1. Court

Photo: Halifax Examiner

This is an abbreviated Morning File because I have to be at the Supreme Court at 9am.

I’m going to court to join the CBC and the Canadian Press in their efforts to rescind the sealing order in the Glen Assoun case. That order was issued by Justice Chipman on October 23, 2014, as Assoun was applying to the Justice Department for intervention in his 1999 murder conviction. The order reads:

It is hereby ordered that:

  1. The testimonial, documentary and physical evidence on the hearing of the application of Glen Eugene Assoun for judicial interim release, as well as the representations of the parties and the reasons of the Court for its decision, shall not be published, broadcast, or transmitted in any way or form, until the conclusion of the Ministerial review and any judicial proceedings arising therefrom;
  2. All documents, filings, physical evidence and materials submitted for and on the said Application for judicial interim release shall be sealed from public view until the conclusion of the Ministerial review and any judicial proceedings arising therefrom;
  3. This Order shall remain in full force and effect unless varied by a court of the competent jurisdiction.

You can see the entire document here.

I’ve been extremely frustrated by the police department’s response to this order, and have been contesting the department’s interpretation since January 2015.

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

That’s when I first requested access to evidence that was used to convict Assoun in 1999. Among other evidence, I particularly wanted to view the videotaped testimony of Robin Hartrick, and reproduce it for readers.

In Canada, evidence presented before the court is public. Everyone has the right to see it. I maintain that Chipman’s 2014 order did not apply to evidence presented in court in 1999, but rather to evidence presented by Assoun in 2014 as part of his application for judicial interim release (that is, his court-ordered parole). The police department, which is in possession of the evidence used in 1999, sees it differently; the department says the 2014 order applies to all evidence in all of Assoun’s court proceedings.

Of course, now that Assoun has been exonerated, I want full access not just to the 1999 evidence but also to all the documents related to his exoneration — that is, all the stuff that was clearly covered by Chipman’s 2014 order, most notably the Justice Department’s investigation into the Assoun case, which led to the ministerial order for a new trial, which in effect exonerated him.

If all goes to plan, Chipman will today set a date of March 19 for a hearing to consider “Unsealing of Documents.”

This is silly and unneeded, in my opinion. I see the language of Chipman’s order as plain: “until the conclusion of the Ministerial review and any judicial proceedings arising therefrom” means exactly that. The Ministerial review is over and done with, and the judicial proceedings ended Friday at around 2pm. By terms of the sealing order itself, the “testimonial, documentary and physical evidence” is no longer sealed. Anyone who can read plain English can understand that. But here I am going to court to prove the point.

If allowed to speak today, I’m going to ask Chipman to affirm that his 2014 order says what it says it says, and leave it at that.

I’m getting the sense that the bureaucrats at the police department and the Justice Department are trying to delay release of these documents because they contain explosive information.

If the Examiner started a legal and investigative fund, is that something people would contribute to over and above the regular subscriptions?

2. We’ll get around to that climate emergency eventually

Remember when Halifax council declared a “climate emergency”? It was just six weeks ago. That unanimously approved motion acknowledged “the need to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2050.”

So we’re going to get serious about that emergency, right?

Not so fast. There are emergencies, and then there are emergencies. This is that kind of emergency we don’t have to get all excited about.

Consider a perfectly reasonable request to the city by a group of young people called the Youth Climate Action Program, which is sponsored by iMatter, “just another group of humans trying to save the world.” iMatter is advised by folks such as Bill Lahey, president of King’s College; environmental law prof Jamie Simpson; and Robin Tress, a climate justice activist and organizer. In other words a progressively oriented group, but by no means Earth First!ers.

Members of the Youth Climate Action Program in Halifax, left to right: Neria Atwine, Erin Appelbe, Lily Barraclough, Cameron Yetman

Anyway, the Youth Climate Action Program proposed to Halifax council’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee that the city get serious about meeting those greenhouse gas reduction goals. To that end, they asked the committee to pass the following resolution:

  1. To commit the municipality to complete a climate action plan for consideration that reduces Halifax’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2040 for corporate and community emissions.
  2. That Council ensure that there be adequate measures taken to support marginalized communities in adapting to climate change.
  3. That Council commits to start the climate action plan detailing the steps necessary to achieve net zero by 2040 within 90 days, and to complete as soon as possible.

This is reasonable. It’s even weak, in the context of the global emergency facing us.

But, says city staff, let’s not be getting crazy. In a staff report written by Shilo Gempton, an Energy and Environment planner at the city, and approved by Peter Duncan, a mucky muck who is a manager of something or another, staff say the city already has a bureaucratic machine in motion to address climate change, something called the Community Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP), which was started last year:

The values of the CECAP initiative to embrace an inclusive stakeholder process with achievable targets, goals and strategies for climate change is critical and must be respected for a collaborative, community based problem-solving outcome. Guidance for stakeholder engagement in community energy planning can be found from the Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership in their document A Primer on Stakeholder Engagement in Community Energy Planning. The document identifies that stakeholder engagement should be a process where stakeholders “are consulted and involved in the development of actionable agendas and implementation plans” which includes two broad objectives to empower stakeholders through buy-in and participation in the planning process as well as mutual capacity building through the exchange of knowledge and sharing of resources.

Predetermined mitigation targets set without engagement or consultation may pose a risk to the CECAP project development and outcomes, as it could be perceived that the process is not an authentic, genuine, inclusive, community-based approach. As a result, the project could become compromised if stakeholders withdraw from a process with a pre-determined outcome, thereby reducing the importance and validity of their inputs, capacity, and resources.

The specific target of net zero by 2040 cannot be recommended for adoption as it circumvents the ongoing stakeholder engagement and climate modelling work.

I’m thinking about war planners sitting around in the map room, talking about defeating the Nazis. “Well, if we say we’re actually going to defeat the Nazis, some of our allies might bail. Let’s just say the Nazis are ninnies, and leave it at that for now, and then maybe after everyone agrees the Nazis are ninnies, we can propose that we do something about them.”

If I were 30 years younger, I think I’d be burning shit down.

3. More articles

As I say, an abbreviated Morning File. I probably should have gotten a guest writer.

But I have two articles to be processed and published today, one written by Linda Pannozzo and one written by Joan Baxter. Both relate to the Northern Pulp mill. I’ll get to them when I can.


1. Real Fake Wood Grain

Stephen Archibald has a delightful photo essay about what he calls “real fake wood grain“:

Do you have feelings about fake wood grain finishes? For many of us, who came of age in the 60s and 70s, it was synonymous with cheap, artificial, and unattractive, because we were surrounded by wood grained crap. Sheets of wood grain paneling covered the walls of innumerable rec rooms, and vinyl siding with embossed wood patterns clad whole neighbourhoods. Kitchens were filled with wood grain covered appliances, such as this 1970s electric oven.

My sense is that fake wood grain has become less ubiquitous (or less offensive) over the decades, so I was fascinated to notice that a couple of new buildings, I admire, had sipped the wood grain Kool-Aid.

This got me thinking about the fake wood I really do love, the hand painted wood grain that was super popular throughout the 19th century for interior wood work.

Archibald goes into great detail about, well, detail, with lots of photos of examples. Go to the link to see for yourself, but my favourite is this:

My sense is that painted grain was incredibly common, in the last half of the 19th century, on the interior woodwork of Nova Scotian homes and businesses. Much has been lost but it is still possible to get glimpses of old decorating schemes. The woodwork in the principle rooms in the Lawrence House Museum in Maitland were painted plain colours in the 1960s. But open the door to the attic stairs and there is a time capsule that shows how wild the house would have once looked:

Photo: Stephen Archibald

The risers on the stairs are painted red and black to suggest rosewood. The gold coloured woodwork is combed to simulate oak, and the treads of the stairs are marbleized. Delightful!

Photo: Stephen Archibald




Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — see #2 above.

Point Pleasant Park Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Halifax and West Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, City Hall) — agenda

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — agenda

Youth Programs Community Information Session – Dartmouth (Thursday, 6:30pm, Dartmouth North Community Centre) — Facebook event


No public meetings.



Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


Legislature sits (Friday, 9am, Province House)

On campus



Thesis Defence, Engineering Mathematics and Internetworking (Thursday, 10:30am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Danielle Dempsey will defend her thesis, “Explaining Changes in Fish Community Biomass using Pressure Indicators: Comparison of Data Analysis Methods and Regional Results.”

Thesis Defence, Economics (Thursday, 2:45pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Min Hu will defend his thesis, “Three Essays on Labour and Health Outcomes of Vulnerable Populations in Canada.”

Eating Wild in Eastern Canada and Other Tales of Environmental Law (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Auditorium, Marion McCain Building) — author, teacher, and environmental lawyer Jamie Simpson will talk about his latest book.

Oisín Curran (Thursday, 7pm, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, 1113 Marginal Road) — winner of the 2018 Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award for Blood Fable.

Maine, 1980. A utopian community is on the verge of collapse. The charismatic leader’s authority teeters as his followers come to realize they’ve been exploited for too long. To make matters worse, the eleven-year-old son of one adherent learns that his mother has cancer.

Taking refuge in his imagination, the boy begins to speak of another time and place. His parents believe he is remembering his own life before birth. This memory, a story within the story of Blood Fable, is an epic tale about the search for a lost city refracted through the lens of the adventures the boy loves to read. But strangely, as the world around them falls apart, he and his parents find that his story seems to foretell the events unfolding in their present lives.​


Zeynep Ozkok

The Economic Impact of Immigrants: What do Europeans really think? (Friday, 10am, Room 1009, Rowe Management Building) — Zeynep Ozkok from St. Francis Xavier University will speak.

Ethics and Epistemology in the Digital Revolution (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1130, Marion McCain Building) — Maggie Little from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University will speak.

YouTube video

The Girls of Meru (Friday, 7pm, Halifax Central Library) — screening and Q&A with filmmaker Andrea Dorfman. Donations accepted after event for The Equality Effect’s 160 Girls Project.  Register here.

From Bach to Blues, Dalhousie Guitar Ensemble (Friday, 7:30pm, The Music Room, 6181 Lady Hammond Road) — featuring solo performances, duos, trios, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6, and some new arrangements by Scott MacMillan. $15

Roberta Barker. Photo:

“There’s Dicke Robinson”: Reconstructing the Life and Repertoire of an Early Modern English Boy Actress (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Roberta Barker will talk.



Shalan Joudry. Photo:

Shalan Joudry (Friday, 7:30pm, President’s Lodge) — from the listing:

An evening of readings and sharing with Mi’kmaw writer, performance artist, and storyteller Shalan Joudry. The author of Generations Re-merging (Gaspereau Press, 2014) and Elapultiek (a new play premiered by Two Planks and a Passion in 2018), Shalan Joudry is also the producer and co-host of the exciting new podcast, “Trails, Tales, and Spruce Tea”.

In the harbour

05:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: Viking Queen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
05:30: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
06:00: AlgoNorth, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
07:00: Skogafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:00: Skogafoss sails for Portland
15:30: Viking Queen sails for sea
15:30: Crete I, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
16:00:YM Express, container ship, sails for Rotterdam
16:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York


I’m off to court.

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  1. Legal and investigative fund: Yes, I would contribute.

    Climate crisis: For anyone that has the time, we can support our youth by turning out at the Friday Climate Strike on March 15 – it’s their strike, but we can stand behind them. (12:30 at the Town Clock apparently)

  2. The climate crisis is kinda like snow clearing – an externality that is pawned off on someone else.

    For snow clearing it’s the emergency department at the hospital for the broken bones and for the climate crisis it is future generations for the horrific ramifications.

    That’s leadership, that’s BOLD!!!!

  3. I would hold my nose and contribute to the legal fund. I would need to hold my nose because having to take legal action to secure what should be available stinks to high heaven.

  4. I am older than sin and I vote. If council does not have the good sense to adopt the IMatter resolutions, well they are darned stupid and foolish. Two years for a report and how much public comment, two years?

    The IPCC has not overstated the case that climate change is happening quicker than anyone anticipated. In fact, the IPCC has historically downplayed the speed at which climate change is happening. So one has to be in LaLa land to think that we really have 12 years to act. It is probably closer to 6 to 8 years if one looks to past IPCC performance.

    There are many other moderate and smaller cities around the world that are already taking action to meet the commitments suggested in the IMatter resolutions and many are planning to meet the commitments by 2030 or 2035. Many of these urban areas are in countries that are poorer than Canada or have more climate challenges. So why can’t HRM copy portions of their plans or try some of the actions that they are using? Do our council members need cantankerous old fogies to rap them with their canes to beat some sense into them?

    There is no time to wait….We have been waiting for decades. Halifax and Nova Scotia produced climate change reports in 2005 and 2007 and maybe even before. If council cannot act without a plan that someone in Nova Scotia produced, then dust off the old files and get cracking…not only for our children and grandchildren , but also for the current residents.

  5. There are cases where the courts determine someone to be a “vexatious litigant” so why can’t that be turned around to have authorities who needlessly withhold information deemed vexatious? The court system is founded on making the legal process as open and transparent as possible. It should be the default to release documents and only on very rare and extenuating circumstances should such documents be sealed.
    While I would support a legal fund, I am afraid of creating another growth industry for lawyers like we see with personal injury firms that are spreading like fast food chains. The legal system is supposed to represent The People. In this case when the judge decides that of course these documents should be unsealed that it come with a stern rebuke to the authorities who have pig headedly refused to do what is obviously the intent of the original decision.

  6. “If the Examiner started a legal and investigative fund, is that something people would contribute to over and above the regular subscriptions?”


    1. Depends on the options of contribution. I personally do not have the funds to support this on a monthly basis, but I could imagine adhoc contributions from time after time.