1. The cool coach: How Michael McNutt abused dozens of boys
This article contains accounts of sexual abuse of children.
This morning, Tim Bousquet details how former teacher and sports coach Michael McNutt abused dozens of boys in Halifax and Dartmouth, for decades.
McNutt has pleaded guilty to offences against 35 boys, ranging in age from 10 to 15. These abuses took place between 1971 and 1987.
McNutt is known to have sexually assaulted boys at Sir Robert Borden Junior High, St. Stephen’s Elementary, Westmount School, and St. Joseph’s–Alexander MacKay School.
He also coached hockey, football and baseball, and was relieved of his duties from at least one sports association.
The Agreed Statement of Facts makes clear that there are many more than the 35 victims named — perhaps dozens more. The boys were abused in cars, in hotel rooms, in McNutt’s apartment, in hockey arenas, and in at least one case, in a school.
McNutt was considered the “cool” teacher, the “helpful” coach; he was trusted by parents, who often drove the boys to McNutt’s apartment.
In many of the accounts, McNutt plied the boys with beer and booze, to the point that they would vomit and pass out. One victim, who was 13 or 14 years old at the time, woke up in bed and “recalls the room spinning,” as he discovered McNutt fondling him.
Many of the accounts include descriptions of McNutt performing oral sex on boys as other boys watched. Sometimes, he encouraged the boys to have sex with each other.
Bousquet goes on to detail some of the many ways in which McNutt and his friends preyed on boys, using sex as currency for favours, or in exchange for things like more ice time during hockey games.
McNutt seems to have benefited from the same system Linden MacIntyre so gut-punchingly writes about in his novel The Bishop’s Man, with reference to the Catholic Church.
Shuffle the guy suspected of horrendous acts off to another place. Maybe he’ll take this as a wake-up call and stop, and if he doesn’t, well, at least he’s not our problem anymore. Whatever you do, don’t call the cops. Don’t put the organization in jeopardy, just keep everything quiet. And if more people get abused? Well, let’s not worry about that for now. It’s the same story over and over again, whether we’re talking about religious groups, schools, sports.
I read about the actions of McNutt and others like him and I feel a combination of sadness and rage that we spent decades teaching kids to fear strangers while leaving them in the care of the cool adults who abused them.
Bousquet’s reporting on McNutt is free to read for anyone, but please remember that these stories would not be possible without Examiner subscribers. If you can, please subscribe.
2. Son of mass murder victims adds voice to those calling for full inquiry into April 18-19 mass murder
Jennifer Henderson speaks with Ryan Farrington, who lost his mother and stepfather, Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn, to the Portapique killer, who burned down their house.
Farrington has questions about the RCMP story so far, and is worried about the form an inquiry may take.
“How could the RCMP tell us they don’t think this was a planned attack? They told us during the last conference call they don’t feel this was planned!,” said Ryan Farrington, a note of incredulity creeping into his voice. The 40-year-old man from Trenton, Ontario lost both his mother and stepfather, Dawn and Frank Gulenchyn, when their retirement home at 71 Orchard Beach Road was burned to the ground by the killer.
“The Mounties kept saying COVID-19 pushed him overboard,” said Farrington. “I don’t believe that for a fact since the RCMP also told us for the last three years he was going across the border collecting illegal guns when he wasn’t even supposed to own guns. And then he is also buying mock police cars. Nobody does that for the fun of it. You’re planning something. It might not have been planned for the 18th or 19th of April. But I definitely think he was planning on doing this mass shooting at some point in his life.”…
“My biggest issue is the restorative justice angle the Justice Minister of Nova Scotia mentioned,” said Farrington. “I want a full out public inquiry. I think the families deserve that. We deserve to know the truth. And we deserve to know what they are going to do prevent this from happening again — because no one should ever have to lose a loved one this way.”
Reading this story, I was quite moved by Farrington’s description of some of the ways this tragedy has affected him, and by learning that family members of the victims are in regular contact with each other for support.
3. Black man recounts story of racial profiling at the Dingle park
In February 2018, Adam LeRue pulled his truck into the parking lot by the Dingle to answer his phone. It was around 10 p.m., when the park is closed. LeRue, who is Black, was in the car with his partner Kerry Morris, who is white. (Spoiler alert: only one of them would wind up spending the night in jail.) LeRue says there were other white people in the park at the time, but Halifax Regional Police Officers Kenneth O’Brien and Brent Woodworth ignored them and instead approached LeRue’s truck, asked for ID, and threatened to ticket him.
Zane Woodford picks up the story:
LeRue said he asked the two HRP officers to call their supervisor to the scene.
“I’ve been accosted by the police many times for nothing, I don’t even have a driving record, so of course I’m going to call for a supervisor,” LeRue said.
The supervisor didn’t come, and LeRue was arrested for obstruction of justice, and ticketed for failure to show identification and being in a park after dark.
“I was racially profiled in a park,” LeRue said. “I was arrested. Kerry was ripped out of the car and I went to jail that night. In reality, we just pulled over to use the phone and that was it.”
Morris said she was left with bruising and a sore shoulder from the force of being pulled from the truck.
“Those were my injuries, but I wasn’t concerned about myself in that situation. I was really concerned for Adam’s well-being,” she said.
LeRue and Morris filed a complaint with the police complaints commissioner and board of police commissioners, who found no wrong-doing. They appealed, and their appeal hearing was heard yesterday.
Woodford gets into all the details, and you should read the whole story, but let me just leave you with this gem:
LeRue and Morris opened the hearing arguing that HRP took too long to make a decision following the conclusion of the investigation into their complaint, based on the Police Act Regulations. Because the police did so, LeRue and Morris argued they accepted their complaint and effectively agreed with them…
[Lawyer Nasha] Nijhawan, agreed that HRP took too long to investigate the complaint, but argued in favour of a different result. She argued that the missed deadline meant the police review board had lost jurisdiction to hear the complaint — meaning it should be thrown out altogether.
I know lawyers have got to do their job and come up with whatever arguments they can, but wouldn’t that be a great precedent? If the police take too long to hear your complaint, it gets thrown out.
4. New privacy commissioner renews calls for change
Nova Scotia’s Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner released its annual report yesterday, the first under new commissioner Tricia Ralph.
Jean Laroche covers the report for CBC. He writes:
Ralph is reiterating the call to amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to give her office order-making powers to replace the current practice of simply making recommendations.
Without the power to compel provincial departments or government agencies to release information, those withholding that information can simply ignore the advice of her office. The only recourse is for an aggrieved party to appeal to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Ralph considered that onerous.
“They might not have enough money to go to court or they might feel intimidated by that process,” she said in an interview.
In the report itself, Ralph writes:
It is a heavy burden on applicants to seek a court order to force public body compliance with access to information legislation. Court processes are expensive and more intimidating for applicants.
It has been three years since the Commissioner recommended changes to the laws. Since then, 26 review reports have been issued. Of those, 19 were eligible to be appealed to court because the public body did not accept the Commissioner’s recommendations in full. Only seven applicants (37% of those who were eligible) chose to appeal to court, at their own expense, in an attempt to get the public body to comply with the law.
In cases where the matter was appealed to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court and the court issued a decision, its decision or findings were consistent with the OIPC recommendations and findings 100% of the time. This means that the Commissioner’s recommendations were upheld by the court every time an applicant appealed a public body’s refusal to comply with them. If the law was changed and the public body was the one who had to appeal to the court to reject the recommendations, those applicants would not have borne the expense of having their access rights upheld.
The system is completely stacked in favour of bodies that don’t want to release information. How many of us have the time or means to go to court?
Ralph also notes that she is seeing far too many delays related to applications for the release of information being delayed because deputy ministers need to sign off on them.
The report says:
FOIPOP does not allow public bodies to extend the time to respond to an access to information request for the purpose of waiting for sign-off… Review requests for department deemed refusals due to delay in deputy minister sign-off more than doubled between 2018 and 2019.
One figure from the report that is sure to get a lot of attention is the 855 healthcare related privacy breaches. While obviously that’s not great, Ralph notes that most of these are relatively minor, and the result of simple mistakes:
Basically, these are the “minor” privacy breaches
that occur during the day-to-day activities of running a large health care organization. Some of the examples of the breaches reported to the OIPC this year include:
• Faxing personal health information to the wrong physician.
• Selecting the wrong patient from the patient registry database.
• Selecting the wrong physician from the physician-listing database.
• Lost records.
• Records left behind or out in the open
5. Musician JP Cormier to sue over lack of high-speed internet
Anjuli Patil reports for CBC that singer-songwriter JP Cormier is planning to sue Develop Nova Scotia, the province, and the Halifax Regional Municipality over lack of access to high-speed internet.
During an interview with CBC Nova Scotia News at 6 on Wednesday, Cormier said it would take 41 days for him to upload a 45-minute video to YouTube. But if the Cooks Brook resident travels to his sister-in-law’s house 20 minutes away, that same video would only take 90 seconds to upload.
“I don’t want any money. I want the service put in, which has been explained to me by Bell and Eastlink and others can easily be put in here if the political will is there to put it in. And that’s what it comes down to,” Cormier said.
Cormier’s notice of intended action was filed July 8, 2020, for “failure to provide an essential service to the people of rural Nova Scotia.” He’ll move forward with the lawsuit in two months if things don’t change.
Patil details all the workarounds Cormier has to use to try and continue making a living, now that he’s had to move his shows online.
Have you noticed an uptick in copaganda lately?
Copaganda is a term for those feel-good police stories. You know the ones: cops doing the latest viral dance, rescuing kittens, and being real nice to kids.
The excellent Citations Needed podcast has done a couple of episodes on this phenomenon, the first of which ran about a year ago.
Co-hosts Nima Shirazi and Adam Johnson define copaganda and then lay out a taxonomy of five different types of police-friendly stories:
“Copaganda” is a term generally used to describe puff pieces, typically fed to local news by the police themselves, that’s designed to make the police look good and generally improve their overall brand with the public…
The first one is the police officer saves a puppy, kitten or a litter of birds or some other small little cute animal…
The second is ride-alongs, which is where a journalists goes along with a cop and gets into the nitty gritty of what it’s like to be a police officer. The third one is when a police officer or police officers piggyback off a viral meme to get clicks and the local media publishes that. Typically that’s what makes it viral. And then the fourth is a local news reporter does police training. This is where they learn how difficult it is to make split second decisions as to whether or not unloading your round into an African American is actually quite difficult. This is the sort of put yourself in the shoes of the police…
And then the fifth and final piece of copaganda that we’re going to go through is actually, I think our favorite, which is when the cops pull people over for alleged traffic violations, but surprise them with gift cards or Christmas presents depending on the season. Sometimes cops will just walk up to random people on the street and start accosting them until it’s revealed that actually it’s a sweetheart cop and they’re just giving them a gift.
Halifax has had its fair share of these stories over the years. The officer who, wait for it, sat down on the street and talked with a homeless man. This was so heartwarming that it was the subject of news stories and at least one radio piece. The officer, Shawn Currie, told CBC:
“That one bad interaction might not be who they are,” he said. “We don’t know what happened that day. They are human, they can make mistakes.”
Currie had previously gone viral for a stunt in which he gave a toddler a parking ticket, and the media ate it up — not only locally, but around the world, with stories in the Daily Mail, the New York Daily News, ABC, and on and and on.
CBC: Parking ticket prompts friendship between Halifax cop and kid.
Global: ‘It’s just unbelievable’: Picture of 3-year-old getting fake parking ticket goes viral.
CTV: Halifax boy, 3, gets first parking ticket.
From the CTV story:
“He parked his bike just like the other motorcyclists would,” says Halifax Regional Police Const. Shawn Currie. “He walked away, and we thought it would be funny if I walked over and pretended to write him a ticket.”
“The police officer went over and started pretending to write him a ticket,” says Declan’s mother Lisa Tramley. “Pictures were taken and it kind of went from there.”
Once Declan’s father snapped the picture, he sent it to the Halifax Regional Police, who jumped at the opportunity to post it on social media. The reaction to the picture has been overwhelming.
“It’s nice to show the different sides of the police,” says Currie. “We’re not always the ones making arrests and hauling people away. We’re just normal like everybody else and we do like to have fun.”
Police tweet photo. Photo goes viral. Media report on photo. Presto: copaganda.
Now, Constable Shawn Currie may be a very nice guy, but that’s not the point.
Whenever police are in the news for doing things like beating up protesters or killing people, we see an uptick in feel-good stories. Citations Needed notes a dramatic increase in the number of stories about cops rescuing kittens after the death of Eric Garner at the hands of police.
Several examples from closer to home struck me in recent weeks.
In Beaver Bank, two cops stopped by a lemonade stand and bought lemonade from the sisters running it. Aw, sweet.
Pat Healey writes in The Laker:
There was even a surprise visit from three Halifax District RCMP officers in two cruisers. That had mom Angy a bit worried.
“I saw them come and was like “girls what did you do,” she said with a chuckle.
It meant a lot for the cops to stop by. They enjoyed their drinks of lemonade and iced tea from the girls before heading back out on patrol.
Privilege is being able to chuckle about the police coming to your lemonade stand.
Meanwhile, on PEI, the CBC’s Stephanie vanKampen reported on a 10-year-old Mi’kmaq boy befriended by a police officer.
The boy, hearing stories about police violence and racism was scared to leave his house, fearing police would hurt him. His mum called the local police non-emergency number, and an officer came to the home.
Const. Peter Stay just happened to be on duty. He said he was saddened and hurt when he heard the boy saw him as a threat.
“There’s legitimate concerns in that community, where people have been harmed,” Stay said.
“So it’s our responsibility to let them know what we stand for, and that is to protect and serve.”
The boy and the officer played basketball together, and later the boy said:
“He explained to me that there are some bad people in the world, but there’s a lot more good people. And police are here to help,”
Currie and the toddler he ticketed are apparently now “friends” also:
The two have kept in touch over the years and have even exchanged Christmas gifts. It has Declan considering a career as a cop, although marine biologist and firefighter are also high on his list
I’m reminded of something nurse Martha Paynter told me in an interview: “It’s very important that children understand police are not their friends.”
Look, there’s nothing wrong with the individual actions of the individual police officers in these stories, although, let me tell you, if a cop wants to be friends with my pre-teen I’m not exactly onboard.
The point is the larger message. Brooklyn-based journalist Ashoka Jegroo gets into this in an interview on that same episode of Citations Needed:
In my view, it’s absurd on its face to try to like approach the relationship between police and black and brown communities as one where there just needs to be better trust or better relationships between pretty much an oppressive force which historically oppressed black and brown communities in America for like centuries. What the police mean when they say better community relations is when you know black and brown people don’t complain about getting arrested for bullshit. That’s the peace they want…
I mean the power dynamics never change. The police still maintain their ability to beat your ass for whatever, to arrest you for like petty crimes, from crimes of poverty. They can still stop you whenever the hell they want and use almost anything as a pretext for it. The power dynamics never seem to change. It’s just that these copaganda stories try to put like, you know, a nice little shiny gift wrapping, Christmas gift wrapping, around the same old oppressive relationship. I mean that’s all it is and it’s just the way to maintain it. That’s all it is.
In what is one of the most pathetic efforts I’ve seen at whitewashing police, the Edmonton Police Service has set up a page where it runs compliments from residents. Yes, it is called Compliment a Cop.
Some of the compliments are weirdly without context:
Amanda has had after school work alternatives for restitution, she has prevention presentations for the students and she is working to get support for students in outside agencies. An example is the addiction councilor. Amanda is a great fit for Spruce. She has spunk and energy that the kids love and the parents appreciate. Her heart is big and that is what it takes to work at Spruce.
Others fall into the category of congratulations for doing your job:
A couple of weeks ago, two officers from the Millwoods precinct visited our home in response to an incident we reported in our neighbourhood. We called that morning, and they were on our doorstep less than an hour later. They were professional, respectful, and proactive. They even took our 5 & 8 year old daughters outside to look at their police car!
And of course there are the stories that are either heartwarming or troubling, depending on your perspective:
My 16 year old son just got his driver’s licence and new car. Yesterday we insured his new car and got it registered in his name. His VERY first day on the road, he went to Tim Horton’s drive thru, there was a police car behind him in line. When he got his drink he parked in the lot, at that time the police car pulled up behind him, the officer came up to his window and motioned him to roll down the window……..my son was wondering what he did wrong? The officer said “I ran your plate while I was behind you in the drive thru line and I see you just got the car today, congratulations! I wanted your first experience with the police to be a positive one. I thought this was VERY cool, let the teen know you see him and to be aware, but also put a positive spin on it. Thank you.
A couple of days ago, I came across a 1954 Maclean’s article written by John Gray, called Why Live in the Suburbs?
I still love the thrill of coming across something completely unexpected online. In my case, I was translating a document from French to English that referred to Ville Jacques-Cartier, a now-defunct suburb on the south shore of Montreal that has been subsumed into the municipality of Longueuil.
The document I was translating referred to a home in Ville Jacques-Cartier as a “bicoque” and a part of the municipality as a “taudis.” Those words can translate as hovel/shack and slum, respectively.
I wondered if those words were a bit too strong, but I knew nothing about Ville Jacques-Cartier and started looking around online.
And that’s when I found the Maclean’s story.
It’s a great piece on the suburbs that looks at their rise and the issues they face while trying to understand their appeal. I believe my dad, who grew up an inner-city kid, bought his first house in the suburbs around 1954. He wasn’t alone in doing that: the story says half a million Canadians moved to the suburbs between 1947 and 1954, at a time when the population of the country was 15 million. Between 1941 and 1951, the population of suburban Toronto grew by an astounding 86 percent. (The city proper grew by 1.2 percent.)
The most startling thing about the new suburbia is its size. Mile upon mile it sprawls, subdivision after subdivision, and as long as the times are prosperous there is no sign it will stop. Metropolitan Toronto has an official area of about 240 square miles, but that is a legal quibble. Toronto is no longer a city, or even a metropolitan area, but an urban region stretching from Hamilton in the west to Oshawa in the east, varying in depth along the lakefront from five to fifty miles—perhaps 800 square miles in extent.
People were drawn to the suburbs, then as now, by cheaper land and an opportunity to get out of the city.
As a suburbanite who lives on Bedford Basin, outside Halifax, puts it, “You wake up in the morning. There are trees all around you. You can look out on the water, not on your neighbor’s back fence; it’s quiet and the air is salty and pure. To hell with the city! It may have more conveniences, but not more advantages.”
It was a dream of such a world, pent up and postponed by fifteen years of depression and war, combined with a staggering housing need, that burst on Canada in 1945. The result has been the new suburbs.
Gray cites some suburbs as model communities — particularly Don Mills — because of their planning. But many are fare more chaotic. Gray quotes a researcher from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation who calls them “a ghastly mess.”
There were a couple of things I found fascinating about this story. One was seeing common suburban tropes when they were brand new.
Take lawns and lawnmowers, for instance.
Ron Mondoux thinks he will cover the clay in his backyard with sod, which will cost him twenty-three cents a square yard or about one hundred dollars. He is also thinking of buying a power lawn mower, or perhaps chipping in and sharing one with his neighbors. The sale of power mowers has mushroomed in the last few years. Simpsons Sears had one listed in its mail-order catalogue three years ago—today it has eight, ranging in price from $79.50 to $189.00. The sale of ornamental trees and shrubs is worth, wholesale, three times what it was ten years ago.
The other thing that struck me was seeing how many planning and taxation problems related to suburbia go right back to its origins.
Exhibit A. The car:
So important has the car become to the suburbs that those who can find the money often buy a second car. Ron Mondoux has already made up his mind to buy one. “It will be an English car and it can’t cost more than $300; but we have to have it,” he says. “I just can’t leave Dona here all the time without some way to get in and out.”…
Motor car registrations have doubled since 1945, when suburban building has been highest. Gasoline consumption has risen forty percent. To Faludi, the town planner, the car is wielding a profound social influence. “We have become attached to our cars,” he says, “as the nobility of Europe or the frontiersmen of the west were to their horses.
Exhibit B. Taxation and services:
Suburbia naturally keeps asking local governments for services. But the services cost money. In 1951 Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation estimated that it would cost about $740 to service a $10,000 house on a fifty-foot lot. This included sidewalk, street paving, sewers and water mains. It wouldn’t include the capital cost of water and sewage disposal plants, maintenance, or other services such as garbage collection and snow removal.
Many suburbs, lacking the industrial assessment to support their acres of residential building, have gone deeply in the red. Oakville, Ont., had to get the provincial government to bail it out of a half-million-dollar hole last spring. More and more municipalities, aware that they cannot support themselves on property taxes alone, are going to their provinces for financial aid.
The Maclean’s story reminded me of a passage from Antanas Sileika’s wonderful book of short stories, Buying on Time:
Our street had half a dozen other houses on it, but none of the rest were finished. People dug the foundations and laid the basement blocks. Then they waited and saved. When a little money came in, they bought beams and joists and studs. Then they waited some more. The Taylors stood out because a contractor had built their house from start to finish. We stood out too. We moved in before the above-ground walls went up.
“You want us to live underground?” my mother had asked. “Like moles? Like worms?”
“No,” my father said. “Like foxes.”
One day we had even woken to the smell of tar, and gone out to see that Mr. Tayor was having his driveway paved.
My father snorted at this. It was 1953. Our street was still covered with gravel, and if a man had money, he laid crushed stones on his driveway. Everybody else had twin ruts in their yards. Asphalt was as unlikely as a skyscraper in the new suburb-to-be, where the apple trees from the old farm orchards still stood in rows all around us, their sad fruit unpicked. But Gerry and I were filled with envy. A paved driveway was a sign of sophistication — something so fine we never knew it was possible until we saw it.
And what about Ville Jacques-Cartier, the reason I happened across the Maclean’s article in the first place? Well, it sounds like slum, shack, and hovel were not out of place as translations. Here’s how Gray describes the town:
Ville Jacques-Cartier mushroomed during and after the war into a community of 30,000. Many of these people live, or lived, in tarpaper and tin shacks built on postage-stamp lots bought on the installment plan. There was originally no water or sewers. At one time outdoor toilets drained into ditches along the roads, water was hawked from carts in the streets as it used to be in medieval times, and fires often claimed homes and sometimes lives. Jacques Cartier, like Toronto’s Lakeview or Winnipeg’s “Rooster Town,” grew because people needed a place to live and the land was cheap.
“What is this postwar suburbia?” Gray asks. “Nobody seems to be quite sure.” He continues:
At best it is a bright, clean, airy rebuke to the grey, sordid, soot-laden, traffic-clogged cities around which it has grown. At worst it is an essay in desperation. The best suburbs attract people in the highest income brackets and those with the best educations, and drain both taxpayers and civic leaders from parent municipalities.
In the harbour
05:30: Torrens, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
06:00: Tampa Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
07:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
07:30: Elka Glory, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from IJmuiden, Netherlands
11:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
11:30: Torrens moves to Autoport
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
15:00: Maersk Mobiliser, offshore supply ship, sails from Pier 25 for sea
15:30: Estela Claire, bulker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Aughinish, Ireland
16:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
16:30: Tampa Trader sails for Kingston, Jamaica
19:00: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
19:00: Elka Glory moves to Irving Oil
21:30: Torrens sails for sea
Criticizing the police when they are trying to be good human beings?
That seems counter-productive, and dare I say — hypocritical. 😐
The core point here is that they put out legitimate stories of individual cops doing nice things (although they stretch that distinction when they’re stressing people out with gift-giving traffic stops) to force more disturbing structural problems with policing out of the public narrative.
You’re not wrong that it’s counter-productive, if we presume “productive” means “astroturfing the news cycle on behalf of the police.”
I could not find a clip of my favourite scene from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, the film the video above is from. While the foundation keeps flooding and needs to be pumped out, the guys digging the well keep having to go deeper and deeper for water. Cary Grant stands there looking from the foundation to the well site and back, shaking his head as his costs keep going up.