1. Upper Hammonds Plains

A blue sign says "WELCOME TO UPPER HAMMONDS PLAINS. HALIFAX. A Black Heritage Community Est. 1815"
HRM’s sign at the entrance to Upper Hammonds Plains. Credit: HRM

“Limits have been placed on development in a historically Black community outside of Halifax after a vote at Halifax regional council this week,” reports Matthew Byard:

The community of Upper Hammonds Plains was established in 1815 predominately by formerly enslaved Black American Refugees following the War of 1812.

In her presentation to council at the hearing Tuesday, HRM planner Maureen Ryan said that Black land ownership in the community has since dwindled to 38%.

Following the first notice of the public hearing, Ryan said 14 applications were submitted and approved “to secure existing development rights” ahead of the proposed amendments being voted on and potentially implemented.

“The total number of units among these 14 applications comprised 746 units, which is substantial given that the number of dwellings within this community [is] 2,400 units in all,” Ryan said.

Through the public review process, Ryan said Upper Hammonds Plains community members expressed concerns about issues such as land loss, pressure on inheritance landowners, a need for affordable housing, land use conflicts, illegal dumping in the community, traffic congestion and speeding, limited connection to surrounding communities, and a need for sidewalks.

Melissa Marsman said the changes don’t go far enough.

“They do not halt the several development permits that have already been approved, notwithstanding their incompatibility with the rich history of this African Nova Scotian community,” Marsman said.

Click here to read “Council downzones historic Black community to stop ‘Wild Wild West of development.'”

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2. Another person dies after waiting hours in the emergency room

A white woman wearing a white coat and dark-framed glasses, with a snowy stand of trees behind her.
Charlene Snow Credit: Facebook

In a Facebook post, Cape Breton resident Katherine Snow related the death of her 67-year-old mother-in-law, Charlene Snow:

I lost my mother in law Charlene last week. Before I go any further I want to be clear. There are wonderful people who work in our healthcare system and in our emergency departments. I can’t imagine working in a system so broken with sweeping bureaucratic and policy changes at every turn, understaffed shifts and the tremendous responsibility of assessing the lives in the waiting room. Mistakes, I am sure, are inevitable.

Charlene went to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Emergency Department on December 30th in the early afternoon. She was suffering with jaw pain and flu like symptoms. It is our understanding she was triaged. Throughout the day, she was updating family and friends, relaying how busy it was in the ER. After 7 hours, it was no longer comfortable for her to be in that environment. She inquired about a timeframe for seeing a doctor and she was told it would likely not be until the next morning. She decided she would try the urgent care clinic on the Northside the next morning. Tragically, she didn’t make it to the next morning. Her husband Freddie picked her up and took her home. Her heart stopped within the hour.

The idea that perhaps her life could have been saved adds an excruciating layer to the grief of a sudden death. We have requested a report on the decisions that led to her lack of assessment that evening and will be demanding those answers as time goes on. But for now, I’ll comfort my three year old who cries every night because she misses her Nan. And we’ll be there for her 17 year old grandson as he navigates the rest of his graduation year without his biggest supporter.

It’s painfully obvious that wait times in emergency rooms are leading to unneeded deaths. More resources — meaning more money raised via higher taxes and better allocation of existing public money — needs to be put into the system. The health care system should work for everyone, no matter who they are.

Unfortunately, in her grief, Katherine Snow advocates for a two-tier system that benefits those who can pay for better service:

Why can’t we be given an option to pay for it? I mean you can take your pet to the vet, pay for all their diagnostic tests in a day and have a plan of action before you go to bed.

This is the natural result of decades on underfunding the public health system: reduce services enough, and eventually those with the money to afford it will demand that their needs be met first, which, if implemented, will lead to undercutting the entire public system.

It almost seems like it was designed that way.

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This is a photo of the hooked rug made by Laura Kenney. There are three black cats with yellow eyes, and each is wearing a white mask. The background is swirls of different reds, with bright yellow and orange stars. This is arguably the brightest image on the Halifax Examiner website.
Reader Laura Kenney created a Maud Lewis-inspired hooked rug with a COVID theme.

Nova Scotia yesterday reported seven new deaths from COVID recorded during the most recent reporting period, Jan. 3-9. (The dashboard says through Jan. 10, but I believe that’s a mistake.) All seven of the deaths occurred before Jan. 3; the reporting of deaths lags, so there were likely deaths that occurred during the reporting period, but they won’t be counted until future updates.

The age and vaccination status of the recent deaths and hospitalizations won’t be published until Monday, but in general in Nova Scotia, 90%+ of the deceased have been 70 years old or older, and unvaccinated people are dying at about three times the rate of vaccinated people

In total, through the pandemic, 701 people in Nova Scotia have died from COVID, 589 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).

Also, during the most recent reporting period, 50 people were hospitalized because of COVID. This is up considerably from the 76 people hospitalized over the previous two weeks.

Nova Scotia Health reported the COVID hospitalization status (not including the IWK) as of yesterday:
• in hospital for COVID: 31 (five of whom is in the ICU)
in hospital for something else but have COVID: 118
• in hospital who contracted COVID after admission to hospital: 134

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4. ‘Excessive deaths’ and COVID

Weekly excessive deaths in Nova Scotia per one million people, March 7, 2020- August 20, 2022 Credit: Statistics Canada via the NS Department of Finance

Statistics Canada has published data for “excessive deaths” over much of the past two years.

The econostats division of the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Treasury Board explains that:

A comparison of deaths in recent years with the number of deaths reported in similar weeks in years prior to 2020 indicates whether mortality is higher than usually observed at that time of year. The number of deaths reported in each week is represented below as a ratio of deaths per 1 million residents (population as of July 1). Based on observed historical trends, Statistics Canada has also estimated the expected number of deaths for each week and compared this with observed deaths, adjusted where possible reflecting provisional data. Estimates of expected deaths are presented with a 95 per cent confidence interval.  

Across Canada over the period from March 2020 to August 2022, there have been an estimated 53,741 excess deaths, 7.6% above what would have been expected.  Statistics Canada has identified six periods of excess mortality in Canada since 2020: March-June 2020, September 2020-February 2021, May 2021, July-December 2021, January-February 2022 and April-May 2022. The last two periods of excess mortality coincide with the outbreaks of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 while previous periods of excess mortality coincide with prior variants. The third week of January 2022 had the highest excess mortality reported during the pandemic.  

Data for Nova Scotia have been updated with several months of new data. These show that there were brief periods with somewhat elevated mortality in November 2021, February 2022, April 2022 and June 2022. However, after each of these episodes, mortality returned to expected levels.  

The entire report is here.

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5. ‘Depressing stupid macho bullshit’

An apartment building with cars parked in a lot in front of the building.
24 Primrose St. in Dartmouth Credit: Google Street View

I read court decisions, including this one from Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice John Keith, who explains that:

Zachery Grosse lived with his girlfriend, Kaila Ford, in apartment 12, on the 3rd floor of an apartment building located at 24 Primrose Street in North Dartmouth.

During the late afternoon of October 22, 2020, Zachery Grosse and Kaila Ford were drinking and smoking cannabis in the apartment of their friend, Stevie Saulnier. Stevie Saulnier lived in an apartment one floor below Zachery Grosse and Kaila Ford (i.e. on the 2nd floor of the same building). Nothing happened that afternoon to suggest imminent danger or trouble. 

At about this same time, across the harbour in Halifax, Nicholas Rhyno was picking up Kaila Ford’s sister, Taylor Forrest. They were driving in Mr. Rhyno’s car and they were on their first date. Here again, there was nothing to suggest imminent danger or trouble.

First date, eh? Sounds exciting.

Keith goes on to explain that earlier in the day, Forrest texted her sister Ford and suggested that she bring her date over to Ford and Grosse’s apartment in Dartmouth, so that Rhyno (her date) could meet Grosse (Ford’s boyfriend) and the four could have some drinks together. Sounds good, said Ford; text me when you’re heading over.

Sure enough, after Rhyno picked her up, Forrest texted Ford to say they were on their way. But for whatever reason, Ford didn’t see the text. And, Ford never told Grosse that her sister and date were coming over.

When Forrest and Rhyno arrived in Dartmouth, they parked behind the building, walked up the stairs to the third floor and found Ford and Grosse weren’t in the apartment, but the door was unlocked. They went in (Forrest and Ford are sisters, so this didn’t seem like a problem). A dog, Max, was home.

“Out of habit, Mr. Rhyno closed and locked the apartment door behind him,” writes Keith.

All of these and subsequent events were captured on the building’s video system, which includes exact time stamps. I could paraphrase, but Keith’s narrative relates the absurdity of it all:

Less than 5 minutes later, at about 6:23:09 p.m., Mr. Grosse walked up the stairs to his apartment 12, but the door was now locked. He still did not know Ms. Forrest and Mr. Rhyno were there for drinks. Mr. Grosse started to return to the second floor when Ms. Forrest opened the apartment door. Mr. Grosse turned quickly. This would have been the first time Mr. Grosse discovered that Ms. Forrest was visiting, but he still did not know Ms. Forrest was accompanied by Mr. Rhyno.

Mr. Grosse returned to Stevie Saulnier’s apartment on the 2nd floor and told Ms. Ford that her sister was in their apartment.  

Ms. Ford quickly left Stevie Saulnier’s apartment and walked back up to the 3rd floor to speak with her sister.  

A minute or two later, Mr. Grosse followed Ms. Ford. He re-entered his apartment at 6:24:40 p.m.. At that moment, he and Mr. Rhyno met for the first time.  

Mr. Grosse was upset and agitated to find Ms. Forrest and a stranger (Mr. Rhyno) in his apartment. Ms. Ford said that Mr. Grosse was “freaking out”. Ms. Forrest and Mr. Rhyno similarly testified that Mr. Grosse was furious.  

Mr. Grosse spoke accusingly towards Ms. Forrest. He then turned to Mr. Rhyno who was sitting on the couch. Mr. Grosse asked Mr. Rhyno: “Who the fuck are you?”  

This was a turning point. While I agree Mr. Grosse introduced an elevated level of aggression, Mr. Rhyno was not inclined to defuse or de-escalate the situation. Instead, Mr. Rhyno rose from the couch to ask Mr. Grosse if there was a problem.

This initial exchange between Mr. Rhyno and Mr. Grosse lasted only a few moments but the atmosphere deteriorated rapidly and soon got out of hand.  

Within 24 seconds of arriving at apartment 12, Mr. Grosse concluded that Mr. Rhyno was not leaving the apartment. Mr. Grosse announced something along the lines of “You’re not going to leave? Watch this.” Mr. Grosse then stormed out of the apartment. The security cameras capture Mr. Grosse jogging down the stairs to the 2nd floor and re-entering Stevie Saulnier’s apartment. He was there to retrieve a knife.

There is evidence that Mr. Rhyno and Ms. Forrest felt threatened by Mr. Grosse’s words and actions. However, Mr. Rhyno’s response is notable. He did not respond by locking the apartment door or take other steps to avoid any perceived threat, avoid any further confrontation or de-escalate. He did not rush out of the apartment with Ms. Forrest.  

Rather, Mr. Rhyno followed Mr. Grosse out of the apartment. Security camera footage shows Mr. Rhyno looking around the 3rd floor hallway. Perhaps more tellingly, without any additional information regarding Mr. Grosse’s intentions, the security camera footage clearly shows that Mr. Rhyno began walking around the hallway while holding a combat style knife in his right hand. Mr. Rhyno did not know Mr. Grosse either had a weapon or was in the process of arming himself.

In other words, absent any new information as to what Mr. Grosse was doing, Mr. Rhyno took hold of his own knife and left the apartment to meet a perceived threat. His actions were, in my view, more consistent with a person inclined towards reciprocal confrontation than a person attempting to extricate himself from a situation which he may not have caused but was quickly spinning out of control.

Mr. Rhyno’s knife was designed with fitted handle which included a ring where the little finger is placed. The knife’s blade was about 3’ long [sic — I doubt the blade was three feet long; more likely it was three inches long] and curved inward, resembling a claw. At one point, Mr. Rhyno looked up and stared directly into the security camera.  Immediately after that, he placed the knife back in his right coat pocket.  

By 6:25:20 p.m., Mr. Grosse had entered Stevie Saulnier’s apartment and was now leaving. He bounded back up the stairs from the 2nd floor towards the 3rd floor. As Mr. Grosse jumped up the first few stairs, he flicked opened a switchblade held in his right hand. Mr. Grosse was now armed.

About 10 seconds later, at 6:25:30 p.m., Mr. Grosse arrived at the top of the stairwell leading to the third floor.  

The fire door which separated the stairwell from the third floor hallway was closed. Mr. Grosse transferred the switchblade from his right hand to his left so that he could push open the fire door. 

On the other side of the fire door was Mr. Rhyno, standing directly in front of Mr. Grosse’s apartment. 

Mr. Grosse’s switchblade was plainly visible when he opened the door. However, again, by this time Mr. Rhyno held his own knife in his right hand pocket. Mr. Grosse did not know that.

When Mr. Grosse opened the fire door, Mr. Rhyno kept both hands in his coat pockets.  

What happened next, happened in an instant but, again, it was all captured on video.  

Mr. Grosse steps through the stairwell door and confronts Mr. Rhyno. Again, Mr. Rhyno did not retreat. He told Mr. Grosse to “Beat it” or “Move”.  

At 6:25:32 p.m., Mr. Grosse leans towards Mr. Rhyno and appears to be yelling something. There is no audio in security video footage. Mr. Rhyno testified that Mr. Grosse screamed “You’re fucking dead!” By this point, Mr. Grosse had not yet transferred the knife from his left hand and back to his dominant right hand although the video shows he was preparing to do so.

At that second, Mr. Rhyno suddenly pulled both hands out from his coat pocket, reached up toward Mr. Grosse’s neck and pushed him back. As he did this, the knife in Mr. Rhyno’s right hand stabbed Mr. Grosse on the left side of his neck. 

By this time, it bears noting that Mr. Grosse and Mr. Rhyno had known each other for less than a minute. 

After stabbing Mr. Grosse, Mr. Rhyno immediately retreated back into apartment 12. Mr. Grosse tried using his left arm and right leg to prevent Mr. Rhyno from shutting the door.  He was unsuccessful. Mr. Rhyno shut and locked the door – a choice Mr. Rhyno unfortunately did not make earlier.

Mr. Grosse neither sought nor received immediate medical treatment for his wounds.   Instead, he was furious and presumably unaware of his actual peril. About 10 seconds after being stabbed, at 6:25:42 p.m., Ms. Ford opened the apartment door. Despite massive amounts of blood gushing from his neck, Mr. Grosse rushed past Ms. Ford and re-engaged with Mr. Rhyno. 

A chaotic knife fight ensued. Between 6:25:42 p.m. – 6:25:53 p.m., Mr. Grosse and Mr. Rhyno grappled and struggled violently with one another in the living room of apartment 12 and then spilled out onto the apartment’s small, exterior balcony. In the words of Ms. Ford, “two grown men were attacking the hell out of each other.”  

Mr. Grosse suffered additional, lesser knife wounds – none as serious or lethal as the first cut which sliced through his vertebral artery. 

At about 6:26:03 p.m., Mr. Rhyno pushed Mr. Grosse down on the balcony deck and ran. He and Ms. Forrest fled the apartment, charged down the stairs and out of the building. I do not find that this was the first opportunity they had to run.

Mr. Grosse lifted himself from the balcony and chased Mr. Rhyno down the stairs, into the parking lot.  

There was a brief stand-off between Mr. Rhyno and Mr. Grosse in the parking lot, but it did not involve additional physical violence.  

By 6:26:31 p.m., about 15 second after reaching the parking lot, Mr. Grosse began to appear unsteady. He staggered back. Mr. Rhyno and Ms. Forrest (who was on the passenger side of the car) jumped in the car.

At about the same time, Michael Saulnier rushed forward and discharged the contents of a fire extinguisher in the open car door. Michael Saulnier did not live in the apartment building, but his mother did. In addition, Michael Saulnier was Stevie Saulnier’s brother who lived on the 2nd floor. 

The contents of the fire extinguisher enveloped Mr. Rhyno’s car like a cloud of white smoke.

Within 10 seconds of that, Mr. Grosse was visibly struggling and in grave danger. He bent slightly and placed his hand against his cut neck. He stumbled towards another friend, Amanda Saulnier, who was now in the parking lot. Amanda Saulnier is another sibling of Stevie Saulnier (his sister) and another member of the Saulnier family living in a separate apartment at 24 Primrose Street. Amanda Saulnier was also the building superintendent.  

Mr. Grosse then collapsed in front of Amanda Saulnier, about 20 feet or so from Mr. Rhyno’s car. 

At 6:26:47, Mr. Rhyno put his car in reverse. The car was still filled with white discharge from the fire extinguisher. Mr. Rhyno momentarily stopped to open the driver’s side door and exhaust some more white smoke (the discharge from the fire extinguisher). He and Ms. Forrest then sped out of the parking lot.

Grosse died. Rhyno was charged with manslaughter and convicted and on Sept. 23, 2022.

In victim impact statements, Grosse’s parents testified to the enormity of their loss.

Rhyno has a 16-year criminal record that includes assaults and weapons charges, and has spent most of his adult life in prison. For killing Grosse, Keith sentenced Rhyno to eight years in prison, minus 40 months for time already served.

I shared this story on the Examiner’s Slack, and one of my colleagues responded: “Depressing stupid macho bullshit.” That captures it, but I think it’s important that we realize that this is how a great many people on the margins of our society operate; I tried to capture that in my Dead Wrong series, looking at the underclass in the very same North Dartmouth neighbourhood in the 1990s — 24 Primrose St. is about 100 metres from the parking lot behind 109 Albro Lake Rd., where Brenda Way was murdered, and is about 150 metres from 44 Primrose St., where serial killer Michael McGray lived.

None of this is to suggest that stupid macho bullshit doesn’t occur in wealthier households — the pervasiveness of intimate partner violence across our society shows that it does. But the reflexive violence as seen often in North Dartmouth is of a sort characterized by (mostly) men who engage in attacks against each other almost as sport, as the currency of comparative worth.

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System failures

It’s been 111 days since Fiona took out the light pole on Thistle Street, and it has yet to be replaced. I recognize that in the scheme of things, this is a tiny, tiny issue, but somehow for me it is representative of something larger: system failure.

It’s impossible not to notice that there are an increasing number of system failures: the widespread flight cancellations during the holidays, and then again yesterday; the continuing hospital crises; the inability of public health systems to properly manage the pandemic; the stretching and breaking of supply lines and distribution networks; and most important, the complete avoidance of a meaningful response to climate change.

Nova Scotia Power’s storm response — as illustrated by its inability to replace a single light pole after 111 days — seems of a sort.

What leads to multiple widespread system failures? We could attribute it to somewhat convoluted theories of complexity, but I think a simpler answer is that we’ve over-gamed everything. Which is to say, the desire to milk ever more private wealth out of every damn thing is leading to the failure of every damn thing. There’s only so much profitable blood in each underfunded turnip; squeeze them too much, and the turnips snap.

I suppose it’s a not-very-insightful truism to say that we should organize our society to benefit the common good, and that when we don’t, bad things happen.

But the system failures of late feel different than the screw-ups and failures of even the recent past — they’re coming more frequently, with broader impact, and with no obvious quick fixes.

At some point, we’ll need to talk about these failures as societal collapse.

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No meetings

On campus


Jesse Wente in conversation with Trina Roache at Afterwords Literary Festival (Friday, 6:30pm, Halifax Central Library) — rescheduled from an earlier date; info about tickets here

In the harbour

06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
13:00: IT Infinity, offshore supply ship, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin
16:30: Neptune Koper, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to Autoport
18:00: Kamarina, tug, moves from Pier 9 to Bedford Basin
21:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage

Cape Breton
12:00: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea
13:15: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Liberty Pier (Sydney) for sea
14:00: Bahama Spirit, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Charleston, South Carolina
18:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
18:00: IT Integrity, supply vessel, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax


I think we’re about to enter the fun rain-freeze cycle.

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

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  1. This sentence from a Supreme Court Judge makes it sound like the knife should be the one going to prison “As he did this, the knife in Mr. Rhyno’s right hand stabbed Mr. Grosse on the left side of his neck. “