1. More habeas corpus applications from prisoners
Two prisoners at the Burnside jail have filed habeas corpus applications with the court.
Codie Horne and Michael Saulnier say that they were put naked into segregation units on June 23, and for 40 minutes were monitored by a female guard. Horne says he was left in segregation for two days without a mattress and without a shower. Saulnier says his cell is unsanitary, polluted with “fecal matter.”
In his application to the court, Horne says he was brought to segregation because guard authorities suspected he was hiding a weapon. But both men say they were cleared to be returned to the jail’s common dayroom (where they would be able to interact with other prisoners) the very next day, but were kept in isolation.
The men filed their applications on Thursday, June 30. A court staffer appended a note on Horne’s application saying that as of noon yesterday — 11 days after being put in segregation — he was still in isolation.
In December, Dylan Gogan and Dylan Roach successfully petitioned the court to overturn an arbitrary jail practice of placing federal prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks at a time for no disciplinary reasons whatsoever. In his ruling, 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.”
Ever since Gogan and Roach’s successful application, prisoners at Burnside have been following suit. In May, 13 prisoners filed a habeas corpus appeal with the court, alleging that a week-long lockdown in the jail amounted to punishment without due legal process.
“They are not charged with any infractions, yet persist to be detained without lawful reason,” prisoner Joseph Zinck wrote in his hand-written appeal to the court.
In response to the 13 petitions, Justice Jamie Campbell ordered a telephone call to hear the matter, but by the call was scheduled, the lockdown had been ended, and so the matter was dropped.
In the current cases of Horne and Saulnier, Justice Campbell has likewise ordered an “on-the record” telephone call to hear the matter “some time this week, and that earlier would be preferred.” It’s my guess that the prisoners will be released from solitary by the time of the call.
It appears the Burnside jail is so overcrowded and the facility so underfunded and understaffed that administrators are throwing prisoners into solitary confinement essentially as an administrative means to keep order. Increasingly, solitary confinement, especially solitary confinement that extends beyond a day or two, is understood as torture. The prisoners are right to object, and they evidently feel their only recourse is to appeal to the courts.
Feed Nova Scotia has announced that it is “critically low”on food donations.
“It’s rare for us to go with such a proactive approach,” Feed Nova Scotia spokesperson Karen Theriault said Tuesday, outlining the desperate need for donations. “Local food banks have been turning people away.”
Feed Nova Scotia helps 147 agencies throughout the province, providing food and other services to communities. There is usually a three or four week supply of food in the Feed Nova Scotia warehouse, she said; however, at the moment that stock has shrunk to two or three days’ worth.
This drastic lack of food was brought on by a multitude of reasons, Theriault said.
“We came out of a winter where donations were lower than usual. We usually have enough to tide us over until late summer, early fall,” she said.
The low intake during the winter isn’t only to blame. Theriault also credits the current shortage to the rising cost of food, the influx of people using food banks, and the reality that people tend not to think about donating during the summer.
Our economy, and especially our food economy, is broken in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start. And the direct grocery store-to-Food Bank transfer of goods is unsettling — people should be able to afford to buy food themselves without a corporation getting a tax write-off for charity — but the Food Bank system is now institutionalized and needed for thousands of people.
So while we should work for long-term structural changes like a guaranteed minimum income and the development of local food production, we should also support stopgap charitable efforts.
3. Golf wars
“A golf course owner is striking back at the province’s [PEI’s} chief coroner for firing negative shots at his operation,” reports Jim Day for the Charlottetown Guardian:
Wendell MacEachern, the owner/operator of Avondale Golf Course, describes Dr. Des Colohan as a “chronic complainer.’’
MacEachern says he absorbed criticism for some time from Colohan, who has played his golf primarily on Avondale the past 10 years, without taking action.
However, when Colohan decided to put his concerns in print, MacEachern took exception.
Colohan wrote a recent opinion piece for The Guardian criticizing the state of golf — and golf courses — in P.E.I.
In the column, the doctor complained about losing golf balls on dandelion-spotted fairways.
That shot was meant for Avondale.
[MacEachern] approached Colohan on the ninth hole of Avondale recently to tell the doctor he would be happy to refund his money.
Colohan replied that was not necessary.
MacEachern said it most certainly was necessary because he didn’t want to “look at his snout all summer’’ wondering when Colohan might sound off again.
“There are just some people that you can’t make happy and Mr. Calhoun or whatever his name is, is one of them,’’ said MacEachern.
“The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has charged four civilians in the Halifax area with fraud,” reports Preston Mulligan for the CBC.
I particularly found this part amusing:
It’s alleged four Nova Scotia shell companies were created to bid on contracts. It’s also alleged those four companies then competed among themselves to supply the parts to CFB Halifax.
The investigation began when a civilian senior staffer in Shearwater noticed something suspicious about the contracts: All four companies were registered to one owner and the tender applications from each company all appeared to be written in the same handwriting.
Chris Lambie has written a detailed and interesting article for Local Xpress about an upcoming research mission to be conducted aboard the CCGS Hudson. Scientist Ellen Kenchington and an international team are heading to the Emerald Basin, a protected area about 130 kilometres south of Halifax, in order to study a sponge called Vazella (Pourtalesi), commonly known as Russian Hat.
The mission will go on to study a whale feeding area in an undersea canyon called The Gully, and then on to look for corals in the New England Seamounts.
It’s refreshing to see federal scientists interviewed about their missions, apparently without interference from communications staff making sure they stay on political message.
The commentariat is on vacation.
The government of Westlock County, Alberta is in upheaval.
Westlock is the rural county about an hour’s drive northwest of Edmonton where former Halifax mayor Peter Kelly landed in September 2014, hired on as CAO. He worked in that position through February of this year. In March, just eight months after he authored a report recommending that Charlottetown councillors get a 22 per cent pay raise, Kelly was hired as CAO of that city.
Back in Westlock, the county government is collapsing. The problems became public at a council meeting in April, but were detailed in an auditor’s report released last week, reports the Westlock News:
According to its auditor, Westlock County won’t ever recoup the nearly $465,000 it spent to prepare an eight-acre industrial park lot for Horizon North.
During the presentation of the municipality’s consolidated financial statements on June 28, auditor Tina Viney of Shoemaker, Viney and Friesen said based on current market trends the county stands to lose over $200,000 on the Horizon North deal.
County crews completed the work in the spring of 2015, however former CAO Peter Kelly never brought the expenditure to council for approval. In failing to do so, he breached Section 248(2) of the Municipal Government Act, which requires council approval of any unbudgeted expenditure over $10,000.
In the spring of 2015, Kelly directed staff to focus on the Horizon project, which ended up delaying or the outright cancellation of other municipal projects.
As costs skyrocketed to more than $300,000 there is no indication that Kelly ever informed Horizon North of the overruns.
In November 2015 Kelly finally invoiced Horizon North for $190,000 to the company’s surprise. The deal was reworked for Horizon North to pay the county $56,000 up front with the remainder paid back over the three-year lease at an interest rate of 3.5 per cent. There was no option to purchase included in the deal.
In December 2015 council ratified a deal that would see Horizon North pay $2,500 per monthly (sic) over a three-year lease. Following Kelly’s departure, the Horizon North file was missing from the county office.
After the issue became public in April, “[councillor Dennis] Primeau was charged with assault following a physical altercation with [Reeve Bud] Massey in council chambers,” reported the Westlock News.
Also, Kelly was paid an additional $19,530 after he left office:
On Feb. 22, councillors approved a deal to pay Kelly one month’s salary in exchange for one month of in-person consultation work, followed by two months of telephone availability in order to dovetail his tenure with incoming CAO Duane Coleman.
However, Primeau said the deal was made under the false pretense that Coleman had requested the service.
“Council was deliberately misled,” Primeau said. “They were led to believe that Duane had asked [for help] and that was not true at all.
“That money needs to come back in its entirety.”
Shortly after Coleman’s hire in February, councillors were supposed to have a conference call with him and Kelly. The call never happened, but the deal was inked on Kelly’s assurance that Coleman wanted his help.
“[Kelly] told us, which I guess was untrue, that Duane asked him to have is support for a while when he got here,” said Zadunayski.
“I remember that clearly and it was Peter that had said that.”
Primeau attempted to get the full council to order that Massey personally repay the money paid to council because, alleged Primeau, Massey knew it was improper. That motion failed.
In response to these problems and other issues, the county council has petitioned the provincial government to conduct an organizational review of its operations.
Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, City Hall) — staff is recommending that the committee pony up $50,000 for the Davis Cup, which is a tennis tournament that generates eleventy billion dollars in economic spinoff.
North West Planning Advisory Committee (7pm, Sackville Library) — nothing too controversial, I think.
No public meetings.
Holobionts (9:30am, Theatre A, Tupper Building Link) — Maureen O’Malley, from the University of Bordeaux, will speak on “Bottom-up microbiome research, and its implications for Holobionts.”
Planetarium show (7:15pm, the Halifax Planetarium, Room 120, Dunn Building) — “Journey to the Centre of Our Galaxy.” Five bucks at the door. Leave screaming kids out in the car.
In the harbour
5am: Vermont Trader, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Rotterdam
6am: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
7am: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
Noon: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
4pm: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
4:30pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
6pm: Cygnus Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Zeebrugge, Belgium
6pm: Vermont Trader, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
6am: Octavia, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from New York
8am: Veendam, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney with up to 1,350 passengers
4pm: Veendam, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Bar Harbor, Maine
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 1pm.