1. Sexual assaults

Stats Canada yesterday released an analysis of police-reported sexual assaults in Canada. A synopsis of those findings leads the report:

  • Over a six-year period between 2009 and 2014, police reported 117,238 sexual assaults in Canada where sexual assault was the most serious violation in the incident.
  • Almost all (98%) police-reported sexual assaults were classified as level 1 offences (assault without a weapon or evidence of bodily harm).
  • The median age of victims of police-reported sexual assault was 18 years. The majority (87%) of victims were female, particularly young women and girls. One in four (26%) victims were children aged 13 and younger. This is more than four times greater than the proportion of child victims of physical assault (6%).
  • An accused was identified in 60% of police-reported sexual assaults, of which 69% were charged. Overall, less than half (41%) of police-reported sexual assaults resulted in a charge being laid, compared with half (50%) of physical assaults.
  • The vast majority (98%) of accused charged with sexual assault were male, with a median age of 33 years.
  • The median delay in reporting to police — the time between when the offence took place and when it was reported to police — was 25 days for sexual assaults, compared with only two days for physical assaults. The longest delay in reporting to police was observed among incidents involving children sexually assaulted by their parent, with a median delay of one year.
  • Of sexual assaults where a charge was laid by police, the majority (87%) of victims knew their assailant; most commonly as a casual acquaintance, a family member, or an intimate partner. Only a small proportion (13%) of sexual assaults were perpetrated by someone who was a stranger to the victim.
  • Most (83%) victims of sexual assault were sexually assaulted by someone older than them. Of these charged cases, the median age gap between the victim and their assailant was 13 years. These findings are in contrast to those for physical assault, where victims were most commonly assaulted by someone in their peer age group (within five years).
  • One in five (19%) sexual assaults with a charge laid were perpetrated by an accused that may meet the age-based criteria for pedophilia. This includes incidents where the accused was 16 years of age and older, the victim was 13 years of age and younger, and there was at least a five year age gap between them (as stipulated by clinical criteria). Over half (55%) of these cases involved a child sexually assaulted by an older family member.

(See a detailed description of the chart above here.)

2. Alakai

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Bay Ferries is exercising its option on the lease of The Cat and will use the high-speed ferry again in 2018,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

When the company was awarded the contract in 2016 to operate the service between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine, its lease with the American navy for the ship was for two years, with options to renew in each of two subsequent years.

Gorman has the name of the boat wrong. While Bay Ferries can call it whatever it wants, the international automatic identification system (AIS) for ships identifies the boat as the Alakai, the name it held when constructed. (Incidentally, the Alakai is now en route to Charleston, South Carolina.)

This gives the excuse to re-run a bit I wrote back in 2016:

Dubbed “The Cat” by Bay Ferries, after the company’s previous ferry of the same name, the boat was acquired from the US Navy, which had named it the USNS Puerto Rico. How’d the US Navy end up with a ferry? That’s an interesting story.

In 2004, a company called Hawaii Superferry contracted with a boatbuilding company named Astral for the construction of two ferry boats, named Alakai and Huakai, that would provide service between O’ahu, Kaua’i, Maui, and the Big Island of Hawaii. The deal was financed with a $139,731,000 loan secured by the US Maritime Administration.

The company started service between Oʻahu and Maui in December 2007, but because the state had exempted the ferry from normal environmental review, environmentalists immediately filed a court challenge.

The anti-ferry movement had several concerns:

The court decision backed the cries of concerned environmental advocates, Kaua‘i state legislators and county council members who have repeatedly called for an environmental impact statement prior to the start of service.

The ruling says the state Department of Transportation wrongfully exempted Hawai‘i Superferry from a study on its potential to cause traffic jams, kill humpback whales, spread invasive species or increase homeless and drug problems on neighbor islands.

In 2009, three environmental groups — the Sierra Club, Maui Tomorrow and the Kahului Harbor Coalition — prevailed in their court battle against the state legislation, the ferry was shut down for good, and the company went bankrupt.

The main creditor, the US Maritime Administration, owed $139 million or so, took possession of the boats, but then sold them to the US Navy for a mere $35 million. The navy then spent another $35 million retrofitting the boats.

The larger Huakai was renamed the USNS Guam and put into service between military bases on Okinawa and Guam. The smaller Alakai was renamed the USNS Puerto Rico and was intended to be used in Latin America. It saw service in Haiti after the earthquake, but ended up sitting idle, tied to a dock in Norfolk.

That’s how Bay Ferries was able to lease the Alaki this spring. The company has a two-year lease at $3.4 million per year, with a two-year option.

But what about those whale concerns? I’ve left repeated messages with the environmental groups in Hawaii, but they aren’t responding.

We’ve got whales here, too, I’m told.

3. Irving fined for its role in Lac Megantic disaster

“Irving Oil has been ordered to pay $4 million after pleading guilty to 34 counts stemming from the 2013 rail disaster in Lac Megantic, Que.,” reports the Canadian Press:

The offences were committed over eight months, from November 2012 to July 2013 involving transportation of approximately 14,000 rail cars of crude oil for Irving Oil.

On July 6, 2013, a train carrying 7.7 million litres of crude oil sped toward the small Quebec town at 104 km/h before derailing, killing 47 people in the resulting fire and explosions.

 The federal Public Prosecution Service said Thursday that a provincial court judge in Saint John, N.B., ordered Irving Oil to pay fines totalling $400,320.

It will also pay a contribution of nearly $3.6 million for the implementation of research programs in the field of safety standards under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and its regulations.

4. Elmwood

The Elmwood Hotel. Photo: Google Street View

This week’s cover story in the Coast is a feature by Jacob Boon about the Elmwood Hotel. Boon additionally collected memories from “dozens” of former residents of the building.

The suggestion that the statue of Edward Cornwallis, which has no historic value at all, be torn down is the subject of much consternation. And yet, the demolition of old hotel across the street is proceeding with nary a peep. As I wrote in July:

The building is the old Elmwood Hotel, which was erected in 1826. It is a graceful structure that has housed thousands of people. By the latter part of the 20th century, it was home to an eclectic mix of students, musicians, and artists and was something of a cultural hub. The Elmwood sits almost at the exact centre of the Old South Suburb, a proposed Historic Conservation District.

The statue is of course the representation of Edward Cornwallis and was erected 105 years later, in 1931. It has no historic or artistic value, but is just an example of early twentieth century imperialistic schlock.

When demolition permits for the truly historic Elmwood were issued in 2015, only a handful of malcontents, of whom I consider myself a proud member, expressed concern. Even fewer people have condemned the dog-awful building that’s going to be built in its stead.

Ah, but talk about tearing down the imperialistic schlock of a statue, and suddenly everyone’s a historic preservationist.

5. Marijuana is racist

Harry Anslinger

In August, I made a simple observation:

Incidentally, several people have asked me why the police spell it “marihuana” as opposed to the more common “marijuana.” The reason is simple: marihuana is the spelling in the Canadian Criminal Code, and so that’s why police use it.

More interesting is why it’s called marihuana/marijuana in the first place. I learned through this week’s On The Media podcast that the old drug that was called hop, gaze, ju-ju, or reefer was rebranded marijuana by Harry Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics. That terminology was purposefully designed to associate the drug with Mexican labourers, who supposedly spread the drug to black and other “weak” Americans — in Anslinger’s formulation, marijuana was a foreign-bred menance imported into the otherwise chaste United States. It’s a directly racist word.

I don’t even see how that observation is controversial. It’s just a statement of fact: in order to commence a war on cannabis, Anslinger wanted to associate it with Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans, who were seen as lesser humans than white Americans. How is that arguable?

This week councillor Shawn Cleary announced that he was going to stop using the word “marijuana,” reported Aly Thomson for the Canadian Press:

Coun. Shawn Cleary said a police officer he works with on a cannabis legalization task force recently brought it to his attention that the term has a racist history.

Cleary said in the early 1900s during the criminalization of cannabis in the U.S., “marijuana” was used to demonize marginalized communities, namely Mexicans.

He said after doing some of his own research on the term’s origins, he decided to stop using it, saying earlier this week on Twitter: “Let’s do what we can to not perpetuate racism.”

“We need to actually have conversations, have dialogue, and talk about these things. By doing that we’re actually increasing the amount of understanding and interest in history,” said Cleary in an interview Thursday.

Call him silly if you want, but he’s not wrong.

But I guess factually explaining the racist origin of the word is controversial. And so we get an uproar on social media, and for some reason, councillor Matt Whitman felt he needed to weigh in on the issue:

Whitman, understand, has a great empathy for, and a deep understanding of, all things Mexican:

Photo: Facebook



No public meetings.


Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)

On campus


Over the Line: A Conversation About Race, Place and the Environment (Friday, 9am, Halifax Central Library) — today’s event in this two-part public and academic symposium will begin with a keynote address from George Lipsitz from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and will include presentations and panels from a diverse array of Nova Scotian, Canadian, and American speakers. Register here.

Voice Recital (Friday, 12pm, Room 406, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — students of Michael Donovan will perform.

Name Change (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 2B08, Tupper Building) — open forum on changing the name of  The School of Human Communication Disorders to the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Molecular Crystals (Friday, 1:30pm, Room 226, Chemistry Building) — Graeme M. Day from the University of Southampton will speak on “Computational Approaches for the Prediction and Design of Functional Molecular Crystals.”

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:45am Friday. Map:

5am: Berlin Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Fos Sur Mer, France
6am: AIDAmar, cruise ship with up to 2,686 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Ponta Delgada, Portugal
6am: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
6:15am: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
10:30am: NYK Terra, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11am: Skogafoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
11:30am: Berlin Bridge, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
4pm: Tongala, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
4:30pm: AIDAmar, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Portland, Maine
4:30pm: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
8pm: Hector N, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea


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.

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

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  1. I like pretty words and marijuana is one of them – kinda like soliloquy, one of my all time faves. “Cannabis,” sharp C, kinda cold and stark, is my real word for mj now that I’ve been educated!

  2. “…the representation of Edward Cornwallis and was erected 105 years later, in 1931. It has no historic or artistic value, but is just an example of early twentieth century imperialistic schlock.”

    missing: i.m.h.o. ?

  3. Did you know this exists?

    TERMIUM Plus® : The Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank.

    Where Cannabis is defined: [Any of the] psychoactive preparations of the marijuana (hemp) plant, Cannabis sativa.

    Why this definition uses “marijuana” vs “marihuana” is anyone’s guess.

    Good that they identified Cannabis sativa as one of the psychoactive variants of the cannabis plant; but there are more… Cannabis indica is one.

    Hemp is actually Cannabis sativa L. which is used to make oil, cloth and rope; but is not psychoactive.

    The Canadian Criminal Code should probably identify both spellings, since they are deemed synonymous as well as being a variation of a homonym.

    Tomato: Toe-mate-toe or Toe-mat-toe, they both can be found in a BLT sandwich.

  4. I wonder why they used the median, rather than the mean, in the stats? That’s a genuine question — what is the reason it gives a more statistically accurate picture?

    In reviewing Stats Canada criminal charges stats, it is important to remember that in some provinces such as New Brunswick, charges require approval by the Crown before they can be laid. This is not the case in most provinces, such as Nova Scotia, where the police lay the charges and then the Crown deals with them later. So some incidents that might result in charges in Nova Scotia might not result in charges in New Brunswick.

    Also, different police forces across the country keep their stats differently, but Stats Canada lumps them all in together anyway.

    1. Median is usually used for population statistics because it is less susceptible to outliers than the mean.

      As an illustration, say I was opening a new business and wanted to figure out what age of customer I should target with my marketing with the goal of appealing to the most customers (and assume marketing effectiveness is heavily reliant on age). Say my (very) simplified town had nine people with the following ages:

      10 / 15 / 20 / 22 / 28 / 30 / 32 / 35 / 105

      The median of this population would be 28, and the mean would be 33. The median is much more representative of the population as a whole.

  5. Do I need to bring any sort of proof that I’m a subscriber? Or this there a super exclusive guest list at the door? I hope it’s the latter. I’ve never been on a super exclusive guest list!

  6. Regarding the devil’s lettuce:


    Either way, the claim that this has anything to do with Cleary’s saintly concern for Hispanic people is suspect.

    Has this issue actually come up in places in the USA that have lots of Hispanic voters or a Hispanic majority?