1. The Halifax police department has a crisis of legitimacy
Is there an unusually large number of Halifax cops who are crooks? I suspect there is an institutional culture that looks the other way and avoids confronting official misconduct, and that institutional culture therefore actually encourages even more misconduct.
But of course it’s a large department, with over 500 officers, and with any large institution there’s going to be some level of misconduct. What’s important is that we have corrective measures — that is, oversight and investigative agencies that can hold individual police officers and the department as a whole to account. And by all appearances, those institutions are not functioning as intended.
Consider, for example, the case of Chris Mosher, a cop with a rap sheet longer than most of the petty crooks sitting in the Burnside jail, but who, thanks to the Police Review Board, received a cash payout and a new job with the city.
There are at least two other cops who have recently been found guilty of crimes — George Farmer, who was convicted of voyeurism for peeping into rooms at the Esquire Hotel on the Bedford Highway, and Laurence Gary Basso, who was found guilty of assault causing bodily harm for punching a homeless man outside the Metro Turning Point shelter. I’ll be watching to see if and how the Police Review Board deals with their cases.
And as reporter Maggie Rahr has detailed, a woman who brought accusations that a Halifax cop had raped her found that the Serious Incident Response Team — the agency charged with investigating cops — is ill-equipped to deal with such allegations.
In the midst of this criminality, the street check issue exploded. Black people have been telling us forever that they are targeted and harassed unfairly by cops, but when the CBC published figures detailing that targeting and harassment, the police department doubled down — street checks would continue, and the targeting and harassment would continue.
In response to the department’s inaction on street checks, the oversight agencies did nothing. The Police Commission, which supposedly puts control of the department in civilian hands, rejected a call by then-commissioner Sylvia Parris to impose a ban on street checks; the Police Review Board didn’t blink an eye; Justice Minister Mark Furey sat on his hands. It took the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, which has no legislative authority over the police department, to hire sociologist Scot Wortley to give official white dude sanction to the reality of street checks; only after Wortely’s report caused wide public outcry did Furey order a tepid moratorium — not a permanent ban — on street checks.
Because none of the institutions charged with police oversight seem to want to bring finality to the street check issue — by banning them permanently — at the request of the Police Commission, the Human Rights Commission is hiring former chief justice Michael MacDonald to offer an opinion on their legality. Watch as we thread the eye of the needle with concerns about legality, while the point of the needle continues to poke black people.
And just as the street check issue was unfolding, as if to thumb its collective nose at the citizenry concerned about street checks, the police department bought a tank. That was perfectly OK with the Halifax City Council, which must approve such large capital outlays, because not enough councillors had the backbone to stand up to the department.
Now comes yet another egregious act from the police department, and another failure of those charged with oversight of the department. There was a terrible injustice done to Glen Assoun — he sat, wrongly convicted, in prison for over 16 years in part because the police department, which had evidence that would have established his innocence, did not turn that evidence over to Assoun’s lawyer.
Assoun has finally been exonerated, but the police department is attempting to keep secret the documentation of its wrongdoing. The city’s lawyers have filed a legal brief on behalf of the department asking the court to seal the documents for 99 years — effectively denying the opportunity for any public accountability of any police officer or official involved with the wrongdoing.
The city’s lawyers act on orders. I don’t know where this legal strategy was approved — by the CAO’s office, by the Police Commission, by city council — because those strategies are adopted in secret, but approved it was, by somebody or some body that is charged with police oversight.
That is, the public agencies charged with holding the police department to account are actively working to prevent the police department from being held to account.
This is a complete and utter failure of our system of police oversight.
Politicians and government policy makers should very much fear where this could lead. The Black community has always and with good reason held the police department suspect, to put it mildly. But now, thanks to multiple bad actions from individual cops and the department as a whole, and thanks to the failure of the institutions charged with police oversight, the broader community could very well lose confidence in the entire policing system.
At what point does the average person conclude that we have a rogue police department that makes its own rules and is accountable to no one?
We are approaching that point. The police department has a crisis of legitimacy.
The institutions charged with police oversight now need to take their duty responsibly. If they don’t step in, now and forcefully, then the policing system will have no moral authority.
The police department must be held to account. Street checks should be banned permanently. The tank purchase must be cancelled. Those who committed malfeasance in the Assoun case must be named publicly and disciplined.
The system must work, or there is no system at all.
2. Yarmouth ferry
“What if we just gave Americans cash to come to Nova Scotia?” asks Stephen Kimber. “Crazy? Is it any crazier than pouring more millions of dollars into an American ferry, American docking facilities, American customs officers…?”
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3. Nova Scotia health care by the numbers
“A rally organized by a citizen who started a Facebook group called ‘Nova Scotia Health Care Crisis’ attracted about 75 people in front of the former library on Spring Garden Road Saturday afternoon,” writes Jennifer Henderson:
[T]he most interesting speech and loudest ovation was for Paula Minnikin, a former vice-president with xwave (an IT spinoff from Bell Aliant) and former Chief Technology Officer with engineering firm Jacques Whitford.”
Minnikin, not unlike the broadcaster character in the film Network, is “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.”
We’ve simply published an abridged version of Minnikin’s speech because it so starkly lays out the numbers underlying the health care crisis.
Click here to read “Nova Scotia health care by the numbers.”
4. Saltwire vs. Transcontinental
Saltwire has new lawyers in its lawsuit against Transcontinental. Gus Richardson is out; Michele Awad and Gavin Giles at McInnes Cooper are in.
Note to McInnes Cooper: get paid upfront.
5. The $722 million deal
We’ve taken Joan Baxter’s May 17 article, “The $722 million deal,” out from behind the paywall. She wrote:
Here’s the deal.
On Wednesday, May 14, an Australian gold mining company called St. Barbara Limited, with one gold mine in Australia and a second one in Papua New Guinea, agreed to pay $722 million for Atlantic Gold Corporation, which operates one open pit gold mine in Nova Scotia, has proposed three more along the Eastern Shore, and as of December 2018, held more than 13,200 claims in 200 active exploration licences in the province, a couple of them right up against the border with Kejimkujik National Park.
The Atlantic Gold board unanimously accepted the offer. Atlantic Gold’s major shareholder, Ryan Beedie, through Beedie Investments, which owns 27.7% of current issued and outstanding Common Shares, also agreed to the acquisition.
St. Barbara offered $2.90 a share, up 41.1% from the Atlantic Gold share value before the announcement.
It is all supposed to be finalized in July 2019.
That’s the deal — in a nutshell.
But if we are to try to figure out what it means for Nova Scotia, and what — if anything — is in it for Nova Scotia, first we need to take a peek at what’s going on underneath the nutshell … or shells.
Click here to read “The $722 million deal.”
Baxter has been covering the gold beat since here “Fool’s Gold” series, a joint investigative project of the Cape Breton Spectator and Halifax Examiner. Since then, she’s stayed on top of the story; I found “The $722 million deal” very helpful in understanding mining firms generally, and in why they’re suddenly targeting Nova Scotia for gold prospecting. And we published this two weeks before the mining issue blew up spectacularly with the arrest of John Perkins at a public meeting hosted by Atlantic Gold — an event Baxter caught on video.
It’s been the Examiner and Spectator that have kept the media focus on the gold industry; no other media have devoted the time, money, and resources necessary for this work. In turn, this coverage wouldn’t be possible were it not for subscribers. If you support this kind of coverage, please subscribe.
6. Bird disease
“Four suspected cases of a fatal disease affecting wild birds have been reported across Nova Scotia, prompting conservationists to recommend people take down bird feeders,” reports
Trichomonosis is caused by a microscopic parasite transmitted from bird to bird through moist bird seed, damp areas and bird baths.
The disease particularly affects social, seed-eating birds like goldfinches and purple finches in Atlantic Canada.
Board of Police Commissioners (Monday, 12:30pm, City Hall) — street checks are on the agenda.
Advisory Committee for Accessibility (Monday, 5pm, Nantucket Room, former Dartmouth Sportsplex) — here’s the agenda.
Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — I’ll write about this tomorrow.
Commemoration Task Force – Public Engagement Session (Tuesday, 6pm, Nantucket Room, former Dartmouth Sportsplex — more info here.
No public meetings.
Veterans Affairs (Tuesday, 2pm, One Government Place) — Trish Dominie from the Halifax & Region Military Family Resource Centre at Shearwater will speak.
Primary Health Care Research Day (Monday, 8am, Collaborative Health Education Building) — $50 – $130, registration now closed, info here.
Thesis Defence, Electrical and Computer Engineering (Monday, 12pm, Room 3107, Mona Campbell Building) — PhD candidate Hossam Mosbah will defend “Static State Estimation and Load Forecasting via Advanced Computational Techniques.”
In the harbour
As of 7am this morning, the Alakai ferry is still in Charleston, South Carolina.
05:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
05:30: North Atlantic Kairos, oil tanker, arrives at Pier 9 from Come By Chance, Newfoundland
05:30: Olympian Highway, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southampton, England
07:00: Artemis, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
07:30: Pacific Princess, cruise ship with up to 804 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York, on a 31-day cruise from New York to Dover, England
08:00: USCGC Biscayne Bay, U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker, arrives at Dartmouth Cove
11:30: Olympian Highway sails for sea
15:30: Bomar Rebecca, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
16:00: YM Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York, sails for Rotterdam
16:30: Pacific Princess sails for Reykjavik, Iceland
Where are the Canadian military ships?
I’ll live-blog the police commission meeting via the Examiner’s Twitter account, @hfxExaminer.
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Tulloch doesn’t think street checks should be banned.
Minister Furey doesn’t think street checks should be banned. His recent order on the subject is the correct response to the issue
I very much doubt retired judge MacDonald will disagree with Tulloch and the other legal reviews of street checks.
“Attorney General and Justice Minister Mark Furey today, April 17, directed police across the province to suspend street checks of pedestrians and passengers in motor vehicles until further notice.
The directive also makes it clear that no activity conducted by police, including a traffic stop, can be done based on discrimination, including race.
The moratorium protects people from street checks in public areas, such as parks, sidewalks or other places accessible to the public, provided there is no suspicious or illegal activity.”