News

1. Glen Assoun will receive early compensation

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The federal and Nova Scotia governments are making an initial payment to Glen Assoun, a man who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of murder,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey told reporters Thursday the payment would be made to Assoun through his lawyers by the end of the week. 

The amount, which is not being disclosed, is split evenly by the two levels of government. 

Furey said talks continue on broader compensation and other issues, such as a formal apology or inquiry. 

The money is considered an ex gratia payment, which Furey said is not an admission of liability, and is to reflect the financial circumstances of Assoun. Assoun’s lawyers have said he’s living on the support of others. 

This is good news, and the two governments are to be commended to taking this first step.

It is a recognition that Assoun has been in an extremely difficult situation, living without means and struggling with mental health issues related to his imprisonment and subsequent battles to clear his name.

I hope the initial payment is large enough to give Assoun a bit of comfort, and to help him move forward into the next step of his life, on the road to recovery.

As I’ve been told, Assoun wants simply to be able to get a piece of land somewhere, and a truck, and live in relative obscurity.

I’m still researching Assoun’s story — in fact, it’s taking nearly all of my time now. I’ve unearthed many more details and sad and strange twists, but it takes time to get all this down into reporting. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

2. Rape investigation

Photo: Halifax Examiner

Reporting for the CBC, Maggie Rahr looks at the case of a rape investigation gone wrong:

“She did all the right things,” says Emma Halpern, executive director of the local chapter of Elizabeth Fry, which advocates for women who are incarcerated and for victims of violence.

“There is significant information that she’s been able to provide. And yet nothing has moved forward. It leaves us questioning why and really struggling to understand how this has gone so wrong.”

They list a series of failures. Low’s file was bounced between a half-dozen officers. There was so much confusion that at least three times she was told to direct her questions to a different investigator.

Police never visited the scene of the crime, even though she provided clear details of the location. The case was hampered by lengthy toxicology paperwork delays and poor communication.

Elizabeth Fry has applied for a judicial review. It wants a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge to order the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner to investigate Low’s complaint against police, something it has refused to do because she filed it outside the six-month statute of limitations.

3. Cell service

“Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says he wants Canada’s major telecommunications providers to send representatives to Halifax the next time the province opens its emergency command centre to prepare for a big storm,” report Michael Tutton and Kevin Bissett for the Canadian Press:

McNeil was responding Thursday to widespread complaints about failing cellphone and internet services in the wake of post-tropical storm Dorian, which knocked out power to about 500,000 homes and business across the Maritimes on the weekend.

“The command centre worked as we thought it would,” McNeil said Thursday after a cabinet meeting. “We had all of our partners there …. But the telecom companies weren’t there.”

The premier said their absence prevented the province from getting critical information about cellphone and internet failures in real time.

4. Convention centre hotel

The Grafton Street Glory Hole entrance to the convention centre and hotel. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Sutton Place Hotels is looking for a director of sales and marketing for its Halifax location, which is the first real indication we’ve had that the convention centre hotel will open sometime this century.

Here’s the pitch for the hotel:

The Sutton Place Hotels is proud to announce its first location in Atlantic Canada! This purpose-built hotel offers 262 well-appointed guest rooms, an onsite contemporary restaurant and lounge and direct connection to the Nova Centre, one-million-square feet of mixed development space, including the Halifax Convention Centre and multiple business towers comprising of restaurants, shops, and Grafton Place, a European-style shared street. The Sutton Place Hotel Halifax with its unique location, sweeping views and the luxurious attention to detail is destined to become an iconic fixture in the landscape of downtown Halifax!

Iconic, eh?

There’s no mention that you’ll have to enter the hotel through the Grafton Street Glory Hole.

The job ad doesn’t say when the hotel will open. There are no other job positions advertised for the hotel — no management, house cleaners, or that guy who secures sex workers for the visiting conventioneers — so I don’t see how the hotel could be up and running by spring, but we’ll see I guess.

Speaking of the Nova Centre, yesterday there was a spirited thread on Twitter about just how ugly the “back” side (Market Street) of the Nova Centre is.

I couldn’t help but notice that the architectural rendering shows shadows being cast at two different angles, presumably in order to give the viewer something to look at that isn’t an ugly blank wall. Here’s the Google Street View of Market Street:

Market Street. Google Street View.

I remind you: this is the product of the “award winning” HRM By Design, and was approved by the Design Review Committee, the group that was supposedly going to save us from schlock and ugly streetscapes.

Tell me again why I should trust that the Centre Plan will do any better.

5. Arson

Photo: Cedric DeChamp

A police release from this morning:

At 2:34 a.m., Halifax Regional Police and HRM Fire & Emergency responded to a report of business on fire, Legends Barber Shop at 14 Highpark Drive Dartmouth. 

Witnesses reported a male threw something into a business and it it now on fire. The male fled on foot.

Multiple police units and a Police Service Dog responded and searched the area, but have not located the suspect. The suspect is described as:

Suspect – male, 5’6″, 200 lbs, wearing a blue hooded shirt.

Police have secured the scene and the investigation is in the early stages. 

Legends Barbershop is owned by Cedric DeChamp,  who was the subject of this profile by the CBC:

“The craziest haircut I had requested was [battle rapper] Pat Stay,” said Cedric DeChamp. “I did a portrait of him in the back of his head.” [photo above]

And how did I not know about Pat Stay? I gotta talk to that guy.

6. Police chase

Another police release from overnight:

At 8:25 p.m., Halifax Regional Police West Division Quick Response officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop with emergency lights activated, on a Gray Hyundai Sonata for an ongoing Theft of Motor Vehicle investigation. Initially the vehicle stopped on Drysdale Avenue Halifax. Officers confirmed the vehicle was being operated by an adult male, with an adult male and adult female passengers. As officers approached the vehicle on foot, the vehicle took off at a high rate of speed. Marked patrol cars took over the pursuit, which continued onto many streets.

Officers deployed a spike belt at Purcells Cove Road and Albion Road. At 8:57 p.m., the suspect vehicle struck the spike belt, loosing [sic] both driver side tires. However, the suspect vehicle continued at a high rate of speed into the Peninsula of Halifax. The suspect vehicle was located at Flinn Street / MacDonald Street Halifax with the female now in the driver seat and both fled on foot. Officers set up containment and attempted to locate the male suspects with a Police Service Dog. However, officers did not locate either male suspect. Officers did arrest the 51 year old female from Bedford, for Impaired Operation of a Motor Vehicle.

No one was injured and the only vehicle damaged was the suspect vehicle. The 51 year old female from Bedford, facing Impaired Driving related charges and will attend Halifax Court on a later date. At this time the two male suspects have not been located. The investigation is ongoing at this time and officers are actively searching for the suspects, described as:

Suspect #1 (Driver) – White male, 30-35 years, 5’5” 160 lbs. Short buzzed hair. Last seen wearing a white tank top.

Suspect #2 (Passenger) – White male, 30-35 years, 5’9”, 170 lbs, Short buzzed hair, no clothing description. 

Drysdale Road is in Spryfield near the Lion’s rink and the high school; the initial stage of the police chase was about three kilometres through residential and commercial districts to near the Frog Pond, where the spike belt was employed. The car then travelled sans two tires for four more kilometres through the Armdale roundabout and up to Flinn Park, where the guys fled. It’s astonishing no hapless passersby were injured during the chase.

Since the 2004 death of Theresa McEvoy, Halifax police have been rightly skittish about car chases, and pretty good about calling off pursuits that might endanger the public. I wonder why this chase was handled differently. I’ll ask.

7. East Coast Greenery raid

Police raids of cannabis dispensaries have become an almost-every-week event. Usually, the raids come after a rather simple police investigation that consists of basically a cop sitting in a car watching people go in and out of the building, and that being enough for a search warrant.

But the investigation that led to the raid of the East Coast Greenery dispensary at 793 Bedford Highway had a more circuitous route.

Last December, I reported on a police investigation involving an escort who was allegedly violently attacked by a john:

As explained in the document, written by Constable Phil Apa, police were called to a Duncan Street address at about 1am on December 16. A resident said that young woman had arrived on his porch asking for help. Police came into the house and tried to talk to the woman, who I’ll call Amanda.

Amanda “had a laceration to the back of her head which was bleeding substantially,” according to a police report written by Constable Cole Hawes. Amanda told Hawes that she was an escort on something called “Leo’s List,” and that within five minutes of entering her date’s apartment, she had been hit twice with “a blunt object,” probably a baseball bat or pipe. She fled, leaving behind her shoes, phone, and purse.

Amanda didn’t know the name of the man who had attacked her, and had only an uncertain address (which she got wrong). She further said that he was 20-25 years old, with curly blonde hair and a slim build. Oh, and there was a snake in the apartment.

Amanda was described as “uncooperative,” telling police her “boyfriend” (the quotes are Hawes’) was somewhere outside waiting in a black BMW, and she only wanted “police to do their job and get [her] shit back.” Responding EHS members wanted Amanda to go to the hospital but she refused treatment and signed a waiver to that effect.

Soon after, one of the cops found a man sitting in a black BMW out on the street. The man is identified in the police reports as Brandon Fraser. A man named Brandon Fraser has in the past been arrested on human trafficking and other charges; I see no reports of a conviction on the human trafficking charge, and I can’t be sure that this is the same man identified in the search warrant application..

The story gets complicated, but in short, Amanda and Fraser went back to the john’s residence and threatened to beat down the door in order to get Amanda’s stuff back. The john, Robert Myer, called police, who tied the two events together. Myer admitted to hiring an escort, and:

“While speaking to Myer,” wrote Boutilier, “officers noticed blood on the railing on the interior stairwell leading upstairs, as well as blood on the stairs themselves. Myer had blood on his neck as well as on his pants.”

Concerned that there may have been an injured person or people inside, police searched the apartment and came across [a] grow-op.

Police went and got a search warrant and came back and seized 80 cannabis plants and related material — and it turns out, more.

In a separate search warrant document recently obtained by the Examiner, police explain that during the Duncan Street raid they also seized or took photos of “documentation in the names of Robert Myer, Joel Sampson, Veronica Grunninger and East Coast Greenery.”

Police later talked to the landlord of the Duncan Street apartment, and learned that the apartment was actually leased to Sampson and Grunninger, and not to Myer.

Police then did a records check on Sampson and found that since 2013 he had faced three charges on cultivation of cannabis beyond the 150 grams allowed by his medical licence. One charge was dismissed and he received a $2,000 fine for each of the others.

That was enough to get the search warrant issued, and so the raid on East Coast Greenery.

The cops probably would’ve gotten around to raiding the place anyway, but the raid was facilitated because Myer hired an escort and allegedly beat her with a baseball bat.

There’s an awful lot of violence around and associated with the supposedly “peaceful” cannabis dispensaries.

8. Errata

We’ve made a couple of corrections to Jennifer Henderson’s article about power outages. The first is that Nova Scotia Power insists that Long Island Power Authority made an offer of assistance after Dorian struck. Second, we incorrectly reported that Nova Scotia has no Power Line Technicians on staff; the number of PLTs has been reduced, but there are still 179 on staff. We regret the errors.


Views

1. Iron White Front Warehouse

1977 photo by Stephen Archibald

“The Granville Street Mall in downtown Halifax is lined with many outstanding buildings,” writes Stephen Archibald:

Virtually all date from 1860 when they were quickly built after a devastating fire cleared this area of Barrington, Granville and Hollis streets. This was the premier shopping district and the merchants commissioned new stores designed in the highest styles of the time, but one building in this group was exceptional. In form it looked similar to the adjacent stone and brick structures but the four story facade was made of what was then a miracle, new, architectural material, cast iron. On its good days the building glows bright white in the sun.

I first noticed this building about 1973 when I went searching for local evidence of the cast iron architecture, that was just then being rediscovered in the SoHo district of New York. With the aid of a small magnet I was able to identify iron columns, concealed under thick layers of paint, on almost every shop front on the Granville Street block.

But when I looked at the upper stories of the craft shop it was clear that the capitals on the columns were made of individual castings and that some bits had fallen off. This was a full iron front and, as it turned out, probably the oldest complete cast iron facade in Canada (there were never very many). 

This is a fun blog post. Read the whole thing.

2. Hurricanes and workers

“Because of Hurricane Dorian most shops, bars and stores were closed from at least last Saturday at noon until the following Tuesday,” writes Judy Haiven for the Nova Scotia Advocate:

Depending on whether or not there was electricity or damage, many shops and services did not re-open till later Tuesday or even Wednesday.

Does anyone pay workers when they can’t work due to “weather”? Hourly paid workers — such as bar, restaurant, and coffee shop employees — simply do not get paid. This week, they could lose nearly half their week’s pay (and tips), due to the closures. Some more conscientious employers do try to compensate their employees, but those employers are few and far between.

About 73% of workers in Nova Scotia are covered by the meager protections and benefits set out in Nova Scotia Labour Standards. I scoured the Labour Standards Code only to confirm that employers have no obligation to pay their staff – when the premises are closed due to “weather,” lack of power, or flooding. Essentially, if workers don’t work, they do not get paid.


Government

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Friday

Anti-Black Racism, Homophobia and Canadian Blood Donation Practices (Friday, 12:30pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building) — OmiSoore Dryden​ will talk.

Successful Drug Discovery: Combining Excellence in Design and Excellence in Synthesis (Friday, 1:30pm, Chemistry Room 226) — Jeffrey Albert from IntelliSyn Pharma Inc will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Saturday

Lunar Voyage (Saturday, SMU Art Gallery) — opening of Tom Hammick’s exhibition of a series of woodcuts that “playfully approaches our nostalgia towards lofty mid-century space travel speculation.” On display until November 17.

Buyer Beware (Saturday, 9am, McNally Theatre Auditorium) — a half-day panel discussion of the culture of tolerance surrounding the marketplace of sexual exploitation. Featuring Will Njoku, Victor Malarek, Cheyenne Jones, Shauna Davidson, and Heather Thompson. More info here.


In the harbour

02:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Baltimore
05:30: Marvelous Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Baltimore
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 41
06:30: Atlantic Star, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
07:30: Queen Mary 2, cruise ship, with up to 2,620 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a 16-day cruise from Quebec City to Hamburg Germany
07:30: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
07:30: Ocean Force, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
08:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Liverpool, England
09:30: East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
10:00: Seaborne Quest, cruise ship with up to 540 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor, on an 11-day cruise from Boston to Montreal
11:00: Marvelous Ace sails for sea
15:30: ZIM Shekou sails for New York
16:30: Ocean Force sails for Saint-Pierre
17:30: Queen Mary 2 sails for New York
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s
23:00: Seaborne Quest sails for Charlottetown

No cruise ships this weekend.


Footnotes

This week has lasted forever.

Tim Bousquet

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

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