1. Mass Casualty Commission

the green roadsign to Portapique with a tartan sash tied around the post
The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

Yesterday, the Mass Casualty Commission released the schedule of proceedings for the next two weeks, as follows:

Monday, July 11
Foundational document: “Violence in the Perpetrator’s Family of Origin”

Tuesday, July 12
Foundational document: “Perpetrator’s Violence Towards Others”
Witness: Brenda Forbes

Wednesday, July 13
Foundational document: “Perpetrator’s Violence Towards Common Law Spouse”

Thursday, July 14
Roundtable discussions on the psychology of perpetrators of mass casualty events and the demographics of such events

Friday, July 15
Witness: Lisa Banfield

Monday, July 18
Roundtables on intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender-based violence GBV) with regards to mass casualty events

Tuesday, July 19
Foundational document: “Perpetrator’s financial misdealings”

Wednesday, July 20
Roundtables on IPV and GBV with regards to policing

Thursday, July 21
Testimony about personal and community responses to violence

Friday, July 22
An analysis of the RCMP’s “psychological autopsy” of the killer

Because there will be no direct cross-examination of Lisa Banfield, the families of the victims are considering boycotting that testimony. In response, commission staff say Banfied has taken part in five “multi-hour” interviews with commission investigators, and transcripts of those interviews have already been given to the families. (Reporters will gain access to the transcripts Wednesday, and they will be made public Friday, July 15.) It was implied that the five interviews are very detailed and will answer many of the open questions. We’ll see, I guess. As I wrote Monday, I think the commissioners’ decision to limit Banfield’s testimony to one day and to disallow direct cross-examination is the wrong decision, but I also think Banfield has been treated unfairly.

I discussed these issues at length with Jordi Morgan on Tuesday; you can listen to our conversation here:

Beyond Banfield’s testimony, I’m especially interested in the killer’s financial misdealings and the RCMP “psychological autopsy” of the killer.

As to the former, next week complaints to the Nova Scotia Denturist Board will be entered into evidence; I don’t know what those complaints are related to, but we know the killer treated a lot of people on social assistance, and that he used that position to find people to have sex with. Despite his inheritance from Tom Evans, and (possibly) over-billing and the like, it still strikes me that the killer had more wealth than can be accounted for.

And the “psychological autopsy” sounds like a bunch of junk science to me. So far as I know, when he was alive the killer was never analyzed by a trained psychiatrist or psychologist. Maybe the RCMP has university-trained forensic psychiatrists or psychologists on staff, but much policing “science” consists of beat cops taking week-long courses that relate unproven and discredited science. And can even a university-trained professional reverse-engineer a corpse to determine a person’s mental state when alive? I’m skeptical.

This matters because there’s an underlying notion that “we” or police can somehow predict or anticipate mass murderers before they strike. I don’t know; maybe? Surely there are “red flags” that should be attended to whether or not anyone can say decisively that they will lead to a mass murder. If some kid is torturing cats, he needs help. If people are collecting illegal weapons, intervention is needed. There should be no tolerance for or looking the other way from domestic violence, even if it never spills out from the home.

But some of this discussion is borderline pre-crime language, which is worrying, as it can lead to acceptance of overreaching surveillance and profiling, and criminalizing of already marginalized groups. We may believe that instituting some sort of surveillance and reporting system might prevent the next Portapique, but invariably it will more likely be used to usher an entire generation of black and brown kids into the criminal justice system.

There’s a huge difference between the rich white guy down the road who beats his wife and has oodles of illegal weaponry and the poor black teenager who spoke back to his teacher and got in a schoolyard dustup, but as our society goes, the first will likely be ignored while the second will bring on an overbearing and never-ending law enforcement response.

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2. No. 2 Construction Battalion

Left Photo: Black and white photo of Private George Alexander Downey Sr.. Right photo: Downey's grandson Robert Downey
Left Photo: Private George Alexander Downey Sr.. Right photo: Downey’s grandson Robert Downey at the first national unveiling of the Canada Post 2016 Black History Series Stamp commemorating the No.2 Construction Battalion during the Ottawa Black History Month 2016 Launch. Photos: Robert Downey.

“The grandson of one of the members of No. 2 Construction Battalion, who is part of the National Apology Advisory Committee (NAAC), says he’s hoping for ‘a real apology’ this Saturday and that recommendations made by the committee will become a reality,” reports Matthew Byard:

Robert Downey is one of the 22 members of the NAAC, which was tasked with advising the federal government on the apology scheduled to take place in Truro. The NAAC was formed in June 2021, a few months after former Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced the federal government’s intent to apologize for the racist treatment experienced by the No. 2 Construction Battalion, Canada’s first and only all-Black military regiment.

Downey’s late grandfather, Private George Alexander Downey Sr., served in No. 2 Construction Battalion. Downey Sr. re-enlisted during the Second World War and was a member of the Veteran’s Guard of Canada.

“I’m hoping for a meaningful and sincere, real apology from the leader of the country, the prime minister,” Downey said in an interview with the Examiner while on his way to Nova Scotia ahead of Saturday’s apology. “That’s who we’ve asked to give the apology.”

Click here to read “Grandson of No. 2 Construction Battalion member hopes for ‘real apology,’ action on recommendations.”

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A chart with a jagged blue line
Weekly COVID death counts since January. Due to a change in the reporting period, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

Nine people died from COVID-19 in Nova Scotia during the June 28-July 4 reporting period.

Annoyingly, the weekly Epidemiologic Summary is now becoming monthly, but not until July 15, for the month of June, so I can provide no details about the age or vaccination status of the nine most recent deaths.

During the same reporting period, 21 people were hospitalized because of COVID. I also have no age or vaccination status data for them.

Nova Scotia Health reports the following hospitalized status, as of yesterday:
• Currently in hospital for COVID-19: 26 (7 of whom are in ICU)
• Currently in hospital for something else but have COVID-19: 119
• Currently in hospital who contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 58

The above figures do not include hospitalizations (if any) at the IWK. With the absence of age data, I can’t guess whether any children are hospitalized with COVID.

A chart with a mountain-shaped blue line, with a break on the left
Weekly lab-confirmed (PRC tests) new cases since January. The gap reflects a temporary change in testing protocol such that weekly comparisons are meaningless. Also, due to a change in the reporting period, the week ending April 11 has just six days.

There were additionally 1,749 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases for the reporting period. This does not include people who tested positive only with the rapid take-home tests or who didn’t test at all.

Three charts with spiky green lines, flatter on the left and higher on the right
Wastewater sampling for COVID at the three Halifax area sewage plants.

Wastewater sampling of the three Halifax area sewage plants shows that after a dramatic increase in COVID levels in May, concentrations decreased but have slightly ticked up in recent weeks.

I try to tease out as much information as I can from the data provided, but that’s becoming increasingly difficult as reporting periods are changed and reports come less frequently. This seems contrary to the repeated assurance from Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang that “Nova Scotians have the tools and resources to make the right decisions to keep each other safe” — if data are increasingly limited, how can people make informed decisions?

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We’re very likely watching the imminent collapse of even the pretence of democracy in the United States. Seems like people in Canada should be preparing for that. Political leaders should be analyzing potential government responses. Business leaders should be reflecting on what democratic collapse means for trade. Academics should be hosting conferences and writing papers about how to best support the disenfranchised. Civil society organizations should be ramping up solidarity efforts.

But I don’t see much of any of that happening.

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No meetings

On campus


Weave with Sharon Kallis (Friday, 1pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) — from the listing:

“Straddling an Island: West Coast and East Coast Intertwined” is an interactive installation featured in the exhibition Plant Kingdom. Join Kallis via the Gallery’s Zoom set up and try weaving for yourself!

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Demeter, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
05:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Autoport from St. John’s
06:00: Contship Leo, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from New York
10:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Pier 41
11:30: MSC Angela, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
15:00: NYK Demeter sails for Port Everglades, Florida
15:45: AlgoNova, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Sept-Iles, Quebec
21:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Portland

Cape Breton
09:00: Majestic, yacht, transits through the causeway, en route from Halifax to Charlottetown
09:30: Bahama Spirit, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Charleston, South Carolina


I expect next week’s proceedings of the Mass Casualty Commission will consume me, so I’ve been taking it a bit easy this week. My hope is to take an honest vacation in August.

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

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  1. Tim, please keep asking more questions about the data

    If an organization has data that makes them look good, they share it… but this is not what is happening