News

1. Glen Assoun compensation

Glen Assoun. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“One of the most recognizable wrongfully convicted Canadians is adding his voice to the chorus calling for early compensation for Glen Assoun, the Nova Scotia man who spent 17 years in prison for a murder he did not commit,” reports Michael Gorman for the CBC:

Few people can understand what Assoun went through, but David Milgaard is one of those people.

“Glen Assoun is really in need of having his life put together,” said Milgaard in a telephone interview from his home in Cochrane, Alta.

In 1970 at age 17, Milgaard was wrongfully convicted for the rape and murder of Gail Miller, a nursing assistant, based on false witness testimony. He spent 23 years in prison for crimes he did not commit and has since become an advocate for reforming the criminal justice system.

Milgaard said it was officials with Innocence Canada that first brought Assoun’s case to his attention and he was immediately struck by the similarities to his own situation.

In Milgaard’s case, serial rapist Larry Fisher was in the area at the time of Miller’s murder but was overlooked as a suspect. Fisher was later convicted of the crime. In Assoun’s case, court documents show police overlooked and did not pursue the fact that serial killer Michael Wayne McGray was living in the Dartmouth area at the time of Brenda Way’s death.

2. Two crane incidents in Halifax in four years

I was looking through the Examiner archives this morning and came across this bit I wrote in 2015:

Photo: @watchCTVNews

A crane at a construction site at the corner of Almon and Isleville Streets dropped a load on power lines yesterday, taking out power to the Hydrostone and Agricola Street area for about five hours. No one was injured.

I hope regulators are inspecting the plethora of construction cranes rising above the city.

Here’s a short video of the “Big Blue” crane collapse at Brewer’s Ball Park Stadium in Milwaukee on July 14, 1999, in which three people died. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explained the multiple causes of the disaster, which resulted in criminal charges against Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of America, the operators of the crane.

http://youtu.be/slEWQQ6TGr4

This was not an isolated event. “No one seems to track tower crane accidents world wide,” notes one of the many blogs dedicated to the subject. “Annually we see 30 plus major accidents world wide with around 50 deaths. It’s a dangerous game and we all need to be vigilant in the construction world.”

We’ve had two crane incidents in four years in Halifax.

Relatedly, Global News reporter Elizabeth McSheffrey continues her series on workplace safety on construction sites, drilling into the culture of secrecy in the industry.

3. Tufts Cove

Tufts Cove oil spill, August 2018. Photo: Halifax Examiner

After a fuel leak at the Tufts Cove power plant in August 2018, Nova Scotia Power hired Kleinschmidt Associates Canada for an environmental assessment of the plant, and Kleinschmidt in turn hired CFM to survey two oil containment berms at the plant.

A previous survey had been conducted by another firm in 2014, but the results of the two surveys didn’t match. That’s because CFM mistakenly used an outdated height reference system. Engineers refer to this as the Canadian Geodetic Vertical Datum — CGVD for short. The system was first adopted in 1928, so is therefore called CGVD1928. But then it was updated in 2013, and the new system is called CGVD2013. When Tufts Cove was surveyed in 2014*, CGVD2013 was used, but then four years later, after the fuel leak, CFM used the outdated CGVD1928. This caused all sorts of confusion, so Kleinschmidt hired Thompson Conn Limited (TCL) to figure it all out. According to a report filed with the Utility and Review Board yesterday, TCL found that CFM had used the outdated system, and the difference between the two systems had resulted in a height difference of 0.66 metres — about two feet. So TCL conducted yet another survey in December.

“There are two separate tank dykes,” explains the report: “the north dyke surrounding tank 4 and the south dyke surrounding tanks 1, 2, and 3. Inspections performed … indicated that the height of the dykes have degraded and are causing deficiencies in both tank lots with respect to containment volume as well as the general condition of the dykes. As a result, the tank dykes no longer meet the secondary volume containment standard provided in the NS Standards for Construction and Installation for Petroleum Storage Tank Systems under the Petroleum Management Regulations of the province of Nova Scotia Environment and Labour.”

The way I read this, had there been a tank rupture, a considerable amount of fuel would have overtopped the berms and ended up in the harbour. That could still happen.

So, Nova Scotia Power is going to spend $495,317 to repair and heighten the dykes, which is actually about a half million dollars less than was budgeted for, “due to the completion of surveying and engineering design to more clearly define scope in preparation for the competitive bidding process.”

You can read the report here.

4. Lunenburg Harbour is full of poop

Lunenburg. Photo: NS Tourism

The Town of Lunenburg has posted the following on its website:

The Town of Lunenburg’s Wastewater Treatment Plant was flooded by seawater during Hurricane Dorian late Saturday afternoon. A unique combination of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and a storm surge caused the breach, necessitating a shutdown of the plant to ensure the safety of Town employees and to prevent further damage to key electrical equipment.

As an important first step, the Town of Lunenburg has engaged external experts to work with our employees to assess environmental impacts and damage to plant equipment. Those assessments are ongoing. The Town has also reached out to provincial and federal agencies to make them aware of the issue. While power has been restored to the plant as of today, it is not yet safe to resume operations.

The necessary shutdown of the Wastewater Treatment Plant means that sewage is routed away from the plant and directed into the harbours. Given the risk to employee and public safety and further risk to Town infrastructure of having a highly electrified facility full of water, the Town had no choice but to take this step.

The Town is committed to resuming operations at the plant as soon as possible. Dorian hit our community particularly hard, so we thank the public for their patience and understanding. We will provide more information as soon as we have it. 

It was an extraordinary circumstance, of course. But, Jennifer Henderson tells me, what the website doesn’t say is that “Lunenburg has lost two town engineers in the past year through resignations and that position is now vacant. A report filed by CBCL Engineering last spring recommended the need for work on the wastewater treatment plant as well as a pressing need for maintenance and repairs to the collection system, including certain pumps that are operating below capacity.”

I note that at its budgeting meeting on April 9, Town council was informed of the need for a backup generator at the sewage treatment plant: “This project was identified in a report by CBCL and is required to maintain power which will eliminate odours generated during a power outage,” read the agenda.

You can read the CBCL report here.

5. Puppygate

Casper

A Dartmouth man has successfully gotten a court order preventing the SPCA from giving his dogs away for adoption.

According to an affidavit filed with the court, Bernard Canning says he had three dogs: Duncan, an 18-year-old (!) Labradoodle; Casper (seen above), a one-year-old Standard Poodle; and Jazz, a one-year-old German Shepherd.

Alas, Canning said he “lost” a fourth dog, Riley, a 14-year-old Shih Tzu.

“On a morning in or about mid-July 2019,” wrote Canning, “Riley appeared unusually lethargic and appeared not to want to go out for his morning exercise.” So Canning brought Riley to the Harbour Cities Veterinary Hospital and “on the advice of the veterinary staff … Riley was euthanized later that day, and cremated.” Canning’s affidavit doesn’t say why Riley was sick, or why he had to be put down. This would have been useful information for what Canning says followed.

A few weeks later, on August 20, wrote Canning, he took his remaining dogs out for “their morning exercise.” When he got back home with the dogs, four cops showed up and arrested him on animal cruelty charges, and was told that the SPCA was taking his dogs.

“I was and remain shocked at the allegation that I had been cruel to an animal or that I had committed a criminal offence,” wrote Canning. As his neighbours looked on, Canning was then searched, handcuffed, and tossed (Canning uses the more diplomatic “placed”) in the back of a police car, and then taken to the police station on Gottingen Street.

At the police station, Canning says he was placed in a “small room” and was allowed to talk to a lawyer — the “duty counsel” — for 10 minutes, but he doesn’t remember the name of the lawyer.

Then, an unnamed cop gave Canning two options: he could either sign a form agreeing to turn his dogs over to the SPCA, or “if I refused to sign the form, I would be remanded to ‘Burnside,’ which I understood to mean the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.”

Canning says he was pressured to make a decision quickly.

The saddest part of this story is this sentence in Canning’s affidavit:

I am familiar with the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility from news reports, and I understand it to be a place where physical violence is common and where conditions are very poor.

Afraid to go to jail because he feared he’d be beaten up, Canning signed the form giving his dogs to the SPCA.

“In that moment at the police station,” wrote Canning, “I would have agreed to anything to avoid being taken to jail.”

Jazz.

So the three dogs were taken by the SPCA, and then two of them — Casper and Jazz — were offered for adoption on the SPCA website.

Jazz “would prefer a home with children 12 years old or older,” read the SPCA website (now taken down). “Jazz is a very nervous girl but with some patience she is a very friendly dog. She would benefit from obedience training to help her build confidence. She does seem to have separation anxiety so she could use some work on this too.”

Casper “shares a few qualities of a certain movie star (Casper the Friendly Ghost), such as stated friendliness,” read the SPCA site’s entry for Casper (also now taken down). “He also gets spooked sometimes” — that’s probably an unfortunate word for a dog compared to a ghost — “so please go slow with this boy.”

“I was unable to retrieve any information concerning my dog Duncan, and I fear for his well-being,” wrote Canning.

Canning asked the court for an injunction preventing the SPCA from adopting the dogs out. In the court notes, which are by no means exact, it appears that Canning agreed to pay the SPCA’s costs for keeping the dogs.

The notes also show that Canning’s lawyer, Geoffrey Franklin of Boyne Clarke, argued that Canning signed the papers giving the dogs over to the SPCA under duress, and whoever the cop was at the police station had no authority to make what was essentially a judicial decision — sign this form or go to jail.

Justice John Bodurtha was persuaded and issued the injunction pending a hearing on September 17.

6. The Halifax Examiner memorial bathroom stall

The city this morning issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the naming rights for stuff inside the Dartmouth Sportsplex. Explains the EOI:

As part of the facility revitalization effort, naming rights for the overall facility were awarded to the Zatzman Family for the useful life of the building. That agreement does allow others to name specific spaces or components of the facility, such as the gymnasium.

HRM is seeking responses relative to the sale of naming rights for specific spaces inside the Zatzman Sportsplex. There are various opportunities available for consideration including naming specific components of the facility such as the gymnasium, pool, arena, or fitness centre, or naming specific programs such as the scholarship fund for disadvantaged families…

Just a reminder that the Sportsplex was rebuilt with something like $20 million in public money. Selling naming rights obscures that expenditure, and degrades the public’s knowledge of the value of government projects.

Also, too: is every dogdamned thing for sale?

7. Women in Boston

Nova Scotia Business Inc. is looking for “matchmaking” services for a trip to Boston:

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI) in collaboration with the Centre for Women in Business (CWB), are coordinating a multi-sector trade mission to Boston, Massachusetts, for high growth, women-owned or women-led businesses, planned for December 2-5, 2019.

Probably those women who run Launch Mechanic down in Boston are going to get the contract, I’m guessing.


Views

1. Surviving Dorian while poor

Kendall Worth explores what it’s like to be poor during a hurricane.


Government

City

Wednesday

No public meetings.

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, HEMDCC Meeting Space, Alderney Gate) — here’s the agenda.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — the committee will ask TIR deputy minister Paul LaFleche about the use of a P3 for twinning of the Highway 104 between Antigonish and Pictou Co.

Thursday

No public meetings.


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Seminar (Wednesday, 4pm, Theatre A, Tupper Medical Building) — Dane Sands will present “Alternative detection of a winter flounder antifreeze protein,” followed by Dandan Zhao with “Eukfinder: a bioinformatic workflow to retrieve eukaryotic genomes from metagenomic data.”​

Thursday

Newfangled Rounds: Funding Sources for Health Research and Innovation (Thursday, 8:30am, Bethune Ballroom, Victoria General) — “Come learn about health research and newfangled funding opportunities available through Innovacorp, ACOA, NRC, MITACS, NSERC, Springboard, NSHA, IWK and more.” Register here.

Thesis Defence, Biology (Thursday, 1:30pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) —PhD candidate Xavier Bordeleau will defend “The Post-Spawning Ecology of Iteroparous Salmonids: Basis of Variability in Migratory Behaviour and Survival, Ecological Importance and Conservation Implications.​”

Françoise Baylis. Photo: Graham Kennedy

Altered Inheritance (Thursday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — Françoise Baylis will read from her new book Altered Inheritance: CRISPR & the Ethics of Human Genome Editing, followed by an interview with Costas Halavrezos, followed by a moderated open discussion and book signing.

Saint Mary’s

Saint Mary’s University Mawio’mi (Wednesday, 12pm, Burke Building) —Mi’kma’ki drumming and dance, traditional foods, storytelling and song.


In the harbour


06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
09:00: BNS Leopold, Belgium Navy frigate, sails from Dockyard for sea
10:15: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a 10-day cruise from New York to Quebec City
10:30: Grandeur of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 2,446 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Saint John, on nine-day roundtrip cruise out of Baltimore
10:30: HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl, Norwegian Navy frigate, sails from Dockyard for sea
18:30: Adventure of the Seas sails for Sydney
20:00: AIDAluna, cruise ship, sails from Pier 31 for Bar Harbor
20:00: Grandeur of the Seas sails for Baltimore


Footnotes

I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.

*Date as originally published has been corrected.

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. I very much hope that Mr. Canning is able to get his animals back sooner than later. And I dearly pray his lawyer is not merely out for a fat fee but actually takes the time to understand the legal framework, in which the police have no authority to enforce the animal welfare laws in Nova Scotia. That authority is empowered to the NSSPCA alone. Beyond that, the same argument applies: the SPCA is empowered with not only the same but more powers than the courts, rendering it ultra vires. There is also the Charter-violating lack of due process in the entire system, as well as demonstrable and irrevocable harm these abusive and arbitrary actions cause both owner and companion animals – harm that continues to escape the notice of the media and the populace.

    So much more needs to be said about the matter, not least the objectionable way the SPCA, commonly absent any professional qualifications, purports to assess the behavior of cats and dogs, in a way that all too often ruins their chances of finding a good home.

    Many, many more animal lovers in this province need to walk their talk and get involved when such heartbreaking abuse of power happens.

  2. Mi’kma’ki refers to the territory of the Mi’kmaq. (It is not the plural of Mi’kmaw or Mi’kmaq (which is the plural of Mi’kmaw). I missed the Mawio’mi today but I am sure it was great.

  3. Impressive that the Tufts cove surveyors can actually travel through time!

    “When Tufts Cove was surveyed in 2104 …”

    😛