In an affidavit filed with the court earlier this month, former Halifax cop Chris Mosher says that he has suffered “negative treatment at my new job” due in part to a Halifax Examiner article about his current employment with the Halifax Regional Municipality.
On October 6, the Examiner published an article detailing Mosher’s firing by the police department, his successful appeal to the Police Review Board, and his subsequent rehiring into the city’s Parks Department:
After he was charged with sexual assault and then for repeatedly violating the conditions of his release, Halifax cop Chris Mosher was fired last year by the Halifax police department.
But Mosher has successfully appealed his firing, and has received a cash payout from the city and a new job working with either the city’s Parks & Recreation Department or the Transportation & Public Works Department.
Mosher received the cash and job as part of a confidential settlement agreement between Mosher, the city, and the police union. The settlement agreement was signed on August 21, 2018, and was approved by the Nova Scotia Police Review Board on August 31.
Along with that article, the Examiner published a redacted copy of the settlement agreement.
The Examiner published the settlement agreement after the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 108 contested it; the union said that the union should have been consulted before Mosher was made one of its members, and asked the court to review the Police Review Board’s decision.
Substance abuse treatment
On February 7, 2017, Colleen Kelly, the Executive Officer to the Chief of Police, issued a decision disciplining Mosher, and Mosher was fired on February 15, 2017. The Halifax Examiner has not seen Kelly’s decision.
In his affidavit, Mosher points out that the Police Review Board was considering that decision, and that it included “private and personal information about me, including health issues and particularly substance dependency issues for which I am receiving treatment.”
The Police Review Board did not reach any conclusions regarding the disciplinary allegations, as the parties agreed to settle the matter.
I am currently in recovery, aided in part by the accommodation offered to me by my employer, the Halifax Regional Municipality…
Mosher says he is being treated by Molly MacLean, the program manager at the Crosbie House Society, and that MacLean has told him that “stress is detrimental to my continued recovery. Any further publication [regarding CUPE’s application to the court] will have a negative impact on my recovery.”
Mosher’s affidavit was filed with the court to support his request for a publication ban on all hearings and filings related to CUPE’s application.
On December 20, I appeared before Justice Michael Wood to oppose the publication ban. That morning, I explained:
Mosher’s application is offensive. It flies in the face of the open courts principle.
This is a matter of great public interest and involves important aspects of public policy. There are issues related to employment law and the functioning of the Police Review Board. Moreover, there has been an extraordinary expenditure of public money in the rehiring of Mosher.
It is my job to report to you readers about every aspect of this case, and if issued, the publication ban will prevent me from doing so.
Justice Wood agreed to delay consideration of the publication ban until January 3. I then hired lawyer David Coles to represent the Halifax Examiner.
In the days since, lawyers for Mosher, the police union, CUPE, and the Police Review Board have all agreed to a possible resolution about the publication ban. Michael Murphy, the lawyer for Mosher and the police union, has withdrawn the application for a publication ban, for the time being; Murphy has asked the court to delay certain filing deadlines so that the parties can come to a formal agreement.
The Halifax Examiner does not object to this.
The requirement for open trials protects defendants as well as society. If you think getting justice in a society that requires open courtrooms is hard, just try a society that allows secret tribunals and Star Chambers.
If I were on trial for something and it was making the news, I’d want a publication ban too (I am not saying that Mosher deserves one, I just know that I would seek one too were I in his shoes). Our society seems to be losing its grip on the concept of an objective trial. Trials of public figures seem to be more and more like witch-burnings or the ritual sacrifice of a scapegoat rather than processes that determine what crimes an individual has committed, if any, and meting out the generally accepted punishment for those crimes. It is better to not be a public figure if you are on trial for something.
The problem is that the logic of moral contagion is alive and well in our society: Defend someone who has been publicly condemned from all angles, even if your defense of them is seriously conditional or limited, and you yourself become contaminated with whatever sin the scapegoat is accused of. On the other hand, going along with the mob is easy and safe.
I agree. It seems quite difficult these days to even question someone’s viewpoint let alone defend it, without automatically being labelled with the opposite viewpoint.