1. Riley trial
The murder trial of Randy Riley continues at the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. As I reported Wednesday, the Crown, defence, and judge are working through legal issues without the jury present, and so there is a publication ban on the current proceedings until the trial is over, at which time I can report on what is happening now.
I will say I’m glad I’m in the courtroom, and leave it at that for the present.
There are more proceedings outside of the presence of the jury today. Monday is a court holiday. The jury has been told to come back Tuesday to hear closing arguments, and Justice Josh Arnold has said he will give jury instructions on Wednesday, after which the jury will go into seclusion to deliberate.
2. Fillmore on housing
“MP Andy Fillmore is going to bat for Halifax regional council in negotiations between the federal and municipal governments on HRM’s application for millions in housing funding,” reports Zane Woodford:
But the former HRM planner also believes the municipality can go further — and higher.
Fillmore suggested increasing height near transit and universities, adding four-storey height allowances in the regional centre “wherever viable,” and more.
“Residents of Mount Uniacke have submitted their comments on the application for the proposed 10-times expansion of a four-hectare quarry in their community, and are concerned about violations at the current quarry,” reports Suzanne Rent:
Stephen Marsh, who has lived in Mount Uniacke for more than 50 years, is one of the residents who opposes the expansion of the quarry. The Halifax Examiner spoke with Marsh in May 2022 when he and other residents attended an open house hosted by the quarry’s owners, Northumberland Capital Corporation Inc. (NCCI).
NCCI opened the quarry in 2015, and there was opposition from the community at that time. NCCI uses the quarry to produce aggregate for construction and infrastructure projects.
In an interview on Thursday, Marsh said after 16 months of no word on the proposed expansion, residents learned about NCCI’s application for expansion in a small ad in the classified section of the Chronicle Herald on Aug. 29. He said residents then had 30 days to submit their comments on the application to the Department of Environment and Climate Change. The deadline to submit those comments was Thursday at midnight.
“If they go to 40 hectares, it’s going to be like a war out there,” Marsh said. “That’s 75 football fields.”
Yesterday, the province announced that it is reviewing the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP), and is seeking public input as part of the process.
The government has established an “internal working group” that will additionally review past recommendations from FOIPOP commissioners before making its own recommendations to Justice Minister Brad Johns, which may or may not result in legislation to change the act, to recommend changes.
FOIPOP commissioners have long said that their findings should be binding on government agencies. Every political party has campaigned on making the FOIPOP commissioner’s findings binding, but then once in office have taken no action to make that the case. As a result, government has consistently simply ignored the commissioners.
So, maybe this is good news. We’ll see.
5. SIRT shakeup
Also yesterday, Justice Minister Brad Johns announced that he was filling two long-vacant judge positions with the appointment of Alonzo Wright and Mark Heerema as judges.
Heerema was the provincial Crown lawyer who opposed the media consortium’s application to unseal the search warrants related to the 2020 mass murders; many of Heerema’s machinations in that case were pointless and irresponsible delay tactics that ended up costing the Examiner tens of thousands of dollars. It leaves me with a bitter taste.
I think the real point of filling the two vacant seats, however, was to shuffle Wright out of his position as the director of the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT).
SIRT has a crisis of legitimacy.
It’s hard to know where to start this narrative, but we could perhaps begin with the SIRT investigation into the violent police arrest of Santina Rao at the Mumford Walmart in January 2020. As Stephen Kimber noted:
SIRT concluded — not unlike the long-ago Nova Scotia Appeal Court justices who determined that Donald Marshall, Jr. was the “author of his own misfortune” — that Rao was to blame for provoking the officers so their actions in attacking her were “lawfully justified and required.”
In that context, it is worth noting that all of SIRT’s investigators are former police officers.
I have more reporting on that, which I hope to get to soon. Let’s continue, though…
The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report into the 2020 mass murders found that SIRT had botched three different investigations related to three incidents:
• the shoot-up of the Onslow Fire Hall by constables Dave Melanson and Terry Brown
• an allegation of “potential criminal conduct” and “corruption” on the part of unnamed cops in a municipal police force; SIRT refused to investigate the allegation
• the killing of the murderer at the Enfield Big Stop
As I reported specifically about the fire hall shooting:
As SIRT investigated the fire hall shooting over the next year, the RCMP H (Nova Scotia) Division investigators were also investigating it, and the two teams of investigators were sharing information back and forth.
The Police Act clearly states that SIRT is not to give investigative details or notes to the police agency being investigated until after the investigation is complete, notes the MCC’s report.
Through this period, the SIRT director was Felix Cacchione. Cacchione announced his retirement just weeks after the MCC final report was released.
Cacchione was replaced by Wright, but Wright’s reign over SIRT has likewise been plagued with controversy.
In July, Wright criticized the Halifax Examiner for simply reporting on a lawsuit against a Halifax cop, even though our reporting was entirely accurate and met all journalistic standards of fairness.
And then in August, in an announcement that SIRT was investigating after police shot a man in Clayton Park, SIRT re-stated the police account of the incident as fact, before conducting any independent investigation. As I commented at the time:
It’s beyond obvious that SIRT, which includes police investigators seconded to SIRT, is too willing, perhaps always willing, to take police explanations for the use of force as a given, unquestionable.
Given the long track record, and the Mass Casualty Commission’s findings, there’s no reason for the public to have any trust whatsoever in a SIRT investigation into police use of force.
SIRT was created and structured precisely to provide cover for police failures. SIRT’s investigators are either retired cops or seconded cops who will return to their former positions once their term at SIRT ends.
So, individual cops who beat their spouses or whatever are often held to account by SIRT, but whenever there are serious allegations involving improper use of force, SIRT takes the policing agency’s word as gospel, fails to properly investigate, and almost always finds no fault. What else would we expect when cops investigate cops?
The Justice Department could address the heart of the problem by creating a true civilian oversight board for allegations of police misconduct. That might inspire public confidence in the process.
Instead, however, Justice Minister Brad Johns once again spins the revolving door of SIRT directorship, Cacchione out, now Wright out, thinking that that will somehow get the public to trust SIRT again.
6. John Misenor House razed
Back in 2019, I wrote about the proposed demolition of the John Misenor House, a registered historic property at 64 Wentworth St. in Dartmouth:
The area is zoned “Downtown Neighbourhood,” which by my read does not allow for the construction of a multi-unit building on this site.
I can’t find much about John Misenor. There was a John Misenor who was captain of the East India Company’s ship Princess Amelia back in 1727, but I think it’s doubtful that’s our man, as why would he give up a fine career in plundering just to come to Dartmouth for retirement? There’s another John Misenor who was listed as a “measurer of grain” somewhere in Nova Scotia in 1878, so I’m guessing that’s him. I asked David Jones, who knows everything about Dartmouth history, about Misenor, and if I hear back I’ll let you know.
Jones in fact got back to me, so the next day I followed up:
Jones got back to me Tuesday, sending me Site Inventory Forms from the former Department of Culture, Recreation & Fitness. Jones says the Dartmouth Heritage Museum has “binders of these forms for Dartmouth heritage properties” in its collection.
The form for 64 Wentworth Street, which was presumably written at the time of registration in 1986, explains that the house was built in 1840, continuing:
Architectural comment: This is a 1 1/2 storey, woodframe building. Many elements of the building are additions/alterations, such as the large dormer, large rear wing and wide roof overhang with brackets. Nevertheless, one can discern the original vernacular design, including five bay facade with center entrance.
Historical comment: The original owner, John Misenor, was a “coal and grain” measurer. A second John Misenor (possibly a son) boarded here, (1880) and was a well known furniture maker. (It should be noted that John Misenor is not listed in the city directories as living on Wentworth St. until 1880, though he bought the property in 1840.) A later owner, Charles Nixon, was a supervisor with N.S. Light & Power.
Contextual comment: This building relates well with the streetscape, sharing scale and use of material.
After the two John Misenors, the house was owned from 1897-1899 by George Misenor (a carpenter); his heirs from 1899-1912; from 1912-1913 by Fenwick Misenor (an undertaker); from 1913-1917 by Ralph Gates (a bank clerk); from 1917-1919 by Charles Herman (a salesman); from 1919-1929 by Charles Bell (no profession listed); from 1929-1954 by Richard Nixon (not the US president, but rather a professor [I can’t find any further information about this fellow]); and from 1954 to the time of registration by Charles and Alice Nixon, who had a Calgary address. Only in 1990 did the house change ownership to someone named Keramis Photios, who is presumably a relative to the present-day owner, Ekatirine Keramaris.
Jones contacted me last night to tell me the structure has been torn down.
Strings Noon Hour (Friday, 11:45am, Strug Concert Hall) — free performance by students from the Fountain School of Performing Arts
Understanding and Addressing the Climate Vulnerability of People with Disabilities (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Sebastien Jodoin from McGill University will talk
Mathematical Alchemy: Decimalisation in Early Modern England (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, McCain Building) — John E. Crowley will talk; more info here
The Politics of Non-Relation: or, How the University Broke My Heart (Friday, 7pm, Auditorium, McCain Building) — Natalie Loveless from the University of Alberta will deliver the first of this year’s MacKay Lecture Series: Our Aesthetic Possibilities: Lectures on Art-Making in the 21st Century
In the harbour
05:30: Tongala, car carrier, arrives at Fairview Cove from Valencia, Spain
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Fairview Cove
07:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Sydney, on a 13-day cruise from Montreal to Fort Lauderdale
10:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
13:00: Norwegian Escape, cruise ship with up to 5,218 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
15:30: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
15:30: CMA CGM Marco Polo, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Tanger Med, Morocco
16:30: Tongala sails for sea
16:45: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 42 for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
22:30: Norwegian Escape sails for New York
Cruise ships this weekend:
Saturday: Jewel of the Seas (2,573 passengers); Silver Shadow (466 passengers); Star Pride (254 passengers)
Sunday: Queen Mary 2 (2,620 passengers); Norwegian Pearl (2,873 passengers)
Monday: Arcadia (1,904 passengers); Sky Princess (4,610 passengers)
05:00: Norwegian Joy, cruise ship with up to 4,622 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Portland, on a nine-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
06:30: Star Pride, cruise ship with 254 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) on a 25-day cruise from Reykjavik to Boston
07:30: Ocean Aqua, tug, with barges Ocean Barque 2, Ocean Petite Ourse, and Ocean Grand Ourse, transit through the causeway south to north, en route from Wedge Point
14:00: CS Hu Bei, oil tanker, arrives at EverWind from Klaipeda, Lithuania
14:30: Star Pride sails for Halifax
15:30: Norwegian Joy sails for Charlottetown
Cruise ships this weekend:
Saturday: MSC Meraviglia (5,386 passengers); Europa (408 passengers)
Sunday: Jewel of the Seas (2,573 passengers)
Monday: Norwegian Pearl (2,873 passengers); Crystal Serenity (1,070 passengers)
We’re recognizing the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, so no Morning File Monday.