1. Dr. Barnett sues Halifax police
“A doctor wrongly accused of child pornography offences after a cross-border name mix-up is suing several Halifax Regional Police officers seeking more than $3 million in damages, citing the ‘highhanded, shocking, contemptuous conduct of the defendants,’” reports Zane Woodford:
Dr. David Barnett, a family physician in Dartmouth, was arrested in December 2020 on suspicion of possession and distribution of child pornography. The Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons suspended Barnett’s licence, and he was released under conditions, including that he stay away from schools and computers.
Charges were never actually sworn because it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity based on a clear error.
As alleged in the suit, the Halifax police department is trying to blame others, but it was complicit in the wrongful arrest.
An American police department asked Google for details about a gmail account for someone named Dustin Barnett, but mistakenly gave the company an email address used by Dr. Barnett (as the two men share a common last name and the same first initial, the two email addresses are similar but not identical).
The mistake was obvious — when Halifax police applied for a search warrant to seize Dr. Barnett’s computer equipment, the Justice of the Peace saw the error and refused to approve the warrant. The Halifax police should’ve dropped the matter there and then but instead appear to have “judge shopped,” writes Woodford:
“Instead of conducting a thorough and proper investigation into the issue raised by the Justice of the Peace, Officer [Jennifer] Murray simply modified the initial [Information to Obtain] indicating that the second email address was Dr. Barnett’s recovery email for another email account and the search warrant was granted,” Falconer and James wrote.
The defendants “wilfully ignored” the differences in the emails, “failing to carry out even the most rudimentary investigation before effecting arrest,” Barnett’s lawyers claim.
This is beyond egregious. Dr. Barnett, a completely innocent man of obvious good character, was very publicly named as someone suspected of trafficking in child porn; his world was upturned, he was suspended from his job, and he had to face friends and family who knew of the arrest. I don’t know how you put a value on the trauma he suffered and must still suffer.
Named in the suit are Detective Constable Jennifer Murray, Constable Scott Fairbairn, Constable Shaun Carvery, Constable Angela Balcom, Officer(s) Jane/John Doe of Halifax Regional Police, Halifax Board of Police Commissioners, Constable Ericka Giguere, Officer(s) Jane/John Doe of Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Her Majesty The Queen in Right of the Attorney General of Canada (The Royal Canadian Mounted Police).
Beyond the undeniable injustice done to Dr. Barnett, this case gets to how police obtain search warrants. In September 2020, I wrote about how Judge Del Atwood rejected a search warrant because it appeared an RCMP officer lied in the Information to Obtain submitted to the court:
“It appears that the officer labours under the misapprehension — shared by a number of policing services in this part of the Province — that the role of the court in the warrant-issuance process is an automatic one, merely to rubber-stamp applications by investigative agencies,” wrote Atwood. “Not so. This is because the decision whether to issue an order or warrant involves the exercise of judicial discretion.”
Judge Atwood cannot be unaware of Nova Scotia’s long history of wrongful convictions, including the wrongful convictions of Donald Marshall Junior and Glen Assoun, among others. There are repeated themes in the wrongful convictions, and with surprising directness, Atwood pointed at exactly that problem:
This is dangerous territory. I say so because almost every commission of inquiry conducted in Canada into proven instances of wrongful conviction has identified investigative tunnel-vision as being a major factor leading to miscarriages of justice. Tunnel vision involves focussing prematurely on a person of interest, then gathering and analysing evidence selectively: evidence that confirms the identity of the person of interest as the offender will be preserved and made prominent; evidence that might be exculpatory will be discounted and written off.
I believe that this investigation is infected with that very frailty. The investigator does not seek to scrutinize circumstances of ambiguity; rather, he has decided already who is responsible and he seeks evidence to confirm what is clearly a premature conclusion. That is an improper investigative purpose.
I’ve tried for years, unsuccessfully, to get more into this issue: how many search warrant applications are denied, and why?
I can’t answer that question, but my suspicion is there are not many, as it seems likely that despite the occasional Judge Atwood, most JPs do in fact rubber-stamp the applications.
I’ll try to take another stab at this issue.
And beyond that issue, can we talk about defunding police?
Whether he gets the full $3 million+, there can be little doubt that Dr. Barnett will get a deserved substantial settlement. How could anyone argue that he shouldn’t?
But where will that $3 million come from? One way or the other, it will come from the city treasury. Either it is off-loaded to the larger city budget or comes directly out of the police budget, but either way, it represents a material cost of the police department.
Yet, no matter what, the settlement (which will likely be bound to a non-disclosure agreement in any case) will not be mentioned when the police chief requests an increase in the police budget — Dan Kinsella will not tell city councillors, “oh, we need $3 million more because we ruined a guy’s life.” Rather, it will be all about operational costs and such.
This is how it goes. When the police fuck up, they need more money to fix the fuck-ups. When they discriminate against Black people by overly targeting them with police stops, they need more money for sensitivity training. When there are allegations of police brutality, the police budget must be increased to pay for body cameras and the enormous costs of storing the data and paying the legal costs related to using the data.
There is no police wrongdoing that can’t be solved by increasing the police budget, except doing so never solves the problem.
In what other line of work is incompetence rewarded with larger budgets?
Here’s an idea: every time the police fuck up, the department budget should be decreased, not increased.
Ruin a doctor’s life? The settlement money comes out of the police budget. A person dies in custody? The department budget get cuts by 10%. Beat up an innocent Black person? Two million dollars off the top.
There is nothing that focuses the mind of managers more than the prospect of seeing their budgets cut. True police reform means defunding police.
2. Postmedia to buy Brunswick News
Postmedia has announced that it is buying Brunswick News for $7.5 million in cash and $8.6 million in Postmedia stock:
The proposed transaction includes BNI’s proprietary distribution software powering its parcel delivery business. New Brunswick daily and weekly newspapers — including the Telegraph-Journal, Times Globe, Times & Transcript, The Daily Gleaner, Miramichi Leader, Woodstock Bugle-Observer, Bathurst Northern Light, Kings County Record, The Campbellton Tribune and The Victoria Star — will also join the Postmedia network of media properties.
Postmedia is owned primarily (66%) by Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund that regularly slashes news operations after purchasing them. Reports the New York Times:
Chatham’s track record as an owner of a major newspaper chain is grim, according to 10 current and former Postmedia employees who spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.
Since Chatham took a majority stake in Postmedia, the company has cut its work force, shuttered papers across Canada, reduced salaries and benefits, and centralized editorial operations in a way that has made parts of its 106 newspapers into clones of one another.
Since 2017, Postmedia has paid out over $6.2 million Canadian, or about $4.5 million, in bonuses to its five top executives, including Mr. MacLeod, the chief executive, and Paul Godfrey, the executive chairman of the board.
In that same period, the editorial ranks at The National Post, its flagship paper, have been reduced by about a third, according to three of the people. The number of journalists at its Vancouver papers — the Vancouver Sun and The Province — has been cut in half, according to Mr. Gibson. Altogether, the company has cut over 1,600 employees since 2016, or 38 percent of its staff, based on company filings.
Brunswick News operates every English language daily newspaper in New Brunswick, and is currently owned by the Irving family, which presents obvious conflicts of interest.
I think it likely that soon after the sale goes through we’ll see some of the Brunswick News papers closed entirely and the others consolidated even further than they already are.
Oh, and there can be no doubt that Postmedia is looking at the Saltwire network of papers. My guess is that the only thing that has prevented a purchase of Saltwire is the ongoing lawsuit between Saltwire and Transcontinental, with the two parties haggling over $10 million. I think it likely that a nanosecond after the lawsuit is resolved, Postmedia will buy Saltwire.
None of this is good. As terrible as it is to have the newspapers in New Brunswick run as a company town and the newspapers in the rest of Atlantic Canada run by the incompetent Mark Lever, it will be far worse to see all those papers run by the slash-and-burn Postmedia.
The Halifax Examiner does what we can, but in comparison to those companies we are a tiny, tiny operation. Still, I’ve long had the idea of opening an Examiner-like operation in New Brunswick, to the point of acquiring some URLs and doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations, but nothing further as yet.
The pandemic has constrained that New Brunswick ambition and I’m personally stretched very thin running the Halifax Examiner as is. However, the idea is still on the table, and hopefully later this year I’ll be able to put some legs to it, developing a true business plan and investing what little money I have into it. But, to be honest, to get to that point requires an increase in the subscriber rolls such that I can devote the time necessary to establishing a New Brunswick company (I have no intention of working in New Brunswick myself). If you want to help…
3. An unlikely friendship
“’Mother, there’s a Black person on the sofa.’ Those were the first words I ever heard spoken by the Danish collage artist Anne Misfeldt,” writes Evelyn C. White, who goes on to relate her unlikely friendship with Misfeldt.
When I read this piece, my first reaction was, “Evelyn sure is subversive.”
“Halifax’s auditor general says the municipality should be conducting its own monitoring of the Otter Lake landfill,” reports Zane Woodford.
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5. Felicity Ace and a reporter with a Porsche
The Felicity Ace is a ship that regularly carries Porsches and Volkswagens from Emden, Germany to North America. The main destination is Davisville, Rhode Island, which is one of the largest auto importing ports in the United States, but often the ship will stop at the Dartmouth Autoport to drop a few vehicles off here en route to Davisville.
Felicity Ace wasn’t scheduled to come to Dartmouth on its current voyage, but it wouldn’t have made if it had been, because it is now on fire in the middle of the Atlantic. Reports CNN:
At the time of the fire’s outbreak, the ship was sailing 90 nautical miles southwest of Portugal’s Azores, according to a statement on Wednesday by the Portuguese Navy.
After the fire broke out in the cargo hold, it spread and forced all 22 crew members to abandon ship. According to another statement by the Portuguese Navy, the crew was safely picked up and taken to a local hotel, with the rescue coordinated by the Ponta Delgada Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center. There has been no noticeable source of pollution from the fire, according to the statement.
The ship’s owners have arranged for a tow as it continues to burn. Registered to Panama, the Felicity Alice is operated by Japanese shipping line Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL).
One of the cars on the ship was a Porsche intended for Matt Farah, a former reporter with Road & Track magazine who now runs The Smoking Tire YouTube channel.
I was going to do a whole thing about how a reporter can afford a Porsche, but cars are Farah’s thing. He runs a car storage business on the side, and has a reputation as a fantastic driver and mechanic. He has a net worth of $3.3 million, which in the scheme of things means he’s a relatively successful business person but not outrageously rich. (A million dollars used to be a lot of money, but not any more.)
In the 10 minutes it took me to google Farah this morning, I decided I like him, based solely on his Twitter account, which he uses to attack the established economic order. “I don’t know who needs to hear this,” he tweets, “but capitalism is not a system worth defending. See: the entire world around us.”
Of late, Farah has been railing against the common practice of companies delaying payments to contractors as a strategy for maximizing profits, which has long been one of my complaints. They even teach that practice in business schools, which illustrates the rot at the core of our system — making people wait to get paid so they can eat is fundamental to business principles.
Is it hypocritical that a guy who buys Porsches complains about capitalism? Hey, we all must live in the world.
6. Upper Hammonds Plains Fire Hall
“In the 1960s, Elizabeth Mantley donated a portion of her land in Upper Hammonds Plains for what became the first all-Black volunteer fire department in Canada’s history,” writes Matthew Byard:
This past Sunday, at a church service at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Upper Hammonds Plains, Mantley’s daughter, Doreen Mantley, was there to accept honours on behalf of her late mother.
The all-Black volunteer fire department was founded in 1966 and incorporated in 1970. The concrete building that housed the department still exists and was recently reacquired by the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Development Association. The association has since launched a capital campaign looking for sponsorships and donations.
The plan is to develop the former fire hall into the Elizabeth Mantley Youth Recreational and Cultural Arts Centre.
7. Rick Mehta v. Wolfville Animal Hospital
This week, the courts published a December summary judgment by Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey R. Hunt in the case Rakesh (Rick) Mehta v. Wolfville Animal Hospital, Dr. Carrie Terry Family Dentistry Inc.
Mehta, you’ll recall, is the “free speech advocate” and Acadia University prof who was fired after insulting his students.
But this case is truly bizarre, even by Mehta’s standard. Mehta brought suit against the animal hospital because it was enforcing Public Health orders that customers wear masks. Writes Justice Hunt:
Before engaging in an analysis of the applicable Civil Procedure Rules and caselaw, I intend to review the pleading filed by Dr. Mehta. The Statement of Claim is largely comprised of assertions around the issues of government response to the global pandemic and government overreach on the question of pandemic response mandates.
The pleading makes clear Dr. Mehta’s view that, in fact, there is no global pandemic — his suggestion is that it exists only as part of a conspiracy.
If one were to attempt to identify the underlying argument it appears to be that public health authorities have become corrupted by the desire to use the declared global pandemic to unjustifiably infringe on individual liberty. While a proper proceeding based around these issues may certainly be possible, this document is filled with abuse, personal attacks and references to memes and conspiracy theories. The moving parties here contend that the claim is bound to fail and is in violation of the Civil Procedure Rules.
The document does not have a readily apparent structure. It is difficult to follow what Dr. Mehta may be attempting to set out in the pleading. It begins by quoting a number of bible passages and goes on to assert that Covid-19 is part of a “…global conspiracy against God and humanity.” It quotes the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights and the subsequent Charter of Rights before setting out his argument, as he touched on today in oral argument, that these two documents are, as he says, “…mutually incompatible with each other.”
The pleading moves on to refer at some length to an arbitration ruling apparently dealing with his dismissal from Acadia University. How these issues relate to the issues addressed before or following these passages is not entirely clear.
He later returns to a discussion of his view as to the failure of the labour arbitration and grievance system.
The pleading moves on to a section headed “Facts of Mehta v. Wolfville Animal Hospital”. The subsequent 13 paragraphs detail, from his perspective, his engagement with the Wolfville Animal Hospital over the issue of face masking and the wisdom of complying with the health recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. At least I assume his reference is to face masking. He employs the term “face diapers” which, based on his other submissions, I take to be his term for face masking.
Dr. Mehta appears to indicate that he was unable to get service from the Animal Hospital because he would not comply with what he clearly believes is an unjust and overreaching pandemic response mandate.
Dr. Mehta relies on what he describes as “tweets by constitutional lawyer Mr. Rocco Galuti” and “…three books by Dr. Judi Mikovits (the scientist who blew the whistle on Dr. Anthony Fauci…)” as the factual underpinning for his belief that mask mandates are not based in science.
The pleading next moves into a personal attack. He writes that because a particular person’s email signature contained both a land acknowledgement and a statement of the writer’s preferred pronouns, he concludes she is “not of sound mind”. Again, the reason for including these comments is unclear in the context of the pleading.
The next paragraph moves into a side discussion of Dr. Mehta’s view that the Duty of Fair Representation in the labour arbitration context “exists only on paper”. He relates this to his own unsuccessful dispute with the Acadia University Faculty Union and subsequent dismissal.
The next paragraph contains attacks on the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology, Wolfville Town Council and a named individual who Dr. Mehta claims had a sexual relationship with her employer. I will refrain from naming this person, for obvious reasons. I make reference to this allegation only to note that this is a further example of what the moving parties here would point out as unwarranted personal attack that are found throughout the document.
The document then moves to its next section headed “Facts of Mehta v. Dr. Carrie Terry Family Dentistry Inc.” In this section of the pleading, Dr. Mehta touches on a number of the same elements commented upon in the earlier parts of the pleading. Dr. Mehta appears to indicate that he was unable to get service from the dental clinic because he would not comply with what he clearly believes to be unjust public health recommendations applicable to that service provider.
Additionally, the pleading equates those who fail to resist the enforcement of the mask mandate with those who failed to resist the Third Reich. The end of this section closes with reference to the JFK assassination and the dangers of communism.
The pleading then continues with a number of paragraphs appearing to set out the remedies being claimed. Dr. Mehta claims the right to an injunction and declaratory relief based on his belief that Covid-19 is part of a “global conspiracy against God and humanity”. The Statement of Claim ends with a concluding suggestion that Canada has been in a mess since the Diefenbaker era ended.
In summary, the pleading is a somewhat confusing, rambling and hard to navigate set of mostly disjointed claims, assertions and attacks. It appears to claim Charter relief against private individuals and businesses. It contains abusive comments and strange references to apparent conspiracy theories. At various points it appears to be, or could arguably be, an attempt to relitigate his dismissal from Acadia University.
Dr. Mehta is obviously not a legal draftsperson. However, we do not strike pleadings because they do not read as if written by a legally trained person. We do strike them, however, if they are vexatious, abusive, and doomed to fail.
This man was teaching our youth.
The claims as expressed in this pleading are bound to fail. It is a jumble of confusing assertions, conspiracy theory and personal attack. I have assessed whether there is any portion of the pleading that is non-objectionable and could be preserved and separated from the balance. I have determined this is not possible. There is no portion that could be saved which would be capable of standing on its own and complying with the Rules that I have previously cited. The pleading is fatally flawed and must be, in compliance with the Rules, dismissed in its entirety. That is the conclusion of the Court.
Hunt further assigned Mehta $2,400 in costs.
Budget Committee (Friday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting
Planetary Health Speaker Series (Friday, 12pm) — online conversation with Samantha Green, University of Toronto
Pauli Murray and Bayard Rustin’s Queer Nonviolence (Friday, 3:30pm) — online talk by Simon Fisher from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
In the harbour
11:00: Star Pyxis, bulker, sails from Bedford Basin anchorage for sea
18:00: Thalatta, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
18:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
No arrivals or departures.
I’ve got nothing.