News

1. Ramadan in jail

Image from asianews.it

“Malik is calling from the jail asking for the numbers of any Muslims he can contact just to talk to, maybe hear some Quran from,” writes El Jones:

The last time he prayed with community was during Ramadan last year, and since then, his requests for spiritual services have been denied.

Last year, Muslim prisoners at Burnside (Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility) spoke out in the media to reporter Aya Al-Hakim about the conditions they were facing during Ramadan. They felt weak from fasting because they were not receiving adequate food to break their fast. They longed to pray with other Muslims, and to visit with Imams.

After that story hit the news, Rana Zaman organized a visit to  Burnside by a number of local Muslims. For one prisoner who converted while in the jail, it was the first (and only) time he had ever had the opportunity to pray together with a community of Muslims. “I felt like I was out of jail,” he told me. “It was the best day I ever had in jail being able to share my faith and feel part of a loving community.”

But since that day, Muslim prisoners say that they have received no other visits, and that requests for visits, books, and religious instruction have been ignored.

Now, a year later observing Ramadan again, they face the exact same conditions they struggled with last year. They report being given box cereal in the mornings to break their fast with at night, rather than food that is high in protein. The diet leaves them feeling sick at a time when they are supposed to be focused on prayer, charity, and remembering those less fortunate.

Click here to read “Ramadan in jail: prisoners in Burnside are being denied the right to practice their religion.”

2. Forest Confidential

We’ve taken Linda Pannozzo’s April 13 article, “Forest Confidential,” out from behind the paywall. Wrote Pannozzo:

A few months ago I reviewed a film that has been circulating the province about the growing use of forest biomass as a form of so-called renewable energy. The film — Burned: Are Trees the New Coal? — reported on how the biomass industry sells itself as green by making two bogus claims: it uses only wood waste or otherwise non-merchantable trees, and it is carbon-neutral, so therefore can be burned to help countries meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets.

In early March of this year, plaintiffs from six countries filed a lawsuit against the European Union for “ignoring the science on forest bioenergy and promoting false climate solutions.” The lawsuit specifically challenges the EU’s inclusion of forest biomass as a renewable and carbon-neutral energy source.

In my review of the film I wanted to include the most recent data on biomass harvesting in Nova Scotia and turned to the place where the Department of Lands and Forestry (DLF) reports these figures, but as I delved deeper into some of the numbers, I was confounded on many levels, found I had more questions than answers, and came up against too many brick walls.

If nothing else, my foray into the murky world of biomass reporting should put the accuracy of forest harvest data in this province seriously in doubt.

I like this investigative article. It’s really wonky, and doesn’t reach any definitive conclusions, but I’m glad somebody is running the numbers and finding that the supposed forest inventories are, well, bullshit.

“What I found most disturbing about researching this latest piece for The Halifax Examiner,” writes Pannozzo, “is that as governments hand over public services (like electricity generation) to the corporate/ private sector, there is less and less information that the public actually has access to. I tried to find out how much biomass is being harvested in Nova Scotia and was staggered by how little I was allowed to know. Even the data collected by the provincial government on our behalf, that we pay for them to collect, is pretty opaque. Our governments are not acting on our behalf anymore, folks.”

Rightly, the auditor general should have a second look at biomass data collection. (There was a scathing 2006 auditor general’s report that critiqued the province’s data collecting.) 

I’m especially glad that the Halifax Examiner can publish this kind of work, because no one else will.

Click here to read “Forest Confidential: An investigation into Nova Scotia’s biomass harvest data and how the numbers aren’t adding up.”

You can now read this article without subscribing, but of course it’s subscriptions that made it possible. Click here to subscribe.

3. Dan Kinsella’s credentials

It’s now old news that the city has hired a police chief, Dan Kinsella.

Kinsella’s hiring was announced via a press release from City Hall on April 30. I was especially interested in this part:

Mr. Kinsella has more than 32 years of experience with Hamilton Police Service in every facet of policing. In his role as Deputy Chief of Operations, he oversees investigative services and three patrol divisions. He has acted as the command lead for multi-jurisdictional investigations and led the City of Hamilton Mayor’s summit for opioids, safe injection sites, and cannabis legalization. Mr. Kinsella was also the president of the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) for New York State and Eastern Canada and director of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Zone 4.

Chief Designate Kinsella’s education includes a Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from the American Military University, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labour Studies from McMaster University, as well as a Certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University. 

Now, university degrees are a touchy subject around the Halifax Examiner water cooler, as my own lack of a degree became fodder for a news cycle. While a university education can be helpful, I don’t think degrees are essential; I’ve seen plenty of degree-less people excel in various professions.

It used to be that the police chief worked his (always his) way up through the ranks, from beat cop to detective to sergeant to the top position, and university education never came into it. Of late, however, the top ranks of the Halifax police have been university grads and more; former deputy chief Chris McNeil has a law degree, for instance, as I believe do several other of the top brass. But my assessment-from-afar of Kinsella is that he’s more of an old school cop’s cop than a pointy-headed university grad plopped into the position. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and it might even be a good thing.

However, it’s one thing to not have a degree, and another to perhaps overstate such degrees. If Kinsella had simply said, “I worked my way up through the ranks and have the experience and skills to run a department,” I wouldn’t think twice about it. But he also crowed about his degrees. This got me wondering. Let’s go through them.

A Master of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from the American Military University.

American Military University (AMU) and American Public University (APU) comprise the American Public University System (APUS), which despite the “public” part of the name is actually a private, on-line correspondence school.

From 1995 through 2012, the school was accredited with the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, but “resigned” its accreditation in 2012. I can’t find that any reputable organization now accredits APUS, at least not in the programs related to Criminal Justice.

Last year, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced a settlement with APUS:

Attorney General Maura Healey today announced a settlement with an online for-profit school over allegations that the school violated Massachusetts law by failing to make mandated disclosures to prospective students about job placement rates, violating requirements that the school provide important information about loan repayment and graduation rates to prospective students 72 hours before enrollment, and engaging in predatory enrollment tactics, including making excessive recruitment calls.

The assurance of discontinuance, filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court against American Public University System, which runs American Military University (AMU), alleges that it violated the state’s for-profit and occupational school regulations aimed at protecting Massachusetts students from the deceptive and unfair practices of for-profit schools.

According to the AG’s Office, American Military University’s students are primarily veterans or serve in the military. The school’s name and other visual images suggest it is part of the United States Armed Services, but the company in fact is not part of the U.S. Military and is not affiliated with it.

“Online, for-profit schools that mislead veterans and military families are not welcome in Massachusetts,” said AG Healey. “This settlement will provide money back to students who didn’t get crucial information about the American Military University. We will be closely monitoring this school in the future.” 

That action was taken to bring justice to former students. But what of the corporations, institutions, and police forces who were similarly misled about AMU and hired AMU graduates thinking they had weighty degrees?

Since 2010, before the loss of accreditation, APUS has been in an arrangement with WalMart “to enable Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. associates to earn a college degree at an affordable price through a combination of academic credit awarded for Walmart job learning and experience, and online coursework through APU. APU will serve as Walmart’s education provider offering academic courses and degree programs to its associates.”

Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Paul Fain called out the “academic credit” for job experience part of that arrangement:

An exclusive arrangement between a for-profit and a sometimes-polarizing corporate titan — which also happens to be the world’s largest private employer — is bound to raise a few eyebrows. And the fine print of the partnership, particularly how the two follow through on prior learning, is sensitive territory in higher education. Given the high-profile of the partnership, missteps could hurt the broader acceptance of prior learning assessment, observers say.

Melanie Booth, for example, is an expert on prior learning assessment who says the process can play an important role in helping adult students earn degrees. But even given her favorable view of prior learning, Booth, the dean of learning and assessment at Marylhurst University, had an initially skeptical view about the Walmart partnership.

Writing on her blog at the time of the announcement two years ago, Booth says that news media reports made her uncomfortable because they suggested that APUS would automatically grant credit for experience on the job. Anything that sounds like trading money for credit based on “life experience” raises red flags, among both prior learning experts and, well, everybody else — conjuring images like t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “School of Hard Knocks.”

Fain calls APUS “WalMart U.”

A Bachelor of Arts Degree in Labour Studies from McMaster University

Were I reporting in the United States, I could simply pick up the phone and call the university registrar and ask if someone has a degree from the school and when they graduated, and the helpful clerk on the other end of the line would cheerfully give me all the details.

The sky doesn’t fall when reporters regularly ask these questions of registrars in the United States, but such questioning is considered a violation of privacy in Canada.

To verify degree status from Canadian universities, you must go through something called AuraData, which notes:

Federal and Provincial legislations in Canada require permission to research any information identifiable to an individual and the best proof of authorization is a signed release. AURADATA requires signed authorization by the subject before releasing any information.

A Certificate in Adult Education from St. Francis Xavier University

I’d have the same verification issues here. As well, this sounds like a correspondence course.

I had questions, so I fired them off to the city:

My questions concern [Kinsella’s] resume, as follows:
American Military University
— what year(s) did you take classes and when did you graduate/receive your diploma?
— are you aware of the credentialing problems at American Military University/ American Public University System? How would you respond to the suggestion that American Military University is a diploma mill?
— Did you receive any credit for on-the-job experience? If so, how much? How many actual classes did you take towards a diploma?
St. Francis Xavier
— what year(s) did you take classes and when did you graduate/receive your diploma?
— what was the focus of study?
— Did you receive any credit for on-the-job experience? If so, how much? How many actual classes did you take towards a diploma?
McMaster University
— what year(s) did you take classes and when did you graduate/receive your diploma?
— Did you receive any credit for on-the-job experience? If so, how much? How many actual classes did you take towards a diploma?
— Would you be willing to sign a release to allow me to verify your degree status? (https://www.auradata.com)

I asked that those questions be sent on to Kinsella, but I received a reply from  spokesperson Brendan Elliott:

As I mentioned earlier, I can’t get into details relating to anyone’s education history due to restrictions under the Municipal Government Act (sec. 480(3)(d)  – presumed to be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy if the personal information … relates to employment or educational history).

Having said that, the recruitment process for hiring a new police chief is extensive and requires several layers of checks and balances. While an educational background is certainly important, and was a factor in determining a person’s competency for the job, it’s Chief-designate Kinsella’s 32 years of exemplary experience, positive references, extensive interviews by a very diverse panel, proven competencies, and his impressive academic achievements that led to Regional Council’s appointment of him as Police Chief.

I haven’t heard back from Kinsella.

4. No apologies

“A formal police apology for street checks isn’t in the immediate offing for Halifax’s black community, despite a request from the city’s civilian police oversight body,” reports Keith Doucette for the Canadian Press:

Both Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP have confirmed in written responses they won’t be taking the step “at this time.”

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners had asked the two forces to prepare a joint statement formally apologizing for the policy at its last meeting on April 15.

RCMP Insp. Robert Doyle said while he appreciates the sentiments in the board’s request, an apology “would appear disingenuous at this time” and would “disrupt efforts to create lasting change.”

Acting Halifax police chief Robin McNeil wrote that issues related to organizational apologies are “very complex and sensitive.” He added the street check data presents only a partial portrait of the situation, because traffic stops, police complaints and the treatment of people during these interactions were not included.

I agree with Doyle: a police apology would be disingenuous. The cops don’t contest that street checks are racist, and yet they have no plans to put a meaningful stop to them. It’d all be a big lie to issue an apology; they’re not sorry. Racism forever.

So that’s where we’re at.

Remember when the Nova Scotia RCMP “went viral” with a video “spoof” of Drake’s song “Hotline Bling”? Wrote El Jones at the time:

For Black people, this video probably couldn’t have dropped at a worse time. Following the shootings, and the fears around retaliation, the response is always more policing. People start calling for “boots on the streets.” Even Black people, who fear the violence in their own communities, and without seeing other options for protecting our families and homes, believe the solution is more police. So obviously at a time when people turn back to the police to restore order and contain Black bodies and reassure innocent people, it’s the perfect time for a video about how playful and fun police are!

In response to a call for an apology for street checks, I think the RCMP should put the band back together and be as offensive to the Black community as they can possibly be by doing a cover of the Eminem song “No apologies”:

5. Armoured vehicle

The Halton Police Department has an armoured vehicle that looks like this.

“A protest would have to get ‘out of control’ for Halifax Regional Police to bring out their new armoured vehicle, according to the acting chief,” reports Zane Woodford for StarMetro Halifax.

I wrote about the armoured vehicle here.

Continues Woodford:

Acting Halifax Regional Police Chief Robin McNeil submitted an information memo to Monday’s meeting further explaining the purchase, and how the vehicle would be used.

McNeil’s report explained the vehicle would only be used for what police call “Level II” deployments — part of the response to events that “are beyond the ability, equipment and skill set of first responders.” Police have previously said the vehicle would be used for scenarios like active shooter situations and even hurricanes.

Go that? The po-po haven’t even bought the thing, and already there’s mission creep.

As I commented:

And you can’t just keep the thing in the police garage. You gotta drive it around so police can have some “real world” experience with it. And — as the Wortley report makes clear — when police have a tool (like street checks), that tool will be employed in a manner that reflects and amplifies the racist tendencies of the broader society. So I fully expect to see the armoured vehicle rolling around Uniacke Square.

The armoured vehicle won’t be used to protect imagined people cowering in a mall in fear of active shooters. It’s pretty much useless for that.

The armoured vehicle can, however, be used for another purpose: to protect and project police racism. For that, it’ll get the job done.

Or, as privacy lawyer David Fraser puts it more succinctly:

When I bought my last hammer, it was only to deploy it to put nails in wood. We know how that turned out. https://t.co/JKLO2un60E

— David T.S. Fraser (@privacylawyer) May 13, 2019

When you’ve got fancy, expensive, and badass hammers, the whole world is a nail.

5. Tendering fraud

Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The trial of two men accused of defrauding the federal government of $1.3 million opened Monday in Halifax, with a former Department of National Defence supervisor testifying about her suspicions surrounding the awarding of certain contracts,” reports Blair Rhodes for the CBC:

The Crown alleges Bry’n Ross and Harold Dawson conspired to funnel contracts for expensive parts for the heating plant at 12 Wing Shearwater to four companies connected to Dawson.

Ross was a civilian contracts officer at the military base outside Dartmouth, N.S., during the time of the alleged offences. The pair were charged with fraud in 2016.

The first Crown witness, Mary Ellen Doucet, a retired contract supervisor with DND and Ross’s boss, told court she became concerned when she discovered what she thought was “contract splitting” — keeping the dollar amounts of contracts low enough that they wouldn’t require competitive bids.

Doucet said policy required that any contracts worth between $1,000 and $2,500 required at least two bidders, $2,500 to $5,000 at least three, while contracts above that dollar amount would have to be dealt with at higher level in the bureaucracy.

Doucet said when she examined some of the contracts Ross had handled, she found what appeared to be similar handwriting on what were supposed to be bids from competing companies.

She said when she looked the companies up on the Nova Scotia Registry of Joint Stocks, she found Dawson was tied to all of them. Doucet told court that at that point, she brought in her supervisor and they eventually called in the military police.

I’m glad Rhodes is covering this trial. I’ve long thought that there’s far more tendering fraud than anyone wants to acknowledge.

The tendering process is in place to avoid fraud and backroom deals, but if there isn’t a vigilant oversight of the process fraud will almost certainly be introduced. It requires managerial oversight, but also independent third-party review, and prying media. We rarely have the third, and the two other components are just too easily evaded.


Government

City

Tuesday

City Council (Tuesday, 1pm, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday , 9am, City Hall) — agenda

Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Wednesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — questions about the QEII redevelopment.

Wednesday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Targeting telomerase by synthetic dosage lethality (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Franco Vizeacoumar from the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency and the University of Saskatchewan will talk.

Weather and Climate: Not What Our Grandparents Knew (Wednesday, 7pm, Room 105, Weldon Law Building) — David Phillips, Senior Climatologist, Environment and Climate Change Canada, will tell us:

Deluges, ice rains, winter heat waves, megadroughts – if you think we’ve been cursed and clobbered a lot harder and a lot more often recently, you are not imagining it. It used to be that our weather was “normal” and dependable. Now, more and more Canadians are asking: What’s happening to our weather? If our weather is becoming weirder and wilder, are people responsible? Is it nature doing this to us? Or both? What has become clear is that the Earth is warming, and the number of weather-related disasters appears on the rise. We can no longer assume that yesterday’s weather will apply tomorrow.


In the harbour

Tuesday
06:00: Elka Eleftheria, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
06:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from San Juan, Puerto Rico
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
09:00: Avontuur, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 25 from Vera Cruz, Mexico
13:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, sails for Palm Beach, Florida
18:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Wilmington, North Carolina

Wednesday
06:30: Grande New York, car carrier, arrives at Fairview Cove from Valencia, Spain


Footnotes

The CBC is squawking on about “flurries” in the forecast. We should de-fund the CBC.

I’m working on a project that demands more of my time; that means I’ll likely miss today’s council meeting and I’ll be even less available than usual for the next few days.


The Halifax Examiner is an advertising-free, subscriber-supported news site. Your subscription makes this work possible; please subscribe.

Legal fund

To contribute to the Halifax Examiner’s legal fundplease contact Iris.

Tim Bousquet

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

Join the Conversation

3 Comments

Only subscribers to the Halifax Examiner may comment on articles. We moderate all comments. Be respectful; whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims. Please read our Commenting Policy.
Cancel reply
  1. I thought the headline about MalmartU was clickbait.
    Wrong!
    It is actually associated with Walmart.
    Well played Tim!