News

1. Has the RCMP’s move away from community policing created an information gap?

RCMP headquarters in Dartmouth. Photo: Halifax Examiner.

Colchester County councillor Mike Gregory used to be an RCMP officer, working out of the force’s now closed building on Main Street in Tatamagouche.

He understands that policing has changed over the years, but he wonders if the force’s move away from officers in communities has led to information gaps.

Jennifer Henderson and Joan Baxter talk to Gregory about his concerns, especially at a time when the RCMP contract with Colchester County is up for renewal. From their story:

From 1989 until he retired in 1996, Gregory was part of a four-person RCMP detachment in Tatamagouche. He says there were also RCMP officers living and working in Pugwash, in the Truro-Bible Hill area, and in the town of Stewiacke. But today, those communities and all others in Colchester County (excluding the Town of Truro which has its own municipal force) are protected by RCMP officers who are free to live anywhere they want, but report to the Bible Hill detachment on the outskirts of Truro.

“Now — when the police officer comes over the Nuttby Mountain and into Tatamagouche — nine times out of ten he or she knows nobody in this community,” Mike Gregory explained to Examiner reporter Joan Baxter. “It’s nothing against the officers that got their boots on the ground who are working for the detachment. It’s the upper echelon. And it’s unfortunate.”

Gregory also raises concerns about the deletion of an information bulletin that had said the perpetrator of the April 18-19 murders had said he wanted to kill a police officer.

Read “Colchester councillor: change in RCMP policing model left information gap on shooter” here.

2. Cost-efficient vs community policing

Retired Dalhousie and King’s sociology professor Chris Murphy has spent years studying policing models. He writes that the RCMP’s current approach to rural policing means officers spend many hours driving and little time getting to know the communities they cover. And that means they miss vital information:

The debate over the RCMP’s response to the mass shootings at Portapique and other rural locations has focused on the lack of awareness of — and response to — earlier community complaints and information about the offender. I am struck by the amount of prior knowledge and information that local residents and neighbours had of the killer’s threatening and abusive behaviour, his domestic violence, police vehicles, and stockpiling of illegal weapons. In hindsight, this is exactly the kind of information that would have been useful in preventing this tragedy.

The question, then, is this: Why didn’t the RCMP know what everyone else in the community seemed to know?

Read “RCMP rural policing: strangers in a hurry, policing strangers” here.

3. Tanks for the memories

A Terradyne vehicle used by Toronto Police. Photo: Twitter/@terradynearmor

Last year, council approved spending half a million dollars to purchase an armoured vehicle like the one above for the Halifax Regional Police. The police refused to commit to not using it during protests.

Delivery of the vehicle has been delayed, and earlier this week, among a tsunami of police misbehaviour, local residents began asking councillors to cancel the purchase, or at least reconsider.

On Twitter, councillors Waye Mason and Tim Outhit reiterated their support for the vehicle, which we are not supposed to refer to as a tank. But now, Zane Woodford reports, support for the purchase seems to be fading, with councillors either changing their minds or saying they want more guarantees on how it will (or will not) be used.

“There’s a lot of us that are having buyer’s remorse about the armoured vehicle, that’s for sure,” Coun. Waye Mason said in an interview Thursday.

Mason said he’s received nearly 350 emails this week about the armoured vehicle and defunding police generally.

“I’m telling them I’ve changed my mind and that I was wrong,” he said.

“The potential damaging negatives socially and in policing of having a vehicle like that deployed for crowd control or in a protest situation is far more damaging than not having it for the possible, very rare incident that you might be able to use it for a shooting.”

Mason said he was originally swayed by police arguments that the vehicle basically represented personal protective equipment for officers following the Moncton shooting in 2014. Then following the mass shootings in April, he felt like he’d made the right decision because RCMP used their armoured vehicle in responding. But when more information emerged, he wondered whether it made a difference there.

After watching the protests in the U.S. over the last week, he’s changed his mind.

“I don’t think the Halifax police need one,” he said.

And Mason is not the only reconsidering.

Read “Tank rethink: ‘Buyer’s remorse’ has councillors reconsidering armoured vehicle for Halifax police” here.

4. Mass shooting inquiry to be called

Justice Minister Mark Furey. Photo: Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson reports that two months after 22 people lost their lives, the province is finally set to call an inquiry, in partnership with the federal government:

Attorney General Mark Furey said yesterday discussions between the province and federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair are in the “final stages.”

Premier Stephen McNeil told journalists after a cabinet meeting yesterday the reason the province has not used the province’s Public Inquiries Act to review the events and circumstances of that tragedy is because the province wants the resulting recommendations to be “binding.” Unless Ottawa participates, McNeil said any recommended changes involving federal agencies such as the RCMP, Canada Border Services, or the Firearms Registry could be shelved and ignored…

Among the many troubling questions raised by the mass murder is what the RCMP knew or didn’t know about the killer’s previous violent behaviour, his illegally obtained guns, and his obsession with collecting police cars.

Furey spent decades in the RCMP and Bill Blair was chief of police in Toronto. As with any inquiry, it will be important to pay attention to its scope.

Read “Inquiry into mass shooting will be announced soon” here.

5. Wortley Report: 15 months later, and still no apology from the province

Wortley Report

This item is written by Jennifer Henderson.

It’s been 15 months since the Wortley Report was released, and the province still hasn’t made good on a promise to apologize to Black Nova Scotians for police street checks that disproportionately target Black people.

At yesterday’s post-cabinet scrum, Justice Minister Mark Furey was asked when the province plans to make good on that promise.

“There is ongoing work that continues to address racism and to respond to the Wortley Report and building relationships with African-Nova Scotians but we have no specific timeline,” said Furey, who is also a retired RCMP officer. “I don’t want any apology to be seen simply as an apology. There has to be substance and a feeling of inclusion; that’s the direction we are taking. To improve the relationship with the law enforcement community…the most recent incidents we saw south of the border only further drive the need to build these relationships and engage in meaningful action.”

“We want to make sure that whatever we do it is on the terms of those African-Nova Scotians who have experienced the street checks, experienced what it is like to be followed,” said Premier Stephen McNeil. “I can’t imagine. I want to make sure whatever our government does that it responds to them, just as we did on the Home For Coloured Children, we will do the same on this issue.”

6. Advisory committee OKs 16-storey Gottingen development

A rendering of the proposal from Creighton Street. The gentrifiers have finally realized it’s bad form to only use white people in their renderings.

Despite concerns over a requirement for affordable units, council’s planning advisory committee is recommending in favour of a 16-storey Gottingen Street development proposed by Joe Arab, Zane Woodford reports:

Seven of the [145 residential] units are proposed to be “affordable” for 15 years. Four of those would rent for 50% of market prices and three of those at 10% below market rates.

During a teleconference meeting on Tuesday, Halifax heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan told the committee “that HRM has no way to ensure they remain affordable housing units over time,” according to minutes posted Wednesday evening.

The committee identified several issues with the proposal, including a lack of units larger than two bedrooms, height “inconsistent” with the rest of the neighbourhood, and “concerns that affordable housing may be limited to one type of unit (ie. bachelor units) or be located within one section of the building.”

I will confess that when I’ve heard talk of including affordable units in new developments, I’ve never considered many of the details. I mean, I recognized that these schemes are generally terribly inadequate and do little to solve our housing crisis, but I hadn’t thought through some of the implications in Woodford’s story. For instance, if you put all the “affordable” units together, you’re effectively stigmatizing the people who live in them. Or if you make them all tiny, you’re not creating affordable housing for families.

Anyway, read the rest of Woodford’s story here.

This story is for subscribers. Please subscribe.

7. It’s not “organic”: caregivers worry about childcare

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Many businesses throughout the province forced to close during the pandemic are opening their doors today.

But child-care centres can’t open until June 15, putting many workers in a bind.

Last week, during a news briefing, premier Stephen McNeil said child-care has been dealt with “organically” during the pandemic, by which I guess he meant friends and family pitching in.

Yvette d’Entremont writes about the bind for people taking care of kids at home:

[Laura] Fisher is an Acadia University student pursuing a masters degree in sociology and working two jobs. The Wolfville resident is also a single mother of two children aged eight and 10.

“I am so frustrated. How do you open up the economy when 50% of the population is women and many of them are mothers? I’ve seen people who are having to drop out of school as mothers, who are having to drop out of work,” Fisher said in an interview.

“I’ve even asked myself that question. Do I stop working? Do I not parent as well because I have to be distracted for long hours and not focused on my kids? Or do I keep trying to do it all and burn myself out?”

Fisher has some family support, but because her family members in her household bubble also work full time, that support is limited. She described her current child care situation as “cobbled together,” and she worries about what will happen in the fall if schools aren’t back up and running normally…

“It’s totally mind-boggling to try to make a decision about your work without having any idea of what safe child care or available child care will look like. And some of us rely on it,” she said. “I have to work. I have to finish my program or there’s financial consequences to that. And I have to parent.”

Read “Caregivers stressed about return to work with no childcare” here.


Views

El Jones has an op-ed in the Washington Post.

In her piece, “Black Canadians are suffocating under a racist policing system, too,” Jones writes:

If Americans think of Canada as the not-so-racist neighbor to the north, that might be because that is the myth white people in Canada like to tell themselves. Canadian exceptionalism narratives locate anti-black racism as a problem felt acutely “over there.” But black people have been suffocated for centuries in this country; we have long felt the boot on our necks here, as well…

Canadian cops often receive training at Quantico. Canadians who view racist policing as an American phenomenon rarely consider that our police go to the country with the highest prison population in the world to learn the latest techniques.

As police arsenals and budgets grow — in Toronto, to more than 1 billion Canadian dollars annually — calls to defund the police and redistribute resources to communities are growing as well. And for good reason: It is past time to stop believing in the fantasy that arming the police, increasing their surveillance powers and allowing them to commit violence with impunity upon black people keeps the public safe.

It’s a powerful piece, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.


Noticed

In cop-speak, these things fire themselves. Photo from www.taser.com

I first met Julia-Simone Rutgers a couple of years ago, at a lunch at King’s. It was part of a series bringing together students (which Rutgers and I both were, at the time), faculty, and guests.

When Rutgers spoke during the meal, I had two thoughts. First, this was a writer who was going places, and second, I wish when I had been a student (the first time, decades ago) I had been anywhere near as together as she was.

After graduating from King’s with combined honours in journalism and contemporary studies, Rutgers freelanced, writing pieces for The Coast, including a cover story on street checks, and contributed regularly to StarMetro Halifax. Then the Star shut down the weekly papers, and Rutgers moved to Winnipeg for a job with the Free Press.

On June 2, the Free Press published their piece, “Complacency, the enemy of the truth, my truth,” in which Rutgers writes about having “no idea, in this moment, how to be both black and a journalist at the same time.”

Rutgers writes:

There is a tendency, especially in the crushing pace of daily reporting, to lean heavily on what the police tell us has happened. We believe we are giving room to everyone’s perspective when we do this, we believe it is in the interest of balance and we fall short of critiquing and questioning what the police have said.

When 16-year-old Eishia Hudson was shot and killed by Winnipeg police in April — one of three Indigenous people killed by police in the city over a 10-day span — we called it a “police-involved shooting,” neutralizing the violence of her death.

We repeated information handed out at press briefings about the events leading up to her death before speaking with her family, with witnesses or with the Indigenous community to check facts and contextualize her death in a history of prejudice and racialized police violence.

wrote this paper’s first article that day. That was on me…

We cannot shy away from specificity in describing the actions at play. We cannot shy away from directly acknowledging who initiates violence, fires tear gas, fires rubber bullets, fires guns, kills. We also cannot shy away from acknowledging, directly and unflinchingly, who is harmed.

I am impressed, not only with this piece and the issues it grapples with, but also with the Free Press editors, for deciding to run it. Good for them.

Cop-speak (“the individual,” “police-involved shooting” etc) continues to invade our discourse, and the more we normalize it, the more we do the work of failing to hold police to account for their actions.

Yesterday, police in Edmundston, NB, were called to an apartment to do a “wellness check” on a young Indigenous woman who had recently moved to the province from BC.

They shot and killed her.

CTV Atlantic reported the news on Twitter this way:

B.C. woman dies after officer-involved shooting in Edmundston, N.B.

The story was not much better. It said that the young woman, Chantel Moore, had died after police responded, etc. It was written as though a series of disconnected events had occurred: the police arrived, a gun was discharged, an (at that point) anonymous woman died.

I was going to link to the story, or at least quote from it directly, but since it first appeared CTV has changed it. This is poor journalistic practice. Write a new story, or correct the old one and indicate you’ve made changes. Don’t just rewrite it with no indication that’s what you’ve done.

Anyway, the new version of the story is a hell of a lot clearer. Here’s how it opens:

A 26-year-old Indigenous woman from British Columbia has died after she was shot by a police officer in Edmundston, N.B.

Apparently we still can’t quite get to the point of saying the officer killed her (something the force does not deny), or even using a more active construction (“a police officer shot her” vs “shot by a police officer”) but it’s better.

The police can call people individuals instead of people, and tell us they can’t comment on active investigations or cases before the courts (this is not always true), and use “officer-involved shooting” and refer to a mass murder initially as a “weapons complaint” but we don’t have to repeat those phrases. This is language meant to obfuscate, and our job as media is to do the opposite of that.

Meanwhile, I felt like my head was going to explode while I was reading this CBC story this morning, and it’s not just because of my lack of sleep.

In a week marked by gross police brutality south of the border, the killing of a young Indigenous woman in New Brunswick, the suspicious death of another young woman who was apparently in mental distress, and who fell to her death from her balcony while police were in her apartment, and ongoing questions about RCMP handling of the Nova Scotia mass murder, the RCMP is worried that they have to rebuild trust… because the mass murderer wore an RCMP uniform.

Yvonne Colbert (and to be clear, my issue here is with the sources in the story and not Colbert) writes for CBC:

Nova Scotia RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said the force does not track the number of calls received from the public asking to confirm an officer’s identity, but she said officers on the road initially reported “there was some hesitancy from people” after the shooting…

“In this case, where someone might be a little bit distrustful of us as an RCMP officer, we’re capable of handling that and are more sensitive to that, for sure.”…

She said people often know and recognize the officers in their area because of their involvement in that community.

“They’re your coaches. They’re helping with Scouts, they’re helping with hockey. We’re usually fairly heavily involved in the community, so people know us,” Clarke said.

(See the Jennifer Henderson/Joan Baxter and Chris Murphy stories above for a different perspective on this.)

Colbert reaches out to Halifax psychologist Dayna Lee-Baggley too:

She said police brutality in the U.S. is adding to that sense of threat. People can also be impacted by watching news reports from the U.S.

Let me tell you, I was pretty fucking impacted yesterday afternoon when I read that the police had turned up at an apartment for a wellness check and killed the woman they were supposed to check on. I don’t need to go south of the border for my anxieties.


Government

No meetings.


In the harbour

05:30: Mediterranean Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
11:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
13:00: Atlantic Kestrel, offshore supply ship, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:00: Mediterranean Highway sails for sea
15:30: ZIM Constanza sails for New York
16:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, sails from Fairview Cove for Saint-Pierre
18:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s


Footnotes

Yesterday, Tim Bousquet incorrectly wrote that Judge Corrine Sparks —Canada’s first Black female judge — was retired. In fact, she is a family court judge.

The Examiner regrets the error. Here is an interview with Sparks from 2017.

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. Child care centres are only one piece of the puzzle. Many of us have kids too old for daycare, but too young to stay at home alone. There are few camps to send kids to (most have suspended operations this summer, at least the affordable ones), and many of us do not have family locally who can help out. Are we all supposed take out a loan in order to purchase a membership at some place like the Waeg, which is open? In the end, I guess that there was not enough time to plan for all the issues related to reopening; maybe next time we should shut things down for 4 months.

  2. Now that we’re talking about de-militarizing police can we examine and use as a model societies where the outcome of being guilty is NOT incarceration? The Nordic open prison system supports reform through counselling, support against substance abuse and addictions, re-training programmes etc. It was created decades ago NOT because of benevolant ideals but because citizens were fed up with how much prisons were costing and how high the recidivism rates were-that is they wanted to save money.

    1. Amen to that. Maybe we should be looking in our own backyard, and take some lessons from First Nations re: healing circles etc.