1. Armoured vehicle
This is a short Morning File today because I was busy at court most of the day yesterday (see below) and because I’m kind of riled up about the city’s purchase of an armoured vehicle for the police.
I wrote a little Twitter rant about the latter while I was eating dinner yesterday, so I’ll just repeat that here:
I am very angry about this armoured vehicle. Everything about it is wrong. Every last damn thing. Let’s count the ways this is evil, eh?
1. It’s disaster porn. It teaches not just cops, but we the public, to fear each other.
2. It says that the best response to potential problems is a militarized response. Not de-escalation, not addressing troubled people before they break and commit violence. All our resources must go into brute force response.
3. With limited resources, we must spend on cops first. We could spend the same money on other things that would make a material difference in people’s lives, and yes, save lives — a living wage ordinance, removing ice from the sidewalks, etc.
4. Whatever the cops want, the cops get. Civilian oversight is a stupid joke on citizens. It doesn’t matter what you think, silly citizen.
5. Way down on the list (#5 on my list) is that the thing is useless in terms of responding to real crises. An armoured vehicle isn’t going to stop a school or library shooting (Steve Craig’s examples). I’m sure someone can dream up some disaster scenario for it, but come on.
6. It’s a tool of intimidation. That’s just a fact. We know that the police reflect and amplify the racism of our society, so we can be certain that the armoured vehicle will be used to intimidate Black people.
7. It pulls the rug out from under “community policing” [place all caveats here].
8. And very last on my list (I could go on, but I’ve got shit to do), it’s a waste of money.
2. Heritage destruction
Tomorrow, one of city council’s subcommittees — the Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee — will be discussing a “Strategy for the Protection of Potential Heritage Resources in Downtown Halifax.”
The staff report on this is downright depressing. In 2009, a map was created showing heritage and potential heritage sites downtown. Specifically, the map “shows 15 landmark sites, 163 registered heritage buildings, 3 registered heritage sites, and 141 potential heritage buildings located in the Downtown Halifax plan area.”
Here’s the map:
The map was created as part of HRM By Design, which we’re all supposed to bow down to and celebrate as the bestest thing ever, in part because it was going to protect heritage properties.
How’s that going? Well, “due to significant development activity, to date 30% of the unregistered heritage buildings in Downtown Halifax identified [by the map] have been demolished since the adoption of the Plan in 2009.”
That’s right: in just 10 years we’ve lost 30% of the potential heritage sites downtown.
Let’s celebrate by erecting a statue honouring Andy Filmore.
3. SolarTron update
Yesterday morning, I reported on the bankruptcy of SolarTron, and noted that the company had received considerable government financial assistance, including a Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) loan of $250,000 in 2011 and two Atlantic Canadian Opportunity Agency (ACOA) loans — $229,600 in 2012 and $349,645 in 2015.
Yesterday, I heard back from both NSBI and ACOA. Neither agency would tell me the status of the SolarTron loans. “Specific information related to the terms and conditions of a contribution agreement, including the status of repayments, is subject to client confidentiality and cannot be disclosed,” ACOA spokesperson Chris Brooks told me via email.
It’s public money but the public isn’t allowed to know about the status of the loans.
4. Lake Banook weeds
The status of the Lake Banook weeds is the subject of an incredibly detailed and no doubt costly report by the engineering firm Stantec.
I don’t have time to get into it this morning, but have a read.
5. Glen Assoun and media legal costs
I’ve been reporting on the wrongful conviction of Glen Assoun for five years, and that work continues.
Assoun has been fully exonerated, but there’s still a big piece of the story that needs to be told. As one of Assoun’s lawyers, Phil Campbell, told the court in March:
There are issues of accountability, arising from that phrase in the minister’s [David Lametti’s] order: “Relevant and reliable information that was not disclosed to Mr. Glenn Assoun during his criminal proceedings.” Behind that phrase lies a sad, to some degree a shocking story, in the telling of which there will eventually be an acute public interest. And there is also a public interest, given the record that now exists, the evidence that has accumulated that is before the Minister, in attempting, still, these many years later to identify who did kill Brenda Way. We believe that to be an achievable goal and one that, the pursuit of which, will serve the public interest.
As I wrote then:
Outside the courtroom, I asked Campbell who withheld the evidence that could have cleared Assoun. Campbell made clear it was not the crown prosecutors, but rather Halifax police… he said while there were faults with the original investigation, the most troubling withholding of evidence came when Assoun was before the Court of Appeal. Campbell would not further elaborate, telling me only to pursue the matter myself. I am.
Let’s be blunt about this: it appears that Halifax police not only knew that Assoun didn’t kill Brenda Way but additionally knew who actually did kill her, and even with that knowledge they allowed the conviction of Assoun to stand.
This should horrify us. An innocent man sat in prison for 16 years, and then on strict parole conditions for another four years, for a crime he did not commit, and the police knew he did not commit that crime. He was broken in body and mind, his life taken from him, because Halifax police refused to tell the truth.
Worse still, I believe Assoun’s isn’t the only such case. And it could happen again. It could happen to any of us. It could, reader, happen to you.
And so the full story of Assoun’s wrongful conviction must be told.
There is a sealing order in this case, meaning that the pertinent documents that spell out exactly what evidence Halifax police withheld from Assoun are not public.
And so the Halifax Examiner, the CBC, and the Canadian Press have teamed up together to hire media lawyer David Coles to get the sealing order lifted.
This means that Blair Rhodes of the CBC, Michael Tutton of the Canadian Press, and I trudge down to the courthouse every so often for hearings and to get documents. Yesterday, the crown submitted a batch of documents, and I spent the morning sitting around the courthouse waiting to get them instead of going to City Hall to cover the city council meeting. Somehow, Blair got the documents before me, and wrote a short piece about them. I reviewed them as well, and found there’s nothing really new in them.
The more substantive documents — including the Justice Department’s submission to the court, which details the information the police withheld from Assoun — will be the subject of a court hearing in July. If all goes well, we’ll get all the remaining sealed documents that day, and will then be able to tell the full story of Assoun’s wrongful conviction.
All of this takes time and money. David Coles, the media lawyer, is fantastic. There’s a lot of paperwork involved in this. Coles is reviewing the case law and filing the motions and and responses and will show up for the half-day hearing in July to argue our case.
Twenty years ago, either the CBC or the Canadian Press would simply hire Coles and that would be the end of it. But all media outlets are struggling. CP has decimated its Halifax newsroom and doesn’t have the budget to hire Coles alone. Even the CBC doesn’t have that kind of legal budget nowadays. I have a special interest in the Assoun case, and am spending considerable resources to report on it, but the Halifax Examiner isn’t exactly made of money, either. So the three media organizations are teaming up together the split the legal costs. It’s an interesting media collaboration, and one that goes against our typical go-it-alone approach to reporting.
As for the Halifax Examiner, our legal costs are staggering. After labour costs, it’s by far the largest line item in our budget. Besides the Assoun case, Coles also vets our investigative articles — Coles and I spent many hours together on the Risley story, for example — and he does other behind-the-scenes work that readers aren’t aware of. It all costs a hell of a lot of money. I’m not complaining; it’s a necessary cost of running an adversarial news site.
Your subscriptions make the Halifax Examiner possible. Subscriptions pay for the day-to-day operation, and that’s on solid ground. Of course more subscriptions would mean we could hire more writers and provide more coverage, but we’re doing OK as is; we’ll be here next week, and next year. All is good.
Where we could use some additional help, however, is with the legal bills. And so, we’re establishing a legal fund, a pot of money dedicated solely to covering legal expenses. If you feel like chipping in, your entire contribution will go to legal costs. None of the money will go to other projects. I won’t get a penny of it personally.
Don’t contribute if you don’t have the money, or if you’ve got something better to do with the money. No kid should go without food so we can pay Coles for another hour of work. This is just for “extra” money to help us tell the Assoun story.
You can contribute to the legal fund via this PayPal button:
Or, if you’d rather contribute via e-transfer or cheque or cash — please contact Iris.
Thanks for your help.
Note from Iris: The Donate button above takes you to the sign-in page for PayPal. If you don’t have a PayPal account, I’m happy to help you with the other options.
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — nothing on the agenda jumps out at me as terribly interesting.
Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — planners are still pretending that the politicians will abide by plans.
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — see #2 above.
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4pm, City Hall) — there are no action items on the agenda.
Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — see #4 above.
Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, City Hall) — agenda
No public meetings this week.
Avoiding Predatory Publishers Webinar (Wednesday, 12pm, online only) — Melissa Rothfus will explain the obvious. Register here to receive webinar link.
An Introduction to Health Economics for Nursing and Health Research(Wednesday, 12pm, Room 112, Forrest Building) — PhD candidate Tim Disher will talk. Option to join remotely. Contact this person.
Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Wednesday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Kristen Higgins will defend “Child Outcomes in the Context of Parental Chronic Pain: Examining Social Transmission Pathways.”
Residential Tenancies – The Basics and Beyond (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Megan Deveaux will discuss the amendments that were made last year to Nova Scotia’s Residential Tenancies Act, and answer questions from the audience about the legal rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants in residential rental situations in the province.
Thesis Defence, Psychology and Neuroscience (Thursday, 9am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Stephanie Snow will defend “Finding Balance: Identifying Ways to Improve the Delivery of Surgical Care to Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”
In the harbour
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:30: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:30: Bishu Highway, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
18:00: Atlantic Huron, bulker, arrives at Pier 31 from Port Hawkesbury
22:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.
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