1. Prisoners file court action
Thirteen prisoners held at the Burnside jail have filed a habeas corpus appeal with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, alleging that a week-long lockdown in the jail amounts to punishment without due legal process.
“They are not charged with any infractions, yet persist to be detained without lawful reason” writes prisoner Joseph Zinck in his hand-written appeal to the court.
Zinck writes that he and his fellow prisoners have been in lockdown since noon on May 3 — a week ago today — and he names Richard Verge as the correctional officer responsible for the lockdown. Verge is the Captain of the West 5 range at Burnside, who was named in a successful habeas corpus application filed last December by Dylan Gogan and Dylan Roach, two federal prisoners who were placed in solitary confinement for no disciplinary reasons but rather simply for jail administrative purposes. In the December application, Justice Gerald Moir noted that:
They are confined to their cells in Burnside twenty-three hours a day. This is not because they are being disciplined. This is not because they need protection. This is not because they need to be investigated for classification.
Mr. Gogan and Mr. Roach are confined twenty-three hours a day for reasons that have nothing to do with them as individuals.
Mr. Gogan described the cell in which he is locked alone for twenty-three hours a day. It is about seven by nine feet. There is a set of bunks but only one mattress. He has a stool and a toilet. That is it.
Mr. Roach’s conditions are similar except his is a single bed, there is no bench, and the room is equipped for a person with mobility problems. Mr. Roach is not such a person.
To lock a man alone in a cell for twenty-three hours a day is not merely to deprive him of the common room. It is to deprive him of social interaction, of the simplest personal amusements such as cards or television, of the most rudimentary activities that keep us sane. “[S]olitary confinement (or segregation) for a prolonged period of time can have damaging psychological effects on an inmate …” [citing an Ontario court ruling]
Let me return for a moment to the facts of Mr. Gogan’s and Mr. Roach’s confinement. They spend twenty-three hours a day in a nine by seven feet cell with a bed, a mattress, a window, maybe a stool or a bench, and no other amenities. The one hour exception is for showers, any visitors, and a little time in the common room with little or no social interaction. Mr. Gogan put it mildly when he said “it’s certainly hard on your mind.”
Moir ordered that the arbitrary practice of putting federal prisoners in solitary confinement be ended.
Zinck did not detail the conditions of the current lockdown at Burnside. My understanding is that the jail regularly locks down prisoners in order to conduct searches for drugs and other contraband. The problem, as explained to me, is that the jail is over-crowded and there are so many prisoners coming and going that it’s impossible to keep contraband out, so the lockdowns are becoming more frequent and for longer duration.
Besides Zinck, 12 other prisoners filed habeas corpus applications. I was only able to read Zinck’s application yesterday, as the files were with a judge and I asked merely to understand what the issue was, so requested access only to Zinck’s file. Presumably, the other dozen applications make the same complaint.
One of the other applicants is William Sandeson, who is charged with the first-degree murder of Dalhousie student Taylor Samson. The other 11 applicants are Nikki Nash-Harris, Alex Grant, Darren Lawrence, Kaz Cox, Paul Oakley, Glen Reykdal, Melchisedek Israel, Ryan Joudrey, Wayne Oakes, Jordan Thompson, and Kyle Ruddick.
Justice James Campbell has ordered a “telephone call on the record” with the Attorney General’s office to discuss the applications. The call will be made in open court today.
Back in 2010, the Waterfront Development Corporation announced that:
The Waterfront Development Corporation, the province and The Armour Group Limited have agreed on a conceptual plan for Queen’s Landing, a major development located in Halifax’s central business district on the Halifax waterfront.
Award-winning developer Armour Group Limited has been granted the development rights to build the project, which includes 100,000 square feet of Class-A office space, a 200-room, 4-star hotel, and underground parking to support the development. Armour Group will now seek municipal approval for the project under HRM By Design.
Armour Group is committed to using green practices and the private-sector component of Queen’s Landing will be built to exceed Class A standards. It will be a registered LEED project, designed to meet the standards of the internationally recognized Green Building Certification system.
“For close to 40 years, we have focused on quality developments that create a sense of place,” said Armour Group founder and chairman Ben McCrea. “The Queen’s Landing development is a project which will have the most positive impact on the Halifax Waterfront since the development of Historic Properties more than 30 years ago.
“The private-sector component is complementary to a bigger vision of creating a star attraction on the Halifax Waterfront — a destination for the people of Nova Scotia and visitors to learn about our heritage, be entertained and work in a vibrant downtown Halifax.”
A preliminary economic impact analysis on the Queen’s Landing project in 2006 said it has the potential to create more than 1,300 jobs and $5.95 million in provincial tax revenue.
Regular readers will know to read such pronouncements with a grain of salt — besides short-term construction jobs, even the biggest developments “create” exactly zilch in terms of new employment, but rather simply reshuffle existing employment opportunities. Maybe Queen’s Landing will need a bunch of building managers and janitors, and maybe some retail shops and offices in the new development will hire some people, but only because the Maritime Centre (or whatever) finally gives up the ghost and people working there lose their jobs.
In any event Ben McCrea died in 2013, and the Queen’s Landing proposal languished. Evidently, however, there was no requirement to start construction within a certain period, and it looks like development rights are heritable, so McCrea’s son, Scott Armour McCrea, now the CEO of the Armour Group, has resurrected his father’s vision and Queen’s Landing has been redubbed the Queen’s Marque. Yesterday, the revitalized project was rolled out with the most over-produced website imaginable and another ridiculously flowery press release from Waterfront Development:
The lived experience of Nova Scotia is reflected in the architecture and design of the over 450,000 square foot Queen’s Marque district, united with a progressive outlook for a prosperous future here. The inspiration for Queen’s Marque began with marine forms, the grand sweep of a vessel, the graceful bend of a bow, and aimed to elevate something utilitarian into something beautiful. The main forms, adorned in copper and glass, protrude through the Lower Water Street façade, where they support a sandstone bar, as if carrying the cargo of Nova Scotia high above the ground. The floating sandstone form is articulated with a series of projecting and angled ‘chocks’, providing support and a sense of anchoring. Wharf vernacular and ship shapes in the buildings are communicated through contemporary architectural choices, which speak to Nova Scotia’s shipbuilding past, present, and future.
Contextual and solid materials honour the district’s surroundings and are grounded within the downtown. The use of Sandstone references the iconic buildings in the city core and the workmanship ingrained in our past; the granite apron evokes the rocky coast and a familiar rugged character without flash; while copper, reimagines the oil-can hull of marine vessels and speaks to the copper cables used historically at cable wharf. Layered into these materials are subconscious expressions of a shared maritime experience. The forms and materials are overtly “born of this place”.
Above all, the district of Queen’s Marque is for the public. A driving ethos of the project is ‘democracy of place’, where the community can embrace, and feel an ownership over the space. The design balances the relationship between built form and open public spaces as essential and reciprocal, each informing and responding to the other. New landscaped squares will be created at George Street and Prince Street, enhancing the waterfront experience. Most notably, expansive gates above the boardwalk, and several intimate passages from Lower Water Street, referred to as ‘Between the Hulls’, open onto a grand European-style central plaza. In total, 75,000 square feet of public space will be created.
Off of the large central plaza in the middle of the District is the ‘Rise Again’ wharf building. ‘Rise Again’ is a gradually rising pier building, breaching the waves of the harbour and suggesting a consistent motif of resiliency in our culture marked by the famous lyrics of icons like The Rankins and Stan Rogers. ‘Rise Again’ is scalable and creates a natural amphitheater for community use. The unique structure acts as a symbol of Nova Scotia rising again today. At its apex is the yet to-be-named and designed “harbour light” art installation – a proud and emblematic piece which is intended to allow people to enter, climb and interact as part of a glowing art piece.
Next to the ‘Rise Again’ building is a reimagining of the site’s historic slipway, ‘Queen’s Landing’ with granite steps that gently descend into the sea. ‘Queen’s Landing’ allows the public to fulfill the natural inclination to get close to the water. The interplay between ‘Rise Again’ and the reimagined ‘Queen’s Landing’ pays homage to Nova Scotia’s enduring nautical legacy.
Art is an integral part of the district’s design. The art created will be inspired by the place-specific stories of the region and embedded into the site. International caliber and emerging local artists will be commissioned to interpret and visually depict the lived experience here.
Queen’s Marque programming includes areas to work, live, eat, stay and explore. With a distinctly Atlantic Canadian character, the office space is designed to be one of the most progressive AAA buildings in the country. The district’s southern edge features Atlantic Canada’s first luxury class boutique hotel, which shares premium amenities with the rental residences overlooking the Halifax Harbour. The entire ground level of the district, and much of the second floor, is dedicated to numerous food and beverage, retail, and cultural offerings, most with a distinct regional flavour. The destinations of Queen’s Marque will be conveniently served with approximately 300 underground parking stalls.
Remember when you were a kid and went to the fair and ate three giant cotton candies and two chocolate-covered bananas with nuts and then went with your sister on the Tilt-a-Whirl? Yes, reading that press release is exactly like that. The website is a lot of sickening fun, too, as we learn about “Honest. Authentic” condos, and that, somehow, the developers are promising to dictate what kind of food and drink are served in the new restaurants in the complex:
Enjoy a locally brewed craft beer while sitting in the warm Nova Scotian sun, surrounded by the dark blue ocean, in the centre of our City. Queen’s Marque will feature several local restaurants and cafes that strive to prepare dishes inspired by our region using fresh ingredients grown in Nova Scotia.
The office building will be entirely gluten-free as well, and:
With the sea almost touching the expansive windows, it facilitates a balance between productivity and creativity. Much like the culture of Nova Scotia.
“Local” is the order of the day, according to the website:
Boutique style shopping and services with a distinct focus on locally made and sourced products. Retail and cultural space at Queen’s Marque is being curated with the intent to support local businesses and showcase artisan wares and high-end fashions that are unique to Atlantic Canada. Cultural feature provides Nova Scotia historical and artistic experiences within the district.
And yet somehow the website itself is hosted in the United States and, rather than hiring local photographers, relies on stock photos that appear to come from Germany. (Pro-tip to people who use stock photography: if you want to pass it off as a local photo, rename the photo as something other than “shutterstock.”)
Take for example the above photo, helpfully labelled shutterstock_298495187, and used to illustrate text about the Atlantic Fisheries Experimental Station that was once at Queen’s Landing. The same photo is used in this article headlined “European Countries Found to Be Overfishing.” I guess Armour Group, committed to local artisans, couldn’t hire someone to go over to Eastern Passage and take some photos of actual local people fishing.
(And none of the stock photos or architectural renderings show a person of colour.)
Also, how does it make sense to build another 100,000 square feet of Class A office space downtown? We’re already at a nearly 25 per cent vacancy rate, and the Nova Centre hasn’t even opened yet.
3. Minimum wage
“On Tuesday the NDP is tabling a bill in Province House that would have minimum wage rise every January from the current $10.70 to $11.70 in 2017, $13.35 in 2018, and $15 in 2019, as well as repeal a different wage for inexperienced employees,” reports Haley Ryan for Metro.
1. Fort McMurray Fire
Stephen Kimber looks at the almost incomprehensible scale of the disaster, and at gestures of help.
2. Violence and structural racism
Chris Parsons has reworked a piece I linked to last week into an article for a wider Canadian audience via Vice:
Halifax is a city facing an affordable housing crisis. It’s a city just a few years removed from a bloody feud between two families, the Melvins and the Marriotts: two drug dealing, biker gang-connected families from the poor, mostly white suburb of Spryfield. It’s a city where some bosses won’t hire employees who have to take public transit to work. It is also a city in the midst of huge condo boom and a city where despite widespread opposition, the federal, provincial and municipal governments have committed a combined $400 million to help build a privately owned convention centre than no one wants.
Blindly praising urban renewal requires one to ignore a number of facts: While a wealthy developer received hundreds of millions of dollars to build a hotel and convention centre from all three levels of government Nova Scotia’s ruling Liberal Party have cut funding from a 33 year old African Nova Scotian run community organization that helps people Preston and Cherrybrook find jobs. In recent budgets we’ve seen no new funding for public housing, no new money from the province to improve public transit to Halifax’s working class and poor suburbs, and no additional support to create jobs in predominantly black or poor neighbourhoods. The province refused to provide help to Harbour City Homes, a north end Halifax co-op which provides co-op housing for low income residents. And in a huge battle waged by community groups for access to a closed-down public school—largely organized by black and Indigenous community members—the developers won.
I’ve been sickened in the last few week with comments I’ve heard and read insinuating that, because the most recent shooting deaths in Halifax involved people allegedly involved in the sale of illicit drugs, they brought it upon themselves… Every time I hear it I know that it’s bullshit. We make choices, but those choices are constrained by the structures we live under. The choices I’ve made that make me safe — to go to university (twice), to live in downtown Halifax, to work for political organizations that pay me a living wage — are choices that were available to me. Those choices aren’t available to everyone.
The politics, economics and geography of this city put hard constraints on the choices people get to make and to pretend otherwise is to fundamentally misunderstand what violence is and the way that it intersects with class and race.
City Council (1pm, City Hall) — I plan to be present and live-blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer, but I’m also hoping to catch the habeas corpus call over at the courthouse.
Private and Local Bills (11am, One Government Place) — under consideration is Bill No. 176, Otter Lake Landfill Act, introduced by Iain Rankin. I can’t this morning find the text of the bill, but here’s what Rankin said about it last week:
Why do I bring this forward? We are at a point now where there is less volume going in; there is more source separation; the cells that we are going to develop now, cells seven, eight, and nine, are indeed larger — so, the timing that it is going to fill these cells will go beyond the 25 years. We understand that; the community understands that. There is nothing contractual to actually close the landfill down in 25 years, nor is it in the public interest to prematurely close the landfill when there is capacity left and the significant funding it cost to build new cells and to site a new landfill. What I think is fair in the balance of considerations is the certainty for people to know that when the landfill becomes full, that it is full, then that would be a full stop.
It is important to mention here when we are talking about proposed vertical expansion that when there was public consultation, two years ago, 80 per cent of the people who went to public consultation, all over HRM, not just the affected community, but 80 per cent of the respondents were opposed to vertical expansion. So, again, I am ingraining in legislation the inability for a permanent cell extension on any of the cells that will be built in Otter Lake.
Legislature sits (1-6pm, Province House)
Globalization (6pm, Lord Nelson Hotel) — Michelle Eagan, from American University, will talk on “From single markets to transatlantic markets: lessons from the US and EU.”
In the harbour
Short one today.