News

1. Killer’s spouse says she hid in a tree cavity the night of the mass murder

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

This article contains details of intimate partner violence.  

Tim Bousquet reports on details from new redacted documents about the mass murders last April. These documents include details on RCMP Sgt. Greg Vardy’s interview with Lisa Banfield, the common-law spouse of the killer the Examiner is referring to as GW. That interview took place on April 28.  

There are a lot of disturbing details in Banfield’s account of that Saturday night, including this information on where Banfield hid in the woods. Bousquet writes: 

While GW was collecting the guns, Banfield managed to escape the car and run out into the woods. She found a truck and thought to hide in it, but when she opened the door the overhead light came on and she feared that GW would see it and learn where she was, so she kept running. “She believed that she had a puffy jacket on and threw it in the woods hoping that police would find it.” 

The narrative continues: “Lisa Banfield heard shots and thought that [GW] might blow up the truck and she left that hiding spot [?] and eventually came across a tree with an exposed root system and hid inside the cavity.” 

Banfield said she heard shots through the night and someone on a speaker calling “this is the police,” but feared it was GW. She stayed in the tree until daylight, and then went to Leon Jourdrey’s house. 

Banfield also tells Vardy about how she knew some of the victims, including Lisa McCully and Gina Goulet.  

Click here to read Bousquet’s entire article.

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2. Nova Scotia announces changes to improve emergency response times

Jennifer Henderson reports on policy changes in ambulance services in Nova Scotia from a report from Fitch and Associates that was released on Monday. (The Fitch Report is here).  

Henderson reports that one of the key findings was that paramedics couldn’t respond to urgent calls because they were spending about 1.5 hours waiting to offload other patients at emergency departments at hospitals in Halifax. The report also found half of paramedics spent their time driving patients between different levels of hospitals and nursing homes.  

Henderson looks at some of the solutions in the report. One solution suggests having fewer patients go to emergency departments. Starting April 1, paramedics will be permitted to treat patients at home or at the scene rather than taking them to a hospital.  

A second solution will see patients getting out of hospital faster. Henderson writes: 

What is outside the purview of the EMCI (Emergency Medical Care Inc) and within the Department of Health is a stubborn problem that create much of the backlog for ambulances waiting to offload patients at hospitals. That’s the fact that at most large regional hospitals the beds are full. With often as many as one in five patients waiting for a place in a nursing home or rehab or homeless shelter. Ambulances can’t leave Emergency until their patient has been admitted.  

Yesterday, [health minister Zack] Churchill punted the ball to Nova Scotia Health to solve a problem it didn’t create. Churchill announced he had issued a directive to unload patients from ambulances within 30 minutes of their arrival at Emergency. Patients arriving at Emergency must be admitted or discharged within 12 hours. NSH Chief Executive Officer Brendan Carr must provide monthly reports. 

Click here to read Henderson’s full story.

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3. COVID-19 update: Zero new cases

Tim Bousquet has good news on COVID-19 as zero new cases of the virus were announced on Monday. There are still 24 known active cases distributed across the province’s health networks. Two people are in hospital and one of them in ICU.  

New pop-up testing sites were announced last night:

Click here to read Bousquet’s complete update, with charts and map.

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4. Police board approve terms of reference for committee defining defunding

Photo by Taymazvalley via Flickr.

On Monday, the Halifax Police Board approved the terms of reference for the Committee to Define Defunding Police and a definition of defunding is expected in May, reports Zane Woodford.  

The terms are documented here and say the committee will “review relevant research and conduct community engagements to allow citizens to express their view regarding the definition of Defunding Police.” 

As Woodford reports, the committee’s final report in May will include the definition of defunding, but also an “overview of the current research and debate around defunding,” examples from other municipalities, a summary of presentations from citizens, and a summary of “what defunding could look like in HRM.” 

In September, the board voted to appoint El Jones, poet, professor, activist, and contributor to the Halifax Examiner, to chair the committee. Jones says she has already appointed other committee members, who have “lived experience from various walks of life.”  Says Jones:

We’re very happy about that because it means we’re hearing from people across the city with a range of experiences.

The committee is also planning an online survey for those who can’t attend public meetings. 

Click here to read Woodford’s complete story.  

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5. Halifax-area police chiefs want quicker vaccine rollout for cops

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella and Halifax-district RCMP Chief Superintendent Janis Gray speak at a meeting of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners in July 2019. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Also during the Halifax police board meeting, Zane Woodford learns Halifax-district RCMP Chief Superintendent Janis Gray and Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella expressed concern that their officers won’t get the COVID-19 vaccination fast enough. There are at last four active cases of the virus among police officers in the HRM.  

Gray brought up the vaccination schedule during the board’s virtual meeting, saying police agencies in the province were told on Feb. 3 that officers would be vaccinated based on their age, during the vaccination phase for the general population. That’s Phase 3. But Gray says they expected officers would be vaccinated during Phase 2. Says Gray:  

Nova Scotia Public Health’s position does not appear to align with the Government of Canada’s recommendations, so the RCMP Halifax-district as well as RCMP Nova Scotia is working with our fellow chiefs of police representatives who are concerned about this and fully engaged. We believe that our frontline police officers should be prioritized to protect themselves and the public they serve. 

Kinsella says he was working with other chiefs to move officers up vaccination list. Says Kinsella: 

I just wanted to mention that as well so the commission knows that all of us are committed to this and trying to bring about the appropriate protections for the members. 

After Woodford’s story was published, Marla MacInnis, a spokesperson with Department of Health and Wellness, sent a statement asking that Nova Scotians be “patient” with the vaccination rollout and that the department is “working with law enforcement to understand their concerns and the risks associated with their occupation.” 

Click here to read Woodford’s entire article.  

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Views

Libraries: First responders for communities

Carla Foxe is the community librarian at the Dartmouth North branch of the Halifax Public Library. Under her leadership, the staff here have stepped up to serve the community during the pandemic by providing free Wifi and programs. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Last week, I met with Carla Foxe, the community librarian at the Dartmouth North branch of the Halifax Public Libraries. The branch is usually located in the Dartmouth North Community Centre on Highfield Park Drive, but that space is being renovated. So right now the branch is at Farrell Hall on Windmill Road, another community space often used for bingo.  

I was thinking how libraries around the city really kept connected to the community during the pandemic, even when their doors were closed and books were available only by curbside pickup. When you think about it, librarians and their staff are like first responders for their communities. I know branches across the city are always doing great work, but I wanted to learn about what the branch in Dartmouth North was up to, so I sat down with Foxe last week.

She’s been the librarian here for about nine years and worked at Halifax Public Library branches in other roles before that. This branch sees about 150 to 200 customers a day. Says Foxe: 

It’s a strong hub within Dartmouth North. There are a few places within Dartmouth North that are community hubs and I think we’re one of them. We’re very important to this community and they’re always letting us know how much they appreciate us. I think that demonstrates how important we are to people. 

The branch’s temporary location at Farrell Hall is a wide-open space, bigger than its branch at Highfield, although Foxe tells me the renovations will make the new space bigger and brighter. There’s a rendering of the new library on the back wall of Farrell Hall. At this temporary location, shelves of books are in the centre and desks with computers are lined along the side walls. Up front, there’s a calendar of events; each day has a theme day like crafts or costumes.  

Sitting on a shelf underneath the calendar are small boxes of cereal anyone can eat on-site or take with them (you have to get the milk from the front desk staff).  

The community calendar at the Dartmouth North branch of the Halifax Public Library. There’s also cereal for customers. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The branch moved into Farrell Hall early this year and will be back at its newly renovated space in the fall at the latest. The staff here — which includes Crystal Mulder, Darlene Kane, Kim Goldman, Lindsay Martin, Stephania Keller, Siobhan Wiggans, Duane Kaiser, and Bonnie Botham — have settled in nicely.

It’s a cozy branch and we try to go the extra effort to get to know people by their names. It’s a very community-centric hub where people come in and they get to see their neighbours and chat. 

Back in the spring when the branch — still in its usual location — shut down, it offered curbside service like other branches did. But Foxe says customers also just called to chat.  

You had these conversations with people who honestly just wanted to talk. We were that human connection.  

Staff also put together activity packs they called “boredom busters” for different age groups, including adults, tweens, and younger children. The kits included anything from crossword puzzles to crayons. The packs were distributed to food banks and The North Grove, the community food and family centre on Primrose Street. This March Break, they’ll make more activity packs each day to hand out to parents and kids.  

When the branch was closed, programs like puppet shows and tutoring headed online. Foxe says they know not everyone has a computer, so they connect people with resources in the community that do. This branch also loans out Chromebooks to those who need them.

Foxe says when they heard from the community that access to the internet was an issue, they boosted the Wifi signal so anyone could log on. Customers could use the internet from the branch’s outdoor library on Highfield Drive or from outside Farrell Hall. Foxe says for the month of January, there were more than 18,000 uses. At Farrell Hall, there were more than 5,200 uses. Says Foxe. 

Combined, both locations were a huge Wifi hub and it’s free. You don’t even have to have a library account. You just pop on and Halifax Public Library comes up. It even extends into someone of the apartment complexes. We’re providing free internet for some apartment buildings in the neighbourhood, and I think it’s great. 

Every Wednesday is soup day at the Dartmouth North branch of the Halifax Public Library, which is temporarily located at Farrell Hall on Windmill Road. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The branch also feeds the community. The day I dropped in was soup day, although the staff made chili (Foxe says the library usually takes part in a community chili contest, which they’ve yet to win, but each staff has taken a stab at the recipe. This chili is in honour of that event. It smelled delicious, by the way). Anyone who gets the soup or chili gets a recipe card to make it at home themselves.  

On Friday, there’s a takeaway lunch program with chicken or vegetarian wraps. That program continued even when the branch was closed.  

The branch feeds between 40 and 50 people for these programs and Foxe says they can accommodate more. The also put together a monthly food calendar that shows where all the food banks or takeaway lunch offerings are located in the neighbourhood. 

The library is changing. We’re evolving and we’re better and stronger than ever. We’re responsive to what the community needs, and the community has expressed that they love having food programs and these sorts of initiatives happening. We’re trying to listen to what the community wants. I think with COVID we looked at things differently and we adapted to the environment.

Lindsay Martin serves up chili on soup day. Photo: Suzanne Rent

Foxe says with so many places closed because of COVID restrictions, the library remains one safe place where people can gather. And it’s the community that she likes most about her job.

Getting to know the customers on a personal basis and figuring out how I can help. I’m a problem solver, so when people come to me with issues or what have you,  I like connecting people with different resources.

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Noticed

Stephen Archibald at Halifax Bloggers shares more photos in Old Album, Number Seven. In this album, Archibald tells the story of his time working on the Sherbrooke Village restoration project in 1972 (I love Sherbrooke Village. That drive from Halifax along Highway 7 is one of my favourites).

Here’s Sherbrooke’s business district with the village restoration project just down the road.

Archibald’s job was to take photos of the restoration project and help guide the finishing of the restored buildings. “It was fun to study the vocabulary of colours and designs that were used in Sherbrooke during the nineteenth century, and then use that language to create spaces,” Archibald writes.

Archibald also documented some of the people taking part in the craft workshops at the village, including one on quilting.

During his time on the  Eastern Shore, Archibald took photos from other communities, including Sheet Harbour and its steel arched bridge, which is no longer there.

During one road trip, Archibald came upon a field fire that got a bit out of control.

Of course, there are lovely shots of abandoned buildings like this house along the St. Mary’s River near Sherbrooke.

And here’s another one of Archibald with friends Nancy and Alan at the A&W in New Glasgow.

Check out the entire Old Album, Number Seven here.

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 11am) — live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available

Province

Tuesday

Health (Tuesday, 9am) — live broadcast with closed captioning; Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Commerce representatives discuss local efforts to welcome doctors to the community

Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm) — more info on how to watch here

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference with closed captioning; Department of Lands and Forestry: Forest management and protection

On campus

Dalhousie

Tuesday

A categorical framework for gradientbased learning (Tuesday, 2:30pm) — Geoffrey Cruttwell from Mount Allison University will talk.

Many artificial intelligence systems use variants of the gradient descent algorithm to help them “learn”. (For examples of such variants, see https://arxiv.org/abs/1609.04747). In this series of two talks, we’ll see how many of these variants can be unified in a single categorical framework. The categorical tools we will use to build this framework include categories of parameterized maps, categories of lenses, and reverse derivative categories. The first talk will focus on introducing these three categorical structures, while the second talk will put the structures together and show how many of the gradient-based algorithms which are used in practice fit into the resulting framework. This is joint work with Bruno Gavranovic, Neil Ghani, Paul Wilson, and Fabio Zanasi.​

Wednesday

Some basic questions about the body’s most important structural protein (Wednesday, 4pm) — Samuel P. Veres from SMU will talk.

Saint Mary’s

Tuesday

The Librarian Is In (Tuesday, 3pm) — to answer your library- or research-related questions


In the harbour

11:45: Pictor, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Portland
16:00: Carmen, car carrier, arrives at Pier 31 from Zeebrugge, Belgium
16:30: MSC Sariska, container ship, sails from Pier 41 for New York
18:30: Algoma Verity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
19:00: Elka Hercules, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
21:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
23:00: Yasa Swan, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp


Footnotes

I wanted to send out a thank-you to Susan McClure at the Halifax Regional Municipal Archives. McClure connected me with Jean Lane Duncan for the profile I wrote on her mother, Abbie J. Lane. Archivists really are the keepers of our stories.

Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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