Category Archives: Investigative2017_3

Alex Rose Investigative Assignment #3


The 30th Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia may be over a decade removed from office, but she’s still finding ways to help people. The Honourable Myra Freeman, CM, ONS, MSM, CD, has a new project: access to justice.

A photo of The Hon. Myra Freeman from her time as Lieutenant Governor. © Honourable Myra A. Freeman, Source: Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia’s website (

“As we know, it’s actually the middle class that cannot afford the justice system. In low-income, legal aid can help you out. You have a door to go to, you have an avenue to go to,” said Freeman. “People who are comfortable can just pay for it. But the middle class is at a point where they have to mortgage their home to pay for [legal] fees.”

There’s no one technique for opening up justice to everyone. Freeman and the people she is working with are exploring every possible solution. They’re looking at innovative technology, new public policy, and successful programs in other areas.

The access to justice initiative is the latest in a long line of Freeman’s efforts at helping her community.

“When I was in office I established different awards. I think the one I’m most proud of is the Lieutenant Governor’s Masterworks award, which gives an opportunity for artists to showcase their creative talent,” she said.

Although Freeman remembers her Lieutenant Governorship for the good she was able to do for her community, that was not actually her primary job.

“The Lieutenant Governor is the Crown’s representative in the province. So, kind of equivalent to the Governor General at the federal level,” said Lori Turnbull, an associate professor of political science at Dalhousie who specializes in Canadian politics. “The primary goal of the Lieutenant Governor is to make sure there is always a premier.”

Although that is technically their primary goal, most Lieutenant Governor’s don’t have to worry about the provincial government during their term. Recently, The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, was in the news as the B.C. government was in turmoil following their provincial election.

Freeman never had to deal with a major political situation during her time in power, like the one Guichon presided over in B.C., so Nova Scotians remember her for less contentious reasons. Since that primary duty of office so rarely comes up, the Lieutenant Governor has other obligations as well.

“They also have a ceremonial role where they would present honours and awards to deserving Nova Scotians and recognize Nova Scotians who have distinguished themselves in the province,” said Craig Walkington. Walkington is the communications advisor to the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, and he is currently serving under his second Lieutenant Governor.

“They also play what I call a promotional role, where they promote the good things in Nova Scotia,” he added.

As for Freeman specifically, Walkington has a whole list of features that made her run in office unique.

She was the first female Lieutenant Governor in the history of Nova Scotia, as well as the first Jewish Lieutenant Governor in all of Canada. She opened up the Lieutenant Governor’s residence, called the Government House, to the public; to this day, the office of the Lieutenant Governor still calls it the ceremonial home of all Nova Scotians. With her background as a schoolteacher, she focused on supporting education and children during her time as Lieutenant Governor. On top of all that, she was appointed as an honorary captain in the Royal Canadian Navy.

A photo of Government House, which The Hon. Myra Freeman famously opened up to the public during her time as Lieutenant Governor. Credit: Alex Rose

But in spite of all the amazing these events that Freeman attended, the amazing people that she met and amazing things that she did, there’s one thing that Freeman remembers most from her time as Lieutenant Governor. And it’s something she’s still practicing today: helping other people.

“Public service makes me feel good. All of us hope that we can make a difference in the lives of others, and that we can leave our mark,” she said.

Newly-elected MLA is still learning how to spend money


For Lisa Roberts, a rookie Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Nova Scotia, one year is too short for her to learn “how to spend money”.

Roberts, the MLA for Halifax Needham district, only spent $29,581 for 22 items between the months of October 2016 and March 2017, according to the MLA expanse report. This is 22 per cent lower than the average of all MLAs. Her expenses included advertising, postage and office rental.

“With all MLAs now, their expenses are reimbursed after they make the expenses,” She said. “Apart from major things that are directly paid for by the office speaker, like grants, all other expenses I pay for and the province pays me back. As MLAs, they are supposed to account for how they spend money related to their official duties.”

In Nova Scotia, each MLA is entitled to claim up to a maximum of $4,282.00 in expenses per month, plus an additional annual amount $14,059 to $18,558, from depending on the MLA constituency, says the MLA Member’s Manual. So the public can access the monthly expenses report online.

The average travel expense is $3,629, overall MLAs who had travel records between Oct. 2016 and March 2017. But Roberts’ travel expense is only one-fourth of the average travel expenses.

Roberts lives in Young St. in downtown Halifax, which is very close to the Nova Scotia Assembly House. Half of time Roberts takes bus, and half of time she rides her bike, so she doesn’t need to charge mileage when travelling inside Halifax.

Lisa Roberts, the MLA for Needham district, lives in Young St. She likes taking bus or riding bike to work. Photo by Sixian Zuo

Before she was elected MLA, Roberts was the Executive Director of Veith House, a non-profit neighbourhood hub in the North End of Halifax that provides several services and programs for local residents.

“I really used to be frugal because I don’t want to buy things that are wasteful,” says Roberts. “As a new MLA, it took me a little while to organize my own finances to be able to have sufficient credit to pay those expenses, and to feel comfortable spending a lot money.”

“I feel good spending advertising revenue to support non-profit organizations because there are so many non-profit organizations doing good work in Halifax,” says Roberts.

Members must complete the Finance Direct Deposit form along with the submission of a void cheque, original invoice and proof of payment.

Graham Steel, a Business Law professor in University of Dalhousie and former member of NDP in Nova Scotia, is not surprised that Roberts spent much less than other MLAs.

“There are definitely some MLAs that spend more than others,” says Steele, “They spend as much as allowed to, but some are very proud of that they don’t spend a lot of money.”

Steele says if MLAs are not sure about how to do their expenses, they can consult with the staff in the Speaker office.

After the general Provincial Election on May 30, other newly-elected MLAs like Alana Paon for PC and Susan Leblanc for NDP are supposed to learn how to figure out their monthly expenses as well.

A Hispanic woman says her accent is a barrier in the local media industry

Maria Marteli. “I don´t want to lose my accent, I think that makes me unique, that makes me different and I know that I can bring something different to the table…”


After 12 years of living in Halifax there are still barriers for a Hispanic woman in the media industry. “Here in the Maritimes my accent is an issue” says a Mexican journalist working at CTV.

Maria Marteli graduated from the NSCC College as a broadcast journalist. She started as an intern at CTV Atlantic and got hired almost three years ago in the technical area.

Marteli defines her position as “jack of all trades.” She does control room, studio, editing, shooting and more. Back in Mexico, she was the host of a show for Telemar, a regional Mexican TV channel.

“I like telling stories one way or another, whether I am a shooter or an editor. I don´t necessarily need to be on camera to do it.” She says.

Marteli says there are three immigrants working at CTV Atlantic, including her. For the three of them English is not their mother language.

According to the latest census, 92 per cent of the total population in Nova Scotia reported English as their mother tongue. Only 4.8 per cent reported an immigrant language.


Sandy Crocker is Regional Coordinator of the ESL and Literacy Program at Halifax Public Libraries, a program focused on helping newcomers to settle in the province. “The biggest barrier newcomers face when job hunting is language”, he says.

Marteli says the biggest barrier for her has been the accent.

“We do have an accent and we do have a little bit of harder time to make ourselves understand to other people… I tend to feel that we have to be proving ourselves over and over again, always proving that we can understand and that we can do what is expected of us.” She says.

Ute Fiedler is President of BTC Consulting- Intercultural and Growth Mindset. She has more than 10 years of experience working with immigrants, refugees, international students and local people “helping them increase effectiveness in their communication across cultures, working across cultures, and negotiating  across cultures.“

“We tell people that having an accent is not a barrier, is just a confirmation than this person speaks more than one language and that´s a huge benefit for business development.” Fiedler says.

Marteli´s professional short term goals are to “get better in her craft and be the best of what she can possibly be” without changing who she is.

“I don´t want to lose my accent, I think that makes me unique, that makes me different and I know that I can bring something different to the table when it comes to story ideas. I can reach a demographic that other people can´t”. She says.

Staying or leaving? Dilemma of new immigrants in Nova Scotia


Dongsheng Li used to be an auditor in Halifax. Now, he is planning to move to Toronto with his wife.

This 26-year-old man was an international student from China. After graduating from Saint Mary’s University in 2015, Li found his first job at Grant Thornton, and successfully immigrated to Nova Scotia in 2016.

“When we graduated from Saint Mary’s University, it was hard for us to find a job in Nova Scotia. So many other international students chose to find jobs in Toronto or Calgary,” Li said in Chinese in an interview. “However, my wife, who is also my classmate, had already had a job in Halifax. And we thought the immigration policy in Nova Scotia would be easier for us than Ontario. So we still wanted to stay in Halifax. I got the job at Grant Thornton after I sent 114 resumes.”

The situation changed when Li’s wife was pregnant. Li said that he quit his job to care for his wife. Now, as the father of a newborn child, he can’t find a suitable job when he needs it most.

“There aren’t too many job openings in Halifax. And most positions are either too high or too low. It is impossible for me to get those high positions. But I don’t want to have a low position because I have had several years working experience. So I have to look for jobs in big cities like Toronto,” Li said.

Ting Li, Dongsheng Li’s wife, said that she doesn’t want to move to another city with her husband. “Dongsheng doesn’t have too much time to find a job, like how long he took for his first job. If he moves to Toronto, I will definitely follow him, although we have to give up our house and network here,” Ting Li said in Chinese.

This kind of experience is not unique to Li. Many new immigrants from other countries decide to be nominated in Nova Scotia and move to other provinces when they have the identity. According to the data from Statistics Canada, the number of net-migration in Nova Scotia was -1,034 during the year 2015 to 2016. That number for Ontario is 6,154.

Interprovincial net-migration in 2015-2016. Only Ontario and B.C. have more than 1,000 net-migrants.

Benita Bunjun, professor of Sociology at Saint Mary’s University, says many factors contribute to this phenomenon. “We don’t only leave for economic reasons, but we also leave for social or sense of belonging… So people who have moved here for work, and sometimes their wives or husbands or partners can’t find work, they have no choice other than they separate. So that also has pushed people to leave.”

Nova Scotia eSports company developing a multifaceted portal for online gaming


A Sydney, NS based tech company is providing superior eSports gaming experiences for players, becoming the only platform to offer tournament hosting, reduced lag (slow network responses), and streaming and live-casting functionality all in one package.

Swarmio eSports, Canada’s first web-based channel with live-casting content dedicated for eSports, provides a portal for players and game companies to host tournaments online for games including Minecraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, with technology that allows for much more responsive gameplay while online.

Swarmio’s portal allows players to host tournaments with the option to offer cash prizes of up to $100. Source:

eSports players as well as game development companies can utilize the company’s portal to host gaming tournaments. The competitive world of eSports, or electronic sports wherein video game players compete in organized leagues, has spiked in popularity in the last decade. Back in March an eSports event hosted by Intel had more than 46 million unique online users, and 173,000 fans attending the event live in Katowice, Poland.

Originally launched in 2015, Swarmio eSports is unique in that it offers the three main components needed for eSports gamers to play and stream their content to viewers. “We’re the only vertically integrated eSports company out there,” says Swarmio’s Chief Revenue Officer John Smith. “If you look at our competition, you’ve got people out there who claim to reduce ping (a determinate of network speed), people out there who do tournament management, and people out there that do live-cast streaming, but you don’t have one that integrates all three.”

In 2016, Swarimo’s parent company Ubique Networks Inc. received nearly $1 million in funding from the Canadian Government to develop technology to improve online gaming by providing servers that equalize the gaming experience regardless of physical location or Internet capabilities. Normally someone located closer to a game server would experience better response times than someone located further away, thus creating unfair gameplay even if it’s by a fraction of a second.

A main reason eSports players travel for competitions across the globe is because the speeds of wireless Internet options can be unreliable. When playing a game that calls for pinpoint shooting accuracy, milliseconds of lag can mean a loss for the team. LAN, or local area network, is a connection that spans a smaller area and is increasingly more reliable than other wireless connections. eSports competitions will utilize LAN connections to ensure the players encounter as minimal lag as possible.

Rory Andrews (right) often works directly with eSports players and Twitch streamers to encourage the use of Swarmio’s gaming portal for eSports purposes. Source: Rory Andrews.


Swarmio’s Marketing and eSports Analyst Rory Andrews believes the structure of Swarmio’s servers, which use an algorithm to locate the most centralized server for all players, could mean players wouldn’t necessarily have to travel to get guaranteed lagless gameplay. “The solution that [eSports players] want is as close to a LAN experience over the Internet…because LAN is the only thing they trust in an actual competitive scene,” says Andrews. “What we’re trying to create is the closest thing to LAN as possible.”

Rory Andrews speaking on why Swarmio is able to bring several different technologies together for a better gaming experience for eSports players and game companies.

Swarmio currently has physical servers in Chicago, Seattle, and Toronto, with cloud-based servers on the way. Cloud servers will allow for pop-up servers to give focused and improved Internet to specific areas where it is needed on a case-to-case basis. Swarimo’s Managing Director Senthil Ratnasabapathy says, “What our system will do is figure out where you are, where you competitor is, and we will be having nodes in major cities. So what it will do is create a temporary session for this game, and move it to a place where both of you will have a level playing field.”

Looking forward, Swarimo eSports will allow users to play the extremely popular game League of Legends on its portal by the end of the month, with Team Fortress 2 coming shortly afterwards. Conversations are also underway to hopefully set up partnerships to host games for Overwatch and Dota 2 as well, all of which are extremely popular eSports titles.

The next hurtle for the company will be developing into Asian countries. For integrating into these areas, Ratnasabapathy says “Singapore is the gateway to Asia.” Therefore, plans are underway to have a large node placed in Singapore with the goal to keep developing into the continent as the company progresses forward.

Dalhousie researcher receives over $2 million for cancer treatment improvement


A medical researcher at Dalhousie University has received over $2 million for research to improve radiation treatment for cancer.

James Robar is also the head of medical physics at the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Credit Photo: Dalhousie University

James Robar, a medical physicist in Halifax, said he and his team are working on five different technologies to improve the cancer treatment, which around half of all cancer patients receive.

The money Robar received in late July comes from two sources, a private company called Brainlab and the Atlantic Innovation Fund. He said the funding will mainly go towards hiring people, including two graduate students and a project manager, and a smaller portion towards buying equipment.

One of the technologies being developed is an algorithm called FourPi. Robar said it takes into account all possible ways to target a tumor with beams of radiation, and then selects the one that will damage surrounding organs the least.

“It’s a challenge because even though these rays can interfere with and destroy cancer cells, they can also harm normal tissues,” he said.

Robar said that while the core technology behind radiation therapy isn’t new, improvements are significant because of how widely radiation is used and the benefits to people with cancer from better treatment. He said more accuracy makes the radiation less toxic on the patient’s body. Radiation can only be used on cancers that cause tumors, not ones in the blood.

He said there are nine machines in Nova Scotia that can administer radiation treatment. Seven are in Halifax and the other two are in Sydney.

Another technology Robar’s team is developing is a mask that keeps a patient’s head stable during treatment. Instead of having to insert rods into the person’s skull to stabilize it, the mask tracks the head’s movement during treatment and the beams can be adjusted accordingly, he said.

Medical physicists are different from medical doctors, according to Nancy Barrett, the executive director of the Canadian Organization of Medical Physicists. Rather than being hands-on with patients, they specialize in using x-rays and administering radiation. They are also involved in research and with inventing new technologies.

While Robar works out of Dalhousie University and the technology was developed there, he said they have licensed it to Brainlab, a company that will develop and release a marketable product. He said a product based on FourPi is currently undergoing regulatory approval to be used in hospitals.

Andrea McCormick, a manager at the Industry Liaison and Innovation office at Dalhousie, said commercialization is an important step to receive funding from the Atlantic Innovation Fund. She said the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which administers the fund, provides large-scale funding, but to a relatively small number of applicants.

“We want to keep our technology local, build them locally so we can develop technology in the Maritimes that stays in the Maritimes,” McCormick said.

Lee MacDonald, a medical physics PhD student working with Robar, said the fact that the technology will soon be used is one of the most gratifying aspects of his work.

“It’s been certainly motivating,” he said. “It’s rewarding to work on something like this and have it be able to reach patients within a reasonable time frame is really rewarding.

Robar is also the head of medical physics at the Nova Scotia Health Authority. He said working as a medical physicist allows him to approach research from a different angle than a medical doctor would.

“We want to be less invasive and kinder to patients,” he said. “We want to improve their experience, but we don’t – and we can’t-  compromise on the accuracy of the treatment delivery.”


Quebec controversial businessman opening another residence for elderly people

Eddy Savoie donated more than $23,500 to Quebec’s Liberal party between 2000 and 2014. Credit photo: La Presse

While the population of Quebec is aging faster than it’s ever been, a Quebec billionaire and controversial business man is completing the construction of his 14th residence for elderly people.

Average age of people in Quebec, according to Statistics Canada 2016 Census data. Credit: Gabrièle Roy 

Eddy Savoie is the founder, owner and president of the Groupe Savoie, which owns the Résidences Soleil for elderly people. From the residence in Sherbrooke to the ones around Montreal, Groupe Savoie employs 2,000 people and 7,000 people live in the residences, according to Résidences Soleil website.

Here are the 14 residences across Quebec. Credit: Gabrièle Roy

The starting price for a studio in those residences is more than $1,200. Marco Guerrera, public affairs councillor at FADOQ, the largest association of Quebecers over 50 years old, says, “the median income of people over 65 years old is $19,500, so most of them don’t have enough money to go in a residence like Résidence Soleil.”

Groupe Savoie said in an email no one was available to do an interview.

Many will know Savoie from his numerous appearances in Résidence Soleil TV commercials. Others will remember his long battle with Superior Court of Québec.

Court case
In 2011, Pierrette Thériault-Martel publicly denounced the poor health care given to her mother, a resident at CHSLD Saint-Lambert-sur-le-Golf, the first CHSLD – a long term care establishment or retirement home- built on a public and private partnership in Quebec with Groupe Savoie.

Eddy Savoie sued her for defamation, demanding $400,000. Thériault-Martel only made $12,000 a year at the time, while Savoie estimated his personal wealth at $1.5 billion, according to court documents.

He asked a court to keep the figures confidential, but the request was denied in May 2014, when a judge cited philosopher Jeremy Bentham famous quote, “where there is no publicity, there is no justice.”

After a four-year battle in court, judge Gary D.D. Morrison deemed the billionaire’s suit abusive and ordered him to pay $310,000 to Thériault-Martel. Morrison declared the suit as a strategic lawsuit against public participation, also known as a SLAPP suit.

Judith Dagenais, lawyer for Thériault-Martel says, “It was the first time in Quebec that someone was ordered to pay such amount for a SLAPP suit.”

In his judgment, Morrison explained that Savoie had no remorse and that “he maintained he would have done the exact same thing again if he had the chance.”

“It was a disproportionate context, like David and Goliath, where he tried to prohibit her from denunciating a situation she had all rights to talk about”, says Dagenais.

Judith Dagenais, lawyer for Thériault-Martel, says the court case was an important one, not only for the health care system in Quebec but also for the disproportionate context in which it took place. She also says SLAPP suits are very rare.

Inspection report
In December 2016, CHSLD Saint-Lambert-sur-le-Golf did not achieve the customer satisfaction standards, which resulted in an external investigation by the minister of health and services in Quebec.

According to the most recent inspection report published in early 2017, CHSLD Saint-Lambert-sur-le-Golf “must offer a better life quality to its residents.”

One of the numerous recommendations requested by the minister is that the “the institution take the necessary steps to ensure that the staff is showing attention to the residents.”

In 2015, judge Hellen Paré of Quebec’s civil court sentenced ex CHSLD Saint-Lambert-sur-le-golf employee Immacula Eugène to 15 months in prison for “having maltreated patients.” Eugène pleaded guilty to assaults against six beneficiaries as well as having administered anxiolytics to two patients, without their knowledge, to make them sleep, according to the court document.

The 14 other residences owned by Groupe Savoie are private. There are no publicly available inspection reports for these residences.

Political donations
Savoie has donated more than $23,500 to Quebec’s Liberal party between 2000 and 2014, according to data obtained on the open data website of the Directeur Général des Élections du Quebec.
His wife who is vice-present of the Groupe Savoie, Carmelle Ouellette, also gave more than $20,000 to Quebec’s liberal party between these years.

A controversial Halifax landlord who rents apartments to international students is facing an assault charge


The Not guilty plea

Liao Qun, a 44-year old landlord, appeared in court again on May 10 at the provincial court on Spring garden road. She was accused by the Crown of an assault that allegedly occurred in the previous month.

The charge also comes with a restraining order which prevents Liao from any contact to the student tenant Zheni Ge, who was allegedly assaulted by her landlord on April, 10 2017.

Liao pleaded not guilty after refusing to hear the details of the charge. A trial date is set on October, 24 with an estimated time of three to four days.

Previous cases  

This is not the first time Liao has been in the court. In January 2016, she was sued by her contractor, Bing Han who did the renovation work for one of her properties on Payzant Avenue claims when filing the file that Liao did not pay the $7,000 after the work. Shortly after, on February, 26 Liao filed a $25,000 counter claim, insisting that the work was not in compliance with the city by-law and need to be redone.

Liao’s profile picture on Facebook in March 2016.

In a motion to dismiss this counterclaim, Han’s lawyer, Kelly Shannon called this a “blatant abuse of the court process.” 

The judge dismissed this counter claim in December 2016.

“This matter came before me on June 9, 2016……I found that because the matter was settled in its entirety at that time, there was no opportunity to re-litigate once settle,” J.W. Stephen Johnston ruled.

The case was settled outside of the court. Han’s wife Xue Fang Han said in a phone interview that she can’t really talk about how much they were paid in the settlement.

“I’m not particularly happy or unhappy about the result. I’m just glad she paid and this is over,” Mrs. Han said.

Han and his wife are originally from Vancouver, BC. They moved to Halifax three years ago.

City’s inspection

Liao immigrated to Canada in 2013. She purchased her first property in 2014 on Greenwood Avenue, Halifax. The property is next to Saint Mary’s University which she converted to a student residence, to mainly international students. Liao continued to buy another two properties and converted them to rental properties in 2015 and 2016. One of her properties that is on 891 Greenwood Avenue is under investigation into land use.

The city says the inspection is “open and active” and refuses to comment further on the details.

Liao was reached by the reporter and defended herself, but declined a formal interview because “journalists take words out of context.”