1. Biomass, Freedom of Information, and the Silence of the DNR Company Men
We’ve published Part 5 of Linda Pannozzo’s “Biomass, Freedom of Information, and the Silence of the DNR Company Men” series, in which we learn that publicly funded information — not available to Nova Scotians — was provided to a pipeline company based in Texas.
Part 5 is behind the Examiner’s paywall, and so is available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
However, I did take Part 4 of Pannozzo’s series from behind the paywall yesterday. Click here to read Part 4, “The Case of the Disappearing Forest Age Class Data.”
2. Court Watch: sexual assault and the law
Christina Macdonald attended the Canadian Bar Association’s Midwinter Conference and reports back on the discussions of sexual assault cases:
The plenary Thursday morning featured a panel of criminal lawyers specializing in sexual assault cases: David Butt, a trial and appellate lawyer well-known for columns in the Globe & Mail on criminal law; Denise Smith, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions with the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service; and moderator Stan MacDonald, a well-known criminal defence lawyer in Halifax.
Macdonald discusses that conversation, then in passing mentions National Post columnist Christie Blatchford’s appearance at the conference:
Punctuated with moments of dark humour, it can’t be denied that Blatchford is a powerful voice in Canadian journalism. But her talk law-splained criminal procedure to its own practitioners, and stood in direct opposition to the justice reforms floated by experts in sexual assault law that morning.
According to Blatchford, police are too gentle to complainants, and judges are overly entitled. Her 2016 book, Life Sentence, features a gavel on the cover, which is the least of several issues I have with it (as that Canadian courts don’t use them).
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall, and so is available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
3. Rural libraries
“Hard times have hit on public libraries in rural Nova Scotia,” writes Robert Devet:
Insufficient funding by the province means that librarians everywhere are looking at reducing staff and budgets, cutting back on operating hours, and even closing entire branches.
The province provides the lion share of funding, additional funding comes from municipal units and through fundraising efforts.
It’s death by a thousand cuts. For eight years now governments have mostly frozen already meager library budgets. Meanwhile everything gets more expensive.
Devet goes on to survey library systems around the province, detailing their struggles and funding issues.
“Death, property destruction and severe environmental damage could result from a fire that ‘will likely occur sometime’ at an ammunition depot in the Halifax area, according to an internal military report,” reports Brett Ruskin for the CBC:
The military assessed the fire risk for the Canadian Forces Ammunition Depot in Bedford, N.S., and prepared a report in 2015 that was recently obtained by CBC News.
The report said the depot, located on the Bedford Basin shoreline, is not compliant with federal Occupational Health and Safety regulations, the National Fire Code of Canada, or the Canada Labour Code.
It concluded a fire will likely occur there, could be “catastrophic,” and “may cause death of personnel, severe loss of operational capability, destruction of property or severe environmental damage.”
Ruskin goes on to note that:
The top military official at the depot said the risk of a fire might be high, but the risk of an explosion is low. A fire could sweep across the site without affecting the ammunition magazines, said Lt.-Cmdr. Greg Walker.
Walker is adamant that the chance of an explosion is slim, and its effects would be minimal.
“There would be no ill-effect, other than noise. Noise and light,” he said.
But a retired military official says there could be widespread repercussions.
Colin Darlington, a retired navy commander who once worked at the Bedford depot and was the base operations officer for CFB Halifax from 2003 to 2008, said even a single artillery shell would “do damage within a couple hundred metres” if it exploded.
“But if you have an entire magazine building go up, you’re going to be causing damage for kilometres,” he told CBC News.
The depot’s own emergency response guide says non-essential personnel should evacuate 800 to 1,300 metres from fires involving Class 1.1 explosives. That evacuation radius would include Magazine Hill — a major traffic artery near Bedford — as well as part of a residential area.
There has been an explosion at the depot before, in 1945:
Bedford Magazine Explosion, 18-19 July 1945, initiated when an ammunition barge blew up at the naval magazine jetty on Bedford Basin, Halifax harbour. Fire spread quickly to adjacent piles of ammunition, which had been temporarily stored outside because of overcrowding in the main compound. A chain reaction of fire, explosion and concussion rocked Halifax for a day.
Contingency plans existed for such an accident, and by late July 18, much of Halifax’s northern half had been evacuated smoothly. None of the explosions approached the force of the 1917 Halifax Explosion, but shattered windows, cracked plaster, occasional minor injuries and one death were reported.
H. Millard Wright wrote an entire book about the 1945 explosion, The Other Halifax Explosion, from which the photos above were taken.
Yesterday, Jennifer Henderson reported on the Halifax school board’s decision (paywall) to close English as an Additional Language (EAL) classrooms in Dartmouth and Bedford.
Relatedly, King’s journalism student Alexander Myrick reports in The Signal that “Syrian refugees needing mental health care have had their treatment delayed by months because of wage disputes with specialist interpreters.”
The problem is that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada pays interpreters just $28.95/hour:
Issam Khoury, a member of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Nova Scotia, says he and some of his colleagues were “contacted to do this work,” but when offered the negligible rate, they “had to decline.”
Merek Jagielski oversees interpretation and translation services for ISANS. He defends the decision made by Khoury and his colleagues.
Jagielski says it’s an issue of recognizing “the complexities of this type of interpretation” and offering fair compensation.
“Interpreters and translators, especially those working with psychologists and refugees in this sort of work, need to have specialized skills and training,” he says.
Myrick surveyed courts and other government agencies around Nova Scotia and Canada that hire interpreters, and found that the going rate is around $50/hour. Myrick continues:
Interpreter setbacks delayed the mental health treatment of refugees by months. Because of these issues and other bureaucratic complications, “it wasn’t until October that we were able to start seeing Syrians,” says Lesley Hartman, a local psychologist who has treated refugees with depression, anxiety and PTSD.
These hurdles — combined with Canada’s one-year time limit on refugee mental health therapy, which was previously reported by The Signal — mean that Syrians who were once eligible for a critical health service are no longer able to receive funding for such treatment.
Weather’s coming, they say.
1. Law Amendments
“Next Monday and Tuesday, a legislative committee will resume public hearings on Bill 59, the Accessibility Act,” writes Graham Steele:
The hearings will be a model of citizen-centred public engagement, which will be a sharp contrast to the usual, perfunctory, MLA-centred public hearings.
So, what’s going on? And why can’t it be like this all the time?
Steele goes on to detail the “thoughtful and careful” process by which the hearings will be held, and suggests that the same process be applied to all public hearings.
2. Cranky letter of the day
Dear Mr. Stephen McNeil, This is your captain calling. Pack your bags! I just received word that after narrowing down a long list of top contenders, president Trump has selected you as White House Chief Peckerhead. He looks forward to the weekly cabinet meetings where you will advise him on matters relating to your duties, as he’s said the Nova Scotia news headlines confirm you’re a wonderful fit for the job. Bon voyage!
Molly Deveau, Halifax
Appeals Standing Committee (10am, City Hall) — two taxi drivers have appealed the denial of their applications for a taxi driver licence. The first, Joseph Robichaud, had three alcohol-related driving convictions between 2012 and 2015, and a fourth conviction in 2015 for driving with a suspended licence. Robichaud’s driver’s licence was reinstated in November 2016, and he applied for a taxi driver licence. But, wrote Kevin Hindle, the city’s Coordinator for License (sic, sigh) Standards, “Mr. Robichaud’s driving record demonstrates a dangerous and total disregard for the legal and safe operation of a motor vehicle in accordance with the law. The Licensing Authority considers it prudent to consider him unfit to be issued a HRM vehicle for hire driver license (sic, sigh)…”
The second, Sidahmed Barjin, was in November charged by Halifax police with assault with a weapon and possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes, after which his taxi licence was suspended pending the outcome of his court proceedings. But, according to Hindle, Barjin in December applied for a Change of Company with the Licensing Office; on the application a “question asking the applicant of any charges or convictions in the past five years was answered ‘NO.’… [which] was false….”
“I strongly believe that I shouldn’t whatsoever be suspended because of false accusation made by another taxi driver who had a hate, beef and grudges toward me,” wrote Barjin in his appeal letter. “I believe that in case I am suspended before the matter goes to before a supreme court judge, the other Taxi driver who falsely accused me and the driver who have false witnessed for him should be suspended.”
This next part is important!
[American readers should skip this section.]
All that aside, can we agree on the proper spelling of licence? It’s annoying that even single levels of governments can’t agree on this: I carry a provincial Driver’s Licence, and yet go to bars that proudly display their provincially issued Liquor License. Elevators are given a licence, and yet barbers receive a license. You can get a fishing licence, or a nursing license.
Is there any wonder our children are growing up semi-illiterate? Don’t get me started on the dog-damned apostrophe.
The Halifax Examiner’s style guide is as follows: the noun, “licence,” is spelled with a C, while the verb is spelled with an S. One fills out a bunch of paperwork to get a liquor licence, and then the government licenses you to operate a bar.
Got it? Noun, C; verb, S.
City council (9:30am, City Hall) — budget deliberations continue, with the street recapitalization program (mostly, repaving).
No public meetings.
Music and Politics (12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — Nicholas Mathew, from the UC Berkeley, will speak on “Circulating Haydn: Sympathetic Commerce and Globalized Music in Eighteenth-century London.”
Food Security in Cuba (6pm, J. Harris Read Room, Truro Branch, Colchester East-Hants Library) — Yaumara Costa and Greg Cameron will speak on “Food Security in Cuba since the 2011 National Update: a Report Back from Rural Cienfuegos Province.”
Low-Carbon Futures (7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, McCain Building) — Ralph Torrie will speak on “Making it Real: Low-carbon Futures for Canada?”
“All Humans Are Human” (7pm, McInnes Room, Dalhousie Student Union Building) — Roméo Dallaire will speak, followed by a book sale and signing.
Health Law and Policy Seminar (Friday, 12:10pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) Erika Dyck, from the University of Saskatchewan, will speak on,”Who Has Seen the Asylum? History and Reconciliation in Mental Health.”
I’d like to hear Dyck speak, as the history of mental illness has long interested me (I read Foucault when I was an earnest college student). But this gives me the excuse to point to her work as a grad student at McMaster: “LSD Finds New Respectability,” a paper in which she detailed the 1960s’ era research into LSD, which was happily illustrated by the university with the photo above.
Showbiz Will Kill You (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 2021, Marion McCain Building) — Roberta Barker will speak on, “Death and the Working Woman: Actresses, Illness, and Forms of Labour on the Nineteenth-Century Stage.”
Nanostructures (Friday, 1:30pm, no room given, but just wander around the Chemistry building and you’ll probably find it) — Pavle V. Radovanovic, from the University of Waterloo, will speak on “Polymorphism and Defects in Transparent Metal Oxide Nanostructures: Toward Controlled Functionalities in Reduced Dimensions.”
Cape Breton Gothic (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Cancelled.
Superbugs (11:30am, The Atrium AT 101) — Scott Banfield will speak on,“Treatment for Superbugs – Development of a Novel Class of Small Molecule Antibiotic.”
CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER Caring (7pm, Alumni Hall) — Kwame Anthony Appiah will speak on “The Care of Strangers.” Appiah, I’m told, is a big name in philosophy. He’s discussed in a recent Guardian article, “Racial identity is a biological nonsense, says Reith lecturer.”
In the harbour
7am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11:30am: Faust, car carrier, sails from Autoport for New York
Noon: ZIM Alabama, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
3pm: Hafina Crux, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
4pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
4pm: ZIM Piraeus, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
I gotta rush to the grocery store and buy a week’s worth of supplies to survive our six-hour snowstorm.