1. Aftermath of a mass murder
This item discusses self-harm. If you have such thoughts, The Talk Suicide Canada hotline is available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566. You can also call the Nova Scotia Mental Health Crisis Line (1-888-429-8167). And you can find a list of further Nova Scotia resources here.
On Tuesday, I wrote about Leon Joudrey:
Joudrey was a decent man, someone who avoided conflict. He liked the woods, worked in forestry, hunted and fished. After his marriage fell apart, he bought a place in Portapique and lived by himself, minding his own business but helping out friends and taking side jobs clearing brush and taking out trees from time to time. People liked him, he liked people. He dated a bit, but he was still suffering emotionally from his failed marriage, so that never went anywhere much.
In a perfect world, or even just in the normal course of events, Joudrey would’ve gone on with his life, found his peace, maybe eventually find a woman he could’ve settled down with.
But it wasn’t a perfect world, and Joudrey’s life wasn’t normal: He had landed in Portapique and into the orbit of the man who would kill 13 of Joudrey’s friends and neighbours the night of April 18, 2020, and then kill nine more people across the province the next morning. And Joudrey’s hapless role in that event became his own undoing.
Joudrey’s story is sad. He was the completely innocent participant in events surrounding the mass murders. There’s nothing untoward or wrong about going through the dance of meeting new people and dating, but Joudrey had the terrible luck of dating a woman tied to GW, the future murderer. And who can blame a guy for working hard all day and being so exhausted that he slept through the mayhem of the murders? And then, as terrible luck would have it, Lisa Banfield happened to show up at Joudrey’s door the next morning, and not someone else’s door.
All of this weighed heavily on Joudrey, and after struggling with his mental health for two and a half years, he died from suicide earlier this week.
Deaths are common after mass murders. This 2019 article by Ashley Fetters in The Atlantic gives an overview of the problem:
Some 28 percent of people who survive mass shootings in the United States develop post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the National Center for PTSD at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (By comparison, 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. adult population will experience PTSD symptoms at some point in their lives.) Research has also linked PTSD to suicide, particularly when it’s paired with depression. In this sense, having survived or having been directly affected by a mass shooting is certainly “a risk factor” for suicide, says Heather Littleton, a professor of psychology at East Carolina University who specializes in recovery from trauma. Additionally, Littleton says that recovery can be made harder by a prevalent misconception that grieving is a linear, incremental process, one that can be completed within the months or years after a tragedy.
Mass shootings often result in a particularly difficult kind of grief known as traumatic grief. Littleton describes traumatic grief as a PTSD reaction that occurs when someone is grieving over another person’s violent or unexpected death; in other words, traumatic grief occurs when someone has PTSD symptoms on top of grief symptoms. And as with PTSD, “a traumatic-grief reaction could last for a number of years,” Littleton says. (Some people do, of course, grieve over traumatic deaths without experiencing traumatic grief, Littleton notes.)
In a traumatic-grief situation, she adds, “those traumatic symptoms then interfere with the resolution of the grief reaction,” which can result in the phenomenon commonly known as “survivor’s guilt”: “The person sort of gets stuck on this idea that ‘I should have been able to prevent this death,’ or ‘Why did this person die instead of me?’”
That last sentence resonated when I read the transcript of Carole and Adam Fisher’s conversation with the commissioners of the Mass Casualty Commission. GW stopped at the Fishers’ residence in Glenholme as he continued his murder spree Sunday morning, April 19, 2020, but for unknown reasons left without violently attacking them.
As I reported yesterday:
“You know, survivor’s guilt,” said Adam. “You know, every day thinking about that and the families and the children, and you know, how — Why didn’t, you know, why didn’t — When I called 911 or called the dispatch 11 minutes before that, you know, prepare or help me prepare or do something that could have stopped that or stopped —. You know, it is just, I was one of the only people — well, I was the only person in that 24-hour span that — or however many, 13 hours, that could have stopped it. I am the only person other than the police, like, and they weren’t there to stop him. So how does that make me feel?”
“This is our trouble,” added Carole. “We struggle a lot with survivor’s guilt because he did come for our lives and there was a lot of innocent lives that were taken after our home that — We don’t know how to handle that. We don’t know how to cope. I feel my life should have been taken. Not the lives of mothers and grandmothers and aunts and people that lost a very important person in their family. People that were Good Samaritans trying to help and their lives got taken.”
“Yeah, and he came to take ours but we are still alive,” said Adam.
Everyone’s different. People have a range of reactions to experiencing such a traumatic event, and no response is right or good, and no response is wrong or bad.
Fetters, The Atlantic reporter, continues:
One of the best predictors of a positive mental-health outcome after a shooting, Littleton says, is social support for survivors and the victims’ families. “Overall, individuals who have good social support, who report strong feelings of social solidarity after the trauma, who do not have a history of mental-health problems or other traumatic experiences, are those most likely to experience resilience,” she says. But often the social support offered to them—as well as the formal psychological support—seems predicated on the notion that grief is temporary and eventually wanes and dissipates.
“Initially, there’s often an outpouring of support—this increased sense of community solidarity, where [survivors] feel very connected to other members of their community,” Littleton says. But eventually that sense of community solidarity goes away.
In addition, much of the mental-health support offered to survivors of shootings and the families of shooting victims dissolves around the same time. Counselors and mental-health practitioners who are integrated into the community immediately after the tragedy may leave before the community has truly healed.
I fear that’s where we are now: mental health services are being pulled back, possibly when they are most needed.
As I read the transcripts yesterday, I saw that some of the victims’ relatives appreciated the mental health services made available, while others found them intrusive. Nick Beaton, whose pregnant wife Kristen Beaton was killed, said he found the barrage of offers of help in the immediate aftermath of the murders overwhelming:
Everyone was trying to do something.You know what I mean, like people were trying to go to the bathroom for me. I mean, I am stretching the truth but they were just wanting to do everything. And then you had Victim Services reaching out. And it was kind of overwhelming to the point of, excuse my French, leave me the fuck alone. Just leave me alone. It was boom, boom, boom.
But then it seemed like at the point that I needed Victim Services — and I get that everyone’s different, right? Maybe people did want help right off the get-go… [but at] the time I needed it, it was hard to get…
When everyone else started living their lives again and petering off, and then when you are by — by myself, basically, me and my son, it was more and more by yourself completely. And the, even like your friends and family, they don’t know what to do. So then you are literally by yourself, and it was at that time that I needed help.
I started seeing a professional and I tried to to through the EA program at work, which was — that caused me trauma. I ended up giving up on that. So then I reached out to Victim Services… I needed help right then. I was like, I need to talk to someone right now. Just dark and just everything hit me and it just piled on me and I literally was having some extremely dark thoughts.
And I was like, I need help now. And it was still three weeks to get it. Well, “here is a list of people,” they gave me a list like this and me trying to focus on anything for any amount of time since this happened, it was very difficult…
For someone like me, it was very hard to admit that I needed help, because I am kind of old school and I am a man —”I can do this, I can chew on this, I can do it” — but it just got to the point, where it was just wham! It just hit me and at that point I needed to talk to someone…
It was very frustrating, almost to the point where I almost gave up, but I knew I needed to get myself better for [my son], and that was my main objective and my main goal — I needed to be a dad for [my son], right?, because it’s all he’s got. That’s the only thing that kept me grounded. If it wasn’t for [him], I probably wouldn’t be talking with anyone [today], to be completely honest, because I would have given up.
I am no more special than the next person. I might need to talk to somebody, but it was like, I need to — you know. It was frustrating, to say the least.
I’ve noted before that much of the perfectly understandable grief and anger experienced by the victims’ families is focused on the ultimately impossible search for answers and to place blame. For sure, there were and are all sorts of societal and policing problems that underlaid the mass murders, and we can and must do whatever is possible to identify and address those shortcomings, if for no other reason than to head off the next terrible tragedy. With that aim, I think the inquiry has been quite helpful
But in the end, the murders were the work of one deranged, evil person.
I think that much of the anger and search for blame has unfairly been placed upon Lisa Banfield, who was herself the victim of the killer.
Talk about survivor’s guilt. I can’t imagine what Banfield is going through emotionally. As with the other survivors and victims’ families, she will have her own journey through difficult waters.
Yesterday, Zane Woodford broke the news that Banfield is suing the provincial and federal governments:
The Nova Scotia RCMP was “negligent” in its investigation, [Banfield’s lawyer Brian Murphy] wrote, and it failed to notify Banfield that she was being investigated. Banfield gave interviews to police on April 20, April 28, and June 28, and performed a videotaped re-enactment of the night of the murders in October 2020. But on those occasions, Banfield wasn’t informed of her right to counsel.
“The Plaintiff [Banfield] retained counsel on April 20, 2020, who spoke to Staff Sergeant [Greg] Vardy and was assured that the Plaintiff was being viewed solely as a victim,” Murphy wrote.
Banfield only learned she was under investigation when the RCMP announced charges, Murphy wrote…
Murphy argued in the statement that when federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and then-provincial Justice Minister and Attorney General Mark Furey announced a joint review (which later became an inquiry following public scrutiny), that “placed intense pressure on the Nova Scotia RCMP as it threatened to expose errors committed by” the Mounties on April 18-19 2020.
“The Plaintiff states that, in response to the announcement by Minister Blair and Attorney General Furey on July 23, 2020, though Assistant Commissioner [Lee Bergerman] publicly welcomed the joint inquiry, the RCMP began constructing charges against the Plaintiff in order to create the appearance that the Nova Scotia RCMP was accomplishing something.”
We’ll see where Banfield’s legal actions go. Whatever happens, as with the other survivors and victims’ families, I hope she finds a path to peace.
2. Port Wallace
Over the past couple of weeks, the forest has been removed at Port Wallace, in preparation for a sprawling 4,900-unit subdivision to be constructed by Clayton Development.
“Port Wallace is one of nine “special planning areas” — six of them partially or fully owned by Clayton Developments — in Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM), which were designated by Nova Scotia’s Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Lohr in March 2022, on the recommendation of the five-member Executive Panel on Housing that Lohr appointed in December 2021,” reports Joan Baxter.
Baxter speaks with local residents and a municipal councillor about their concerns, and then zeros in on the environmental risks of the project:
Another person with questions she thinks should be asked about the Port Wallace development is Linda Campbell, professor and senior research fellow in Environmental Science at Saint Mary’s University, or SMU.
In an interview at SMU, Campbell tells the Examiner the studies of the historic mine tailings issue at Montague Gold Mines, and the mobility of the contamination downstream in Barry’s Run and in Lake Charles were “good reports,” and says it is helpful that the documents are available on the HRM planning web page for Port Wallace.
Campbell points to two 2020 studies commissioned by the provincial Crown corporation, Nova Scotia Lands (that the Houston government recently amalgamated with Develop Nova Scotia to create Build Nova Scotia), which is in charge of cleaning up Nova Scotia’s most contaminated site at Montague Gold mines, a clean-up that has yet to start.
One is a human health risk assessment of any contamination from mine tailings in sediment, surface water, and fish from Barry’s Run, which belongs to HRM. The second is a similar assessment from Lake Charles.
Nova Scotia has reported 14 newly recorded deaths from COVID during the most recent reporting period, Oct. 25-31.
In total through the pandemic, 602 Nova Scotians have died from COVID, 490 of whom are considered Omicron deaths (since Dec. 8, 2021).
The reporting of deaths can lag as medical examiners work to determine the cause of death, and in this case all 14 newly recorded deaths occurred before the reporting period, that is, on Oct. 24 or before. As of Oct. 31, there were no deaths recorded that occurred during the Oct. 25-31 reporting period, but because of the lag in reporting, it’s very likely that there were deaths, and they’ll be recorded in future updates.
In any event, very roughly speaking, Nova Scotia is experiencing a monthly death count of about that seen in the early pandemic at Northwood. A Northwood every month, albeit without the broad public alarm.
The age and vaccination status of the newly recorded deceased won’t be released until Nov. 15, but in general, 90%+ of the deceased are 70 years old or older, and about half live in long-term care homes. I’m reliably told that a handful of the recent deaths occurred at Northwood.
Also in the reporting period, Oct. 24-31, there were 36 people hospitalized with COVID, which is a 25% drop from the previous week’s 48.
Nova Scotia Health reports that following COVID hospitalization status as of yesterday:
• in hospital for COVID-19: 34 (3 of whom are in ICU)
• in hospital for something else but have COVID-19: 165
• in hospital who contracted COVID-19 after admission to hospital: 104
The above figures do not include any (if any) children hospitalized in the IWK.
Given the many hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who have contracted COVID in hospital, I asked Nova Scotia Health how many of those people subsequently died from the disease. Answer: That data isn’t collected, so we don’t know.
That answer is, well, unsatisfactory. There was a decision made to do away with hospital COVID wards, and as a result, a very large number of people who were COVID-free when they entered hospital were infected with the virus there. It strikes me as tremendously irresponsible to not even track how many of those people have succumbed to the disease, so I pressed. The communications people said they’d keep asking on my behalf.
Also during the Oct. 24-31 reporting period, there were 792 lab-confirmed (PCR tests) new cases. This isn’t a great metric — many people can’t or don’t bother to get PCR tests — but with that caveat, this is the lowest weekly new case count this year.
• Nova Scotia is experiencing a Northwood-level of death every month;
• new hospitalizations because of COVID are down, but,
• there is still a large number of people contracting the disease in hospital and no one seems to know how many of those are dying because of it;
• the new case count might be going down, but don’t bet the farm on it.
“Halifax’s award-winning climate action plan is only 30% on track, but the staffer in charge is optimistic after a hiring spree this year,” reports Zane Woodford:
HalifACT 2050, adopted in 2020, is a set of recommended actions designed to achieve carbon neutrality within municipal operations by 2030, and within HRM as whole by 2050. Those actions include retrofitting municipal buildings, electrifying the vehicle fleet, and decarbonizing the electric grid.
In a report to council’s Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee’s meeting on Thursday, Shannon Miedema, director of Environment & Climate Change, and Simone Charron, climate change specialist, gave an update on the progress in implementing the actions.
The plan was 30% on track at the end of fiscal 2021-2022. Of the actions in the report (now counted as 53), 16 are planned for the future, 18 have seen some progress, 11 are in progress and on track, six have seen no minimal or no progress, and two are contingent on other levels of government.
It’s an improvement over last year, when the plan was only 20% on track, but not enough.
Woodford notes that with the economic downturn, the city will be faced with either cutting expenditures, including possibly on the climate action plan, or raising taxes, which is always politically dicey. But, said councillor Sam Austin, ““To me, the benefits of low taxes on a dead planet are pretty minimal.”
5. Black Men’s Wellness Group
“The founder of a group where Black men can meet and discuss health and wellness says he hopes an upcoming event offers a safe space for Black men to talk about these issues and more,” reports Matthew Byard:
Jude Clyke is the organizer behind the Black Men’s Wellness Group, which is hosting a meeting Saturday, Nov. 5 at 1pm in the Unity Room of the Colchester-East Hants Public Library.
Clyke said the focal point of the meetings is to create awareness about Black men and mental health.
“We as a community and we as Black men have unique issues and concerns that we need to struggle through and I want to create a safe space where people feel comfortable having those discussions,” Clyke said
Legislature sits (Friday, 1pm)
Operationalizing Health Justice Through the Health Capability Profile (Friday, 12pm, online) — Jennifer Jean Prah from the University of Pennsylvania will talk
The Third Identity: Pregnancy and the Rapable Body (Friday, 3:30pm, Room 1170, Marion McCain Building and online) — Mariah Cooper will talk
In the harbour
04:45: AS Felicia, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Kingston, Jamaica
05:30: MSC Jersey, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Sines, Portugal
06:00: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
06:30: Don Carlos, car carrier, moves from Pier 9 to Autoport
09:30: 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
10:00: East Coast, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
11:30: Don Carlos sails for sea
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 36 to Pier 42
15:30: MSC Jersey sails for New York
16:30: ZIM Monaco, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain (itinerary) sails for New York
17:30: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at Pier 25/26 from Montreal
20:30: Norwegian Breakaway sails for New York
21:00: MSC Mattina, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal
Cruise ship Saturday: Insignia (up to 800 passengers)
07:00: AlgoNova, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Quebec City
10:00: Insignia, cruise ship with up to 800 passengers, arrives at Liberty Dock (Sydney) from Charlottetown, on a 15-day cruise from Montreal to Miami
14:00: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, transit through the causeway south to north en route from Halifax to Hamilton, Ontario
17:30: Insignia sails for Halifax
No cruise ships this weekend.
Sorry so late today.