Tagged: Colin May
Not surprisingly, yesterday’s Contrarian post on the furore over Rehtaeh Parsons’ death has produced a lot of email, pro and con. Much of the angry reaction appeared on Twitter, where Contrarian tweets as @kempthead.
Before sampling the reader response, two important preliminaries:
- What Rehtaeh’s family has been through this week is about as awful as human experience gets. They have been loyal in support of their daughter, and courageous in their rejection of vigilante action against those accused of abusing her. Whatever one’s views on the issues I raised, compassion for this family ought to be universal.
- As I said yesterday, if you or anyone you know are having suicidal thoughts, please call the toll-free Kid’s Help Line at 1-800-668-6868 or the toll-free Suicide Prevention Line at 1-888-429-8167. Also please check out this website, and this list of warning signs.
- Any effort to completely decouple sex and alcohol is bound to fail, but by the time they reach puberty, all boys and girls ought to clearly understand that a person of any age who is drunk to the point of throwing up cannot legally consent to sex, and anyone who has sex with someone in that state is committing a sexual assault.
Jeremy Akerman writes:
Just because we think we know something does not make it fact. Nor does something become fact because we want to believe it. Actually, we know very few actual facts about this whole affair. Of the original incident, we know what one person said that another person said had taken place. This whole matter has been subsumed by mob hysteria. The role of Anonymous is particularly sinister. They talk of sending “teams of investigators” to uncover the truth. More like a few self righteous people picking up gossip around cafes and school gates. These “investigators” got the Amanda Todd case horribly wrong when they “outed” a totally innocent man. It is surprising he was not killed. What I have been saying is this: Leave the torches and pitchforks in the shed for the time being. Let us wit until we get all the facts before we start lynching people.
A reader called Patrice (no last name) writes:
Did you read Anonymous’ response? According to the boys’ peers, they were bragging that they committed the rape, even while showing them the picture they took to prove it. Similarly to the way teens sometimes arrange, film and upload videos of school beatings to Youtube.
Did they feed false testimony to the RCMP? Did their parents? Maybe all the kids who heard them brag but didn’t report it should be charged as well for not reporting it.
I would read Patrice’s comments and those from Anonymous, in the context of Jeremy Akerman’s remarks. Anonymous is not gathering evidence. It’s gathering rumours, gossip, and multiple hearsay in a superheated environment from excited and possible distraught or fearful young informants. Such activity has no place in the justice process.
A reader who asked that her name be withheld out of concern for her employment wrote:
In the rush for a salacious story, the media have—with a couple of notable exceptions—told one side of this story, while ignoring the pivotal issue: mental health.
Parents sometimes want someone to blame because they cannot accept that this happened to their child. But it does. And sometimes there is no blame. Ask the Fountain family, which lost their much-loved son to depression. Or the family of Jay Smith, who was talented, popular and loved.
I take issue with the media coverage of this case for the reasons you have mentioned. They have—with a couple of exceptions—made her death a one-cause suicide, which is the very thing that psychiatrists advise them not to do. They have glorified her death and made her a martyr. Mental health is more complicated than that.
We don’t know if she was medication, some of which produces suicidal tendencies. We don’t know why she released from hospital. We don’t know if she was raped because we have only heard from her mother, who is devastated and grief-stricken. The RCMP say it was a he-said, she-said case, but we have not heard from the he side.
The one thing I did find unsettling about this story was the family’s contention that it took the RCMP ten months to interview the alleged rapists. If this is accurate—and hopefully we will find out—then I do not believe that was acceptable.
This is one point I hold in common with those demanding an inquiry. If the facts Rehtaeh’s family hve reported are true—that it took 10 months to interview the boys, and they were interviewed in a group—then this requires an explanation. But there may be an explanation. No one is compelled to give evidence against themselves, and the boys may have had legal counsel who set the conditions for the interview. The point is: we just don’t know, and assuming the worst is unhelpful.
Colin May writes:
We don’t know all the facts, and never will. TV news has been treating this quite sensationally, including Evan Solomon. The lust for ratings knows no bounds, although CTV this afternoon had a very good interview with a Toronto criminal lawyer; tasteful and sensitive.
Chris McCormick quoted the moving public statement by Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning. [Link is to the Toronto Sun, because Canning’s website has been overwhelmed by traffic and knocked offline.]
“You have the opportunity here to do something good and let’s face it, the court system in Nova Scotia was just going to rape her all over again with indifference to her suffering and the damage this did to her. My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust: her school, and the police. She was my daughter, but she was your daughter too. For the love of God do something.
“I’ve been contacted from media outlets from all over the world and as a past member of the media I understand why you all want to speak with me. You have all been very courteous, professional, and respectful. Please know, however, this is the only statement I am able to make. I’m [too] devastated. I feel like I’m dead inside.”
From Ian Johnston via Facebook:
I’ve appalled by what I’ve been reading from here in Toronto. Come on folks. Get a grip. It’s like hysteria….
[T]he most telling repeated line I continually see is that, “We need an investigation to get justice….” assuming of course a re-investigation will reveal an injustice. Seems a bit of a leap. As you said, folks seem to have leapt to the assumption of wrong-doing and are unprepared for if a new investigation gets the same result.
From another reader who asked me to withhold his name because, “I do not want to be attacked by a vigilante mob, or hacked by a bunch of outlaw geeks.”
Thank you for publishing your thoughtful perspective on the Parsons case. I find it deeply troubling on a number of levels – not just the obvious and utterly justifiable grief her family and friends must be enduring, but perhaps even more due to the apparent public reaction or, perhaps more accurately, overreaction.
This is an extremely complex situation, and as seems to happen far too often, the news media is appearing to overlook some basic questions that seem rather obvious.
[This reader then speculates on certain unknowns about the case, which I will omit out of concern for those involved, and the fact that, just like the inflammatory comments of those demanding vengeance, they are pure speculation.]
…I am deeply troubled by the knee-jerk reaction by far too many people towards wanting to lock the alleged perpetrators up forever without due process. I am equally troubled by those who in one breath blame our public institutions for what happened, and in the next call for MORE institutional intervention to solve such problems. The disconnect there seems rather obvious to me…
I am going to try to tune much of this out over the next while. I fear nothing good will come out of this, and vigilanteism is never pretty
Longtime Contrarian reader Denis Falvey writes:
While I agree with you that there should be a high bar for conviction, I do think it would be a good idea to formally register society’s disgust with these “boys'” alleged behaviour, by at least challenging them to prove their innocence—likelihood of conviction notwithstanding. The facts as know would then be before the public, and there would not be the suspicion of the matter being swept under the rug. As it is, the public has only bile and innuendo on which to gnaw.
Innocence until proven quilt should not mean that everyone charged is somehow automatically quilty; nor should it mean that if you are not charged, you are therefore innocent.
There is talk on an enquiry now, probably at great expense. But isn’t that what could have been achieved by a judge and jury, at less expense?
Also, sometimes maybe, proving one’s innocence of the accusation of wrong doing may be enough to trigger self-examination of behaviour against acceptable standards of society? Isn’t that what we want in this type of situation?
Your underlying point is correct; we don’t know what happened here.
Thanks to all who contributed. Join in by clicking the “Email a Comment” link near the top of the page. More later…
Former health inspector Bill Bailey writes:
Kudos to Lindsay. Unfortunately, because politicians’ skin is made from elephant hide, they will probably take it as a compliment.
And a Halifax reader notes that this week’s Rona flyer features “eco friendly” Milorganite, at $7.79 for a 16.3 kg bag, “for better results NATURALLY.”
As noted previously, Milorganite is the great-granddaddy of recycled, composted municipal sludge. So it’s OK to spread Milwaukee’s venerable composted sludge on Halifax vegetable gardens, but heaven forfend we use Halifax’s modern stuff on municipal flower beds.
And one more. Colin May writes:
Reminds me of the arguments against incineration 20 years ago: “Heavy metals, blah, blah, blah….risk analysis sucks, blah, blah, blah…. I belive it is bad…”
- Science is Good when they discuss global warming.
- Science is Bad when it comes to sewage treatment and incineration.
- Science is Bad when discussing fluoride in our water.
Just face up to the fact that 10-15 percent of the populace will oppose almost any proposal. Politicians should just ignore them because to do otherwise will only encourage the perpetual worriers whenever something new comes along.
In my opinion breathing is dangerous for your health. It is the last thing a person does before dying and therefore we should all stop breathing. Statistics prove my assertion.
Colin May responds to Parliamentary expert Peter Russell:
My quibble with Peter Russell can be summed up as follows: “Never confuse parliamentary democracy with democracy.”
Apparently if a party has a majority of seats but a minority of votes:
- It’s OK to withhold information that helps the members make a decision, if the members of the majority party vote to refuse to provide the information.
- And it’s OK to withhold the Afghan detainee files or any information required by the minority of the members because the Russell doctrine of Parliamentary Supremacy overrides the democratic rights of the majority of the citizenry.
Mr. Russell’s fears would have been more appropriate 40 years ago, when all this control from the PMO nonsense started and was rarely criticized by people such as he. His failure, and that of his colleagues, to be more vociferous in opposing the actions of former prime ministers sheds a harsher light on them than the present holder of the office.
Rule changes are in order and I would offer this: if members of the House of Commons representing 25% or more of the votes cast at the last election vote for a motion asking for access to documents or greater information on a budget item or a bill then the appropriate minister be required to table the document within 14 days.
Canadians fondly condemn the politics of the United States but too often fail to notice the greater openness in the legislative branch in that country and how the antics of a PMO, be it Liberal or Conservative, is almost never allowed in Washington.
He has a point, and I like the proposed rule change. I also like the idea of using ballots that allow voters to register a second choice, to be counted in cases where no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the votes in a riding.
Contrarian readers are sharply divided about plans to build a seven-storey old people’s apartment where St. John’s United Church now stands. (My own misgivings here.) First the Cons:
Liz Cunningham, owner of a Charles Street crêperie just down the street from the proposed apartment complex, writes:
Finally somebody who sees through the smokescreen, holier than though, social justice, inclusive nonsense.
St John’s United Church is a developer first and foremost. They are seeking variances on lot coverage, height, density, etc, etc, etc. That is all we should be talking about.
My hat’s off though to Louisa Horne and the rest of that group. They are very media saavy if nothing else. As a neighbor who is opposed to the size of the project–nothing else, just the size!–I must say they have done an amazing job of getting their view out in the media, particularly the CBC and the Chronicle Herald….
I can only hope that Regional Council will see this effor for what it is and vote on this project based only on it’s merits and the many variances they are seeking.
Colin May (who not to be an adherent of any church):
The proponents for Spirit Place–sounds rather First Nations, doesn’t it?–are just daring neighbours and councillors to turn their dream to dust. If I was waiting to vote they would be out of luck for several reasons.
Reason 1 – The possible residents are not of any concern to the decision. A council cannot support or oppose the development based on the possible sexual orientation of residents. Spirit Place is not a group home and therefore not subject to certain planning provisions. It is a residential development and should be treated as such. Implicit in this application is the assumption that persons of certain sexual orientations are having difficulty in finding a place to reside. To date no evidence has been presented to support such assumption.
Reason 2 – The proposed building is too large and is out of characted with the neighbourhood.
The United Church in Canada is facing dramatic declines in worshippers. The congregation at St John’s are looking to engage in a commercial enterprise to subsidise their ability to remain a seperate congregation and are asking the residents of the neighbourhood to assist them. The sexual orientaion of the possible residents is being trumpeted as the main reason why the proposal should be approved.
In downtown Halifax the congregation of St Matthew’s is also facing a dramatic decline in worshippers and is looking to develop the lands between the church and the residence of the Lt Governor. The simple solution for the two congregations is to merge at one building, I’d suggest St Matthew’s, and sell the property at the other site.
If St John’s is sincere in wishing to develop a certain building I would expect them to place that as their first priority and then sell the land to a developer willing to build such a project and one that is acceptable to and in keeping with the neighbourhood. Pursuing such a course of action would also help their fellow worshippers at St Matthew’s.
Sprit Place is being proposed very close to my home. I am in favor of the purpose and philosophy of this enterprise. However, I am very worried about the impact of the size and scale of this project on my neighbourhood. The design looks just massive. Spirit Place will be awfully big and will function in quite a different way than the church it will replace. I belong to a group of neighbours who are concerned about the seven story proposal being considered on a rather small piece of R-2 (residential property). We are a diverse group of people and our argument with this development has only ever been about its size. At no time has anyone expressed opposition to the vision and mandate of this proposal.
What are some other facts about Sprit Place? This is what I have been told at public meetings:
- A shrinking congregation has made money for repairs and up keep for the former St. John’s Church impossible.
- Projected building cost for Spirit Place are presently 13-14 million dollars and will be borrowed as mortgage.
- There is no information that can be given yet as to what any of the rents will be for the units ( “affordable” ones or regular ones).
- Appeals for grants have been made.
- The building has to be seven stories ((no compromise here at all whatsoever) in order to make the project “financially viable” i.e. seven stories (or more) is the essential size needed to generate enough income to pay borrowed money used to build the new church and housing units.
- If the housing unit is smaller, rents will have to be increased to pay for the new church and housing units
Because I want a smaller Spirit Place housing structure, I will be accused of preventing affordable housing for seniors. Must the neighbourhood bear the burden of living with the impact of this vast structure because St. John’s United Church cannot afford to build what they want? I believe that we all share the neighbourhood and should be able to cooperate and come up with a smaller sized Spirit Place.
A supporter of the project, Marian Lindsay, sees the church’s response to the decline in parisioners as creative:
First, rather than fighting the inevitable demise of traditional churches, and spending tons of money to keep a dying church standing, they’ve found a creative way to continue their ministry in the area — and potentially serve the community in more concrete ways, too.
Second, maybe the GLBT angle is a red-herring, but just because there’s a law against discrimination doesn’t mean discrimination disappears. I bet lots of people in the GLBT community would feel more welcome and relaxed in a place that pro-actively encouraged them to live there. So I can’t agree with you that it’s just a silly ploy to divert attention from the zoning variance issue.
Third, Halifax needs to encourage higher density in the central city, and seniors are our fastest growing population. For density, there’s nowhere to go but up–and this isn’t even very far up, for heaven’s sake. We can’t all cling to our big, single family houses, that take up–and waste–so much space. What better service could you provide people in this area? Their idea to provide space for community agencies is also brilliant. Vancouver rewards developers who combine commercial and housing structures with space for social organizations. They aren’t doing that here, so it’s great that a church has the foresight and vision to do it, instead.
Relax, Contrarian: From the street, it should look very similar to the average street frontage of most downtown city areas, with facades built to look like the old architecture of our town. Spirit Place is not much taller than the original church–or the medical building about a block away–[so] what’s the problem? Is it just a taller building that has you feeling so uncomfortable? Having a lot of space to oneself, though considered a birthright in this country, cannot be sustained in this present world. Those who insist on not allowing change to come are being pretty selfish, if it’s hindering some people from getting adequate housing at all.
Perhaps you would prefer to build a low-rise building; “Mean Spirited Place” might be a good name for that.
Ted Sutcliffe, who writes the Square Feet Blog, agrees:
There’s something pathetic about a city that makes a church congregation jump through hoops as it tries to redevelop its property to rebuild a smaller sanctuary and finance it for the future by building 65 apartments for seniors.
The Chronicle Herald called the redevelopment of St. John’s United Church property at Windsor and Willow streets controversial. The project is not at all controversial. A few residents are upset about it because they think it’s too big. It’s not. In fact, it is only about 12 feet higher than the existing church at its highest point and will be much lower than the church had been at the west end where the new sanctuary is located.
City staff, cautious to a fault, recommended a public hearing be held on the project. City council, paranoid to a fault, voted Tuesday night with a show of hands, 17 to 4, to go that route. (There has been no public hearing for the $100+ million convention center.)
As I said on my blog last Sept. 10, this project is a sympathetic solution to the congregation’s problem, and meets the objectives of the municipal plan to encourage infill projects that put more people on the peninsula. Were this project given encouragement other congregations might see opportunities in their own church properties.
The city should be falling over itself to help projects like this. If a church group can’t get enthusiastic support for a project that meets the city’s own guidelines what message should anyone else take from the experience who might have wanted to put his imagination and industry to work?
Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of making mistakes … fear has paralyzed this city and it’s the poorer for it.
Finally, a reader who asked not to be identified, suggests the whole GLBT theme is an offhand comment that got out of hand:
I have talked to the church reps working on the proposal and the architects, and a friend in the congregation who’s privy to what’s going on. This project was never intended or has any effort been made to market, position or otherwise identify it as a “gay” project. In fact, the whole exercise has been downright weird. The CBC was the first to identify it as a gay project, and the Herald jumped on that in two pieces they’ve written about it. And the swell of opposition has caught the church off guard because they, and the architects, described a very long and personal canvas of the neighbourhood that indicated there was very little opposition to the project. All that said, it is Halifax.
A diesel-powered Pete’s Frootique truck idles unattended on Doyle Street in Halifax Saturday morning, needlessly spilling volatile organic compounds into the crisp spring air.
Update: Contrarian reader Colin May points out: Parked on the wrong side of the street, in a no parking zone, too close to a stop sign. Three strikes and you’re…
A highly scalable map [5 meg .pdf] of offshore wind farm installations in northwestern Europe shows how far behind Canada is in exploiting this renewable energy source.
The map detail at right is a static screen capture, at far less than maximum enlargement.
(The map is reminiscent of various offshore petroleum maps of Nova Scotia’s, an example of which can be downloaded here [400-k .pdf].Hat tip: Colin May.
Question: What’s the name of the school at Dalhousie that trains lawyers? You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that it’s no longer Dalhousie Law School. Following a $20-million gift from Ontario businessman Seymour Schulich, it officially became The Schulich School of Law on October 15. Haligonian Warren Reed runs the numbers:
In 2004-5, the total Dal budget seems to have been around $200 million—all but $13 million coming from government grants and tuition payments. One could doubtless find more recent data on the Internet. Schulich’s gift, if added to the endowment and invested conservatively, will add about $1 million annually to the revenue stream. Half a percent.
As in all these kinds of transactions at public institutions, the contribution of taxpayers is forgotten, their investment sold at far below par. Nova Scotians have hundreds of millions invested in Dalhousie and in the principle of publicly funded education. Along comes Schulich, whose entire success is due to faithful observance of “buy low, sell high,” and the guardians of the public trust hand over our best asset. Schulich knows a good deal.
In another long tradition, taxpayers will continue to foot most of the bill. I paid for that law school and I wanted it to belong to future Nova Scotians.
[Update] Contrarian reader Colin May’s taxes also paid for the law school:
Not to mention “Medjuck Architecture School” on Spring Garden Road. I don’t know when the sign went up, but I find it amusing. When did Ralph Medjuck ever build an architecturally notable project?
I propose we commence new labeling with, “Your taxes paid for this university,” or, ‘This hospital unit built with taxes paid by members of the plumbers and carpenters union.” We could even extend it to the private sector with a sign on all the machinery in a Michelin plant: “This equipment funded by increasing the Nova Scotia public debt by $200,000,000.” I think every bus should be painted on the front, “Your taxes paid for this bus—take a ride.”
Several readers argue there’s nothing wrong with the Harper Tories steering infrastructure money to their own ridings, or pushing out deputy ministers who object, because (1) the money will be spent anyway, (2) the Liberals did it too, and (3) most senior civil servants are Liberal appointees. After the jump, a spirited response from longtime gadfly and former Dartmouth City Councillor Colin May, but first, contrarian reader Wayne Fiander weighs in:
Since you went to great trouble to note [ousted Deputy Transport Minister Louis] Ranger’s expertise, you should have also informed your readers that Mr. Ranger “in the mid 90’s, took a two year assignment with the Privy Council Office. He then returned to Transport Canada as Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy and was appointed Associate Deputy Minister of Transport in 2001” and was appointed DM at Transport Canada in 2002. His connection to the Chretien Liberals is quite deep and therefore sheds the full light on his obviously political comments.
Good point. I should have noted that. But the implication that a two-year stint in the PCO 15 years ago justifies Ranger’s firing is bogus. The Harper crowd used public money for partisan purposes. That’s corrupt. Full stop. Getting rid of qualified civil servants who raise objections to this corruption is of a piece with that. Read more »