1. An attack on press freedom
Justin Brake, the editor of the Newfoundland and Labrador Independent, has been charged criminally for trespassing while reporting on Indigenous people occupying the site of the Muskrat Falls hydro project. The Independent issued a statement detailing the charges:
On March 8 Brake was summoned to appear in provincial court in Happy Valley-Goose Bay April 11 on charges of mischief exceeding $5,000 and disobeying a previous Supreme Court of N.L. injunction prohibiting people from entering or blocking access to the site. According to a March 7 RCMP press release the charges stem from an RCMP investigation into activities at the Muskrat Falls site last October and are among a total of 60 charges laid against 28 individuals.
“These criminal charges, which carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, are not only an attack on The Independent for doing important journalism,” says Brake, “they also amount to an attack by the RCMP on press freedom in Canada.
The group Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) has issued a statement condemning the charges:
The occupation of the Muskrat Falls site began on October 21, 2016, following weeks of demonstrations and a blockade by Indigenous activists. The protests were sparked by plans to flood a wide swath of land as part of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric construction project. A study found that Labrador Inuit would be exposed to harmful levels of methylmercury if the Muskrat Falls reservoir was not fully cleared of vegetation before it is flooded. Brake followed activists as they cut the lock guarding the camp gate and entered the site, and remained as the only journalist to cover the story from inside the camp.
Brake left the site after being named in an October 24, 2016, court order, issued by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, that compelled authorities to arrest him if he remained. The order came at the request of Nalcor, the Crown corporation developing the Muskrat Falls site. Nalcor failed to identify Brake as a journalist in its affidavit seeking the injunction.
“This is a serious threat to press freedom,” says CJFE executive director Tom Henheffer. “This is a well-known tactic to prevent coverage by denying access to journalists. The RCMP has a long history of brutality towards indigenous protesters, which is one reason it is critically important to have a journalist there as an observer.”
The charges against Brake come amidst a series of major press freedom violations in Canada, and are part of a disturbing pattern of legal intimidation against journalists and media workers by police and security forces. Canada ranks 18th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) 2016 World Press Freedom Index, down ten spots from 2015.
Brake’s reporting provided the public with exclusive coverage on a matter of clear public interest, and was cited in his nomination by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission for the 2016 Human Rights Awards. Brake now faces a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for this very same work.
The RCMP’s decision to charge Brake is an unacceptable assault on the public’s right to know, and could cause a chill in reporting on controversies over resource development projects and Indigenous-led protests. It is essential that journalists be able to safely and freely cover events in the public interest, such as the occupation of Muskrat Falls, without fear of legal reprisals. We urge the RCMP to immediately withdraw all charges against Brake.
I am a member of CJFE.
2. Examineradio, episode #102
This week we present a rebroadcast of our roundtable on the state of Atlantic Canadian journalism, featuring Tim, Terra Tailleur, and CANADALAND’s Jesse Brown. This was recorded live at The Marquee in Halifax on Friday March 3, 2017.
Also, no other story has so thoroughly dominated the news this past week as the ongoing controversy around the acquittal of former Halifax cabbie Bassam al-Rawi. Developments in this have been occurring daily, and we bring you up to speed.
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(Subscribe via iTunes)
3. Business Roundup: spooky hypnotist guy, Yoda, and more beer
What I used to call the New Company & Society Registrations has morphed into the Business Roundup because I’ve expanded it to include updates and ACOA grants, with even more business-related topics to come once I find the time. (I’m continually amazed by just how under-reported the local business scene is.)
This week’s listings include this one:
Special K Sphynx Cattery
Partner: Curtis Korolyk
The interwebs tell me that a Sphynx cat is that Yoda-looking thing above. Special K’s website tells me that:
Special K Sphynx is a small home based sphynx cattery. We are lucky enough to reside in a beautiful country setting, approximately an hour from Halifax NS. Here we own approximately 11 acres of land on the Atlantic Ocean, and a century old farmhouse. Kristen has recently retired from the Royal Canadian Navy, and now devotes all her time to breeding healthy, happy sphynx, and bettering the breed.
Well, that’s neither here nor there. Far more interesting is that Kristen’s new-ish husband (they were married in July) and the registered owner of the company is Curtis Korolyk (also pictured above), who was awarded a Meritorious Service Decoration in October:
Crew members aboard HMCS Protecteur were recognized Wednesday for their bravery during an engine room fire in 2014.
Nine crew members were presented with medals for bravery or meritorious service by Governor General David Johnston at a ceremony in Quebec City.
The warship was en route to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt from Hawaii when fire tore through the engine room on Feb. 27, 2014. About 20 people suffered minor injuries. The vessel was decommissioned in 2015.
Leading Seaman Curtis Korolyk entered the intense heat and flames of the fire zone five times, volunteered for the hazardous duty of locking the propeller shaft, and acted as on-scene commander in the boiler room.
Not that there’s a thing wrong with it, but it’s kind of funny that the tough dude is now hanging out with funny looking cats.
Click here to read the Business Roundup.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
4. Indigenous suspensions
“Indigenous students are suspended in disproportionately high numbers at a northern Nova Scotia school board, a figure that troubles some education advocates and First Nations leaders,” reports Richard Woodbury for the CBC:
A CBC News analysis of data has found that while Indigenous youth represent just five per cent of enrolment at the Strait Regional School Board, they make up nearly a quarter of all suspensions. The board runs schools in Antigonish, Guysborough, Inverness and Richmond counties.
Woodbury goes on to note that “Education advocates say there are a number of factors behind the higher suspension numbers, including too few Indigenous teachers, a curriculum that doesn’t reflect the background of its learners, and poverty.”
Hmmm. What’s missing from that list?
It’s impossible to know what is behind each suspension, but we’ve seen this script before. Two children behave in ways that irritate the adults running the school. One child looks like the adults’ own kids and misbehaves in the same ways that their own kids misbehave, and so the situation is dealt with in ways that fall short of suspension. The other child looks different, however, misbehaves in somewhat less expected ways, and the adults’ view of the child comes loaded with stereotypes and biases. That child is suspended, which is often the first step of criminalization, leading to an ever-cascading path of diminished expectations from the adults, lowered self-worth on the child’s part, and self-fulfilling prophecies of failure.
5. Transit priorities
The city this morning issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the design of transit priority corridors on Bayers Road (Romans Avenue to Windsor Street) and Gottingen Street (North Street to Cogswell Street), with the option of including redesigns of the Young Street corridor (Windsor Street to Robie Street) and Robie Street corridor (Young Street to Inglis Street). The design work is to be completed by July.
6. Dartmouth North Community Centre
A second RFP issued by the city this morning is looking for a landscape architect for a redesign of and improvements to the area around the Dartmouth North Community Centre and John Martin Junior High School.
This is a badly needed project. Dartmouth North has been neglected for too long.
The RFP envisions the design work completed by May, with actual landscaping changes completed by October.
1. The way politics works — and doesn’t — in Nova Scotia
“Nova Scotia is the only province in the country without legislation to set provincial election dates,” writes Stephen Kimber. “The province’s chief electoral officer suggested such legislation in a 2015 report. Stephen McNeil even supported the idea before his Saul-like reversion to the status quo on the road to his own re-election. That’s the way these things work in Nova Scotia.”
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Cranky letter of the day
To the Charlottetown Guardian:
On behalf of child victims of sexual assault, I would like to thank Judge Nancy Orr for her recent comments on the trial of the 40-something-year-old man charged with the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl.
Finally young girls are being encouraged to tell about sexual misconduct happening to them.
It enrages me to hear that a so-called defence lawyer would consider calling the young girl’s kindergarten teacher to testify to the behavior of a five-year-old when she was in school. What’s next, calling Santa to determine if she was a good girl?
This was certainly the lowest a defence I have ever heard of in my 26 years as an advocate for child victims, but it does not surprise me because we are talking about the lowest form of conduct by a defence lawyer and an accused.
Shame, shame, shame.
Mike Avery, provincial child sexual abuse advocacy committee
Avery is referring to this incident.
No public meetings today or tomorrow.
Thesis Defence, Medical Neuroscience (Monday, 1pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Chantalle Briggs will defend her thesis, “Synaptic and Intrinsic Plasticity in Lateral Hypothalamic Sleep/Wake Regulatory Neurons Following Acute Sleep Deprivation: Implications for Sleep Homeostasis.”
Senate (Monday, 3pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — here’s the agenda.
Machine Learning (Tuesday, 12pm, Room 409, Centre for Clinical Research) — Stefan Kuhle will speak on “Better Living Through Machine Learning: Using Tree-based Machine Learning Methods in Epidemiology.”
Thesis Defence, Mathematics (Tuesday, 3pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Bassemah Alhulaimi will defend her thesis, “Einstein-Aether Cosmological Scalar Field Models.”
Erasing Race (Tuesday, 7pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — David Tanovich, from the University of Windsor, will speak on “Erasing Race in the Criminal Justice System.”
In the harbour
5am: NYK Meteor, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
8am: Performance, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Cagliari, Italy
8am: Kota Lumayan, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Port Klang, Malaysia
10am: Seoul Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
11:30pm: Kota Lumayan, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
Cold out there.
I guess I’m a bit of a rube, but what is behind a RFP for transportation corridors? Are they going to make new bus stop shelters, or redesign the bus routes along those streets? Is the latter more of an HFX Transit thing?
Erica Butler wrote about them here:
The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming….. to Nova Scotia, to Loisbourg
” One Ocean Expeditions applied , through its representative, for a licence to use the “AKADEMIK SERGEY VAVILOV”, a cruise ship registered in Russia, to offer five cruises: one from Louisbourg, Nova Scotia to Iqualuit, Nunavut; one from Iqaluit to Resolute Bay, Nunavut; two from Resolute Bay to Resolute Bay; and one from Resolute Bay to Iqaluit. The activity will start on July 15 and will end on September 15, 2017. ”
Late ….too busy reading the thoughts of Earl of Dalhousie (for free). And $10 bucks a month for halifaxexaminer is a bargain.
If Brake left ASAP he may well have the charges dismissed.
Any citations available ?
Once courts start ruling that individuals identifying themselves as journalists have privileges not available to others we will all be in trouble.
Was the Halifax man known as ‘Agricola’ a journalist ? Dalhousie thought he was a fine fellow. Now I’ll go back to reading Vol 3 of the Dalhousie Journals.
Trespass is an offence and journalists have no more rights than any other citizen.
And Canada is joint 7th, above Germany,USA, France and UK see here
Was waiting for you to say that. What took you so long?
When Brake received a court order telling him to leave, he did so. My guess is the court will throw out the charges on that fact alone. We have due process, and a citizen walking on a crown corporation’s “property” is arguably walking on his own property, until told otherwise by a court. (I hike on Halifax Water property, and on Waterfront Development property, for instance, and think nothing of it.) A fence on public property don’t mean shit, except in obvious safety and security situations (no one would argue that I have the right to walk through a military base).
Moreover, the public good of covering a protest is a mitigating circumstance. An untested rule against trespass on public property doesn’t preempt the right of the public to have access to accurate first-hand accounts of an important social and political issue. In the end, I’m fairly certain that’s how the court will rule.
Was he charged with the provincial offence of trespassing, or with breaching the court order? Different things entirely. If there was a court order he disagreed with or of which he wasn’t given notice, he should have moved to set it aside.
If he was given notice, he should have shown up or sent someone to argue against it, not that I think you’d succeed in convincing a court you have a right to be on property that isn’t your own if the owner doesn’t want you there. Plus if you were on the property in violation of a court order, they can arrest you there or later because you violated the order. It is a kind of civil contempt, not a criminal or quasi-criminal thing.
Fighting the court order in itself would be a good story, I guess. They don’t normally name journalists because they don’t want bad press in the long term, but there is nothing stopping them from getting an order that you stay off their property.
I get his point, and I think it was stupid to add him to the order because it will work out to terrible PR, but in the end, you can’t ignore that kind of court order any more than you can ignore an improperly made publication ban order. There are ways you deal with these things.
There was an original court order barring demonstrators from blocking access to the work site. No one was arrested or ordered to court on that court order. Only after the demonstrators cut through the fence and occupied part of the site (I’m unclear on the geography) did Nalco go to the court and ask for expanded order. That expansion, which was granted, ordered those named in the expanded order to show up at court by November 10 to show why they shouldn’t be named in contempt of court. Brake didn’t learn of the expanded order or that his name was on it until he read about it in the Telegram. When he did learn of it, he consulted with lawyers and then decided to leave the site.
Nalcor, the RCMP and the courts all seem share the blame in the action against Brake. Did Brake have no notice or ability to have his position represented when the injunction was issued? The fact that Canada’s international ranking on press freedom dropped 10 spots from 2015 to 2016 is disturbing – more details please!
My sister has one of those cats. Its personality is as bizarre as its looks.
I thought the entire point of living with a cat was having all the lovely fur to stroke.
He is fuzzy, like a peach, and very friendly, but no, not your ordinary cat. These cats are obsessed with water and will get into your water or tea constantly. He also seems very hot to the touch, but perhaps that is because he has no fur. They have no whiskers either, these cats.