1. Bill 30, sex abuse, and separation of church and state

St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Archdiocese offices. Photo: Flickr

“Bill No. 30 – Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth Act” was considered by the usually non-controversial Private & Local Bills committee of the legislature yesterday.

But, “[t]he committee voted to hold the bill at this stage of the lawmaking process following a presentation by lawyer John McKiggan, who has represented and continues to represent hundreds of sexual assault victims who were abused by priests,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

In his presentation to the committee, McKiggan said, “I would suggest the only reason for this proposed change to legislation that has existed for over 100 years is to make it more difficult for survivors of priest sexual abuse to be able to receive just and fair compensation for their injuries.”

A lawyer acting on behalf of the archdiocese, Joel MacDonald, later told the committee that was not the intent, nor would the change protect the church organization from claims by victims.

Here’s the actual bill, the gist of which allows the Archbishop to establish parishes, abolish parishes, redefine parish boundaries, appoint priests, remove priests, decide how to govern the church, establish cemeteries, and so forth. But the bill also defines the legal relationships between parishes and the Archdiocese, which we’ll get into below.

In his statement, McKiggan discussed the extent of sexual abuse in the church:

It is public record that a number of former priests of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth have been convicted of sexually abusing children.

What is not public record is the number of priests who have had allegations of sexual abuse made against them but who have not faced criminal charges. The Halifax Archdiocese has faced numerous compensation claims for abuse by its priests. It has never publically disclosed how many priests it is aware of that have committed acts of sexual abuse.

However, most professionals who work with survivors of sexual abuse agree that the number of victims who come forwards to pursue criminal charges are just the tip of the iceberg. Some professionals suggest that just 10% of sexual assaults are ever disclosed by victims to authorities.

A study by Dr. Anne Burges and Dr. Nicholas Croth concluded that the average pedophile will molest over 200 children during their lifetime.

I remind you that the Diocese of Antigonish is half the size of the Halifax Archdiocese. That class action resulted in claims by more that 140 victims of sexual abuse by more than a dozen priests.

One has to ask the question: How many priests is the Archdiocese aware of that face allegations of sexual abuse? How many potential victims of priest sexual abuse have had their lives destroyed by priests employed by the Archdiocese of Halifax?

You can read all of McKiggan’s statement here.

Cassandra Armsworthy is a lawyer and self-described “practicing Catholic” who says she is “a member of the Catholic Women’s League, I serve as a lector and a eucharistic minister, I sing with the choir, help with fundraising — I even water the flowers. Outside of school, the church is probably the single largest commitment in my life, and one which has greatly enriched my life.” Armsworthy shares McKiggan’s concerns.

“If you look to section 15 of the proposed Bill,” says Armsworthy:

you’ll find that, in fact, there is an extensive list of restrictions on how parish corporations operate. If they want to acquire or sell property, repair or construct building, invest capital, borrow money — in short, manage their assets — they have to seek permission from the Archbishop.

The parish corporations may be the nominal owners ofthese assets, but they do not have effective control — that would still be with the Archbishop, just as it is now.


[The bill] would delegate to the Archbishop and the Archdiocesan Corporation the authority to make the regulations that would govern these parish corporations. Regulations have the force of law — this Bill would give the Archbishop law-making power, without the oversight of any member of the Executive or Legislative branch of the government — after all, the Archbishop is not accountable to anyone in government.

As I read the bill, I kept thinking: why on Earth is the government of Nova Scotia involving itself with the governance of the church? Excuse my American sensibilities, but can’t the church just fall under the normal rules and regulations that apply to every other non-profit, charitable society, and corporation?

Seemingly anticipating my question, Armsworthy continues:

While the ideology of separation of church and state may not be as entrenched in our political landscape as it is for our neighbours to the south, I believe it is still an implied expectation for Canadians, and Nova Scotians. And contained in that expectation is the understanding that the state will not give the church the power to make laws. Because maybe it doesn’t cause you much worry that the Roman Catholic Archbishop is asking for this power; maybe you’d be fine if the Anglicans, or Baptists, or United Church came asking for the same. But what if, say, the leader of the Church of Scientology came asking for this kind of authority? What if a new religion was established here, like the Greater Ministries Church? Greater Ministries was an evangelical church that was established in the US in 1993, and in 2001, its leaders were convicted of defrauding its members of over $500 million dollars.

What do you say then? And in light of the Charter protections we have in this country — for freedom of religion, for equality — if any one of those groups gives you pause, how do you justify it?

Click here to read Armsworthy’s statement.

The bill was also opposed by a group of parishoners at St. Philip Neri Church in Musquodoboit Harbour.

2. Desmond Cole

Desmond Cole. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The journalist and activists says Halifax cops brutalized a woman, left another woman in a police wagon in the department parking lot, and came after him because he is black.

Click here to read “Desmond Cole: my night with the Halifax PD.”

3. Safety harnesses

“About half of people working at heights in suburban Halifax this year weren’t using proper fall protection, according to compliance inspections by the Nova Scotia Department of Labour,” reports Zane Woodford for Metro:

Scott Nauss, senior director of inspection and compliance at the department told Metro that in 2016, fall protection compliance — whether people were wearing properly anchored harnesses while working at heights — was 75 per cent. In 2017, that number fell to 70 per cent.

Nauss said the drop is due to what he called “pockets of non-compliance” in suburban HRM — areas like Spryfield, Bedford, Hammonds Plains, Sackville, and Fall River.


According to the Department of Labour, no one died on a work site as a result of a fall in 2014 or 2015. There was one death each in 2016 and 2017.

4. Hay bale Teddy bear dies a horrible death

Photos: Blake Jennings

Someone set Blake Jennings’ hay bale Teddy bear on fire.


To open our annual November subscription drive, the Halifax Examiner is having a party.

It will be held Sunday, November 5, from 4-7pm at Bearly’s (1269 Barrington Street). We’ll have short readings from Halifax Examiner contributors Stephen Kimber, Linda Pannozzo, El Jones, and Evelyn White, special musical guests, new Halifax Examiner swag for sale, and cake.

It’s a subscription drive party, so admission is for subscribers only, but you can buy a subscription at the door. There are no advance tickets, so plan to come early for a good seat.




Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — the committee is meeting in order to decide when the committee will meet.

2146 Brunswick Street. Photo: Google Street View

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm, City Hall) — the committee will discuss a proposed $7,233 grant to the owners of the West-Buley House at 2146 Brunswick Street in order to approve the building’s roof — the house is attached to 2140 Brunswick Street, which has already received a similar grant, and it makes little sense to repair one roof and not the other.

The house, explains the staff report:

is valued as it is a rare example, in Nova Scotia, of the Gothic Revival style in brick masonry for terrace housing. It is also valued because of its importance to the heritage character of Brunswick Street.

Special Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Prospect Road Community Centre) — the committee will discuss the proposed expansion of the HRM Compost Facility at 61 Evergreen Place.

Public Open House – Case 20762 (Wednesday, 6:30pm, Captain William Spry Community Centre) — WSP Canada wants to build a 79-unit subdivision near Lynnett Road and McIntosh Street in Spryfield.

Public Information Meeting – Case 20929 (Wednesday, 7pm, Tantallon Senior Elementary School) — W.M. Fares wants to build a bunch of stuff in Tantallon — two apartment buildings with a total of 94 units, 18 one-storey townhouses, and 11,477 square feet of commercial space fronting Peggys Cove Road.


Community Planning & Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, city Hall) — here’s the agenda.



Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)


Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



Guitar Recital (Wednesday, 12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Scott Macmillan, Doug Reach, and Jeff Torbert will perform.

Zombie Ion Channels (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Corrie daCosta from the University of Ottawa will speak on “Zombie Ion Channels: Why Can’t the Undead and the Living Get Along?”

Sundar Sarukkai   Photo:

Creating a Rational Public (Wednesday, 7pm, Alumni Hall, University of King’s College) — Sundar Sarukkai from the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, will speak on “Science and the Rationality of the Social.”


Marie-Claire Arrieta. Photo:

Eukaryotes (Thursday, 9:30am, Room 140, CHEB Building) — Marie-Claire Arrieta, from the University of Calgary, will speak on “Gut Microbial Eukaryotes: A Missing Link in Microbiome Studies.”

Current Trends in Open Access for Research Data (Thursday, 10:30am, Room C266, CHEB Building) — Erin MacPherson, Lee Wilson, and Maggie Neilson will speak. RSVP to

When Discipline and Appeals Issues Arise (Thursday, Noon, Room B400, Killam Library) — In this weirdly relevant talk, Bob Mann will discuss Dalhousie’s judicial system. From the event listing:

Suppose you have a student who, in your opinion, has done something that you feel must be addressed. Who do you call? What could happen? What will your role be? Bob Mann, Manager of Discipline and Appeals, talks about Dalhousie’s judicial system and walks through some of the basic “do’s and don’ts” of being involved in disciplinary matters involving students.

Christine Hanson. Photo: CBC

Dal Law Hour (Thursday, 12:30pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Christine Hanson, director and CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, and former Minister-Counsellor, Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, D.C., will speak.

Rebeca Lane. Photo: Juan Carlos Alvarado

Reflections on Current Challenges Facing Guatemala (Thursday, 2:30pm, Room 1009, Kenneth Rowe Building) — Guatemalan hip-hop artist, activist, and sociologist Rebeca Lane will speak.

Gary Geddes. Photo:

Medicine Unbundled (Thursday, 6pm, room 1009, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — Gary Geddes will speak on “Medicine Unbundled and the Politics of Disease: The Story of Indigenous Health Care in Canada.”

Alison Watt. Photo: Kim Waterman

Alison Watt (Thursday, 6:30pm, Dalhousie art Gallery) — Watt will read from her novel Dazzle Patterns, a story of the Halifax Explosion.

Over the Line: A Conversation About Race, Place and the Environment (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Hall, Marion McCain Building) — Robert Bullard from Texas Southern University will speak at the first part of this two-part public and academic symposium. Register here.

Mini Medical School (Thursday, 7pm, Theatre B, Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building) — Nancy Murphy will speak on “Drugs of Abuse,” followed by John Fraser speaking on “Opioids and Addictions.”

In the harbour

1am: Hector N, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Philadephia
5:30am: Graceful Leader, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Sagunto, Spain
6am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
6am: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Algeciras, Spain

Insignia. Photo: Halifax Examiner
Insignia. Photo: Halifax Examiner

7am: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Port Alfred, Quebec
9:15am: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
10:30am: Artania, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 20 from New York
11:30am: Graceful Leader, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
3:30pm: Insignia, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for Saint John
4pm: Malleco, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove
4:30pm: ZIM Monaco, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
5pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Pier 36 from Saint-Pierre
7pm: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Baltimore


I’ll be on the Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

I have an early morning reporting assignment tomorrow, so Erica Butler will be filling in for Morning File.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Re: Public Information Meeting – Case 20929 (Wednesday, 7pm, Tantallon Senior Elementary School)

    This high density residential development is worthy of concern. A single road leading back to the development means all traffic must enter and exit off of Peggy’s Cove Road (road widening may be required); a secondary access route accessing the St. Margaret’s Bay Road might be beneficial if it can be managed. Then the freshwater services are an issue; can the local water aquifer support a 94 unit complex plus 18 future townhouses? The local by-law allows for a maximum of 12… this development is for a total of 112 residences. Or maybe the water will come from the Bay via desalination and purification technologies. Solid waste management can be handled with some expensive hybrid systems and pumping out will be a regular occurrence if the property cannot manage a hybrid septic field system. Lots of questions and I am sure mine are not covering all the bases. It should be an interesting public meeting on Wednesday night (Oct 25th, 2017). Will the developer and municipal planners have all the answers? The local by-law certainly was ignored when putting this development package together.

    Who will pay for the ongoing operational and maintenance costs of the high-tech solutions that will be required to enable such a development to exist functionally in this rural community?

    This area is looking for growth, but it needs to be good for the community. I hope the news media gives the meeting good coverage.

    1. The whole point of a planning application is to “ignore” the local by-law, otherwise you would just get permits and build to the by-law. And that’s not a bad thing. Land use by-laws are not the final gospel on what is appropriate on a property. In fact, they tend to be the lowest common denominator for what’s appropriate. That’s because once they’re in place, land owners automatically have the proscribed development rights, so land use by-laws have to necessarily be a little cautious.

      Planning applications (development agreements, rezonings, etc.) are specifically made an option because, the thinking goes, it’s an option to do more site-specific analysis to determine if different types of development can and should be accommodated.

      In other words:
      – Land Use By-law: based on broad, basic analysis of the whole area; development opportunities are generally conservative as a result to build in a margin of safety
      – Planning applications: analysis is site-specific, can do deeper analysis to look at if that margin of safety is actually needed.

      I don’t know the facts of this particular application; maybe it really is the case that it doesn’t make sense here. But I wanted to comment because there’s this narrative in Halifax that planning applications are someone cheating, or breaking the rules, or using loopholes. They are not. They are a tool to have a deeper, more nuanced discussion about what’s appropriate on a site.

      1. A reasonable variance from a by-law is often expected; but 112 residences versus 12 unit a wee bit more than the usual. Add that this is in a rural setting where freshwater access is limited and the impact on local water supplies to other users of a given aquifer is a concern. But if the technologies intended enable effective freshwater, grey water, black water and stormwater services are adequate, then the municipal planners have to justify how they got the rural by-law for this District so wrong that they are willing to entertain such a large deviation from their Regional Council approved by-law. Hence the reason the public is up in arms in the ST Margaret’s Bay region… HRM’s website is not providing the required information to educate the public and a 2 hour public engagement is not the right setting to impart those details… people want to read the reports that support the decisions themselves.

        1. “impact on water supplies… is a concern”

          Which is exactly one of the reasons there is this two-tiered approach. When the city is doing planning they can’t go around testing the groundwater supply of every lot in the municipality. So they set the zoning at some low, conservative number that they can be pretty damn sure is “safe” given the information available. Then they say, “if you want more than that, you do the water study, and the traffic study, and all the other studies needed, and you come to us and tell us why that site can support more development, and we’ll consider it.”

          It’s not that the current by-law is “wrong”, it’s that it’s developed based on a level of information that is general, and is therefore necessarily conservative.

          “a 2 hour public engagement is not the right setting to impart those details”
          No, it is not. But it’s also not intended to. The (cancelled) meeting last night was a Public Information Meeting. The purpose of that meeting is basically to inform people that a proposal has been made, and hear initial concerns and comments so that the planners can be sure to consider them in their review. In other words, the review hasn’t been done, so there aren’t too many details to share.

          The planners will then go back and do a staff report that reviews all of these aspects (water, traffic, etc.), which is then publicly released before a Public Hearing happens. So people will indeed have a chance to read the reports and support or oppose the decision themselves.

          1. Ian, you say ” the review hasn’t been done”… wrong. There is already a Stantec report available to HRM concerning this development project and HRM had CBCL do a review of that report… those reports that are months old should be publicly available on the HRM website for this project… the public does not want HRM staff and the developer to cherry-pick what they want out of those reports presented to them in one of the oh-too common HRM/developer public engagements. Release the report and let the public know all the details of the proposed development project before having any public engagements… in that way the public will come prepared to the meeting to ask the “right” questions. If HRM staff really want good feedback from these public engagements, they need to give the public the information ahead of time so that they get the best possible feedback. HRM staff already know the initial concerns, they do not need a public engagement meeting to get that… HRM wonders why the public is not happy with the development process… lack of transparency and upfront communications are the basis of the root cause for most complaints. But they know this as well, but they do not seem to care.

          2. Ah, yes, those reports should for sure be made available.

            “lack of […] upfront communications”

            When I worked for a municipality I always found it funny when people would show up to a Public INFORMATION Meeting and complain to me that they had not been informed, when that was literally the purpose of the meeting.

  2. Re: 1. Bill 30, sex abuse, and separation of church and state

    Thank you for featuring this and providing supplementary information.

    When I read Jean Laroche’s CBC account of it last night, I was mystified and angry that this bill came before the legislature at all – angry that a humiliating early experience of segregation and discrimination in public education in Nova Scotia was dislodged from memory, and that a religion with a horrific record of clergy abuse was seeking cover in law from my home province.

    The Catholic Church’s attempts, world-wide, to evade exposure and consequences for clergy abuse are well-documented. What is most painful and enduring is that an institution promoting Christian principles, Jesus’ own words on the sanctity and protection of children, sought to protect themselves, their criminal clergy and their worldly assets at the expense and denigration of those children and their families. That cannot and will not be erased or whitewashed or papered over. Clients give direction to lawyers. That’s fundamental. What lawyers did in service of the church was at the direction and complicity of the church. That, too, cannot and should not be confused or misunderstood.

    Your piece dispassionately deconstructs the reasons why church and state must be separate. Always. Do we not have enough alternative examples to immediately warn us and erect cautionary red flags?

    1. I find the Hollywood sex abuse revalations to be darkly amusing – Hollywood has functioned kind of like the church in the postwar era. Weinstein (and many others) even made an impressive number of explicitly anti-Catholic or anti-Christian movies, which of course is their right in a free and secular society. It’s ironic (but not remotely surprising) to see so many in that sphere guilty of exactly the same sort of scandal the Catholic Church has been plagued with.

      It seems to be a universal pathology – the fire and brimstone preacher who condems sodomy then rapes boys and the professed Hollywood feminist like Weinstein and probably many others who make women have sex with them to advance their careers.

  3. Bill 30 is one of those very, very rare cases in which a “private and local” bill causes controversy.

    To cut a long story short, it used to be fairly common for non-commercial legal entities to be created by an Act of the legislature. (Even further back, in the 19th century, even commercial entities were created by an Act of Parliament.)

    The legislature doesn’t create any new entities, because there are today (as you point out, Tim) other mechanisms to do it. But there are still hundreds of entities in the statute books: recreational, social, religious, charitable, you name it. I don’t think “separation of church and state” is really relevant here. It’s really only about an anachronistic way in which legal entities were created back in the day.

    The problem is that If the entity needs to amend its governing statute, they have to go back to the legislature. These bills are known as “private and local” bills. The bills have to go through the same procedure as any other bill. The only difference is that they are referred to a Private & Local Bills Committee rather than the usual Law Amendments Committee.

    For proponents, it’s a pain in the ass, because you have to pay a lawyer and you have to wait until the House is sitting. But most of the time, these bills are waved through the House. Ninety-nine percent of them are completely uncontroversial. From my 15 years around the legislature, I remember only one or two on which any questions were raised, and nothing like the controversy around Bill 30.

    The government rarely or never tries to tell these entities what to do, but as soon as there’s a whiff of controversy, the government will back off. MLAs will sponsor a bill because they expect to receive a modest pat on the back from the proponent. (Look what I’m doing for my church!) I am quite sure the sponsoring MLA (Lena Diab) is horrified by the controversy. After all, her name’s on the bill. Somebody didn’t do their homework.

    The fact that some legal entities—including some religious entities—were created by an Act of the legislature is a total anachronism. No new ones are being created. But who’s going to take the time to “convert” all the existing statutory entities? Nobody. So here we are.

  4. Pet peeve: if you know the names of the musical guests at your party, can you name them? Thanks for having live music as part of the event!