1. Van life

A white woman with her light brown hair pulled back and wearing a black sweater and leggings sits just inside a brown-gold van. Inside is a bed, a countertop with sink and food items. On the door is a diesel heater and a large Halloween sticker of a witch.
Terri Smith-Fraser sits just inside the van she renovated and moved into in June. Photo: Suzanne Rent

“A Halifax woman now living in her van full-time after being renovicted from her apartment says van life has given her a bit more insight into the housing crisis in the city,” reports Suzanne Rent:

Terri Smith-Fraser is a full-time continuing care assistant (CCA) and has worked in the health care sector for 30 years. She also started working in the film industry several years ago, and just wrapped up filming of a documentary about her nephew who died from a fentanyl overdose. 

Smith-Fraser said she always wanted to live the van life, but when she was renovicted from the apartment just off Herring Cove Road where she lived for decades, she decided to get ready for that life sooner than planned. 

“I could park at a Walmart. I won’t get towed, it’s not on the street, but it’s just far from work,” she said.  

On her days off, Smith-Fraser parks her van in different parking lots in the city: at a Walmart or at a library where she can connect to the free Wi-Fi.  

She said at those parking lots she’s noticed there are other people sleeping in their cars. Most of these folks are in cars, not vans. She said there’s one man who’s been living in his SUV for months. Another older couple spend the nights in their car they park in a library parking lot. Smith-Fraser said each day the older man holds up a sheet so his wife can change before she climbs into the backseat to go to sleep. 

“It’s sad. It’s really sad,” Smith-Fraser said. “I didn’t realize there are as many people living in vehicles as they are. Those are just the places I frequent and have seen.” 

Click here to read “Halifax woman living the van life gets a closer look at the housing crisis in the city.”

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2. 911

Two workers wearing orange pants and hard hats walk on a messy street, with wires hanging down from above, and a pedestrian walk sign on the ground.
Workers on Woodlawn Road in Dartmouth after Fiona, on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The Nova Scotia government is taking on the telecommunications companies in the wake of prolonged communications failures following tropical storm Fiona,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

John Lohr, the minister responsible for the Emergency Management Office, introduced amendments to the Emergency “911” Act on Thursday that he said “will compel local telecommunications companies to provide reliable service and better communications during an emergency. The status quo is no longer good enough.”  

The amendments apply strictly to telephone service, including 911 and Alert Ready supplied by Bell. Lohr said in the aftermath of tropical storm Fiona, the lack of cellphone coverage meant Nova Scotia Power crews and emergency responders were often unable to coordinate their response. Thousands of Nova Scotians who were without power were surprised to discover their landlines and cellphones didn’t work to allow them to check up on loved ones in areas where the cell towers didn’t have functioning backup generators.  

Click here to read “Amendments to Emergency ‘911’ Act would require telcos to submit emergency plans, rebate customers for lost service.”

The loss of cell coverage after Fiona was particularly concerning, as it meant the Alert Ready system was useless. As I’ve pointed out before, the COVID lockdown appears to have been a factor in the mass murders of April 2020, as the murderer became even more unhinged by the unfolding emergency. It strikes me that a future emergency may likewise trigger another terrible actor. The only thing worse than a hurricane and a mass murderer on the loose at the same time is a hurricane and mass murderer on the loose at the same time while there’s no Ready Alert system.

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A graph with a blue squiggly line showing the weekly deaths from COVID from January 2022 to September 2022
The weekly reported COVID death count in Nova Scotia since January.

Nova Scotia has reported 11 new deaths from COVID over the most recent reporting week, Oct. 4- 10. Likely, some of those deaths were from the week before, when no deaths were reported.

The age and vaccination status of the deceased is released for each month’s deaths on the 15th of the following month. I’m guessing that because the 15th this month is on the weekend, we’ll see that info on Monday.

Additionally, for the Oct. 4-10 reporting period, 55 people were hospitalized because of COVID.

Nova Scotia Health reported yesterday’s COVID hospitalization status as:
• in hospital for COVID-19: 42 (6 of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID-19: 162
• in hospital who contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 150
Theses figures do not include any (if any) children hospitalized at the IWK.

A graph with a blue squiggly line showing the number of people with COVID from January 2022 to September 2022
The weekly reported new case figures in Nova Scotia since January. The gap reflects a temporary change in testing protocols that make weekly comparisons meaningless.

Also, for the reporting period, there were 942 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases of COVID. This is not a great metric because lots of people either can’t get or don’t bother to get a PCR test.

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The newest Serial podcast miniseries is about COVID denialism, sure, but also about so much more

A man with a moustache and dark hair sits in the middle of a family photo with his daughter on his right and son on the left

The latest mini-season of the Serial podcast dropped in its entirety yesterday.

“We Were Three: A story of lies, family, America and what COVID revealed, as well as what it destroyed” is hosted by Nancy Updike. It tells the story of Rachel McKibbens, who learned of the death of her father Pete Camacho from her brother, Peter Camacho, Jr., and then Peter died as well. Both Pete and Peter were caught up in the swirl of lies and misinformation about COVID, and suffered the ultimate consequence, dying from the disease.

But we’ve all heard the stories of the purposefully ignorant succumbing to the virus — all the dumb uncles and conspiracy-spewing Facebook friends and Fauci-hating talk show hosts who meet their final comeuppance — so why bother with yet another such tale? Honestly, for myself, I want to say I couldn’t care less. Our culture is irreparably ripped asunder by such bullshit, and I could either rise to anger or ignore it and turn to my own small comforts; more often than not, I choose the latter.

And yet.

Through one family’s microdrama, “We Were Three” shows us that the fire that exploded into COVID denialism, proud ignorance, and antiscience had been burning for generations before the pandemic.

It is the story of a man’s personal pain, which expressed itself through violence that cascaded into all sorts of ongoing harm to others, and the story of the women who somehow managed to love through the inferno and pick up the pieces after. It is the story, in short, of our society.

The COVID stuff, meh, whatever. But the underlying backstory of violence and love leaves me deeply unsettled.

We’ve all taken note of the divisions revealed these past two and a half years, but it’s clear that it’s always been the case: there are lots and lots of people who are so threatened by mere existence in a shared world that they deny reality and lash out and destroy. We take note of the most extreme examples — authoritarians playing nuclear poker, mass murderers roaming around killing willy nilly, political movements based on utter lies — but when we pull the rug up, we see the more mundane hurts that have been swept under.

It’s all of a piece. It is, I suppose, the human condition. Or at least the most recent and proximate iteration of the human condition. I have no idea if other human societies lived or live differently, or if we can figure a way out of this morass. But if we don’t, it will be the end of us.

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While listening to the Serial podcast I mentioned above, I laughed when Rachel McKibbens said that due to the trauma of her childhood, she couldn’t remember entire years, like she couldn’t remember being eight years old. I wasn’t laughing at McKibbens’ trauma, but rather because I can’t remember entire years of my childhood either, but I don’t have the excuse of trauma — nothing terribly bad ever happened to me, I don’t think.

My first memory is from when (I think) I was three — while in the car on some family outing, we came upon some deer and I was learning how to count by pointing at them. But after that, not much. I can recall just a handful of moments from my elementary school years, but no, I can’t tell you anything at all from when I was eight, or nine, or 10, or 11. It’s all a mystery to me. Things improve a bit when it comes to high school, but not greatly so.

I have seven siblings. Half of us are like me, can’t remember squat. The other half, though, have detailed memories. I have a brother who can seemingly remember what colour shirt he was wearing on a certain day in 1964, or how many points he scored in a backyard pickup basketball game in 1972. Who knows how the genes play out.

But there’s a disturbing aspect of this for me. For the past decade or so, I’ve had nightmares about people I know or knew. In my dreams, they’re in some sort of distress, sometimes terribly so — plane crashes and worse — so terrible that it wakes me up. Many times, the dreams have been so disturbing that I’ve gotten up and searched the internet for the person I dreamed about, to see if they’re OK. These dreams don’t happen every night, and sometimes I go months at a time without them. But they’ve been back of late.

Last night, I dreamed about a woman I knew when I lived in Chico. Back then, we were friends, but not terribly close. She was lovely, had a fellow she had a child with, and everyone in our social group adored her. But I haven’t spoken with her in close to 25 years, and haven’t given her much thought since. Yet last, night, here’s a dream, with her in a precarious position as I attempted to help her but screwed the whole thing up. It woke me up, and I stewed.

Realizing I wouldn’t fall back asleep until I learned her fate, I grabbed my phone and logged into Facebook. I found her, and she was as lovely as ever. The first photo on her feed was of she, the same fellow she was with 25 years ago, and the baby boy all grown up into a strapping, handsome adult. And from her posts, she’s obviously happy and doing well. I’m happy for her.

I know not to tell her about this. That would be creepy. So, I’ll just be a bit relieved that someone from my past is doing well, and leave it at that.

Still, I can suddenly remember someone from 25 years ago but I can’t remember where I put my shoes last night. The mind does weird shit.

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No meetings

On campus


Health and Social Justice: Charter Rights and Charter Wrongs (Friday, 12pm, Room 104, Weldon Law Building and online) — Martha Jackman from the University of Ottawa will talk

48th Atlantic Canada Economics Association Conference (Friday, 1:30pm, Collaborative Health Education Building) — until Oct. 16; registration and more info here

“This Sculptor is a Cop”: John Reginald Abbott, Murder in Montreal, and the RCMP’s Criminal Identification Masks (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building) — Jamie Jelinski will talk (here’s the link)

Saint Mary’s

“The Massacre of the Tonsil”: Tonsillectomies and Medical Malpractice in Mid-Twentieth Century Canada (Friday, 1pm, AT 216) — Blake Brown will talk

Mount Saint Vincent


QUIET PARADE (Saturday, 2pm, Fort Needham Memorial Park) — a low-stimulation parade and celebration taking place in Kjipuktuk/Halifax as part of Nocturne 2022. Rain date Sunday.

As its name suggests, QUIET PARADE will be a parade but also a platform to experience a vibrant, extravagant, sensory-friendly event that embraces access as a shared and interdependent practice. QUIET PARADE seeks to embody a quiet that interrupts the noise of the city, experimenting with new ways of collectively creating and sharing space.

In the harbour

08:30: Norwegian Breakaway, cruise ship with up to 4,819 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint John, on a seven-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
09:00: Disney Magic, cruise ship with up to 2,456 passengers, arrives at Pier 20 from Saint John, on a six-day roundtrip cruise out of New York
13:00: AlgoNova, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
18:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
18:00: Disney Magic sails for New York
19:30: Norwegian Breakaway sails for New York
21:30: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Charlottetown
21:30: ZIM Luanda, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
Cruise ships this weekend in Halifax
Saturday: Caribbean Princess (up to 3,756 passengers); Nieuw Statendam (up to 3,214 passengers); Silver Whisper (up to 466 passengers)
Sunday: Insignia (up to 800 passengers)

Cape Breton
11:30: Radcliffe R. Latimer, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
12:00: Algoma Value, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
12:00: CSL Argosy, bulker, moves from Port Hawkesbury anchorage to Aulds Cove quarry
15:30: Nieuw Statendam, cruise ship, sails from Sydney Marine Terminal for Halifax

Cruise ships this weekend in Sydney
Saturday: Insignia (up to 800 passengers)
Sunday: Norwegian Joy (up to 4,622 passengers); Caribbean Princess (up to 3,756 passengers); Silver Whisper (up to 466 passengers)


Found my shoes. They were in the living room. I don’t remember being in the living room last night.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. Watched the Fifth Estate last night and the ‘career college scams’ in Canada are one of several causes of the housing crisis. Mostly about a ‘college’ in Brampton with 4,885 ‘students’ from India – the ‘college’ has a physical capacity of less than 500. The whole business is rife with high cost scams luring young people from the Punjab. Private colleges and universities are packing classes with high fee paying overseas students who see a course as a way into Canada. Time to stop the scams.