Today I’m trying out a new thing called “Ask an International Writer,” where I read headlines and stories about Halifax to writers from around the world and ask the question, “Is this normal? Does this happen in your country?” (Okay, technically that’s two questions.)

1. Someone call 911, because HRM is f***ed up

Up first, the headline, Woman Arrested After Ambulance Stolen in Dartmouth. This seemed to me a very Nova Scotia headline. I decided to confirm.

(Not accurate representation. Clearly not an ambulance, or a human. Image from
(Not accurate representation. Clearly not an ambulance, or a human. Image from

Me: So, I’m doing this news thing from Halifax. A woman stole an ambulance. Do you think that’s normal?
Samuel from Nigeria: No. Even in Nigeria that doesn’t happen.

Raed from Saudi Arabia: Was she drinking?
Me: It’s possible there were addiction issues, yes. Does this happen in Saudi Arabia?
Raed: No, sometimes teens break into cars if they see something shiny.
Me: That happens in Halifax too. Look, the police had to chase her and then they got injured.
Raed: That’s good, she could drive them to the hospital.

Polen from Cambodia: Is Halifax like the Florida of Canada?

Marguerite from Cuba: Maybe she took it because she needed to drive her family or neighbours to the hospital?
Me: That’s very generous. I don’t think so, though.

Polen: So I’m thinking about this story, and why didn’t she steal a police car? Then they couldn’t chase her. Hmmm, then maybe they could come after her in the ambulance.
Me: (Laughing) Yeah, the police got injured too when they chased her.
Polen: (Pause.) Oh. Do you not like the police?


Birgul from Turkey: Did she need to go to the hospital?
Me: No.
Birgul: Oh.

Me: Last month, someone stole a defibrillator too though. So emergency medical equipment theft is kind of normal for us.
Raed: What? No, that is not normal.

Bonus comment when I asked a prisoner: PSA from someone in jail. If you need to go to the hospital there are better ways.

Me: Would you like to elaborate on that?
Incarcerated person: Just, there are better ways, trust me.

2. Here’s a tip: don’t mix rum and weed

Having elicited the information that in most countries, stealing ambulances isn’t normal news, I moved on to the following headline: Nova Scotia man on trial after biting off tip of victim’s nose.

The headline didn’t quite capture the essence of the story, so I read details.

Image does not represent actual parties involved in story. Image from
Image does not represent actual parties involved in story. Image from

Me: So this happened at a funeral.
Sara from Ireland: Was it a religious funeral?
Me: I guess. Just like a normal funeral I think.
Sara: That is not normal.

(Note: Let me point out for emphasis that this comment came from Ireland. Like, c’mon Nova Scotia, do we think our wakes are a little out of control if even the Irish think this is unusual?)

Marie from Sweden: Were they drinking? (Apparently this is a theme in Halifax news.)
Me: Yes, actually, the article specifically says he was drinking “150 proof rum straight out of the bottle.” And then he tried to roll a joint.
Marie:  You do this at funerals?

YouTube video

Polen:  That’s funny. I mean, in a surprising way.

Antonio from Brazil:  Weirder stuff happens in Brazil, don’t worry.  Like, a couple adopted a capybara and they treat it like a baby.
Me: What is a capybara? Like a chucacabra?


Antonio:  It’s like a giant rodent. They throw it birthday parties and everything. You should read it on the news.

Note: I did indeed attempt to Google this, and I confess, I can’t find an article about this happening in Brazil. I did find a ton of articles about a Texas couple who adopted an EIGHT STONE (capitals in original headline) capybara from Venezuela. Here is a picture:

Photo from Daily Mail
Photo from Daily Mail

Conclusion: I don’t know if this is worse than biting someone’s nose off though. Also, I can’t find any evidence of capybara birthday parties happening in Brazil. Was Antonio misleading me? If so, Halifax is still weirder.


Bonus “Ask a Prisoner”: That guy’s an asshole. Was it Cheech and Chong’s funeral? What the fuck. It’s bad enough someone died, someone else has to walk around all deformed too?

Note:   There are no words to generally convey the looks of confusion and  conveyed by international writers as I read them the details of this story.  Especially since we were in a bar at the time.

3. Harperman, Harperman

Okay, so after this point everyone got tired of me harassing them about news headlines, and started making rumblings about, “so you’re the one writing the news, right?” so that ends this week’s edition of “Ask an International Writer.”  Unfortunately, we will never get the global perspective on such other headlines as “Man arrested after fight on bus” and “Police still seek ID of one of three women in probe of mall incident.” (Quote from that article: “Although a relative of two of the women contacted police and provided officers with the required information to allow them to continue the investigation…”  Damn!)

Note:  Added detail on the bus fight provided here. At least, I’m assuming it’s the same bus fight.  It’s totally possible there were multiple fights on the bus on Friday afternoon, being Halifax and all.  Anyway, the bus displayed the “Emergency 911” banner during the fight.  It’s too bad the ambulance lady didn’t see it and maybe she could have stopped to help.

Moving on, next Thursday at 5PM in Grand Parade, you can participate in the “Harperman” singalong.

Note from the article:

“Turner was placed on leave with pay from his job at Environment Canada last month after the song became an Internet sensation.’

YouTube video

I sort of love that the video starts with an explanation about his “Unitarian church’s social justice committee.”

As you may know by now, I’m in Iowa City, and today I walked by a giant “TRUMP: Making America a Better Place” banner.  So here’s my version:

Who acts like a horse’s rump
Donald Trump, Donald Trump
Who said his daughter he’d like to hump?
Donald Trump, Donald Trump
Who says that he will build a wall
No foreign policy at all
Donald Trump it’s time for you to go!
Who’s frontrunning on the stump?
Donald Trump, Donald Trump
“He says what we’re all thinking, he’s so blunt!”
Donald Trump, Donald Trump
He’s going to start a nuclear war
But racism got him this far
Donald Trump, it’s time for you to go.

Okay, so I’m just warming up.  We can do this with Halifax news too!

Whose sidewalks are never ploughed?
Halifax, Halifax.
Union workers aren’t allowed
Halifax, Halifax
Buses can’t stop because of snow banks
Broken hip from fall? No thanks.
Bobcats, it’s time for you to go.
Who gets screwed on the ditch tax?
Halifax, Halifax.
South End got more sex attacks
Halifax, Halifax
Got diseases in our taps
Fastest internet still crap
Halifax, I still miss my home. (Awwww.  Meanwhile thisthis, and this are happening where I am.)

4.  Slowwwwww…

So it took this Nova Scotia man two years to resolve his credit card charges from a vacation to Costa Rica.

Maybe he was visiting the sloths. hahahahaha.

That was just an excuse to post this video:

YouTube video


1. Cranky Letter of the Day


To the Editor:

I.E. Stephen Harper and the rest of his merry band of thieves:

You people have a lot of gall trying to mooch more money out of seniors who can barely live on the small amount they try to survive on, that you call a pension.

The person that you are trying to rob even more money of is my mother. She is living in a nursing home which already takes just about every cent of her puny pension, so she can stay in a place where she doesn’t want to be. But due to a few small medical issues and a couple of years’ waiting list, can’t even be in her own home town. My mom may have a small touch of dementia and I, her son, have power of attorney over her measly bank account, I am supposed to be of sound mind and therefore you will not receive one single penny and I hope others follow suit.

Gary Heighton, Scotsburn

P.S. By the way, because of the letter looking for donations from my mother that you sent her, you for sure lost my vote.

2. Bill C-36 endangers sex workers in Sydney

Editorial by Robert Devet at the Halifax Media Co-op.

“This problem isn’t going away any time soon and we will assign whatever resources and whatever investigative techniques we have to to clear up that problem downtown,” [Cape Breton Regional Police chief] McIsaac told CBC’s Maritime Noon.That problem downtown are the mostly indigenous sex workers who work the downtown Sydney streets.

Many of them struggle with addictions, and most of them no doubt live in deep poverty.

Their presence at all hours caused complaints from local merchants and the Sydney Downtown Development Association.

The complaints were widely reported by local and provincial reporters. Yet no reporter interviewed any of the sex workers affected by the controversies.


I wish I could go see Once: Africville Stories. Sat September 12, noon and 7:10pm Sun September 13, 8pm Museum of Natural History 1747 Summer Street

Nice article on iMOVe.  This is what I miss most about Halifax.

PS. I’ve been writing this on a computer in the student lab with crappy music pounding out of the student bar (Iowa: number 2 party school in the US!) because:

My computer was repossessed
Sessional, sessional
University threatened me with arrest
Sessional, sessional
I’m too broke even for kijiji
Guess I’ll write poems on a ouija
Contract teaching really gotta go…

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. Hard to believe but Bill 36 is one thing the current govt got right. Criminalizing exploitive men who are pimps and johns is appropriate. Bill 36 decriminalized the women and youth who are exploited. Poverty and discrimination are what put them in danger. Take a look at the conditions in brothels in Germany and Netherlands. Legalized prostitution will take the most marginalized women first : indigenous women and women from have not places like the Maritimes. Is that the future we want? How about real jobs and real opportunities instead of dehumanizing people by buying and selling sexual access to their bodies? Women often spend the rest of their ( shortened) lives recovering from so called “sex work”

  2. With regard to the transit story: I have been a passager on a Metro Transit bus during a fight between two others. So, this is not unheard of in Halifax. The last time I rode a bus in Halifax, I was cradling my sleeping son while two men conducting a drug deal in the seat immediately behind me. Had I been alone, I might have risked drawing attention to the exchange. As it was, I pretended to be obvlious and vowed to avoid taking a bus whenever possible.

    I grew up in Winnipeg and I don’t remember encountering silly shit like this. Motorcycle gang hits on the main drag, maybe, but none of these ridiculous shenanigans.

  3. I do appreciate what Tim does, but I love these Saturday editions. The cats just make it better. Thanks El!