SNEAK PREVIEW: Original Sin
This morning, to kick off the Halifax Examiner’s November subscription drive, we’ve published a sneak preview of our next investigative series, tentatively entitled “Original Sin.” It starts:
On Oct. 22, 1968, Halifax Police Chief Verdun Mitchell went about his day as usual. He left his Parkdale Avenue home in Halifax’s west end, where he lived with his wife, Iris, and their son, Derek, and headed to the police station downtown.
In the afternoon, Mitchell went to City Hall to attend a meeting of the city’s Safety Committee. The committee voted to buy 10 new police cars for a total of $28,633. After the meeting, Chief Mitchell headed back to his office at the police station on Brunswick Street, arriving at around 4pm.
Mitchell then spoke with Deputy Police Chief John Wrin and Police Superintendent George “Ollie” Robertson. Wrin later said the three talked about promotions and recruiting in the police department. The meeting over, Mitchell stayed in his office, alone.
I have a photo of Chief Mitchell in the office from 1952, 16 years earlier, when the then-new police station was opened on Brunswick Street. Mitchell is just 36 years old. He is a thin man, with short, closely cropped hair, and despite his relative youth, a receding hairline forms a widow’s peak. To my eye, he’s a dead ringer for Lyle Lovett, the musician and actor. Mitchell is wearing his crisply ironed chief’s uniform — black coat over a white shirt, a black tie. He’s seated at an oak desk protected by a glass pad, fiddling with an intercom, which sits next to a telephone. The photo was no doubt taken for promotional purposes. It seems staged, too orderly for a working office.
Sixteen years later, at 6pm on October 22, 1968, there was no order, no staging, as Mitchell sat at the same desk, pulled out his service revolver, placed the barrel against his head, and pulled the trigger.
Besides being a super-important story, this work stretches me journalistically in ways that excite me, and honestly, not much about work has excited me these past four years.
Four years? Well, as I wrote in the sneak preview, I’ve been researching this story off and on since 2019, as time allows, and it now comes time to give it more attention:
What I need is time, and time means money — money for the Halifax Examiner to carry the day-to-day reporting load without me doing as much of it. Money to hire a freelancer to cover some of the morning posts I write. Money to hire a part-time researcher to help with the Original Sin series.
Making the Original Sin series a reality — both a reported series on the website and a podcast series — requires 400 new subscribers to the Halifax Examiner. If you’d like to see that happen, please subscribe, and ask your friends and colleagues to subscribe.
It’s not easy for me to ask for financial support. But when I do, I try to be as transparent as possible about our finances.
So once again, as I do every year, I am publishing the top level of the Halifax Examiner’s latest tax return, for 2022. So far as I know, no other media outlet in Canada does this; certainly no other media outlet in Nova Scotia does. I believe this is a matter of trust — if you give us money, you should know where your money is going. So, here are our financials, as downloaded from the Examiner’s CRA account:
As you can see, last year we took in about $350,000 in revenue from sales, which includes both subscriptions and donations. (The “donations” line in the tax return is the small amount the company has given to charity.) Besides the tax rebate discussed below, we had no other source of revenue — no advertising, no grants. We rely entirely on readers’ support.
Our biggest expense was worker pay — $277,880 for employees, with another $102,809 for freelancers (“Sub-contracts”).
Last year, we lost money; we were in the red to the tune of $48,484, but that was counteracted by the Canadian journalism labour tax credit (colloquially, the federal subsidy to qualifying journalism organizations) of $38,355. The balance of about $10,000 was covered mostly by zero-interest loans to the company from myself, although we carried much of the deficit over with debt, owed mostly to our lawyer. We’ve since paid off that debt to the lawyer, but we’ve recently racked up yet more legal fees related to my work on the Randy Riley trial. So it goes.
Right now, I get paid at an annual rate of $45,000. I have some, but limited, sources of non-Examiner income, and frankly, with my loans to the Examiner I am about tapped out. By the end of the year, my salary needs to increase to $50,000. But even then, I will be the lowest paid full-time employee, although part-timers and freelancers are paid less.
All of which is to say that the Halifax Examiner is a shoestring operation: Money in from subscribers, money out for reporting, publish.
We’re not paying dividends to far-flung investors. (I’m the only shareholder, and I don’t take a dividend payment.) We’re not part of any hedge fund’s portfolio. There are no executives pulling in six-figure salaries, no middle managers cluttering up the non-existent hallways. I don’t know what Mark Lever and Sarah Dennis get paid over at SaltWire, but I’m guessing their salaries alone are larger than the Halifax Examiner’s entire budget.
And yet even on the Examiner’s shoestring budget, we produce great and important journalism. Over the course of the next month, we’ll be highlighting some of our past work, showing you what we’ve done with subscribers’ money over the last nine years.
And with enough new subscribers, in the future we’ll be able to produce the Original Sin series.
If you support this work, if you want to us to continue to produce great journalism, and if you want to see Original Sin become a reality, please support us with your subscription.
Thanks so much!
1. The (in)eloquence of lawyers
Jennifer Henderson reports:
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has submitted a report asking the Department of Justice to hire 44 more lawyers.
Justice Minister Brad Johns told reporters he hasn’t yet read that report but justice department staff are analyzing the request and there will be more money next March to hire more people.
During question period Tuesday, Liberal Leader Zach Churchill noted that so far in 2023, nearly double the number of people accused of serious crimes — including sexual assaults and murder — were allowed to walk away from those accusations. Most are free as a result of trial delays.
The statistics came from the Public Prosecution Service. A 2016 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Jordan case means provincial court trials must be held within 18 months of being charged and within 30 months in Nova Supreme Court.
The Jordan rule led to 15 accused watching their charges evaporate during the first seven months of this year.
In August, Rick Woodburn, a veteran Crown prosecutor who is also president of the Canadian Crown Counsel Association, told CBC News the Public Prosecution Service in this province was facing a “historic lack of resources” at a time when there has been an uptick in violent crimes.
PPS spokesperson Chris Hansen said Nova Scotia prosecutors were responsible for handling approximately 80,000 criminal code offences.
While the Public Prosecution Service is responsible for hiring the lawyers who bring those charged with crimes to court, it’s the provincial government that decides how much money it will spend to hire Crown prosecutors to do that job.
The justice department added seven positions for prosecutors in the 2023-24 budget but there are still five vacant positions — partly as a result of 20 lawyers having left the service.
Until August, the province was also short two judges who could conduct trials. It took two years but the Houston government has now appointed a full complement of judges to the provincial court.
On Tuesday, Churchill blamed the government’s “inattention” and failure to adequately staff the justice system for putting more Nova Scotians in danger. Here’s part of his exchange with the premier during question period:
Churchill: Here is what’s happening: we have a 30% increase in the backlog of murder cases and a 100% increase in the backlog of sexual assault cases. The outcome of this is these cases being tossed and violent criminals are walking the streets free to re-offend.
Premier Tim Houston: I categorically reject the member’s statements. We are doing what we can to support our justice system. Of course, the member will know the justice system is separate — it’s not for politicians to dabble in the justice system. The courts will schedule the cases that come before them; as government what we will do is make sure there is a full complement of judges, which there is, we have appointed eight in two years… we have added 13 full-time equivalent (FTEs) for the prosecution service.
Houston described Churchill’s comments as “fear mongering.”
During question period, Iain Rankin, the Liberal MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, stated that New Brunswick is currently in the process of hiring 30 new people for its Public Prosecution Service.
New Brunswick’s needs probably aren’t much different from Nova Scotia’s, Rankin suggested, although the population in Nova Scotia is greater so more staff are probably required here.
Following question period, reporters asked Johns what timelines for trials and the backlog of cases might look like if the government waits until next April to hire more prosecutors.
Johns said COVID had contributed to the growth in the number of accused waiting for trial but progress has been made and today’s backlog is now 125 people fewer than it was in January. Cold comfort to over-worked prosecutors and the 1,398 people whose cases are tracking above the 18- or 30-month threshold established by the Jordan ruling. These are cases are in jeopardy of being thrown out because of delays — not necessarily but quite possibly due to a shortage of Crown prosecutors.
“You have recurring offenders who aren’t even getting to court and being prosecuted and that’s a big problem,” said Churchill. “Nova Scotia is falling behind in its ability to prosecute the most dangerous criminals.”
Tim Bousquet comments:
It’s impossible to read the Public Prosecution Service’s pleas for more resources without recalling that millions of dollars were just spent on the unsuccessful and fatally flawed — because he was innocent — prosecution of Randy Riley.
That the Crown prioritized its case against Riley despite it resting on two very problematic witnesses speaks to poor decision-making, to put it mildly. And as a result, the in-trial testimony of Kaitlin Fuller will almost certainly lead to an appeal from Nathan Johnson, who was convicted of the same murder — Fuller admitted on the stand that she lied when she testified against Johnson — which will likely lead to yet another retrial costing millions of dollars more.
We have no idea about the guilt or innocence of those charged with crimes and awaiting trial. That’s why we have trials. But with limited resources, the Crown must make some decisions about what cases they have the best case for, and drop the ones that aren’t likely to lead to conviction. That’s a good thing.
The Crown has demonstrated that it had terrible discernment about moving forward with the Riley case. It took the jury just three and a half hours — enough time to arrange the chairs in the deliberation room, order and eat lunch, and take a vote — to come back with a not guilty plea.
Why on Earth should we give the Crown even more resources to prosecute weak cases?
2. More seniors becoming homeless
Jennifer Henderson reports:
The New Democratic Party yesterday introduced a bill in the legislature that would provide an income supplement to seniors living below the poverty line.
A recent review of housing needs by the firm Turner Drake found that seniors in Nova Scotia are one of the fastest growing groups of homeless because they can’t afford to remain in their homes and there is no alternative or affordable housing where they can move.
About 5,000 people are currently waiting for public housing in the province. Here’s how NDP leader Claudia Chender outlined the problem yesterday during question period :
It’s increasingly common to see signs like the one outside the Tim Hortons in Bridgewater which read ‘senior couple, aged 74 and 71, living in van for five weeks. Need an apartment and help.’ That’s because seniors in Nova Scotia are facing the brunt of the rising cost of living. Nearly one in 10 live in poverty… the poverty rate among those folks remains two-thirds higher in Nova Scotia than the national average. Last week the premier said he is open to find better ways to support seniors. When will the premier do more?
Premier Tim Houston replied:
It’s an important question. We know the struggles Nova Scotians are facing and across the country and across North America. The cost of living crisis is causing people to suffer. Housing is a concern for us. We’re investing in housing; we’re investing in seniors. Of course there is more work to be done…We’ll continue to do that and we will look for innovative ways to do that.
Chender challenged Houston to follow the lead of other provinces that send cheques to top up seniors receiving Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement.
In B.C., the amount is $99 a month; in Ontario it’s $83; and about to increase, in Newfoundland it’s $505 a month.
Chender argues receiving a monthly cheque in the mail is a better way to tackle poverty than applying for the $750 senior’s grant introduced by the Houston government. The NDP leader says the top-up would require no application, no receipts, nor paperwork on the part of the senior.
The inclusion of the senior’s grant as a plank in the province’s recently announced housing plan also came under fire from Rafah DiCostanzo, the Liberal MLA for Clayton Park. DiCostanzo said the supplement should not be included in the government’s housing plan because it cannot be used to make rent or mortgage payments.
Seniors and Long-term Care Minister Barbara Adams defended the senior’s grant. Adams said the grant can be used to hire someone to make home repairs or provide services such as snow shovelling and grocery shopping and that in turn frees up money the senior can spend on housing costs. The grant was also updated to allow the cost of heating as an eligible expense.
An RCMP release from yesterday:
October 31, 2023, Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia… RCMP/HRP Integrated Criminal Investigation Division has arrested a man following an attempted abduction and hit and run in Cole Harbour.
Yesterday, at approximately 3:20 p.m. Halifax District RCMP, with assistance from Halifax Regional Police, responded to a hit and run on Shrewsbury Rd. in Cole Harbour. RCMP officers learned that a Good Samaritan was rendering assistance to a woman that was being held against her will in a Mercedes. The vehicle was located at a nearby residence and was occupied by a man known to the victim.
While the Good Samaritan intervened, they were knocked to the ground along with the woman that was being held against her will. The man then proceeded to intentionally strike the woman with the vehicle before fleeing the scene.
Two off-duty police officers, located at a nearby residence, ran to the scene and provided first aid to both women. The victim, a 30-year-old Dartmouth woman, suffered life threatening injuries and the Good Samaritan suffered non-life-threatening injuries. They were both transported to hospital by EHS.
At approximately 4 p.m., the Nova Scotia RCMP issued posts on social media advising the public to be on the lookout for a Mercedes C300 bearing a Nova Scotia licence plate GVM350. A dangerous person emergency alert followed, at approximately 5:45 p.m., with the name, a photo and descriptors of the man involved. The public was advised not to approach the vehicle and to call 9-1-1 if seen.
At approximately 6 p.m., RCMP officers safely arrested the 33-year-old Cole Harbour man who was on foot near Hwy. 7 and Lake Major Rd. in Westphal.
A collision reconstructionist attended the scene. Shrewsbury Rd. was closed several hours but has since reopened.
The 30-year-old Dartmouth woman later succumbed to her injuries. Our thoughts are with the victim’s family, loved ones and community, at this difficult time.
The vehicle has since been located. The investigation continues and is led by Homicide Investigations in the Special Investigations Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigation Division and is being assisted by the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service, RCMP Forensic Identification Services and Halifax District RCMP.
The 33-year-old Cole Harbour man, was held in custody and will appear in Dartmouth Provincial Court tomorrow to face charges that include First Degree Murder, Assault with a Weapon, and Failure to Comply with a Release Order (four counts).
The CBC names the deceased woman as Hollie Marie Boland of Dartmouth, and the man as Aaron Daniel Crawley, who has a Shrewsbury Road address. According to the CBC, Crawley was on bail on two previous domestic assault charges involving Boland.
This item is written by Yvette d’Entremont.
A new report says the number of immigrants leaving Canada is at a 20-year high, and more must be done to encourage them to stay.
“We do not know if subsequent years will bring a return to the status quo, or if this recent spike in onward migration heralds a new era in which Canada struggles to retain immigrants,” notes the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) report. “For this reason, the phenomenon merits attention by researchers and policy-makers alike.”
Released Tuesday, the report, titled The Leaky Bucket: A Study of Immigrant Retention Trends in Canada, was produced for the ICC by the Conference Board of Canada. While onward migration has slowly risen over the decades, the most recent available data shows a surge in 2017 and 2019. The report found it reached levels 31% higher than the historical average.
“Immigrating to Canada has never been easy, there have always been challenges but this study points to burgeoning disillusionment,” Daniel Bernhard, the ICC’s CEO, said in a media release.
“After giving Canada a try, growing numbers of immigrants are saying ‘no thanks’, and are moving on. That’s not just a problem for immigrants. That’s a problem for everyone.”
The report found that immigrants are most likely to leave Canada between years four and seven of arriving in the country. The authors suggest positive early experiences may be key to keeping them in Canada and reversing the onward migration spike.
“Increasingly, newspaper articles highlight stories of immigrants who are reconsidering their decision to move to Canada,” the report said.
“And a recent study released by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship found that the proportion of permanent residents who take up Canadian citizenship within 10 years of arrival dropped by a staggering 40 per cent between 2001 and 2021.”
The report’s authors said its intention was to analyze onward migration trends among immigrants to Canada and to learn more about what it means. The authors wrote that there is “good reason” to be worried about retention of immigrants. Like all Canadians, they’re experiencing the challenges of unaffordable housing, a lack of critical services, and strained infrastructure capacity.
Tim Bousquet comments:
Yes, that’s me in that photo of immigrants being sworn in as citizens. That was in 2014, 10 years after moving to Canada — it took that long to go through the process of getting landed and going through the citizenship paperwork. Much of the delay was with obtaining the U.S. FBI criminal clearance, so not the fault of Canadian immigration officials, but aside from that, the process was a slog, even though my caseworker told me I was an “easy” case — with a supportive family and an unambiguously documented history from a developed country.
As well, I’m white and English is my first (and only) language. I could hit the ground running.
I can imagine how difficult it must be for those in more difficult and urgent situations.
Special Meeting – Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Public Information Meeting – Case 2023-00368, Evening 1 (Wednesday, 7pm, Sackville High School) — application to request substantive amendments to an existing development agreement for lands at 70 First Lake Drive, Sackville
Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Women’s Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda
Public Information Meeting – Case 2023-00368, Evening 2 (Thursday, 7pm, Sackville High School) — application to request substantive amendments to an existing development agreement for lands at 70 First Lake Drive, Sackville
Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Wednesday, 9am, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — findings of seven Master of Architecture students who traveled around the world to do thesis-related studies; presentations at 5pm
Creative Music Ensemble Noon Hour (Wednesday, 11:45am, Joseph Strug Concert Hall) — selections from students’ repertoire
Chamber Music Residency Open Rehearsal/Career Discussion (Wednesday, 5:30pm, Room 111, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — with Peter Allen, piano, Mary-Elizabeth Brown, violin, Elizabeth Upson Perez, viola, and Shimon Walt, cello; more info here
Rossetti-Watson Travel Scholarship Exhibition (Thursday, 9am, Exhibition Room, School of Architecture) — findings of seven Master of Architecture students who traveled around the world to do thesis-related studies
Sciographies season five (Thursday, 5:30pm, online) — final episode of podcast featuring the research of Dalhousie scientists
Artists’ talks (Wednesday, 12pm, Anna Leonowens Gallery) — with Gavin Snow, Tabatha Cass, and Fraya McDougall; more info here
In the harbour
04:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from St. John’s
05:00: NYK Delphinus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John (itinerary)
15:30: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk (itinerary)
16:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
16:00: Pag, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Philadelphia
19:00: GPO Grace, heavy lifter, arrives at anchorage from Rostock, Germany
20:30: Pag sails for sea
22:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
22:30: Franbo Lohas, cargo ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Duqm, Oman
We’re going to have a subscribers party this year, the first since the pandemic. Details to come, but we need a hook, a band, or speaker or some such. Any ideas are welcome.