News

1. Street checks

Yesterday, I wrote:

This is how it goes. Every now and then something happens — a Black man with the resources and gumption to do something about it stands up to the harassment, the results of a CBC Freedom of Information request are published — that make it temporarily impossible for the white power structures to ignore police harassment of Black people. And so the response is “we’ll do something! We’ll write a report, we’ll retrain someone, we’ll do X, and maybe even Y.” And then after the press conference and after the media have moved on to the next story, the police harassment of Black people is again ignored, as are all the promises of action. This has always been how it’s been. And there’s no good reason to think it’ll be any different this time.

Later in the day, Justice Minister Mark Furey issued a statement under the headline “Action on Street Checks Report” [note the action! word]:

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mark Furey today, March 28, directed police across the province to immediately cease using street checks…

Success! Right? Oh wait, there’s more:

…as part of a quota system or performance measurement tool.

Of course, the Halifax police department says there is no quota system, so what change is actually happening?

Turns out, nothing.

“Despite a call from the Black community, the government of Nova Scotia refuses to enact a province-wide moratorium on street checks,” reports Taryn Grant for StarMetro Halifax:

Premier Stephen McNeil and justice minister Mark Furey said it was “alarming” to learn Black people in Halifax are six times more likely than white people to be the subject of street checks. But neither were prepared to immediately end the practice.

Halifax is right now preparing to hire a new police chief. There’s a pretty good chance — I’m betting even odds — that that next police chief will be named McNeil, and that he will be the sibling or other relative of the premier. It could be that deputy chief Robin McNeil (Stephen’s brother) is promoted to full chief, or it could be that disgraced/not disgraced former deputy chief Chris McNeil (also Stephen’s brother) could be brought back from “retirement” for the position. Or it could be that one of the seven or eight other McNeils on the police force (various siblings, inlaws, and nephews of Stephen) could be pulled up to the top job.

So it’s no surprise at all that the premier has a bias for policing as usual.

A demonstration has been scheduled for tomorrow. From the Facebook event:

STOP STREET CHECKS!

SATURDAY MARCH 30

PUBLIC MEETING: NORTH BRANCH LIBRARY 1:30PM
MARCH: 3:00PM

The African Nova Scotian community is calling out to community members and allies to stand up and hit the streets in representation of support of the individuals affected by the practice.

The report released by Scot Wortley for the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission shows that Black people are checked at almost 6 times the rate of white people, and that 1/3 of Black men in Halifax have been charged with a crime.

On Saturday March 30th, join the African Nova Scotian community in conversation and solidarity as we work towards solutions with government and Halifax Regional Police.

As a community we have data to validate experiences. As a community we need to come together for a solution oriented march and conversation!

Come show your power, unity, and presence!

Run down of the day

1:30pm – Youth lead briefing of Dr Wortley Street Check Report to the community at the North Branch Library.

3:00pm – March beginning at North Branch Library, Marching to Halifax Regional Police Station. From there we will March down Barrington Street and up to Provincial Court House on Spring garden Road and Back to North Branch Library.

The street check issue is dispiriting on so many fronts… but pulling back, the larger issue is one of state surveillance of citizens. In a free society, all of us should be able to go about our day without being watched, followed, and cataloged. Aggressive surveillance like street checks is just a tiny step away from the so-called “predictive policing” that is becoming widely practiced, and which in effect criminalizes the surveilled — why collect loads of data if you’re not going to use it? And it’s no surprise at all — none — that hyper surveillance will reflect and amplify the biases of the society, which in Halifax means foremost anti-Black racism.

2. Journalmalism 101

This week, Halifax journalism lost Brett Bundale, Aly Thomson, Keith Doucette, and Alex Cooke. In return we got… Christie Blatchford.

Bundale, Thomson, Doucette, and Cooke are the four Halifax-based reporters the Canadian Press gave layoff notices in February; yesterday was their last day. They were laid off because Saltwire chain (Herald, etc.) dropped its contract with CP.

As I’ve written, I think Saltwire’s action could have been defensible. By buying CP copy, Saltwire was in effect subsidizing its competition — it was paying for the exact same articles that appear in the CBC, CTV, StarMetro, etc.; moreover, Torstar, the company that owns StarMetro, is also a third-owner of CP. So, from both a business and a journalistic perspective, it could make sense for Saltwire to repurpose the money it was spending on CP and use it to hire more of its own reporters for regional coverage.

But that doesn’t appear to be happening. I’m not aware that Saltwire has increased its own reporting staff. Instead, Saltwire is replacing the CP wire with Postmedia content. There are Postmedia reporters still doing good work across Canada but there is no or at least very little Postmedia coverage in Atlantic Canada, so we’ll likely see a huge loss in regional news coverage.

Worse still, the deal with Postmedia also includes op-eds, so suddenly the Herald is publishing Andrew Coyne and Christie Blatchford. I can live with Coyne. But Blatchford? She’s horrible. She’s horrible on race, she’s horrible on gender issues, she’s a horrible writer. She has defended a stalker. (I’m told, incidentally, that just as it is publishing Blatchford, the Herald has cut its freelancer columnist budget.)

Not so long ago, then-Herald reporter Selena Ross did a wonderful job covering the Rehtaeh Parsons story; soon after, Blatchford shit all over the story by blaming the victim. Way to undermine your own reporting, Herald.

Oh, and Blatchford has considerable issues with Indigenous people, to put it mildly. This would be an excellent time to kill your Herald subscription and repurpose the money to support local Indigenous reporting at Maureen Googoo’s Kukukwes.

3. Spring Garden Road

A pretty picture that most everyone liked, but come on, we can’t have that.

“Spring Garden Rd. will get wider sidewalks under a new plan recommended by council’s transportation committee, but a more radical option that would have banned car traffic on a stretch of the road was rejected,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax.

Examiner transportation columnist Erica Butler detailed the various options for Spring Garden Road here, noting:

People walking or rolling have far outnumbered people in private vehicles on Spring Garden for years. We may have reached the day when even the merchants of Spring Garden realize that their street is too darn busy with potential customers to continue to serve as a loading zone.

Alas, no. Continues Woodford:

The radical option was the most popular among the public, and it scored the highest on municipal staff’s rubric for the options, which was weighted to pedestrian and transit experience.

But there were concerns: the Spring Garden Area Business Association didn’t want to lose all the loading zones on the street, and residents on side streets like Dresden Row and Birmingham St. were worried that removing vehicles from Spring Garden Rd. would increase traffic in their neighbourhood.

As a compromise, municipal planner Hanita Koblents presented a fourth option to the committee on Thursday, described as a hybrid between options 2 and 3.

“The sidewalks are consistently widened and loading is removed, except for one location at the western end of the street near the McDonald’s,” she said.

“This option doesn’t limit vehicles entirely, but does limit certain manoeuvres of vehicles and particularly left turns off of Spring Garden Rd. so that buses don’t get hung up behind left-turning cars.”

I’m so old I remember when H/\lifax was bold.

In my book — which happens to be the English Oxford Dictionary — “bold” is defined as “showing a willingness to take risks; confident and courageous,” which seems the polar opposite of “taking mealy mouthed half measures for fear of upsetting a few people.”

Peeps — stay with me here — I’m beginning to think that “bold” talk was all bullshit.

4. Turns out, an entire genre of movie plots is fiction

“The Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) is ‘disturbed’ by recent incidents involving people trespassing at the QEII’s Victoria General Hospital,” reports Alexa MacLean for Global:

Multiple sources have told Global News that a man allegedly ended up on a hospital floor late at night, claiming to be a doctor.

He allegedly ended up at the Victoria General site dressed in a surgical mask, lab coat and wearing a stethoscope. Sources say he reportedly entered a patient’s room claiming to be their doctor and abruptly left the room when the patient alerted the nursing desk.

Halifax Regional Police have confirmed a man was arrested shortly after midnight on March 23.

“Officers did locate a male. A 49-year-old male was arrested for public intoxication at the time and he’s since been charged with theft and possession of stolen property,” said Halifax police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod.

Well, damn, that always works in the movies. The mobsters come in for a hit, or the good guy comes in to kidnap the wrongfully charged friend who is recovering in the hospital, and there’s always a little room on each floor where they can change into doctor garb and then walk down the hallways unnoticed in order to perform their dastardly/heroic deed.

Another childhood belief dashed on the cold rocks of reality.


Views

1. Rail cut bridges

Quinpool Road bridge. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Stephen Archibald uses the excuse of the Quinpool Road bridge reconstruction to take a look at all the concrete bridges spanning the rail cut:

By my count, there are 11 concrete bridges, all just over 100 years old, that cross the rail cut that snakes along the west side of the Halifax peninsula and ends at the deep water port and the train station.

I stopped this week to look at the Quinpool Road bridge from a distance. As I walked onto the Prince Arthur Street bridge there was movement in the woods that border the railway cut, and two deer descended the slope. The rail line is significant wildlife corridor. The Urban Greenway is a concept for a multi use trail that follows this route too.

This makes me think of The High Line park in Manhattan. The park is built on what was once an elevated rail line — an old spur of the New York Central Railroad — which has now been reclaimed with native vegetation, gardens, and interesting sculptures.

There’s been much talk of kicking the port out of the south end and turning the rail cut into a superhighway. Neither seems likely, as the port is expanding its HalTerm operations. But should one future day the rail line actually be pulled out of the cut, perhaps instead of a highway, it can be turned into a submerged park, The Low Line, if you will.


Government

No public meetings today.


On campus

Dalhousie

The Life and Times of the Nova Scotia Cricket League, 1906-1914 (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — John Reid from Saint Mary’s University will speak.

Chamber Music on Both Sides of the Bridge (Friday, 7:30pm, Woodside United Church, Cole Harbour) — the Fountain School’s “brightest and best” singers and instrumentalists perform chamber music by Schumann, Brahms, Smetana, Chausson and Copland. Saturday night’s performance is at First Baptist Church in Halifax.


In the harbour

03:30: CMA CGM Tage, container ship, sails for New York
05:00 Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at anchorage from Saint John
06:00: ZIM Shekou, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Augusta Mars, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 31 from Aruba
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Autoport to Pier 41
10:00: YM Moderation, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11:00: Acadian moves to Irving Oil
16:30: ZIM Shekou sails for New York
21:45: YM Moderation sails for New York


Footnotes

It’s been a really long week and today is a full day. I’m tired and cranky. Leave me alone, or buy me beer.


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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. Jan Wong is also the person who, as a Canadian exchange student to China in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, who in a fit of misplaced fervour, denounced her roommate who was subsequently sent to a labour camp for 20 years where she tried to commit suicide by drinking gasoline.

    1. It was a terrible experience. Waited 55 minutes for my lunch while to-go burgers were prioritized ahead of me. Every five minutes the server came by to say our order would be “right up.” It wasn’t. It was a work meeting, and my lunchmate had to go to another appointment without eating. I was left with her meal, which I had them package up and I gave it to one of the street people after. I voiced my displeasure and got nothing but a shrug and something along the lines of “we’re crazy busy.”

  2. The new police chief will be from away. The chances of a McNeil being police chief are ZERO. There are plenty of signals that a new chief will be a CFA. Or hire Chief Saunders from Toronto and that would please many people, he is black and he endorses street checks.
    Memo to journalists and readers : Read the report before writing and explore the definition of ‘street checks’.
    The RCMP got off easy in the coverage because journalists were obssessed with reporting ‘street checks in Halifax’, thus omitting the fact that many checks were and are carried out in areas patrolled by the RCMP.
    Many officers detailed how to improve the quality of street checks. I note how RCMP offciers explained the significant difference between how they handle street checks and how city police carry out their work.
    And all journalists have omitted any refence to the spate of shootings during gang warfare. Wortley either deliberately ignored the effect it had on policing response to the issue or was not aware of how open and blatant the fight was, including an early afternoon shootout at the end of Victoria road when the shooter stood up in an SUV and fired at another vehicle in heavy traffic.

  3. Kicking the port out of the south end, eh? And should we guess how and why this would be accomplished? Could it be because of the closer and closer infringement on the Africville site?

    I wrote about this when I first saw the small arm of basin fill-in being created in front of the Africville church/museum. Then each time I happened to be in a car coming from Dartmouth to north end Halifax, I looked down and saw it getting longer and then saw it turn to the right with a hook. It’s obviously a big job, perhaps a total fill-in and allowing for more port land and containers, probably, and…completely destroying any view from the church/museum and Africville.

    Before that was the off leash dog park. Please!

    WHY is nobody talking about this? NOBODY seems to care. What’s up? Like the police checks, is there no end to this blindness?

    1. Nobody cares because there is no plan to move from the south end.
      There is a plan to expand the port facilities in the south end.
      Expansion of the south end container terminal is taking place right now.
      Fill in the online survey : https://www.portcityhfx.ca/

  4. Too bad Spring Garden East doesn’t know what Spring Garden West is up to. The Centre Plan proposes 400 new residents in the Robie, Summer and College blocks. Killam’s already approved 18-storey would accommodate ~70% so the extra people target could fit in a single 5-6 storey building.
    Instead HRM is following the lead of two developers for two projects in two separate processes for 16-, 20-, 26- and 30-storey towers. That’s in less than a single block behind Carlton St. In total these are 80% the square footage of the nova centre abutting a municipally, provincially and federally designated heritage streetscape. They’ll add ~800 underground parking spots (in addition to whatever Killam’s does.) And they’ll destroy 12 (mostly historic) buildings wrecking the last historic neighbourhood on the Halifax Common. Want walkable or liveable? Check out better options at: http://www.facebook.com/HFXOptions
    and https://www.developmentoptionshfx.com

  5. Yes, by all means, lets conjure up a Hall of Shame for Jan Wong.

    She’s the former Beijing correspondent for the Globe and Mail who later became a popular columnist before wrecking her career by writing a pungent column about what life is like for ethnics in Quebec, where she grew up.

    That column set off a national firestorm. Every politician and columnist in Quebec condemned it. Prime Minister Stephen Harper denounced Wong. The House of Commons unanimously censured her. (Unanimously! Imagine!) Bowing to pressure, Globe editor Edward Greenspon, who had personally approved the column before publication, said it should not have run. (Yes, that’s the same E.G. who authored the government plan to bail out failing newspaper chains.)

    Wong fell into a deep depression and went on sick leave. The Globe ordered her back to work, whereupon she won a large settlement for wrongful dismissal, which she was later forced to repay after disclosing the amount the Globe coughed up. While all this on, Wong’s former colleagues and fellow pundits sat on their typing fingers and stared out the window.

    Since then, Wong has written books, taught journalism, and penned whimsical columns on mostly trivial subjects. Tim used to make fun of her with a feature called Wong Watch, but to his credit, he stopped once he learned the backstory.

    I spent several years working on a controversial NS project that most reporters got wrong, except for a few capable Sydney-based journalists. Celebrity national journos regularly blew into town with stories already written in their heads, looking for a few locals who would provide confirming quotes. Wong was a shining exception. She spent a few days in Sydney, listened to all sides, and wrote a well-informed, accurate story.

    She’s a wonderful writer, a first rate reporter, and a huge loss to Canadian journalism. But by all means, lets form ourselves into an ignorant mob to shame her.

    1. I agree. Too many lazy journalists who decide upon a narrative and never budge or ignore the issue when the facts become available, Group think at its finest, including the reporting of street checks without any reference to why street checks rose by 86% in 2007.

  6. Whenever the status quo gets a good poke in the eye, Blatchford is there to defend the wrong side. I remember her embedding herself with some right wing activists playing victim over the Caledonia Six Nations land dispute last decade, giving tearful reports from the field that land developers weren’t able to swipe First Nations land in peace. If she didn’t earn tenure by being Postmedia’s Wente she would be right at home at Rebel.

  7. I also see that Alison Auld announced yesterday (?) that she is also leaving CP. Not sure if that means that one of the laid-off reporters will stay. Either way, a very sad time for Atlantic Canadian journalism.