1. Update on the Assoun documents
As I’ve reported, the Halifax Examiner, the CBC, and the Canadian Press are taking legal action to un-seal the court documents related to Glen Assoun’s exoneration. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 2.
We initiated this legal action back in April, and since then there’s been a series of court filings made by various parties. I haven’t wanted to get into the minutiae on that material, but yesterday there was a development that merits reporting on: the city’s lawyer told our lawyer that the city will this morning apply to the court to gain status as an intervenor in our application. As I understand it, the police department is claiming ownership of some of the sealed files, and will presumably want to keep them sealed. This is deeply troubling.
To back up, here’s what I wrote (in part) when Assoun was fully exonerated in March:
In court, [Assoun’s lawyer Phil] Campbell said that Assoun should have never been convicted in the first place. Having examined the case and the evidence for many years, Campbell and MacDonald had long had a “belief in the factual innocence of Mr. Assoun,” Campbell told [Justice James] Chipman. “That is a conclusion we reached — Mr. MacDonald [Sean MacDonald, Campbell’s co-counsel] and I — when we first looked at this case, by the trial record. I have to say that I thought many, many times I wished that Mr. Macdonald and I could have represented Mr. Assoun in those proceedings rather than having him struggle with the law and the evidence on his own. I believe that a different verdict could have been achieved on the record.”
Moreover, said Campbell, “there are issues of accountability, arising from that phrase in the minister’s [Justice Minister David Lametti’s] order: ‘Relevant and reliable information that was not disclosed to Mr. Glenn Assoun during his criminal proceedings.’ Behind that phrase lies a sad, to some degree a shocking story, in the telling of which there will eventually be an acute public interest. And there is also a public interest, given the record that now exists, the evidence that has accumulated that is before the Minister, in attempting, still, these many years later to identify who did kill Brenda Way. We believe that to be an achievable goal and one that, the pursuit of which, will serve the public interest.”
Outside the courtroom, I asked Campbell who withheld the evidence that could have cleared Assoun. Campbell made clear it was not the crown prosecutors, but rather Halifax police. I asked if police investigator David MacDonald was at fault, and Campbell didn’t directly answer the question; rather, he said while there were faults with the original investigation, the most troubling withholding of evidence came when Assoun was before the Court of Appeal. Campbell would not further elaborate, telling me only to pursue the matter myself. I am.
Assoun was convicted — we now know wrongly — of second degree murder by a jury in 1999. He finally got the attention of a very good defence lawyer from Newfoundland named Jerome Kennedy, who represented Assoun through his appeal, as I recall, in 2004. That appeal failed.
But what Campbell intimated to me in March was that the Halifax police department withheld evidence from Kennedy that would have cleared Assoun and therefore would have made his appeal successful. Because the police withheld that evidence, Assoun spent another 10 years in prison (for a total of 16-and-a-half) and another four-and-a-half years on parole with strict conditions, for a crime he did not commit.
Damn right there is “shocking story” for which there is an “acute public interest.”
I can only speculate what the real story is. I think I have a pretty good idea, but I’d rather get the full documentation before putting that story to print. But now the Halifax police are attempting to prevent that story from being told.
We are appearing in court this morning on the matter.
Incidentally, today’s court appearance is adding significantly to our legal bills. If you’d like to contribute to the Halifax Examiner’s legal fund, please contact Iris.
2. Gold mining in the Cape Breton Highlands
While the Halifax Examiner has been focusing on gold mining on the Eastern Shore, there’s another gold project in the works in the Cape Breton Highlands.
Transition Metals Corp. is a publicly traded company that bills itself as “a Canadian-based, multi-commodity project generator that specializes in converting new exploration ideas into discoveries.” The company is conducting “exploration drilling” on what it calls the Highland Gold Property 60 kilometres northwest of Sydney, where it holds staked and optioned mining licences on 107 square kilometres of crown land.
According to a press release issued by the company, drilling started last fall on a five-square kilometre section of the property, but operations stalled due to winter conditions. It plans to resume test drilling on the rest of the property this summer and into the fall.
Transition claims that the Highland Gold Property “covers a cluster of high-grade gold occurrences in a portion of the Avalon terrain that has seen very limited exploration. Rocks of similar age and formation are known to host significant gold deposits in the Carolinas, Newfoundland and the British Isles. The regional geologic framework in Cape Breton is interpreted by Transition to be similar to that hosting First Mining Gold’s Hope Brook deposit in Newfoundland.”
Transition promotes its Cape Breton project with this slide presentation.
Here’s yet another reason for people to read Joan Baxter’s four-part investigative series, “Fool’s Gold.”
3. Pond Centre RV Park
Mary Campbell has spent a great deal of time and money — $478 to FOIPOP documents, to be exact — to understand the proposed Pond Centre RV Park. And that time and money has resulted in two in-depth stories about how the project proceeded through the bureaucratic processes.
It’s solid local journalism for Cape Breton, and worthy of support.
Check out “This Story Cost $478” and “‘Hi Karan and Malcom’: The RV Park Correspondence.”
As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so these articles are behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
The Yarmouth ferry service is scheduled to begin its season on June 21. As of this morning, however, the boat, the Alakai, is still in Charleston, South Carolina.
It only takes about three days to sail from Charleston to Yarmouth, but I’d think it would take a couple weeks to load up all the tourist maps and recordings of diddly diddly music.
I’m sure they know what they’re doing.
5. The Icarus Report
Monday morning, the Saint John air traffic control tower was out of operation unexpectedly for 15 minutes because someone had to go to the bathroom.
Monday night, Halifax police were called to Stanfield International because there was a “rear cabin smoker” on an unnamed commercial flight from Hamilton to Halifax.
Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm, City Hall) — another resolution expressing alarm about climate change.
Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — the council is set to approve an expansion of the Construction and Demolition (C&D) Transfer Station at 188 Ross Road.
Public Information Meeting – Case 22029 (Thursday, 7pm, Maritime Hall, Halifax Forum) — Armco is rolling out the Willow Tree proposal, already approved in concept by council.
Executive Standing Committee Special Meeting (Friday, 2pm, City Hall) — yet another committee is spending time and money on the Centre Plan, which will be ignored at the first opportunity to please a developer.
No public meetings for the rest of the week.
How molecular imaging can improve the clinical translation of novel cancer therapies (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, VG) — Kimberly Brewer will talk. Info and register here.
Transportation Trip Planning ‑ 2019 Bike Week Event (Thursday, 9:30am, Killam Library) — cycling instructor Scott MacPhee will schedule a one-on-one 30- to 45-minute appointment to help people establish a personalized cycling route from home to work, school, or points beyond. Register here.
Reputation Research Open House (Thursday, 10am, Room 219, Student Learning Commons, Truro campus) — another round of babble.
Ethics in Research with Indigenous Peoples (Thursday, 11am, Room 1009, Rowe Management Building) — Julie Bull and Elder Geri Musqua-Leblanc will talk about research ethics, Indigenous data sovereignty, and research governance in Atlantic Canada.
Reputation Research Open House (Thursday, 2:30pm, McInnes Room, SUB) — yet another round of babble.
Elisabeth Mann Borgese Ocean Lecture – “The Blue Revolution”: Challenges and Opportunities (Friday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — Renée Sauvé from Fisheries and Oceans Canada will tell us how we’re all going to get rich forever amen! by killing the oceans, then Ratana Chuenpagdee from Too Big to Ignore, Susanna Fuller from Oceans North, and Sigrid Kuehnemund from WWF-Canada will explain why that’s maybe not such a great idea. More info here.
In the harbour
The Queen Mary 2 cruise ship made an unscheduled stop in Halifax this morning for a medical emergency. The ship is pulling into Pier 22 just as I’m writing this at 6am, and a pilot is assigned to the ship for departure at 6:15am. The Queen Mary 2 is on a seven-day direct cruise from Southampton, England to New York.
05:30: Viking Queen, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Emden, Germany
06:00: RHL Agilitas, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
06:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
15:30: Viking Queen sails for sea
16:45: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
21:30: RHL Agilitas sails for Kingston, Jamaica
I’m off to court.
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The Halifax Police Service’s actions in this matter are both troubling and problematic. That said, IMHO, they are not unexpected nor do they deviate from their normal practice of not wanting the public to have knowledge of their operations.
While I fully understand there are circumstances where HRP may need to withhold information from the public (ongoing investigations, matters currently before the court, etc.) THIS is not one of those situations. I am eager to learn the reasons HRP is seeking status as an intervenor in this application. I
It is outrageous that there are such charges for FOIPOP requests. This is all information which should be made freely accessible. The feds did away with such charges a long time ago and so should the Province. It is ransom. Mary should take them to small claims court for reimbursement.
Glen Assoun suffered those punishments for a crime he did not commit, and, if Campbell is correct, a crime Halifax Police knew he didn’t commit.
Thank you for your work on this case.
I’ve learned that Phil Campbell is presenting to the bar society this fall, about this case.