimping, and still are. But the extent of the North Preston connection is very much over-stated. (Part 5 of the series will get into this in some detail.)
Reddick, the protestor I spoke with after today’s CBC protest, is well aware of these nuances: She works with the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre.
“We have people in the community who are sexually assaulting people,” she says. “But the police can’t identify those people so they label it all ‘North Preston’s Finest.’ It makes it mysterious. It actually inhibits finding the criminals.”
Robert Devet’s take on the issue is here.
And Examiner contributor El Jones, who joined Friday’s protest, gives her view here.
2. Marilla Stephenson
Marilla Stephenson sure has some mojo with the Liberals.
You’ll recall that in 2014, Stephenson, a former Chronicle Herald columnist, was hired by the McNeil government for an 18-month personal services contract with an annualized salary of $83,259.28 “to support the work of the oneNS Coalition.” If there was any actual work product, useful or otherwise, that came out of that contract, I’m not aware of it.
And in June of this year, just as that 18-month oneNS contract ended, Stephenson was hired into a newly created job working directly for McNeil as the “managing director of corporate and external relations in the Executive Council Office.”
Now, we learn, “the only person to apply for a major new job in the premier’s office was asked for input on the job description a month before it was posted,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:
Documents from a freedom of information request by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union show Marilla Stephenson was asked for her input on the outline for the role of managing director of corporate and external relations.
In an April 12 email to Stephenson and Catherine Blewett, the premier’s deputy minister at the time, public service commissioner Laura Lee Langley wrote:
“I have taken a crack at a job description for the managing director of corporate and external relations at [executive council office]. You two might review and provide feedback as I was going on fumes for some of it.”
But before the post was even advertised, there were internal discussions happening about what would be the appropriate employee classification for Stephenson.
On May 9, Cherryl Tucker, the manager of executive council operations, sent an email to several colleagues noting “we cannot put Marilla in the [specified] position. You will need to create new [position and hiring process].”
This leaves little doubt that the new position was created not out of actual need for something called a “managing director of corporate and external relations in the Executive Council Office,” but rather the need for something called “let’s create a job for our friend Marilla.”
The hypocrisy is abundantly clear. As I pointed out just after Stephenson was hired into the new job:
As a columnist, [Stephenson] always struck me as merely a Liberal Party hack, simply repeating mantralike from the neocon Bible about slashing budgets and government staff.
I find a particular irony in Stephenson’s January 31, 2013 Chronicle Herald column, an attack on the then-NDP government of Darrell Dexter headlined “Top 10 ways for N.S. to shed baggage, cut costs.” In the column, Stephenson rattles off predictable neocon solutions to supposed budget woes — privatize health care, attack teacher unions, kill the government-owned asphalt plant — but of particular interest given that Stephenson is landing a job at a newly created government communications position is point 2:
2. Get rid of about half of the communications machine and the large number of full-time government employees now operating under government jurisdiction. Yes, there is such a thing as too much information.
I guess so long as the half of the communications staff being shown the exit door aren’t connected Liberal insiders, it’s a good plan.
3. Examineradio, episode #71
Kevin Kindred is a local human rights lawyer and spokesperson for the Rainbow Refugee Association of Nova Scotia. He speaks about the push to find LGBTQ+ refugees safe harbour in Halifax and beyond and also the drive to encourage the Trudeau government to make this resettlement pilot program a permanent part of Canada’s foreign policy.
Also, we dig as deep as we can into the development proposals surrounding the Blue Mountain – Birch Cove Lakes. Plus, VIA Rail has apparently floated a plan to introduce commuter rail to Halifax, but the City’s mum on the details.
4. Pedestrian struck
From the end-of-shift email police send to reporters:
Halifax Regional Police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision [Sunday] afternoon in Halifax.
At 12:27 p.m., HRP responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision that occurred at the intersection of Sackville and Brunswick street. A car driven by a 62 year old woman collided with a 35 year old woman who was crossing the street. The woman was transported to the QE2 Hospital by EHS for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. The accident is still under investigation and charges are pending.
1. Six months
As of Friday, the Chronicle Herald newsroom has been on strike for six months. To mark the occasion, arts reporter Elissa Barnard, editor Christine Soucie Madill, news reporter Mary Ellen MacIntyre, and web editor John McPhee reflect on their experiences.
Incidentally, former Chronicle Herald reporter Sherri Borden Colley has been hired by the CBC.
Borden Colley is a hard-working, reliable reporter. She’s been on so many beats through the years I’ve lost count, but her copy is consistently excellent — reading her, I’ve never once had those “hey, wait a minute…” moments when I think a reporter (including myself) is getting it all wrong. (Back in the 1990s, Borden Colley was covering some of the court cases I’m reviewing for the Dead Wrong series — including the Glen Assoun trial — and these 20 years later I’ve been able to put together important missing pieces thanks to her articles.)
By my count, Borden Colley’s departure from the Chronicle Herald ranks reduces the striking newsroom staff from 61 to 56. She is preceeded by David Jackson, hired as press secretary by the premier’s office; Dan Arsenault, now heading allnovascotia’s Newfoundland operation; editor Gordie Sutherland, who was hired by the CBC briefly but has moved on to other pursuits; and Michael Gorman, also hired by the CBC.
This, I think, is management’s goal. If they refuse to deal with the union for as long as possible, those workers who are most easily employed elsewhere — the top reporters, the editors and reporters who can afford to take pay cuts to work with other media, those with the ability to leave town, etc. — will find other employment, and after a while the union will only represent people with no options but to accept the horrible wage and benefit cuts demanded by management.
I don’t think that’ll actually happen, however. The union members are better off working for even lower strike pay and having something like peace of mind than agreeing to go back to work in those conditions. I don’t see the strike ever ending.
I also don’t see the Chronicle Herald surviving more than another year or two as an independent paper. The goal seems to be to create a union-free paper that can be unloaded to one of the chains. With that endgame in mind, there’s no desire to produce quality reporting, to fund investigative reporting, or to do anything at all that will cost real money in order to serve readers. From here on, it’s crap reporting from underpaid, inexperienced, and unreliable “reporters”; advertorial and “sponsored content”; and Mark Lever blathering on about “innovation.”
2. No fall election
That’s Parker Donham’s view.
3. Cranky letter of the day
It is now summer and still no signs of any replacement for the now sadly gone wooden playground which stood at Archibald’s Wharf in North Sydney.
I can attest not only as priest in the community but as parent myself that the playground itself and the whole green area was indeed a wonderful resource for many young parents who otherwise find it difficult without a car – and without a playground on their yards – to take their children to a very accessible place as Archibald’s Wharf was for them.
Talks – more rumors than anything else, really – about a possible replacement on Indian beach or Munro Park fail to recognize that those places do impose the extra burden to the already overwhelmed single mother or grandma who would have to push her stroller along with other children through five kilometers of not so friendly pedestrian walk.
The Archibald’s Wharf playground was readily accessible, without the need of walking an extra five kilometers and/or having to cross heavy traffic avenues or climbing an uphill sidewalk (clearly the case in the Indian Beach rumor). We have not made it easier for parents without a car to take their little ones to enjoy the same that the now extinct Archibald’s Wharf was offering to this community.
I suspect that had the municipal council been made up of women with school-age children, no car and modest income, the outcome would have been completely different. They would have not failed to see the tremendous value and benefits that the playground on Archibald’s Wharf provided to this community.
People should be our primary goal. It is said that the selling of this property will eventually generate x number of jobs (probably most of them as long as the construction of the new facilities lasts). We believe that it is more important the material things we can provide to our children and youth rather than the family time, open spaces, and charge-free learning interaction with other children (things for which families with higher income pay).
The Archibald’s Wharf was already giving this community a real income; it was not a materially tangible one yet a very real income: a place where seniors, children, and young parents were enjoying time together in a healthy way. We lost it and so it is even more difficult for today’s children (our future youth) to grow in a healthier way. I am not questioning the decision to sell (well intentioned surely) but the long term results. We shot ourselves in the foot. We made a mistake.
Fr. Julio C. Martin, Priest in charge of St. John the Baptist Anglican Parish, North Sydney
Police Commission (12:30pm, RCMP H-Division Headquarters, Rotunda, 80 Garland Avenue, Burnside) — nothing interesting on the agenda.
Districts 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (6pm, City Hall) — St. Pat’s High School site.
No public meetings.
No campus events.
In the harbour
Scheduled as of 7am:
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Boston with up to 1,350 passengers
Noon: Performance, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
3pm: High Strength, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Paldiski, Estonia
3:30pm: Torm Freya, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Delaware City, Delaware
3:30pm: Goodwood, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4pm: Itea, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from New York
6pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
6am: Atlantic Conveyor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
6am: Vera D, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Leixoes, Portugal
8am: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from New York with up to 2,620 passengers
5pm: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Southhampton, England (the nine-day New York-Halifax-Southhampton trans-Atlantic crossing starts at $999 per passenger at double occupancy cabin rates)
Someone should write a song about Mondays.
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