1. Surprise: cops try to hide even most basic information about mass murder investigation

How police would probably ideally like to release documents. Source: United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Tim Bousquet writes about the absurd redactions and lack of information released about the investigation into the April 18-19 murders in Nova Scotia.

Local media, including the Examiner, have gone to court to argue for the release of even the most basic information. Information, Bousquet writes, that there is no conceivable reason to keep secret.

Yesterday, a bunch of information in previously redacted documents was released.

Bousquet writes:

The killer is himself dead, and so revealing details of the investigation won’t tip him off. And details of the murders have been publicized to basically the whole world, so can there really be anyone else at all that would be tipped off because these investigative details are released? It seems unlikely…

Consider what that newly un-redacted information was. It was explanation for the kinds of data that police investigators were seeking to discover from the computers in the killer’s cars, GPS units in the cars, his laptop, and two cell phones. Understand, at issue were the kinds of data, not the actual data. So, like “we’re looking for GPS data,” not “the killer drove from Portland Street, stopped at McDonald’s then drove across the Macdonald Bridge…”

Yes, it was important to hide from us that the police wanted to know any devices the killer’s vehicle Bluetooth had connected to.

Read the whole story here.

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2. Sentencing hearing for special constables convicted in death of Corey Rogers hears calls for jail time

Zane Woodford reports on the sentencing hearing of Dan Fraser and Cheryl Gardner,  the two special constables convicted of criminal negligence causing death in the case of Corey Rogers, who died after being left in a spit hood for hours while intoxicated.

Corey Rogers Credit: Contributed

Woodford notes that “the two special constables have been suspended with pay since their conviction, and under their collective agreement, Halifax Regional Municipality pays their legal fees.”

He writes:

Crown attorney Chris Vanderhooft, brought in from Manitoba to handle the case due to the local Crown’s possible conflict of interest, argued Wednesday morning in his oral submissions that Fraser and Gardner need to be incarcerated to act as a deterrent against this kind of behaviour by police officers.

Vanderhooft argued Fraser and Gardner had a duty of care to protect Rogers and should’ve asked for medical assistance when Rogers came in so drunk he couldn’t speak or move.

“It’s a matter of common sense,” Vanderhooft said. “If the man is unconscious or in a state of reduced awareness and wearing a spit hood and you can’t make sense of whether he’s able to talk, open his eyes, speak or do anything else, it’s common sense. Get him medical attention and do something about it.”

Woodford gets into a lot of detail in this piece about the arguments on both sides and their implications, and also looks at the victim impact statements. One of the quotes that jumped out at me was this:

Ron Pizzo made submissions on behalf of Gardner. Pizzo argued Gardner, 48, was highly regarded as a good employee for HRP, where she worked since 2010, pointing to multiple letters of support as evidence.

Since her conviction, Gardner has been depressed, Pizzo said. She’s withdrawn from friends and isolated at home, scared of the thought of jail time.

Read the whole story here.

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3. Will the Pictou detox centre reopen?

Photo: Dmitry Bayer / Unsplash

An unbylined story at CBC says Pictou County residents are worried a detox unit in Pictou may be closing permanently.

The detox unit closed four months ago over COVID-19 concerns and has not reopened.

From the story:

Without the unit, people in need of mental health and addiction support in the Pictou area must travel an hour and a half to the hospital in Springhill, N.S., where they can wait up to three weeks to get in, said Lisa Deyoung, the manager of [homeless shelter] Viola’s Place Society…

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, said employees at the unit were told it could reopen in mid-June.

She said that when the regional hospital in Pictou County lost its mental health and addictions floor in 2015, it was also supposed to be temporary at first.

She wants the health authority to be up front with people about when, if ever, the unit is reopening.

“I think the residents in this area are just looking for transparency and truth … just rip the Band-Aid off,” she said.

I wrote previously about the lengthy closure of the NSHA’s STI and STD clinic in Halifax (it’s since reopened) and on Tuesday, CBC had a story about how over-stretched the Halifax Sexual Health Centre is.

Mental health, addictions, sexual health: It’s clear that some aspects of health-care don’t seem to be a particular priority.

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4.  Mmmm, sea cucumbers

Streetview image of a country road
A sea cucumber processing plant lies just beyond here. Photo: Google Street View.

There’s a sea cucumber plant just down the road from where I live, and at Saltwire Bill Spurr writes about sea cucumbers being sold as supplements in capsules.

Under the headline “Sea cucumbers may be gross, but their health properties equal big money for Nova Scotia company” Spurr writes:

Not aesthetically pleasing (“fresh, they look like a slimy football”), Nova Scotia sea cucumbers are selling in Ontario and the U.S. and bringing glory to the company processing them.

AKSO Marine Biotech and sister company Atlantic Sea Cucumber harvest sea cucumbers off Cape Breton, dry them at their Hacketts Cove facility and ship the dried product to Toronto to be capsulized.

In the last year, 12-million capsules sold for $74 per 120-capsule bottle under the Nova Sea Atlantic brand, and last month the Retail Council of Canada named them the best over the counter health-care product of the year.

The health  properties, I guess, amount to this quote from AKSO business development manager Lincoln Ellsworth:

“Health Canada has allowed us to state that it’s got antioxidants, and it’s very potent in the antioxidant category.”

Tim Bousquet has previously written about sea cucumbers for the Examiner, taking a slightly different tone. His headline: “ACOA loans a half-million dollars to a Nova Scotia company helping Chinese men get boners.”

This must  be what Ellsworth is, uh, failing to refer to here. From Spurr’s story:

AKSO is partnering with researchers to legitimize claims that Chinese medicine makes about other powers possessed by the sea cucumber, claims Ellsworth doesn’t feel comfortable making publicly.

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Two traffic cones at the side of the road and an upside-down "slow streets" sign
Is this a metaphor for the slow streets pilot project? Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Halifax’s Integrated Mobility Plan calls for designing “Complete Streets for all ages, abilities and
modes of travel.” But changing street configurations, new signage, adding bike lanes — all take time and money, and if they’re not done properly they can take a lot more time and money to fix. The Larry Uteck-Kearney Lake Road intersection was a good example of this. It had to be reconfigured after lots of vehicle crashes took place there, and now it seems to be a lot safer to navigate.

So it’s understandable that planners like to take their time and make sure they get things right. But that caution can also be a drawback, as we saw earlier in the pandemic when the city called for a staff report that would take six months to prepare, in order to determine if the city should make more room available on streets to pedestrians and vehicles other than cars, in part to make it easier for people to distance from each other outdoors. Soon after the outcry over this approach, the city did roll out a bunch of pilot projects, including expanding the pedestrian space on Quinpool (RIP) and designating some streets for local traffic only, using signage like in the photo above.

Sometimes, the cones/barrels get crushed by cars whose drivers, I guess, just keep going. Yesterday, on Twitter, Ashley Morton wrote about watching a driver get out of the car and physically move one of the cones. Others described seeing drivers mow them down.

Morton wrote:

It was at Isleville & Almon. Person turning left from Ebound Almon to Nbound Isleville was angry that he couldn’t cut the corner, so he stopped in the middle of the street, got out, and threw the barrel to the curb.

Some of the pilots are less ephemeral.

I went down to look at Young, Kaye and Isleville (by the Hydrostones) yesterday, where the city has made a bunch of changes, including adding back-in angle parking, bumping out curbs so drivers can’t cut corners at high speeds, and eliminating some left turns.

Curb bump-out and sign for right turn
Part of the pilot project at Young, Kaye and Isleville. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

This kind of “tactical urbanism” — fast, cheap projects — is possible thanks to materials like bollards (the green thing in the photo above) and pre-cast concrete.

I was happy when I saw the city was re-configuring this intersection, because it seemed like a real mess to walk through. I can remember standing at the corner of Kaye and Isleville with visitors from Toronto, as they looked at the wide street, the crosswalk flags, the beg buttons, and took a second to figure it all out. (The beg buttons and flags are still there.)

I called Elora Wilkinson, a planner with the strategic transportation planning team, and the lead on the new street improvement pilot program, to ask her why the intersection needed some changes. She said:

A lot of what we heard from the public around the intersection was that it was really wide and all users felt that it was difficult to safely cross the street. And that includes those walking, rolling, as well as drivers trying to cross the intersection as well. Sightlines weren’t great just based on how the road alignment works between the buildings, and there would be illegally parked cars frequently in the area. So it all just made for a little bit of a… not the best, most comfortable intersection experience.

No more parking here to run into Starbucks. Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Then there’s the angle parking, which you can see in the pic above. One driver has somehow managed to point their car forward here, meaning they did either a u-turn or drove the wrong way down the street, I’m assuming. They must not have seen the sign, attached to a pole, informing drivers how to park.

Are you supposed to get out of the car and walk up to the sign before getting back in the car and parking? Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Wilkinson said:

Back-in angle parking isn’t something that we’ve tried anywhere before. So it’s a new design tool for us.

And so this allows us to test the design and get feedback from the public, making the adjustments if we need to, moving forward… And just kind of start to look at new tools that could be really useful here and other places, that do allow us to get more parking and start to manage some of those trade-offs that are frequent in… our streets with tight rights of way…

This was a really great opportunity through our new Street Improvement Pilot Program to test some of the design interventions that we’ve been discussing with the public. And this allows us to not only test and see how things work, but it’s also a really great engagement tool where you reach a lot more people with something out on the street. People can actually use it and [you can] see how they interact and what works for them, what doesn’t work, and allows us to get that feedback in a way that is a little bit more real than looking at design drawings, which doesn’t always work for everyone in the public.

Patty Butler, executive director of the North End Business Association, said she has heard some feedback that the project is “confusing”, but she’s also on-board with the city trying out new approaches. She said:

I think COVID opened up the door for discussions around mobility, so we’re seeing a lot of things happen that had been discussed for a long time… I would like to see opportunities for feedback, because as a pilot project it’s an opportunity to see what’s working well, what do we want to keep, what needs to be reinvented…

I love how during COVID, when we saw a huge decrease in the amount of traffic, the city was quick to react and try new things… Just because you do a project doesn’t mean it was always great… you need to learn and move forward. I do applaud them for being so adaptable and quick to act. It’s not something we usually see from HRM.

Help! Photo: Philip Moscovitch

Aesthetically the project is… not great? But it’s also not permanent. Signage like that in the photo above is generally a sign of failure of the design elements to communicate what they should (as Tim Bousquet has pointed out before, any door with a sign telling you to push or pull is a design failure), but I’m hoping this mess of signs is also temporary.

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Sign saying Biggest!! Most modern hardboard plant!
Image from the film Balakrishna. Photo: National Film Board of Canada.

In 1967, the Anil hardboard plant (now owned by Malbec) opened in East River. The opening was a big deal, with the Prime Minister of India and other dignitaries in attendance. Since elephants are said to be a symbol of good luck, the plant’s owners had one shipped from India to East River. The elephant was supposed to arrive in time for the plant’s opening, but came six weeks later, after having been delayed. (The ship carrying him had to be routed around Africa instead of coming through the Suez Canal because of the Six Day War.)

The elephant was called Balakrishna, and he came with a handler named Sankunni, who spoke a dialect understood by only one other person at the plant.

Poor Balakrishna was completely out of his element in East River, and spent his days chained up.

I am sure many locals know the story of Balakrishna, who was clearly something of a local celebrity, engendering both fascination and also concern. I only heard of him for the first time yesterday, when I saw that the National Film Board has made a 15-minute film about the story available free online. It’s called Balakrishna, and it was released last year. (Disclosure: I do some freelance work for the NFB, mostly as a French-English translator; I know some people involved in this film, but knew nothing about it until I saw a link to the film yesterday.)

The film tells the story of Balakrishna from the point of view of local resident Winton Cook, who was 13 in 1967, and was utterly fascinated by the elephant. Cook would visit every day, bring Balakrishna food and water, and he and Sankunni started learning key words in each other’s language so they could communicate. At one point, Sankunni lets Cook climb onto Balakrisna’s back. A pretty exciting moment for a 13-year-old in rural Nova Scotia.

Black and white image of an elephant with its trunk in the air and a man standing beside it.
Publicity still from the film Balakrishna. Photo: National Film Board of Canada.

It’s a pretty heartfelt film, told through animation, live action, archival footage, and old home movies. There’s one old home movie scene showing a parade that includes Balakrishna on a float, while another float features a guy chainsawing a log (as the float rolls down the street) that appears to also have a barred owl tied to it.

One of the things I liked about this film, directed by Colin MacKenzie and Aparna Kapur, was the way it captured the enthusiasm of a kid with an elephant practically living in his backyard, and his growing realization that this was just not right.

In a blog post at the NFB, MacKenzie says:

“It was Winton Cook who gave us our story. He was 13 that summer, the local paperboy. He made friends with Sankunni, the animal’s handler, and the whole experience had a profound effect on him. He filled an entire school scribbler with his account of the events, and he still gets emotional when he talks about how the animal was treated.”

The story of Balakrishna does not have a happy ending. The Dalhousie archives have holdings related to “the Anil elephant” and one of them is a story by reporter Barbara Hinds. Under the headline “Balakrishnan dies of blood infection at East River,” she writes:

Balakrishnan, the bull elephant housed at the Anil Canada Limited hardboard plant was cremated yesterday at East River.

He dropped dead in his shackles at 5 a.m. Wednesday after an illness of seven days.
He was 26 years old.

For a week, he shivered in a fever and ate no solid food. He was attended by a Bridge-
water veterinarian surgeon last Saturday and given antibiotics. It was believed he had a virus infection of the blood stream…

At the time of his death, Balakrishnan was chained by three legs and he had not laid
down for three months…

After being moved from Halifax, his port of entry, to East River, Lunenburg County, Balakrishnan lived in idleness. He did no work and he walked little more than a few paces. He was first chained to a great spruce tree at the edge of the woods near a railway crossing where the trains whistled their approach.

People were able to visit him and feed him bananas,which he relished during the summer of 1967. A neighbor, Mrs. Raymond Meisner, used to warm his drinking water for him until he was moved away into a shanty near the plant’s main entrance (which was quieter) and where he was still accessible to an admiring public during the fall.

Towards the end of October, the public expressed a great concern about the animal’s living conditions — tethered to trees, shivering in freezing temperatures behind breeched [sic] walls and a broken roof.

In another story, Hinds writes that “efforts were made” (it’s not clear by whom) to find the elephant a new home in either a zoo or with a film company.

You can view images of Balakrishna through the Dal archives and you can watch the film at the NFB.

I am guessing there are Examiner readers with memories of this elephant.

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No meetings.

In the harbour

5:45: Toreador, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
07:00: Pacific Constructor, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from sea
08:30: Sea Vine, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Paulsboro, New Jersey
11:30: Toreador moves to Autoport
13:30: Sea Vine sails for sea
15:00: MOL Emissary, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York (itinerary)
15:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Bedford Basin anchorage from Saint-Pierre
15:30: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
16:00: Atlantic Kingfisher, tug/supply vessel, sails from Pier 9 for sea
16:30: Toreador sails for sea
16:30: Tampa Trader, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
18:00: Pacific Constructor sails for sea
19:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Baltimore


I kind of took a day off yesterday.

Note: This Morning File was originally published with a photo of the Pictou Wellness Centre, which isn’t the detox centre. We regret the error.

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Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. Re: the changes at Young/Isleville. I live in the area and while the changes may not be aesthetically pleasing, surely the benefits outweigh the temporary ugliness. My family, including my 8 year old, often ride to places downtown. Tha safest route for us is Isleville to Northwood and then across to Creighton. The Isleville/Young crossing is (now was) one of two major stress points trying to get three of us safely across. These improvements make it much easier, especially as there is now space to wait in the middle. The other stress point, which is much worse, is the Northwood/North/Creighton intersection. Way too wide, way too fast cars speeding down to the bridge, cars coming off the bridge often blocked by buses at the bus stop. It’s a nightmare. When we come back, we usually return via Maynard and cross North to Fuller Terrace. Here at least there is a marked cross walk. Plus, it’s not as wide. It could still be improved but it’s better. The city is slowly doing things to make it better for bikers and walkers to get around, but the pace is glacial and there is still so much more to be done. My son is eight now. At the present rate of improvements and infrastructure construction, I doubt I will feel comfortable with him biking to Citadel when he is 15 in “just” seven years’ time. That’s crazy!

    1. I agree with you that these projects are worth trying. And no, they’re not beautiful, but the current setup is temporary anyway. Northwood/North/Creighton is not listed on the street improvement pilot project website, but Wilkinson said there are a bunch of new pilots in the pipeline that will be announced soon, so it’s possible that intersection will be one of them.

      1. I really hope temporary will become permanent. The bottom line is that cars just need to be shunted all the way down on the priority list for planners if we really want to transform this city to a more bike and pedestrian friendly place, and if we are serious about climate change.

          1. I like cycling but don’t feel safe cycling around the city. I still think a dedicated lane in/on top of or adjacent to the rail cut is the way to go. Just saw a video today on little e-scooters with 100km range and 50kph speed. If you could create 4ft of space adjacent to the fence you could create a fast track from Bedford/Fairview to the south end.

    2. Most are good. Some are, well, let’s just say puzzling. Look at Irishtown Rd./Queen St in Dartmouth Nbound from Prince Albert Road. It’s one way. No residential property on it. To a stop sign where only movement is a left turn to one of Downtown Dartmouth’s main commercial streets – the Post office, parking lots, etc. That had a Slow Street setup on it. It is perhaps the best way to go to park to shop or eat in Downtown Dartmouth, and there is no warning that once you leave Prince Albert you have no choice.

      On another note, how do I request one?

    3. I am a business owner with an office in this area. I’m curious why the angle parking is “back in” and not “front first” with the angle flipped? better sightlines for drivers leaving the parking space?

      1. I would say it’s failed in bridgewater on king st. The problem is that by the time the car behind you has realized you’d like to back into the spot they’re at your bumper and then there’s a car behind them and so on. You effectively have to give up and go around the block hoping the same thing doesn’t happen.

  2. Somewhat in the vein of my previous comment — here’s to sea cucumbers ‘helping’ Chinese men if it means a slack off in the use of bear bile, rhino horn and pangolin scales. Continuing to hope…..

    1. The bike lane stuff is great, if ugly. The fixation on the peninsula and traffic is kind of myopic – the reason there are so many people driving on the peninsula is because most of the housing stock in HRM is only practically accessible by car, and jobs are disproportionately located on the peninsula.

      I can’t help but catch a whiff of elitism from attempts to make cities less accessible from the car-dependent suburbs without actually proposing any plan to help the people who live there get to their jobs on the peninsula, or move their jobs off the peninsula. Housing on the peninsula is expensive, and if you want space for a family it is even more expensive.

      1. A quick fix for many driving woes and a cheap solution to confusion on the Peninsular might be for a thorough critical analysis of painted lane markings clearly indicating where you – biker, pedestrian and driver are permitted or suggested you go, would be painted out lanes which clearly connect and guide traffic at junctions. This would stop the practice of traffic engineers dropping through connections at intersections – for instance an important one at Robie and Quinpool where travelling S to Connaught you suddenly lose a lane and face a unmarked merger! There are many of these in Halifax!

  3. Shameful about the elephant at Anil plant. Seems an eon ago. If his life served to convert a local boy to understanding of wildlife mistreatment, maybe the cruel stunt was worth it, but it wouldn’t hurt the current owners of the plant to make substantial donations to the charities in Thailand that rescue mistreated elephants. Particularly during this time when tourism numbers are down, it will support their local employment.