News

1. Patrick McNutt

Sir Robert Borden Junior High School. Photo: Wiki Commons

This item contains accounts of sexual abuse of children.

A police release from yesterday:

Investigators with the Special Investigation Section of the Integrated Criminal Investigative Division have laid additional charges against a man in relation to multiple historical sexual assaults that occurred in the 1970s and 80s.

Investigators have charged Michael Patrick McNutt, 66, with 64 sexual assault-related offences including 21 counts of gross indecency, 16 counts of sexual assault and 13 counts of indecent assault. The 20 victims were youths at the time of the offences and McNutt was in a position of trust in relation to the victims, as a teacher and/or volunteer coach. All of the offences occurred throughout the Halifax region with the exception of two incidents that occurred in other areas of the province. We are not releasing any further details to protect the identity of the victims.

McNutt was arrested at Halifax Regional Police Headquarters on Gottingen Street this morning. He was released and is scheduled to appear in court at a later date.

Police began an investigation in October 2016 after several victims came forward to report historical sexual assaults that occurred in the 1970s and 80s at different locations in the Halifax region. On January 23, 2019, investigators arrested McNutt without incident at an address in Halifax. He was charged with 14 counts of gross indecency and 13 counts of indecent assault in relation to 13 victims.

The investigation is ongoing. Investigators believe there may be other victims and encourage them to contact police. We want victims to know they will not be judged, and will be treated with compassion, dignity and respect throughout the entire investigative process.

Sexual assault investigations are complex. As part of our victim-centered, trauma-informed approach to sexualized violence, we work closely with victims to ensure they’re willing to proceed with a police investigation. Police must also ensure the victim’s privacy is upheld and well-being is fully considered.

St. Joseph’s – A. McKay School. Photo courtesy Star Metro Halifax

I first reported on the McNutt investigation in August 2017:

A Halifax man who has been convicted of sexually abusing three boys was sued yesterday by three other men who say they were also his victims. Another two alleged victims have already filed suit against the man, and an active police investigation is looking at the possibility he abused dozens of boys.

Michael Patrick McNutt, 64, lives in Halifax’s north end. In the 1970s and 1980s he was a math and science teacher at Sir Robert Borden Junior High in Dartmouth. He then briefly left teaching to work at a Wendy’s restaurant, but within a year or two returned as a substitute teacher at St. Joseph’s–Alexander MacKay and Westmount schools in north end Halifax, and possibly also at Graham Creighton Junior High School in Cherrybrook. He also coached hockey, baseball, and football teams. McNutt continued as a substitute teacher until 1994, when he pleaded guilty of sexually assaulting a male student in 1987. After that conviction, McNutt was employed for seven years at the KFC on Spring Garden Road, working his way up to a supervisor position. He has since retired.

Through the years, McNutt has faced 15 charges — six for sexual assault, five for sexual exploitation, two for gross indecency, and one each for invitation to sexual touching and an indecent act. He’s been sentenced for three of those charges — two sexual assaults and the indecent act, for which he received a conditional sentence of house arrest that expires on October 20, 2017. The other charges were either dropped entirely or withdrawn when police began to understand the scope of the allegations and formed an investigative team called “Project Apollo” to more fully investigate them.

The Halifax Examiner learned of Project Apollo earlier this year. As it is an active police investigation, we’ve agreed to withhold details of that investigation until charges are laid or the investigation is ended.

But we can tell you that police believe that there could be dozens of other victims, and that the alleged victims identified so far were aged eight to 15 years old at the time of the abuse.

The lawsuits filed yesterday allege that many adults at the schools and in sporting organizations knew, or should have known, about McNutt’s improper relationships with children, but failed to act.

I haven’t spoken with Halifax police about Project Apollo since yesterday’s release, so I’m reluctant to say too much until I get some idea of what would be appropriate to disclose — I received the information about Project Apollo by mistake, and while I have a legal right to publish it, I don’t want to interfere with the police investigation.

For now, I’ll just stress that there’s very good reason that the investigation is ongoing.

So far, the charges against McNutt relate to 33 victims, all of them then boys. I’ve spoken with several of them, some by social media messaging and some in person. Each of them says the abuse they suffered was traumatic. Some have gone on to live relatively normal lives, while others have had a much tougher go of it.

I believe the total number of victims will be much larger than 33.

I’ve additionally talked to other people who grew up in and around Halifax during the time McNutt was teaching and coaching. They tell me it was common knowledge that McNutt was preying on boys — one said McNutt was known as the school “perve” — and that McNutt seemed to have been moved around every time allegations of misconduct got too troublesome.

That is, rather than call the police and deal with the issue directly, people in positions of power and trust simply shuffled McNutt elsewhere, allowing the abuse to continue.

It strikes me that with the large number of victims, and with what seems like indisputable common knowledge about McNutt’s behaviour, there must have been hundreds of adults who looked the other way, who refused to deal with the criminality.

Not only that, even after McNutt was finally convicted in 1994 for the sexual assault of a student, here’s what happened next:

Some time after that conviction — it’s unclear when — McNutt was pardoned for the sexual assault conviction. When someone is pardoned of a conviction, all court records related to the charge and conviction are sealed, and the Halifax Examiner could find no court record of McNutt’s 1994 conviction.

But many years later, in 2013, McNutt was again convicted of an indecent assault of a child. That 2013 conviction should have made null and void the pardon for McNutt’s 1994 conviction, and the court records of the 1994 conviction should have been unsealed. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however. Court files for the 1994 conviction are still not publicly available.

Regardless, by 1994, police knew that McNutt had preyed on children. A pardon does not lead to the destruction of investigative records kept by police. Yet knowledge of McNutt’s 1994 conviction does not appear to have informed later police investigations of McNutt until recently.

And it’s not just McNutt. I’ve been reading court testimony in other unrelated cases that show that hundreds of girls in the Halifax-Dartmouth area were regularly being sexually abused and raped by adults. (This is a long-term reporting project.)

I don’t know how to measure or even discover the societal impact of such widespread sexual abuse of children.

Someone asked me last night on Twitter if I thought sports organizations and schools do a better job now:

Do you think that’s still the case? I ask because most? some? all? of these sorts of groups now require vulnerable sector PRCs. Is this making a discernable difference?

Well, I think things have improved. But the police record checks can be problematic because they can spoil the reputation of completely innocent people (this is an issue with ViCLAS, as you can read here and as I’ll write about in more detail at a later date) and because requiring police record checks of volunteers and employees is often just pro forma for insurance purposes and doesn’t reflect a deeper organizational awareness of what’s actually going on between young people and the adults they trust.

And too often, I think, people who run nonprofits will put the reputation of their organization above concern for the individual child. They’ll rationalize it: But we do so much good, Why should everyone else suffer because of this one situation?, etc.

The proper response should be: I need to call the police, and if that destroys my organization, that’s still the right thing to do. Hopefully, with time, we as a society will recognize that sexual abuse will sometimes happen, and the organizations that did what they’re supposed to do and responded correctly should not be punished.

I don’t think we’re there, however.

2. “World-Class”

Actual ski resort: Rastkogel, Austria. Photo: by Petr Novák, CC BY-SA 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Campbell plays “Okay, Stop” in yesterday’s edition of the Cape Breton Spectator. This is a game where Campbell reads from an article in the Cape Breton Spectator and stops every few paragraphs to reinterpret it.

In this case, she played with this article, which is “about the ‘boom’ that is apparently underway in Ben Eoin — a boom you and I are helping to fund, dear readers”:

It begins like this:

A ski hill that attracts thousands of visitors is an essential part of a four-season destination concept laid out by the owners of The Lakes Golf Club and Resort at Ben Eoin.

Okay, stop.

Are the owners of The Lakes Golf Club and Resort and Ben Eoin going to buy a ski hill that attracts “thousands of visitors?” Because the one they have isn’t going to cut it.

That’s not me throwing shade at the Ben Eoin ski hill, that’s me stating a truth so obvious I’ve heard it from long-time supporters of Ski Ben Eoin who consider the facility a great little hill for locals — not a ski resort likely to attract thousands of visitors.

But go on, you’ve caught my attention:

Despite a recent conflict between the former owner of the golf course, Ben Eoin Golf Ltd., and the Cape Breton Ski Club, which is the non-profit society that operates Ski Ben Eoin, [Rodney] Colbourne is prepared to market The Lakes as a world-class resort, whether you golf, ski, sail or just prefer to sit and relax reading a book.

How many times do I have to say it? If you are calling yourself “world-class” you probably aren’t.

And why would I go to an all-seasons resort to “relax reading a book?” I have many perfectly good places to do that free of charge, like, in my car in the parking lot at the The Lakes Golf Club and Resort.

Campbell goes on at length about the article and raises many more fine points, but I’m going to stop here because you should subscribe to the Spectator and read it all yourself, and because I find it kind of funny that I’m typing today’s Morning File while sitting in my car in a campground in New Brunswick, and lastly because while I’m supposedly on vacation and there’s not much news happening in any event, this gives me the excuse to hark back to my own musings about “world-class.”

I wrote a little piece for The Coast back in 2013 headlined “Two decades of world-class delusion.” I spent a lot of time on it, and I think it still stands up. It begins:

After “drop the bomb,” never have three simple words so devastated a place.

The first reference I can find to anyone using the phrase “world-class city” to describe Halifax comes from 1994. That July, Fred MacGillivray was hired as president of the World Trade and Convention Centre, the provincial crown corporation now called Trade Centre Limited. Three months into the job, Halifax was picked as the site of the 1995 G7 summit, and on October 17, MacGillivray gushed to the Daily News about Halifax’s bright future.

“The problem,” MacGillivray told reporter Brian Flinn, “is that all the world doesn’t know where Halifax is. But hundreds of millions of eyes will be set upon Halifax during the [G7] conference. To me, that’s the biggest opportunity this city, this area, has ever been presented. No longer will we be deemed a small place in Canada. We’ll be seen as a world-class city.”

I went on to document the use of the term in Halifax, including by newspaper columnists (David Rodenhiser: “given that Toronto is a major world-class city, we should recognize that there is an element of the population who enjoy nude sunbathing and recreation. Not in our world-class city, though. Here in Halifax, we welcome police harassment and handcuffs.”); talk show hosts (Rick Howe: “How can we be a world-class city, a smart city, without a stadium and a CFL team?”); and myriad other bureaucrats, business people, pundits, and politicians.

“The obsession with becoming a ‘world-class city’ led naturally, necessarily, to the colossal clusterfuck of the Commonwealth Games bid,”  I wrote.

I wasn’t just ragging on the term “world-class,” however (although that was great fun), but trying to make a larger point. Go have a look.

Wait, I screwed that up — my seatbelt is kind of annoying me, and the steering wheel makes it difficult to type. I was supposed to be plugging Mary Campbell and the Cape Breton Spectator, and not myself.

So click here to read Campbell’s fine game of Okay, Stop, but first 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.
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3. Jobs

Northern Pulp Mill. Photo: Halifax Examiner

You can sell just about anything in Nova Scotia — overpriced Commonwealth Games, subsidies for billionaires, nuclear power plants, you name it — if you promise “jobs!”

Add to that list toxic waste dumps, as a sort of reverse-sell: if you don’t let us continue dumping toxic waste, we’ll lose jobs.

That, in essence, is what Unifor is arguing. As reported by Taryn Grant for Star Halifax:

Unifor, a national union that represents 240 workers at the Northern Pulp mill in Pictou County and 23,000 other forestry workers across Canada, released an economic impact study on Wednesday that estimates the direct and indirect consequences of the mill’s potential closure.

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said the results underscore what his union and other mill supporters have said before: the forestry industry in Nova Scotia would collapse without Northern Pulp.

The study, which was paid for by Unifor and conducted by local consulting firm Gardner Pinfold, found that Northern Pulp spends $279 million annually, with almost half going to purchasing, harvesting and transporting raw materials from around the province.

According to the 2018 figures, the study says more than 1,300 companies were connected to the mill through the supply chain, more than 2,600 full-time equivalent jobs were supported by the mill and workers earned $128 million in income.

First of all, economic impact studies are almost always complete bullshit.

Second, even when they’re not complete bullshit, the studies rarely are used for the purpose they were invented for: comparing the economic outcome of different possible actions. In this case, the comparison should be: what are the positive economic impacts we’d see if we closed the mill completely? How many tourism jobs would be created? How much less would be spent on health care as a result of people not being exposed to pollution? How would the fishery benefit? How much would the public treasury save by not subsidizing mill and logging operations? And what is the multiplier effects of all those increased benefits and decreased expenditures? Gardner Pinfold hasn’t run those numbers; there’s no attempt at a comparison. So it’s not a “study” at all; it’s just a propaganda piece.

Third, the argument seems to be that “jobs” trump everything. As I’ve pointed out before, saying that concern for “jobs” in the forest industry should delay the ending of dumping toxic waste into Boat Harbour is the very definition of environmental racism.

The Unifor argument is somewhat different. The union is saying that construction of the replacement effluent plant should begin while the environmental impact study of the pipe out into the Northumberland Strait is being worked out, but that pulls the rug out from under the purpose of the environmental study. The whole point of requiring such studies is to make sure the environmental impacts of projects is understood. We all know that once the effluent plant is built, it will be used.

4. “Illegal” eviction

“Some tenants of an apartment building in the Halifax neighbourhood of Fairview are standing their ground even as their landlord threatens them with what they call an ‘illegal’ eviction,” reports Frances Willick for the CBC:

The landlord of 25 Vimy Ave. issued eviction notices to the tenants this spring. Adam Barrett of BlackBay Real Estate Group wants to renovate the 30-unit building, including work he says cannot be done while units are occupied.

A spokesperson for Service Nova Scotia, the provincial department responsible for the Residential Tenancies Act, told the CBC the landlord has not filed the appropriate paperwork to conduct the evictions.


Government

No public meetings today or Friday.


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Thesis Defence, Medical Neuroscience (Thursday, 9am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building) — PhD candidate Drew Debay will defend “Molecular Neuroimaging in Alzheimer’s Disease: Targeting Butyrylcholinesterase for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) Imaging of the Brain.”

Thesis Defence, Industrial Engineering (Thursday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Mengyu Li will defend “Designing Emergency Medical Services Processes to Minimize the Impact of​​ Ambulance Offload Delay​.”

A BiLevel Optimization Model for the Technician Routing and Scheduling Problem with Overnights and Lunch Breaks (Thursday, 2pm, MA310) — Eman Almehdawe from the University of Regina will talk.

Risk, resilience and the renaissance of play (Thursday, 5pm, Great Hall, University Club) — Mariana Brussoni will talk about how risky outdoor play is critical for establishing healthier, happier, and resilient communities. Register here; more info here.

Dalhousie Muslim Student Association Eid AlAdha BBQ (Thursday, 5pm, the Quad) — to celebrate the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha. The event is student-centered and is the first of its kind in recent years to be held following the ratification of the DMSA (Dal Muslim Student Association) by the DSU this summer after it has long been inactive. More info here.


In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
06:00: Artemis, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
06:00: Jennifer Schepers, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
07:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Argentia, Newfoundland
11:00: Ef Ava sails for Portland
12:00: Penn 92, barge, sails from McAsphalt for sea with Coho, tug
12:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 36
16:00: Artemis sails for New York
21:30: Jennifer Schepers sails for Kingston, Jamaica


Footnotes

It surprises me how much I can write in the car.


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Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. You know, you don’t have to wear the seatbelt when you are typing.

    Enjoy the vacation; it is well deserved.

  2. the study ties the fate of the entire Nova Scotia forestry industry to Northern Pulp. it claims 3 saw mills could close if northern pulp goes away.

    We should be asking government why our forestry industry is in such a state that the future of 3 lumber mills depends on the continued sale of their waste products, and not on their primary products.

  3. “Jobs” is the reason we sell arms to the Saudis to suppress their neighbours and their own people.

    “Jobs” is the reason we buy pipelines to transport the poison we pump out of the earth, to burn and fill the sky with toxic, earth-destroying fumes.

    “Jobs” is the reason the highest elected official in this country would demand his Attorney General interfere in court proceedings.

    It’s an excuse to cover every sin, every moral failure, which governments and the private sector concoct together — but it’s not a made-in-Nova-Scotia problem.

  4. What is world class even supposed to mean? Does it mean ‘suitably opulent playground for the international 1%’?

    Imagine if the mayors of a bunch of cities 500 years ago said “Rome is the most world-class city we know about. This means that we should build the biggest copy of the Vatican that we can afford”

    1. Well Ski Ben Eoin is in the world. And ski hills can be classified in terms of their vertical drop or kilometers of trails, etc.

      Ben Eoin has a vertical drop of 153 meters. You need at least 800 meters for an Olympic downhill run. Le Massif in Quebec is the highest in Eastern Canada with a vertical drop of only 770 meters. Whiteface in New York has a drop of 1045 meters. It was the site for downhill skiing for the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.