Mike Smith, who plays Bubbles on the show Trailer Park Boys, was accused in 2005 of sexually assaulting a teenager.
A woman alleges that in 2005 when she was 18 and out with her friends in downtown Halifax, she met Smith, then 32, at a bar. She says after she showed Smith her fake ID, he bought drinks for her and her friends, who were also 18 and under the legal drinking age of 19. She later told police Smith sexually assaulted her at his home.
Police interviewed Smith, but didn't press charges. The woman declined to go forward with her complaint after a police officer told her "fingers could be pointed" at her for being in a bar underage.
VICE News unearthed the complaint as part of a months-long investigation into Smith’s behavior toward women, and bars Smith co-owns in Halifax, which have been frequently cited for liquor infractions, including women found passed out in bathroom stalls and alcohol being served to minors. Last year, three women came forward in the media alleging they believed they had been drugged at one of Smith’s bars. Smith was not alleged to have been involved in any of these incidents.
But Smith has been a topic of discussion in the city’s cultural scene, as questions swirl around an alleged case of assault in Los Angeles. Smith was charged in 2016 with domestic battery after witnesses said they saw the actor choke a woman in a hotel bathroom. The next day, Smith and the woman put out a joint statement saying that the “heated argument” had been misconstrued. The woman said she did not feel she was in danger, and the charge was ultimately dropped. Witnesses interviewed by VICE News, however, stand by their account of what they say was a violent assault.
Responding to the 2005 allegation, Smith’s manager Louis Thomas sent the following statement: “The Halifax Police investigated this complaint 14 years ago. Mike voluntarily submitted to an interview and answered every question he was asked about his contact with this woman. The police did not seek any further information from him. They did not lay charges. It would be reckless and unfair to publish these allegations so many years later, when no police action was taken contemporaneously. We reserve our right to take all legal action against you and anyone who publishes these allegations.”
Responding to the 2016 L.A. incident, Thomas said on behalf of Smith: “These allegations are false, inaccurate and defamatory. Both the alleged victim and Mike issued statements as reported at the time. Further, this matter was investigated by police and no charges were laid.” (According to Sheriff's Department records, Smith was arrested on a misdemeanor charge. The charge was later dropped.)
Mike Smith attends the 'Swearnet' screening at the ArcLight Cinemas on September 3, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
Brad Hartlin, who co-owns bars with Smith in Halifax, said they had reviewed security footage and found no evidence that any women were drugged at the establishment. Police told VICE News they had not received any reports about the alleged drink spiking incidents. Hartlin said the bars never knowingly allowed underage patrons inside. He said they had implemented every recommendation, and had done everything possible to ensure a safe environment.
We reached out to representatives of Rob Wells, Jean Paul Tremblay and Gary Howsam, who currently co-own bars with Smith and Hartlin, but did not receive comment.
The first season of Trailer Park Boys started shooting 20 years ago this year. It’s a charming faux-docuseries that follows good-natured ne’er-do-wells living in a Nova Scotia trailer park. Ricky and Julian are petty criminals who grow and sell weed, and commit break and enters and other schemes. Traditionally, each season opens with the boys getting out of jail and wraps as they return to prison.
While Ricky and Julian fire handguns at squirrels, Bubbles is their gentle friend who cares for cats. He lives in a shed, where his parents abandoned him, surrounded by shopping carts that he steals and sells back to the stores they came from. Today he is the most recognizable character on the show, with his bug-eyed glasses and underbite.
“Mike voluntarily submitted to an interview and answered every question he was asked about his contact with this woman,” his manager said
Trailer Park Boys is one of Canada’s most successful TV shows. Early seasons aired on Showcase, gaining fans in Canada, the U.K., and Australia. After a seven-year hiatus, in July 2013, the show’s three main stars, Mike Smith, Robb Wells, and John Paul Tremblay, bought the rights to the franchise, partnering with Netflix in 2014. Celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Jimmy Kimmel have appeared on recent episodes of the show, now in its 12th season. The stars have huge social media followings; Smith, with 245,000 followers on Twitter, has won two Gemini awards, Canada’s version of the Emmys.
In Nova Scotia, the show’s impact is undeniable. As it gained popularity, it became a cultural rallying point, a source of pride in a tight-knit East Coast community to which the world paid little attention. In a place where jobs are scarce, the show created lasting work in the bar and film industries. Shot in and around the province with actors from the area, it popularized the working class Nova Scotia accent, with a touch more profanity.
In Halifax, Smith is also known as co-owner of Bubbles Mansion, his namesake bar that closed in 2010. In my early 20s, I partied there a couple times, and while working as a server at the bar next door, I took part in a Bubbles Mansion shopping cart race.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Bubbles Mansion was known to let in underage patrons — the bar’s licence was suspended in 2010 after liquor inspectors found people drinking inside who were under the legal age of 19. Public safety issues at another bar Smith co-owns, The Toothy Moose, prompted an emergency hearing by the regulator.
Today, Smith continues to reap benefits of his Trailer Park Boys fame. The show and three spinoff films are streaming on Netflix. In March the Trailer Park Boys are hosting a cruise with performances by Tom Green and Bif Naked. In February, Netflix released teaser images of the show as an animated series.
Trailer Park Boys on ABC's 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' Monday, March 28, 2016. (Photo by Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images)
The boys have their own weed, beer, and whisky brands. Smith and his co-stars Rob Wells and John Paul Tremblay also co-own a new live music venue, Sniggily Wiggily’s, part of the same complex as The Toothy Moose. The show’s producer and director Gary Howsam and Smith’s longtime business partner Brad Hartlin also co-own the venue.
But Smith’s connection to Sniggily Wiggily’s has made it controversial for bands to book shows there. A glance at the website shows the bar isn’t booking shows anywhere close to the seven days a week it promises on its Facebook page.
In a public Facebook thread in April 2018, locals debated whether to boycott the bar, citing news coverage of the L.A. incident.
‘He violated me’
On Feb. 3, 2005, three young women pre-drank in their dorm and then headed to The Argyle Bar & Grill in downtown Halifax, a bar frequented by students.
Emma was 18. The legal drinking age in Nova Scotia is 19, so she says she brought her fake ID. VICE News conducted multiple interviews over a 10-month period with Emma, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy. We also reviewed her police report and medical records, listened to the audio of her full police interview, and conducted interviews with numerous people who were with her that night or spoke to her in the days after.
At The Argyle, the young women ran into Smith. Emma recognized him as Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys. By this time, four seasons of the show had aired in Canada, making Smith a local celebrity. “Hey, you’re the guy from that show,” she remembers that she, or someone else in her group, said to him. According to the police report, Emma told police she and her friends talked to him for a little while.
Emma remembers showing Smith her fake ID. It was an ID she borrowed from someone who looked like her, she told VICE News. According to the police report, she said she told Smith it was a fake.
When The Argyle closed, Smith, who was 32 at the time, suggested the three young women go with him to The Palace, a nearby nightclub, Emma told police.
“We told him we were underage and we didn’t think we’d be able to get in there. He knew that we were 18 and so he told us that he could get us in and it wouldn’t be a problem,” Emma told police.
Smith got them into The Palace for free, she told police during her interview. According to her police report, she said he took them to the VIP section and bought them tequila shots.
She doesn’t remember much else about The Palace and what happened after that, she told VICE News and police. She says she ended up at Smith’s home without her friends.
She remembers being in a sauna. She told police that's where she took her coat off.
According to the audio from her police interview and our interview with her, the next thing she remembers is lying on her back on a bed with her pants and underwear off. She told police that Smith was performing oral sex on her.
She told police she remembered “snapping out of it,” getting up, and saying she needed to use the phone. She told VICE News she got up right away and told him, “I want to leave, I want to leave right now,” and asked to use a phone.
She told VICE News she got up right away and told him, “I want to leave, I want to leave right now”
She doesn’t remember any kissing or foreplay before that. She says she was not very sexually active prior to this interaction.
“I don’t know how it all came to happen. I was really confused,” she said.
She said she felt shocked and disgusted. She does not remember consenting to the act. She felt violated.
She told Smith she needed to use the phone. She called her friend’s boyfriend. Her friend was usually in her boyfriend’s dorm room, so she knew the number. (Cell phones weren’t as common in 2005.)
Both her friend and her friend’s boyfriend told VICE News they remember that call. The boyfriend remembers the call display said “Mike Smith.”
He got on the phone and told Smith something to the effect of, “You have to make sure she gets home right now.” He remembers it being a two-minute conversation in which he “put pressure” on Smith to make sure he would send her home in a cab immediately.
Smith told the boyfriend over the phone that nothing had happened, Emma said in her police interview. “I know for a fact that something did happen,” she told police.
Emma says Smith gave her money for a cab back to her dorm.
She says he asked for her phone number, which she gave to him because she was trying to get out of the situation.
That night, one of the women Emma went out with wound up at a Halifax hospital, the Queen Elizabeth II, according to medical records reviewed by VICE News and interviews we conducted with her.
After going to The Palace, Emma’s friend Kayla, whose name has been changed, told VICE News she was so intoxicated that she vomited. Her medical record states she was rolling around on the bathroom floor and hyperventilating. She said her boyfriend took her to the hospital.
Kayla told medical professionals she was feeling “weird all over” and believed someone “slipped something in her drink.” She told them she had not deliberately taken any drugs. Kayla said she remembered Smith buying drinks for her and her friends. They also consumed drinks that Smith did not provide.
“I know for a fact I had never experienced and have never since experienced anything like that night,” Kayla said in an interview. VICE News found no evidence that Smith drugged Kayla.
The toxicology report in her file only mentions tests for ethanol, and lists two pain medications found in her system — salicylate and acetaminophen. It’s unclear if she was tested for anything else.
The next morning, Emma also sought medical attention — at a walk-in clinic.
According to Emma’s medical record, she also told a medical professional she thought she had been drugged. There is no evidence in her file that she was tested for drugs in her system, although she was tested for STIs. Her medical file states she had about seven drinks. The police report states she had about eight drinks. She told police that she and the other women had headaches the next morning and felt sick. VICE News found no evidence that Smith drugged Emma, or any of her friends.
Emma told us she was on a low dose of anti-anxiety medication at the time of the incident.
Anti-anxiety medications fall under a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, according to Dr. Sam Campbell, ER chief at the Queen Elizabeth II. In combination with alcohol, Emma’s medication would have acted as a sedative, he said — something Emma didn’t know at the time.
Kayla’s medical file from the QEII ER doesn’t show any tests for drugs that can be used to facilitate sexual assault. Examples of drugs that can be used for this purpose are GHB, a depressant that causes drowsiness, and Rohypnol, a strong benzodiazepine.
Campbell, who has worked at the QEII ER since 1996, said there is no legal policy at the hospital regarding patients who think they have been drugged. Medical professionals will do everything they can to take care of the patient’s health, but that doesn’t include testing for drugs commonly used to facilitate sexual assault.
Campbell said in a case like Kayla’s, they would only test for drugs that the patient could overdose from — which explains why Kayla’s toxicology report shows ethanol and acetaminophen.
Campbell said the level of alcohol in Kayla’s blood was high enough for her to be unconscious.
“It’s actually important to realize that alcohol is also a date rape drug,” Campbell told VICE News.
Campbell said patients who go to QEII believing they have been drugged and sexually assaulted, as Emma alleged she had, would be offered the chance to have evidence, such as blood and urine, collected by the hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program and tested by an outside lab.
Emma went to a clinic that does not offer that service. She doesn’t remember them referring her to another hospital.
Campbell said that being on a benzodiazepine would have made it impossible for a test to ascertain if she had been slipped something.
According to Emma’s statement to police, Smith called her the day after the incident. She said she answered the phone because she didn’t know it was him. “He was just asking how I was doing, and I said I was fine. I was on the other line with my friend and I had to go,” she said in her police interview. According to the police statement, he called her a couple more times, and left a message asking her to go to a movie.
Emma’s family members confirmed to VICE News that she had told them about the alleged incident in the days after. Her cousin urged Emma to go to police, and she did, 12 days later, on February 15.
She told us she was worried that what happened to her could happen again to another woman. She wanted there to be an official record of her experience.
She wants to tell her story now because she believes “he violated me.”
In some instances, the police report refers to Smith as “Bubbles” instead of calling him by his actual name.
The police report does not mention interviews with anyone other than Emma and Smith. Five witnesses who were with Emma that night, or talked to her in the days after, tell VICE News that police did not contact them, or that they did not remember police contacting them.
The report shows the officer made a few calls that went unanswered, or it was to a wrong number. The names and numbers are redacted in the report. Then the investigating officer called Smith. He came to the police station on March 9, according to the police report.
Smith told the officer the young women approached him as he was exiting the washroom of The Argyle, and confirmed they recognized him as Bubbles from the TV show. “He did not know any of the girls were underage,” the officer wrote. “He does remember [the complainant] showing him an ID for herself.”
According to the police report, the officer called Emma and told her Smith had given a statement. The officer told Emma Smith said he thought she was 19.
Emma again told the officer that she had shown Smith a fake ID that night.
“She said she doesn’t have a fake ID anymore,” the officer wrote. “I explained to her that fingers could be pointed in all ways from her being in a bar with a fake ID. Further explained that the incident within Mr. Smith’s house could be attributed to her access [sic] of drinking.
“I asked her if this is all that she wanted done with her complaint of Mr. Smith and she said ‘yes.’”
The police report does not mention whether the investigating officer asked Smith about the alleged sexual assault.
“He was advised that [the complainant] had requested I speak with him regarding the circumstances of the evening with the drinking involved and what had transpired after the club,” the officer wrote in the report. It does not state Smith’s response.
The officer marked Emma’s case as a completed sexual assault. But it’s not clear how the case was ultimately classified. On one page, the officer marked it “cleared otherwise,” which means there is enough evidence to lay a charge but police decided not to for a specific reason. The officer noted “complainant declines to lay charge.” On another page, the officer entered the code for “no further action,” which Halifax Regional Police says is used when a confirmed incident is closed unsolved.
“Confirmed incident” means “founded,” as defined by the Canadian Centre of Justice Statistics, HRP told VICE News, “If, after police investigation, it has been determined that the reported offence did occur or was attempted (even if the charged/suspect chargeable is unknown) or there is no credible evidence to confirm that the reported incident did not take place.”
The police report states Emma did not know the address where the incident had happened, but remembered a cul-de-sac. The address listed on the police report is 5525 Blue Willow Court, which Smith owned and sold in 2009, according to property records. The house is located in a cul-de-sac.
Blue Willow Court street sign. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
Emma told us she got the impression from the officer that she didn’t have a case.
“I walked away from that conversation feeling like the idiot, thinking, oh yeah, I guess you’re right. I was underage, so it’s my fault for being there.”
Looking back 14 years later, Emma says she believes Smith acted in a predatory way toward her.
“I don’t remember consenting to this man, at all,” she said. “I was young, I think that he was incredibly inappropriate by hanging around such young girls.
“I feel like I was violated. I’d have to look up the definitions of sexual assault, but I don’t remember consenting, and the way I felt the next day, being like, ‘Oh my god, I would have never fucking hooked up with a man like that,’ I just felt disgusted in myself.
“I still am like, ‘Was it me? Did I say yes in the moment?’ There’s no way in my mind that I could have. I think that he was being a predator and I think he got us young girls way too drunk, and kind of just rolled with it.”
She is aware that Smith has opened a new bar, and she said she wants to protect other women from the trauma she experienced.
“It’s important he doesn’t abuse this power and is called out.”
On behalf of Smith, Louis Thomas told VICE News that the actor had voluntarily submitted to a police interview and “answered every question he was asked about his contact with this woman.” Police didn’t seek further information, and did not lay charges, Thomas emphasized.
It wouldn’t be Smith’s last interaction with police. Years later, he was arrested and charged in an incident that made international headlines.
The L.A. incident
In an April 2018 public Facebook thread on a local musician’s wall, people in the Halifax music scene debated whether to play the new bar co-owned by Smith, Sniggily Wiggily’s. Someone had posted a link to a Toronto Star article about Trailer Park Boys actress Lucy DeCoutere quitting the show after TMZ reported Smith was charged with misdemeanor domestic battery. Charges were dropped a month after the 2016 incident due to lack of evidence.
One person said they believed Smith was an “abuser” and that was enough for them to boycott the bar. Others cautioned against jumping to conclusions about the L.A. incident and to “read past the headlines.”
“[Ninety-two] comments and all we really have is a debunked case of assault from Bubbles and some additional bad feelings,” someone replied. “Is this correct or am I missing something?”
In response to renewed debate about the L.A. incident, VICE News took a second look.
On April 1, 2016, TMZ reported that witnesses saw Mike Smith choke a woman at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Two witnesses told TMZ that Smith was “with a female friend ...when they got into an argument in the bathrooms next to the pool. ...They heard the woman yell, ‘You’re choking me,’ and when they ran over, they saw Smith pinning the woman up against the bathroom wall. Smith bolted and the cops were called.”
VICE News interviewed the two witnesses, who said they came forward to TMZ out of concern for the young woman. The TMZ story did not specify if the witnesses knew Smith and the woman. The two witnesses told us they were hanging out with the pair that evening, when a heated argument prompted one of them to call police.
According to the witnesses, police arrived and took their statements. They told us police took a statement from the woman, too, and photos of her neck, bruises, and torn clothing.
Smith was booked for misdemeanor domestic battery.
Smith is arrested in L.A. (Photo provided by witness)
The day after the incident, the Trailer Park Boys released a statement quoting both the woman and Smith, denying that an assault took place.
According to the statement, she said, “Mike and I did indeed have a heavy argument but it saddens me the way things are being reported and the way it was handled by police. At no point did I feel I was in danger, otherwise I would’ve called the police myself, which I did not. The police were called by others not present in the room who mistakenly perceived the argument to be something other than what it was. When the officers arrived I tried to assure them there was no real issue, but they proceeded to arrest Mike.”
VICE News contacted the woman at the centre of the incident. She declined to comment.
Smith said in the statement the woman was a friend, and they had “a loud and heated dispute.”
“That is all,” he said. “At no time did I assault her. I am not guilty of the misdemeanour charged against me.”
“The other members of the Trailer Park Boys and all staff stand behind Mike and look forward to the matter being resolved favourably,” the release concluded.
The same day the statement was released, DeCoutere tweeted that she had resigned from Trailer Park Boys. On April 20, Jonathan Torrens tweeted that he too was leaving the show.
On April 29, TMZ reported that the domestic battery case was dropped due to insufficient evidence. It also reported that police had taken photos of the woman’s bruises and her torn clothing.
DeCoutere told VICE News that when she read the TMZ report in 2016, she spoke to Trailer Park Boys co-stars Rob Wells and Jean Paul Tremblay and advised them that Smith should “do a mea-culpa.” Instead, they stood by him.
VICE News asked Smith to comment on the L.A. incident. His manager Louis Thomas said, “These allegations are false, inaccurate and defamatory.”
‘You never knew when he would show up’
Halifax drinking culture is notoriously messy. Most bars cater to students who pre-drink at their dorms before flocking downtown to dance and drink more. Students a year or two shy of the legal drinking age borrow ID or go to bars they think will let them in.
In the early 2000s, Halifax was home to “dollar drinks,” a phenomenon that was eventually blamed for a 2007 Christmas Eve brawl at The Dome nightclub that resulted in 38 arrests. A year later, the provincial government set a minimum price of $2.50 a drink.
Located in the heart of downtown, Bubbles Mansion and The Toothy Moose were part of this tapestry. They weren’t significantly worse or better than any of the bars that surrounded them; they fit into a culture in which drinking was cheap and encouraged.
Bubbles Mansion was co-owned by Smith and local businessman Raymond Hartlin, and managed by Raymond’s son Brad Hartlin — but really, it was Smith’s baby.
University students flocked there, drawn by $1 drinks (which were legal at the time), DJs and bands, pub crawls, and the prospect of seeing Bubbles in the flesh.
Photo of Mike Smith as Bubbles at the launch of the Trailer Park Boys' Liquormen's Ol' Dirty Canadian Whisky in Toronto on Oct. 6, 2016. (Photo by Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
People seen in photos with Smith remembered Bubbles Mansion fondly.
“That was one of my favourite bars in Halifax,” one woman said.
She says she was 19 when she hung out with Smith “in full Bubbles character” in the VIP room.
“You never knew when he would show up,” she said. “Don’t really remember actually speaking with him but he was kind enough to take the pic.”
One woman, seen in an online photo with Smith, said that after partying with him at the bar, she was invited back to “Bubbles’ actual mansion” — his sizeable home in the south end where Emma allegedly ended up in 2005. She declined.
Bubbles Mansion was known to let in underage patrons. One woman told VICE News that when she was 18, she showed her ID to a bouncer at Bubbles Mansion, who denied her entry to the main bar, but said she could “go to the VIP to meet Bubbles.” She says she decided not to go in.
“That would never happen, ever,” Brad Hartlin said when questioned by VICE News about the allegation.
Hartlin, who managed Bubbles Mansion at the time, said he had never instructed bouncers to let anyone in underage. “I never knowingly had a security guard let someone in underage, on purpose,” he told us. He said fake IDs had been a problem in the downtown bars years ago, but that police crackdowns have helped stamp out the issue in recent years.
Hartlin said the bars confiscated 25-to-50 fake IDs per week at the time Bubbles Mansion was open, totaling 2,500 fake IDs over a two-and-a-half year period. He said they handed these over to police and the regulator. Over this time, he said the regulator found five-to-10 underage people inside the bars. Police told VICE News they could not confirm the number of fake IDs handed over.
Both Bubbles Mansion and The Toothy Moose were known to be chaotic and unruly.
A Bubbles Mansion bouncer recalled a “sketchy” night around February 2008. He was at home sleeping and woke up when his roommate, also a bouncer at Bubbles Mansion, came home with two women. One of the women was “completely passed out.” They told him the woman had gone missing in Bubbles Mansion and wasn’t responding to texts or calls. They found her in the back office.
“She was passed out, next to a pile of drugs, and my roommate went in and took her out,” the bouncer told VICE News. There is no indication that the bar owners and management knew she was there or were involved.
“Her friend was saying she has experienced using drugs and her tolerance level is high, but she had never seen her like this,” he said.
He said he urged the two women to report the incident to police, but he doesn’t think they did.
Hartlin said he was not aware of the alleged incident. “No, never, we did not ever in our life allow drugs into an establishment,” he told us. He said incidents take place in bars that are beyond the control of owners and management, but this type of incident would “never ever” happen.
Inside the Toothy Moose on a Thursday evening in October 2018. (Photo by Hilary Beaumont)
At The Toothy Moose, overcrowding, sometimes double the capacity, was a recurring problem.
“The model for the bar was very pump as much liquor out as you could to make the most money,” a former Toothy Moose bouncer said. “Over-service was a problem.”
“That’s 100 percent false,” Hartlin told us when asked if that was the bar's business model. “It’s actually ridiculous that someone would say that.” He said he never encouraged bartenders to over-serve. Hartlin said all staff were trained under the Responsible Beverage Service Program, along with yearly staff instruction from the regulator on service levels and identifying intoxication levels.
In the early hours of July 17, 2009, a woman was found on the floor of a Toothy Moose bathroom stall covered in her own vomit and feces, according to a police report obtained by VICE News. She was rushed to hospital.
The night of December 19, 2009, a compliance officer found a woman on the floor of a locked bathroom stall in The Toothy Moose, her belongings strewn across the floor, according to Alcohol and Gaming Division records. She didn’t have any ID on her. “She was staggering, had glossy eyes, and could not coherently speak, and had a strong smell of alcohol from her breath,” a compliance officer wrote.
“[In] both of those incidents, those patrons were not over-served at the Toothy Moose,” Hartlin told VICE News. He said one of the women was served one drink at the bar, the other was served no drinks. He said female staff do washroom checks every five-to-seven minutes. In both incidents the women were spotted within two-to-three minutes, he said, and bar staff followed procedures to get them help.
In 2009, the bars were the subject of 22 infraction and inspection reports by the Alcohol and Gaming Division of the Department of Labour and Workforce that included underage drinking, crowd-control issues, and intoxicated, passed-out patrons.
Hartlin, who managed both bars at the time and now co-owns The Toothy Moose, told us that the company that owns the bars had dealt with the infractions appropriately. “We haven’t had an infraction in the last two years at the Toothy Moose,” he said. He added that the bars implemented all recommendations they received.
In March 2010, the Alcohol and Gaming Division cracked down on the two establishments by scheduling disciplinary hearings. Bubbles Mansion avoided a disciplinary hearing by reaching a settlement agreement and submitting an agreed statement of fact. Bubbles Mansion closed at that time. In media reports, Hartlin cited the loss of dollar drinks as one reason for the closure. VICE News discovered the bar had a $115,000 debt at the time, according to court documents.
Meanwhile, the regulator called an emergency meeting over “issues of public safety” tied to overcrowding and heavy drinking at The Toothy Moose. A lawyer for the owners worried the crackdown would “kill the business,” according to Alcohol and Gaming documents. The regulator suspended its late-night licence for five days.
More recently, in April 2018, two young women, Brittany Bernard and Paige Fitzpatrick, posted on Facebook that they suspected their drinks had been drugged while they were at The Toothy Moose. The women spent hours in a hospital emergency room.
Months later, another young woman told the Canadian Press that she suspected she had been drugged in July 2018. CP granted her anonymity. Her last memory was buying a drink at The Toothy Moose.
In response to the 2018 alleged incidents, Hartlin said the Toothy Moose had gone through its camera footage. “We couldn’t find any evidence on it, that it happened,” he told VICE News. The bar now has a brand new camera system, he said. “There’s not a foot in that bar that you can’t see.”
Hartlin said the Toothy Moose has 15 security guards that are trained and professional, and the bar does everything possible to create a safe environment.
“Every person’s safety is a top priority,” Hartlin said.
‘It would be a total retrace of your last 24 hours’
Due to unreliable testing, there are no statistics on suspected “date rape” drugging cases in Halifax. At the hospital, such cases would be classified “not yet diagnosed.” Campbell says these cases are increasing in Halifax. He works ten to 12 shifts a month at QEII and sees them once every couple of months.
The problem with testing for date rape drugs is that urine tests have a huge number of false positives and negatives. And the menu of date rape drugs is so wide that there are no reliable tests for many of them. In most cases, patients will come in the day after, when certain date rape drugs would have already disappeared from their system.
Police don’t track these cases because a 2018 analysis of “drink tampering” files found such a low level of reporting that it didn’t warrant its own crime category, Halifax RCMP told VICE News.
After the three women came forward alleging they had been drugged at The Toothy Moose, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman, Chair of the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police drug committee, tabled the issue at a drug committee meeting last August and a Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police meeting the following month.
The three women did not report the suspected druggings to police, Bergerman told us. At the September meeting, police chiefs agreed to send letters to “community stakeholders” asking them to encourage people to report to police if they suspect they have been drugged.
There has been no uptick in reports since those letters went out, Bergerman said. She speculated there might not be any new cases, or that shame and stigma could be preventing people from reporting.
“A lot of times it’s the uncertainty of, did I have too many tequilas or was my drink tampered with?”
In any cases of alleged druggings, police would follow “normal investigative practices,” she said.
“It would be a total retrace of your last 24 hours,” she said, including interviewing witnesses and gathering surveillance video.
But it does not appear that Halifax Regional Police took all those steps in Emma’s case. The police report does not mention any surveillance video or interviews with witnesses.
“If none of them were interviewed, then it was not conducted in a professional manner”
Retired Halifax Regional Police detective Tom Martin says in Emma’s case, police should have interviewed the witnesses before contacting Smith.
“If none of them were interviewed, then it was not conducted in a professional manner,” he said of the investigation.
He also said it’s “unacceptable” for the officer to have told Emma that “fingers could be pointed” at her because she was in a bar underage.
“Common sense should dictate to any normal person that a sexual assault does not compare to underage drinking. That’s not even in the same ballpark. It’s silly; it’s ridiculous.”
He said the investigating officer should not have referred to Smith as “Bubbles” in the report.
Halifax Regional Police would not tell VICE News if they interviewed witnesses in the case.
“Although we cannot speak to the specifics of any investigation, what I can say is that the incident was investigated and a decision was made not to proceed with the charges based on a variety of factors including evidence brought forward at the time and information resulting from interviews,” HRP spokesperson John Macleod told VICE News.
“The approach by police agencies when investigating sexual assault complaints has evolved over the past several years,” Macleod said. “We can’t speak to the specifics of an investigation that took place 14 years ago, but can confirm that police services are more victim-centred, having employed a trauma-informed approach to these crimes, and understand the difficulties that may influence a victim’s decision to involve police.
“I’d like to emphasize that if additional information is reported to the police, investigations can be reopened regardless of when the offence took place and we want to reassure anyone who may be thinking of doing so that they will not be judged and we will support them in any way we can.”
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Lead image: Mike Smith during a Globe and Mail interview in Toronto, Nov. 27, 2008. PHOTO BY FRED LUM/ GLOBE AND MAIL