1. Welcome to Waterville: Still a Jail

Hey, looking for something for your child to do this summer? Why not send them to the Nova Scotia Youth Centre (Waterville)?

Why not? It’s a “fabulous place” according to this video.

I’m sure the people who work there are very dedicated, and there is something to be said about at least giving the public some kind of information about the kind of programming and rehabilitation offered in our provincial facilities. With events like the recent media tour of Burnside, it seems there’s a move in the province to be somewhat more open — in very controlled ways — about what our jails look like and what is going on there. That’s not a bad thing.

But from the way this video is presented, you’d be hard pressed to remember this is actually a facility that incarcerates youth, and not a summer camp or a jobs program or a boarding school. You practically expect there to be a sorting hat.

Image from cbc.ca

Waterville is also a facility where Indigenous and African Nova Scotian youth are disproportionately jailed. 

The numbers showed that in 2014-2015, about 16 per cent of youth sentenced to a youth correctional facility were African Nova Scotian and 12 per cent were Indigenous.

Recent reporting reveals that nearly half of youth incarcerated in Canada are Indigenous, and while youth incarceration is dropping overall, the proportion of Indigenous youth in custody continues to increase.

Howard Sapers, an independent adviser to the government of Ontario on corrections reform, said the increasing numbers, particularly for girls, carries through to adulthood.

“We are getting so dangerously close to half of all adult women in custody being Indigenous,” he said in a phone interview from his Ottawa office.

Aboriginal men accounted for 28 per cent of admissions, while aboriginal women accounted for 43 per cent. At the same time, they represented about 5 per cent of the Canadian adult population.

“There is little way to escape the conclusion that there are some systemic biases built into the system that are contributing to this overrepresentation,” Mr. Sapers said…

…The justice system cannot stand alone in curbing the trend of incarcerating Indigenous youth, he suggested. Tackling poverty, unemployment or underemployment, poor housing, addictions and mental illness would make a large difference, he said.

Change is needed immediately, [youth advocate Michael Redhead] Champagne agreed, because right now there is a cycle of institutionalizing Indigenous kids.

It starts with children being taken into care where they are assigned a worker, curfews and strict rules, he said. When they become older, they graduate to the criminal justice system.

“When I see this kind of stuff I get frustrated with all the rhetoric around reconciliation.”

Given the Google results when you search Waterville, it’s probably not surprising the province might create some positive PR for the facility.

But we don’t need PR about how great our jails are; we need to question why the kinds of programs and resources youth get access to only once they are convicted don’t exist in our communities. Jail is not a school, housing, fitness camp, or a social program. Why can you get job training in the youth facility but Indigenous and Black youth face a huge unemployment gap in Canada?

This video reminds me of the Airbnb tour the media got of Springhill facility. Man, I wish I lived in one of those apartments! Don’t you?

Incarceration isn’t fabulous. It largely affects poor and oppressed communities, it is traumatic, it stigmatizes people for life, and it results in difficulties in seeking employment, education, being part of community, and forming relationships. Girls in custody are overwhelmingly victims of sexual and physical assault and trauma, and one in three incarcerated girls have been pregnant. Youth in facilities are also vulnerable to abuse, and juvenile facilities are at high risk of being sexually victimized. 

Comments are turned off on the video, so we’re spared reading about how youth should be beaten or given life sentences or denied any recreation, but of course that also means that those who may have different view of their time in youth detention can’t object.

2. Kids Under Five Not Allowed on Playground Equipment; Children Continue to Climb on the Wave

The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (formerly the Halifax school board) announced that pre-primary children will not be allowed on playground equipment insured for children five years and older.

Meanwhile children continue to clamber all over the Wave statue on the waterfront. While four year olds must avoid plastic slides with handholds and protective bumpers during monitored recess time, toddlers are still welcome to climb up the slick, barrier-less side of the Wave and dive headfirst from it while their parent checks their phone.

Danger Wave. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Statisticians report a 400 per cent increase in adults in the Halifax area reminiscing nostalgically about how, mere hours out of the womb, they used to hang off the metal monkey bars, and play games like when we used to swing and kick each other and try to wrap our legs around each other to force our opponent to fall from the equipment and plunge onto the rocky ground below. Kids these days, with their namby pamby rubber surfaces. How will they ever know the character building of broken collar bones and busted teeth?

Not safe!

Anyway, I suspect this is all a plot by The Man. Preventing kids from going on the play structures denies them valuable time building their upper body strength and climbing skills, so that when they grow up they won’t be able to climb up to take down Confederate flags or occupy the Statue of Liberty. 

Keep climbing kids!

Image from Democracy Now.

3. Police Chief Retires; Racial Profiling Plans to Continue Working

Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean Michel Blais announced that he will be retiring by March 31, 2019.

Contacted for comment, racial profiling announced that it has no intention of leaving policing. In fact, racial profiling plans to continue working overtime.

Image from rawstory.com

“With the passing of the new impaired driving bill, I anticipate being extremely active in traffic stops,” racial profiling told the Halifax Examiner. “I look forward to using random stops to further target drivers of colour, and I am thankful that the new laws will allow me to operate without reasonable suspicion of impairment.”

Racial profiling also said it is excited about new cannabis legalization laws that will allow white people to use cannabis with relative impunity while continuing to criminalize Black communities. 

Missing drug evidence was also contacted for comment by the Examiner, but unfortunately it could not be located.

4. HRP Cool To Have Sex With Women They Meet On Duty, SiRT Concludes

I have so many questions about this story.

In his statement to the SiRT investigator, the officer confirmed he was at the near collision scene in 2012 but says it was another officer who gathered all the documents for the report.

According to SiRT, “the [officer] said that the [woman] was flirting with him.”

The officer confirms he invited the woman to his residence and they had consensual sex but denies having a conversation about her infraction ticket…

I’m going to leave aside the allegation of sexual assault for a moment. Even if we completely believe everything the officer says, is it just normal for police officers on duty to invite women they meet at traffic collision scenes over for sex? Shouldn’t the police be concerned at the very least with the appearance of impropriety? I wasn’t aware that police are allowed to treat being on duty as their personal dating service.

SiRT also points out the officer was “not in a position to issue a ticket” to the woman because “he was not the lead investigator and only assisted the initial officer on the scene by directing traffic.”

Oh, okay then! He was only on duty directing traffic and picking up women then.

I agree. Stop!

Isn’t it likely that members of the public would not be aware of exactly what roles officers play at scenes and what power they have and that precisely for that reason officers shouldn’t be having sex with people involved in incidents they are on the scene policing? Isn’t it exactly because sex could be coerced, or exchanged for favours like not getting a ticket that there should be strict rules about officers having sex with people they meet while on duty?

How is it not a consideration that when an officer is on duty and in uniform that the power they have over the public means consent cannot be meaningful and that there is a potential for abuse? And shouldn’t the officer — the one with the right to use force and to arrest people — be the one held to a higher standard, and not excused because he claims a woman was flirting?

In fact, these are concerns that police forces are perfectly capable of understanding. In November, Ottawa police officer Jason Mallett was charged with 15 counts of misconduct:

Mallett is charged with five counts of insubordination, four counts of deceit, three counts of neglect of duty, two counts of corrupt practice and one count of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act. 

The laundry list of new charges against Mallett stems from a series of incidents between 2013 to 2017, suggesting an alleged pattern of using the police service and police work for his own personal advantage, usually having to do with sex and women.  

Police allege that Mallett used his position as an officer to “approach, intercept or accost” a woman. Police separately allege that he used his job and time as an officer to hit on a woman for “private advantage.”

Let’s take a look at Mallett, shall we?

Image from ottawacitizen.com

Oh.

Now, Mallett’s alleged behaviour is clearly more severe, including multiple incidents, leaving his duty post, falsifying records, and faking calls in order to leave work to have sex.

But if it’s not okay for him to use his “job and time” to hit on women, why is this completely acceptable in Halifax for our officers? I mean, best case scenario here, an officer was directing traffic at an accident scene, flirted with a woman involved at the scene who may have been facing charges, and invited her to have consensual sex. And then went back again to “hook up” and took intimate pictures which he continued to possess and show to investigators.

Remember when the RCMP made that video “Cop Light Bling” remixing Drake’s song? Maybe the HRP should do a rendition of Blurred Lines.

SiRT doesn’t name its investigators, other than the director (Felix Cacchione), so I’m not sure if any women are involved in investigating these cases. I would certainly be interested to know what the expertise is on the team in trauma-centred understandings of sexual assault.

There has been much conversation about the way the courts treat the testimony of victims of sexual assault — particularly in Judge Lenehan’s ruling in the acquittal of Halifax taxi driver Bassam Al-Rawi, and Jian Ghomeshi’s acquittal. Given how often officers are cleared of charges or not charged at all, it certainly seems like we should be asking questions about how these investigations of the police take place and what qualifications the team has for understanding the complexities of victims testifying about sexual assault.

El Jones

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Well, um, even though I’m younger than most people who comment on here, when I went to elementary school in the USA we weren’t allowed to use the playground equipment because of lawsuits. One of the janitors had the unwelcome task of playing cop and protecting the playground equipment from 8 year olds and their parents. However, the city I was in was very progressive and fortunately, we were allowed outside several times a day even if running, using the playground equipment, picking up objects off the ground and having fun were strictly forbidden for our safety (seriously).

  2. If not charges for breaking the law, why not charges for professional misconduct, at least?!

    1. Because in Nova Scotia the Police Act governs the issue of police misconduct. Professional misconduct is a disciplinary process for self-governing professions such as lawyers,accountants, nurses,doctors,dentists etc.
      Legislation regarding policing is slightly different in each province. Mr Mallett seems to have been a serial offender and involving more than one woman and the allegations against him are much more serious.

  3. You missed out this information :
    ” The report says there are “numerous inconsistencies” between the woman’s and the officer’s versions of the 2012 events and puts emphasis on the fact the woman “withheld from both HRP and the SiRT investigator the existence of photos taken by the [officer] in December 2016.”

    SiRT says the inconsistencies between the two accounts and “the omissions by the [woman] of relevant and important information, are significant.”

    “The reliability of the [woman’s] statements and recollection are questionable and do not allow the foundation of a basis constituting reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the [officer] committed a sexual assault,” the report states.