News

1. Woman claims in lawsuit she was repeatedly sexually abused by cops while in protection from sexual trafficking as a teen

Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports on a lawsuit by a woman who claims she was sexually abused as a teen by officers from the Halifax police and the RCMP. The woman, identified only as “X.Y.,” says the abuse began in the 1990s, when she was a teen at Sullivan House, a facility for youth 12 and up “actively involved in sexual exploitation.” X.Y. is suing the federal government and Halifax Regional Municipality.

Woodford writes:

At 13, X.Y. was the youngest resident at Sullivan House, and one night she left the facility to look for another resident who was missing. As claimed in the Notice of Action, while X.Y. was out looking, Halifax police Const. Brian Johnston approached her and invited her into a van.

“Once the Plaintiff was seated in the van, Cst. Johnston forced the Plaintiff to perform oral sex on him, threatening her arrest and subsequent eviction from Sullivan House if she did not comply. Fearing that Cst. Johnston would follow through with his threats, the Plaintiff complied with his demands and performed oral sex on him,” X.Y.’s lawyer, [lawyer Michael] Dull wrote in the notice of action.

The lawsuit also says X.Y. was frequently picked up and taken to the home of a Musquodoboit RCMP officer named Wade Marriott:

At this time, the Plaintiff did not know that Officer Marriott was employed by the RCMP,” Dull wrote.

“The Plaintiff spent varying amounts of time at Officer Marriott’s house, and on occasion would stay overnight. Officer Marriott would frequently engage in sexual relations with the Plaintiff while she was at his residence.”

X.Y. says in the Notice of Action that she faced escalating threats and coercion, and that eventually became pregnant with Johnston’s child. As Woodford notes: “Neither HRM nor the federal government has filed a defence, and the allegations have not been proven in court.”

There is much more to the story and it’s tough reading, but I encourage you to read the whole thing, in which X.Y. outlines the lack of support she received, and how her complaints went nowhere. She also provided a statement saying she encourages others who may have had similar experiences to come forward, saying, “Now is the time.”

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2. 74 COVID-19 cases at the Burnside jail

The renovated North Unit day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Last Friday, there were 31 cases of COVID-19 at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside. By yesterday, that number had risen to 74, Zane Woodford reports.

This accounts for about a third of the people being held in the jail.

Jails, understandably, are a place where an aerosol virus can spread rapidly. Most people in Burnside are on remand, meaning they are awaiting trial. As Tim Bousquet noted yesterday, co-chairs Harry Critchley and Sheila Wildeman of the East Coast Prison Justice Society called on the government to release prisoners so they are not exposed to COVID-19:

The Omicron variant is by far the most contagious strain of the COVID-19 virus to date. For this reason, it is our view that only adequate defense to the spread of COVID-19 inside our jails, and consequent preventable deaths, is strategic decarceration — that is, ensuring that admissions and numbers of prisoners held in facilities are as low as possible, consistent with public safety.”

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3. 1,020 new cases of COVID-19 two days in a row

A woman gets swabbed at one of the rapid testing sites. Photo: Lisa Barrett

Tim Bousquet reports that Nova Scotia announced 1,020 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday — the same number reported the day before. The number reflects positive PCR tests, but not people who tested positive using rapid (antigen) tests.

Bousquet has written about the need for better hospitalization data, and we have some now:

There are now 40 people in hospital with the disease, five of whom are in ICU. By age, those hospitalized are 26 to 98 years old, and the average age is 70.

According to Public Health, of those in hospital:
• about 10% have had a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine
• about 61% are fully vaccinated (2 doses)
• about 3% are partially vaccinated
• about 26% are unvaccinated

The new hospitalization data are helpful, but still don’t paint a full picture, as they don’t tell us the length of stay or severity of the hospitalizations, or make any correlation between age and vaccination status.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Tim Houston have scheduled a briefing for this afternoon at 3pm.

Before Christmas, I noticed this model of a church British architect Matt Wickham made out of COVID-19 rapid tests. Brilliant.

A church model made out of rapid antigen tests, by architect Matt Wickham. (Shared on Twitter by David Levin.)

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4. Atlantic Mining court case adjourned for ninth time

Moose river gold mine tailings pond with Scraggy Lake in foreground. Photo: Contributed

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

Judge Alana Murphy has adjourned until January 28 a court proceeding when Atlantic Mining Nova Scotia must answer 32 charges laid under the Nova Scotia Environment Act.

The 32 provincial environmental charges were laid in September 2020, and three federal charges were added in March 2021 under Canada’s Fisheries Act.

The company, formerly known as Atlantic Gold and a subsidiary of Australia’s St Barbara Ltd, has been operating a large, open-pit gold mine at Moose River since late 2017.

Most of the charges relate to runoff and the build-up of silt and sediment in brooks near the mine site, as well as a clay pit two kilometres away. The silting of brooks covers the period between February 2018 and May 2020.

Three charges relate to the withdrawal of water used for exploration activity near Fifteen Mile Stream, where the company has proposed another open pit gold mine, which is currently being reviewed by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, along with one at nearby Beaver Dam as well as Cochrane Hill, north of Sherbrooke on the St. Mary’s River.

Atlantic Mining NS has yet to enter a plea to any of the charges. Yesterday (Tuesday) was its ninth appearance in provincial court since January 2021.

Since last June both federal and provincial crown prosecutors have indicated an agreement is in the process of being finalized. In October, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association told the Halifax Examiner the non-profit group had rejected a suggestion it could receive a six-figure donation from Atlantic Mining as part of a potential sentencing agreement. In December 2021, the NS Salmon Association reiterated its total opposition to such a deal.

Meanwhile, the company has asked Nova Scotia Environment and Climate Change to approve modifications of the Touquoy open-pit gold mine at MooseRiver, where production levels have been declining.

In September 2020, Environment Minister Tim Halman requested more information and a study from Atlantic Mining NS on how the proposed expansion would affect runoff and nearby watercourses close to the mining site. The company has until September 2021 to provide that additional information.

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5. “I’m desperate to get out of here”

Vicky Levack (left) and Kariellen Graham, members of the Disability Rights Coalition. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Alex Cooke at Global reports on how the latest COVID-19 restrictions and Omicron-driven staffing shortages have affected Viky Levack. Levack, a disability rights activist with cerebral palsy, is 31 and has lived in a nursing home for the last decade.

“I’m extremely lonely, I’m desperate to get out of here,” Levack tells Cooke.

From the story:

Levack remains in her nursing home, where residents, under provincial COVID-19 restrictions, are only allowed to leave to attend a medical appointment or to go for a drive in a facility vehicle…

These “draconian” rules, she said, are exacerbated by the staff shortages in long-term care caused by workers self-isolating due to COVID-19, which is affecting resident care…

It makes me feel guilty to ask for things because I know they’re so busy. And they tell me, ‘Don’t feel guilty, honey,’ but how can you not?” said Levack.

“I myself have personally decided to go without things and not ask for things sometimes because they are so busy.”

She was clear that she did not blame nursing home workers, who are “overworked and underpaid.” But she said staffing and other issues in the province’s nursing homes were apparent even before the COVID-19 pandemic and said the provincial government has failed to act.

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Views

Reverend Elvis runs afoul of the Elvis estate

Minister and Elvis impersonator Rev. Elvis Bruce R. Sheasby, Photo: yourgraceland.com

In her latest blog post, lawyer Barbara Darby has a story that brings together religion, the law, an Elvis impersonator, and the estate of Elvis Presley. What more can you ask for?

Darby starts by introducing us to Sheasby:

The Reverend Bruce R.E. Sheasby is “The Reverend Elvis at Your Grace Land” in Calgary, Alberta. He operates Bruce Sheasby Consulting, and is also an Ordained Minister, Founding Pastor, and President of Your Grace Land Ministries, associated with the Spiritual Community Church of the West. More specifically, “Your Grace Land ™ is the hub of services, multimedia, and events of Rev. Bruce R.E. Sheasby, The Reverend Elvis.

Sheasby, she notes, legally changed his name to add the “Elvis” in 2004 on advice from Elvis Presley’s people:

As Sheasby told CTV’s Ryan White “It was actually a representative from Elvis Presley Enterprises who told me I should only use the name Elvis if that is my legal name so I added it to my legal name,” said Sheasby with a smile. “There’s no dispute for using the name Reverend Elvis. I am a reverend and of course Elvis wasn’t so there’s a big distinction there.”

Darby does a nice job of sketching a portrait of Sheasby, who has “partnered” with the multi-level marketing company Melaleuca, claims to have trademarked a whole bunch of phrases, including “inspirational core values,” and has run the Rev. Elvis Blue Christmas fundraiser for either seven years or 20 years.

However, GL SPE LLC, the company that manages the Presley estate intellectual property took exception to this Your Grace Land business, and late last year, Darby notes, the trademark office sided with them. She writes:

Its suspicious minds opposed Sheasby’s application for the trademark…

In this type of IP conflict, the applicant for the trademark has to demonstrate that there would be no likelihood that Reverend Elvis’ YOUR GRACE LAND would be confused with the King’s Graceland. GL SPE argued in part that Canadians flock (well, pre-covid, flocked) to Graceland yearly, so the issue of protecting the trademark in Canada is significant. The dollars related with the estate and its merchandise are astronomical…

When cross-examined, Sheasby agreed that his use of the name Elvis was a “hook” that would draw people to his shows and ministry. He is literally trading on Presley’s name.

However, for Sheasby, those people hooked by the reference to Elvis would not be mistaken about their ultimate destination. They were not poor boys and pilgrims with families going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee. His followers have a different goal: in his words, “where Your Grace Land leads people is not to Memphis but to God’s grace.”

This is a fun post, and Darby has peppered it with references to Elvis songs, and, as you can see above, to the work of Paul Simon.

She suggests visiting yourgraceland.com soon, since it’s unlikely to be around much longer. But as of this morning, it’s still there, and you can get your fix of partially trademarked inspirational messages.

Screenshot from yourgraceland.com

The words in bold change on the page. “Wellness” and “Passion” are some of the other qualities Your Grace Land (TM) inspires.

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Noticed

This house on Agricola Street was listed along with another home next door for $1.5 million last summer. Photo: MLS and Blue List Realty.

British magazine The Economist has noticed Halifax’s housing market and uses it to lead in to a story on the global boom in housing prices, what’s driving it, and how long it can last. (You need an account to read the story, but you can sign up for a free one.)

But first, here’s how the story opens — a great “how they see us” bit of writing:

Nova Scotia’s largest city is known for a few things: a big national-security conference that takes place every autumn; a huge explosion that took place in 1917, causing immense devastation; and a small but impressive wine industry. It may soon be known for something else. Since December 2019 house prices in Halifax have risen by nearly 50%, according to Knight Frank, a property firm — a boom that only a tiny number of cities have bettered. Sit down with a Haligonian and before long they will express bafflement at how their city became so pricey.

Bit of confusion between “Halifax” and “Nova Scotia” here. Haven’t seen much evidence of a wine industry in Halifax. Love that the security forum is the first thing we are known for. And no mention of donairs. Huh.

The story points to various factors raising housing prices — you’re familiar with them — and one I had not heard before:

Out-of-towners are investing in local property in the expectation that eastern Canada will become a more desirable place to live as the climate changes.

But the Economist notes that this is an international phenomenon:

The IMF’s global house-price index, expressed in real terms, is well above the peak reached before the 2007-09 financial crisis. American housebuilders’ share prices are up by 44% over the past year, compared with 27% for the overall stockmarket. Estate agents from Halifax’s mom-and-pop shops to the supermodel lookalikes on Netflix’s “Selling Sunset”, in Los Angeles, have never had it so good.

I always like it when people who write about finance describe huge gains for people with money, at the expense of those without as a “party.” The Economist piece says people are wondering if “the party is about to end” but suggests the answer is no, not anytime soon. That’s due in part to low interest rates, the pandemic causing some to move to smaller cities and towns, and a lack of housing stock. On the latter:

The Economist’s analysis of national statistics and archival records finds that in the years before the pandemic, housebuilding in the rich world, once adjusted for population, had fallen to half its level of the mid-1960s. Housing supply has become ever more “inelastic”: increases in demand for homes have translated more into higher prices, and less into additional construction.

On Monday, I was walking the dogs in the woods behind our house, when one of them got excited and started barking and running ahead. The last time he did this, it was to chase a coyote, so I got a bit of a sinking feeling. But instead of a coyote, the dog was running towards a couple walking towards me. (We very rarely meet anyone while walking in the woods here.) The couple had recently moved here from Ontario, they told me somewhat sheepishly, one of them quietly saying something about how they were just another case of Ontarians moving here and driving up house prices.

We talked about how beautiful it was here, and I pointed out that housing prices were skyrocketing everywhere and that the effect of Ontarians buying property here was probably only a small factor. It struck me how apologetic they seemed. I did notice yesterday that there is a private Facebook group called “Moving to Nova Scotia from Ontario!” and a much larger group, also private, called “From Ontario to Nova Scotia.” I would love to see some of the discussion going on in them.

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Government

City

No meetings

Province

Wednesday

No meetings

Thursday

Community Services (Thursday, 10am, Location TBA) — Organizational and agenda setting


On campus

No events


In the harbour

Halifax
03:30: MSC Pamela, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
07:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
12:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41

Cape Breton
15:30: Front Siena, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
16:30: Nordic Thunder, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Mangalore, India


Footnotes

I hope my dog doesn’t chase any more coyotes.


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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. The housing situation makes me physically sick when I think about it, and I’m better off than many – I am at least confident I can stay housed. The hangover after this party is going to be one for the record books.

  2. I would love to see how many elected officials and senior bureaucrats in government have a seat at the real estate party.

    No conflict of interest there. It’s the market.

    Those who can buy, the rest ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. If you are in a pension plan you have a seat at the party. If you have any type of insurance you have a seat at the party.