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.

Monday, September 17, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2007

Inside the Square with councillor Lindell Smith and Halifax's slow road to better biking with Kelsey Lane.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2018 at 12:45 PM

Councillor Lindell Smith and Halifax Cycling Coalition executive director Kelsey Lane. - THE COAST
  • Councillor Lindell Smith and Halifax Cycling Coalition executive director Kelsey Lane.
  • THE COAST

City councillor Lindell Smith was a 16-year-old aspiring audio technician the first time that he was mentioned in The Coast, as part of Stephen Kimber's 2007 cover story, “Inside the Square.” Smith joins us to talk about the stigma surrounding Uniacke Square, his political goals and how the north end has changed over the past decade.

Also, it was 11 years ago when the Halifax Cycling Coalition formed in response to the death of a cyclist on Barrington Street. Executive director Kelsey Lane calls in from her vacation to chat about the coalition's history and the exhausting work of improving HRM's streets one metre at a time.

All this, plus Island Greek opens, the Apple Barrel closes, Peter Kelly cozies up to the Guardian Angels, the province cracks down on squeegee kids, Celine Dion snubs the city and we say goodbye, one last time, to Helen Hill.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Petition to rename Cornwallis Street delivered to city hall

Over 1,700 online signatures and 60 area residents want the controversial north end street's name changed to Rocky Jones Boulevard.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 5:47 PM

Could this soon be changed to Rocky Jones Street? - THE COAST
  • Could this soon be changed to Rocky Jones Street?
  • THE COAST

“The statue coming down was a great first step, but there's more that can be done,”

 says Angel Marcus-Panag.

On Thursday, the Halifax resident went to City Hall and delivered his petition containing over 1,700 signatures in favour of renaming Cornwallis Street to Rocky Jones Boulevard.

The vast majority of those names come from an online Change.org petition that Marcus-Panag created several months ago. Along with those names are 56 signatures from people who live, work or own property on the seven-block street.

“Most people, after speaking with them, signed the petition,” Marcus-Panag says. “Everyone was fine with it.”

It's the latest effort in what's been an increasing desire from the public to re-examine how Halifax honours its founder, Edward Cornwallis.

The first governor of Nova Scotia has become more well-known over the past several years for the treaties he broke and violent actions he ordered against the area's indigenous population, including an infamous 1749 bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps.

In 2011, public outcry caused the Halifax Regional School Board to change the name of Cornwallis Junior High. Earlier this year, the Cornwallis Street Baptist Church also changed its name to New Horizons, in order to better reflect the church's values and its solidarity with the local Indigenous community.

Back in January, HRM removed a bronze statue of Cornwallis and put it into storage, awaiting a verdict from an expert advisory panel on what Halifax should do about its problematic founder’s legacy.

But Cornwallis’ name still adorns the south-end park where his statue once stood, and the north-end street running between North Park and Barrington.

A lot of Marcus-Panag's life has centred around that rapidly gentrifying area, he says. Rocky Jones was also his mentor when Marcus-Panag first started university. The legendary human rights activist was a founding member of the National Black Coalition of Canada, the Black United Front of Nova Scotia and Dalhousie’s University’s Transition Year Program. He and his wife Joan worked tirelessly for decades in support of African Nova Scotians, the Mi'kmaq community and for the rights of prison inmates.

Marcus-Panag started thinking about this project after Jones’ death in 2013, realizing the community pillar deserved some concrete recognition for the neighbourhood he helped support.

The petition, he says, is just as much about honouring Jones as it is about taking off the Cornwallis name.

“It's win-win, is the way I see it.”

Halifax's charter grants council the authority to name and rename any street or private road, though, given the inconvenience on area residents, the process isn't usually undertaken without widespread public support from property owners.

With all the names on his petition, however, Marcus-Panag is hopeful that area-councillor Lindell Smith will get the ball rolling with a motion to rename what could soon become the former Cornwallis Street.

“I think it's important for the younger generation growing up to see someone positive and for a lot of the African Nova Scotian and Indigenous people who live in this city to feel that they're welcome in this city too,” he says.

“There's a long history of being not treated as an equal. I think it's important to change that.”
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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Delay in addressing workplace racism a “slap in the face,” says councillor

“I just think, as a municipality, it looks more reactive than proactive.”

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2018 at 4:06 AM

Lindell Smith, speaking to reporters at City Hall. - THE COAST
  • Lindell Smith, speaking to reporters at City Hall.
  • THE COAST

It shouldn't be taking this long.

This week at council, staff presented a progress update on efforts to address widespread racism within city hall's workforce, as documented in the 2016 Employment Systems Review.

The update on that external consultant's report comes more than two years since its completion and nine months after Peninsula North councillor Lindell Smith first asked for it. It was seemingly only after municipal employees protested in front of City Hall last May that the report was fast-tracked over the summer.

“Which to me was almost a slap in the face,” Smith said Tuesday. “It took protesters for us to get this report when it was already asked for a year ahead of time. I just think, as a municipality, it looks more reactive than proactive.”

First leaked to the press two years ago, the third-party Employment Systems Review described a culture of harassment and racial discrimination within HRM's workforce. Employees, it found, were subjected to racist comments, sexist and homophobic language and other forms of blatant misconduct.

All the while, city hall failed to effectively address the situation. Supervisors routinely dismissed complaints or blamed victims for coming forward, most infamously in the case of Randy Symonds and the backlash he faced for trying to expose the horrific abuse at Halifax Transit's Burnside garage.

“Of concern to us is not just that these incidents occurred, but that they were not immediately and effectively addressed by supervisors,” reads the ESR. “Supervisors and managers have condoned the behaviour, and, as such, make themselves personally liable should a successful human rights complaint be made.”

The report made a total of 90 recommendations to address all that discrimination, but for years there was no progress report from the city.

The silence caused some 20 public employees to demonstrate outside City Hall back in May, looking for an update on what Halifax has done to create a more diverse and supportive work environment.

The update finally arrived last month and was brought forward for discussion at Tuesday's council meeting.

As of July, 63 percent of the ESR report's 90 recommendations have been completed, with 12 percent on-track, six percent pending and 19 percent at risk.

Director of human resources Catherine Mullally assured council on Tuesday that those recommendations are only “at-risk” of not meeting HRM's own timeline, “not at risk of not being achieved.”

Councillor Matt Whitman, who brought the information item forward for discussion, told Mullally he hoped the money spent on the ESR was not being wasted by letting the report sit on a shelf.

“We’ve got great staff working on it. We’ve got great consultants working on it. I just have to make sure we benefit in that hard work,” said Whitman. “We need to get to the bottom of this to get better.”

Mullally told the councillors that HRM has made leaps and bounds on improving employee equity since the ESR was completed. The municipality has, over the past two years, conducted dozens of diversity training seminars, removed requirements for discriminatory criminal record checks and revised its employment equity policy with the aim to increase the diversity of HRM's workforce.

Great, said Smith. So let's tell people that.

“If we’re going to do this work and if we’re going to move forward and we want staff and we want people to know that we’re working on this, we need to show people that we’re doing this,” said the councillor.

Whether any of the changes already made will result in workplace improvements might be visible next week, when the first quarterly public report on racism, sexism and harassment within city hall is brought to council.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Planner's exit could impact Centre Plan

Mayor is sad to see Jacob Ritchie leave city hall, but what his departure means for HRM's new planning bible remains to be seen.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 2:53 PM

Jacob Ritchie, taking a selfie in his soon-to-be former office. - VIA INSTAGRAM
  • Jacob Ritchie, taking a selfie in his soon-to-be former office.
  • VIA INSTAGRAM

Mayor Mike Savage isn't sure what sort of impact Jacob Ritchie's departure from city hall will have on the long-delayed Centre Plan.

The urban planner has been shepherding the new planning bible through a slow, often delayed approval process for the past few years. But this week he'll be leaving city hall behind to head up the school board-replacing Halifax Regional Centre for Education, just as the long-awaited Centre Plan nears some sort of finish line.

“I’m really sorry to see that,” says Savage. “We don’t keep people forever. That’s just a fact a life…I really enjoyed working with him. I think he pushed us when we should be pushed.”

A collection of new development guidelines and planning policies, the Centre Plan is supposed to be the municipality's blueprint for growth in the urban core.

The first half of those rules, known as “Package A,” was recently given a thumbs-up by the Community Design Advisory Committee after months of public feedback. It now heads to the Community Planning and Economic Development Committee, then final revisions by staff and another round of committee hearings and council debates before being put into action.

How long it'll take to finally approve what's only the first half of the Centre Plan is anyone's guess. When Ritchie started in 2015, he anticipated the task could be completed by December 2016.

“I have been bad at predicting that in my time at the municipality, so I’ve kind of stopped trying,” he told The Coast last fall. “I’m 14 months behind where I thought I was.”

Ritchie's departure comes a year after HRM fired chief planner Bob Bjerke, who was replaced back in June by then-acting director Kelly Denty.

Despite the shakeups, mayor Savage says the city's oft-criticized planning department is in good hands.

“These are folks who really know how to get stuff done,” says Savage, who's convinced the “bright stars” in Halifax planning will finish the work Ritchie started.

“We are supposed to be running our business in a way that nobody is indispensable. I think we’ll be OK.”
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Monday, September 10, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2006

Reuniting the (almost) original cast of Street Cents, AKA Jonathan Torrens, Jamie Bradley, Benita Ha and Brian Heighton.

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 7:13 AM

Brian Heighton, Jonathan Torrens, Jamie Bradley and Benita Ha join us this week on the pod. - THE COAST
  • Brian Heighton, Jonathan Torrens, Jamie Bradley and Benita Ha join us this week on the pod.
  • THE COAST

The (almost) original cast of CBC’s groundbreaking television hit, Street Cents, have reunited for the first time in 25 years. Jonathan Torrens, Jamie Bradley, Benita Ha and Brian Heighton (AKA Ken Pompadour) are this week’s guests on 25 for 25.

The three original cast members and Torrens (who replaced host Chris Lydon after three episodes) share stories about the early days of what was affectionately called “Marketplace on acid.” Hear all about wrangling animal mascots, prison fan mail, “Fit for the Pit” explosions and failed plans to resurrect one of the most beloved Canadian television shows ever produced.

Our colleague Stephanie Johns also joins us in studio with tales from her old job fielding calls for Steet Cents' “What's Your Beef” hotline. All this plus the Junos are coming to town, Sunday Shopping wars end, the Rolling Stones play a ridiculous concert on the Common and Gawker's most infamous journalism moment of the year is a Chronicle Herald ghost story by Peter Duffy.

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Friday, September 7, 2018

Oh word, Rick Mehta was fired

Acadia University terminates professor after investigation into racist, sexist comments made both in and out of the classroom.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 5:16 PM

Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Acadia University professor free speech convention darling Rich Mehta.
  • VIA YOUTUBE

Congratulations to Rick Mehta on what will surely be a windfall for his personal brand.

The associate psychology professor has been fired by Acadia University after an investigation into multiple complaints about his sexist, racist and transphobic comments.

Scott Roberts, spokesperson for Acadia, confirms to The Coast that the professor has been let go.

“We can confirm that Dr. Rick Mehta, a professor in Acadia University’s department of psychology, has been dismissed by the university,” Roberts states. “As this is a personnel matter, the university will provide no additional comments or respond to requests for further details.

In an interview with former Ontario PC candidate Andrew Lawton (who himself has a history with hateful remarks about several equity-seeking communities), Mehta claims his termination letter cited issues that “were wide-ranging and include failure to fulfill academic responsibilities, unprofessional conduct, breach of privacy, and harassment and intimidation of students and other members of the university community.”

Mehta claims he was unable to see copies of the investigations completed by Dalhousie law professor Wayne MacKay and Acadia dean of science Jeff Hooper unless agreeing “to be broadly gagged.”

Mehta's attempts at online fame have earned him a following in some circles as a Jordan Peterson-type figure who stands for freedom of speech on university campuses.

The investigations into his behaviour, however, were launched after multiple complaints by students, faculty and other Acadia community members about Mehta's “racist and transphobic comments” in and out of the classroom.

Mehta would allegedly devote excessive amounts of class time to unrelated lectures, using “right-wing fringe websites” to attack feminism or deny the gender wage gap rather than teaching the required material.

In a letter from psychology department head Rob Raeside, which Mehta himself shared on social media last winter, it's stated that students had stopped attending Mehta's classes because of the professor’s rants.

“The students have not expressed in writing the precise details of the racist and transphobic comments, but it is clear from their interactions with me that they are extremely disturbed by your comments, some to the point of not going to class,” writes Raeside.

Mehta has also been claimed residential schools weren't as bad as the testimony from Indigenous survivors suggests, supported the rights of white nationalists to poster the Acadia campus and publicly named a rape victim from his class to hold her “responsible.”

Acadia has throughout the investigation process maintained it has a legal obligation to look into student complaints and provide an environment free from harassment and discrimination.

But that likely won't stop other free-speech warriors from turning Mehta's termination into a story of political oppression. It's already happened on Lawton’s blog.

“Mehta’s firing is the culmination of an ideological witch hunt rather than any genuine wrongdoing,” writes the former political candidate. “Especially taking into account how the initial investigation materialized mere weeks after Mehta started challenging Acadia’s ‘decolonization initiatives.’ It came days after he critiqued the role of feminism in one of his first-year courses.”

Free speech, it's probably worth noting, is a legal right protecting individuals from unnecessary censorship by the Canadian government. Academic freedom, on the other hand, is the right for a professor not to be unduly censored by their university. The latter is a much smaller shield.

In a press release sent Friday afternoon, Acadia University's Faculty Association says it has already filed for arbitration to examine the evidence for Mehta’s dismissal.

“The termination of a tenured professor is very serious,” writes the AUFA in a brief statement. 
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City hall lawyers say smoking ban needs to include tobacco

Halifax staff reason it'll be nearly impossible to prosecute cannabis smokers if we can't also prosecute cigarette smokers.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 4:19 PM

Flawless reasoning there, you guys. - THE COAST
  • Flawless reasoning there, you guys.
  • THE COAST

A new staff report recommends Halifax continue its prohibition for all types of smoking on public property—that is if the city ever wants to be successful in prosecuting cannabis users.

City council passed new bylaw amendments back in July outright banning smoking and vaping on municipal property outside of specially designated smoking areas.

The motion was met with immediate and sustained condemnation across the municipality. So loud was the outcry, that Dartmouth Centre councillor Sam Austin asked for a follow-up report at council's very next meeting looking at removing tobacco from the restrictions.

“This feels very bureaucratic,” said Austin. “It feels like micromanagement of the public space and I just can’t say what the underlying practical purpose of doing it is.”

City solicitors Derk Slaunwhite and Josh Judah have now returned with that staff report, but are recommending council keep cigarettes illegal for the sake of public health and the courts.

The current bylaw means the Crown only has to prove someone was smoking on municipal property. There’s no need to actually prove what they were smoking.

Changing that ban to restrict only cannabis—a soon-to-be legal product that Halifax has decided to criminalize—will be difficult to enforce, says staff.

“Investigators will need to get close enough to the offender to see what they are smoking and to smell the smoke,” write Slaunwhite and Judah. “Courts may also require some level of scientific analysis that the substance being smoked was in fact cannabis.”

If council does decide to limit the smoking ban to cannabis, staff suggest a new provision should be added so that judges can “infer the offender smoked cannabis when a witness describes the substance as cannabis.”

Permit Patty to be renamed Cannabis Cathy in Halifax. - VIA YOUTUBE
  • Permit Patty to be renamed Cannabis Cathy in Halifax.
  • ViA YOUTUBE

It's worth noting that Halifax Regional Council does not have any authority to decide what evidence a provincial court judge should or should not consider.

Also, given how much of the criticism about this nuisance bylaw has been on how it will unfairly target poor and racialized residents, it's unlikely that widening the potential for discrimination from city police to any old pot-smelling “witness” will be met with less vocal resistance from the public.

None of those concerns are contained in the staff report, however, which chiefly is focused on eradicating the public health risk posed by cigarette smokers.

“A prohibition against smoking on municipal property will help increase the number of non-smokers in the municipality,” write Slaunwhite and Judah.

Nova Scotia’s chief public health official has cited non-smoking policies as a crucial catalyst for the province’s declining smoking rates over the past 20 years.

Banning darts on municipal property would make everyone that much healthier, argue HRM staff.

“To continue to increase the rate of non-smokers in Nova Scotia, especially among youth, we need to strengthen and advance smoke-free environments.”

Along with the above recommendations, staff are also proposing a handful of housekeeping amendments for the renamed Smoking and Nuisance Bylaw.

The current document uses both “public place” and “weed.” Staff are recommending replacing those with the more accurate “municipal property” and “cannabis.”

Smokers in violation of the new bylaw face potential fines ranging from $50 to $2,000 for flagrant abuse. Tickets will be largely complaint-driven and handed out during the days by municipal bylaw officers and during the night by Halifax Regional Police if they feel like it.

The bylaw changes are currently scheduled to come into effect for October 1, allowing for a two-week adjustment period before cannabis becomes legal nationwide on October 17.

Council will discuss whether to puff or pass on these changes when they meet Tuesday at City Hall.
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Matt Whitman and Faith Goldy

Halifax councillor appears to be a fan of the outspoken white nationalist running for mayor in Toronto.

Posted By on Fri, Sep 7, 2018 at 11:10 AM

whitman.jpg

Matt Whitman doesn’t want you to get the wrong impression about his support for Toronto’s most prominent white-nationalist mayoral candidate.

“Retweeting for a friend. Stay calm,” writes Whitman in a retweet from earlier this week of Lindsay Shepherd’s March 22 Macleans story, “Why I invited Faith Goldy to Laurier.”

The Hammonds Plains–St. Margarets councillor has since deleted the post and subsequently put up a screenshot of his own Twitter bio, which reminds the public that “likes and RTs are not necessarily endorsements.”

screen_shot_2018-09-04_at_10.26.28_am.png

It's the second time the councillor has tweeted about Goldy, a far-right internet personality and white nationalist running for mayor of Toronto who Whitman endorsed three weeks ago.

After Goldy complained last month that journalists weren’t providing her with enough mainstream media coverage, the bedridden Whitman—still recuperating from a motorcycle accident—sent out a tweet promising to cover her campaign himself. Whitman capped off the tweet with a hashtagged “GoGoldy.”

Politically, the two public figures share traditional conservative thoughts on small government and pro-business policies. But whatever Goldy's campaign platform, it pales in comparison to her past comments on white nationalism.

The divisive Goldy has, over the course of her media career, repeatedly stated that the white race is facing a cultural and ethnic genocide from non-white groups. As Martin Patriquin writes for iPolitics: “She believes the 2016 shooting in a Quebec City mosque was a Muslim conspiracy; and she favourably quoted the work of a Romanian fascist who called for the elimination of the Jewish race.”

She was previously a contributor for right-wing new site Rebel Media, where she published video reports with titles such as, “While migrants rape their way across the continent, where are Europe’s men?”

In 2016, she visited Halifax to investigate the already-discredited Chronicle Herald story about Muslim children choking their classmates with chains at Chebucto Heights Elementary. In a series of video “investigations” for the Rebel, Goldy theorized that the “real” story was being covered up by both the Herald and the Halifax Regional School Board.

While on assignment in Israel last year, Goldy stated that “Bethlehem’s Christian population has been ethnically cleansed,” advocated for launching “a new Crusade” to “reclaim Bethlehem” and said it’s “a fact” that Jewish people are “frankly wealthier and smarter than us.”

She was eventually fired from Rebel Media after reporting from the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia without the permission of her boss. During that coverage, Goldy called Richard Spencer’s manifesto to organize the United States along racial divides as “robust” and “well-thought-out.” She also appeared on a neo-Nazi podcast where she recited the “14 words” mantra of white supremacy.


Earlier this year, while protesting outside a conference on white privilege held at Ryerson University, Goldy said that “in-group preference” for one's race is the natural way of the world.

“You see it in birds. You see it in humans,” she told one blogger. “And Europeans, through the Enlightenment and the cancerous thought that came therein, had that bred outside of them, and now they’re being preyed on as a collective...I mean, where is the white supremacy when every single European nation is about to see whites become a minority, basically in the next 40 years?”

Someone put up fliers on mailboxes around Tantallon and St. Margarets Bay with Whitman's #GoGoldy tweet, a screen cap of Goldy’s Wikipedia and information on how to contact the clerks’ office to file an official complaint. - VIA HFX REDDIT
  • Someone put up fliers on mailboxes around Tantallon and St. Margarets Bay with Whitman's #GoGoldy tweet, a screen cap of Goldy’s Wikipedia and information on how to contact the clerks’ office to file an official complaint.
  • VIA HFX REDDIT
Goldy’s notion that Canada’s “European way of life” is under attack is remarkably similar to another racial treatise Whitman has previously supported.

Back in February, the councillor came under fire after retweeting a letter from white nationalist group ID Canada that claimed that “European history and peoples are being dismantled.”

The “identitarianism” organization had sent the open letter to city hall in protest of Halifax council’s vote to temporarily remove the statue of Edward Cornwallis.

“The contents of the letter, there was nothing offensive there,” Whitman would later tell reporters, even after he had deleted the tweet and apologized. “It talked about European settlers and what not. How is that offensive?”

ID Canada, like Goldy and other far-right voices, often use “European” and “Euro-Canadian” to warn against the supposed dangers of immigration and propagate white genocide conspiracy theories.

Whitman said at the time that he was unaware of the loaded racial language, but that he still stood by the group's message—just not the people who wrote it.

Pending his recovery time, Whitman will be at Halifax City Hall on Tuesday as council reconvenes from a summer break to discuss the latest update on widespread racial discrimination happening within HRM’s workforce.
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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Justice minister finally responds to Burnside prison protest

Mark Furey claims Nova Scotia respects its prisoners and protects their human rights, while sidestepping actual demands from protesting inmates.

Posted By on Thu, Sep 6, 2018 at 6:14 PM

Justice minister Mark Furey addressing a crowd in Bridgewater. - VIA FACEBOOK
  • Justice minister Mark Furey addressing a crowd in Bridgewater.
  • via Facebook

After weeks without comment, Nova Scotia’s justice minister has issued a response to the ongoing prisoner protest at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility.

In an op-ed sent out Thursday afternoon, Mark Furey says that correctional facilities “can be challenging places to live and work,” but that the province is respecting and protecting the rights of those incarcerated.

“Every inmate deserves respect and their human rights protected,” writes Furey. “And we are doing that. They are in custody because they have been charged criminally and the community does not accept the behaviour.”

It’s the first official comment from the justice minister about the inmates inside Central Nova, who three weeks ago joined together in solidarity with prison strikes taking place across the United States.

As part of the non-violent protest, the Burnside inmates also published a list of 10 specific demands about their own inadequate conditions—asking for better health care, improved air circulation, stronger rehabilitation programs and more sanitary living conditions.

Furey’s statement does not specifically address those demands, instead highlighting several efforts Nova Scotia has made over the last year to improve prison conditions. Included in that list is Burnside’s new direct supervision model (which inmates say feature toilets that don’t flush and cells without water), body scanners to reduce contraband (technology that prison staff are untrained to use and for which any inmates who refuse are placed into solitary confinement) and the first-ever inmate services job fair.

“How we treat Nova Scotians who are incarcerated in our jails deserves discussion and debate,” says Furey. “It is also important that the work being done and investments being made to enhance and improve our correctional facilities is highlighted to inform that discussion.”

But El Jones, who has been the public voice advocating for the inmates, says Furey isn't taking any accountability for the “challenges” inside his correctional facility and is ignoring the people who started this “discussion” in the first place.

“He’s not responding to the prisoners at all,” she says. “He’s talking to the public. He’s sort of saying this conversation is happening, but this conversation is happening because people in prison—some of whom are segregated now, and some of whom are being transferred—took the risk to put these statements out there.”

Furey offers no concrete targets, timetables or changes in policy to improve conditions at Central Nova, she points out, nor does the minister respond to the 10 items listed by the protesting inmates.

“He still hasn’t addressed the fact that people gave him some direct demands saying they had been promised things that would be delivered,” says Jones. “There’s this idea we’re talking about these vague issues of justice. But we’re not. They’ve given us 10 concrete issues that can be addressed.”

The minister does promise in his statement that new programs will be introduced this fall for addiction and emotional management. The province will also be having “conversations” about forming an inmate committee at Central Nova and there will be “improved training and the recruiting of more Indigenous and African Nova Scotian correctional officers to be more reflective of our communities.”

However, hiring more Black guards is hardly a solution to the over-incarceration of Black people, says Jones. “That’s actually quite an offensive analogy.”

Acknowledging there are problems inside Nova Scotia's most infamous prison also isn't enough when you're the minister of justice in charge of those facilities, she says.

“You’re the person in power. How does acknowledging it help us?”

The international prison strike is set to end this Sunday, September 9. In the meantime, Jones says the inmates at Central Nova are currently on lockdown. Five prisoners have also filed habeas corpus applications this week with the Supreme Court saying they are being wrongfully held in solitary confinement.

Department of justice spokesperson Sarah Gillis previously told The Coast that Central Nova was “operating as usual” and that “demonstrations or protests of any kind are not taking place.”

The department's official position on the protest’s existence appears to have changed, but according to Gillis, there's still been no direct contact between the minister’s officials and the inmates about any of their concerns.

When asked how prisoners inside Central Nova would be able to read Furey’s statement, given their lack of internet access, or whether copies would be distributed to the inmates, Gillis did not respond.
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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Seeking second-generation Nova Scotians who’ve made a difference

ISANS is looking for nominees to profile in a new book on the long-term benefits of immigration.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 4:51 PM

CANADIAN MUSEUM OF IMMIGRATION AT PIER 21
  • Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21

The Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia is looking for some second-generation Canadians to share their stories for a new book on the long-term benefits of immigration.

Anyone can nominate either themselves or someone they know (with the nominee's permission) provided they were born in Canada to an immigrant parent.

Selected nominees will be photographed and profiled in the upcoming book that will be published in hardcover, with individual stories shared online and over social media.

“The way we do such a project is to collect a large number of nominations and then sort them for diversity, to have people from different cultural backgrounds, areas of work, parts of Nova Scotia, age, et cetera,” reads a media release from ISANS public relations coordinator Clancy Waite. “The final selection is therefore dependent on who is nominated.”

From 2011 to 2016, Nova Scotia saw a 15-percent increase in immigration, with the total number of landed immigrants and permanent residents in the province totalling 55,675.

The Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia helps many of those newcomers by assisting with employment support, language help, community integration and other support services.

This Friday, September 7, the organization will also be co-hosting an immigrant fair at the Canadian Immigration Museum at Pier 21. New residents will be able to hear from entrepreneurs who also recently arrived in Nova Scotia, and access resources to help them settle into their new home.

To nominate yourself or someone else for ISANS’ upcoming book, send their name, email address and phone number, age, city/community, occupation, heritage and a small write-up of their community impact to kread@isans.ca by next Friday, September 14.
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Nova Scotia FOIPOP website somewhat back online

Freedom of Information web portal partially returns, five months after the province discovered an obvious and massive security flaw.

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 3:49 PM

A familiar site by now for the province's journalists. - VIA NOVA SCOTIA
  • A familiar site by now for the province's journalists.
  • VIA NOVA SCOTIA

Five months after being taken offline to address some basic security flaws, the province has finally brought back its Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy web portal—albeit in a limited format.

The new-and-improved FOIPOP site provides previously completed Freedom of Information requests (used by the public, politicians, academics and journalists to access public data not routinely released by the government). But it doesn’t at this time accept any electronic submissions for filing a new FOIPOP request. That option will be rolled out later this fall, according to the province.

“Only publicly released access to information requests are available on the site,” reads a short press release announcing the relaunch. “The site does not host any personal information and is not connected to the case management ”

The site relaunched Wednesday, over 150 days after it was accidentally discovered that several thousand confidential documents had been downloaded without authorization.

Files on the site, often containing unredacted personal information, could be accessed by the general public simply by sequentially altering the numbers at the end of the HTML web address.

Over 7,000 documents were found to have been inappropriately downloaded because of the security flaw, a few hundred of which contained “highly sensitive” personal information.

A squadron of 15 Halifax Regional Police officers would end up arresting a 19-year-old for accessing the documents. Three weeks later and after international ridicule, the police announced via press release they would not be charging the teen.

Service provider Unisys—the company that maintains the FOIPOP site—had its contract with the province renewed over the summer, but only for a single year and with the restriction that Unisys will no longer be in charge of the public disclosure portion of the site.

Meanwhile, two separate investigations into the government's handling of the breach—headed up by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner and auditor general Michael Pickup, respectively—are both still ongoing. 
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

25 for 25: episode 2005

Lezlie Lowe on public bathrooms! Erica Butler on HRM's Regional Plan! Commonwealth Games! Stolen deer head sculptures! Bedford fast ferries!

Posted By on Tue, Sep 4, 2018 at 11:15 AM

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This week on the podcast, author (and former Coast columnist) Lezlie Lowe is here chatting about her new book, No Place To Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs. (You can read Lezlie's 2005 cover feature on public bathrooms in Halifax right here.)

Lezlie also sticks around as we talk about the aborted fast ferry to Bedford, stolen deer head sculptures and HRM's failed Commonwealth Games bid. Plus, will 2005 see the resurrection of Halifax's infamous Halloween Mardis Gras? (Spoiler: No!)

Journalist Erica Butler is also in studio to dissect HRM's Regional Plan, its impact on the city's growth and whether any of this public consultation stuff is actually effective.

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If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at letters@thecoast.ca.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

Conservatives leave Halifax with a policy playbook for next election

Members endorse new policies to end birthright citizenship, protect “freedom of speech” at universities and move Canada's Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 4:12 PM

Members voting against a motion to "protect the life of an unborn child." - MATT STICKLAND
  • Members voting against a motion to "protect the life of an unborn child."
  • MATT STICKLAND

No abortion debate, no euthanasia, no “passport babies.” Conservative Party members gave Andrew Scheer his marching orders for the 2019 election.

At the Conservative convention in Halifax over the weekend, delegates from around the country voted on policy resolutions that should steer the direction of their Party for the upcoming federal election.

Thirty policies made it to the final vote on Saturday afternoon, with the membership passing 27 of them. Some of the successful entries were boilerplate fiscal conservative motions like allowing competition into the telecom industry, ending corporate welfare and striking down intra-provincial trade barriers on alcohol.

The more contentious debates happened around socially conservative proposals.
One of the resolutions would have allowed the debate on abortion to be re-opened, erasing a line in the Conservative Party’s policy book that was explicitly put there by former prime minister Stephen Harper to counter Liberal attacks that Conservatives had a “hidden agenda” to make abortion illegal.

Cathay Wagantall, a member of parliament, urged delegates to vote for the motion, while deputy leader Lisa Raitt spoke against it. Ultimately, the motion died in a tight vote.

Another of the most contentious debates was to end birthright citizenship. This would mean that babies born in Canada, if their parents are not citizens, would not have Canadian citizenship. Calgary MP Deepak Obhrai argued against the proposal, saying that, “We cannot choose who is going to be a Canadian and who is not going to be a Canadian.” However, Alice Wong, MP for Richmond Centre, argued that “passport babies” were a serious issue, and that “we should fight for our own babies.”

Even though, as freelance political journalist Justin Ling reports, there is no evidence that this is an issue in Canada, the resolution eventually passed.

The membership also debated a resolution that would have recognized pornography as “a public health risk affecting individual and public health.” Advocates for the resolution argued that this was a motion to protect women. Advocates against said the state doesn’t belong in your browser history. It too was defeated.

Some of the policies passed may have some interesting implications should they become law. The Conservatives ended up passing a motion that ensures government-funded programs don't need to endorse “government ideology in order to be eligible for government funding.” They also passed a motion that would ensure freedom of speech for all Canadians. Speakers said this was necessary as universities, which are funded in part by provincial governments, were restricting freedom of speech.

Members at the convention also voted for a policy that “any child born alive shall receive the full benefits of life-saving care, and neo-natal intensive care to give every opportunity possible for the child to sustain life.” Doctors at the convention argued that this is bad policy. Sometimes babies are born with conditions that limit their lives to 24, or 36 hours, and there’s nothing that can be done for them. It would force medical professionals to keep the baby alive, even if it was against the wishes of the parents, or if there was other care that they could be providing.

Other debates, like the resolution to recognize the capital of Israel as Jerusalem brought out an uglier side of the delegates. One voting Party member from Niagara Falls prefaced his comment by saying he wasn’t anti-Semitic and “loves the Jews to death.” He then complained that “I don’t want garbage in this country,” before continuing on to say that Syrian Civil Defence force troops were actually ISIL members and urging people to search YouTube for conspiracy theory videos.

The departure of Maxime Bernier from the Party on Thursday meant that the lack of policy vote on supply management come Friday was a hotly contested issue. In the economic policies debate session, time ran out before supply management could be raised. Some delegates believed there was an effort from the party to block debate and prevent a vote, pointing out that the session was moved to a smaller room where standing votes were not allowed and voting was delayed by 30 minutes.

None of the policies passed over the weekend are binding to the leadership if Andrew Scheer's team doesn't want to adopt them.
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25 for 25: episode 2004

Gloria McCluskey reflects on her storied political career and Condon MacLeod talks about the golden days of Halifax's all-ages music scene.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 at 11:19 AM

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It's 2004 and The Pavilion is finally reopening. Historic music promoter Condon MacLeod is with us in studio talking about the birth, death, rebirth (and death again?) of Halifax's all-ages music scene.

Then, Dartmouth icon Gloria McCluskey tells us what made her come back to municipal politics 14 years ago and offers her unfiltered assessment of HRM's current crop councillors.

All this plus White Juan covers the city in snow, Tara gets a phone call from Belinda Stronach's office, Jacob meets G-Unit at TGI Fridays, we try to deduce the identity of the real Scott Pilgrim and Ikea is definitely, 100-percent coming back to Halifax.

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If you like the podcast, please feel free to give us a nice rating or leave a review. If you hate the podcast, want to correct something we got wrong or have comments about any events we forgot to mention you can email us at letters@thecoast.ca.

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Thursday, August 23, 2018

Conservative Party’s Halifax implosion

As Andrew Scheer kicks off the Tories’ convention in Halifax, Maxime Bernier walks away from the Conservatives.

Posted By on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 at 6:21 PM

Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer speaks to reporters on Thursday about Bernier's exit. - MATT STICKLAND
  • Conservative Party leader Andrew Sheer speaks to reporters on Thursday about Bernier's exit.
  • MATT STICKLAND


Rogue MP Maxime Bernier officially left the Conservative Party of Canada today.

From a press conference in Ottawa, Bernier announced his official resignation to say that he's starting his own political party. He’s already accepting donations.

The announcement came as the Conservative Party kicks off its three-day national policy convention in Halifax. Leader Andrew Scheer told reporters after Bernier's announcement that he was disappointed the former Party member didn’t set aside his personal differences.

Bernier was planning this for a long time, claimed Scheer, who lamented that the decision to leave will benefit prime minister Justin Trudeau more than Bernier.

Still, Scheer insisted that Bernier's leaving would not hinder the Party's chances come next year's federal election. But reaction on the ground from visiting Tories was mixed.

Waterloo electoral district association (EDA) president Michael Ben says he’s worried about the potential split Bernier’s leaving could cause.

“I don’t know who wouldn’t be,” says Ben. “We don’t need another Reform Party.”

Ben, however, is confident all the members of his EDA will remain part of the Conservative Party, even if Bernier is successful in his plan to run a candidate in all electoral districts in Canada.

Even if the Conservative Party does not lose any more prominent MPs, however, it's likely Bernier's new party is going appeal to a broad swath of what is, at the moment, the Conservative base.

There are a lot of right-wing voters who might be looking for a new home if Bernier can get his party off the ground: disenfranchised voters interested in what they feel is the diminishing power of ‘old stock’ Canadians or Quebecois de souche; libertarians who want to get rid of supply management; and voters of the ailing Bloc. Depending on how the policy votes go this weekend, the more socially conservative could also be looking for a new home.

It remains to be seen if Scheer can find a way to appeal to voters that a lot of Canadians find distasteful, in a way that doesn’t drive his moderate supporters to vote for other parties. 
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In Print This Week

Vol 26, No 16
September 13, 2018

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