A trial starts today for an Eastern Passage man charged in the euphemistically named “high-profile child pornography case.” Five days have been set aside for the trial, but there’s some expectation that the man will simply plead guilty and that will be the end of it. The first man tried in the case pleaded guilty and was given a light sentence that included no jail time.
The victim, a high school girl, committed suicide after an image of her was spread on social media. The case gained international attention, and anyone can easily find the victim’s name on American media sites like NPR’s On The Media or Slate Magazine, but a publication ban is in place for this trial, making it illegal for anyone in Canada to publish her name. The victim’s parents say the publication ban is an insult to their daughter and, further, that it limits what should be a broader discussion about sexual assault, child pornography, and cyberbullying. In protest, reporter Hilary Beaumont started the #YouKnowHerName hashtag, and others have called on Justice Minister Lena Diab to put an end to the publication ban.
2. Assoun hearing
The Glenn Assoun bail hearing starts today. It is scheduled to last the entire week, and is held before Justice James Chipman and a jury. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a jury empaneled for a bail hearing, which gives some indication of the gravity of this case.
Assoun is serving a life sentence for the 1995 murder of Brenda Way. He has maintained his innocence from the day he was convicted, and some unknown piece of evidence has recently caused Mark Green, a lawyer with the Criminal Convictions Review Board, to write that “there may be a reasonable basis to conclude that a miscarriage of justice likely occurred” in Assoun’s conviction. Because it is covered by a publication ban, we don’t at this point know for sure what that evidence is, but as I reported here (article is behind the pay wall), serial killer Michael McGray lived near where Way’s body was found, knew Way, and killed his known victims in a fashion that resembled the killing of Way. Presumably, whatever evidence Green found suggests that McGray, not Assoun, killed Way.
We can expect that the evidence calling into doubt Assoun’s conviction will be presented in open court, making it public for the first time. That’s why I intend to be present for most of the hearing.
The reason I’m so interested in this case is that it will reflect back on the performance of investigators with the Halifax Regional Police Department. As I wrote in “Is a botched Halifax police investigation being hidden behind a proposed publication ban?” (also behind the pay wall):
We still don’t know that Assoun’s case involves a miscarriage of justice. A lawyer for the federal government says it sure looks like one, and he’s written an 86-page report with 131 appendixes to support his case. But he’s one guy, with one opinion. The Department of Justice hasn’t fully investigated, and a judge hasn’t weighed the evidence. As of right now, Assoun is guilty, and serving a life sentence for a horrific murder.
Still, consider this in a broader context than Assoun’s conviction. There are dozens of unsolved murders in Halifax, and the Halifax police have been accused of mishandling many of the investigations. Does the Preliminary Assessment in the Assoun case shed any light on the overall abilities or tactics of the investigators? We just can’t know until the PA is public.
And the issue is not just academic: the very same police department continues to investigate murders, with a continued low conviction rate.
I’ve read much of the court file related to Assoun’s conviction, and I suspect this hearing will lay out a lot of information the police department would rather not be public. Stay tuned.
3. Tamara Lorincz is a terrorist
That, anyway, is what Peter Van Praagh, president of the Halifax International Security Forum, seems to be claiming. The Chronicle Herald reports that “SIL is sending messages to participants and staff at the Halifax International Security Forum, the conference’s top official said Saturday.”
ISIS is using our Forum’s hashtag, #HISF2014, to circulate a propaganda video featuring a British captive, John Cantlie. We understand that ISIL is also sending messages to participants and staff of this Forum.
Oh noes! A hashtag terrorist!
Look, whatever ISIL or ISIS or whoever is doing is clearly no laughing matter, but Van Praagh is simply full of it. We can check these things, you know. A quick look at the #HISF2014 hashtag shows that there aren’t any propaganda videos or nasty messages being sent by terrorists (admittedly, such tweets could’ve been removed, but I was watching the hashtag fairly regularly through the weekend and saw none). Rather, dreaded peace activists have jumped on board the hashtag to criticize what they rightly see as a gathering of “warmongers and their sycophants.”
4. Leave Out Violence denied funding
In a solid piece of investigative reporting, the CBC’s Shaina Luck explores how the Halifax agency Leave Out Violence (LOVE) was denied federal funding this year. Luck obtained documents showing that civil servants repeatedly recommended funding the group, but funding was nixed at the last moment solely on the authority of Jason Kenney, the Minister of Employment and Social Development:
LOVE requested $191,105, which would have provided funding for two co-ordinators to run the program, the cost of paying minimum wage to participants, and the costs of program activities.
The report spoke well of LOVE’s past programs and results.
“No issues in the past with administering this program. They have been doing this for over 10 years and have always had great results,” the report states.
“As demonstrated through financial and activity monitoring results on past agreements, youth programs administered by LOVE have been extremely successful therefore they have demonstrated their ability and capacity to administer this type of project and similar projects in the future,” the report continued in another section.
Under a section entitled “value for money,” the report stated, “the cost per participant is $18,870 which is below the maximum amount of $25,000 under the skills link directives for a project with multiple interventions. It represents good value for money because it will help 12 youth gain life and employability skills as well as work experience that will enable them to find employment or return to school. All costs have been verified and deemed necessary to achieve the expected results of the project.”
The project was recommended for ministerial approval. Civil servants recommended LOVE receive $226,442, which was roughly $35,000 more than the organization requested.
Luck goes on to review LOVE’s operations in great detail, showing that the agency has good success working with a vulnerable population. LOVE trains people with no work skills, and those people end up as productive employees who do well in life.
“Ephemera are those bits of paper that are not meant to have an enduring life; they are intended to be thrown away,” explains Stephen Archibald. “I like the description of ephemera as ‘the perspiration of history.’”
2. Bring those rich people a drink
Stephen Kimber pans the tax review conducted by Laurel Broten. “Will ‘rewarding risk-takers, dreamers, doers and builders’ really boost entrepreneurship and investment, or just fund more winter golfing vacations?” he asks.
3. Bill Casey
Dan Leger interviews Bill Casey, the former Conservative MP who stood up to Stephen Harper, got booted from the party, won successfully as an Independent, retired to successfully fight cancer, and has now reentered politics as a Liberal. “[The Reform-inspired Conservatives] have an edge” that he doesn’t like, Casey told Leger. “Everyone is the enemy, the other parties, the media . . . they’re always suspicious and they’re always looking for a fight.”
4. Cranky letter of the day
…We continue to give lifetime driver’s licences to any 16-year-old who can pass a simple memory test and manage to steer a car for 20 minutes in traffic. Short of being too incapacitated to do the most basic, local driving trips or being charged for multiple injury-causing, drunk-driving offences, it is nearly impossible to lose that licence.
And we continue the practice of traffic-code enforcement through having expensive and highly trained police officers dish out tickets hand-written on pads of duplicate paper. What year is this? 1950?
We have cheap technology that can scan and identify every vehicle on the road. We can automatically bill that vehicle every time it fails to stop at a crosswalk, or if it is driven erratically or if it is speeding.
Will any of the people who constantly hector us to be better drivers than we really are support that? No, we prefer a system that lets us get away with it. And when we don’t, we love to gripe about how unfair it is to be picked off in a speed trap or for a perfectly safe rolling stop.
Michael Poulton, Halifax
Executive Standing Committee (10am, City Hall)—Next year, council will continue to meet every other week. Staff is recommending that the committee suggest changes to provincial law to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. And Mike Savage wants to tighten up municipal campaign finance rules.
District 7 & 8 Planning Advisory Committee (4pm, City Hall)—the only thing on the agenda is next year’s proposed meeting schedule, so there’s a good chance this meeting will either be cancelled or won’t meet quorum.
No public meetings.
Making Waves (Monday, 9am–4pm, Akins Room of the Nova Scotia Archives Building)—graduate students in the Marine Affairs Program will present about their projects and internships. There’s some very cool stuff on the agenda.
Breast cancer (Monday, 12:30pm, Room 3-H, Tupper Building)—Sheila Drover, from Memorial University of Newfoundland, will talk on “Dysregulation of HLA class II expression in breast carcinoma.”
Thesis defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Monday, 2:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Genevieve Weir will defend her thesis, “Strategies to Improve the Efficacy of Vaccines by Selective Manipulation of the Immune System: A Transitional Study.”
Senate meeting (Monday, 4pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—Here’s the agenda.
Thesis defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Tuesday, 11am, Room 430, Goldberg Computer Science Building)—PhD candidate Haoran Yu will defend his thesis, “Techniques for Enhancing the Performance of Bulk-Driven Circuits in Nano-Scale CMOS Technology.”
Climate Change in the Northwest Atlantic (Tuesday, 11:30am, RM 3655, Life Science Centre, Oceanography Wing)—John Loder, from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography and part of the global conspiracy of scientists angling for grant money, has somehow escaped the clutches of his government minders. Someone call CSIS.
PhD defence, Biology (Tuesday, 2pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building)—PhD candidate Trevor Dickson Davies will defend his thesis, “Population Status of Exploited Marine Fish Populations.”
Board of Governors (3pm, University Hall, Macdonald Building)—This meeting will decide the Fossil Fuel Divestment issue. The Examiner will be reporting on this later on both Monday and Tuesday. See this article for more information.
Environmental issues around Halifax (Tuesday, 2:30pm, Loyola 186):
Students in Environmental Challenges course ENVS 1200.1 will showcase their group-based research projects that tackle a wide range of environmental issues affecting the local community. All welcome.
The Archaeology and History of Colonial Dartmouth (Tuesday, 7:30pm, Theatre B, Burke Building)—Historian David Jones, of the Dartmouth History Blog, will be presenting.
South of the border, there’s a feeling of impending doom as everyone awaits the decision of the grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri. I’m probably of the minority here but, no matter what the grand jury decides, I don’t expect an explosion of violence. The groups protesting in and around Ferguson have shown remarkable restraint in the face of the worst kind of state propaganda—nearly all the charges of violence levelled against them have been created out of whole cloth. Of course, there’s no telling what trigger-happy cops might do.
Drew Gibson is in Ferguson. He has a thoughtful essay about how the civil rights movement in the US owes its success to the organizational skills of its leaders, and he frets that the Ferguson protests are fragmented and disorganized. Well, welcome to the 21st century. Still, Gibson has some choice words for Anonymous:
With no clear leadership on the ground, the protest movement in Ferguson is at great risk of being driven off course by individuals and groups who do not have the movement’s best interest at stake. Anonymous, by their very nature, is first and foremost among these groups because they are a completely decentralized outside force. While I’m sure there are members of Anonymous who live in the Greater St Louis Area, the vast majority of Anons do not live there and thus have little emotional investment in building coalitions that will work through nonviolent means to improve the health, wealth and well-being of the black community in places like Ferguson. Last night, as I stood on the sidewalk watching several young men in Guy Fawkes masks wander aimlessly into traffic and do the Macarena on the double yellow line of S. Florissant, I was struck by the realization that there was a decent chance someone like them would light the fuse that sent Ferguson spiraling out of control.
My one plea to any members of Anonymous who show up for the protests and rallies in Ferguson and all across St. Louis County would be this: take off your masks. On the internet and the realm of hacking I’m sure there are a million reasons why keeping your anonymity is crucial, but in our physical world, wearing those masks serve only to distance you from your humanity. Much like the safety of anonymity emboldens people to unleash torrents of hate speech in the comments section of online articles and on Twitter, those masks enable us to feel above reproach and apart from our fellows. To see someone is to know someone and when I look at a protestor in their full Anonymous get-up, all I see is a cipher. I cannot build community with someone when I don’t know their face or their name and I can’t trust someone who doesn’t trust the world enough to let it know who they are. I never know what to expect from a member of Anonymous and perhaps that’s the point, but I’d at the very least like to know unequivocally that they are on our side—that they don’t think this is a game. I guess we’ll find out soon.
In the harbour
(click on vessel names for pictures and more information about the ships)
Cape Bird, tanker, New Orleans to Imperial Oil
NYK Diana, container ship, New York to Fairview Cove West, then sails for Southampton, England
Vera D, container ship, Lisbon to Pier 42
Atlantic Cartier, con-ro, New York to Fairview Cove West
Atlantic Compass sails for New York
I’ll be in court most of the day, so probably won’t be answering your email.