News

1. Glen Assoun deserves immediate compensation

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

From the court documents released Friday related to the Assoun case, I’ve come to understand three broad themes:

Shoddy police investigation

First, the police investigation into Brenda Way’s murder was shoddy, in that potential suspects were not properly investigated. These suspects include Avery Greenough, a violent man with a history of rape and attacking sex workers who lived in Dartmouth, and Michael McGray, a serial killer who lived on Jackson Road, about 100 meters from the murder site.

By 1999, McGray was sitting in prison in Renous, New Brunswick, charged with six murders. He had told friends, family, and prisoner officials that he was responsible for 11 more murders, including that of a sex worker in Nova Scotia. Halifax police briefly considered McGray a suspect in the Brenda Way murder, and so sent Cst. Steve Maxwell to Renous to talk to McGray. Maxwell simply asked McGray if he killed Brenda Way; McGray said he didn’t, and so far as the documents relate, that was the end of it. They took the word of a serial killer.

At the same time, however, police were not taking the word of Glen Assoun, who always maintained his innocence.

So far, we’re not talking about any police misconduct, but rather simple incompetence.

Convicting Assoun

Police and prosecutorial misconduct comes into play in developing the case against Assoun. To say witnesses were leaned on is to put it mildly. Here are just three examples (there are others):

“Roberta,” a sex worker who was brutally attacked by a man who claimed to have killed Brenda Way, is a confusing story. It was she who contacted police to say she believed it was Assoun who attacked her. But when she wavered, she was hassled and cajoled by investigators — repeatedly picked up for minor infractions — until she agreed to testify. Then, police put her up in the Marriott Casino hotel, with the full knowledge that she was using drugs and turning tricks out of her hotel room while she was awaiting her court appearance. Had that situation been told to the court, Roberta’s testimony surely would not have been allowed.

(There were other problems with Roberta’s testimony I won’t go into depth about here, but the physical description of the man who attacked her fits McGray, and not Assoun.)

Then there’s David Carvery, a jailhouse snitch who said Assoun had confessed to murdering Way while the two were incarcerated together in the Halifax Correctional Facility. In return for his testimony, Carvery’s sentence on his own drug charges was reduced from a potential five years in prison to an actual five months’ served. But on the witness stand, Carvery said he received two years’ imprisonment, a flat-out lie. Crown prosecutors knew Carvery was lying to the court, but said nothing.

Another witness was Corey Tuma, an alcoholic. Police told Tuma that Assoun was a “cold-blooded killer,” and so Tuma changed his testimony to place Way and Assoun into a timeline that made Assoun killing Way plausible. Police put Tuma up in a hotel, too, and the night and early morning before he testified he got so blitzed drunk that Tuma now says he has no idea what he said on the stand the next day.

RCMP destroys evidence

There are two intertwining timelines involved here. The first timeline is RCMP Constable Dave Moore’s building suspicion that McGray, not Assoun, killed Brenda Way. As he followed his hunches, Moore inputed data into an RCMP database and collected hundreds of documents and other evidence kept in several cardboard boxes in his office. Then he pressed his concerns up the chain of command, telling his superiors that “Glen Assoun is innocent.” They mostly ignored him, one officer telling him he was wasting his time as the court had already convicted Assoun.

The second timeline concerns Newfoundland lawyer Jerome Kennedy, who had taken up Assoun’s appeal. With the help of his investigator, a retired RCMP cop named Fred Fitzsimmons, Kennedy learned that there was a computer profile of McGray as a potential suspect for the Way murder, so he asked police and crown prosecutors for that computer profile.

In early 2004 Moore went on vacation, and on his return discovered that he was transferred out of his position, that the entries he had made into the computer system about McGray had been deleted, and that his boxes of evidence had been destroyed. I’m still working through the documents to pen down cause and effect, but it at least appears that the evidence was destroyed because Kennedy was asking for it. In any event, the information Kennedy requested wasn’t provided to Kennedy because it didn’t exist. As such, Kennedy couldn’t tell the appellant court that there was a strong alternative suspect for the murder that police had ignored, and so Assoun’s appeal was denied. Assoun spent another nine years in prison.

Kennedy was clear about this yesterday, when he told Canadian Press reporter Michael Tutton that “There is no doubt in my mind that if this information had been disclosed, Glen’s appeal would have been successful.”

Yesterday, I sent a series of questions to Justice Minister Mark Furey, as follows:

Glen Assoun spent 16 and a half years in prison and another four and a half years under strict parole conditions for the murder of Brenda Way. He steadfastly maintained his innocence, and during that time he suffered two heart attacks and a mental health crisis. Now that Glen Assoun has been fully exonerated for the murder of Brenda Way, and now that the Halifax police, the RCMP, and the Public Prosecution System have been implicated in causing and maintaining the wrongful conviction, will the Justice Department take any action to apologize to and compensate Mr. Assoun? Will some form of immediate compensation be provided, or will Mr. Assoun have to suffer the further indignities of suing the province for compensation? How does the minister, a former RCMP officer, view the evidence that the RCMP improperly deleted and destroyed evidence that would have cleared Mr. Assoun? Will any actions be taken to hold those responsible accountable? 

I have yet to receive a response.

Nor has any Halifax councillor — including those on the police commission — made any comment whatsoever about Assoun’s wrongful conviction.

A man’s life was destroyed, having been sent to prison and kept there for a crime he did not commit. Along the way, he suffered two heart attacks and a mental health crisis. He has nothing now, no money, no prospects for employment, and no ability to work even if he could find a job.

There’s a common myth that exonerees get a big pay out, compensation for their lost years. But no, compensation is not automatic. Most exonerees don’t get a cent. Those who do often must go to court and sue the various parties responsible, and if there’s a vigorous defence, a court judgment and actual payment of compensation could take many years. I wish Assoun a long life, but I fear that if the powers-that-be don’t act quickly to make him whole, he could die before he sees any compensation.

I can already see that the various parties — the Halifax police, the RCMP, the provincial Public Prosecution Service — will try to pass the buck between themselves on this: “Oh, we made mistakes, but don’t put this all on us.” There is no obvious institutional desire to do right by Assoun, and a huge desire to delay and hope this whole thing goes away. Left to their own devices, the institutions will force Assoun to go to court.

It’s time for political leadership. It’s time for councillors to admit that the police they oversee did wrong, and to apologize for that wrongdoing to Assoun, along with an acknowledgment that he needs financial compensation. It’s time for the Justice minister to make a statement, and to take action. It’s time for the premier to address a huge injustice that took place in the province he leads.

There are no doubt legal principles and arguments to be made about who’s responsible for what, and it may take years to work through the details. But in the meanwhile, Assoun has nothing, and no immediate recourse. The city and the province should immediately — like now — give Assoun some payment, say a million dollars, to help make his condition more bearable while the details of a complete compensation package are worked out.

A million dollars is the cost of a road-paving project. If our political leaders can’t make that happen, they’re simply being mean-spirited. Not making some compensation available now is a further injustice to Assoun.

2. Robie / Spring Garden developments

A kid on a bicycle stops to watch as a flock of giant monster birds attack a 30-storey building proposed to be built on Spring Garden Road.

“Council has voted in favour of policy changes that would allow development to transform a city block, but it could be more than a year before two projects for the corner of Robie St. and Spring Garden Rd. are officially approved,” reports Zane Woodford for Star Halifax:

The two proposals — from Dexel Developments and a numbered company owned by Peter Rouvalis and Wendell Thomas — would see four towers up to 27 storeys built in the block bounded by Robie St., Spring Garden Rd., Carlton St. and College St. Combined, the buildings would include 650 apartments, 50,000 square feet of commercial space, 60,000 square feet of office space and 700 parking spaces.

At a public hearing of Halifax regional council on Monday night, the vast majority of people who spoke were opposed to the two developments. Council voted unanimously in favour of amendments to municipal policy to allow the projects to move ahead to the next stage.

Woodford reports that it will take about a year for a development agreement to be drawn up and approved, after which there will be a traffic and pedestrian nightmare for the next few years during construction.

3. Yarmouth ferry

A cloud of diesel exhaust follows the Alakai, the result of burning so much money. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“Bay Ferries is no longer selling tickets for its service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Bar Harbor, Maine, which was supposed to start earlier this year,” reports Jean Laroche for the CBC:

For the second time this summer, the company is also refunding anyone with an existing reservation.

“We feel terrible about this,” company CEO Mark MacDonald told CBC News Monday. “We feel very badly for all the businesses and people that are affected by it, many or most of whom are great friends and great supporters of the ferry service.

MacDonald agreed the latest setback would be a blow to his company’s attempts to establish a viable and affordable service between Nova Scotia and the U.S.

“Obviously, it’s not good for the service.” he said. “We’re hoping it becomes a situation of short-term pain for longer-term gain.”

What’s the reputational damage on this? How many thousands of people booked trips on the ferry, only to have to change their vacation plans? No doubt they’ll tell their friends and families not to waste their time planning the ferry trip because the whole thing is a fiasco. Better to simply drive to Quebec or whatever. Is there a way to put a dollar figure on the negative impression?

4. Girl killed

Talia Forrest

An RCMP release:

Investigators have made an arrest in connection with a fatal collision involving a 10-year-old cyclist and a vehicle on July 11. 

On July 11 Victoria District RCMP responded to a call at 9:47 p.m. indicating a 10-year-old girl had been fatally struck by an SUV while she was riding a bicycle on Black Rock Rd. The vehicle fled the scene. Police located the vehicle involved and arrested the driver, a 27-year-old man from Victoria County, for a number of driving-related offences. He was later released on conditions and was given a court date of September 5 in Wagmatcook. 

The Northeast Nova Major Crimes Unit is investigating this matter will make a determination on the most appropriate charges as the investigation progresses. A further update will be provided when more information is available. 

A GoFundMe page identifies the girl as Talia Forrest.

5. Smith’s Bakery

Smith’s Bakery posted this on Facebook last night:

Smith’s Bakery & Café is closing its doors as of Aug 10th!

The bakery’s current owners lease has ended, and they have been told they need to leave their current location. Since they don’t have the resources to move; they are selling it at a reduced price to someone who would like to take it on.

We would really like this to be a positive send off, so your continued patronage would be greatly appreciated. Over the next few weeks we will be baking up your old favourites until supplies runs out! We will be giving out a free memorabilia item to the 30th customer every day until we close!

We’d like to thank the Halifax Community for their loyal support over the years and it was our pleasure to serve you.

No doubt we’ll soon get some cookie-cutter apartment building on the site.

6. CBU

“A faculty member at Cape Breton University has been terminated for demanding sex, moose meat and lobster from a student who was struggling in his course in exchange for better grades,” reports Ian Fairclough for SaltWire:

She said she had brought moose meat and lobster that day for the employee after he asked her to provide it in exchange for better grades. She said she knew it was wrong, but she was struggling with some of his morning quizzes and they counted for a large part of her final grade.

When they got to the car, she said he demanded they have sex.

“He claimed I had to do it, as my grades depended on it,” the woman said. “He continued to say ‘Yes you will, you will do it,’ over and over, even though I made it clear to him at this point that I was very uncomfortable.”


Views

1. Health transfers

Richard Starr finds a “bright side” in the annual premiers’ conference held last week:

[B]efore writing off the entire exercise as a pre-election, politically driven waste of time and money, there is one section of the health communiqué worth noting. The Premiers repeated their familiar demand for increased health transfers, citing reports from the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), discussed most recently here. As the communiqué notes, PBO reports show that the federal government “has the fiscal capacity to increase its healthcare funding and return to a more equitable partnership with provinces and territories.”

In search of a more equitable partnership, the Premiers put back on the table as a starting point an annual transfer increase of 5.2 per cent, up from about four per cent now. That higher figure represents the position the provinces had put forward in negotiations on a new health accord in 2016, a demand that disappeared after Liberal governments in the Atlantic provinces led an exodus away from the provincial common front.

Whether it’s forgiveness, forgetfulness or the fact that charter member of the resistance, Brian Pallister of Manitoba, continued to complain long after the rest of the smaller provinces had agreed to Trudeau’s health deal, the communiqué tosses an important sop in the direction of Atlantic provinces with higher health care needs, reciting that “the Conference Board of Canada also notes the Canada Health Transfer does not factor aging into its payments, and as such, federal transfers are not sufficient to support the additional care needs of Canada’s aging population.”

While not exactly a ringing endorsement of a much-needed demographic top up, that part of the communiqué complements the efforts of the Atlantic premiers. They convened their own pre-conference meeting (without pancake flipping) last week to compose a statement calling on the feds “to increase health care funding to address the impact of the region’s aging population on Atlantic Canada’s health care systems.”

So an event that from all appearances was about aggrandizing Ford, Kenney and their like-minded friends ended up putting back on the pre-election agenda an item of considerable importance to voters in this region. It will be interesting to see how it is addressed as party platforms are released in the weeks ahead.

2. Naked

The Sons [and Daughters] of Freedom.

Halifax lawyer Barbara Darby reviews the case law around nudity in public, and discovers a few gems along the way, including a reference to the the Doukhobors, a pacifist Russian sect that immigrated to Canada in the early 20th century, partly with the financial help of Leo Tolstoy. (No doubt someone has written about how pacifist groups like the Doukhobors and Mennonites were used as a weapon by the federal government to displace indigenous peoples.)The wiki page for the Doukhobors says it was a breakaway group, the Sons of Freedom, who were the nudists:

Nudism and arson were the highly visible methods of protest used by the Sons of Freedom. They protested against materialism, the land seizure by the government, compulsory education in government schools and Verigin’s assassination. This led to many confrontations with the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (continuing into the 1970s). Nudism was a new technique first used after their arrival in Canada. They used violence to fight modernity. They destroyed threshing machines and other signs of modernity. With night-time arson they burned schools built by the Doukhobor commune and even Verigin’s [the Doukhobors’ leader] house.

Predictably, this did not end well:

W. A. C. Bennett’s Social Credit government, which came to power in 1952, took a harder stance against the “Doukhobor problem.” In 1953, 174 children of the Sons of Freedom were forcibly interned by the government agents in a residential school in New Denver, British Columbia. Abuse of the interned children was later alleged.

Anyway, Darby goes on to look at some more light-hearted legal responses to nudity, such as streaking and nude dancing, and leaves us with the case of one Mr. Langlais:

a retired gym teacher from Quebec, who was nude on a beach in the Cap Pelé area of New Brunswick. He sought leave to appeal his $200 fine for nudity on the following grounds:

  1. he was not nude: he was wearing a garment, namely a cap to protect his head and sunglasses to protect his eyes. He was not indecent: he was playing golf at the time of his arrest
  2. Swimming nude, playing, sunbathing on a beach are lawful excuses and
  3. Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God, if God created us nude, simple nudity cannot be a crime. Whereas Canada is also founded on the rule of law, simple nudity, which is not immoral, cannot be punished under a basic principle of law.

Leave to appeal dismissed. According to Crown witnesses, “it wasn’t the nudity that bothered them but that Langlais seemed to be flaunting his nakedness and disturbing the rest of the beachgoers.” According to Golfmagic, “another complainant, Marc Comeau, was particularly offended by Langlais bending over to pick up his golf balls.”


Government

City

Tuesday

North West Community Council – Special Meeting (Tuesday, 9am, City Hall) — something something in Bedford.

City Council (Tuesday, 9:30am, City Hall) — regional council agenda.

Wednesday

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

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

Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — agenda

Province

No public meetings this week.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

July 16th panel on the valueadded food sector with Canadian Senators (Tuesday, 1:30pm, Room 141, Hicks Building) — Senators Diane F. Griffin, Colin Deacon, and Stan Kutcher discuss the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry’s study on “how the value-added sector can be more competitive in global markets.” RSVP here.

Wednesday

Robust Gear Pitting Detection for Condition Monitoring of Gearbox (Wednesday, 10am, room 310, Industrial Engineering Building) — Ashish Darpe from IIT Delhi will explain:

The gear pairs in a gearbox is a source of vibration and noise. Among the various flaws commonly encountered in case of gear tooth, the pitting on the tooth surface is a common one. This talk will discuss the reasons for the vibration arising out of the gear-meshing and discuss recent work at the Vibration Research lab, IIT Delhi to explore robust gear pitting detection methods considering the associated dynamics and novel signal processing to extract the features. As the pitting level increases, the amplitude and frequency modulation characteristics are influenced. By processing the time domain data, the correlation of the future measured vibration to the baseline healthy condition data is quantified through a proposed correlation coefficient of residual vibration signal. Based on many run-to-failure test data on a specially designed gearbox life test rig, it is found that the pitting detection using this parameter gives significantly better results. In another work on a wind turbine gearbox, the dynamics of the planetary stage is modeled and methods to detect damage (a fatigue crack) on the planet gear tooth using vibration data are proposed.​


In the harbour

Tuesday
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
12:30: Atlantic Huron, bulker, sails from National Gypsum for sea
15:00: Nordic Wolverine, oil tanker, sails from anchorage for sea
15:30: JPO Aries, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling sails for St. John’s

Wednesday
09:15: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
10:00: John J. Carrick, barge, with tug Leo A. McArthur, arrives at McAsphalt from Montreal
18:30: Grandeur of the Seas sails for Baltimore

Thursday
11:00 Tombarra, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Southampton, England


Footnotes

I may stop by the council meeting for a bit, but I think I’ll spend most of the day continuing to work on the Assoun file.


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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. Nooooooo! Smith’s Bakery closing? Say it ain’t so. Best corn bread ever. Lemon loaf. Banana chocolate chip bread. Yet another sad, sad sign of our poor city going to rack and ruin. I usually only walk downtown and can thus can pick my route but the other day I had to drive to deliver a passenger. I was appalled by all the partial and total road blockages caused by construction, the unfixed pot holes, the total unfriendliness of the landscape. Halifax is starting to look and feel like the bad parts of Detroit. And don’t get me started on that monstrosity they’ve approved for Robie and Spring Garden!

  2. I’m assuming at some point the graft related to our municipal councillors and their approval of all development proposals ever will end. Maybe not.

  3. Clearly, to any reasonable person, the handling of the Assoun matter is the definition of a travesty of justice. That said, the behaviour of the RCMP, HRP, City of Halifax, and the government of Nova Scotia in this matter is not surprising at all during any point in this boondoggle.

    What we’re (Assoun and the general public of NS) are about to experience is yet another example of those empowered to uphold the laws in NS and represent NS residents believing they can just brush “issues” under the rug and move on. They have the entitled belief that if they say nothing (or effectively say nothing) things will just go away.

    We’ve seen it before in NS and we are about to see them try it again. We can’t let this happen again as it’s time those responsible for tragedies like this need to be held accountable for their actions complete with the real consequences and I’m not just talking about writing a cheque when I make that statement.

    More importantly, this needs to be fully investigated so corrective actions can be put in place so that no one ever has to again go through what Assoun has gone through. As it stands, it happened to him and it could very well happen to you and I ………………..

    1. I agree it is time the principal people involved in this cavalierly handled investigation, if you can even call it an investigation, need to be held to criminal account for their actions/lack of actions.
      If this lack of accountability continues to be the norm then nothing is going to change.
      Greg is correct, in other cases any one of us could be prosecuted and convicted at the whim of unscrupulous, vengeful or incompetent police, prosecutors or others within the misnamed “justice system”!
      What’s missing in this case, as with many issues in the public domain, are politicians with integrity, honour and backbone, who will stand up to defend the citizens from this kind of “Keystone Kops” behaviour!
      Where’s Serpico when you need him?

  4. Give Mr Assoun an annual income based on the award to Donald Marshall Jnr and adjusted for inflation, and an additional one time payment to his daughter based on her loss of time with her father.
    And let us hope Ms Wilson Raybould is soundly defeated in the federal election.