News

1. “Near miss” offshore

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

The heavy lift ship Forte, carrying the Noble Regina Allen drilling rig, was anchored near McNabs Island in November 2017. Photo: Halifax Examiner

For the second time in three months, there’s been a potentially fatal incident involving a dropped object aboard the rig plugging 22 abandoned wells near Sable Island. Fortunately, no one was injured in this incident, which happened Thursday January 24 aboard the Noble Regina Allen Thebaud production platform, nor in the previous accident on November 5 aboard another rig hired by ExxonMobil, the Noble Regina Allen*. The Canada Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board which is responsible for offshore safety issued this incident report yesterday:

ExxonMobil Canada Ltd. (ExxonMobil) has reported a near miss incident involving a dropped object on the Thebaud platform.

On January 24, 2019, while workers were erecting scaffolding, a three-meter scaffold pole weighing 11.8 kilograms slipped through a small gap and landed on a deck 9 meters below. There was no one in the immediate area at the time and there were no injuries. ExxonMobil advised that ongoing work was immediately stopped, and that a safety stand down was conducted.

Although there were no injuries associated with the latest incident, it was determined that it had the potential for fatality if a worker had been in the immediate area, and has thus been classified as a high potential near miss. The incident remains under investigation by ExxonMobil, which is being monitored by CNSOPB Safety Officers.

A check with the CNSOPB earlier this month determined the regulator is still waiting for a final report on the earlier November 5 incident from Exxon Mobil and Noble Corp. which owns the Noble Regina Allen. That incident was also classified a “ high potential near miss” because it involved the drop of a 225-pound piece of gear that included a chain, swivel, and shackle to the deck near where five people were working.

* We initially misidentified the rig of yesterday’s incident.

2. Man who says he is a Shambhala insider talks

Sakyong Mipham

Oh boy. There is a long Reddit thread in the r/ShambhalaBuddhism subreddit under a post headlined “I know more than anyone I see here in Reddit about SMR and the Court. If you would like, AMA.” The post is written by someone who calls himself “allthewholeworld”; I’ve been told who the author is, but haven’t (yet) been able to confirm his identity. In the thread, he says he will eventually out himself.

“I know Mipham Mukpo very well,” writes allthewholeworld. “I know his wife too, I know his intimate daily life. …  I know everyone on the Kalapa Council (the one that ended last year). I know most of the people who run his world, including his servants and secretaries. I know his patrons. I know that he is a terribly sick man who is a terribly dangerous man.”

Among many other allegations, allthewholeworld states:

The Acharyas are 100% complicit in every facet of Mipham’s abusiveness. they are almost all washed up people with terribly tiny lives and no future options who have degraded themselves again and again and again to become worthy of the most embarassing pin in all of Shambhala… There are a few bright minds, but those minds inhabit deeply copromised [sic] personalities. Notice how not a single acharya has stepped down? That should tell you everything. Every one of them knew about his sexual predation and financial predation and none of them did a damn thing. They are utter, utter cowards.

The court is a place to groom people for servitude. When Mipham married he was under great pressure to stop manipulating his students into sexual servitude, and most of the people in his court do not have enough money for him to extract, so he used them for narcissitic [sic] supply. The worst abuse happens with his kusung, who are his close attendants. They hand him the toilet paper when he shits. They clean up his $3000 array of cosmetics in his bathroom. He is a slob, by the way, nothing elegant about his inside life. I know first hand.

I do not believe that restorative justice is possible because it is based on a fake lineage, it is all lies. There is nothing to save. Do you think Scientology can be rehabilitated? I don’t. It is a cult based on sickness of L Ron Hubbard. It is a tumor. Shambhala is just like that. By the time Trungpa was teaching Shambhala, he was experiencing severe dementia. He was cruel, he was violent, he was off the rails with drug and alcohol abuse. He was every bit a narcissistic as Mipham. The brain is a soft tissue organ, not an indestructible vajra, and he damaged his. And as his brain went, he turned into his own shadow. In buddhism this is called rudrahood. That is the story of shambhala. He appointed two successors, one a predatory abuser and severe alcoholic who died in 1990, and his son, whose level of trauma should always factor into any conversation about him.

I haven’t seen any person directly connected to Mukpo or the court show up on the Reddit thread, but I’d be happy to publish any responses they might have.

3. Norman case

Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Photo: Canadian Navy

“There are now at least two investigations underway into allegations Department of National Defence officials intentionally tried to subvert the federal access to information system in the breach-of-trust case involving the military’s former second-in-command,” reports Murray Brewster for the CBC:

CBC News has learned military police have joined the federal information commissioner in probing claims that senior staff at National Defence have avoided using Vice-Admiral Mark Norman’s name in internal correspondence as a way to keep his records out of the public domain.

A spokesman for National Defence acknowledged Monday that the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service opened a criminal investigation into the allegations shortly after information commissioner Caroline Maynard opened her own probe.

“This is an ongoing investigation. As such, no timelines are available,” said spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said in an email statement.

See Mary Campbell’s backgrounder on the Norman case here.

4. Arrows Ball Park, aka “Little Brooklyn”

Arrows Ball Park, aka “Little Brooklyn”

CTV interviews Dartmouth Historian David Jones about the Arrows Ball Park, aka “Little Brooklyn,” a baseball stadium that once was at the site now occupied by the Double Tree hotel next to the Macdonald Bridge.

This person (who is nameless on the blog) has a detailed history of the various teams that used the stadium.


Views

1. Let’s Talk

Philip Moscovitch, who sometimes contributes to the Halifax Examiner, has written an op-ed for the Globe & Mail, about Bell’s Let’s Talk Day:

It’s nearly Bell Let’s Talk Day. You know, the one day of the year when social media is flooded with messages urging us to talk about mental health and to feel good about doing it.

But as the father of a young adult who has experienced mental illness, campaigns like this make me want to scream.

It’s hard to argue with raising awareness and fighting stigma. But those things don’t do much to help people who are living in precarious housing or trying to find a way to pay for anti-psychotic medication, which can cost thousands a year.

There is little evidence that these kinds of campaigns have any significant effect on changing people’s beliefs or behaviour. A study published in the medical journal The Lancet in 2015 said that when it comes to medium- and long-term effectiveness of anti-stigma campaigns, there is “some evidence of effectiveness in improving knowledge and attitudes, but not for behavioural outcomes.” In other words, people might change the way they think — but not how they behave.

Even worse, the campaigns could be counter-productive. “The more we emphasize how widespread the stigma of mental illness is,” said psychiatrist Ross Norman at a 2013 conference in Montreal on early psychosis treatment, “the more we may be reinforcing people’s stigmatizing responses.”

2. Cowboys

Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby tangentially (but interestingly) recounts her childhood in rural Alberta and the history of John Ware, the Black cowboy who first brought cattle to Alberta, before getting to the meat of the matter:

Since there is a term “Cowboy Justice,” I had to assume that there must be Cowboy caselaw. From the admirable Ware to the ridiculous:  Exhibit 1: Great Canadian Superbar sues the Saskatchewan Liquor and Gaming Authority (1997 CanLII 10878).

I guess this is what they do in Alberta:

Investigators Batke and Hemphill attended a different performance on a “ladies’ night.” The dancer, Shane, was introduced as the Resident Cowboy. He wore black pants, cowboy boots, vest, bow tie and a cowboy hat. The Resident Cowboy stripped down to his boxer shorts and then to his bikini briefs. However, “before the dancers started dancing with the lady patrons, they had put on their pants.” In any case, witnesses (none of whom included any female patrons) confirmed, “The ladies really quite liked it, enjoyed it.”

Counsel for the Superbar also argued that it didn’t get a fair hearing, as the members of the liquor commission didn’t take these charges seriously. According to the bar manager who attended the hearing, the commissioners

treated the allegations facing the Great Canadian Superbar in a very light hearted manner. They seemed to feel that the occasion demanded a great deal of levity and continuously broke out into laughter. In fact, they had to adjourn the meeting in order to contain themselves.

This allegation was unfounded: there was no violation of the principles of natural justice.

[NARRATOR:] And so, Shane the Resident Cowboy rode off into the prairie, to put on and then take off his cowboy hat for another day, and let his spurs jingle, jangle, jingle.

On a more serious note, Darby ends with the case of Tom Sophonow, a cowboy hat-wearing man who was wrongfully convicted of the murder of 16-year-old Barbara Stoppel. Sophonow is one of Innocence Canada’s case studies of how justice can go terribly wrong.

A few months ago, I had dinner with Sophonow and other exonerees championed by Innocence Canada; afterwards, I wrote:

These are men and women who have been through hell, and yet they don’t let that experience define them. “After the Inquiry, my lawyers said, ‘What are you going to do now?’” Tom Sophonow told me. “I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You’ve been doing nothing but working on this case for 20 years, you have to let it go.’” And so Sophonow bought a deteriorating historic house in British Columbia, and has been continually renovating it. He scrolled through his iPhone photos, showing me the detailed woodwork he is responsible for. It was stunning.

3. Peter MacKinnon responds

Yesterday, Interim Dal president Peter MacKinnon issued the following statement after his first meeting with the Dalhousie Senate:

I am pleased to be here, in service to the Dalhousie community, as interim president and vice-chancellor. To return to my alma mater in this capacity is both meaningful and humbling.

I have spent much of my first two weeks meeting various individuals and groups, learning more about Dalhousie and our campus community. This includes our senior leadership team, the DSU president, several deans, the mayor of Halifax, members of our Elders in Residence program and co-chairs of the Black Faculty and Staff Caucus. I had the opportunity to salute our stellar student-athletes at the Academic All-Canadians luncheon and help celebrate the opening of the new home for the Dal-led Imhotep’s Legacy Academy outreach program on our Sexton Campus.

It is already clear to me that this is a special community, made up of people who are passionate, committed and talented. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible during my short time here.

While I am no stranger to being a university president, I expect my time at Dalhousie will teach me a great deal. That has certainly been the case already with regards to concerns raised about my most recent book, University Commons Divided. I have shared a statement on this subject with Senate this afternoon, which can be seen in full, below:

I would like to begin my president’s report by acknowledging the concern that has arisen around some of what I wrote in my most recent book. I have been troubled by this concern and would like to offer my perspective.

Many of the issues I wrote about are contemporary and contentious. Some are discussed in depth; others are mentioned for limited illustrative purposes. I wrote about them for purposes of discussion. I welcome that discussion, and I appreciate the perspectives that have already been shared with me.

The book is about many subjects: university governance, crisis management, academic freedom, freedom of expression, religious freedom and discrimination, and other topics. While I stand by my discussion on these topics, I wish to comment on one matter that has raised concern. I have been interpreted by some as condoning blackface. I do not condone blackface; and I did not condone blackface in the book. I regret any interpretation to the contrary, and the distress it has caused.

I will conclude this part of my report by saying that I am pleased to be at Dalhousie, and to contribute and support the mission of this fine university, including strategic priority 5.2: to foster a collegial culture grounded in diversity and inclusiveness. This goal and this value has been part of my life for a very long time. During my presidency at the University of Saskatchewan, I was pleased to champion the priority of diversifying our student body, greatly increasing the number of Indigenous students on campus and enriching our campus culture.

I am here to serve Dalhousie University during this period of transition. We have a remarkable leadership team, from our VPs and deans to members of our Board and Senate and I look forward to working with them, and all of you, to support this great university. Thank you for the opportunity.

Sincerely, Peter MacKinnon

Interim President and Vice-Chancellor

MacKinnon was clearly responding in part to an essay El Jones published in the Halifax Examiner, “Racist, Full Stop,” which examines MacKinnon’s writing about blackface.

MacKinnon’s statement is what we call “gaslighting.”

Responds El Jones:

Peter MacKinnon continues to refuse to engage with the Black intellect. His statement claims that Black people are misreading what he clearly says in his book. He continues to blame Black people for what he argues publicly as though it is our comprehension and not his writing and reasoning at issue, and to claim that we are irrational, taking unwarranted offence with no basis in reality. This is in fact a continuation of the premise in his book that those who identify and speak out about racism lack reason, civility, and scholarly debate.

His inability to engage Black arguments, scholarship, critique, or writing demonstrates the very dehumanization that is at the root of blackface in the first place. There is nothing wrong with reconsidering his position. Refusing to acknowledge that Black people read, understood and have refuted his arguments suggests that he is unable to see Black people as equal, as intelligent, or as worth listening to and understanding. This should be worrisome in a university president, and speaks to the very concerns Black people have with his book and its portrayal of anti-racist work on campuses.


Government

City

Tuesday

Special Joint Harbour East-Marine Drive Community Council and North West Community Council (Tuesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — just a quick meeting before the council meeting to approve “housekeeping amendments” to Dartmouth bylaws.

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — lots on the agenda this week, including two heritage hearings that would allow for moving around and altering registered heritage buildings so those two ginormous buildings can be built at Robie Street and Spring Garden Road; a proposed splash pad on the Dartmouth Common (by the skateboard park); a mountain biking strategy; a “park naturalization strategy” that basically allows for dead zones in parks to go to weeds; a Daffodil Garden for Cancer at Ferry Terminal Park in Dartmouth; and councillor Richard Zurawski wants to declare a “climate emergency.”

Also, the “Building Poverty Solutions” report, which I discussed yesterday.

I’ll be at the meeting, but may be a bit late. When I do arrive, I’ll be live-blogging via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — discussion of the budgets for Transportation and Public Works, Halifax Transit, and Corporate and Customer Services.

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Tracey Taweel, the CEO of the Atlantic Immigration pilot project at the Nova Scotia Office of Immigration, will say how swimmingly everything is going.

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — another “agenda setting” meeting in which no contrary agenda items will be allowed.

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — questions about various employee pension plans.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Law & Technology Society Eminent Speaker Series (Tuesday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — Matt Peters will talk about newfangling in the legal profession. Peters is the “strategy lead” for something called MT>Play, which is a division of the McCarthy Tétrault law firm dedicated to making money off people addicted to gambling.

Performance Psychology Workshop (Tuesday, 5pm, Room 111, Dalhousie Arts Centre) — led by Christine Carter. Contact: jmailhio@dal.ca

Wednesday

Metabolomics for the masses: Principles and Applications in Human Health (Wednesday , 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Alejandro Cohen and Devanand M. Pinto will speak.


In the harbour

08:00: Fundy Rose, ferry, arrives at Pier 9 from Saint John
10:30: Shanghai Trader, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
14:00: Elka Hercules, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
18:00: JPO Aries, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York


Footnotes

Tuesdays suck.


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Tim Bousquet

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

Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  2. Good morning Tim, I’m a big fan of the Examiner, but must say – todays “story” on Sakyong Mipham hits a new low in “reporting.” It’s clearly just off-gassing found in a comment strand on painful events in the Shambhala Buddhist community. Think of it this way- would you print such a thing if it were in a chat strand about the Pope? or the Anglicans? or an elder in the Mi’kmaq community ? I don’t think so. I’m not nay-saying the terrible, sad things which may have happened, yet Shambhala is not one person – it is a community of many many people. Some are loving, kind, thoughtful and trying to do their best to offer something good to Nova Scotia society. Some are not. But that’s true of any spiritual community. Discernment is required. And actual investigative reporting!

  3. Mr. MacKinnon has a long history of dismissive attitudes towards equity-seeking groups, as is readily apparent in the arrogant tone of his published writings. MacKinnon is also highly caustic towards other forms of democratic representation from faculty unions, their provincial/national associations, and student groups. His record as an administrator is a sort of “Where’s Waldo” of troubling mismanagement as he roams from province to province. Dal could have done much better as interim president. The larger concern may be where MacKinnon is off to next.