News

1. Burnside jail update

The renovated North Unit day room at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility. Photo: Halifax Examiner

The prisoners at the Burnside jail have ended their 20-day strike and have issued a statement, which reads in part:

Dear supporters,

You are commended for your work on our behalf. None of us thought that we would gain so much support by sharing our conditions with the public. The negative perception of us inside seems so concrete that it became surreal when we began to read our demands in the newspaper, and hear that our situation has gained national attention.

When discussed among us, it was decided that the time has come to take a different approach, and this is the result of our different approach. Our non-violent strategy is a success. It has set a precedent for other counties to follow suit.

Although our protest has come to a close, and things seem to have worsened since the beginning as opposed to getting better, we hope that all those who stood with us through this time will continue to fight on our behalf – to write, congregate, and address our issues.

It is with heavy hearts we write that shortly after the end of our protest, a fellow prisoner incarcerated here lost his life. The conditions and environment here speak for themselves. Since the protests started we have been locked down with even less time spent outside, in contact with our families, or getting any recreation. We know how these conditions hurt the mental health of people imprisoned here.

We renew our calls for treatment of mental health, training, and programming. We ask the Minister of Justice: how many more people have to die in this facility until our cries for help are heard? We send our condolences and love to the family of our brother. We hope that our call for justice will be heard and that his life is not lost in vain.

Read the full statement here.

The statement refers to a man who died while in custody. Yesterday, just after 5pm, the Justice Department issued a release about the death:

A 29-year-old man found unresponsive in his cell on Sept. 10 at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Dartmouth died at the Dartmouth General Hospital today, Sept. 11.

“This man’s family and loved ones have been in my thoughts since I received word of the incident,” said Mark Furey, Minister of Justice. “I was saddened to hear of the tragic outcome and can assure you that the department will work with police and others as the investigation continues.”

Staff immediately began emergency response procedures and contacted Emergency Health Services when the man was found unresponsive in his cell at about 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 10. He was transported to hospital where he passed away this afternoon. The man’s next of kin were present at the hospital.

Halifax Regional Police are investigating the death and the Justice Department will conduct an internal investigation. The medical examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

The prisoners’ statement specifically mentions the mental health effects of the three-week lockdown and the lack of adequate responses to the mental health needs of prisoners, and suggests that the lockdown may have been a factor in the man’s death. I can’t say that the response to the prisoners’ protest caused the man’s death, but an honest police investigation must look into that possibility.

And I wonder what effect the death of a prisoner in his cell has on prisoners in adjoining and nearby cells, especially when they’re in lockdown and can do nothing much but think. It can’t be easy on guards, either.

I reported last week that five prisoners — Kaz Cox, Matthew Grimm, Maurice Pratt, Steven Skinner, and Leonard Greenough —had filed habeas corpus applications with the court. The first of those four are specific to the 23-hour/day lockdown at the jail, while Greenough’s application argues that the jail has not conducted the Retention Review that is required when a prisoner on remand reaches their 90th day in custody.

On Monday, Supreme Court Justice James Chipman held a series of teleconferences to schedule hearings for those applications. The court clerk wouldn’t let me in the courtroom, which seems a violation of the open court principle, but I didn’t make a deal of it because she said the actual hearings would be open, and held next Monday. This seems an awfully long delay for a habeas application — after all, the prisoners are claiming their rights are being illegally abridged on an ongoing basis, while one of them is claiming he shouldn’t be in jail at all.

In the meanwhile, three other prisoners — Robert Sanford, Randy Riley, Matthew Lambert — filed habeas applications objecting to the lockdown. There seems to be a delay in the applications getting from the jail to the court; these three arrived at the courthouse late in the day Friday. I’m told a total of 31 prisoners have filed habeas applications; I’ll see what else has arrived today.

The prisoners’ statement ends with a quote from Hill Harper’s book, Letters to an Incarcerated Brother: Encouragement, Hope, and Healing for Inmates and Their Loved Ones:

Each time you break away from the direction the system is trying to push you in, each new idea you have, each new book you read, each new business you create – all of them give you the power to dictate new choices. Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday!

2. Total smoking ban lives on

Yesterday, Dartmouth councillor Sam Austin tried to get the recently passed smoking bylaw pulled back a bit — either by expanding the exemptions for medical cannabis or by making a distinction between cannabis (the smoking of which would be banned on city property) and tobacco (which would continue to be regulated as is).

But council would have none of it, and rejected Austin’s efforts. That means the full smoking ban will come into effect in October: the smoking of any substance — tobacco, cannabis, and vape — will be prohibited on all city property, including sidewalks.

There’s been a lot said about this already, so I won’t rehash it all. But as I see it, we can’t have a bylaw and enforce it in a discriminatory fashion. That is, we can’t turn the other way when visiting conventioneers go out to Argyle Street to light up, and then sic the bylaw officers on locals with no smoking options except the sidewalk.

Reader Peter Ziobrowski pointed out to me yesterday that under the new bylaw conventioneers can probably smoke legally in the Grafton Street Glory Hole, but the Glory Hole is a disgusting, dangerous mess. No, they’ll want to go out to Argyle Street and smoke in the sun, or shade I guess.

What are the chances that enforcement of the bylaw includes aggressively responding to complaints of visiting conventioneers smoking on Argyle Street? Slim to none, I’d guess, as those visiting conventioneers are seen as the source of prosperity forever, amen. We wouldn’t want to advertise Halifax as being unreasonably unfair to visitors, would we? I can imagine the event planner discussion boards lighting up with outrage at how badly Halifax treats them.

So if the bylaw officers don’t cite the Calgary businessmen and Vancouver sales reps who smoke up on Argyle Street while visiting the convention centre, then anyone else cited should use them as proof of a discriminatory application of the bylaw.

I’m half tempted to set up a smoking cam on Argyle Street to document the thousands of people who will violate the bylaw.

By the way, HalifaxToday, the Consumer Choice Centre  — which weighed in on the smoking ban via a press release hoping that media outlets would uncritically quote it — is not a “consumer advocacy group.” Here’s how DeSmog Blog describes the Consumer Choice Centre:

According to the CCC‘s listed mission: “Learning from the successes of its parent organization, Students For Liberty, the CCC will bring the struggle for consumer freedom to the next level.” CCC‘s parent organization, Students For Liberty (SFL), has received more than $100,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, the Atlas Network, and other right-wing funders.

One investigation by the Brussels think tank Corporate Europe Observatory suggested the CCC was working as a lobby group for a network pushing deregulation. As opposed to representing consumers as it claims, the investigation claimed CCC and another group “represent their funders’ rather than consumer interests.

DeSmog UK reported the group had likely ties to a range of organisations and individuals known for their efforts to combat environmental regulations, including the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and Charles Koch. IEA has been closely tied to a network of organizations that have both pushed for Brexit and have dismissed the threat of man-made climate change.

It’s OK to quote press releases, but only so long as you don’t misrepresent organizations you quote. A little googling around first helps.

3. Liquor

The McNeil government yesterday announced it is effectively doing away with dry communities:

Amendments to the Liquor Control Act will mean less red tape for new wineries, craft breweries, distilleries and lounges, and the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC).

The amendments introduced in the House of Assembly today, Sept. 11, will remove the requirement to hold plebiscites in communities where the sale of alcohol is restricted.

“This change to the act will allow businesses to better plan and make timely decisions when opening a new establishment,” said Karen Casey, Minister of Finance and Treasury Board. “Removing the plebiscite requirement will shorten the time it takes to get the appropriate licence or permit by months, even up to a year.”

The requirement for a plebiscite on alcohol dates back to prohibition. Currently, when the NSLC or business that manufactures or serves alcohol wants to open in a dry community, a plebiscite needs to be held before the business can proceed.

The amendments will bring Nova Scotia in line with the rest of the country, as it is the last jurisdiction in Canada to require liquor plebiscites.

Requirements to obtain licences and permits and to follow municipal zoning bylaws remain unchanged.

4. Events East

The Grafton Street Glory Hole, with the convention centre above it. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Also yesterday, at the request of Events East, the organization that runs the new convention centre, Halifax council pushed back a discussion of the Events East business plan until the next council meeting.

A hearty discussion about the convention centre among councillors would be worthwhile (if unlikely), but there’s no chance that council will actually refuse to pay its half of Events East’s $4 million operating deficit for the convention centre, as the city is contractually obligated to do so.

5. Florence

Before reposting nonsense about Hurricane Florence, you should listen to On The Media’s Breaking News Handbook — U.S. Storm Edition. It’s summarized by this cheat sheet:


Government

City

Wednesday

Halifax & West Community Council (Wednesday, 6pm, City Hall) — the committee will look at several development proposals.

Thursday

Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall) — a bunch of stuff out in the rural areas.

Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — architect Fougere Menchenton is giving a “preliminary presentation” concerning the 1874 Brunswick Street development. This is the old Red Cross building at Brunswick and Duke Streets. There are no pretty drawings to show you.

Province

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — I think this is just an organizational meeting —they’ve made changes to the legislative calendar and no longer link to the committees’ agendas. I’ll call someone and see what’s up with that.

Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

Thursday

Legislature sits (Thursday, 1pm, Province House)


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Exploring the Diversity of Creative Practices (Wednesday, 1:30pm, Potter Auditorium, Kenneth C. Rowe Management Building) — As part of the Prismatic Arts Festival, Shahin Sayadi and Rah-Eleh will speak.

French Lecture Series: Emotion and Creativity in [Language] Education(Wednesday, 4pm, Room 1116, Marion McCain Building) — Françoise Masuy from the University de Louvain-La-Neuve, Brussels, will give a lecture in English.

Thursday

Two-Eyed Seeing and Sustainability (Thursday, 7pm, Ondaatje Theatre, Marion McCain Building) — Elder Albert Marshall of Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton will speak.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

Food Wars: Impacts of Gender on the Japanese Kitchen (Thursday, 1:30pm, Atrium 340) — Allyson Brown will speak.

King’s

Wednesday

Penelope’s Odyssey (Wednesday, 7:30pm, KTS Lecture Hall, New Academic Building) — Sue Goyette will speak.


In the harbour

6am: Jona, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Lisbon, Portugal
6:15am: Victory II, cruise ship, arrives at Pier 23 from Bar Harbor
8am: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship with up to 4,058 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John
2:30pm: Alpine Venture, oil tanker, moves from Imperial Oil to anchorage
3pm: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
4:30pm: Em Spetses, container ship, arrives at HalTerm from Montreal
4:30pm: Jona, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
5pm: Arsos, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
5:30pm: Adventure of the Seas, cruise ship, sails from Pier 22 for Sydney
6:30pm: Victory II, cruise ship, sails from Pier 23 for sea


Footnotes

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

Tim Bousquet

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

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  1. The dry communities thing is such crap – Canada is the second biggest country in the world, geographically. Even though much of it is miserable tundra, we have lots of space.

    What I want most is small government – not small in the way libertarians talk about it – but local. If Halifax gets taken over by libertarians or communists I can move to Truro or something – if Nova Scotia or Canada is taken over by the far left or right, there is basically nothing I can do about it.

  2. Particularly in light of recent events in Ontario, I am wondering if any of the dry communities were consulted about the removal of the plebiscite requirement.