1. Dismantle the RCMP

“The chair of Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners and the municipal chief administrative officer recently returned from an in-depth tour of the RCMP’s training facility in Regina,” reports Zane Woodford:

The RCMP trains all of its cadets at its Academy Division, better known as depot, in Regina, SK. The Mass Casualty Commission’s final report recommended phasing out the depot model by 2032, and implementing a three-year degree program for new police officers across Canada.

Coun. Becky Kent and CAO Cathie O’Toole returned from a short trip to depot last Tuesday. O’Toole said Halifax-district RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Christie arranged for the invitation.

“That was quite an honour. I don’t think very many people probably get to see the inside of the facility and learn about how it works,” O’Toole said in an interview Tuesday.

Kent said the MCC recommendation to phase out the depot was “large” and “unexpected.”

“I’m not sure the degree of which they had the insight into it. My understanding from depot folks is that they had no conversations with them. No one had visited there,” Kent said.

As reader Scott Adamson points out, the three Mass Casualty Commissioners included Leanne Fitch, a retired chief of police who has contracted with the RCMP. The other two commissioners are Michael MacDonald, the retired Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and Kim Stanton, a lawyer who has written a book about public inquiries. And the commission staff has both collectively and individually a thousand times the knowledge about all things policing than a municipal councillor who was taken on a tour of the depot with an RCMP minder. To suggest that the commission is uninformed is just wrong-headed.

But evidently, when the RCMP is pushed into a corner it goes into PR mode.

Can we talk about the RCMP communications division?

As I reported last June, on that terrible morning of April 19, 2020, after the killer had murdered 13 people in Portapique the night before, the RCMP comms team sat on information that the killer was driving a fake police cruiser and could be anywhere in the province, and failed to tell the public about it. Arguably, by not releasing that information, at least four more people who could have changed their actions were murdered — Lillian Campbell, Kristen Beaton, Heather O’Brien, and Joey Webber.

RCMP comms team: terrible at warning the public, excellent at spinning the public.

The Mass Casualty Commissioners didn’t make it a formal recommendation, but they did strongly suggest that the RCMP be dismantled. As Jennifer Henderson reported:

Many reports and many authors have said the RCMP’s mandate to protect borders, gather intelligence on terrorist threats, stop human and drug trafficking, and provide policing on contract to First Nations communities and large areas of rural Canada is too unwieldy to be sustainable. 

The commission appears to agree:

After obtaining the external review recommended here, Public Safety Canada and the federal minister of public safety establish clear priorities for the RCMP, retaining the tasks that are suitable to a federal policing agency, and identifying what responsibilities are better reassigned to other agencies (including, potentially to new policing agencies). This may entail a reconfiguration of policing in Canada and a new approach to federal financial support for provincial and municipal policing services.

Volume 5, Chapter 10 of the commission’s final report gets into this in great detail.

For another project I’m working on, I’ve been thinking about the Catholic concept of “original sin” in the context of institutional failure: there are some sins that are baked right into the creation or childhood of an institution that the institution can never escape them.

Some would argue, for instance, that the birth of the United States is so entwined in slavery that the nation cannot now escape racism — racism and the United States are one and the same. I don’t know that I share that view, but I think the argument has to be taken seriously and wrestled with, should substantial progress be made in addressing racism.

On a more light-hearted note, consider HAL 9000, the computer on the spaceship in 2001: A Space Odyssey. The artificial intelligence was programmed with a contradiction that was impossible to resolve: it had to both be completely honest about all data and information it was to provide to the human passengers on the ship, and it had to keep the knowledge of the true mission of the journey from them. To resolve that conflict, it had decided to kill the passengers, so it wouldn’t keep secrets from them.

“This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it,” HAL 9000 says to astronaut Dave Bowman. “I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission.”

That fictional sci-fi deranged computer statement is indistinguishable from the real-life RCMP response to the Mass Casualty Commission’s recommendation to shut down the depot and its suggestion that the RCMP be dismantled: our work is too important to be ended. Sure, we’ve made some mistakes, but the institution is strong and we know best.

In the case of the RCMP, the “original sin” of the institution is that its predecessor organization, the Royal North-West Mounted Police, was created in large part to pacify and subdue the First Nations of the west. There have been a lot of add-ons in the years since: the union with the Dominion Police, rural policing in other provinces, intelligence collecting, and more, but at its heart, it can’t escape the institutional culture of its paramilitary birth.

The Mass Casualty Commission makes some stabs at recommended reforms, replacing the depot with university training among them, but it’s evident that the RCMP will resist such suggestions at every turn. Such resistance is baked right into its being; it is incapable of reform.

Far better to dismantle the RCMP and start anew.

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2. For developers, ‘affordable’ housing means when they can afford it

A rendering superimposed on a street view image shows a modern eight-storey building.
A rendering of proposed development, looking south on the Bedford Highway. Credit: HRM/KWR Approvals

“Halifax councillors won’t allow a developer to renege on a deal to provide affordable housing in a new build on the Bedford Highway,” reports Zane Woodford:

The Halifax and West Community Council approved a development agreement for an eight-storey building at 205 Bedford Hwy. in August 2020.

To convince councillors to approve a building three storeys taller than permitted, the developer — Nectarios Stappas, James Kanellakos, and John Kanellakos’ Rockingham Station Ltd. — agreed to discount the rent on 18 of the 55 units by 30% for 15 years.

But now that the project is almost done, the developer says the deal is no longer viable.

“The business model for 205 Bedford Highway Development and its 18 affordable housing units known as Rockingham Station currently under construction was created in 2016-2019 prior to COVID 19 Pandemic (March 2020 – 2022) and a significant economic downturn (2022- present),” consultant Kevin Riles wrote in a March letter to HRM.

“It is these unforeseen historic events that have resulted in building and operating eighteen affordable housing units for fifteen years economically unfeasible/financial unviable.” [emphasis in original]

Try that one on your landlord: “Yeah, sure, I signed a lease but a lot of shit happened — I didn’t get that raise I was expecting, I needed to replace the starter on my car — so now those rent payments are economically unfeasible/financial unviable, emphasis in original.” Maybe even get Kevin Riles to write an ungrammatical letter, and see what happens.

After some good speechifying and a secret consult with the lawyers, council told the developers to pound sand.

Click here to read “Halifax developer attempts to back out of affordable housing agreement, council says no.”

Were I a councillor, I would’ve voted against the development simply for the architect’s rendering above, which (surprisingly!) includes the overhead wires that stretch along the east side of the Bedford Highway, but disappear the wire that now runs along the west side of the highway, and suggests that the power servicing the building will come via some hidden underground connection.

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3. Support workers strike

Four women hold pink signs that read "Fair deal now for school support."
School support workers picket outside Bicentennial School on May 10, 2023. Credit: Tim Bousquet

School support staff at Halifax area schools went on strike this morning.

This is a story close to me. I have a family member who needs the assistance of support staff, and in my interactions with them I have found them to be exceptionally caring and, well, supportive, despite being under-staffed and under-paid. These workers have helped my family member thrive, and I am beyond appreciative.

So, I went over to the picket line outside Dartmouth High this morning in order tell some individual workers’ stories, relate their personal struggles, put human faces on the strike.

But alas, the picketers have been told by the union not to talk to reporters. This is dumb, dumb, dumb, terrible PR. I see people out on a picket line; they’re obviously enthusiastically striking; they find the issues so important that they walk off their jobs in protest, risking their financial future, and they can’t talk about it?

So, I’ll leave you with the statement CUPE Local 5047 president Chris Melanson sent to the CBC (and not the Halifax Examiner) on Tuesday:

[Melanson said] the union was “very disappointed” in the negotiations with the province.

“It’s clear that government is not prepared to give our members the respect they deserve, and at this point, we have no choice but to withdraw our services,” he said.

Too bad no worker is allowed to speak with a sympathetic reporter about that.

But my family member is right now walking the picket line with their support staff.

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4. Northern Pulp’s briefing sessions ‘by invitation only’

A Pictou Landing First Nation fishing boat in Pictou Harbour with other fishers at the No Pipe rally in July 2018, with the Northern Pulp mill they are protesting belching emissions behind them.
The July 2018 #NOPIPE land-and-sea rally against the Northern Pulp mill plans to pipe effluent into the Northumberland Strait. Photo Gerard J. Halfyard

This item is written by Joan Baxter.

Yesterday, Northern Pulp hosted the first of two online “technical briefings” to provide an update on the company’s proposed “transformation” of its Pictou pulp mill and on the environmental assessment process for that project, as well as present findings of the “Pictou Harbour Characterization study,” particularly important given that the plan is to pump the treated pulp effluent into that harbour. 

In fact anything to do with Northern Pulp and its owner Paper Excellence is extremely important to Nova Scotians. 

In June 2020, Northern Pulp declared itself “insolvent” and sought creditor protection in the British Columbia Supreme Court. This means it is not repaying Nova Scotia the more than $86 million it owes the people of this province. 

In December 2021, Northern Pulp and Paper Excellence filed a lawsuit against Nova Scotia that could exceed $450 million, and the province has been forced into mediation in the British Columbia court to hash out a solution to all these issues, not least of which is to make sure Northern Pulp gets environmental approval to revamp the mill by August 2024. 

Which is why any briefing and update on that environmental process (EA) and the company’s plans is of enormous public interest to Nova Scotians.  

There was only one hitch. 

The technical briefings are “by invitation only.” If you wanted to attend, you had to email Dale Paterson, the “environmental assessment project lead” at Northern Pulp, and he would send you a link to the Microsoft Teams session you asked to attend. 

Or not. 

It turns out the media and general public were not on Northern Pulp’s invitation list. 

Related: Court grants Northern Pulp 4-month creditor protection extension; company lists big demands for concessions from Nova Scotia 

My email to Paterson asking to attend the session scheduled for Wednesday, May 10 (today) was forwarded to Sasha Irving, vice president corporate affairs for Paper Excellence. Irving wrote to say the technical briefings were “by invite only to specific stakeholders who have engaged in our past EA processes.”

“These sessions are not open to the media,” she explained. “Once the information is released publicly this week you can send me any questions you may have.”

I thanked her for the clarification, and replied: 

If I’ve understood correctly, that this briefing is part of the consultation process of the EA, then can I ask if you will record it so that it can be viewed by the media and the public, as part of the transparency required of the EA process? If I am unable to attend, or to see a recording of the briefing, I would be grateful for answers to two questions:

1. Why is this briefing not open to the media and the public?
2. Who are the stakeholders whom Northern Pulp is allowing to attend?

Irving responded cordially: 

The studies and all of the information presented in the technical briefing will be made available to the public and media tomorrow. As we have stated previously Northern Pulp plans to release studies as they are completed to give everyone more time to review the information, provide feedback and ask questions.

I wrote back to say while I appreciated her reply, “Alas, I didn’t get answers to the two questions” I’d asked, and I was also curious about why these were not public in-person sessions. My email to Irving continued:

I do think you’ll agree there is an enormous difference between being provided information by Northern Pulp from its technical briefing, and hearing the back-and-forth with the stakeholders and interested public. The fact that the media are not invited is in itself newsworthy.

This issue is of interest to all Nova Scotians, indeed all Nova Scotians are stakeholders in the progress and outcome of the EA, so I would be grateful if you would let me know why these sessions are invitation only, and who the stakeholders are that Northern Pulp is inviting.

After that I didn’t hear back from Irving.

However, I did hear from a couple of people who were permitted to attend the Tuesday briefing. 

One noted that the Northern Pulp hosts and environmental consultants were asked about how much “local knowledge and Mi’kmaq knowledge was used” for the sampling work in Pictou Harbour that they presented in the session. 

The answer from Tim Bachiu of the consulting firm WSP: “What we’ve done to date has been mostly based on publicly available information, the previous studies, and certainly knowledge provided from our marine biologists.” 

Sasha Irving added, “We did provide invitations to PLFN [Pictou Landing First Nation] inviting them to participate in any of the studies, and to come on the boats to observe those types of things. And we will, of course, be doing a full next update as part of the studies we need to do for the EA.”

Another participant noted that a lot of the studies presented were conducted in 2018 and 2019, and that the information was “not new information.” 

“I am just frustrated with the terms, the ‘cleanest mill in the world,’ the ‘cleanest air’ and ‘cleanest water,’” he said. “But there’s no data yet to substantiate that, so I’m just trying to understand where that’s coming from.” 

Irving replied that they don’t yet have “all the data points,” which is why the EA process is two years. She said in coming months they will be releasing more information and so more sessions like the two this week, to provide the information and then provide it publicly. 

Asked how many people or groups of people Northern Pulp invited to yesterday’s briefing, Irving replied:

So we’ve held a number of sessions over the last couple of weeks. We’ve been trying to be very careful to make sure various stakeholders in the community and rights holders have the opportunity to see this information before it’s totally public.

Everything you guys saw is going to be public tomorrow. So all of this is very transparent and very public. 

Maybe I’m expecting too much, but it strikes me that “very transparent and very public” meetings would be open to the public and the media, and be held both online and in person, and everyone’s questions could be heard, as could Northern Pulp’s answers to those questions. 

When it comes to Northern Pulp and Paper Excellence — whose lawsuit against the province could cost every single Nova Scotian $500 — every single Nova Scotian is a “stakeholder.”

It’s not too late to request admission to today’s technical briefing at 1:30pm. All it takes is an email to

If, that is, you’re on Northern Pulp’s invitation list.

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5. BC NDP reject motion to investigate Paper Excellence

A tractor sits atop a giant pile of brown wood chips.
A pile of wood chips next to Paper Excellence’s Skookumchuck pulp mill in B.C.’s East Kootenay region. Credit: Woodland Equipment Inc.

“The president of the BC NDP has warned members of a riding association their motion to investigate the forestry company Paper Excellence would be ruled ‘out of order’ because it didn’t meet requirements laid out under the party’s constitution,” reports Stefan Labbé for the Coast Reporter:

The motion, recently submitted by BC NDP members in the Kamloops-North Thompson riding, calls on the Ministry of Forests to conduct a “thorough investigation” of Paper Excellence that includes interrogating owner Jackson Wijaya and the company’s links to Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and the Sinar Mas Group.

BC NDP president Aaron Sumexheltza wouldn’t speak to Labbé about it, but shuffled him off to a staffer who mumbled something about process. But as Labbé points out, the motion is responding to specific new information raised by an investigation by the Halifax Examiner and other media outlets:

On March 31, the federal Standing Committee on Natural Resources voted to investigate the ownership structure and business relations of Paper Excellence. That decision came following a months-long investigation conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists — including media partners Glacier Media, the CBC, the Halifax ExaminerLe Monde and Radio France — into the company’s overseas ties.

That investigation revealed a nexus of links between Paper Excellence and Asia Pulp and Paper, a forestry and paper conglomerate environmental groups allege has been responsible for widespread deforestation, human rights abuses and conflicts with Indigenous communities. Both companies say they are independent of one another.

With a headquarters listed in Richmond, B.C., Paper Excellence holds dozens of pulp and paper mills across Canada, the U.S., Brazil and France. In March, it closed its latest multibillion-dollar acquisition of Resolute Forest Products, a deal that now gives the company control of over 22 million hectares of Canadian forests and makes Paper Excellence the largest forestry products company in North America.

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6. Katjana Biljan-Laporte

Two women sit on a couch smiling at the camera. One has oxygen in her nose.
Kat and Yvette in June of 2013 in Ottawa the first time Kat was palliative. Credit: Contributed

Yvette d’Entremont explores life and death with her friend Katjana Biljan-Laporte:

As an adult I learned that initially, Kat wasn’t expected to live past the age of nine. Then it was 16, then 21, then “maybe 30.” She was told she wouldn’t see 40. Yet two months ago she celebrated her 50th — and final — birthday. 

Kat also experienced palliative care twice. 

It’s not often a palliative care nurse gets to tend to the same patient 10 years later. But if anyone was going to provide that experience, it was Kat. When her 2023 palliative care nurse came to her home, (“Hey, you look familiar”), they realized it was the same nurse who had helped her a decade ago. 

That first time Kat was palliative was in 2013. She’d been given six to 12 months to live. In June of that year, I found myself Ottawa-bound to say goodbye to my oldest childhood friend. Despite being dependent on an oxygen machine, her feisty personality was still on full display.

We spent a wonderful week reminiscing, story telling, talking about life and death, and laughing. So much laughing. 

Among my many fond memories of that visit, I remember her insistence that our phones be put away so we could “be in the present.” What a gift that was. 

That week, despite deep conversations about her imminent death, we avoided anything that even faintly hinted at a final goodbye.

By constantly facing death, Kat taught Yvette how to live in the present. It’s a lesson we could all learn (well, one I should learn anyway).

Click here to read “‘Never surrender’: Gifts of a decades-long friendship, new hope, and living in the present.”

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Special Events Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30am, City Hall) — agenda


Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am, City Hall ) — agenda

Regional Watersheds Advisory Board (Thursday, 5pm, online) — agenda


No meetings

On campus



No events


Engaging on Aging Tour (Thursday, 2pm, Dentistry Room 4116 5981) — town hall meeting with Jane Rylett from the CIHR Institute of Aging; info and registration here

In the harbour

05:30: One Hawk, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Colombo, Sri Lanka
06:30: Ocean Voyager, cruise ship with up to 216 passengers, arrives at Pier 23 from Portland, on a 10-day cruise from Portland to Toronto
12:30: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 42 from St. John’s
19:30: Ocean Voyager sails for Baddeck
20:00: One Hawk sails for New York
20:30: Morning Laura, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea

Cape Breton
06:15: Torm Timothy, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for Amsterdam, Netherlands
07:45: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for sea
11:30: Hanseatic Inspiration, cruise ship with up to 230 passengers, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Halifax, on a 15-day cruise from Boston to Toronto
13:00: Baie St.Paul, bulker, transits through the causeway north to south, en route from Charlottetown to Halifax
15:00: Lillesand, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
18:30: Hanseatic Inspiration sails for Charlottetown


Talk to reporters!

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Tim Bousquet

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

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Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is an award-winning Nova Scotian journalist and author of seven books, including "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest." Website:;...

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  1. The architectural rendering is a 3d model put into an actual picture, which is a much better practice than the all-cgi approach:
    1) It forces the camera to be in a physically accessible location, so the building cannot be made to look less imposing by placing the camera further away
    2) Whatever humans are in the photos are the actual humans of that location, not fanciful cardboard cutouts
    3) It includes ugly details like electrical wires