1. Lisa Banfield seeks to keep court records sealed

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 item is written by Tim Bousquet.

Yesterday, the lawyer for Lisa Banfield filed a motion in provincial court to keep certain records secret.

Some quick background: After the mass murders of April 18/19, the RCMP made about 25 applications to the court for search warrants related to their investigation of the murders. The court approved those warrants, allowing the police to enter and seize various properties, obtain and analyze computer records, and so forth.

But the applications for those search warrants — called Information to Obtain, or ITOs — were sealed by the court. In response, a consortium of media organizations hired media lawyer David Coles to get the records unsealed.

The consortium initially included the CBC, CTV, Global News, the Canadian Press, the Globe and Mail, Post Media, the Halifax Examiner, and Saltwire, but the Canadian Press and Post Media have since dropped out of the consortium — although it should be noted that both CP and Post Media, as well as many other media organizations that were never in the consortium in the first place, continue to make use of information the consortium is obtaining at significant legal costs.

Maybe the Halifax Examiner is just a sucker for continuing to pay money to get court records unsealed so other media organizations with bigger budgets can use the information for free. But my hope is readers appreciate our efforts and will reward us with new subscriptions. Besides, we’re paying these legal costs because we simply believe it’s the right thing to do.

In any event, it’s a long slog. Through Coles, the consortium files applications, and the provincial and federal Crowns (representing the RCMP and Canadian Border Services) file counter-applications, and Judge Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie wades through it all, and we’ve been slowly getting the ITOs un-redacted, paragraph by paragraph. We’ve learned a lot and the Halifax Examiner dutifully reports on each new bit of info uncovered. We related that police were told the killer “builds fires and burns bodies, is a sexual predator, and supplies drugs in Portapique and Economy, Nova Scotia”; that GW had $705,000 in cash on his property; and many other horrific details of the events.

Recently, a new wrinkle has been introduced in the case: the RCMP charged Lisa Banfield, the commonlaw spouse of the mass murder, GW, with illegally supplying GW with ammunition used in the murder spree. Also charged were Lisa Banfield’s brother James (Jimmy) Banfield and her brother-in-law Brian Brewster.

All three are mentioned in the ITOs, and the paragraphs related to them have been sealed. The media consortium wants those paragraphs (mostly) unsealed, as we do with most everything else in the ITOs.

There’s some information the consortium has no interest in getting unsealed. Brian Brewster asked the court merely that his personal information — bank account numbers, address, and the like — not be made public, and we have no interest in revealing that information; doing so would serve no public interest. Likewise, we’re not contesting similar redactions of Lisa and Jimmy Banfield’s personal information.

Beyond that, Jimmy Banfield is not contesting that anything else in the ITOs related to him should not be unsealed.

That leaves Lisa Banfield.

Of note, Lisa Banfield is represented by James Lockyer, who also was one of the three Innocence Canada lawyers (along with Sean MacDonald and Phil Campbell) who represented Glen Assoun, the man who was wrongly convicted of the murder of Brenda Way. I know Lockyer and have seen him in action — he’s a great guy, personable, a good lawyer, a presence in the courtroom. It’s interesting that we’re on opposite sides of this court action.

In yesterday’s filing, Lockyer writes that “Lisa takes no position as to the publication of the vast majority of information currently under seal, but she seeks to maintain redactions on some passages.” Specifically, she wants 13 paragraphs to remain redacted:

Four paragraphs arise from the statements of Lisa’s sister Maureen Banfield and her two co-accused, and provide the basis for the Crown’s case against Lisa which related to her charges on the transferring ammunition offences; three paragraphs are taken from Lisa’s statement to the police; two paragraphs disclose information about Lisa’s case known only to the police; and three paragraphs summarize a statement from Lisa’s lawyer Kevin von Bargen. Lisa asks that these passages be kept from the public record. Her position arises from the following:

a. The publication of the impugned information will compromise her fair trial rights, because it sets out the entirety of the Crown’s case against her and her co-accused on the charges that they are facing; and

b. Some of the information in the ITOs invades Lisa’s solicitor-client privilege.

“The impugned contents of the ITOs includes what seems to be the entirety of the Crown’s case against Lisa and her co-accused at their pending trial,” writes Lockyer. In particular, the ITOs include witness statements from Lisa; her sisters Maureen Banfield, Beverley Davidson, Janice Banfield, and Brenda Brewster; her brother Jimmy Banfield; and her brother-in-law Brian Brewster. Lockyer wants all that information to remain sealed.

Normally, fair-trial rights are a considerable concern because there is a danger that a potential jury will be unduly swayed by information published by the media — but not in this case. That’s because Lisa Banfield, Jimmy Banfield, and Brian Brewster are charged with summary offences — meaning that there will be no jury trial, and each will be tried by a judge alone. It’s widely agreed that judges should be immune to community pressures and make their decisions based only on law. So, we’ll file a counter-argument to that effect.

To be honest, I’m not currently conversant enough with the solicitor-client aspects that Lockyer raises to make much comment. Lockyer says those aspects apply to information in the ITOs given to police by Lisa Banfield’s “lawyer/friend” Kevin von Bargen. I’ll discuss this at length with Coles, as I’m sure will our consortium partners, before deciding how to proceed with that matter.

Besides all that, let’s back out and consider: It’s been nine months since the terrible murders, and we know very little more than we knew in April. The reason the media, including the Halifax Examiner, are pressing on these issues is that, if we don’t, there’s a very real likelihood that it will get swept into the memory hole, and we’ll never have sufficient answers as to why and how this tragedy happened, what role police and officialdom had in failing to prevent/respond to it, and what changes we as a society need to make from preventing such future tragedies.

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2. COVID making doctor recruitment challenging

Katrina Philopoulos. Photo: Wendy Walters, NSH Senior Communications

There are fewer doctors moving to Nova Scotia, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as Jennifer Henderson learns, the number is not as dramatic as it could be. Henderson found out 106 new doctors were recruited to the province between April 2020 and March 2021. Twenty-four of those are signed on, but not yet delivered and 82 of the 106 are family doctors. 

Henderson interviewed Katrina Philopoulos, the director of physician recruitment for the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), who talked about the challenges in recruitment. 

It took longer. Passport offices and doctor’s offices weren’t always open to get the necessary paperwork approved. But we were still successful in bringing folks to Nova Scotia during a global pandemic. 

Like a lot of work, recruiting is heading online. Two recruiters in each of the province’s four health zones launched a digital marketing campaign to recruit doctors. There’s an Instagram account with the goal to recruit young doctors from other parts of Canada. And community groups like one in Colchester have created videos on Facebook to help promote their communities to doctors considering a move.  

Click here to read the complete article.  

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3. COVID-19 update: One new case

The new daily cases and seven-day rolling average (today at 0.7) since the start of the second wave (Oct. 1).

Tim Bousquet has the COVID-19 update. There was one new case of the virus announced on Monday. That case is in Nova Scotia Health’s Central Zone and related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada. One person is still in ICU. 

As for the vaccine rollout, as of the end of yesterday, 18,219 doses of vaccine have been administered, and of those 5,134 have been second doses. 

There is a COVID-19 update at 3 p.m. today.  

Click here to read Bousquet’s complete article.

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4. Let’s talk about sex toys and disability

Andrew Jantzen and April Hubbard are leading a project with the Tetra Society that will have people with disabilities in Halifax help provide input on creating prototypes for sex toys. Photo: Contributed

I heard about this new project last week and wanted to chat with the organizers, Andrew Jantzen, April Hubbard, and Rachele Manett. We all spoke on Friday about this project, which is a partnership between Tetra Society of Halifax and Venus Envy. The group is recruiting people with disabilities who want to help design prototypes of sex toys and have other conversations about sexuality.  

If you didn’t know already, the W.H.O. has classified sexual pleasure as a human right. Says Jantzen: 

This is essential. It’s part of the human experience and a human right. For people with disabilities, having access to this is just as important as a key holder to get into your door or a bar in your bathroom. It’s just another assistive way of being able to access things everyone should have access to. 

This project is inspired by a similar project called That’s Handi, which has people with disabilities help design sex toys for those with hand limitations.  

But as I learned, this project is about promoting a larger discussion about people with disabilities and sexuality that will benefit us all. Says Hubbard: 

We know our bodies well and what works. When you can’t use your hands or you can’t move in the same way, you have to become really good at communicating with your partner, or someone who’s helping you, know exactly what you want and need. I’m excited for the able-bodied community to learn from us in the disability community what great communication can do for pleasure. 

Click here to read the complete story. 

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5. Suspect in head-on crash faces third impaired driving charge in six months

Jessica and Kyle have been identified as the couple in a car hit in a head-on crash on Highway 111 on the weekend. Photo: Go Fund Me

An 18-year-old man who is facing charges in a head-on crash on Highway 111 on the weekend  will be in court today on a bail hearing. The two people in the other car were left with life-threatening injuries. As Shaina Luck at CBC reports, this is the third time in six months that Brandon James Crombie has been charged with impaired driving. As Luck reports:

Police said they got multiple calls about a red Mazda travelling on the wrong side of Highway 111 late Saturday afternoon.

Moments later, police were told the Mazda had collided with a blue Hyundai sedan. A man and woman in the Hyundai were taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries. There was no update on their condition on Monday.

Police arrested Crombie, alleging he was the person who drove the Mazda.

There’s a Go Fund Me for the couple identified as Jessica and Kyle who were in the other car.

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Whether a woman wants children or not is not your business

This mom’s looking forward to her empty-nest days. Photo: Rosa Virginia / Unsplash

I always say some of the most honest and the most criticized people in our society are women who don’t want children. You can’t have a uterus without someone telling you what to do with it.  

There are more childfree people than ever before. Here’s an interesting stat from the 2016 census: 

From 2011 to 2016, the number of couples living without children rose faster (+7.2%) than the number of couples with children (+2.3%). As a result, the share of couples living with at least one child fell from 56.7% in 2001 to 51.1% in 2016—the lowest level on record. 

But even though the number of childfree people is on the rise, there’s still so much pressure on women to have children. And the women who say they don’t want children still hear the same criticisms (you’re selfish; you’ll change your mind; you’ll regret it). 

These women, fortunately, are speaking up and fighting back. Over the last number of years, I’ve read a lot of stories from women who explain why they don’t want children. I’ve even read stories from women who regret having children. And they’re some of the bravest stories I’ve read.  

Last night I watched the 2019 documentary, To Kid or Not to Kid, which follows filmmaker Maxine Trump’s decision on whether to have children. She comes to a decision by the end of the film, although I won’t tell you here. But over the course of the film, she has conversations with organizers of childfree support groups like The Not Mom. Trump (no relation to that other Trump) also interviews a woman in her 20s who doesn’t want children, and talks about her years-long fight with doctors to get a tubal ligation. The most interesting conversations Trump has are with her own mother, who worries about Trump being lonely when she’s older. Trump also learns about all the pressures women face to have children, like the entire “baby economy” and all these products pushed on women in an effort to get them to have babies and therefore be their customers. Trump visits what looks like a trade show for parents and mentions something called Hotmilk. (I’ll let you look that up on your own.)

In her first novel, Halifax author Jane Doucet explored the struggles women face in their decision to have children or not.

Halifax author Jane Doucet looked at this issue in her novel The Pregnant Pause. Doucet, who says she didn’t have children because she couldn’t find a willing partner during her childbearing years, told me she went looking for lighthearted books that talked about this topic of women thinking about the decision to have children. Think Bridget Jones’ Diary. But she couldn’t find those books, so she decided to write one herself.

Doucet’s novel follows the story of 37-year-old Rose Ainsworth who is thinking about parenting, all while married to a man who doesn’t want to commit to the idea of having a kid, and surrounded by friends having babies. I asked Doucet about this on the weekend and says she says a lot of women who read her book have connected with Rose’s story.  

Since I published it in 2017, I’ve heard from strangers who have shared very personal stories with me about their choice to not have children and how they’ve been called selfish and told that they’re missing out on one of the greatest joys of life, or that they’ll change their minds when they get older (if they’re in their 20s or their early 30s).

I feel like The Pregnant Pause gave women a safe space to talk about their feelings around motherhood—whether they chose to be one, they chose not to be one, or they wanted to be one but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. It has been validating for me to hear all of their stories, and I feel honoured that they chose to share them with me.

That Doucet heard so many stories from women shows they clearly need and want to talk about this.

I find it fascinating — and infuriating — that women still have to defend their choice to not have children. I didn’t have a biological clock. I spent my 20s going to university for degree number one, working, and having fun. I didn’t think about having kids, even though many of my high school friends had children already. I knew I wanted a career. It was a bit of a joke with people I knew, although I never thought there was anything wrong with me for not thinking about babies all the time. I was told I wasn’t maternal (I still get that).  

I remember at journalism school one female professor telling the class to have all of our exciting work adventures before we were 30. She said by that age, most people had spouses and children, which limited their career choices. My 30th birthday was the next day.  

But sometimes a sperm meets an egg, and I found out I was pregnant the last week of school. I was almost 32. I joke that I graduated with a journalism degree and a positive pregnancy test, which they don’t give to just anyone. When I was pregnant, I signed up for one of those what-to-expect websites that sent weekly emails detailing that stage of pregnancy. One of the last emails in those final weeks suggested that mothers think about what kind of parent they wanted to be. I remember thinking I was going to suck at motherhood.

I decided after having one kid I was done, and women get called selfish for this, too. I had lots of reasons for not wanting more, most of which I won’t share here, but I knew my limits and how much I could balance between being a parent and having a career. I was nurturing both at the same time (I have a supportive co-parent, by the way). I’m 50 now and still get asked if I regret not having more. I have not spent a millisecond regretting that decision. For me, motherhood was made much easier by ignoring all the unsolicited parenting advice — and there’s lots of it. After all that late-pregnancy concern about my abilities, I found my way. 

I love my kid more than anything. She’s smart, incredibly witty, and feisty. We share a love of chocolate and jokes. I love every moment of being her mom. I completely understand that mama bear instinct. Sometimes I stare at her and wonder at my luck — how did I get to create and raise this person? She’ll ask me why I’m staring at her, and when I tell her she’ll call me a weirdo. Then we have a good laugh.  

But what if I hadn’t felt that way about being a mother?  

A few years ago, I read this piece in Macleans by the late Anne Kingston, who interviewed several women who struggled with being mothers. These stories can be hard to read, but it’s a truth many women understand. As Kingston writes, it wasn’t the children these women regretted, it was motherhood. These women talk of loss of freedom, loss of identity, loss of career options, and lack of support from partners. Kingston talked with Nova Scotia writer Lola Augustine Brown, who wrote this piece in Today’s Parent about her regrets, saying in that article,

What I’m struggling with is that it feels like their amazing life comes at the expense of my own…I find myself sobbing late at night in the bathtub or when I’m out walking the dogs — pretty much the only times I have for myself in this life I wanted so badly and now find myself trapped in.

Augustine Brown told Kingston, “we still can’t talk honestly about what it’s like to live with those pressures and those sacrifices.”

Women are talking more about this, though. There’s a Facebook group for people who regret having children. I found other groups for the childfree, but those are private. (I wondered about the potential comments if those groups were public.)

What’s especially infuriating about these conversations is that not only do we not support women who choose not to have children, we still don’t really support women who DO have them.  

Some of the online responses to an article in the New York Times chronicling the lives of three women who are balancing motherhood, full-time jobs, and teaching their kids at home.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing a lot of what mothers have to balance in their lives. I’ve seen plenty of articles about this over the last several months, including this one called The Primal Scream: Three mothers on the brink by Jessica Bennett with the New York Times, published on the weekend, that followed three mothers trying to balance work, parenting, online learning for their kids, and everything else. This article was creating a lot of rage online, mostly about the husbands who seemed to not be pulling their weight at all.  

Some women don’t want to have children and the reasons are no one’s business. Some women do and we can put our efforts there to support them by funding childcare (not venture capitalists) and even a living wage for all parents! And we should be supporting those people who want children and are struggling to have them, too. 

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A Halifax woman named Kaylah Gormley shared a post to her Facebook profile of herself posing in and telling her followers about Sheltersuit. In her post, Gormley says it’s the first Sheltersuit in Atlantic Canada. Sheltersuit was created by designer Bas Timmer. The tagline of the non-profit that makes the suits says they are “providing immediate shelter to the homeless, while using upcycled material and providing jobs.”

“Let’s not make this the last Sheltersuit we ever see in Halifax and come together like we always do and help our homeless friends ya?,” Gormley says in the post.

Kaylah Gormley poses in a Sheltersuit, a sleeping bag made from recycled materials and promoted as a temporary shelter for people living on the streets. Photo: Kaylah Gormley/Facebook

Gormley’s post was getting a lot of reaction since she shared it yesterday. So far, the post has been shared more than 3,300 times. Gormley says she’s working with a volunteer at a local shelter to provide the Sheltersuit she’s modelling to someone in the city who needs it now. There are a lot of positive reactions to the post and Gormley’s efforts to bring attention to Sheltersuit. But not everyone thinks the suit is a good idea.

I’m not sure what I think of the Sheltersuit. It could be a good short-term idea, sure, but we really need to have conversations about housing and those are much tougher than providing sleeping bags.

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Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 1pm) — live webcast with live captioning on a text-only site


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

Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; no dial-in or live broadcast



Health (Tuesday, 1pm) — video conference to discuss emergency mental health care / services. With Francine Vezina, Department of Health and Wellness; Samantha Hodder and Andrew Harris, Nova Scotia Health Authority; Maureen Brennan and Alexa Bagnell, IWK Health Centre; and Marie-France LeBlanc and Megan MacBride, North End Community Health Centre.


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference to discuss “Homes for Special Care: Identification and Management of Health and Safety Risks – June 2016 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 1”, and “Managing Home Care Support Contracts – November 22, 2017 Report of the Auditor General, Chapter 3.” With Kevin Orrell, Deputy Minister, Department of Health and Wellness.

On campus



No public events.


BRIC NS Student Seminar Series Primary Health Care Presentations (Wednesday, 12:30pm) — Justine Dol will present “Essential Coaching for Every Mother during COVID-19: Findings from a feasibility, pre-post intervention study of a remote, text message based postnatal educational program for first time mothers”; Melanie Santhikumar will present “Pilot Study: Computer Based Auditory Training for Auditory Processing Disorders from mild Traumatic Brain Injury.”

Saint Mary’s


The Librarian Is In: Citing (Tuesday, 3pm) — online workshop

In the harbour

05:00: Budapest Bridge, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from New York
06:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:00: Ef Ava, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
09:00: BBC Opal, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for El Musel, Spain
11:30: Ef Ava sails for Portland
15:30: Budapest Bridge sails for Rotterdam
16:00: Atlantic Star, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
18:00: Baltic Mariner I, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
23:00: Atlantic Star sails for New York


I started horseback riding lessons several months ago. Besides learning how to tack up and ride a horse, my trainer teaches me about horse behaviour and herd hierarchy. It’s so interesting! I love just watching the horses in the field and how they interact with each other and people.

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Suzanne Rent

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

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  1. Forgive me, but isn’t there something terribly amiss with this statement: “Let’s not make this the last Sheltersuit we ever see in Halifax and come together like we always do and help our homeless friends.” I mean, shouldn’t we all want this to be the last “Sheltersuit” we ever see in Halifax? Shouldn’t we want not to need something like this, because everyone has shelter?

  2. RE: Sheltersuit

    I’d rather have a roof over my head 365 days a year than a glorified sleeping bag. We don’t need more band-aids applied to the problem of people without homes. Everyone deserves a safe, warm and private place to call home, regardless of their situation. I think all levels of government and all the groups involved should try and work together wherever possible. Without a home as a foundation how does anyone build a good life?

    1. It is very sad. We have the money – I believe there are 500ish homeless people in HRM, so collectively those of us with homes could easily afford to take care of them. It probably would only cost the housed majority $10 a year or something to physically provide homes.

      Even something the size of a jail cell would be something – obviously with more privacy and with an occupant-controlled lock. It wouldn’t be a great existence, but we wouldn’t tolerate prisoners having less.

      The sheltersuit seems horribly impractical. Imagine how sweaty you would get on a humid, mild fall/winter/spring day wearing that thing even if it was comfortable at night.

  3. I’m someone who realized when I was 35 that I wanted a child — but was very happy not having a biological one… in fact it was my preference. What always amazes me is how adoption either never gets discussed when talking about motherhood, or how its characterized as a second choice or last ditch effort. For me it was my first choice. “Having a kid” is a phrase that excludes those of us who chose a different route.

    1. You’re right. Adoption should be part of the discussions about motherhood/parenthood and those parents need and deserve supports, too.

  4. Re the COVID numbers, there was a possible exposure alert released 02/06 for Walmart in New Minas on 02/03 but no new cases in Western zone have been announced since 02/01. Has there been an explanation for that?

    1. No, and they won’t explain it, citing privacy. But there are obvious potential reasons: for example, a truck driver or delivery driver who travels inter-provincially is exempt from self-isolation rules, so might have made a delivery in New Minas before heading home to Halifax, like that.