1. Premier calls for criminal investigation of cops

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil wants police acts in the Glen Assoun wrongful conviction case referred to the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) for a possible criminal investigation,” I reported yesterday:

At a post-cabinet meeting scrum with reporters [Thursday], I had the following exchange with McNeil:

Tim Bousquet (Halifax Examiner): Premier, it’s documented in court records that evidence in the Glen Assoun case was illegally destroyed in the Viclas office in Bedford that was staffed by both RCMP and Halifax police officers, and we know that the RCMP is not being forthcoming about who destroyed the evidence.

Will you call for a criminal investigation of the destruction of evidence by police, and if not, why not?

Premier Stephen McNeil: So I’ve asked the [Justice] minister to refer this file to SIRT, the independent agency in our province. They will assess whether or not this is of a criminal nature, but I’ve asked the minister to do that.

“This is significant,” said Jerome Kennedy in a phone interview. Kennedy is a lawyer with Innocence Canada, the group that works on behalf of the wrongly convicted. Kennedy, who is also the former Justice Minister in Newfoundland and Labrador, has studied every wrongful conviction case in Canada.

“One of the things we’ve been lobbying for is accountability,” said Kennedy. “When people take actions, they need to know that they will be held to account. We’re not asking for a conviction; we don’t know what’s going to happen. We want an honest independent investigation.”

“Nothing like this has ever happened” in a wrongful conviction case, continued Kennedy. “Normally, governments refuse to accept responsibility, and that’s why there are so many lawsuits when there is a wrongful conviction. So this is a significant action. It’s a positive step.”

It occurred to me that McNeil may have thought that sending the matter to SIRT will mean an inquiry into the Assoun case can be avoided, and then SIRT can ignore the matter completely. That is, was this an end run around an inquiry? McNeil comes off as seeming concerned about police acts, but then nothing happens?

Asked about the possibility that SIRT will refuse to investigate the matter because it falls outside SIRT’s mandate, Kennedy replied:

“The premier has directed that this be investigated for possible criminality … SIRT can’t say ‘it’s not our mandate,’ and that’s the end of it. That cannot be their excuse. There are outside police agencies that can investigate.”

There is no doubt that the destruction of evidence in the Assoun case was illegal, and a criminal act. It’s not even up for debate: evidence that was legally required to have been disclosed to Assoun was instead destroyed, by cops, and as a result Assoun spent another nine years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

This should scare the hell out of everyone. It could happen to anyone. It could happen to me. It could happen to you.

As Kennedy says, there needs to be accountability. This cannot, must not, be swept under the rug.

So good on McNeil for finally, at last, acknowledging the criminal act at the core of this case.

Click here to read “Nova Scotia premier asks for criminal investigation of police in wrongful conviction case.”

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2. Mystery motion at police board

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Halifax is refusing to reveal the source of a controversial motion around defunding the police that was added to a Board of Police Commissioners agenda at the 11th hour this summer,” reports Zane Woodford:

At the board’s July 9 meeting, municipal staff brought forward a motion aimed at defining the concept of defunding the police:

That the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners adopt a definition of defunding the police that supports a role for policing in HRM that includes:

  • Police performing policing functions
  • Appropriate resources to perform non-police functions
  • Investment in resources that have been proven to support community risks and promote crime prevention.

The motion was added to the agenda the night before the meeting. No one seemed to know where it came from, or at least they weren’t saying.

In mid-July, the Examiner sent a freedom of information request to Halifax Regional Municipality asking for “All correspondence among municipal staff and police commissioners about the creation and source of a motion for the Halifax board of police commissioners’ July 9, 2020 meeting regarding a definition of defunding the police.”

You can guess what we got back.

Click here to read “Halifax refuses to reveal source of mysterious motion defining defunding police.”

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3. Pedestrian buttons

A pedestrian push button, a.k.a. beg button, in the north end of Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“Pushing back against the municipality’s traffic authority, council’s Transportation Standing Committee wants to rid much of the city of pedestrian push buttons in the next year,” reports Zane Woodford:

[Councillor Shawn] Cleary argued the inconsistency of the buttons — having them perform different functions at every intersection — is creating confusion.

“It creates, in some people, a complete misunderstanding of how to walk,” he said.

“They’re either pushing at every single intersection because they don’t know they’re not supposed to or don’t have to, or they don’t push at any intersection and then they’re walking when they don’t actually have a walk signal … and they should be able to walk and have the priority because pedestrians should have the priority over cars at an intersection.”

Click here to read “Transportation committee pushes back on buttons at Halifax intersections.”

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4. Herbicides and clearcuts

YouTube video

A press release from Lawrence Powell:

Three parcels of clearcut land in Annapolis County, slated for herbicide spraying to kill foliage growth of unwanted trees, have been spared for now.

The decision by the landowner to withdraw the spray application was lauded by Annapolis County Warden Timothy Habinski who had toured one of the sites Sept. 15 where members of Annapolis County Extinction Rebellion had been camped out for several days.

Nina Newington, with Extinction Rebellion, said in a media release Sept. 17 that the Amherst Office of Nova Scotia Environment confirmed to her that the landowner had withdrawn the spray application.

“There will be no aerial spraying of the Eel Weir Lake and Paradise Lake parcels in Annapolis County this fall,” she said.

“This is a win for common sense. The cycle of clearcutting and spraying belongs to a lazy, toxic forestry we can’t afford anymore,” Newington said. “Citizens and local government, standing up together, can successfully demand change.”

The Municipality of the County of Annapolis had written to ministers of two provincial departments asking for a halt to spraying already approved in the county, and a ban on future spraying.

Extinction Rebellion backed Annapolis County’s call for action.

“We want the province to act on our council’s request for a moratorium on glyphosate spraying in Annapolis County,” Newington said. “We want the provincial government to listen when we say: stop spraying and clearcutting Nova Scotia. You heard it on the North Mountain. Now you’re hearing it on the South Mountain.”

Newington was dubious about the Nova Scotia Government’s commitment to good forestry practices.

“Stop stringing us along with promises of reform,” she said. “We’ve had enough. We need forestry that restores nature, stores carbon, and creates jobs.”

The Clearcuts of Kejimkujik National Park

“Outdoors person, educator and naturalist Cliff Seruntine has produced an innovative virtual flyover on a route from a rural airport inland from Liverpool to just to the north of Kejimkujik National Park (KNP) and on to Digby with some diversions north and south  to illustrate the extensive clearcutting getting ever closer to KNP,” writes David Patriquin. Watch the video:

YouTube video

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5. Teddy

Above is the alarming forecast map from the (US) National Hurricane Center, which puts Halifax at the centre of the projected path of Hurricane Teddy. Jonathan Erdman with Weather Underground is less certain:

As with all hurricanes, upper-level winds hold the key to where Teddy will track.

Increasingly, it appears the combination of an area of high pressure aloft over the central Atlantic and a sharp southward plunge of the jet stream over the Northeast U.S. this weekend won’t allow Teddy to take a more typical, sharp northeastward “recurve” into the open Atlantic Ocean.

It’s far too soon to determine Teddy’s eventual path next week, but there are a few scenarios.

1. Teddy is diverted far enough north to bring significant impacts to at least parts of the Canadian Maritimes, particularly Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. (Chance: Moderate)

2. The upper trough digs south strongly enough to slingshot Teddy toward the northwest, potentially bringing it closer to parts of coastal New England. (Chance: Low)

3. Teddy remains well east of New England, and just far enough offshore to simply graze parts of coastal Nova Scotia and Newfoundland (Chance: Low)

For now, interests in Atlantic Canada and New England should monitor the forecast for Teddy and have their plans ready in case the storm becomes a threat.

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6. Marconi campus

Conceptual drawing of new Marconi Campus on the Sydney waterfront.

“It’s taken over a year — I first requested a copy of the Ekistics Plan+Design report on the relocation of the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Marconi Campus to downtown Sydney in April 2019 — and it ultimately required a FOIPOP to dislodge it and the censors have had a heyday with it, but last week, I finally received the document that weighs four possible sites for the downtown campus,” writes Mary Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator.

I am not familiar enough with downtown Sydney or its waterfront to fully comprehend the report or its implications, but Campbell has a two-part series that unpacks what isn’t redacted from it. I was taken by this part:

I don’t know what the campus may grow to accommodate, but if I were the NSCC’s Strait Area Campus in Port Hawkesbury, home to the Nautical Institute, I’d be a little uncomfortable reading passages like this:

NSCC has no other campus in Nova Scotia with an oceanfront access.

Campbell goes on to examine the impact of the four proposed sites for the campus on downtown Sydney:

Having explored all four sites, Ekistics then uses a Site Assessment Matrix to evaluate them and sure enough, the Waterfront Site comes out on top, with a score of 38 (or 70%).

But the Bentinck Street site comes second, scoring 37 (or 69%). (Which is why Site 1 and Site 3 get the VIP treatment in the report.)

This, it seems to me, would have been a good point at which to return to the community. Hold a workshop with something detailed to show people. Let them consider the pros and cons of these four options. Because this decision — with its implications for the downtown and its impact on the community — seems too important to be left in the hands of a provincial department.

And yet, as best I can tell, the location was simply chosen by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education — certainly, there was no further opportunity for community input and I don’t even get the impression CBRM council had much say in the matter, although I stand to be corrected.

I’d say we could file this under “lessons learned” but I don’t think the CBRM possesses such a file.

Read “Marconi Part I: On the Waterfront” and “Marconi Part II: They Coulda Been Contenders.”

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1. Camera obscura

“Recently we had a couple of experiences with light that were delightful, memorable, and a long time coming,” writes Stephen Archibald.

His first experience is Venice on the Arm, which you can read about at the link. Then:

Our second experience with light was in Cheverie, Hants County, the surprising location of a camera obscura; basically a room-sized pinhole camera. The illustration below gives you an idea of how they work. Leonardo da Vinci was a big fan of the apparatus, and that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The Cheverie device was fabricated by Dalhousie University architecture students over 2011-12…

When your eyes adapt to the darkness, there on the floor is a large projection of trees and the bay beyond. Fluffy clouds and lumps of greenery did resemble a romantic painting, but then a truck would drive through the scene, because route 215 is in the middle of the image.

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald adds in his Postscript:

If you are considering a visit to Cheverie to see the camera obscura, start by looking at the video for Josh Macumber’s song 215. It is an ode to the highway that runs along that coast, and includes some pretty images. And every road needs a theme song.

YouTube video

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“A group of students living off-campus, who came together and engaged in high-risk behaviour, triggered a COVID-19 outbreak that has raised to 28 the number of positive tests among Western University students in London, Ont.,” reports the CBC:

At a news update Thursday, Dr. Chris Mackie, London’s medical officer of health, presented a chart that showed how detailed contact tracing linked these individuals and how they came together at various gatherings. The chart shows how the students went out to bars together, met to watch a basketball game and even shared drinks and an e-cigarette.

Here’s the chart detailing interactions:

You can zoom in here.

This is informative. It helps people understand how and in what circumstances COVID has spread, so hopefully can help shape future behaviour. If only we could have such simple, detailed explanations here in Nova Scotia.

And I’m not sure simply yelling at young people about irresponsible behaviour does us much good. That’s not to discount personal responsibility in limiting the spread of the disease, but we know, for better and worse, that teenagers and young adults will behave in certain ways. We could place it all on them, or we can be aware that the reopening decisions our political and governmental leaders have made will necessarily create more opportunities for the virus to infect more people.

Allowing bars to open means people will go to bars and do what people in bars do. Opening schools with full attendance means that large groups of students will gather outside the schools. We can’t wash our hands of the consequences of the political and economic decisions made about reopening.


No meetings.

On campus


Algorithmic Racism, Healthcare and The Law: ‘Race-Based’ Data Another Trojan Horse (Friday, 12:10pm) — Zoom webinar with Llana James from the University of Toronto. Zoom link here.

In the harbour

04:30: MSC Sariska, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Montreal
05:00: ZIM Vancouver, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
08:40: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Montreal
11:30: Manon, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin, bulker, arrives at Pier 9 from Sydney
15:30: ZIM Vancouver sails for New York
16:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
19:00: Rt Hon Paul E Martin moves to National Gypsum

02:30: Taipei Trader, container ship, sails for Kingston, Jamaica


TGIF so I can get some work done on the weekend.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. To be fair, the Marconi campus is indeed the only one in Cape Breton with oceanfront access. NSCC Port Hawkesbury is located about 200m inland, atop a hill across the highway from the Strait of Canso. Further, the shoreline there is such that no access in that location is possible.
    Giving that campus ocean access would require new construction, with the most likely sites being in Point Tupper.

  2. “Opening schools with full attendance means that large groups of students will gather outside the schools.”

    More importantly, it means that large groups of students are gathering INSIDE the schools, where physical distancing is impossible. You can’t tell students that it’s ok for them to crowd into a classroom but then yell at them for being close together outside, where they’re actually safer.

    McNeil and Churchill could have avoided this by reducing class sizes and/or staggering class times for older students.