1. Bike projects

A rendering of Halifax’s potential future bike bridge connecting the Macdonald Bridge to North and Gottingen Streets.

Erica Butler has Part 2 of her update on bike projects. In Part 2, she discusses the Brunswick Street/Spring Garden Road, Forest Hills Parkway, Macdonald Bridge, Bedford Highway, Vernon Street, and Oak/Allen bike projects.

Click here to read “Update on ongoing bike projects, Part 2.”

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2. Burnside jail

The North Unit day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Prisoners in the Burnside jail say that conditions are ‘worse than ever’ since the peaceful protest that ended September 9,” reports El Jones:

They are calling for independent oversight of the provincial prisons and an external review of conditions, legal aid funding for adequate representation for habeas applications, and intervention by the Human Rights Commission. They describe a human rights crisis inside the provincial jail.

According to prisoners, the conditions in the jail are “worse than segregation.” Since the protest, they say they have been locked down almost constantly. These conditions persist even when there are no incidents or behaviour problems.

They are frequently receiving only an hour out of their cells a day, and sometimes as little as half an hour. In the time that they have out of their cells, they have to shower, get exercise, and use the phones, including phone calls to their lawyers — restrictions they say are affecting their access to legal representation.

“At least in segregation you’re guaranteed an hour out a day and a phone call,” one prisoner told the Examiner.

Click here to read “Three months after jail protest, conditions are ‘worse than ever,’ say Burnside prisoners.”

I was told on Monday that prisoners had filed another batch of habeas corpus applications, but as of Wednesday morning, they had not made their way to the courthouse. This in itself seems to be a problem. As Jones writes:

Prisoners say they are “losing faith” in a court process where they repeatedly file habeas corpus applications protesting the lockdown conditions, and are left to represent themselves, only to have those conditions declared moot when officials from the jail testify the lockdown has ended. The prisoners allege that immediately after they return from court, the lockdown conditions are re-instated.

“It feels like the courts are complicit,” says a prisoner.

They are violating our rights, and the jail officials just go to court and lie, and the courts won’t do anything about it. And every time we do this, the conditions just get worse.

I’ve become a prison abolitionist. While we can and should make improvements and demand better of correctional institutions, the problems with prisons are ultimately foundational and therefore not truly fixable. It turns out that a system based on denying liberty denies not just liberty but also human decency.

Our society’s race and class biases are so intertwined with the justice system that we can’t untangle them. In the U.S., there are more Black people in prison today than there were Black people enslaved at the height of slavery. In Canada, Indigenous people and people of colour are far more likely to be imprisoned than white people.

On top of that, there are wrongful convictions. In the U.S. it’s guesstimated that somewhere between five and 10 per cent of people imprisoned were wrongfully convicted. We tell ourselves that the situation is better in Canada because the prosecution side of things is so politicized in the U.S. with elected district attorneys and sheriffs, and so in order to advance their careers, investigators and prosecutors are more likely to convict innocent people. But I’m not so sure that difference is as meaningful as we think, as measurement by conviction rates appears to be common for crown prosecutors. And Canada has a different problem — the tendency towards paternalism in government, and a cultural deference towards government that limits the fight-back; there is just one Innocence organization in the country fighting wrongful convictions, and while it does great work, it is underfunded and under-resourced. The truth is we just don’t know how many people we’ve imprisoned are in fact innocent.

Besides, most of the people sitting in Burnside — at any given time, maybe two-thirds or three-quarters of them — haven’t been convicted of the crimes they’ve been charged with. They’re awaiting trial, and have the presumption of innocence.

I recognize that some people have to be removed from society. We can’t have the Russell Williams of the world freely roaming among us. But it’s interesting to do the thought experiment: what would we do if prison simply wasn’t an option? How would we deal with those who go wayward? And why aren’t we doing that stuff now?

Prisons have become too easy for us — we stick people in there and the problem goes away, we think. But it doesn’t.

3. Harassing hospitalized smokers

The following notice was sent to all Nova Scotia Health Authority employees yesterday:

Earlier this week we were notified by Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) that the cigarette butt receptacles located on sidewalks near some entrances to buildings at the QEII Halifax Infirmary site are in violation of the municipal bylaw N-300 that came into effect in October and restricts smoking of tobacco and cannabis to designated smoking areas. HRM has given us an opportunity to address this, but indicated the receptacles must be removed from the public right-of-ways where they have been located.

As a result, the receptacles around the Infirmary site are being removed by our facilities staff today. There are two HRM-designated smoking areas close to the Infirmary site, one near the intersection of Bell Road and Robie Street and one at the corner of Sackville and Summer Streets. There is also one near the Victoria General site on University Avenue. Anyone who chooses to smoke should do so at one of these locations.

All NSHA sites and services are smoke-free environments. Smoking or vaping, whether it be cannabis, tobacco or other products, is not permitted. NSHA has not applied for outdoor designated smoking areas. Our public health service did provide advice to HRM, including that decisions on the placement of designated smoking areas should be made in consultation with the marginalized populations most affected, who tend to have higher smoking rates and lack of access to resources.

We recognize that this includes some of the patients in our care and that for others who are frail or in poor health, using a designated smoking area at any distance from the hospital site may pose some difficulties. As outlined in our policy on smoke and tobacco reduced environments, patients who smoke should be offered support in smoking cessation and/or nicotine replacement. There are also smoking cessation supports available for staff. Anyone who requires support for reduction or cessation of Commercial Tobacco Use can connect with 811,, Nova Scotia 211, at or by dialing 211 anywhere in NS.

NSHA remains committed to healthy public policy. Given this and other recent changes regarding access to and use of tobacco and cannabis, we will evaluate how best to support the improved health of our community while being respectful of the realities and the safety of our patients and staff, and will update you on our approach over the long term.

Vickie Sullivan,
Executive Director, Operations
Central Zone, Nova Scotia Health Authority

This is where public health concerns (and the often-associated class biases) come right up against four centuries of socialization and promotion of tobacco. Arguably, the colonial enterprise in North America wouldn’t have succeeded at all had not European culture become addicted to tobacco; by the 20th century tobacco had become a multi-billion industry, and it broke new ground in advertising and promotion in order to feed that addiction.

YouTube video

The Mad Men pitch to the tobacco execs (above) is not fiction; it’s documentary. That same pitch happened hundreds of times over, and led to the deeply held public association of cigarette smoking with style, beauty, rugged individualism, rebellion, and all-around bad-assery:

YouTube video

YouTube video

I remember when I was four or five years old, in the late 1960s, going shopping with my mother downtown and crossing paths with scantily clad women giving away free cigarette “samples” on the street corners. It was just taken for granted that everyone smoked. Smoking in restaurants, smoking on airplanes, smoking in movie theatres, and, yes, smoking in hospitals. I’ve been in a hospital when the doctor was smoking in the room with patients. (It’s something of a miracle that I never took up the habit.)

Society decided around 1990 to break itself of the smoking habit. It first became un-cool to smoke among the wealthier and better educated, but even that was a battle. Banning smoking flew against so much culturalization and socialization. And on top of that, it’s hard to quit. Some people are lucky, and can quit easily. A lot of people, not so much. I have loved ones who have tried to quit dozens of times but can’t make it stick, and these are well-educated people with access to health services and other supports. As Vickie Sullivan recognizes in her letter to NSHA employees, the more marginalized have a harder time quitting than others. There’s a lot going up against them already, and besides the difficulty of quitting, at some level you gotta respect that in the scheme of things, worry about the health effects of smoking is way down the list of more immediate threats, and that smoke break evidently supplies some momentary respite from the considerable woes of the world.

Outside pretty much every hospital you’ll see people felled by smoking, smoking. People carting around oxygen tanks so they can fire up out on the sidewalk. It’s sad. But we can’t ban that kind of addiction out of existence. We’ve collectively failed them. We’ve failed them with massive advertising campaigns to get them addicted, with lying science to downplay the risks, with a society built around promoting and normalizing smoking, and then with lack of supports to help them get off smoking, and now with shame and discomfort for not being able to quit.

For the love of dog, let them smoke. Give them that one last comfort. Stop harassing them.

4. Medjuck v. Medjuck

Ralph Medjuck. Photo: YouTube

The case of Harold L. Medjuck v. Ralph M. Medjuck, Hedda Medjuck (in her capacity as the Executrix of the Estate of the late Franklyn D. Medjuck) and 51/56 Investments Limited, now winding its way through the courts, is fascinating me.

In a decision about a procedural matter published yesterday, Justice Peter Rosinski laid out what the case is all about:

Harold, Ralph and Franklyn Medjuck are brothers. Franklyn, a lawyer, passed away in 2016. Hedda is the Executrix of Franklyn’s estate.

Harold is suing his brothers and an associated private corporation.

In his November 30, 2018 brief, Harold’s counsel summarizes his claim:

This case involved alleged breaches of the plaintiff’s trust that took place over the period of years ranging from the late 1970s through the late 1990s. The plaintiff says that in all cases, the actions of the defendants were fraudulently concealed from him. It should be noted that my client alleges that his brothers misappropriated money that, had it gone to him as it should have, would represent the entirety of his assets.

Harold has alleged in his concurrently filed Second Amended Notice of Action (Statement of Claim):

This claim in large measure relates to OSP Investments Limited, formerly known as One Sackville Place Limited (“OSPL”), a Nova Scotia Corporation with its registered office located in Halifax. OSPL was in the business of real estate development, investment and management…. Harold is a shareholder of OSPL, and a former Vice-President and Director of OSPL… At all material times, Ralph and Frank controlled and directed the business and affairs of OSPL, and had fiduciary obligations to OSPL… Ralph is a shareholder of OSPL and a former Director and Officer of that corporation. Ralph was also a Director and Officer of the corporate defendant [ 51/56 Investments Limited]…. Frank was at all material times a Director of OSPL. He was Vice President until 1994, and replaced Ralph as President that year. He was also a lawyer and handled legal matters for OSPL… The defendant 51/56 Investments Limited is a corporation incorporated pursuant to the laws of Nova Scotia. 51/56 is the continuation of 5151 Investments Limited and 5670 Investments Limited, both Nova Scotia corporations. 51/56 is in the real estate business…. On November 22, 1996, Frank incorporated 5151. Unbeknownst to Harold, Ralph and Frank had agreed to incorporate 5151 for the purpose of taking back an interest in the Property, just nine months after OSPL quit-claimed its interest in the Property to Prudential Properties. Ralph is the President of 5151; Ralph and Frank were Directors of 5151; and Ralph directed the business and affairs of 5151 either solely or jointly with Frank, or principally with other close family members, excluding Harold… Including and in addition to these transactions, the defendants Ralph and Frank Medjuck diverted a total of $5,212,514.07 away from or out of OSPL into various business ventures of their own, always without the knowledge or approval of the Company’s other directors and shareholders including Harold. These appropriations of funds properly belonging to OSPL took place between 1962 and the Company’s winding up in 1997. Virtually all of it took place after 1982, when Harold moved to Toronto… Ralph and Frank obtained information during the course of their involvement with OSPL that enabled 5151 to obtain the rights to the lease and the property…. As a result of Ralph and Frank’s breach of fiduciary duty, OSPL was denied the opportunity to
a. take back an interest in the Property from Prudential Properties
b. acquire the rights to the Lease and the Property; and
c. benefit from the subsequent income from and sale of the Property, and has suffered damages as a result.
In the alternative, as a longtime business partner of Harold and as Directors of OSPL, Ralph and Frank owed Harold a fiduciary duty and the duty to act in utmost fairness in good faith. Harold reasonably relied on Ralph and Frank to manage the business and operations of OSPL with a view to the interests of all shareholders equally, including to pursue OSPL’s business opportunities, and was vulnerable to any breach by Ralph and Frank of their duties….

Ralph Medjuck is one of the most powerful property developers in Nova Scotia. He was involved with many downtown buildings, and much of his fortune comes by leasing office space to government. He got his name plastered on a university building.

This case bears watching.

5. Vendor discolure, military editon

This paragraph struck me in Blair Rhodes’ report on the trial of four men charged with defrauding the military through the procurement process:

The investigation began when a civilian senior staffer in Shearwater noticed something suspicious about the contracts: all four companies were registered to one owner and the tender applications from each company all appeared to be written in the same handwriting.

Good on the eagle-eyed staffer, but the alleged theft would have never been possible in the first place if the military had a requirement for vendor disclosure statements.


1. Santa

Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby looks through Canadian legal decisions for cases involving Santa, and finds some good ones. My favourite:

In 2004, a hall in Newfoundland was operating a bingo to benefit 7 charities. According to lottery regulations, the hall was limited to an award of $3,000 in total (Community Fundraising Corp. v. Newfoundland and Labrador (Department of Government Services and Lands), 2004 NLTD 236).

Santa himself was expected at the bingo, as he had appeared for a number of years at this event during the holiday season. On December 22, sure enough, he “appeared as expected and was wildly cheered by some 275 happy patrons.” He was there to call the numbers for the opening game, with a jackpot of $75.

You won’t believe what happened next! Santa upped the $75 jackpot to $200. The hall manager claimed as follows: he

was not prepared to risk the wrath of the patrons by going to the stage and announcing that Santa had exceeded his jurisdiction by raising the jackpot.

The first game went on.

You wouldn’t think Santa, who normally enjoys very broad judgmental discretion, would be so heady with power on this occasion. Alas: as the judge describes, Santa was “’emboldened’ by the first game, and increased the jackpot for game 2 from $100 to $200.”

Turns out this was not Santa himself but a guy dressed up as Santa, the Vice President of British Confectionary Ltd, the gaming supplier. Fun fact! This company has morphed as per its website “from candy to tickets” into AGI that continues to “provide paper, dabbers and other accessories to halls throughout the province [of NL].”

The bingo awarded $181 more than it was allowed to under licence: “The excess was largely accounted for by Santa’s generosity.”

Under the B, emBOLDENED. Under the I, losers are not IMPRESSED.

The heavy arm of The Man came down upon the bingo, investigated a complaint from a dauber who was neither holly nor jolly, and the lottery regulator suspended the bingo’s licence for a week, with a related layoff of 17 employees: there were “reasonable and probable grounds…[that] the conduct and management of a lottery is likely to reflect unfavourably upon the integrity of the lotteries program.”

You’ll have to go to the link to find out how the appeal went, and to read the rest of Darby’s fun essay.

2. Candlesticks

Photo: Stephen Archibald

One aisle of Hangar 51 out at Cove 17 is devoted to candlesticks. Stephen Archibald shows off those candlesticks, and along the way tells the story of his grandfather, Melbourne Armstrong:

He studied to be a doctor and because there were no medical schools in Atlantic Canada, attended New York University School of Medicine. He graduated in 1892…

Part of Melbourne’s training included providing free care to poor tenement dwellers. While he was helping during an epidemic of some variety, an immigrant family felt his care had saved the life of their child. They were grateful and insisted he accept a gift that they considered valuable, in a household where there was little of monetary value. He was presented with a heavy brass candlestick. It was brought back to Nova Scotia where Dr Armstrong practiced medicine in Bridgetown until his death in 1931. The candlestick has always had a special place in our home with a vague sense that it really belonged to mysterious people we did not know.

Through the wonders of the internet I learn that the candlestick is one of a pair of Jewish Sabbat candlesticks, typical of those used in Eastern Europe in the mid nineteenth century. So we can imagine a little about our anonymous immigrants, who may not have been much different from the Levines.

It is interesting that an object with Jewish religious significance had a treasured life with a Methodist doctor’s family in rural Nova Scotia. Over the holidays we will burn candles in it and think about caring for strangers, and cherishing gestures of goodwill.


No public meetings.

On campus

No public events.

In the harbour

02:30: Kitikmeot W, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
02:30: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
05:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:00: Arctos, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
06:00: JPO Aries, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from anchorage to Pier 41
11:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 36 for Saint-Pierre
11:00: Atlantic Huron, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Sept-Iles, Quebec
11:30: Morning Conductor, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
17:00: YM Moderation sails for Dubai


Morning File will go on hiatus for a few days over the holiday. It will return Thursday. We have a few articles at various stages, and one or two of those may be published in coming days. Depends.

Enjoy the holiday, however you spend it. Remember the lonely.

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

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    For we knew only too well:
    Even the hatred of squalor
    Makes the brow grow stern.
    Even anger against injustice
    Makes the voice grow harsh. Alas, we
    Who wished to lay the foundations of kindness
    Could not ourselves be kind.

  2. That is the best description of the culture of smoking I have ever read.

    It took 2 years for Halifax Transit to restore a bus stop it closed that was in front of a medical clinic, forcing seniors and people in frail health to climb a hill to access care. That is heartless. So is making people addicted in a hospital hike to an approved smoking area. Such governance actions are the fare of British comedy shows.

    Council’s public smoking area by-law is stupid. It is a contrived solution to a problem that did not exist. The police should employ the discretion they have and stand down. There is no need to spend valuable police resources enforcing a by-law that makes no sense.