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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

White lies

Posted By on Wed, Dec 10, 2008 at 12:38 PM

I found myself bouncing around City Hall Tuesday. First stop was a press conference held in the basement media room, where three white chiefs---chief administrative officer Dan English, police chief Frank Beazley and fire chief Bill Mosher---explained to a room full of white reporters that even though hardly any other cities in Canada find it necessary, Halifax is going to continue to require that new recruits to the fire department pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of taking lie detector tests. The tests supposedly weed out potential criminals and those inclined to bestiality. (The pre-employment background and criminal checks that the cops provide for day care workers and teachers evidently aren’t so effective, but don’t worry yourself over that, parents.)

English did say that the administration of the tests---which were conducted by a company owned by two white Halifax cops---violated city contracting procedures but that matter will be handed over to Beazley (who OKed the contract in the first place) for “appropriate action,” a nice euphemism for “going down the memory hole.”

Mosher admitted that two white management level hirees were not required to take the test, but hey, we’re not worried about management, wink-wink.

After the press conference, I found that council was spending more time than expected in a closed-door meeting, so I spent a couple of hours in a ground-level hallway chewing the fat with my all-white media colleagues, trying not to get in the way as one white city staffer after another scurried between offices.

Finally, I was allowed upstairs for the public portion of the council meeting, and watched 23 white councillors, a white mayor and a couple of dozen of white bureaucrats determine the future of the city. Trying to stay awake through the drone-fest, I first pulled up a picture on my computer of the lily-white group of new police officers hired to the city last summer, and then recalled Don Clairmont’s lecture to the council last month about one of the primary ways council can help heal the racial divide in Halifax---by hiring more black people. “Look at your staff!” Clairmont admonished council. “You’re doing a terrible job!”

The lie detector tests are a bad idea for a lot of reasons. But primarily they impose an economic barrier to a diversified workforce. It’s hard not to believe that that’s their purpose.

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