News

1. At the time of Corey Rogers’ death, HRP had no policy on spit hoods, and officers had no training in using the hood place on him

(From left) Halifax Regional Police Constables Ryan Morris, Justin Murphy, and Donna Lee Paris arrive at the Police Review Board hearing in Dartmouth on Monday, June 21, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford reports on the first day of the Police Review Board hearing into the conduct of the three officers who arrested Corey Rogers in June 2016.

Rogers, who was intoxicated, was placed in a spit hood, left alone in a cell, choked on his own vomit, and died.

Two booking officers were criminally charged and convicted in the case, but they are awaiting a new trial after their conviction was overturned. Now, the officers who arrested Rogers — Ryan Morris, Justin Murphy, and Donna Lee Paris — face a hearing at the Police Review Board after Rogers’ mother, Jeannette Rogers, filed a complaint. The three officers are accused of breaching three sections of the code of conduct in the provincial Police Act Regulations.

Woodford writes:

The board heard from Special Const. Stephan Longtin, who worked as a booking officer in HRP cells for 19 years but is now on medical leave.

Longtin said the latest spit hood to be used at HRP cells, the kind Rogers died wearing, was less permeable than past ones. He said booking officers were never trained how to use the spit hoods.

“It was just a tool,” Longtin said, “something for us to use to keep from getting spit at.”

Longtin said he never read the instructions on the hoods, which state that misuse can lead to death by asphyxiation.

[Lawyer Jason] Cooke asked him to read those words during his testimony.

“Wearer should be under constant visual supervision and should NEVER be left unattended,” the warning on the hood says.

Longtin confirmed NEVER is in all caps, and that the top of the warning says WARNING, in all caps and bold.

I can’t imagine being Rogers’ mother and having to watch the video of her son on the floor in agony over and over and over again. “It was hard,” Cooke, her lawyer says in Woodford’s story.

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2. Police Review Board finds officer abused authority; does not believe racism played a role

Adam LeRue speaks to reporters during a break in his Police Review Board hearing on Wednesday. Photo: Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford has a second Police Review Board story for you this morning. The board has released its decision in the case of Constables Kenneth O’Brien and Brent Woodworth, who arrested Adam LeRue and his partner, Kerry Morris, in February 2018 for being parked at Sir Sandford Fleming Park after 10pm.

In a July 15, 2020 story, Woodford quoted LeRue on the arrest:

“I was driving and I needed to make a phone call. I don’t talk on my phone and drive. We live in the area. I pulled over into the parking lot and that’s when I was accosted by these two cops,” LeRue told reporters on Wednesday….

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.”

Now, the Police Review Board has ruled that O’Brien’s actions breached the provincial police code of conduct. Woodworth (who had said he was “tired” of hearing accusations of police racism) was cleared.

Woodford writes:

Board chair Jean McKenna and members Simon MacDonald and Stephen Johnson ruled in a decision rendered Friday and released on Monday that O’Brien abused his authority under the Police Act because he made the arrests “without good or sufficient cause” and acted “in a disorderly manner or in a manner that is reasonably likely to bring discredit on the reputation of the police department.”

O’Brien approached the parked vehicle and asked LeRue for ID. LeRue refused, saying he wanted to talk to a supervisor. O’Brien then threatened to write a ticket. The review board’s decision says O’Brien needlessly escalated from there:

This is also the point where Cst. O’Brien began to escalate the situation. He saw his “authority” as being challenged, and so he firmly made the decision to exercise his “authority”, and his powers as a police officer. It was a poor exercise of discretion, but perhaps not so far from the standard, at that point, to be considered as misconduct. Unfortunately, all of what followed was as a result of his blind, inflexible insistence on his authority. Mr. LeRue was to be “taught a lesson”…

This is not the conduct that the public would expect from a trained, experienced, police officer, who, after all, is dealing with a technical, very minor breach of a municipal bylaw. He was stubbornly and unnecessarily exercising what he saw was his authority.

He then further inflames the situation by arresting Mr. LeRue for a charge of obstruction of justice, a very serious criminal charge, that would have both an immediate and potentially lifelong impact on Mr. LeRue. Even if he had the lawful authority to charge, it can hardly be seen as a reasonable exercise of discretion to apply such a charge in a situation where the “evil” done by Mr. LeRue was sitting in a parking lot, talking on the phone, while his wife ate pizza.

There are people who believe that if you just do anything an officer tells you to do, then there won’t be any trouble. (It will take you about five seconds on Facebook to find comments along these lines.) But that’s no way to live in a supposedly free society, and, furthermore, there is plenty of evidence from many different jurisdictions of things going badly for people who do comply with police.

I realize the stakes are much, much, much, much, much lower — like infinitesimally low — but I think a lot about the training I received as a recreational baseball umpire. You try to avoid situations that will result in conflict, if there is conflict you try to minimize it, you recognize that if you enforce every single rule the game becomes unplayable, managing situations is more important than sticking to rules mindlessly, and your ego is less important than being professional. Generally good advice for anyone with any kind of authority, especially the authority to ruin or end people’s lives.

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3. ZERO ZERO ZERO

In his daily COVID-19 update, Tim Bousquet shares the wonderful news that zero new cases were reported yesterday. In fact, there were no new cases anywhere in the Maritimes.

There are 79 active cases in the province, with three people still in hospital and one in ICU.

In terms of vaccinations, 71.1% of Nova Scotians have received one dose, and 8.7% have two doses. But the numbers are probably about to swing a lot higher, as we anticipate the arrival of 400,000 doses of the Moderna mRNA vaccine. The public health recommendation is that those who got a first shot of AstraZeneca/Oxford should get Pfizer or Moderna as their second dose, and that both mRNA vaccines are interchangeable. So, first shot Pfizer second shot Moderna or vice-versa is fine.

There are also no new potential COVID exposure site advisories.

Low cases do not mean we should give up on testing. Testing is the best way to get a snapshot of what’s going on in the community in terms of the virus. Remember that people infected with the virus are most likely to spread it to others before they show any symptoms. So testing is helpful. Find out how and where you can get tested here.

The province is also setting up its first walk-in clinic at the Halifax Convention Centre. This will be the province’s first clinic for people who have not had a first shot and who have not made an appointment. The huge space at the convention centre will also be used as a regular vaccination clinic for people who book an appointment to get their second dose. All doses at this clinic will be Moderna. It’s a big clinic that can handle 1,000 doses a day.  There are 10 other community vaccination clinics around the province, this is the latest.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang has said in the past that he has shied away from walk-in clinics, because they increase the possibility of doses going to waste. But with hundreds of thousands of Moderna doses on the way, that seems to be less of an issue.

Premier Iain Rankin did a photo-op at the site this morning, but says it is not opening yet. On Twitter, Bousquet notes:

The clinic hours will be from noon until 8pm, Monday through Saturdays. If you don’t have your first dose, you’ll be able to stop by and get dosed on your way to the bars…

The convention centre site vaccination clinic is operated by the IWK, it is the lead agency, supported by members of the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian Armed Forces. There are people walking around in camo at the photo op, but we see them.

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4. A pair of Joan Baxter stories out from behind the paywall

Atlantic Mining waste rock pile at Touquoy. Photo: Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter does incredible work covering resource extraction in Nova Scotia, and the Examiner has taken two of her recent articles out from behind the paywall. This means they are free for anyone to read.

The first is called Atlantic Gold’s imaginary conservation land, and it looks at how Atlantic Gold has ignored a requirement to purchase land near an open pit gold mine for conservation purposes for 13 years now — and how the province doesn’t seem to care. And now, the company wants to expand its waste rock storage site, still without having met its previous environmental commitments.

Baxter writes:

Does, for instance, a term/condition without a fixed timeline still constitute a term/condition? And does the failure to comply with a term or condition in an Environmental Approval or Industrial Approval constitute an offence under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act?

Jamie Simpson is an environmental lawyer with Juniper Law in Halifax, and he says that failing to fulfill a condition of any approval — environmental or industrial — that’s issued under the Environment Act is indeed an offence, and a chargeable one…

In Simpson’s view:

“Obviously, the province is looking for ways not to enforce that, in either the environmental assessment or the industrial approval. They’re looking for ways around having those outstanding conditions not being fulfilled. Ultimately, the province could issue an order, like a ministerial order that compels the company to comply with the conditions or they can take them to court.”

Simpson tells the Halifax Examiner the whole thing is “a bit of a mystery,” as there is no way of knowing “where decisions are being made and for what reasons.” He says there is “a lot of political stuff that goes on in determining how the province chooses to interact with companies,” something he calls “unfortunate.”

The other story we’re releasing into the wild is called Report: Canada’s “critically depleted” fish stocks are further threatened because the Fisheries Act doesn’t address climate change.

Baxter writes:

As surprising as it may seem, Canada’s revamped Fisheries Act, which came into force in 2019, doesn’t even contain the term “climate change.”

Asked why not, a spokesperson for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) answered:

While climate change is not specifically mentioned in the Fisheries Act, the Minister may consider a number of things when making a decision under the Fisheries Act that could be related to climate change, including the application of a precautionary approach and an ecosystem approach; the sustainability of fisheries; scientific information and Indigenous knowledge that has been provided to the Minister.

The Examiner also asked if DFO would be including climate change as a specific consideration when the Fisheries Act is next reviewed, as it must be every five years.

The spokesperson replied, “The review may consider a number of elements that impact decisions under the Fisheries Act, including climate change.”

Katie Schleit, senior fisheries advisor at Oceans North, tells the Halifax Examiner there are growing concerns about the way climate change is affecting fisheries in the Atlantic region, which she notes, “supports the most lucrative fisheries in all of Canada and supports thousands of livelihoods.”

On the one hand, I feel like I should be shocked. On the other, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans only adopted an “ecosystem science framework in support of integrated management” in 2007.

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5. Woman placed in “health segregation” speaks out about abuse

The Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

This item contains offensive language and descriptions of distress.

In April, El Jones and Tim Bousquet reported on a 20-second Snapchat video seemingly filmed by a corrections officer at the Burnside jail, humiliating a woman prisoner.

Jones and Bousquet wrote:

The Halifax Examiner was provided the 20-second video clip by a person who captured it on the SnapChat app. The video was posted to the app either Wednesday or Thursday evening by someone known by our source to be a correctional officer.

The video shows a woman in her cell, and is captioned “Feeding this fat fucking retard ice cream at 1:30am so she’ll go back to sleep and stop crying ‘diabetic low.’”

Now, Moira Donovan and Brooklyn Currie at CBC have followed up on the story, confirming the identity of the woman. Her name is Melody Wolfe.

Donovan and Currie write:

A little over a year ago, Wolfe was struggling with homelessness when she was arrested and taken to the correctional facility, where staff were familiar with her and her history of mental illness.

After Wolfe was admitted, a nurse asked her if she was taking her medication and if she was suicidal. When Wolfe replied that she hadn’t been able to take her medication because she’d been homeless, and had no will to live, she was directed to health segregation.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, it’s probably going to be a bit better because the word “health” was there.’”

Instead, Wolfe said she found herself in a suicide gown in a room without a bed. Lights and surveillance cameras were constant.

“Segregation” is another word for being held in solitary confinement.

Wolfe is coming forward with her story in hopes that other women won’t have to go through what she did.

Earlier this month an Ottawa police constable Jesse Hewitt pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the province’s Police Services Act.

In a CBC story, Shaamini Yogaretnam writes that Hewitt filmed women in distress in his cruiser, on the street, and in custody. Two of the women had been taken into custody under the mental health act. In some cases Hewitt urged them on, making videos on his cellphone, and sharing them through texts and WhatsApp messages.

Yogaretnam writes:

In one video, a woman in the back of his cruiser tells him that her handcuffs are too tight and that she can’t breathe. He tells her that if that were the case, she wouldn’t be able to call him an “asshole” or a “bastard.” The videos, as described in the agreed statement of facts, depicted people who were in distress or agitated…

In September 2019, another officer witnessed Hewitt take a picture of a suicidal woman at hospital and text it to someone unknown. The woman was wearing red-and-black flannel. The text on Hewitt’s phone screen that he flashed to the other officer read “sexy plaid vs. bush.”

Hewitt was suspended in May 2020, the day after a news reporter asked the service for comment on the ongoing investigation, which hadn’t been publicly revealed at the time.

He was suspended with pay. He remains one of 13 OPS officers currently suspended with pay. No date has yet been set for his sentencing.

Have we progressed much since the days when asylum tours were a popular activity ?

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6. Provincial staff emails on proposed Archibald Lake wilderness area reveal officials’ concerns about their own lack of expertise

Archibald Wilderness Area (NS Parks and Protected Areas)

Michael Gorman at CBC reports on internal emails related to the proposed new Archibald Lake wilderness protected area.

Here’s some background, from an earlier Joan Baxter story for the Examiner:

The Parks and Protected Areas page for the new Archibald Lake Wilderness Area said it would “protect 684 hectares (ha) of woodlands, lakes and several small wetlands in the watershed of Archibald Brook, an important tributary of the St. Mary’s River.”

A year ago, as the Examiner reported here, the province announced the listing of Archibald Lake as new protected wilderness area that was open for public comment, noting it the description that:

About 10 ha around Archibald Brook is subject to mineral exploration rights. These rights can be honoured under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, provided activities do not degrade the wilderness area.

Archibald Lake is also identified in Atlantic Gold’s description for the proposed Cochrane Hill Gold Project: https://ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/evaluations/proj/80159?culture=en-CA. The company’s proposed use of Archibald Lake cannot be permitted within a wilderness area.

The province’s announcement that Archibald Lake was on a list of candidate wilderness areas, and that Atlantic Gold’s proposed use of the area for its mine would not be permitted, didn’t go over well with the corporation’s powers that were.

Gorman’s story draws in part on emails CBC received through an access to information request. The emails show provincial staff unhappy about being asked to develop a socio-economic study on the effects of protecting the area, because they didn’t feel they had the proper expertise.

In my favourite part of the piece, Gorman writes:

Donald James, executive director of the geoscience and mines branch of the Energy Department, was blunt in his assessment of the designation being considered at all. The site was not included as part of the province’s Parks and Protected Areas plan of 2013.

“The Archibald Lake area has clearly been suggested for protection as an obstructionist ploy by anti-mining individuals,” he wrote.

“Designation would impede development of the Cochrane Hills mine. This proposal to protect the area occurred after a public environmental assessment report was released. This sets a problematic [precedent], clearing a way for anti-development groups to delay or stop economic opportunities for the province.”

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Views

A useful COVID-19 primer

Anirban Mahapatra. Photo contributed

I first mentioned Anirban Mahapatra in the Examiner last year, sharing highlights of his list of the best popular science books of 2020.

Now, he has written one of his own.

Over the weekend, I read Mahapatra’s book, COVID-19: Separating Fact from Fiction. Mahapatra is assistant director and publisher at the American Chemical Society, and has a PhD in microbiology. The book is published by Penguin  Random House India. It’s available in this part of the world as an ebook. (For some reason, the Kobo version is much cheaper than the Kindle one.)

I really liked this book. At first, I wondered if I wanted to read more about COVID-19. I mean, haven’t we been inundated with information about the disease, the virus, the vaccines, the socioeconomic effects, and on and on and on for more than a year now? Well yes, we have. At the same time — I don’t know about you, but I’ve often felt like I’m foundering in tons of information and struggling to make sense of it all. To put it all together.

And that’s what Mahapatra does. He starts at the beginning (although, as he notes, it is hard to know where the beginning is) and then, in a series of manageably short chapters, walks us through the basics of what viruses are and how they work, to parallels and differences between this pandemic and others, the logic behind strategies like mitigation and suppression, and on to what the future may hold. It’s all done in an accessible yet not dumbed-down style that even someone with minimal science education (like me) can grasp.

One editorial approach I found interesting is that Mahapatra doesn’t give a lot of air to individuals who promote ineffective cures or prevention techniques. Rather, he debunks them in a very relaxed “let me explain this to you” style that is not at all paternalistic. I found his explanations of viral mutations, how coronaviruses work, and the differences between this virus and others particularly helpful. It’s also interesting to have laid out in one place how our understanding of the virus and COVID-19 have changed over the course of the last year.

I also appreciated Mahapatra’s broader perspective. At the end of the book, he writes:

I hope we will come out of this pandemic realizing that in a hot, crowded and interconnected world, we cannot afford to be parochial … A crisis that hits any part of the world or segment of society also affects us. Will we learn from the pandemic and prepare for other crises such as habitat destruction, climate change, the rise of antibiotic resistant diseases and the threat of nuclear war between belligerent states?

We keep asking ourselves, “When will the pandemic end?” But we can’t mark the end as the date when it is over only for those of us who are privileged. We know that the biological pandemic will end one day. What we must also ensure is that there is an end to the social one.

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Noticed

A garden fountain for the birds

Stephen Archibald really does not like this fountain. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Since my doctor unexpectedly called me for a phone consult while I was writing today’s Morning File (I’m fine), I’m now running late, so I will keep this section brief.

On his latest “Noticed in Nova Scotia” blog, Stephen Archibald laments the loss of  “an uncelebrated piece of ironwork, a water-spouting urn that went missing over 40 years ago” from the Public Gardens.

Here it is:

Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald writes:

The urn was not in great condition, a corner of the base had gone and the rim of the bowl was “eroded”, but like other cast iron ornaments in the Gardens it could have been repaired and painted and would have looked like new.

Instead, it was replaced by the fountain you see at the top of this post — one against which Archibald has harboured a grudge for some 40 years.

The fountain was placed in the Gardens in honour of Abbie J. Lane (who Suzanne Rent wrote a great piece on, here) but Archibald feels it does not do her justice. He then goes onto a bit of an Abbie Lane tangent, including the fact that she was responsible for all boys in the cities having to wear ties to school. Head over to Archibald’s blog to see a photo of him in 1962, capturing how he felt about that.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Wednesday

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30) — live streamed on YouTube

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Tuesday

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm) — video conference: Lobster Quality Research and Innovation Centre, with Geordie MacLachlan from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Marine Services; Michelle Theriault from Université Sainte-Anne’s Marine Research Centre; and Daniel Lane, Université Sainte-Anne’s Lobster Quality Research and Innovation Centre


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Board of Governors Annual Meeting (Tuesday, 3pm) — agenda not available, but minutes of past meetings available here

Wednesday

FishNutrients – Innovative new tool to address malnutrition (Wednesday, 11am) — virtual event

Caregiver Support Group (Wednesday, 12pm) — info and registration here

How is ocean noise affecting marine species? (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual event featuring Fred Whoriskey, Haley Welsh, Hansen Johnson, and Lindy Weilgart


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: Mignon, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
08:00: NYK Constellation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp
16:30: NYK Constellation sails for Port Everglades, Florida
18:00: Mignon moves to Autoport

Cape Breton
12:30: Almi Sky, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Odudu Terminal, an oil platform off the coast of Nigeria


Footnotes

Kind of a jazzy morning over here, listening to Sil Austin and Earl Bostic.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a writer and audio producer, and the author of the book Adventures in Bubbles and Brine; Website:...

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  1. As a provincial election is expected in the next 2 months thoughts turn to possibility that the release of the 2020-2021 public accounts may be delayed. And then there is the issue of what Premier Rankin will not want to talk about and keep under wraps until after an election.
    There is a serious problem with the massively underfunded teachers pension plan and the need for a substantial increase in funding from teachers and the taxpayers.
    I anticipate increases in fees. Seniors Pharmacare premiums will increase and perhaps the cost will be income based as laid out in a previous attempt by McNeil – the higher the income the higher the monthly premium. An increase in licence fees for drivers and all other fees. A tax increase for booze and cigarettes. A tax increase at the gas pumps. A reduction in grants to municipalities.

  2. I would love to see a similar dive into what the industry connections and conflicts of interest are within the geoscience branch are and whether they have similar conflicts and industry ties that NSDLF staff was rife with.
    Archibald Lake is by no means the only protected area added since the 2013 protected areas plan. Simplifying the complexity of how and why areas are considered for protection down to “an obstructionist ploy by anti-mining individuals” is a direct insult to the professional staff at DoE who do this for a living and are very good at their jobs.