1. Sarah Rose Denny
This item is disturbing.
“Sarah Rose Denny’s mother, father, and sons are suing the provincial government, alleging provincial staff wrote off the symptoms of her worsening pneumonia, including coughing up blood, as alcohol withdrawal,” reports Zane Woodford:
As the Halifax Examiner reported in March, 36-year-old Denny died in the hospital after becoming seriously ill in provincial custody. She had been incarcerated at the Central Nova Scotia Correction Facility, the jail in Burnside. Denny’s friend and relative told the Examiner she died of double pneumonia.
Woodford relays the allegations contained in the lawsuit, as presented by lawyer Emma Halpern. The allegations have not been tested in court, and the province has yet to file a defence:
Police arrested Denny at her home in Eskasoni on March 19, Halpern wrote. Her mother notified one of the RCMP officers that Denny wasn’t feeling well. She said Denny might have COVID-19, and needed to see a doctor.
The RCMP took Denny to the Cape Breton Regional Correctional Facility. On March 21 she went to court in Sydney, where she pleaded guilty to breach of probation. The province then took Denny to Burnside.
“During the time Sarah was incarcerated at the Facility, she repeatedly informed the employees of the Facility that she was ill and requested to see a physician,” Halpern wrote.
“Her illness worsened and over the next few days Sarah experienced swelling of the hands and feet, severe back pain, and she was limping. While under the care of the Defendants, Sarah stopped eating, and could not gather the energy needed to stand up or leave her cell. She also lost feeling in her legs completely. Sarah and another woman incarcerated at the Facility made multiple requests for Sarah to see a doctor, but Sarah was never assessed or treated by healthcare.”
Halpern wrote that Denny reported her symptoms to a Nova Scotia Health nurse at the jail.
“The nurse told Sarah she believed Sarah was in withdrawal from alcohol and ignored her other symptoms,” Halpern wrote.
“Sarah’s symptoms got progressively worse, and she could not eat or drink on her own. A woman incarcerated in the cell next to Sarah’s made multiple requests for medical attention on her behalf, to no avail.”‘
Denny started coughing up blood. Another Nova Scotia Health employee “determined Sarah was in alcohol withdrawal and made no further assessments or referrals.”
“The woman in the adjacent cell cleaned the blood from Sarah’s face as Sarah could not do it herself. The next day, Sarah continued to cough up blood,” Halpern wrote.
“On or about March 26, 2023, a Captain visited the unit where Sarah was incarcerated in the Facility. The woman in the cell next to Sarah’s called for the Captain to attend to Sarah. The Captain called an ambulance to take Sarah to Dartmouth General Hospital, but it was too late. Sarah died in the hospital the evening of March 26, 2023.”
Two RCMP officers showed up at Katherine Denny’s house that day to tell her that her daughter was dead. The next day, Katherine heard from the medical examiner.
“The Medical Examiner found the cause of death was severe lung infections in both lungs, also known as double pneumonia,” Halpern wrote.
Denny was the second Mi’kmaw prisoner to die in a provincial facility in 2023. Peter Paul, 27, died in the Cape Breton Correctional Facility in January.
To recap: Sarah, a Mi’kmaw woman, was jailed on a minor charge. As alleged, at the time of her arrest, officials were told she was sick. Her illness progressively got worse, to the point of spitting up blood that a kind-hearted fellow prisoner had to wipe off Sarah. Repeatedly, Sarah and the kind-hearted woman requested a doctor, but a nurse said Sarah was merely suffering from alcohol withdrawal. Only when a jail captain visited Sarah was an ambulance called, and then she died from pneumonia.
I italicized merely in the paragraph above because even if Sarah was suffering from alcohol withdrawal, that too could have killed her, and it should not have been medically ignored. People die all the time from alcohol withdrawal; here is an article about the risks of severe alcohol withdrawal and how to treat it medically.
It’s beyond irresponsible to think someone vomiting up blood five, six days after admission is suffering from alcohol withdrawal and not immediately get them medical care. Had that care been provided to Sarah, the true cause of her illness — pneumonia — would have been discovered, and almost certainly successfully treated.
Sarah would be alive today.
I became increasingly angry as I read Woodford’s article, in part because, for an unrelated story I’m working on, I’ve been researching the old Halifax County Jail. This one:
The jail research is tangential to the main subject of my story, but I’ve become so terribly fascinated by the jail that it’s becoming a story of its own.
The jail was built in the 1860s. It was behind the courthouse on Spring Garden Road, next to The Old Burying Ground. The jail served as the county lockup until 1967, when it was finally torn down and replaced with a “modern” facility in Sackville; the Sackville jail operated until 2001, when it was replaced with the current jail in Burnside. (There were additionally a city prison and a farm for prisoners, but I’ll get into all that history at a later time; this is about the old County Jail.)
The jail was a hellhole. It was cold, leaky, dark, and vermin-infested. In the period I’m concentrating on, 1910-1950, it was usually overcrowded, with prisoners double-bunking in the single-person cells, and the overflow sleeping on the wooden floors in the corridors. Prisoners were given a straw sack as a mattress, which was taken away as punishment for bad behaviour. There was one filthy toilet on each of the four wings of the jail, but the plumbing was constantly breaking. Until around 1935, prisoners weren’t even given an hour of time daily in the yard.
All manner of people were locked up in the jail — completely innocent people on remand, awaiting trial; children charged with their first offence; people sentenced to terms that could be as long as two years (or even longer in one case I’ll describe at a later time); debtors (there’s a mistaken belief that imprisonment for debt was done away with in the 19th century; that not true — in Nova Scotia, people were jailed for debts into the 1960s); stowaways on ships; deserters in time of war; mentally unwell people jailed for being unable to care for themselves; people convicted of minor charges like breaking and entering and social crimes like sex work and gambling; and hardened criminals, including murderers. One of the four corridors was reserved for women, but otherwise all the folk interacted with each other.
Also: drunks. A lot of drunks. In some years, the majority of people locked up in the jail were people serving short sentences, usually less than a week, for being drunk. The jailor once described the situation like this: “As it is, they [the drunks] are brought to the Jail up to 9.00 P.M. in their drunken condition, shouting and screaming half the night. It is not fair to the Inmates confined there.”
These drunk people mostly came from the poorer sections of town. They were generally malnourished and had lived rough lives. And the liquor they drank was bad; this was long before our age of well-regulated spirits. They were drinking rot-gut, and worse.
So when jailed, they were in terrible condition. Many were vomiting through the night. Some had delirium tremens. But here’s the thing: not one of them died in the jail.*
That’s because there was a jail physician. For much of the period I’m looking at, the jail physician was William Duff Forrest, who was also the County Health Officer, and who had a private practice in Armdale. Forrest would attend to all sick prisoners, treating most right there in the jail, but sending the worst to the Victoria General Hospital.
These weren’t ideal conditions. There wasn’t even a proper examining room in the jail; rather, Forrest would lie the prisoners down on a cleared desk in the jailor’s office, no sheets or other sanitation. Still, he provided something like basic medical care.
In several of his written reports, Forrest speaks of prisoners suffering from injuries that I can only understand of having occurred at the hands of the police during arrest, but he doesn’t explain.
Forrest does, however, speak often about the usual types of medical attention he provided. What he wrote in his report on the year 1931 is typical:
The health of the prisoners confined in this institution during the past year has on the whole been good. Minor ailments and injuries, usually incurred before admission, have received my attention. When one considers that seven hundred prisoners, including debtors, have passed through this jail during the past year it is remarkable that the incidence of disease was not greater. The inmates of this institution are collected from the worst environments in the city. They belong for the most part to what is usually referred to as the ‘submerged truth.’
Specific to drunks, the jailer had a boilerplate report he issued year after year, this one from 1912:
The sanitary condition of the Jail and its inmates have been generally good, and little sickness, although we had about our usual number of delirium tremens cases and unsound mind. All of which were attentively looked after by the attending Physician and Jail Officials.
So a century ago, we had a hellhole jail filled with thousands of people drunk from crappy liquor but not one of them died in jail because they received the bare basics of medical care while in custody. Fast forward to the present, however, and Sarah Denny died allegedly because a nurse made a diagnosis of alcohol withdrawal based not on medical investigation but rather on a presumption, but even then Sarah wasn’t treated medically.
And a hundred years ago, the practice of jailing the various sorts of people all together was criticized widely — by grand juries, judges, county councillors, newspaper columnists, preachers, and the Forrest, the jail physician. In 1930, Forrest complained:
Criminals, debtors, sick and well, are all herded together. The youth, who is here for the first time, has to associate with the hardened criminals. The poor unfortunate whose only crime is that he cannot pay his bills, finds himself locked up with and having to associate with the vilest of criminals. Innocent men—men whom the courts later find to be innocent, frequently find themselves thrown into this company and are not infrequently obliged to remain there for weeks or months awaiting trial.
Today, children are no longer housed in jail, nor are debtors, at least not directly. But all the rest is true, with the addition of people on simple immigration holds.
Over the course of a century, there have been very minor advances towards segregating prisoners, but unlike 100 years ago, now people in jail are dying from completely treatable illnesses.
“Bracing for what’s shaping up to be an active hurricane season, the province has announced the launch of a provincial public awareness campaign,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:
“I want to take this opportunity to let Nova Scotians know that we are aware,” John Lohr, Minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, told reporters during a hurricane preparedness media briefing Thursday.
During Thursday afternoon’s briefing, Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Bob Robichaud shared that so far this season, there have been nine named storms, one hurricane, and no major hurricane as of yet. On average, by now there would be five named storms, two hurricanes, and one major hurricane.
A recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) update for the 2023 hurricane season predicted 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and two to five major hurricanes.
Relatedly, “a flood and rainstorm event that hit Nova Scotia in July is estimated to have caused over $170 million in insured damage, according to initial estimates from Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ),” reports Alyssa DiSabatino for Canadian Underwriter:
The industry would’ve seen insured losses in excess of CatIQ’s estimated $170 million were it not for the lack of overland flood coverage, which left residents underinsured, the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said.
“The availability of overland flood insurance remains limited in high-risk flood-prone areas, and sadly, many of the properties damaged or destroyed by this event will be uninsured,” Craig Stewart, IBC’s vice president of climate change and federal issues, said at the time. “The reality is the total losses for this event will be significantly higher than the insured losses, largely due to the number of uninsured properties, as well as damage to public infrastructure.”
“Tuesday evening, EverWinds hosted an ‘open house’ in the Earltown Community Centre on Highway 311 halfway between Truro and Tatamagouche, to showcase its proposed 98-megawatt Kmtnuk wind farm with ‘up to 20 turbines‘ proposed for Colchester County,” reports Joan Baxter:
For all the posters and project representatives present at the Earltown open house, precise details and answers about the Kmtnuk wind project and other massive new wind farms EverWind is planning for Nova Scotia were remarkably scarce.
Oscar Urbina of Renewable Energy Systems told the Examiner the Kmtnuk project will have a maximum of 20 turbines but that the tendering is ongoing, so the exact details are not yet known…
Nor was Urbina able to say whether any of that land was former Scott Paper land, now owned by the U.S. company Wagner Forest Management’s Nova Scotia subsidiary Atlantic Star, or land owned by Northern Pulp. Northern Pulp owns a very large parcel of land in the area that it purchased with a $75 million loan from the province in 2010, which is currently not being repaid while the company is in creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court.
Urbina said only that the wind project will be “mostly on Crown land” it will lease from the province.
However, the Kmtnuk website says private land leases for the project have “already been secured.”
Lovelace said she was there to speak “freely,” and not as a member of the Peggy’s Cove Commission, having resigned her seat in May. At the time, she told Zane Woodford of the Examiner that the commission “is intentionally designed by the province in a way that creates conflict in this small community.” She echoed those remarks Wednesday night, saying to scattered applause that the LUB process had been “very contentious and strenuous on the community.”
The LUB’s preamble says its intent is, in part, “to ensure Peggy’s Cove is a world-class fishing village.”
There was considerable debate about a hot dog stand, which is a source of income for its owner, Claire Paruch, but which has suddenly disappeared as an allowable use in the village.
The fine distinctions of what does and does not qualify as ‘world-class’-worthy was not lost on Tobias Beale:
Buskers are not mentioned in the LUB or included in the definition of vendors, but two people urged the commission to consider banning busking. One of them was musician and retired music teacher Tobias Beale. In what was presumably a dig at bagpiping in the Cove, he said, “The way I see it, it’s OK if I show up in my kilt with my saxophone, and I’m going to do this, I’m going to play [the theme song from] the Flintstones. I’m going to play it over and over, because I like that. I’m going to stay all day, and I’m going to keep coming back every day, to play that. Now I know [Peggy’s Cove resident] Wayne Manuel is going to come up and stuff something down the bell of my saxophone because he can’t stand the racket, and he’s not alone. Anytime you have that kind of brash noise in the community, whether it’s coming from a busker or a vendor or people doing cash only sales… it really takes us all down a notch.”
5. Mobile transit app delayed again
“More than a year after council awarded the contract, Halifax Transit still doesn’t know when its long-promised mobile ticketing application will be online,” reports Zane Woodford:
Halifax regional council approved a plan for mobile ticketing in 2020, giving up on a previous plan to start using bill-sized tickets.
In July 2022, it approved a $1.5-million contract with Masabi, a U.K.-based company, “for a mobile fare payment application and onboard validators” and five years of technical support. The app will allow transit users to display a ticket on their phone the way they display a transfer or monthly pass now. (Halifax Transit will continue to accept cash and sell paper tickets and monthly passes.)
Marc Santilli, manager of technical services, told councillors it could be four months before the app is up and running.
6. Lawsuit over Bridge Terminal death
“A widow is alleging the Halifax Transit bus driver who struck and killed her common-law partner at the Bridge Terminal last year was careless and negligent,” reports Zane Woodford:
Lawyer Janus Siebrits, on behalf of Janice Gibson, filed notice of action against the municipality in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday. The municipality has not filed a statement of defence, and Gibson’s claims have not been tested in court.
Gibson was the common-law partner of 67-year-old Edward Creelman, who died on Oct. 29, 2022. In a news release that night, police said a 67-year-old man “succumbed to his injuries after contact was made with a Metro Transit bus in motion.”
In a statement of claim, Siebrits wrote that Creelman was waiting for a bus at the Bridge Terminal “when he was struck by the bus.”
I happened upon the scene about 45 minutes after the incident, and Creelman’s body was still in the roadway, covered by a tarp. It was quite disturbing.
I didn’t witness the collision, but I couldn’t understand how Creelman’s body ended up where it did, and I still can’t understand it. It makes no sense to me.
7. Asshole preacher sues cops
“A street preacher is suing Halifax Regional Police, seeking $1.2 million in damages for allegedly violating his Charter rights,” reports Zane Woodford:
Sean Bonitto filed notice of action against the police in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday. None of Bonitto’s claims have been tested in court, and the police have yet to file a defence.
In an attached statement of claim, Bonitto identified himself as a “Born Again Bible believing Christian, a Christian Pastor, and Evangelist” with no criminal record.
“Mr. Bonitto was street preaching in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia on Gottigen [sic] St, close to the side walk, near the left front side of the North End Public Library on
Thursday, June 22, 2023 at around 2:00 pm,” he wrote in the attached statement of claim.
People complained, and the police showed up.
“Officers Myra Mcnaughton, and Hayden Martell who arrived first, and later officer Micheal Cheeseman arrived at the scene and arrested Mr. Bonitto, hand cuffed him outside in the presence of a crowd on Gottingen St, close to the front of the North End Public Library, without incident, and charged Him with Inciting Hatred, and Causing a Disturbance,” he wrote.
Bonitto showed up in a gay-friendly neighbourhood and used an amplifier to hurl homophobic insults at gay and other 2SLGBTQ+ people. Frankly, I’m surprised there wasn’t some street justice applied before the police were called; that there wasn’t speaks to the relative restraint of the neighbourhood.
Yeah, sure, free speech. Bonitto is free to say whatever he wants, and I’m free to call him an asshole.
Kids, whatever Christianity once purported to be, it’s now the proud and welcoming home for terrible people. Reject that shit, call out the practitioners.
8. Halifax cop shoots man
As we go to publish, Zane Woodford is reporting on cop shooting someone last night:
The province’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) is investigating after Halifax Regional Police shot a man Thursday night.
In a news release just after midnight Friday, police said they’d “referred an incident involving discharge of a service weapon” to SIRT.
The shooting happened at about 10:15pm outside Clayton Park Junior High School on Plateau Crescent. Police said they were looking for a man after “an aggravated assault involving a stabbing that had occurred earlier in the evening.”
“As officers approached the man, he pointed a firearm towards the officer, following which the officer discharged their service weapon,” police said
Lisa Slaunwhite lives in an apartment building next door, and told the Halifax Examiner she heard someone swearing at someone else, and then five gunshots.
“I heard, ‘You stupid fucker, get the fuck out of here. You fuckin’ fucker, you’re gonna get it. Fuck off,’ and boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” Slaunwhite said.
In the harbour
00:30: Acadian, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for Bucksport, Maine
05:30: One Apus, container ship (146694 tonnes),, arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk, Virginia
15:00: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, sails from Cherubini Dock for sea
15:00: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
15:30: Oberon, car carrier, moves from Autoport to Pier 9
16:00: Valeria, bulker, arrives at Berth TBD from Providence, Rhode Island
16:00: X-Press Sagarmala, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Lisbon, Portugal
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Pier 41 for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Fairview Cove for St. John’s
20:30: Oberon sails for sea
Cruise ships this weekend
Saturday: Zaandam (up to 1,718 passengers)
Sunday: Oceania Insignia (up to 803 passengers)
* Five people were executed in the jail yard during the period I’m looking at, which is its own kind of horror, but this is different from those coming in and dying of minor diseases. As I say, I’ll have much more to say about the jail at some point in the future.
And the jail is not even the point of my story. It’s just an entry point into a much larger story that echoes right to the present day. Stay tuned.