News

1. A scene of force, pepper spray, and arrests

Halifax Regional Police officers arrest a protester at the Halifax Memorial Library site on Wednesday. Photo: Zane Woodford

On Tuesday, Zane Woodford reported that Halifax was threatening to evict people living in tents from municipal parks. Well, evict they did.

“Halifax Regional Police arrested and peppered sprayed protesters, including a child, as they helped city staff remove citizens with nowhere else to go from public land,” writes Woodford in his report on the forcible evictions that took place yesterday.

“After months of threats, Halifax Regional Municipality moved in on homeless residents sleeping in parks on Wednesday, removing tents and Halifax Mutual Aid’s temporary shelters from Peace and Friendship Park, the Halifax Common, Horseshoe Island Park, and the site of the former Halifax Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road.

The police were ostensibly there to “assist with removal efforts if required,” per a municipal news release from early Wednesday morning.

One protester pours milk into the eyes of another who’d just been pepper sprayed by Halifax Regional Police on Brunswick Street on Wednesday. Photo: Zane Woodford

Woodford, with help from Tim Bousquet, went around Halifax Wednesday, photographing the tent removals and speaking with the people who, up until yesterday, took shelter in them. Many said they now had nowhere to go and weren’t offered any temporary shelter. Two said they were told to leave the peninsula when they asked police where they should go. The city has repeatedly claimed all people being evicted from tents and emergency shelters have received offers for temporary shelter to replace their old dwellings.

The scene turned ugliest outside the former Halifax Memorial Library on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Grafton Street, the site of two emergency shelters built by Mutual Aid Halifax. Police lost control of the situation multiple times. People (including a child, as Woodford mentions above) were pepper sprayed. Some were pinned down and arrested for obstruction. Journalists were restricted access and threatened with arrest as well. Police wound up putting on full riot gear and ultimately were able to bring in a contractor to dismantle the second emergency shelter after the first one was hauled away hours earlier.

A city worker uses a chain saw to cut through a shelter at the former Halifax Memorial Library on Wednesday. Photo: Zane Woodford

Woodford describes the final hours of the protest here:

“[T]he crowd grew to well over a thousand people, facing off against at least 200 police officers. Police stood shoulder to shoulder, wielding batons and shields. The streets around the library were blocked to vehicular traffic, but no attempt was made to stop pedestrians. Seven ambulances, with additional EHS support vehicles, lined Spring Garden Road, and paramedics stood waiting.

One of the workers, wearing none of the usual protective equipment, started ripping into the shelter with a chainsaw, and protesters started throwing bottles from either side of the shelter.

It was a tense situation for another hour or so, but there was no further violence. The crowd started to dissipate as the workers dismantled the shelter, and eventually moved to dual locations — a Halifax Pride-hosted space at the Garrison Grounds and Halifax Regional Police headquarters, where protesters remained in custody.

As the protest wound down, the police released a statement claiming “actions were taken today in the interest of public safety and safety of the occupants of these dwellings.”

There are still some shelters standing around the peninsula and Dartmouth.

Mayor Mike Savage was on CBC’s Information Morning today. Speaking about the evictions and police altercations, he said the eviction effort was led by bylaw officers and police were only brought in later. A news release from the municipality Wednesday morning seems to contradict this:

This morning, Municipal Compliance officers are following up with tent occupants to aid the safe removal of tents from municipal parks. Staff members from Parks and Recreation and Halifax Regional Police are onsite to assist with removal efforts if required.

This photo posted on Twitter that morning also contradicts Savage:

In the Information Morning interview, Savage also said the municipality worked closely with street navigators, professionals who work with people sleeping rough to connect them to social services, when undertaking these evictions. But as Woodford reports this morning (and as Tim Bousquet tweeted last night), the municipality didn’t “work closely with” at least one of one of the street navigators who works the peninsula. Eric Jonsson was on vacation this week, taking time off for his wedding. He came back home with a lot to deal with.

Savage was also asked about police removing name tags. A number of officers had their identifying name tags removed from their uniforms, something widely reported on social media and by local news outlets. Here’s a photo of one such cop at the former Halifax Memorial Library:

A Halifax Regional Police officer with no name tag pepper sprayed protesters who were sitting on a wall helping others who’d already been pepper sprayed. Photo: Zane Woodford

Savage’s response: “I don’t know about what you just mentioned.”

I’d really urge you to read Woodford’s full article. It’s an incredibly comprehensive account, documented thoroughly in writing and photographs — which I will say can be disturbing — of a dark day in Halifax’s history. When something this terrible happens in our own community, it’s important not to look away.

Also, since the housing crisis clearly isn’t getting better any time soon, I’ll take this time to remind you that the Halifax Examiner is starting a long-term reporting project on the issue for the fall. If you have any story tips, ideas, or questions you’d like answered about affordable housing in this province, we’re hosting another virtual session on the project tonight from 6pm to 8pm. It’s free to register, of course, and you can sign up here. We’ll send you the link to the Zoom session sometime on Thursday before the event.

If you can’t attend, you can always call or text our message line at 1-819-803-6215. The Examiner will have a couple of in-person meetings next week, so stay tuned to learn more about them. If you’re interested in having a session in your community, drop Suzanne Rent a line at suzanne@halifaxexaminer.ca.

We published our first story in this series last week. Zane Woodford looked at how landlords are skirting the law by making month-to-month leases more expensive. If this story from yesterday is any indication, there’ll be a lot more to write about in the coming months.

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2. Nine new COVID cases in NS yesterday

Photo: Edward Jenner/Pexels

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.

The province announced nine new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the total active caseload in Nova Scotia to 25 (one person is in ICU).

Of the new cases, all nine are in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone. Six are related to travel, two are close contacts of previously reported cases, and one is under investigation.

Four of the new cases involve people 19 years old or younger. A few weeks ago, Tim Bousquet asked Dr. Strang if the province could break that demographic down further into ages 12-19 and 12-and-under. Why would that help? A high percentage of Nova Scotians aged 12-19 are vaccinated, while no one under the age of 12 is eligible to receive a dose. Dr. Strang hasn’t got back to Bousquet on that one yet. So for today, we don’t know how many of the kids who contracted the virus are eligible to be vaccinated.

As for the slow crawl to Phase 5 of reopening, 68.5% of Nova Scotia’s entire population (including those aforementioned ineligible children) have received two doses. The province is waiting for 75% to be fully vaccinated before starting the final phase of reopening, when a large number of public health restrictions will be lifted.

For everything else you need to know concerning COVID, head to Tim Bousquet’s full report from yesterday. You’ll find updates on vaccination numbers, places you can get tested, places where you might’ve been exposed to the virus, and a breakdown of case demographics in the province.

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3. The Tideline, Episode 42: Catherine MacLellan

We’ve got a new Tideline this morning!

In this week’s episode, Tara Thorne talks with Prince Edward Island singer-songwriter Catherine MacLellan, who’s returning to Nova Scotia later this month for the first time since the pandemic began to play the second Tatafest in Tatamagouche, On this show, MacLellan talks about how she’s been spending her time and how excited she is to get back to playing live shows.

You can listen to the full episode here.

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4. Former King’s College professor Wayne Hankey to stand trial in June 2022

Wayne Hankey. Photo: University of King’s College.

Frances Willick at the CBC is reporting that Wayne Hankey, the former University of King’s College professor facing multiple sexual assault charges, will stand trial on the most recent charges in June of next year:

Wayne John Hankey, 76, was charged in April with sexual assault and indecent assault for alleged incidents dating back to the late 1970s involving two different complainants. The charges were later amended to two charges each of indecent assault and gross indecency.

On Tuesday, five days were set aside for the trial on those charges starting June 6, 2022. Hankey’s lawyer, Stan MacDonald, plans to request that the court split the trial to handle the cases separately.

A trial involving a third complainant’s allegation of sexual assault is scheduled for March 3, 2022.

Stephen Kimber reported on the Hankey charges for the Examiner back in February (Kimber previously worked with Hankey at King’s). You can read his report and get caught up on the case here.

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Views

1. HRM: Step back and take a look at yourself

One protester spent most of Wednesday on the roof of one of two shelters at Halifax Memorial Library. Police negotiated with them until they agreed to come down and be arrested. Photo: Zane Woodford

I don’t really know the best word to describe the events of yesterday. Shocking? Embarrassing? Terrible? Shameful?

Have the Halifax Regional Police forgotten that a large portion of the population have been rallying to “defund the police” for over a year now? Even the staunchest opponent to that movement has to acknowledge there’s some merit to it at this point. I would think anyway.

Tim Bousquet made the point on Twitter last night that the overtime the municipality would’ve had to pay police for their work yesterday could’ve been put toward affordable housing. 

I’ve written before on this subject. First, when a similar scene unfolded in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park in June. Then again when the city gave notice that they’d be tearing down shelters.

At the time of the Trinity Bellwoods evictions, I wrote this:

[I]f we don’t act on [recommendations in recent reports from Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia], what are the alternatives? Renting out the penthouse floor of the Nelson and Hotel Halifax forever? Or we could just wait a few years and see if the Commons becomes a campground, then ask the HRP to remove people when things get too crowded. There’s plenty of open space on the fringes of Halifax where we could push people. If the time comes, let’s at least try to use less riot gear than Toronto.

As it turns out, we didn’t have to wait a few years. I haven’t fact checked if HRP used less riot gear.

When I wrote those words it was meant as a stupid joke, not an omen.

Like I’ve written before, tents and emergency shelters around town are not pleasant to look at. They can be downright uncomfortable to pass by. Like the municipality and HRP, I’d like to see them eradicated from Halifax. Unlike the municipality and HRP, I’d like to see them eradicated through long-term investment and action into providing affordable housing and reasonable shelter space for those experiencing homelessness, as well as low income Nova Scotians who can only afford housing right now if they set aside more than half their income. 

The short term solution of simply removing what little shelter a person has while offering no substitution — in the interest of…aesthetics? I don’t know — is missing the point at best and inhumanly cruel at worst. Let them stand as personified reminders of our shortcomings on the housing front until those problems are properly addressed.

If someone on the street is becoming a danger to the public, then remove them and get them the help they need. Pushing them off the peninsula is callous as it gets.

Also, even if you do believe that these we should evict people from public spaces now, how urgent is it to remove these tents and shelters? What necessitates the use of force, pepper spray, media harassment, and the arrest of protestors? If people are blocking the removal of these shelters, it should simply result in a standoff. What does immediate eviction of shelters that have been standing for months now accomplish?

Well, as far as I can see, here’s what it’s accomplished: an impoverished, marginalized part of our community has been further marginalized (and further impoverished in the unlikely event that any of them pay the fines some of them were issued). The relationship between the Halifax Regional Police and the community its meant to serve has been damaged immensely and the “us” and “them” division has grown. And a distrust of local government’s ability to address the housing crisis for the non-wealthy is festering as root problems are ignored in favour of band-aid solutions that improve optics. Or at least, they might’ve improved optics if an army of police hadn’t completely mishandled the situation.

Step back and take a look at yourself HRM. Then take a look at a different approach. Homelessness isn’t going anywhere if these are the actions we’re going to take to address it.

Jim Graham at the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia told me last month that homelessness has become the nonprofit’s main focus through the pandemic. Two big reasons for this: public health restrictions have reduced capacity in shelters; and precarious financial situations have increased homelessness (numbers have doubled according to AHANS), meaning it’s harder to find beds for those living on the streets right now — not that it wasn’t a problem before the pandemic.

The way things are now, it’ll continue to be a problem after the pandemic too. 

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Noticed: Halifax real estate listings from more than 100 years ago

I had some work to do in Halifax over the weekend and I spent a fair bit of time in the North End the past few days, or at least, I think I did. I was working near Gottingen and Falkland and I crashed on a friend’s couch in a small Willow Street duplex. I was recently informed that the North End doesn’t start until you hit North Street — I always thought it was anything north of the Commons and west of Windsor — so technically I wasn’t working or sleeping in the North End these past few days. This isn’t the first time my Valley brain’s been confused about just where exactly the North End starts and finishes. At King’s College, I got into a debate with my then-instructor Yvette d’Entremont over whether the Halifax Forum is in the North End or the West. In a story I’d written for the King’s Signal, I’d referred to it as “the North End rink” or something like that, but had to take it out when Yvette and I couldn’t agree if that geographical characterization was correct.

So how do you know where the north part of town begins and ends? Do you just walk until you stop seeing tattoos, wire-framed glasses, and toques in the summer? Or is there a more scientific method?

All this was on my mind the other night as I was walking around Willow Street, winding down after work. It got the better of my curiosity. I got back to my friend’s place and did some 1am research on my phone, hoping to find a consensus on the true parameters of the North End. I didn’t find anything conclusive.

I did, however, find an interesting post from blogger Nathaniel Smith, whose now defunct “Old North End” blog looked into the history of the top part of the peninsula.

While skimming through the blog for a map of the North End, a post from 2014 popped out at me:

Real Estate Registers – find out how much your house cost in 1877″

With the recent spikes in real estate prices in this province, I couldn’t resist. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how good Halifax used to have it with housing.

In the post, Smith cites the Nova Scotia Archives’ Built Heritage Guide, which has two full real estate registers (one from 1877, one from 1902) that show listings for houses around Halifax at the time. Looking through those catalogues, and comparing the property listings in them to the ones you’ll find today, I didn’t know whether to cry or salivate.

1902 real estate register for Nova Scotia. Photo: NS Archives

Let’s start with the street I was working on — Gottingen. Here’s a rental listing there from 1877:

“A House in Gottingen Street, containing 7 rooms, and kitchen and frost-proof cellar. Rent $240 per annum.”

How about buying a house there?

“A House on Gottingen Street, containing 16 rooms, bath, pantry, and cellars. A most desirable house for a large family, and would be sold very cheap. Price $4,000.”

Smith says he was unable to find any records that would allow him to adjust Canadian dollar amounts for inflation prior to 1914. A quick search of online inflation calculators didn’t get me any further back either. But he could calculate for American dollars in 1877, and found that $4,000 American at the time would be $85,000 in the 2010s. That’s about $109,000 Canadian for a house that could host two baseball teams. (On top of inflation, you have to consider the lack of an eight-hour work day and minimum wage, but it’s still hard not to look back on a price like that with stars in your eyes). By my calculation, that puts the 1877 Gottingen rental property at $5,100 a year, or $425 a month. Not too shabby. A price like that’s a unicorn today.

This morning, you can find a listing for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom (no word on pantry or cellars) condo on Gottingen for over $400,000. Other current listings nearby: you can buy a four-bedroom, semi-detached house for half a million dollars on Brunswick Street, or a three-bedroom house on Agricola for $1.5 million.

Agricola Street house going for $1.5 million. Photo: Royal LePage

The 1902 real estate register lists two eight-room houses on Creighton that you could buy for a sum total of $2,800. Calculating for inflation based off 1914 Canadian dollar values, that’s $64,493.33. Right now you can buy a Creighton Street property housing six one-bedroom units for a measly $1.3 million. Or, if you’d like to build your own dream home, there’s an empty lot on the same street going for $329,290. And just look at the potential!

Empty lot on Creighton Street, Halifax going for over $300k. Photo: Royal LePage

To me, this is the the 119-year-old register’s dreamiest listing:

From Halifax’s 1902 real estate register. Photo: NS Archives

(It was also fully furnished).

A SMU undergrad could rent a three-storey, six-bedroom house, fully furnished, located right next to school, for $40 to $60 a month. Assuming that Saint Mary’s student was a cunning negotiator and finagled a $40 lease, they’d be paying less than a thousand dollars a month by today’s dollar value.

Admittedly, while property prices were better then, it wasn’t all rosy. If that hypothetical 1902 SMU student was female, she wouldn’t have been able to vote in this week’s election. If the student was male, he likely would’ve been fighting in a World War a few short years after graduating. And no matter the tenant’s gender, there’s a reasonable possibility they would’ve died in that house after contracting polio or tuberculosis. But still — $950 a month for a fully-furnished three-bedroom house near campus…

I don’t think I’d fight in the Great War, while forfeiting the progress of suffrage and modern medicine just to sign a lease that sweet, but I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t at least think about it for a moment, if given the chance.

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Government

City

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — if required

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

The role of iron chelation in pulmonary inflammation (Thursday, 1pm) — Nazli Alizadeh-Tabrizi will present this thesis defense.


In the harbour

Halifax
06:00: MSC Sandra, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
08:00: Onego Maas, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for sea
11:30: APL Dublin, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for sea
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
15:30: MSC Sandra sails for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
14:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea


Footnotes

  • Aside from the North End, here’s another geographical boundary I’m not quite sure about… when does the Annapolis Valley actually start? I should know. It’s my home after all. But I find it a bit murky. If I had to say, I’d go with Grand Pré for the start of the Valley proper, and Hantsport for the absolute western limit. I know a lot of people say Windsor kicks things off, but, in my own inconsequential opinion, that’s pretty far out there.
  • Unfortunately, a time machine is not a viable long-term solution to the housing crisis in this province.

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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17 Comments

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  1. I empathize with the homeless but shacks with no sanitation scattered around the city are not a sustainable solution. The old library site stank of urine when I walked through it last week. It used to be a nice place to sit. Spring garden is full of pan handlers. There’s got to be a solution that can provide housing and dignity without turning the downtown into a ramshackle mess. A thousand protestors and a hundred cops could have easily built a house or two outside the downtown in a day. Get serious at forcing developers to provide actual affordable housing or come up with something more creative.

    1. That smell of urine is why we need more public washrooms located throughout the HRM, If one has to go one has to go; but if one doesn’t have a home with a washroom where is one to go? If my only options were to soil my clothing or to use the nearest bush, I know what my choice would be. What would your choice be?

      I agree that all those protesters and police could have built a home or two in the same period of time, but why should those who need homes be forced outside of the downtown? Other people live in the downtown, why shouldn’t those of lower income and/or experiencing challenges in their lives?

      I agree that we need to get everyone working together to build truly affordable housing; this means that municipal, provincial, and federal leaders must work together, rather than against each other as they seem to be doing Following a discussion on Zoom last night, I believe that this housing needs to be for all income levels, in all communities across Nova Scotia, and must be of various sizes (bachelor; one, two, three and four bedroom), and many units should be accessible. Unfortunately, housing is currently a provincial issue and the municipality cannot do much. With a new provincial leader and a federal election next month, I doubt much will happen in 2021; but how long can we wait?

      I’ve heard/read about a report that was going to be done asking the province to turn the responsibility for housing over to the municipality. That report was asked for in 2018 and it is now 2021. Is that report even still in the works? Do we know when it might be completed?

  2. Successive governments local, provincial and federal have made it clear”market” based solutions to housing will work us out of this mess.

    Landlords will be fair to tenants and would never turn there properties over to AirBnBs. The rules of the market will dictate that.

    It would be interesting to find out how many politicians and senior bureaucrats are in the housing market for profit.

    No conflict of interest there. Just the blessed free market at work.

    Renovitions and honelessness and the rich get richer. That’s the free market at work.

    Don’t like it? Too bad, I’ve got a bottle of pepper spray for you to choke on.

  3. Wouldn’t Hantsport be the eastern end?
    We are generous and commonly include both the Annapolis & Cornwallis River watersheds when we mention ‘the valley’.

  4. In the past I’ve stayed silent on the issue of defunding the police. After yesterday, it is time to end my silence Today, I’m ashamed to admit to living in the HRM. How can those who are supposed to serve and protect use pepper spray on a child?!?!?!?!? That is 100% unacceptable! And officers removing their name badges surely is against regulations. The officers involved should be punished – unpaid leave at a minimum; but I doubt that will happen. The blue line will hold firm and no one will be sanctioned, punished, or deprived of even a single penny of overtime pay. I would love to see the Halifax Examiner provide details as to what yesterday cost both the municipality and the province – I imagine the total is a huge sum.

    These tents and shelters are obviously not what some want to see, but where are those who called them home supposed to go now? Our newly elected PC leader admitted that we need to build our housing stock. That cannot happen overnight, so why not work with the municipality and the province and designate certain unused lands as temporary sites for tents and the Mutual Halifax shacks (I hate the word, but cannot come up with one better right now) until such time as more stock can be built. Surely some of those overtime police dollars could be better spent to provide security at these locations. Or use some other municipal/provincial funds and hire outside security; I’m sure there are plenty of fit, young security personnel who would like to have some income (assuming they would make more working than they may be making on EI/CERB).

    My two cent’s worth. I’ll be back tonight to attend the housing meeting on Zoom where I assume this issue may be top of mind for a few of us who attend.

  5. What we can’t do is provide affordable housing. What we can do is destroy a few dwellings for people in need by using millions of dollars worth of police.

  6. I have never been so saddened, disgusted and ashamed of The Halifax Police Department and senior Halifax administration including Council as I was yesterday. Shame on all the authorities involved.
    All the police officers who removed their name tags should received reprimands and even suspensions. This is not a police state and the thought that we have law enforcement members deliberately hiding their identities is beyond repugnant. Any police officer who did this needs to re-evaluate their career choice.

    1. No evidence that police removed name tags. The photo of the officer with a mask shows a safety vest in such a place as to cover a name tag. The photo of two officers shows heavy protection which covers a name tag. Does anyone have a photo of an officer removing the name tag ?

  7. ” Have the Halifax Regional Police forgotten that a large portion of the population have been rallying to “defund the police” for over a year now? ”
    What is ‘a large portion’ ? More like a few hundred.

    1. There are presumably a lot of folks, like me, who support defunding the police without actively marching in the streets.

      Maybe that makes me a passive do-nothing, sure. But please don’t presume an idea is only supported by the few folks at the forefront of a movement.

      1. Almost 500,000 people in HRM.
        African-Americans are the loudest in opposing the defunding of police and every municipal candidate in the USA who supported defunding police was defeated in the May 2021 municipal elections. If you lived in the 4 places in HRM which suffer from violence you would be a lonely person supporting defunding police.

        1. So be it. I can only speak to my own experience. My father, who hasn’t worked since the 1980s, now parks a Mercedes next to an Audi in his driveway based on his bloated RCMP pension. And I know my brother’s hefty base salary as city police in Edmonton, which is easily complimented with overtime from acting as security at concerts, hockey games, etc. I’m not saying police work is easy. Far from it. But today’s police, at least the officers I know, are not the proper people to be front-line mental health workers or mediators of domestic disputes, roles they’re thrust into based on a lack of resources elsewhere. I can’t control whether my opinion is supported or rejected by the majority, but yeah, defund the police and allocate resources elsewhere, please.

  8. Good morning file Ethan, although it seems you got your east and west confused, twice. Surely the north end is east of Winsor Street, and Hantsport must mark the eastern limit of the valley, not the western.