Friday, December 12, 2014

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Merry Christmas, seventh time around: Halifax says no to mediation

Pope Francis did a great thing earlier today - he basically said dogs go to heaven. Surpringly causing a sensation. Where else would dogs go?
It's final. Sadly.

HRM will not agree to enter into mediation with me in order to resolve Brindi's case sooner rather than later - in other words, before she dies in the kennel.

I put the offer of mediation to HRM at the end of October through a local lawyer who was willing to represent me for that purpose pro bono. This was not too long after I filed notice of a second appeal.

I didn't know mediation was even possible until them. I just happened to notice 
 saw online that the Supreme Court was offering a new, free, court-sponsored mediation program as an alternative to appeals. I found the lawyer's name on a list provided by the court.

Dismayingly consistent with its history of refusing to cooperate in any way, regardless of cost, merit, etc., Halifax said no.
Not before taking a lot of time, however - all the way up to the next deadline for scheduling the appeal, in fact. 

Katherine Salsman, the prosecutor, did not answer his letter at first. So after several weeks, during which my frayed nerves frayed themselves again, he sent a second letter. Her reply came a week later, and was puzzling and frustrating - again, true to form. She claimed that the case is not eligible for court-sponsored mediation, because it is a criminal case.

Really. A criminal case. Aside from the fact that everyone knows it is a by-law case, in legalese a "summary offense", I almost wish it had been a criminal case. At least then I would have had the benefit of free counsel all along, through Legal Aid. But Legal Aid was very firm that it was not criminal. So why is she saying this?

Salsman added that the city would not be willing to hire an outside mediator because it would cost too much. This was equally perplexing. By my reckoning, the city has easily topped $100,000 in legal costs since 2008 - hours put in by a series of in-house and outside counsel. I don't think HRM actually pays extra for dog boarding costs, since the pound contract is a lump sum. If they did, however, that would add another huge chunk of change.

Mediation would save both of us a lot of money, and time, if it is successful. If not, it would not have wasted much, not for HRM anyway - the mediator cost would be likely be split. A few hours. It is in HRM's interest to save money and time, right?

Salsman went on to say that she would be glad to consider an offer from me if I cared to present it to her in writing. This is not mediation. This is one party controlling the process, and that party is not me. Both parties have to be willing - because each recognizes the benefits of avoiding costly court proceedings.

This answer left things in limbo for several more weeks. My lawyer replied that he considered this case non-criminal and put the question to HRM again. At the same time, he attempted to get an answer from the court regarding eligibility. He told me HRM really doesn't have a good reason to say no.

On Wednesday, Dec. 10, he received a second reply from HRM: a flat no. I can't quote directly because I have not seen the letter yet.

Another massive disappointment. I have lost nearly three months' time, and face another grueling, expensive task of assembling appeal books and writing a brief that I dread.

And sadly, HRM has once again shown that it has no concern for the merits of a case or a position, let alone the life of an innocent animal.

No matter what, it stays true to its motto of "Why should we abandon our position?" voiced in court by Salsman a year ago in October - then, in answer to a litany of the many opportunities HRM has turned down since July 2008 - opportunities to avoid all court proceedings, all the years of locking up Brindi, all the negative PR, and all my agony and stress and material loss. Opportunities that start with Animal Services simply reading & answering letters from me and others, and being willing to meet with me alone or with counsel, to allowing a behavior assessment (instead of refusing access and forcing me to pay for a court order) and accepting my offers of the same conditions a judge put in place two years later, and so on.

I don't think I'm being too brash when I say, it's already clear that this is not about public safety. Never, ever was. It only takes a few facts to show that. What it's about has nothing to do with the interests of residents of Halifax. It is about professional lawyers seeking to score more wins, at all costs. ALL COSTS. Costs they don't pay for themselves.

And unless some miracle occurs, it's a seventh Christmas for Brindi in the pound - er kennel, not much better - and another Christmas we won't be celebrating. How would you feel? 


  1. I think what they're doing is disgraceful and a waste of taxpayer's dollars, having Brindi locked up for seven years. Brindi is a very lovable, friendly dog. It makes me feel depressed the way they're treating Brindi.

  2. I am so sad and so incredibly sorry. . In all honesty, I had to keep re-reading your story over and over because I thought for certain there must be an error. 7 YEARS???? I am in complete awe of the atrocities the Canadian government has committed against pets and their owners. It makes me fearful to even want to cross the border to visit. I pray with all my heart that this nightmare will end for you.


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