Reality Bites provides the best coverage of current affairs and political issues related to Halifax and City Council anywhere in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Oh, and we bring the snark, too. Contact jacob@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Councillor not pleased municipal money spent on Trudeau's town hall

Matt Whitman doesn't think HRM taxpayers should pay for even part of the prime minister’s event, but mayor Savage says it’s a non-issue.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 1:24 PM

Prime minister Justin Trudeau addresses the Sportsplex crowd, Monday night in Dartmouth. - RILEY SMITH
  • Prime minister Justin Trudeau addresses the Sportsplex crowd, Monday night in Dartmouth.
  • RILEY SMITH


Eight hundred bucks isn’t a lot of money, but one Halifax councillor says it’s still more than the municipality should have spent on Justin Trudeau’s town hall.

According to the mayor’s office, HRM covered $800 in room rental costs for Monday night’s evening with Trudeau, while the Prime Minister’s Office handled the remaining bill for renting the Sportsplex arena and other incidentals. Mayor Mike Savage says that's par for the course.


 “We would have done the same for any prime minister just as we have routinely shared costs for federal announcements within our municipality for past and current federal governments,” says Savage in an emailed statement.

Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets councillor Matt Whitman, though, calls the Dartmouth event a “Justin Trudeau love-in” that should have been paid for wholly by the Prime Minister’s Office.


“This tour was supposed to be non-political,” writes Whitman in a Twitter message. “If so, the PMO should pay...not municipal or federal tax payers.”

Thousands of people flocked to the Dartmouth Sportsplex on Monday evening to take part in the prime minister’s cross-Canada town hall tour. Trudeau took unscreened audience questions on issues ranging from the approval of pipelines over Indigenous lands, to Syrian refugees and Nova Scotia’s aging hospitals (not to mention a covert selfie-ambush from Divest Dal earlier in the day). But Whitman says he wasn’t impressed with the public’s questions.


“There was nothing about debt; nothing about the new investigation by the ethics commissioner...nothing that would have hurt,” says the councillor. “Although it was billed as non-political, maybe because the crowd he attracted, it was very pro-Trudeau and pro-his government.”

Former NDP candidate and Spacing Atlantic editor Abad Khan also criticized the municipality’s involvement and Savage’s role as host on Facebook.


 “I wonder how people would have felt if Stephen Harper joined a ‘municipal’ town hall Peter Kelly was hosting as mayor,” writes Khan. “If it is a PR town hall/rally then let the Liberal Party pay for it and the mayor and council can attend as citizens (some I'm sure as party members) versus using public funds to promote for partisan gain.”


The cross-Canada tour comes as the prime minister faces questions from the federal ethics commissioner on Trudeau’s private island vacation, and as the party faces criticism for its cash-for-access fundraisers.

Monday night’s event—promoted by HRM Liberal MPs Andy Fillmore and Darren Fisher and hosted by former Liberal MP Savage—appears to be part of the PMO’s effort to address those criticisms head-on through public access to the prime minister. 



 “When you are being chased by concerns about $1,500-a-plate fundraising dinners and vacations on private islands, it makes obvious political sense to be seen communing with the general public,” writes Aaron Wherry for the CBC.

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Halifax faces $119-million lawsuit over Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes

Annapolis Group says HRM "effectively expropriated" land by not granting development rights.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 10:09 AM

A nice, peaceful bit of nature being fought over by rich people. - IRWIN BARRETT
  • A nice, peaceful bit of nature being fought over by rich people.
  • IRWIN BARRETT


Just when you thought the battle over Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes was over...

The Annapolis Group gave notice on Tuesday that it will soon begin legal proceedings against the Halifax Regional Municipality, claiming that HRM has “effectively expropriated” its property and in return is seeking $119 million in damages.

The lawsuit comes from city council’s vote last summer against development zoning for the area, and to instead move forward with purchasing the privately-owned properties next to the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness area for use as parkland.

Because of that decision, Annapolis has “no other choice than to take legal action,” according to a press release from m5 Public Affairs.

Annapolis owns 965 acres directly east of the current provincial wilderness preserve, 764 acres of which are located within HRM’s conceptual park boundary. Most of that property is currently zoned as urban reserve, with a smaller portion defined as urban settlement. Neither designation allows for urban development until at least 2031 unless council determines the lands are needed to accommodate growth.


Rob Gillis, vice chair of the Annapolis Group, writes in Tuesday’s release that his company spent a decade negotiating with HRM for a fair agreement on what to do with the lands. A facilitator’s report last year recommended approving development, but that document was quickly and voraciously panned by area residents, urban planners, provincial officials and environmentalists. Municipal staff subsequently recommended preserving the lands, and council agreed.

“Since HRM is not going to allow us to develop our lands, we are simply asking to receive fair compensation from the municipality for the lands that have been effectively expropriated,” writes Gillis. “We don't want to be in this position, but HRM has given us no other choice.”


According to Annapolis, its rejected plans would have provided 300 acres of parkland, though Karen Beazley, a professor in resource and environmental studies at Dalhousie, argued last year that the Annapolis offer was a minuscule “buffer” and would cause unwanted impact on the neighbouring ecosystem.

Annapolis had previously offered to sell 210 acres of the land outright to HRM for $6 million, or roughly $28,600 per acre. The municipality’s assessors priced the same property as being worth $2.8 million, or $13,340 per acre. Annapolis says a professional valuator has priced the total property it owns at a worth of over $119 million, or $124,000 per acre.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Chronicle Herald heads back to the bargaining table

Unfair labour complaint adjourned as labour strike marches towards its one-year anniversary.

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2017 at 11:57 PM

The beginning of the end? - DYLAN CHEW
  • The beginning of the end?
  • DYLAN CHEW


The Halifax Typographical Union and managers at the Chronicle Herald are heading back to the bargaining table, just in time for the one-year anniversary of the newspaper’s strike.


In light of the upcoming talks, a five-day hearing for an unfair labour complaint put forth by the union has now been adjourned until February 6.

“Off-the-record talks between the two sides have hopefully laid the groundwork for meaningful negotiation,” writes Ingrid Bulmer, the Halifax Typographical Union’s president, in a news release.


The last time the two sides negotiated was back in November, when offers were submitted—and ultimately rejected—through a conciliator.

The HTU launched its unfair labour practice complaint shortly after, arguing the Herald had been tabling bargaining positions designed to be rejected in a move to break the union.

“The company remains hopeful for a sustainable resolution to this disruption. A solution that sees our employees treated fairly and provides the basis for the Chronicle Herald to continue serving Nova Scotia,” chief operating officer Ian Scott writes in a press release about the upcoming talks.


It will be one year exactly since the Herald strike began on Monday, January 23. At the time, there were 62 unionized newsroom employees. Only 55 remain on the picket line and working for the competing Local Xpress website.

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Monday, January 16, 2017

Questions linger over Halifax police’s street check data

Dal’s Black Lives Matter panel comes one week after the stats were released.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 9:00 AM

VIA ISTOCK
  • via iStock

Nzingha Millar says recent statistics released by Halifax Regional Police makes her question the progress made when it comes to racial profiling the community.

“This is anti-black racism specifically–not just non-white people being checked.”

Millar is currently a student in the one-year journalism program at King’s. She’s one of four panelists scheduled to participate in a Black Lives Matter panel on Monday, organized by Dalhousie University’s Black Student Advising Centre.

Last week, a CBC investigation brought the numbers of street checks performed by Halifax police to light: black people are three times more likely than white people to be stopped by police. The RCMP has similarly staggering statistics.

“How much progress have we really made?” asks Millar. “We don’t have a definitive answer about why there is such a huge variance in the numbers of white people that are stopped versus black.”

Amit Parasram, HRP’s diversity officer, is concerned people are drawing conclusions from unanalysed data.

“I think jumping to a statement like racial profiling causes a lot of issues,” he says. “If we went and interpreted (the statistics) in a way that we don’t have substantial proof, then that could cause more impact within that community.”

Millar agrees that a more in-depth inquiry is needed, but she says the police’s skepticism about the role of racial profiling is a major issue. She refers to the 2003 case of Kirk Johnson–a boxer who was stopped while driving in Dartmouth and had his car seized. A human rights inquiry led to a public apology from HRP and $10,000 in damages.

“The anecdotal experiences that have been expressed by black Nova Scotians for so long are still not valid. They’ve been invalidated for so long.”

Lindell Smith, the regional councillor for north-end Halifax, shared some of his own experiences after a council meeting last week.

“As a community member, I've known it's been happening for a long time,” he says.

"It's sad that now it's taken another body to look at that evidence and kind of call the city out and our police force out, and now it's on the radar."

Given the long history of black people in Nova Scotia, the oppression they faced and how they fought for their rights--Millar says it only makes sense for black Nova Scotians to get involved with the “new age of activism.” Black Lives Matter is one way to try and shift police culture, says Miller.

“If we allow spaces to welcome change...and to question the way things have been done for so long, I think that we can make progress,” she says.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Desmond family deaths draw attention to PTSD and domestic violence

“We don’t know what happened in that home and we don’t know what happened in (Lionel’s) life."

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 1:32 PM

Shanna Desmond and Aaliyah Desmond. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Shanna Desmond and Aaliyah Desmond.
  • via Facebook

Four family members were laid to rest this week.

Brenda Desmond: a woman who was “known for her smile, laughter, humour, and strong love.” Shanna Desmond: a registered nurse at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital, remembered by her sister as “the rock of the family.” Aaliyah Desmond: a 10-year-old animal-lover with dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Lionel Desmond: a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who served with two tours in Afghanistan.

By now, the story is well-known across the province—even across the country. Lionel shot his mother, wife and daughter at their home in Upper Big Tracadie before turning the gun on himself. His obituary says he “succumbed to the tortures of PTSD.”

Lionel’s mental illness became the dominant narrative soon after his death. A suffering vet, who’d been denied services at the very hospital where his wife worked (the hospital, now, says that never happened). Other voices, such as Ardath Whynacht and Elizabeth Renzetti, argued that side of the story overshadowed a much-needed discussion about domestic violence. After all, Lionel wasn’t the only person who lost his life.

There’s no straight answer, but that doesn’t mean the dialogue isn’t needed. The reality is that combat trauma and domestic violence are linked not only in their devastating impacts, but the often inadequate support for both.

According to the Globe and Mail, almost one in 10 of the Canadians who served in the Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. At least 70 of those who served have since died by suicide.

Trev Bungay, the vice-president of veteran relations at Trauma Healing Centers, has dealt with PTSD himself. Because cases differ from person-to-person, explains Bungay, it’s hard to define the illness. But he explains it as best he can.

“They’ve been through a traumatic event, and that traumatic event keeps playing over and over and over.”

Bungay points out that are misconceptions all the time, but people with PSTD aren’t “crazy.” They’re experiencing what he calls “utter confusion.”

“Their mind is a mess. Picture, basically, a bowl of spaghetti,” he says. “Everything’s just confusing. Nothing’s firing correctly. It’s very hard to, you know, come out of that.”

Bungay acknowledges that, in the case of Lionel Desmond, PTSD wasn’t the only factor.

“The guy took a gun to his family. That is family violence, 100 percent,” he says.

“It doesn’t make it right…All I’m trying to do is say: when you look at the situation you have to understand he had post-traumatic stress.”

Miia Suokonautio, executive director of YWCA Halifax, feels it’s important to be sensitive when looking at specific cases.

“We don’t know what happened in that home and we don’t know what happened in (Lionel’s) life,” she says.

For that reason, those looking in from outside the family and the community need to be careful.

“That being said, I know at the YWCA we work on issues of violence against women every single day. Every day,” says Suokonautio. “Whether or not that has any connection to what happened is not the point anyway. We continue doing the work that we do.”

According to a report on family violence in Canada from last year, an estimated 760,000 (or four percent) of Canadians over the age of 15 years said they had experienced spousal conflict, abuse or violence in the previous five years.

A 2009 report by Kerry Sudom honed in on domestic violence and the Canadian Forces specifically. In the introduction, Sudom pointed out that data on violence in military families—the Canadian Forces in particular—is scarce.

The goal of the report was to provide an overview of what little research that had been done. Results showed that in 2008, 5.1 percent of spouses reported that their partner had been violent towards them and 3.5 percent had been violent towards children. Sudom wrote that the percentage, although small, is not insubstantial.

“It is important to assess the prevalence and incidence of abuse, and the factors associated with it, in order to increase the effectiveness of current programs and policies regarding abuse in the CF,” reads the report.

Suokonautio points to multiple things that serve as barriers for women leaving abusive partners: social pressures, money and the normalization of violence are just a few factors. There are also plenty of women who wouldn’t know where to go if they did leave.

“People do use transition houses…but the majority of women will actually go to a family member or a friend’s,” explains Suokonautio. For those without a network of support, finding a safe place can be a challenge.

As if that weren’t enough, emotional ties make it even more difficult.

“There’s this ambiguity, because you may actually still love someone.”

But leaving an unsafe situation is understandable—and necessary. Even if the abuser is struggling with a mental illness.

“If you don’t feel safe, you need to take care of yourself first,” she says. “That’s priority number one.”

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Let us love you: The Coast’s Sex+Dating survey

Tell us all about your adorable, sexy, freaky, heartbreaking, emotional, gorgeous love lives.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 4:00 AM

For all you foot fetishists out there. ;) - THE COAST
  • For all you foot fetishists out there. ;)
  • The Coast

We want details, Halifax.

The holidays are over and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means it’s once again time for The Coast’s annual Sex+Dating survey.

Every year we ask everyone in HRM to share their deepest desires, sweetest memories and kinkiest fantasies. Last year over 900 of you delivered on all fronts, and now we’re back for another statistical tryst.

You can find the full survey here.

Go slow and spend as much time with it as you want, or make it a quickie and skip over any questions that don’t apply or you don’t feel like answering. Just remember, the whole thing’s completely anonymous. So speak from the heart.

And please remember to add in any feedback or comments at the end. Like our love for you, this document evolves and grows stronger every year (primarily based on your comments). This year, for instance, we have several more questions about polyamory, along with an increased focus on issues that come up in longterm relationships—both suggestions called for by readers last year.

Answers will be collected and the highlights published in The Coast’s February 9 issue. Any identifiable information we find submitted in the answers—accidentally or purposefully—will be edited out at our discretion in order to preserve privacy.

<3

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Gloria McCluskey is back, baby

Retired councillor chairing new Dartmouth preservation association.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 4:00 AM

McCluskey, pictured here inside Halifax City Hall.
  • McCluskey, pictured here inside Halifax City Hall.

Gloria McCluskey isn’t letting retirement slow her down.

The former Dartmouth Centre councillor is now association chair for the newly created Destination Dartmouth association, which a press release says was formed “to promote Dartmouth’s identity, preserve its heritage and encourage the development of a healthy and inclusive community.”

“We’re also advocating for the establishment of a Shubenacadie Canal conservation district as part of the Centre Plan to enhance heritage interpretation, tourism and better awareness about Dartmouth’s history,” writes DDA spokesperson and former City of Dartmouth councillor Bruce Hetherington in the release.

McCluskey spent more than two decades in municipal politics as both councillor and former mayor of Dartmouth, and was a tireless—some might say, overzealous—advocate for the former city across the harbour. Her last year in office included leading the charge on the HRM branding debate, and needling her Halifax colleagues about projects on the peninsula that she felt were of little use to her constituents.

The 85-year-old councillor chose not to re-offer in last year’s municipal election, being replaced at City Hall by new Dartmouth Centre representative Sam Austin.

McCluskey writes in Wednesday’s press release that Destination Dartmouth will work with residents and members of Dartmouth’s business communities to promote the area and protect its identity.

“Our mandate is to work with local and regional groups on our initiatives, and from a tourism perspective we look forward to working with Destination Eastern Shore and Destination Halifax,” writes McCluskey.

The first order of business for the new organization? Requesting that the name of HRM’s Centre Plan be officially changed to the “Halifax-Dartmouth Centre Plan.”

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Street checks by Halifax police are unacceptable says privacy lawyer

David Fraser believes HRP should hit pause on controversial practice.

Posted By on Mon, Jan 9, 2017 at 10:28 PM

McInnes Cooper lawyer David Fraser says street checks are "inherently coercive.” - VIA FACEBOOK
  • McInnes Cooper lawyer David Fraser says street checks are "inherently coercive.”
  • via Facebook

David Fraser doesn’t remember the last time he was stopped by police. But he knows it happens disproportionately to other people, and that’s a problem.

“I’m a middle-aged white guy,” says Fraser, a privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper. “If I get stopped by the cops at night, I have way more confidence that I’m driving away from that—or walking away from that—than a large number of people.”

On Monday, Halifax Regional Police (HRP) released the preliminary analysis of data on “street checks” by patrol officers from 2005-2016. This came as a direct result of an investigative article by CBC, which found black people are three times more likely to be stopped by police in HRM than white individuals.

Fraser says he was impressed to see HRP’s research coordinator, Chris Giacomantonio, taking a closer look at street checks. Still, he sees the practice as “inherently coercive” if police aren’t advising people that they don’t have to go along with it.

“That gets compounded by—particularly in racialized communities—fear of the police,” explains Fraser. “Whether or not the Halifax police themselves are inclined to do such vile things, people’s perceptions are informed by a much broader media.”

He compares the issue to the act of “carding” in Toronto, as well as the more invasive “stop-and-frisk” practices in New York. Although HRP chief Jean-Michel Blais insisted during and after Monday’s board of police commissioners’ meeting that the cases in Halifax and Toronto aren’t the same, Fraser doesn’t see much of a difference.

“We don’t live in a small town. This is a city,” he says. “Are they just saying, ‘We’re nicer cops?’”

Those things aside, Fraser doesn’t believe street checks are effective. Visible police presence is one thing, but stopping people at random is another. He also sees problems from a privacy standpoint: wondering what information is getting collected and where it’s going.

“Every one of these interactions is a collection of personal information against somebody’s will and without their true, willing consent,” he says.

A moratorium on street checks has already been nixed by Blais (“at this point”), but until the police can pinpoint the positive outcomes of the practice, Fraser only sees harm. Not only is it intrusive, but it puts a wrench in the relationship between police and the rest of the community.

“If you have grounds to stop somebody and can really articulate why, then perhaps,” says Fraser. “But on a random basis...I don’t think that that’s acceptable.”

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Friday, December 30, 2016

A toast to the Halifax Media Co-op

The other sad local media story in 2016 was the HMC's “indefinite hiatus.”

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 4:00 AM

“News from Nova Scotia's grassroots” was the Halifax Media Co-op motto. - VIA BEN SICHEL


The death of the Halifax Media Co-op was everything the Chronicle Herald strike wasn’t. The labour situation at Nova Scotia’s daily paper of record dominated headlines this year and drew national attention, while the quiet passing of the local media co-operative earned barely a eulogy.



The website remains online, for the time being, and the occasional volunteer blog post continues to crop up. But the money’s gone, and with it goes another news outlet in Halifax.

Back in June, the Halifax Media Co-op (HMC) announced in a short blog post that it would be taking an indefinite hiatus. A joint statement by the co-op’s interim editorial collective said the site had tried its best to “help amplify underrepresented voices,” but the “capacity to keep the co-op running functionally has dried up.”

One of the HMC’s core volunteers was Miles Howe, who had been writing for the site since 2010 and was practically running the shop until this spring when he moved to Ontario (Disclaimer: Howe also occasionally wrote for The Coast). His departure brought previous and founding editors like Ben Sichel and Hillary Lindsay together to try and figure out the co-operative’s future. For a number of reasons, continuing to run the site proved too daunting of a task.

“There wasn’t a functioning editorial board,” says Lindsay. “None of us who were called together had time in our lives at that point to put time into outreach and getting things moving again.”

“All of us were busy with other commitments. None of us wanted to re-start the Media Co-op,” says Sichel. “We decided we were going to let it lay dormant, for now.”

It didn’t help matters that funding this year from the Canadian Nova Scotia Federation of Labour (NSFL) dried up in the wake of the site’s dormancy. The NSFL was the site’s largest single source of money, contributing approximately $20,000 a year. Howe says the co-op become “overly reliant” on that money. At the same time, he says, it was spending too much money propping up the national Media Co-op organization that had spawned a series of spinoff sites in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

“It was becoming very top-heavy, very national-oriented,” says Howe, who estimates half the money coming into Halifax from subscribers was redirected to help the national co-operative.

The Halifax Media Co-Op went online in 2009, launching a year after the closure of the Daily News and the same winter that the Herald announced $1.5 million in cutbacks. It was created by editors of the Dominion, a monthly alternative newspaper published out of Halifax that had started six years prior. It was the first in what quickly became a coast-to-coast network of democratically-run news co-operatives—membership-funded media outlets writing for the unrepresented.

“People got their voices heard, in an unmodified way, without going through the more traditional journalism,” says Robert Devet, who wrote for the HMC for several years and now runs the alternative news blog the Nova Scotia Advocate. “People got to make their own case, in their own voice.”

The stories told by the Media Co-Op strongly focused around areas that were—and often still are—ignored by larger, corporate-funded media: the struggles faced by low-income Nova Scotians; First Nations groups; environmental changes; labour rights; corporate and political collusion.


Its critics would call the HMC home to partisan, left-wing writers and activists. “We tried to be always fair, which I think is different than claiming you’re unbiased,” counters Sichel.

As easy as it was for some to write-off the co-op's politics, its journalistic efforts are worth remembering. It helped launch a Mi’kmaq-language podcast and published a blog written from inside the notorious Burnside jail. It tackled resistance movements in Elsipogtog (for which Howe was arrested three times), and examined Emera’s control of electricity in the Bahamas. It provided a launching ground for young reporters like Natascia Lypny (now with CBC in Regina), Stephanie Taylor (formerly Metro Halifax, now Metro Winnipeg), Hilary Beaumont and Justin Ling (both now with Vice Canada), amongst others.

“I think it shows what can be done when you take the Fifth Estate very seriously,” says Howe. “When you do your best to separate money from that, what can be done on a very limited budget—what you can dig up.”

“When people were coming together and mobilizing, and when the corporate media was not reporting on what was happening on the ground, that’s when the Media Co-op could really shine,” says Lindsay.

And it still could. The website, archives, all of it can be revived if someone wants to take up the cause.

“Hopefully that can get picked up again by someone else,” says Lindsay. “Learn from what we did and, yeah, take it from there.”

“We did sort of leave the opportunity if anyone wants to come together,” says Sichel, while cautioning that any revival would be a lot of work. Restarting the Halifax Media Co-op would be a labour of love, but then again, it always was.

“You’re welcome to get in touch.”

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Halifax Pride's new director, uncertain direction

Adam Reid takes the job as Halifax Pride's first executive director amidst unaddressed calls to boycott the festival, and a growing dissatisfaction post-AGM.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 4:00 AM

As Halifax Pride’s new executive director, Adam Reid will work full-time to oversee the logistics and operations of future Pride fests. - VIA HALIFAX PRIDE
  • As Halifax Pride’s new executive director, Adam Reid will work full-time to oversee the logistics and operations of future Pride fests.
  • via Halifax Pride

Adam Reid has his work cut out for him.

Reid, who previously sat on Halifax Pride’s board of directors and has been at the helm of Halifax’s Queer Acts Theatre Festival for just under a decade, was announced earlier this month as Pride’s first ever executive director. He’ll now work full-time to oversee the logistics and operations of Atlantic Canada’s largest Pride celebration.

Hiring Reid was one of the less controversial items proposed and voted on at Pride’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) back in October. Over 300 people showed up at that AGM to vote on a contentious anti-pinkwashing motion put forward by Queer Arabs of Halifax (QAH).

The motion’s defeat, and the events of the meeting, drew criticism from many in the LGBTQ+ community. Reid—and Halifax Pride—are now trying to win back the trust of many former supporters.

Since being hired, Reid says he’s been reaching out to community members and organizations to try and mend fences. “I definitely want to do more to include more marginalized voices in the festival,” he says.

But the backlash from the AGM has been severe. Pride boycotts have been called for by the Mount Pride society in October, and by the national and provincial Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) organizations last month. There has been no official response from Pride to these calls.

“It’s really hard to see myself being a part of (Halifax Pride) moving forward,” says Kehisha Wilmot, the Indigenous representative for the CFS’ Nova Scotia chapter.

Wilmot sees Pride’s AGM as “illegitimate” because the presence of straight people appeared to outnumber those of queer community members—which Pride is mandated to represent the interests of. The Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) has joined CFS in questioning Halifax Pride’s validity after the October meeting.

“We will be reaffirming our position that their AGM was invalid and a violation of the society's mission and the community it serves,” says Áine Morse, the co-chair of NSRAP’s board.

If Pride were to acknowledge their AGM as “illegitimate,” this would mean all voted decisions from that agenda would be defunct—including Reid’s new position.

Morse thinks Reid has a “genuine desire to understand the issues and make a positive change,” but he “runs the risk of moving forward without repairing.”

Raven Davis, a Two-Spirit person belonging to Halifax’s ”Black, Indigenous, People of Colour” (BIPOC) community, says there has never been confidence in “the integrity, ability and surety of Halifax Pride to be inclusive of all voices.”

“After numerous attempts of trying to get our voices heard with Halifax Pride, some of us are beyond tired,” says Davis, who believes Pride needs to address race inclusion, accessibility and prioritize funding, space and leadership for queer and trans BIPOC people.

They also think Pride needs to seriously consider the removal of any police and military presence at future festivals and any corporate sponsorship that supports pink washing or is anti-black, anti-Indigenous or transphobic.

Until then—until there’s “a dramatic shift in their leadership and organization,” Davis says they’re not interested in supporting Pride.

“It’s going to take years to begin to build trust with the QTBIPOC community.”

Reid, for his part, says Pride is hoping to organize an “accountability group,” which would oversee and consult the board on the organization’s future direction.

On December 16, Pride published a job ad for a vacant seat on their board, with preference to applicants from the queer and trans “Black Indigenous and People of Colour” (BIPOC) community. This comes after NSRAP and CFS called for board seats to be reserved for BIPOC members of the queer community to ensure their inclusion.

“There’s a lot of rebuilding that needs to take place...we don’t want to make the same mistakes,” says Reid. “We recognize that Pride has caused a lot of pain, and we can do better.”

In February Halifax will host the annual national conference of Pride organizations, meeting with Pride chairs across the country. Halifax Pride 30th anniversary celebrations will take place from July 13-23, 2017.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Silent nights (and days) at Shannon Park

Sports fields at unused military property will remain off-limits, even while redevelopment lags.

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Shannon Park, as it once was. - VIA CLC
  • Shannon Park, as it once was.
  • via CLC


They’re not exactly fields of dreams. They are more like unused playing fields of tall grass and untidy turf.  

The outdoor sports area at Shannon Park in Dartmouth is owned by Canada Lands Company, the federal Crown corporation overseeing the redevelopment of the surplus military property. It’s not totally unusable, but future versions of the soccer matches, rugby practices and softball games of yesteryear won’t be happening, a Canada Lands spokesman says.

  “These lands have been included in the concept plan for the comprehensive redevelopment...of the (Shannon Park) property,” Chris Millier says in an email.

“While a small portion of the recreation area continues to be utilized by the Shannon Park (Elementary) School, these lands will generally remain undeveloped until such time as the area is prepared for redevelopment.”

  The neglected-looking land includes a football/soccer field, a long-gone softball diamond, an open area once used for children’s soccer games and practices and a fenced-in spot for tennis. There’s also a gravel jogging track that goes around the football field.

  Today, the unkempt fields are sometimes used by students walking to and from school, local pet owners and their dogs (on- or off-leash), and, in summer, weekend hobbyists operating model airplanes.

  During a site visit on December 16, derelict soccer goals could be seen, as could the remnants of a softball backstop.

  Shannon Park is to be reinvented during a multi-year project that’ll likely include new residential structures, small commercial enterprises, green spaces, a waterfront trail and a site developed by the Millbrook First Nation. The Canadian military’s link to the land dates back to 1949; by 2003 the last of the military personnel housed in apartments there were living elsewhere.

  Canada Lands says municipal planning approvals are a necessary component of the refurbishment project, as are new roads and services that will be installed in phases.

  Millier says in his email that “work continues to progress at Shannon Park.” Buildings near the school have been demolished, and the resulting debris disposed of at “appropriately licensed facilities.”

  Asked about demolition of the eyesore complex containing more than 30 military-housing structures, which area media outlets have reported was expected to be finished by late January, Millier acknowledged that’s been delayed several months until later in 2017.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How to solve a murder

Investigators in Halifax's homicide unit describe their work.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 27, 2016 at 4:00 AM

Police officers securing the scene after the November shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Keizer. - THE COAST
  • Police officers securing the scene after the November shooting death of 22-year-old Tyler Keizer.
  • The Coast


It begins with a call.

“It all starts with patrol,” says Jason Withrow. “They’re the ones who show up [in uniform] when 911 is called. After that, it goes up the chain until we’re alerted.”

His partner, detective Derrick Boyd, points to the cell phone holstered to his hip. The two investigators always have their phones on them. “This never leaves my side.”

Both men are detective-sergeants in the Halifax Regional Police force, working in tandem with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to cover Halifax’s urban and rural communities. Both of them work homicides.

All nine murders in Halifax in 2015 were solved, with charges laid in each case. This year has seen homicides jump to 12, but charges have only been laid in half.

The increase in violence on HRM’s streets this year has placed an added burden on what’s already a high-pressure job inside the police department. As 2016 fades away, there are still six homicides awaiting justice. Here’s how that work gets done.

It’s Thursday, December 8, and Boyd has already ‘touched’ two murder cases before 9am. That’s the term they use—touched—for working a case. Withrow estimates it’ll be five active homicide investigations “touched” before the day’s out.

Boyd is the taller of the two partners, with blue eyes and a firm handshake. Withrow is shorter, soft-spoken and prone to talking with his hands. Together, the two of them have a combined 13 years working homicides.

Detective-sergeants Withrow and Boyd. - CHRISTY SOMOS
  • Detective-sergeants Withrow and Boyd.
  • CHRISTY SOMOS

They call it a 24-seven, 365 type of job. Partially, that’s because it’s hard to shut their minds off of work when they’re on a case, but also it’s on account of the unpredictable nature of their livelihood. You never know when that next call will come in.


“You can plan your day,” says Boyd, “but it will never happen that way.”

The first few hours of a homicide are the most hectic. Boyd rattles off the list of questions that come first with every call: Where is it? Who’s the victim? Any suspects? Any witnesses? Anyone in custody?

From that phone call a triangular system of delegation begins to form between the lead investigator, their partner who coordinates paperwork and the police sergeant who will allocate resources.

“The sergeants are usually the team commander or team leader [on a case] and the other two parts of the triangle are the lead investigator and a file coordinator,” Boyd explains. “So you figure out who they’re going to be from your homicide unit and go from there.”

The triangle system ensures three sets of eyes know everything about the investigation, and makes it less likely something will go awry for the duration of the case.

Due to the integration of HRP and the RCMP, most murder inquiries in the municipality will have officers from other divisions—like criminal investigation or vice—assisting on the case. Excluded from that list are staff from the sexual assault unit. Following the Rehtaeh Parsons case and the Segal Report of 2015, homicide investigators can no longer pull support from that unit due to its heavy workload, and the complicated, sensitive nature of their cases.

Which brings us to the “taskers.”

“Taskers” are often the officers who do the ground level work in a homicide case—canvassing neighborhoods, chasing leads and corralling witnesses.

“What people don’t necessarily know is that in an initial murder investigation there can be upwards of 50 people involved working on the case,” says Boyd. “I have worked on some that have 70 individuals that all had parts to play.”

It’s not all police solving a homicide case, though. The best help can often come from the public.

“The community and people we serve play a major part as well,” says Withrow. “That’s why we will put out media releases to ask for help. It’s essential that witnesses feel comfortable and safe coming to talk to us. We will drop everything to hear someone out if they have information on a case.”

Sometimes, though, the cases don’t get solved—at least not yet. Boyd and Withrow still have open files from 2009 on their desks. Another two years and those murders will wind up in the cold case unit.

Life will go on, as will the investigators, onto the next call.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Prescriptions not required at Barrington Street dispensary

Auntie’s owner Shirley Martineau is selling cannabis oil to anyone who needs it, regardless of what the law says.

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 9:13 AM

Shirley Martineau knows what she's doing is illegal, but says she could no longer turn away people in pain. - THE COAST
  • Shirley Martineau knows what she's doing is illegal, but says she could no longer turn away people in pain.
  • The Coast

“I'm gonna heal people, man, whether they like it or not,” says Shirley Martineau.

The owner of Auntie’s Health and Wellness Centre on Barrington Street is candid about selling cannabis oil to her customers without a prescription—proudly flaunting federal drug laws that seem increasingly archaic as Canada inches itself towards legalizing marijuana.

Currently, only medical marijuana patients with a prescription can purchase cannabis oil, and even then, only from the government’s 36 licensed providers—none of which are in Nova Scotia.

The Auntie’s franchise at 1547 Barrington Street, which opened in July, offers cannabis oil to customers suffering from cancer and other ailments. Originally that was only with a prescription, but Martineau says she got tired of sending away people in pain.

“Last week done me in,” says the 66-year-old. “I had three patients in a row that couldn’t find a doctor...They’re leaving here crying. I just couldn’t handle it no more.

“I said ‘Open the doors!’”

Auntie’s is one of several dispensaries in Halifax—hundreds across the country—that have taken advantage of the legal grey zone that exists while Canada awaits legalized marijuana. Well, grey to some. It’s pretty black-and-white to the city.

Tiffany Chase, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Municipality, says Auntie’s was denied a business occupancy permit as a wellness centre after an inspection during the application review process found the business was selling medical marijuana products. The store has now been issued an order to comply with municipal bylaws.

“We have not and would not issue an occupancy permit for a medical marijuana dispensary, as federal regulations currently prohibit the sale of medical marijuana through a retail store-front,” writes Chase in an email.

Auntie’s isn’t alone in fighting city hall. Other local medical marijuana dispensaries have also come up against HRM’s permitting policies. Tasty Budds, in Cole Harbour, lost an appeal to the Utility and Review Board this summer after HRM denied the business’ occupancy permit. Owner Mal McMeekin told Metro Halifax at the time he was appealing that decision, and carrying on with business as usual.

Martineau says she’s also appealing the city’s order, but is upfront about her operation, which was already in violation of federal law before she ditched the ‘scripts. 



“I'm going to jail,” she predicts, though she isn't fond of that potential outcome. “I don't want to go to jail, like anybody else, but I'm going to sacrifice it to make sure people get the access to their medication.” 


While Justin Trudeau remains committed to legalizing marijuana in Canada sometime in the near future, the prime minister has told police departments to enforce the law and criminally charge storefront dispensaries.

Despite that, Halifax Regional Police have left her alone, she says. There have been no dramatic raids, like HRP conducted on Farm Assists one year ago this month.

Possibly that’s because storefront retail shops aren’t top priority right now for Halifax police. Instead, the department is focusing on marijuana traffickers and those involved with firearms.

“They’re the ones targeted first and foremost,” HRP chief Jean-Michel Blais told Monday’s meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.

Criminal or not, Martineau says she won't stop trying to give back some hope to her customers.

“People need help. That's why I was put on this Earth.”


Update: Chase emails to clarify Auntie's was never issued an occupancy permit, as her original statement could be misconstrued. We've adjusted the wording above for clarity's sake.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

HRM in 2016

Highs and lows from the year of suck.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 1:22 PM

Yo 2017, u up? WYD? - THE COAST
  • Yo 2017, u up? WYD?
  • THE COAST

JANUARY
King Street station’s closure stayed. Chronicle Herald strikes. 130-year-old Keith’s bottle found, sampled. Ralph’s Place launches courtesy shuttle. Squirrel knocks out electricity to 5,400 homes. Dark Side Café contests $47,000 in fines. Data security breaches at CFB Halifax.

FEBRUARY
Cindy Day vs. Frankie MacDonald. Matt Whitman apologizes for tweets. Viola Desmond wins ferry name. Gary Burrill wins NDP leadership. Tony Mancini wins council seat. Lyle Howe sexual assault charges dropped. Hafiia Mira walks Kanye West’s fashion show. “Cape Breton If Trump Wins.” NSCC students showcase Preston land title mess. Local XPress announced. Andre Denny sentenced for Raymond Taavel’s murder.

MARCH
Demolition begins on Doyle Block. Ghostly howls at Nova Centre. Yoga instructor Kristin Johnston killed. Excavator on Spring Garden falls through roof. That alien-looking fish. Internet black widow released from prison. Peter Kelly hired as Charlottetown’s CAO. Good Robot’s condoms seized at border. Rebecca Thomas named HRM’s poet laureate.

APRIL
Internet black widow arrested again. Herald alleges Muslim children terrorizing elementary school. Justin Trudeau swarmed at Seaport market. Tyler Richards found dead, the first of three homicides in a week. #HomesNotHondas. Moving Forward Together approved with 23 asterisks. Duffle bag of guns found outside Millwood High.

MAY
Cornwallis naming debate shut down. Joan Jessome retires. Acclaimed illustrator Darwyn Cooke dies. Steven Skinner arrested in Venezuela. #Halicop. Bear strolls through gas station parking lot. Trade Centre CEO Scott Ferguson resigns for better job. Linda Mosher grabs Shawn Cleary’s domains. Multicultural festival shuts down over $26,000 in debts.

JUNE
Candlelight vigil for Orlando shooting victims. Police audit reveals missing evidence. Council gushes over Sidney Crosby. Nova Centre legal action launched. Man loses pants after drunken night out. Hells Angels are back. Blue Mountain report lambasted. Landon Webb victorious, Incompetent Persons Act declared invalid.

JULY
Minimum wage axed for athletes. Crosby visits with Cup. Taxi driver sexual assaults. New CAO Jacques Dubé. #SaveYoung Avenue. Canoeists rescued by Bill Casey. Via Rail pitches commuter rail. Low-income transit passes. Sable Island gets Google Street View.

AUGUST
Lisa Roberts wins by-election. Sobeys withdraws racial profiling appeal. Unfiltered tells NSLC to fuck off. HRM sunshine list finally published. Dalhousie spends $300,000 (US) on MIT trip. Feds announce $120 million for NS infrastructure. Everyone watches the Tragically Hip. Forest fires near Keji. Amherst’s George Baker uses n-word, runs for mayor.

SEPTEMBER
Citadel Hill tax battle end in $20 million payout. Bomb threats. Settlement reached for St. Pat’s-Alexandra. Maritime Bhangra Group dance at Peggy’s Cove. Fliss Cramman shackled to hospital bed. Firearms for bus fares. Ellen Page endorses Lil MacPherson for mayor. Southwestern Nova Scotia droughts affect thousands.

OCTOBER
Election! Premier brags about private texting. Pinkwashing motion voted down at Pride AGM. Guilty pleas from murderers of Catie Miller. Heritage advocate Philip Pacey passes away. Severe flooding washes away Sydney homes. Richmond audit finds money spent at Texas strip clubs. Bay Ferries down 15,000 passengers from Nova Star. Centre Plan released.

NOVEMBER
Fentanyl crisis oncoming. Security forum reckons with Trump. Fire chief retiring. Halifax tries to block Africville class action. Gun violence leaves three dead. Gord Downie visits. Alton Gas legal brief says Indigenous peoples are conquered. Nova Centre delayed, again. Ottawa and Nova Scotia work out carbon pricing. Auditor general details misspending on schools.

DECEMBER
Teachers’ union announces work-to-rule. Province shuts down schools. Everyone protests. No one knows what’s happening. Diana Whalen hospitalized after heart attack. Police standoff in Fairview live-streamed to Facebook. Automated bus announcements start. Canadian Premier League pitched for Halifax. Viola Desmond on the new $10 bill. Snow day!


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Province and teachers' union to resume negotiations

Meanwhile, NSGEU rejects proposed contract.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2016 at 9:00 AM

Hundreds of students and parents gathered outside Province House in protest on December 5. - REBECCA DINGWELL
  • Hundreds of students and parents gathered outside Province House in protest on December 5.
  • Rebecca Dingwell

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has accepted the provincial government’s offer to go back to the bargaining table.

Liette Doucet, NSTU president, feels optimistic about the upcoming talks.

“I’m hopeful that the government is willing to listen to our bargaining team,” Doucet said Wednesday.

According to a statement from the department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the province sent the request to resume bargaining on Tuesday “in the hopes of reaching a resolution.”

“Everyone involved wants what is best for our students,” said the statement.

In addition, the department released premier Stephen McNeil’s letter to Labour minister Kelly Regan, outlining his request for conciliation services.

“The children of the province are the ones being most negatively impacted,” it said. “This is and should be unacceptable to all.”

So far, the conflict between the province and the union has resulted in work-to-rule action by teachers, protests by both staff and pupils as well as a day-long lockout of students.

Talks are expected to resume on Saturday, but there’s no indication as to how long they’ll last.

“Obviously, I’d like to see us come out of it with a deal,” said Doucet. “I would like to believe that the government will be coming prepared to listen and prepared to offer counters to our asks, and ultimately, to look at what’s going to make education better for our students.”

Also on Wednesday, the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union voted overwhelmingly against a contract offer from the province. Out of the eligible NSGEU members who cast their votes, 94 percent rejected the tentative agreement.


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