1. Solitary confinement
In December, I reported on Justice Gerald Moir’s ruling on solitary confinement at the Burnside jail:
Moir had heard the habeas corpus applications of two prisoners, Dylan Gogan and Dylan Roach, who represented themselves. Both were placed in the federal system, but are being held in the provincial jail at Burnside as they have scheduled court appearances in Halifax.
An internal jail email from December 18, 2014 was entered into evidence; the email established a new jail policy that effectively put all federal prisoners in solitary confinement while at the jail. Moir detailed what that meant for Gogan and Roach:
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. Roach was brought here on October 27, 2015. He was bound over to this court, and we remanded him to Burnside pending his trial on January 21, 2016. He is serving a life sentence without parole for thirteen years.
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 the arbitrary practice of putting federal prisoners in solitary confinement ended.
Today, a Chronicle Herald reporter relates the story of another man so confined:
Robert Bailey claims to have been locked in his three-metre-by-two-metre cell at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility 24 hours a day for at least 10 days last summer.
During that time, the Dartmouth man said, another inmate filled a container with feces and sprayed it into his cell.
“I had a nervous breakdown,” said Bailey, 45, who was serving two months for breach of a recognizance.
Solitary confinement — especially solitary confinement for administrative reasons that have nothing to do with the behaviour of an inmate — is torture.
Yesterday, the Halifax Typographical Union, which represents newsroom employees at the Chronicle Herald, issued this release:
I’ve never seen newspaper management refuse to publish bylines before. It’s outrageous.
Byline strikes by reporters are an old tradition, meant to raise awareness among readers about labour disputes between reporters and newspaper management. Whether this works is an open question, but in 2003 an arbitrator sided with reporters who had started a byline strike:
A Quebec arbitrator has sided with journalists at a major Canadian newspaper who withdrew their names from stories to protest CanWest Global Communications’ policy of imposing editorials from head office.
The arbitrator concluded that management at The Gazette in Montreal erred when it ordered reporters to put back their bylines in December, 2001, a decision seen as an attempt to quell the dispute. The byline strike was the first major protest in what became a nationwide controversy over the effects of the concentration of media ownership in Canada.
The journalists withheld their bylines after CanWest, owned by the Asper family, decided that all its big-city dailies would regularly publish mandatory editorials written out of Winnipeg.
After the second byline-free day, management at The Gazette ordered reporters to put their names back.
Quebec arbitrator Jean-Pierre Lussier concluded the order violated The Gazette’s contract with its staffers. He said a byline belongs to a reporter “as surely as the colour of his eyes,” and he can withdraw it as he sees fit.
“If an employee requests that a byline be withheld, it is withheld. That’s all there is to it,” he wrote.
Bylines serve many purposes. They are a means of accountability back to the reader — this particular reporter is responsible for this work. They help the reader build trust with reporters and publications — I know I can rely on, say, Michael Gorman’s reporting on Province House more than someone who was sent there for the first time. Above all, bylines underscore that reporters are professionals.
The Chronicle Herald’s war with its newsroom employees boils down to a lack of respect for the journalists’ professionalism. Increasingly, the words on the page of a newspaper or on a website are viewed by management as mere “content” — interchangeable content that can come from anywhere. The message to readers is “we don’t need professional journalists to provide you with content, we’ll get it from kids at the J-school.”
But not anyone can step into those newsroom jobs and perform well. It takes training and experience. Only through years of work do you learn how to ask the tough questions, how to contextualize a complex issue, how to craft a readable paragraph. Only through working a beat do you understand the nuances of a subject matter, the personalities involved, the back-door developments.
I enjoy speaking with the students at the J-school, and I’ve seen many students graduate and go on to build solid careers as worthy journalists. But they’re not there yet. They simply can’t step in and replace the professional staff that now provides reporting for the Chronicle Herald. The students don’t yet have the skills, the life experience, the work under their belts to do the job correctly.
Stripping professionals of their bylines and making them interchangeable with unskilled and inexperienced students devalues all news reporting. The paper becomes just junk.
In my view, this is exactly opposite of what the Chronicle Herald should be doing to retain readers. Instead of cheapening their product and filling the paper with junk, they should double-down on professionalism, celebrate the very best of their reporters’ work, and concentrate on the things their employees can excel at.
Give people a reason to read the paper — not junk.
“Dartmouth’s Shannon Park is not the right location for a possible aquarium, according to a marine biologist and veterinarian who specializes in aquarium facilities,” reports Pam Berman:
“Most people know that Ripley’s built an aquarium in Toronto,” said Chris Harvey-Clark of Dalhousie University. “That aquarium had a $120 million price tag for a 100,000 square feet.”
Also, 30 bucks a ticket to be ushered through tiny enclosed spaces with thousands of screaming kids.
Visiting the Ripley’s Aquarium was one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life. I still have nightmares about it.
“The head of a Halifax production company says the writing is on the wall for his business this year unless something is done to fix the Nova Scotia film tax credit,” reports the CBC’s Carolyn Ray:
Arcadia Entertainment president John Wesley Chisholm said his once-booming office has no projects lined up after July.
Right now, Arcadia employs 40 people, all of whom are busy working on 100 different programs in production. All of those programs were lined up before the province changed the tax credit. Chisholm said it was their biggest year ever.
Arcadia lines up work through television markets. Chisholm recently attended two different trade events.
“For the first time in my 17 years of doing it, I have come home empty-handed. The new tool doesn’t work. We have no new productions for this year,” said Chisholm.
There were many things wrong with the gutting of the Film Tax Credit, but biggest thing wrong with it was the way it was sprung suddenly on the industry. Had the Liberals worked with the industry to phase in changes in an orderly manner, they could’ve gotten to reduced subsidies without causing the wholesale disruption we’re seeing now.
5. Cruise ships to Sydney and voodoo economics
“A second cruise ship berth at the port of Sydney is a priority for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, however it remains a question of dollars and cents for the province,” reports the Cape Breton Post.
It might make sense to build such a facility: the port of Sydney is regular stop for Holland American Line ships (HAL’s Veendam and Maasdam that are the workhorses of the Atlantic Canadian cruise business), but is turning away potential business from the Royal Caribbean cruise line for lack of docking facilities.
But it’s impossible to have a rational assessment of the value of a new cruise ship berth so long as bogus economic impact numbers are being tossed about. From the Post article:
2015 cruise ship season
• 70 vessels made port-of-calls
• 89,664 passengers
• Estimated $25.2-million economic impact
Source: Cape Breton Regional Municipality
CBRM is seriously arguing that each cruise ship passenger results in $325 of “economic impact.” This is, to put it mildly, a stretch. Probably it’s relying on dockside questioning of a sampling of passengers, and it’s been determined that each passenger spends on average $46 in port — even that seems excessive, but maybe — and then there’s a multiplier of seven because, I don’t know, Statistics Canada or magic or voodoo economics or something.
But a serious look at the economic impact of tourism finds that the multipliers are often (I’d say always) bullshit:
Secondary effects have frequently been exaggerated in recreation and tourism studies due to misuse and misunderstanding of multipliers. State and national multipliers, which are more readily available, have frequently been mis-applied to estimate impacts on local regions. Many studies have not properly accounted for visitor purchases of goods that are not locally made. Also, early versions of IMPLAN produced a “Type III” multiplier which significantly overestimated induced effects of tourism spending. Hence, many tourism analysts are accustomed to multipliers of 2.0 or greater, when the reality is that tourism spending multipliers for local regions are more likely to fall somewhere between 1.0 and 1.5.
There’s money to be made in cruise ship tourism — there are plenty of people eking out a living as tour guides and so forth. But most of the tourism money will be made by the grifters floating this plan or that, not so they can drive Mr. and Mrs. Red, White & Blue to Green Cove to see gigantic statuary, but rather because they’ll get paid the big bucks for pushing bogus numbers around.
Get back to me about the second cruise ship berth when you have serious numbers.
6. Pedestrian struck
At 6:50 p.m. on January 12, a 29-year-old female pedestrian was walking on Evans Avenue near Ford Street, crossing the street in a crosswalk. A vehicle stopped at the corner of these streets pulled out to make the turn onto Ford Street and struck the pedestrian with the front of the vehicle, causing her to fall to the ground. The driver did stop and speak to the pedestrian, but didn’t provide any of his information to her. The pedestrian went to hospital with non-life threatening injuries and has since been released.
The driver is described as a white man in his late 40s with short brown hair. He was driving an older style white vehicle.
1. Brunswick Street
Like me, folks have been drawing pictures and later photographing views from the hill since the earliest days of the founding of Halifax. As a consequence the visual record of buildings on Brunswick Street is the best in the city. I particularly enjoy studying how some of the more humble structures changed over time. Join the fun and watch how three wooden buildings just north of Carmichael St (George St) change over a 100 year period.
Archibald goes on to examine a series of historic photos and then some of his own photos from the 1970s, showing the evolution (and devolution) of the street through the years. It’s a fascinating historic record.
2. Black helicopters will save Green Cove
Joseph L. MacDougal reminds us that Stephen Harper nearly successfully put a horrendous eight-storey monstrosity on Green Cove, and wonders: “Looking into the future, what’s to stop this from happening again?”
MacDougal’s solution? The UN:
The solution would be to have each and every national park in Canada declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site — a monumental task, nevertheless a necessary one…
It’s extremely unfortunate this episode over Green Cove in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park had to happen; but if there is one good lesson we can take away, it’s that we can never again take for granted that our national parks are truly protected and let our guard down.
3. The Dennises and the Chronicle Herald
Parker Donham sides with the Dennisses, mostly.
4. Cranky letter of the day
At the start of this new year, columnist Roger Taylor brings out the story of another developer who wants to exceed the generous concessions already awarded for a site next to the Public Gardens. We must feel sorry for the developer if he must pay for new drawings to conform with the approved plan.
While the situation is the developer’s own doing, Mr. Taylor creates villains by stating there will be people gleeful over the extra expenses of the developer; people concerned for good planning must be against all development; city staff must not want the poor developer to make an extra buck or two.
So developers are always the victims as seen by The Chronicle Herald business section.
It would be nice if the Herald business section would realize that the largest contributors to all sectors of the community, including financial, are the ordinary citizens who would like not to be abused for having an opinion. These citizens are trying to protect their community and their own properties which, for most, are the biggest investments they will ever have.
Blair Beed, Halifax
Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — An unsightly premises complaint has been, er, complained about 9567 St. Margaret’s Bay since at least 2010. I have no idea what that’s about.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (1pm, City Hall) — the committee is thinking about joining Europe.
Design Review Committee (4pm, City Hall) — The committee will look at the proposed CBC/YMCA rebuild. I’ll be there and will report back tomorrow.
No public meetings.
Learning on purpose (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Ashley Cooper, an architect at The Mycelium School in Asheville, North Carolina, will speak on “Learning on purpose: The intersection of education, personal growth and social change”:
Mycelium is a learning organization that connects social change agents and creates the conditions for relevant learning and meaningful action. In communities and organizations, Ashley supports learners in developing the relationships, clarity and strategy to do their work in the world. She has worked on curriculum and program development and facilitation in schools, foundations and non-profits. Ashley has a gift for facilitating groups and cultivating environments where people feel inspired to be genuine and actively participate.
This date in history
On January 14, 1874, the first issue of the Halifax Morning Herald newspaper was published. In 1949 the Herald was merged with the Chronicle. It’s been downhill ever since.
The other day the Chronicle Herald tweeted as follows:
The “most read story” at the Chronicle Herald was this (and here’s an instance when the lack of a byline saved a “reporter”‘s reputation):
OAK ISLAND — Was Nova Scotia a stopping place for ancient Romans sailing to North America over a thousand years before Christopher Columbus?
The History channel will soon air an episode of The Curse of Oak Island that gives voice to claims that a Roman sword allegedly found off this province’s coast proves that Europeans were sailing here 1,800 years ago and possibly earlier.
“Whoever these Romans were, they disappeared from Roman history,” Jovan Hutton Pulitzer, a self-declared forensic historian who appears on the show, told The Chronicle Herald in a recent interview.
The Oak Island stuff is, well, utter bullshit:
In the harbour
We’ll be recording this week’s Examineradio today.