News

1. Mass murder investigation

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

Jennifer Henderson tells me that in the not-for-attribution technical briefing on the provincial budget update, reporters were told that as of May 30, an extra $3.2 million was spent to hire additional RCMP officers and civilians to investigate the mass murders of April 18/19.

Those additional police investigators included 30 from Ontario, 30 from Quebec, and 15 from Newfoundland. That works out to about $42,666 per investigator for six weeks’ work; cops get paid well, and then there are the investigative costs, travel, etc. Presumably, the other provinces are seeing salary reductions in their budgets as the officers are seconded to Nova Scotia. I don’t know how many of them are still here.

With that size of an investigative force, however, I’d think that the RCMP would be making good progress, and yet simple details involving the murderer, his acquisition of guns, his previous actions and motivations, and so forth have not been made public. Indeed, the media coalition seeking to unseal search warrant documents related to the investigation are repeatedly told that much of the redacted information is to “protect an ongoing investigation.”

I understand that it takes a lot of work to ferret this information out. On Tuesday, I spent much of the day writing up a detailed analysis of the seven (so far) redacted Information to Obtains (ITOs) the RCMP submitted to the court in order to get search warrants. My analysis is not for publication, but to help the media coalition’s lawyer.

I went through each of the documents, sentence by sentence, and tried to understand what was being revealed, and what wasn’t being revealed due to the redactions. I had read all of the documents many times before, but this very close reading brought me to new understandings of a couple of events during the murder rampage, and with some followup reporting, I hope to be able to publish something about them soon.

But imagine what could be done if the Examiner had 75 investigators with the police’s computer databases and ability to get search warrants, an essentially unlimited budget, and the power of persuasion available to the RCMP.

Anyway, this court action is costing us plenty. That’s money we could better use for reporting, and I think it’s part of the motivation for the police and Crown to keep this dragging through the court — if media companies have to spend a gazillion dollars on lawyers, that’s a gazillion dollars they can’t spend on reporters digging into police operations. In the Examiner’s case, it is also a time issue: I’m spending a lot of time preparing for court, going to court, writing analyses, in on conference calls, and so forth. That’s time I could be spending doing other reporting.

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2. Cells data

Halifax Regional Police officers are shown standing around Corey Rogers, lying on the floor of the cells at HRP headquarters in footage shown in Nova Scotia Supreme Court during the criminal negligence trial of special constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner. — Photo: Nova Scotia Supreme Court via Star Halifax

“Halifax Regional Police want at least $40,000 in fees in order to hand over five years worth of data on people placed in their cells,” reports Zane Woodford:

That’s part of the response to a request from the Halifax Examiner through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIPOP).

There’s been heightened scrutiny of the cells at Halifax Regional Police (HRP) headquarters, which they typically refer to as their prisoner care facility, since two special constables — civilian booking officers — were found guilty of criminal negligence in the 2016 death of Corey Rogers.

Rogers, 41, died in police custody on June 16, 2016 after being arrested for public drunkenness outside a Halifax children’s hospital following the birth of his daughter. Police placed a spit hood — a mesh bag placed over someone’s head to keep them from spitting on officers — over Rogers’ head and put him in a cell.

Special constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner left him alone for more than two hours, and Rogers vomited into the spit hood and asphyxiated.

The Examiner was hoping to learn how many different people have been in those same cells, the so-called drunk tank, over the last few years, and who they are — their ages, genders and race, not their names. And we hoped to learn whether the police are still using spit hoods, and whether they’re using them more or less than in previous years.

Needless to say, the Examiner doesn’t have an extra $40,000 lying around.

Woodford goes on to note that even though the public records act requires a breakdown of the fees, the police won’t give us one. He also has a compelling interview with Jeannette Rogers, Corey Rogers’ mother.

Click here to read “Halifax police want at least $40,000 to release five years of cells data through freedom of information.”

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3. Cop technology

“CBC reports that the Truro police have started wearing body cameras,” writes El Jones:

Truro Police Chief Dave MacNeil suggests the cameras are “partially a response to the global Black Lives Matter protests and partially to take advantage of improving technology.”

The Truro police have been supplied with WatchGuard cameras. WatchGuard is owned by Motorola Solutions. In 2019, Motorola CEO Gregory Q. Brown took home over $23 million dollars in total compensation. He is consistently listed as one of America’s most hated CEOs.

Brown is benefitting from the explosion of interest in body cameras. As Black Lives Matter protests drew thousands, politicians like Justin Trudeau turned to body cameras as a reformist solution, despite no evidence that body cameras prevent police brutality or are useful in holding police accountable.

Even as there are increasing calls for police defunding, false progressive calls for cameras, training, or hiring more Black officers continue to divert resources into policing. And CEOs like Brown are the ones profiting.

Jones goes on to discuss other policing technologies, such as tasers and facial recognition systems, and concludes:

We should never forget that this is the “frontier” of contemporary policing. Jeff Bezos is investing in developing these technologies for a reason. To the extent that forces have been willing to abandon street checks (or at least pay lip service to banning them while continuing to racially profile and brutalize Black communities) it is because street checks are outdated. Predictive policing models that recycle the data from years of racial profiling into “actuarial” models that “objectively” map crime; Stingray technologies that control and monitor communication; ShotTracker technology that claims to be able to locate shooters; facial recognition and other surveillance technologies — these are the new instruments of discipline and control.

Black people did not hit the streets for this brave new policing world. And we will have to continue to hit the streets as our calls for justice are co-opted and invested into harmful technologies that continue to profile and criminalize us — all while claiming those in charge feel our pain and are “listening.”

Click here to read “Black people die; corporations get rich.”

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4. Gun violence

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Are we seeing a rise in weapon-related violence in the Metro Halifax area?” asks Jennifer Henderson.

The answer is “Yes” — at least in the short term — when you look at the period from the first of May, 2020, until the end of July.

Statistics provided by Halifax Regional Police confirm there were nine reported shooting incidents in the last three months compared to four shootings in the same period of the previous year. So far in 2020, HRM has had four murders, compared to two murders in 2019. Arrests have been made in two of those 2020 cases, including the murder of the 85-year-old woman, where the accused Richard George Willis has also been charged with break and enter.

Click here to read “There’s been an increase in gun violence, but the incidents don’t appear to be related.”

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5. Long-term care

Nova Scotia Progressive Conservation leader Tim Houston speaking to reporters about his party’s long term care plan outside Melville Heights on Wednesday afternoon. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

“Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative leader Tim Houston held an outdoor news conference in front of the Melville Heights seniors’ home in Halifax today,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Houston is promising to Nova Scotians that if they elect his party to form the next government, he will create 2,500 single rooms in nursing homes over the next three years. About 435 rooms would be new and the rest would be created by converting shared rooms and renovating existing space. The estimated price tag is $465.8 million dollars.

Click here to read “PCs promise fix for long-term care.”

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6. Using virtual meetings to exclude the public

The corner of Waverley Road and Montebello Drive, as it looked when the Google car drove by in July 2018. Photo: Google Street View
According to the architectural rendering submitted to the city, developer Anthony Chedrawy is proposing to bury the power lines, remove the street lights and traffic signal, and install a bike lane.

This evening, at 6pm, the Harbour East–Marine Drive Community Council is meeting “virtually” to consider several items: rezoning much of Burnside; a development proposal for a five-storey apartment building at the corner of Waverley Road and Montebello Drive; another development proposal for three apartment buildings south of Portland Street, across from the recycling centre by Maynard Lake; and to give retroactive approval for an existing eight-foot fence at Maritime Auto Salvage on Dyke Road.

With the possible exception of the fence (better than the stereotypical pack of junkyard dogs, I suppose), these are substantive public policy issues, which lots of people might be interested in, especially the people living in the neighbourhoods of the proposed developments. And yet, according to the agenda:

A dial-in or live broadcast of this meeting is not available. 

That is, the meeting is de facto a closed-door meeting, the public not allowed to watch or listen in.

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Views

1. Michael Bryant’s dickish tweet

Michael Bryant is a former bunch-of-stuff who is now the executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Yesterday afternoon, he tweeted this:

The tweet reads:

To those #Atlantic Provinces excluding the rest of Canada from entering your province via travel ban, you are getting national, federal tax dollars for this program announced today. For those who come from away, you’re all take, no give, during #COVID. dfo-mpo.gc/index-eng.htm.

The announcement Bryant refers to is one of the many supports being given to industries across the country during the COVID crisis, this one aimed at the fishery industry.

“We give you money therefore you must die” has gotta be the worst civil liberties take on the COVID-crisis. But besides that, that’s not how federal budgeting works.

Also, no Canadian is “excluded” from Nova Scotia; any Canadian can come here. Every day there are multiple planes arriving at the Halifax airport from elsewhere — today, there are three scheduled arrivals from Toronto (a fourth has been cancelled), two from Montreal, and one from Calgary. All the passengers on those planes just have to self-isolate for two weeks.

Moreover, the one thing we’ve learned through the pandemic — and which Atlantic Canada is demonstrating fairly effectively — is that travel restrictions work. Imagine if the whole world froze in place and locked down for the month of February; could the disease have been contained, if not eliminated completely? If so, we’d now be back to “normal,” whatever that is.

A two-week self-isolation requirement for travellers hardly seems a egregious infringement on civil liberties, given the pandemic.

Bryant has since deleted his dickish tweet and replaced it with a dickish apology:

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Government

City

Thursday

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council  (6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — see #6 above.

Friday

No meetings.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
09:00: Gaia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
10:00: Siem Hanne, supply vessel, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin for sea trials
13:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
23:00: Atlantic Sky sails for Liverpool, England


Footnotes

I enjoyed that rain yesterday morning.

Tim Bousquet

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

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6 Comments

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  1. My sweetie and I drove 10 minutes from home to the Lunenburg Market this morning. While in town, we took a rare stroll along the Lunenburg waterfront from the Bluenose Academy to the golf course and back. In that 20 minutes, saw 3 full passenger vehicles with Ontario license plates heading in the direction of the golf course. I don’t know where they have been self-isolating for 14 days, but maybe Mr. Bryant and his grumpy friends could find out. Oh, and there was a vehicle outside town with a Yukon license plate, too. Maybe the town is hosting an essential services convention.

    1. It is quite possible that those folks arrived in an Ontario car with Ontario people, self-isolated together for 14 days, and then went out golfing. Same for the Yukon plate (without the golfing). There’s nothing in the Covid-19 rules that says you can’t have a car with license plates from another province here. I think it’s important not to make assumptions about people based on their license plate. Of course, it’s also important that there is some checking up on people self-isolating, as there is supposed to be.

  2. So now Dartmouth will be getting some ugly buildings approved because the decisions aren’t being made in a way that allows the public (aka as those most affected) to participate. Why not just get a rubber stamp and skip the discussion all together if, as we have seen already, the end result is to just approve any new buildings?

  3. As for excluding public and reporters from council meetings, many Towns/Municipalities seem to think the open meeting legislation reads, “the meetings must be open to public IF IT IS CONVENIENT FOR PUBLIC BODIES” (emphasis mine). Bollocks. I suggest people should not take obstructionism from bureaucrats – or elected officials – in stride, but should push back hard.