1. Not a rifle
On October 23, the day after the shooting in Ottawa, Halifax police responded to a call:
…at 8:36 a.m. regarding a man walking in the area of Duke and Brunswick Streets in Halifax carrying what was believed to be a rifle. He was reported to be wearing black cargo pants and an ear piece and was concealing what is reported to be a rifle wrapped in black cloth. We only received the one report of this man and have yet to confirm this information. We’ve met with the complainant and are continuing to investigate.
You’ll recall that Halifax went a bit nuts that day, with half of downtown cordoned off, cops everywhere and lots of institutions—City Hall, the downtown Dal campus, Citadel High—on “lockdown.” The police scoured the town, and a few hours later,
a second call was a report received at 11 a.m. about a man who had left a firearm on a Halifax Transit bus. The man left on foot walking southbound on Albemarle Street in Halifax. He was quickly apprehended at 11:08 a.m. near Argyle and Carmichael Streets without incident, and the firearm was recovered from the bus.
Buddy at the second call didn’t fit the description of buddy from the first call, and cops now say the two calls were completely unrelated. My guess is you could search every Halifax Transit bus in town and every tenth one would have somebody packing, just this guy was stupid enough to accidentally leave his gun behind when everyone was worked up about Ottawa and somebody else was reported walking around town with a gun.
Anyway, about that first call.
I have it from a couple of different sources that that rainy-ish morning, a downtown chef had to transport a blender full of food a couple of blocks across downtown, so threw a blanket over the blender to keep it dry. The chef went on to his place of business and got to work, oblivious to the crazed police operation unfolding on the streets outside. He worked the lunch shift and cleaned up, and only then turned on the news to hear of the commotion. The chef then sheepishly called the police, saying he thought he was the cause of all the turmoil.
Turns out, though, that like the guy packing heat on the bus, the chef packing a blender didn’t fit the description of the first gun report either.
I contacted the police yesterday to ask about all this, and they wouldn’t comment one way or the other on the blender-packing chef. Spokesperson Holly Tooke did tell me, however, that the first gun call, the one that got everyone worked up, “was an unfounded complaint. We believe the call was genuine, however we were unable to find any corroborating evidence (i.e. video, witness, etc.) to substantiate the call.”
In other words, the guy who called in the gun honestly thought he saw someone walking around downtown with a rifle, but he seems to have been mistaken. And if you ever find a gun on a bus, do us all a favour and just turn it into lost and found without involving the cops, k?
2. Not free
Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information office has a five-year backlog of files. Some of those files are mine, but I long ago gave up on appealing to the office because I knew it was pointless, which is entirely the point: delaying access to government information is effectively denying access to information. That’s part of the culture of government secrecy in Nova Scotia.
New review officer Catherine Tully says she has a plan to address the backlog, so good on her, but I’m not holding my breath.
This reminds me of an incident I wrote about when I was a reporter in rural Arkansas. A detective working with the local sheriff was visiting his childhood buddies in the town of Brinkley, a couple of counties over, got drunk and made an ass out of himself at the town’s public housing complex:
Det. Brett Simpson repeatedly patted down several black men for drugs, grabbed a Brinkley police officer’s gun, threatened the men with it, and, after returning the gun, confronted the officer with a raised fist, according to a statement given by Ryan Hollowell, an officer with the Brinkley Police Department.
Hollowell’s report says the officer witnessed Simpson drinking.
People at the scene said Simpson then drove through an apartment complex firing a gun out the window of his truck, but police could not verify those accusations.
Throughout the evening, according to the statement, Simpson repeatedly referred to the black men with racial epithets.
The Brinkley police and the local sheriff had kept the incident quiet, and Simpson was given a slap on the wrist, a 10-day suspension. But I got wind of the incident and called Hollowell, who I had never met or talked to before. I told him that I knew about Simpson’s drunken romp, and asked for the police incident report.
“Well, I guess the freedom of information law says I have to give it to you,” he said in a wonderfully melodic southern drawl, and 10 minutes later the report was coming across my fax machine. The next day the story appeared on the front page of the paper, and soon after Simpson resigned. A racist cop was taken off the streets.
I have no doubt, none at all, that had the same thing happened here, I would be denied the police incident report. Yep, good ol’ boy Arkansas has better freedom of information laws, and a better culture of compliance with those laws, than does Nova Scotia.
3. Not accessible
The renovations of City Hall have cost us about twice what I’ve been reporting. The full bill so far is approaching $10 million, reports the Chronicle Herald. And still no accessible entrance:
In addition to technology upgrades, he said a big focus of the upcoming work will be improving the building’s accessibility and security.
But [Terry] Gallagher, [the city’s manager of corporate facility design and construction], said wheelchair users will continue to use the Argyle Street entrance, where people have to press a button and wait for a guard to let them in.
“Even if we tried to make the entry to Grand Parade accessible, through the national building code, they require us to have an entry to the building that is barrier free and as close as possible to parking. The preferred route would continue to be the entry off Argyle Street.”
Nobody wants a ramp at the front of the building. The point is to have a door on Argyle Street that people using wheelchairs can open without having to summon a guard as if they’re common criminals.
4. Not profitable
“There are no bidders for the latest four deepwater parcels put on the auction block by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board,” the Canadian Press reports.
5. Not safe
The family of Judy MacIsaac-Davis, the woman killed while crossing Thistle Street in May, has filed suit against the driver, Robert Morris.
I heard Morris’ pickup truck hit MacIsaac-Davis, and came to the scene immediately after, and the memory has disturbed me ever since.
I can’t judge this particular incident, and no matter what happens with the lawsuit, it won’t bring MacIsaac-Davis back to life. But since I walk through the intersection pretty much every day, I know the dynamics of it. Cars barrel up the hill travelling north on Victoria Road, and because there’s no dedicated light, southbound drivers turning left onto Thistle wait for a gap in the traffic and floor it. Pedestrians are often an afterthought in that mix.
6. Not noon
The noon gun didn’t go off until 12:09.
1. Those who trade liberty for security
Bruce Wark calls out “the tendentiously garrulous Rex Murphy” for giving us the false choice between civil liberties and public safety. Moreover:
Murphy also resorted to the tried and true journalistic formula of a simple, two-sided conflict: Innocent, law-abiding Canadians versus the terrorist evildoers who threaten their safety. The rational versus the irrational; us versus them.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s framing prevailed. Not a single caller mentioned Canada’s foreign policy and nor did the so-called experts Murphy interviewed. Not a single mention of Canadian participation in foreign wars including our long campaign in Afghanistan and our bombing runs in Libya and Iraq. Not a single mention of Canada’s failure to condemn Israeli attacks on Palestinians and in Lebanon. Not a single mention of Canada’s role in overthrowing democracy in Haiti. And no mention that so many of Canada’s aboriginal peoples live in poverty and squalor.
2. Like sands through the hourglass
Lezlie Lowe fouled up the town clock, which might be why the noon gun is screwed up.
3. Cranky letter of the day
To the King’s County News:
Shame on you, Kings Transit, and Pete’s, and Giant Tiger, for sliming the buses with so-called “wrap ads”, even covering the windows. On a recent trip to Kentville, I couldn’t see the pumpkin people, nor the fall foliage. thanks to those super-ugly ads blocking the view. I can tolerate bus ads on the sides, but not on windows. The sooner they are scraped off, the better.
Gene Keyes, Berwick
No public meetings.
Legislature sits (9am-1pm, Province House)
Mysteries of Particles in Air (1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226)—Barbara Finlayson-Pitts, from the University of California-Irvine, will talk on “Mysteries of Particles in Air: Research Challenges and Why We Should Care.” She studies the “chemical and physical processes which play key roles in the natural and polluted atmosphere, from urban to remote areas and from the lower to the upper atmosphere. Understanding these processes requires field measurements, the development, testing and application of models, and laboratory studies of kinetics and mechanisms. Research in our laboratory is directed primarily to elucidating the fundamental kinetics, mechanisms and photochemistry of relevant gaseous reactions as well as heterogeneous processes at the surfaces of, and in, particles.”
The Political Economy of International Relations, Globalization and Development (noon, McNally Main 22)—Walden Bello, the Director of the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South and a sitting member of the Philippines Congress, and a visiting prof at Saint Mary’s, is talking.
In the harbour
(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)
Hamburg, cruise ship, New York to Pier 22
Fusion, con-ro, Saint-Pierre to Pier 36, then sails back to Saint-Pierre
Ocenex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
Somebody should do a story about all the stuff turned into Halifax Transit’s lost and found.
Bruce Wark’s piece is excellent! Thanks for including it.
Rex Murphy is a hack dressed up as an intellectual fire breather. Closer to Rush Limbaugh than Patrick Watson.
“Nobody wants a ramp at the front of the building,” eh? Speak for yourself. A discreet, paving stone-clad ramp that merged with the top of the steps could work just fine. The expectation that 4,000-8,000 wheelchair-using citizens of Halifax should be content to wait in the snow and rain until a distant security guard finds the time to respond to a buzzer is repugnant. It’s what’s known as the back of the bus.
Re City Hall: I do want a ramp at the front of the building. Halifax is very far behind the times in terms of the widely adopted principles of universal design, such as ‘provide the same means of use for all users: identical whenever possible; equivalent when not’ and ‘avoid segregating or stigmatizing any users’.
An attitude shift is required here. There are many beautiful examples of heritage buildings adapted for universal access.
WRT the CH building code comment, the ‘barrier-free’ entrance must be within 50M of the parking space(s), which the Main Entrance may be. Nevertheless, many do not arrive by vehicle, and this is more than a code issue – installing a power door operator to the side door in addition to fixing the Main Entrance would be great, and would be a small portion of the construction budget – then people would have a choice.
How many are there actually? 4-8000 is kind of a wide spread
“… delaying access to government information is effectively denying access to information”
No, I didn’t screw up the gun. I was at the clock in the spring (mentioned near the top of the piece). I was just waiting for a good hook to re-visit the clock and found it this week at the end of Daylight Savings Time. So, I don’t *think* I had anything to do with the gun. Though that is quite a coincidence, given that I filed yesterday RIGHT ABOUT NOON. (Cue suspenseful music…)
Deny, deny, deny….supposedly an effective strategy….;)