News

1. Weather

There’s weather.

2. Reasonable grounds

“Police officers who lawfully pull over a driver no longer need reasonable grounds to demand a sample of their breath,” reports Kaitlyn Swan for the CBC:

New changes in the Criminal Code that take effect Tuesday give officers more authority when screening drivers for alcohol in hopes of reducing impaired driving and the number of deadly collisions on Canada’s roads.

Previously, when a driver was pulled over at a checkpoint or for violating traffic laws, an officer needed reasonable suspicion to request a breath sample to determine blood alcohol concentration.

Suspicion could arise from the smell of alcohol on their breath, slurred speech, or strange behaviour from the driver.

“Officers will no longer have to articulate that suspicion,” said Const. Chad Morrison of the Nova Scotia RCMP.

“If an officer is roadside with a vehicle, they will automatically have the authority to make a demand to any driver to provide a sample of their breath.”

Of course no one should be drinking and driving. But taking away the “reasonable grounds” requirement will inevitably lead to further police harassment of the marginalized. Black people are already needlessly and arbitrarily stopped by police far more often than are white people — Ashley Taylor says he gets pulled over three times a year while driving to work — and now they’ll be further subjected to breathalyzers and sobriety checks that can take still more time out of their day.

3. Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity’s proposed Spryfield project. Image: Habitat for Humanity

I attended two court matters yesterday.

The first was a simple scheduling meeting on the Habitat for Humanity vs Paradigm Investments lawsuit I wrote about here.

You’ll recall that Paradigm purchased its Spryfield property from Cadillac Developments in 1994. That purchase included a covenant restriction on the deed which gave Paradigm the right to veto the development of apartment buildings on the remaining Cadillac property. But then, in 2012, Cadillac sold the rest of its property to Habitat for Humanity; through no fault of Paradigm or Habitat for Humanity, the covenant restriction was mistakenly left off the Habitat for Humanity deed. Habitat for Humanity then moved forward with plans that include an apartment building on the property, and Paradigm exercised its veto power. Habitat for Humanity has sued, seeking a court order voiding the covenant restriction.

Paradigm has filed a defence in the case, but because the court file has been with the judge, I haven’t been able to see it yet. I expect to view it in coming days. My guess, however, is that Paradigm owner Ron Boston simply argues that he bought and paid for the veto power, and it’s not his problem that a lawyer screwed up in the Cadillac–Habitat sale. In court yesterday, Boston’s lawyer Jennie Pick said Boston will file an affidavit.

I won’t bore you with the mundane scheduling calculations, but the short of it is a hearing will be held on November 4 and 5, 2019. Last month, Habitat for Humanity CEO Steve Doane told me he expected it would take “six to 12 months to get [the lawsuit] all resolved,” and in the meanwhile, planning for the project would continue. He insisted that there would be no delay in the development.

We’ll see if Doane’s optimism holds. The court could conceivably rule in Boston’s favour, in which case Habitat’s ambitious plans for the property would have to be abandoned and, presumably, Habitat would have no recourse but to sue whoever screwed up the deed.

4. Cory Taylor

Cory Taylor is shown with injuries he claims were sustained after an altercation with the Halifax Regional Police. Photo: Wanda Taylor/ Canadian Press

The second court matter I attended yesterday was an application hearing in the Cory Taylor case.

You’ll recall that Taylor says that in August of 2017, he and his friends, who are Black, were drinking at the Argyle Bar when a group of white men started hurling racial epithets at them, and a fight resulted. But when police responded, he says, the white men were allowed to flee and he was tackled and beaten up by Halifax cops.

Taylor filed a formal complaint against the two cops (one is Donna Paris; I haven’t yet been able to identify the second), but the police department’s internal investigation cleared the cops. Taylor then appealed to the Police Complaints Commission, which also rejected his complaint. Court documents say the internal police department investigation was conducted by Sergeant Greg Robertson, and the Police Complaints Commission’s investigator was Fred Sanford, a retired Halifax police superintendent.

Sanford’s investigation was the subject of yesterday’s two-hour hearing. Taylor’s lawyer Benjamin Perryman wants the court to review “fresh evidence” — that is, information that was not included in Sanford’s investigative report, in particular, Sanford’s alleged failure to adequately follow up on notices emailed to Taylor so that he could adequately state his case (the emails landed in Taylor’s junk file).

Moreover, along the way, Perryman says that Sanford’s report mischaracterized Taylor’s responses to questions in a phone interview. As Perryman told the court, Sanford asked Taylor if his friends would give evidence, and Taylor said they were not eyewitnesses to the beating he received. That got translated in Sanford’s report as “Taylor declined the request for contact info for friends,” which frames the issue incorrectly, said Perryman.

Justice Joshua Arnold reserved his ruling on Perryman’s application.

This is a lot of minutiae, but the case is interesting. Not many people file formal complaints against the police, and a smaller number appeal to the Police Complaints Commission. And a very, very tiny number of complaints ever get to the stage of a Commission ruling against the police, or to judicial review.

Stepping back, it looks like it’s the complaint system itself that is on trial — is having cops and former cops investigate cops the best way to resolve complaints?

5. Yarmouth ferry

The Alakai. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“The Nova Scotia government has received a slap on the wrist from the province’s privacy commissioner for its refusal to disclose the management fees it paid to the operator of a high-speed ferry service between Yarmouth, N.S., and Portland, Maine,” reports Alexander Quon for Global:

“There is a justifiably high democratic expectation of transparency around the expenditure of public money,” wrote information and privacy commissioner Catherine Tully in her report.

“Expenditure of public funds goes to the heart of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act’s purposes and is an important reason behind the need for detailed and convincing evidence [to block the release of such information].”

Tully says the evidence offered up by the Nova Scotia government “falls well short of the legal standard” and that the evidence consisted of “conclusionary statements of general assertions of risk.”

As a result, Tully recommends that the government disclose the entire funding agreement between Nova Scotia and Bay Ferries Limited.

6. Confucius Institute

“The University of Rhode Island is ending its partnership with the Chinese-funded Confucius Institute, an international program that has come under increased scrutiny by U.S. intelligence agencies,” reports Tim White for WPRI News in Providence:

There are more than 100 Confucius Institutes on college campuses throughout the United States. The organization says their mission is to promote Chinese language and culture.

But the institutes, which are funded by the Chinese government, have come onto the FBI’s radar over concerns that China was stifling academic freedom in the U.S.

Last week during testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Bill Priestap, assistant director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division, told senators “there is across-the-board agreement that these institutes do not serve freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry.”

“The Confucius Institutes are a Chinese government-funded cultural institute, that means they are ultimately beholden to the Chinese government,” Priestap said. “There have been instances around the world where those institutes have quashed free speech.”

I raised the issue of the Confucius Institute back in 2014, when Tibetan student Rinzin Ngodup called out the presence of a Confucius Institute at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.

At the time, the CBC reported that the Confucius Institute also operates at the Halifax Grammar School and four other area secondary schools.

Saint Mary’s defended its association with the Confucius Institute:

Margaret Murphy with Saint Mary’s says they partnered with the Confucius Institute four years ago.

“Really, it’s a cultural outreach to the community for people who want to learn about Mandarin, who want to learn about calligraphy and who do want to learn something about China,” she said.

Not only does Saint Mary’s University proudly support the Confucius Institute, the university also speaks on the organization’s behalf.

All of the books, materials and even the teachers come from the Chinese government.

A 2013 Nation article by Marshall Sahlins, “China U.: Confucius Institutes censor political discussions and restrain the free exchange of ideas. Why, then, do American universities sponsor them?” explores the issue at length:

We were sitting in his office, Ted Foss and I, on the third floor of Judd Hall at the University of Chicago. Foss is the associate director of the Center for East Asian Studies, a classic area studies program that gathers under its roof specialists in various disciplines who work on China, Korea and Japan. Above us, on the fourth floor, were the offices and seminar room of the university’s Confucius Institute, which opened its doors in 2010. A Confucius Institute is an academic unit that provides accredited instruction in Chinese language and culture and sponsors a variety of extracurricular activities, including art exhibitions, lectures, conferences, film screenings and celebrations of Chinese festivals; at Chicago and a number of other schools, it also funds the research projects of local faculty members on Chinese subjects. I asked Foss if Chicago’s CI had ever organized lectures or conferences on issues controversial in China, such as Tibetan independence or the political status of Taiwan. Gesturing to a far wall, he said, “I can put up a picture of the Dalai Lama in this office. But on the fourth floor, we wouldn’t do that.”

The reason is that the Confucius Institutes at the University of Chicago and elsewhere are subsidized and supervised by the government of the People’s Republic of China. The CI program was launched by the PRC in 2004, and there are now some 400 institutes worldwide as well as an outreach program consisting of nearly 600 “Confucius classrooms” in secondary and elementary schools. In some respects, such a government-funded educational and cultural initiative is nothing new. For more than sixty years, Germany has relied on the Goethe-Institut to foster the teaching of German around the globe. But whereas the Goethe-Institut, like the British Council and the Alliance Française, is a stand-alone institution situated outside university precincts, a Confucius Institute exists as a virtually autonomous unit within the regular curriculum of the host school—for example, providing accredited courses in Chinese language in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

There’s another big difference: CIs are managed by a foreign government, and accordingly are responsive to its politics. The constitution and bylaws of CIs, together with the agreements established with the host universities, place their academic activities under the supervision of the Beijing headquarters of the Chinese Language Council International, commonly known as Hanban. Although official documents describe Hanban as “affiliated with the Ministry of Education,” it is governed by a council of high state and party officials from various political departments and chaired by a member of the Politburo, Vice Premier Liu Yandong. The governing council over which Liu presides currently consists of members from twelve state ministries and commissions, including Foreign Affairs, Education, Finance and Culture, the State Council Information Office, the National Development and Reform Commission, and the State Press and Publications Administration. Simply put, Hanban is an instrument of the party state operating as an international pedagogical organization.

Routinely and assiduously, Hanban wants the Confucius Institutes to hold events and offer instruction under the aegis of host universities that put the PRC in a good light—thus confirming the oft-quoted remark of Politburo member Li Changchun that the Confucius Institutes are “an important part of China’s overseas propaganda set-up.”

Why are North American universities like Saint Mary’s allowing any government, much less the ruthless authoritarian torture regime of the Chinese Communist Party, establish propaganda outlets on their campuses? You know the answer: Money. It’s a tawdry play for Chinese students and their high international tuition payments.

I don’t see this as a left or right issue, but simply a matter of academic freedom. But since we’re here, where are the so-called “free speech advocates” on this? They’re more than happy to defend the free speech rights of some asshole posting anti-Mohammed cartoons on an office door, but are utterly silent about prohibitions on discussion of Tibetan liberation in the classroom.

7. Willard Comeau

Lewis Rendell posted the following on her Facebook page. I found it moving, and thought it should be more widely distributed, and so with Lewis’s permission we’re reposting it here.

Gordy (left) and Willard (right). Photo: Lewis Rendell

My friend Willard died on Friday. He was hit and killed by a truck, just around the corner from his home.

His home. I loved to walk by his house, I did it on purpose. Would there be a ragtag band of old fellas cracking cold ones on the stoop? Would he be listening to records with the window open so I could shout in for him to come out and chat? Would one of his buddies run over my foot with his electric wheelchair? Who knew! Not me. He was a great neighbour.

Willard was my neighbour and friend of four years, one of those constant presences that fleshes out a day, then the week, and before you know it, the years. He was so special. We were drinking buddies, an unlikely pair. I loved to smuggle him sausages and pork chops from my job at the butcher shop.

Being regulars at the same bar, we spent a lot of time together. We had our secret smoke breaks and inside jokes and the occasional major holiday spent alone, together. I relished the absurdity of our friendship. When my young friends from the neighbourhood asked about the old guy they’d seen me with, I couldn’t wait to tell them about my friend Willard. When we ran into one of his old buddies, he loved to gesture to me and asked if they’d met his wife.

I’d buy him a beer when he was hard up. He did the same for me. One night there were no tall chairs left at the bar when he came in for a drink, so he pulled up a short one next to me so we could still sit together. We laughed for hours while I towered in the stool. From where I sat he looked boyish, his gaunt arms cradling his drink between his knees.

We talked often about our romantic misadventures, our futures, our pasts. Willard had no children and no regrets about it. He spoke about how it gave him extra love to spread around to his friends’ kids and the people in his life. I was so happy to be on the receiving end of that love.

One of the last times I saw Willard before I left Halifax was in the middle of the heatwave this summer. I was heading down Gottingen to pack a beach bag, Willard was across the street, right near where he was killed. He crossed the street to join me. It was hot as hell and he was in a bright orange t-shirt. Most days, we’d have said our hellos and I’d have sped-walked home to do my thing, but on this day we took a walk together. Just the two of us and the sun and our neighbourhood, in step.

We cruised by the peeling-paint porches and colourful row houses. We whined about a new development, he gave me hell for walking too fast, I roasted him about his flashy shirt. We beamed at one another and just soaked in the perfect summer day. We joked and laughed and talked about nothing and everything and conceded that yes, let’s be honest with ourselves, we’d probably see one another for a beer later.

My friendship with Willard cemented my belief that we have a responsibility to our neighbours, to take care of one another no matter how little we’re working with. When we’re presented with an opportunity to treat one another with softness and open-mindedness, we should take it every time. To just give and give and give and when the only thing you have left is your humanity, you give that too.

I took this photo [above] last summer. Willard and his buddy Gordy havin’ a beer on his front porch. The neighbourhood lost a real one.

Take care of one another.

(direct link to this item)


Government

City

Tuesday

Investment Policy Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 12pm, City Hall) — there’s no extra reading.

Wednesday

Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 9am, City Hall) — rescheduled from Dec. 12, agenda not posted as of Saturday.

Province

Tuesday

No public events.

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — more questioning on the October 2018 Report of the Auditor General.


On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

Thesis Defence, Economics (Tuesday, 10am, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Obed Owusu will defend his thesis, “Subsistence Agriculture and Labour Reallocation i​n Developing Countries.​”

Wednesday

No public events.


In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
05:00: Horizon Star, offshore supply ship, arrives at Pier 9 from the offshore
08:00: Selfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
08:00: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
15:00: Arctos, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from IJmuiden, Netherlands
15:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Hamburg, Germany


Footnotes

Gotta shovel.


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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. I am sitting with a group of people after Patti Melanson’s community memorial this afternoon, and they are all grieving Willard too. Thank you for this.

  2. Tim, so the CI at Saint Mary’s has prevented discussions of the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the classrooms there?