News

1. Mass murder inquiry

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a Nova Scotia tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

The public inquiry into the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020 begins today. This week’s proceedings are preliminary: today there is a “Panel on Human Impact — Broad Reach and Effects on Wellness” and tomorrow a “Panel about life in rural Nova Scotia, including in the affected communities.”

It won’t be until next week that the commissioners hear testimony about what happened on April 18 and 19, and not until March, April, and May that systemic issues are considered.

The Examiner will be at the hearings throughout.

Here are some of the issues we’ll want clarity on:

• On the night of April 18, why did the RCMP wait outside the community of Portapique and not search immediately for an active shooter, especially since four children were on the phone with 911 for two hours while hiding in Lisa McCully’s basement?

• Was the delay reflective of the Moncton tragedy, and could a decision not to search for the gunman while children were clearly in danger be considered police cowardice?

• Conversely, while the children were left in hiding, other people in the community were evacuated — Peter Griffon and his parents. Why were they evacuated while the children weren’t?

• What time did paramedics and firefighters arrive on Saturday night, and why were they not permitted to go to the scene of the fires?

• How many RCMP officers from the Bible Hill detachment were on duty or available for call out on Saturday evening, April 18? Why didn’t the Commanding Officer call in reinforcements from Truro or Amherst town police? Which RCMP units were called in once police realized they were dealing with multiple victims and crime scenes?

• Were police from different detachments able to share information on one radio channel or were they operating in separate silos throughout the 13-hour manhunt? 

• What time was Clinton Ellison rescued from the woods by an armoured vehicle?

• Was Lisa Banfield really hiding in the woods from 10pm until 6:30am, and if so, how was that verified?

• In what order were the Portapique victims killed, and why specifically was each killed? When did police discover their bodies?

• There appears to be about a half hour “missing” from the time the killer drove from his hiding place in Debert to Hunter Road; did he travel somewhere else?

• The killing of Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins on Hunter Road raises a host of issues: Why did the killer target them? What was their prior relationship? What was he doing at their house for so many hours? Did he remove clothing and/or weapons?

• How were Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton stopped on Plains Road, and would a police alert have prevented their murders?

• What was the killer’s relationship with Gina Goulet, and why did he go to her home?

• What information related to the suspect was given to the Halifax Regional Police on Saturday night and Sunday morning? Did the HRPD tell its officers not to travel past the airport, and not to kill the suspect? What actions, if any, were taken to protect the killer’s intended victims in Dartmouth and Cole Harbour?

• What was the killer wearing when he was killed by police at the Big Stop in Enfield? Was he carrying or wearing anything collected from the Hunter Road residence? How did the police officer recognize the killer, and what was their exchange?

There are many more questions, and we’ll get into those next week.

Nick Beaton in a screenshot from a video on Facebook.

Nick Beaton, who lost his wife Kristen and unborn child on April 19,2020 has spoken publicly the desire of the families of the victims to know if their lawyer will be permitted to cross-examine the information presented by the Mass Casualty Commission, as well as whatever witnesses the Commission decides to call. The response from the Commission Counsel has been “maybe.”

Earlier this morning, the Premier’s Office issued this statement in support of the families:

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have heard family members express frustration and concern about the structure of the inquiry. They feel left in the dark. This is not only disrespectful, it should cause us all to pause and ask, if the families don’t have confidence in the process, how can the public?

The reason Nova Scotians pulled together and pushed for an inquiry as opposed to a review was to ensure that it was honest, comprehensive, detailed and most importantly, designed to answer questions. Yet, it is still not even known if key witnesses have been subpoenaed to testify, if there will be an opportunity to cross-examine them or if it will be a comprehensive list of witnesses. This uncertainty is causing further, unnecessary trauma.

For these reasons, the commission should meet with the families and their counsel to listen to their concerns and provide them with a plan that gives them confidence in the process.

I’ll be at the hearings today, and will be live-tweeting the most important parts of the proceedings. They will be live-streamed here.

With files from Jennifer Henderson.

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2. COVID, protesters, and their attacks on the press

Convoy protesters have been cleared from Ottawa, but this is by no means the end of it — the far right is emboldened and will continue to assert itself, to horrible ends.

Who are these people, and what are they about?

Consider Nova Scotia Senator Michael MacDonald’s drunken rant on the streets of Ottawa:

Wow 😮 Conservative Senator Michael MacDonald caught giving a two minute rant in support of the illegal occupation.

“My wife’s a Karen, scared. ‘Oh I just wish they would leave”

Admitting his family is scared of the occupiers and egging them on. pic.twitter.com/4r8fMR9E8U

— Lindsay Hunter (@LindsayHunter1) February 20, 2022

“It’s a cross-section of Canadians who have said ‘we have had enough of the bullying, of duplicity, and the lies and the social management and the bullying and the control freaks and everything else,” said MacDonald as he bobbed and weaved into and out of the frame of the video. “The country’s full of Karens — my wife’s a Karen, she said ‘oh, I wish they’d leave.’ I said, ‘I don’t want them to leave.’ I don’t care if they leave Windsor or the other places where they’re shutting down transportation, but not Ottawa, I don’t want them to leave… oh, I hear this all the time, ‘they’re in our city’; it’s everybody’s fucking city. This is the capital of the country. It’s not your goddamn city just because you have a six-figure salary and work 20 hours a week.”

As a Senator, MacDonald has a base salary of $160,000 a year.

Yesterday, MacDonald apologized for his “mangled remarks,” but went on to blame the Ottawa police and “city hall” for the trucker protest and doubled-down on the criticism of COVID policies.

Then there was the fellow at the mic in the Halifax protest who said:

Sadly, it would be the case that some of us would die, but that is true of every single day that we’re alive. And if you can recall, before coronavirus hit, some people died, and that was life, and no one gave a shit.

Philip Moscovitch created an audio collage of that protest, and Yvette d’Entremont took photos. I’d like to point out just one, this one:

A ‘Trudeuamania’ sign placed in the gate at the Garrison Grounds where rally participants gathered on Sunday. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

It’s not that the sign misspelled Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s name — as I’ve pointed out before, the “ah shucks, we’re just common folk” representation, complete with misspellings and bad graphics, is in reality a highly sophisticated marketing campaign.

Rather, the sign is offensive because it trots out a couple of anti-Semitic tropes: accusing Trudeau of pursuing a “globalist agenda” and the behest of the WEF (World Economic Forum). These common folk know exactly what they’re doing.

While the group in Halifax were relatively subdued, their counterparts across the country were attacking journalists:

⚠️WARNING: Profane language.

My camera operator and I get swarmed by protesters and followed — after an interview with police media relations.

Officers escort us to our vehicle after we receive verbal threats. #bcpoli #TruckerConvoy pic.twitter.com/280fzoq2UD

— Kamil Karamali (@KamilKaramali) February 19, 2022

WARNING: Strong language. Convoy supporters & anti-vaccine protestors swarm our camera at 176th & 8th Ave. Pacific Hwy border crossing closed again. @cbcnewsbc @CBCAlerts pic.twitter.com/5V4Ox6CLIm

— Dan Burritt (@DanBurritt) February 19, 2022

I was doing a live hit with @MSNBC this afternoon when our crew was mobbed. One guy actually spit at us, others called us Nazis. MSNBC had to cut it off almost after it began. Then they chased us down the street to our bureau. pic.twitter.com/K21NIHgGCS

— Glen McGregor (@glen_mcgregor) February 19, 2022

Voici la vidéo : pic.twitter.com/94iXLiHVni

— Mylène Crête (@MyleneCrete) February 19, 2022

Shocking video by @CTVVancouver of 2 protesters spitting on CBC’s reporter and camera operator. #bcpoli #TruckersConvoy pic.twitter.com/OUZkhgmSxL

— Kamil Karamali (@KamilKaramali) February 20, 2022

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3. Postmedia

“Be careful what you wish for,” writes Stephen Kimber, reflecting upon the long criticism of Irving-owned Brunswick News papers in New Brunswick, and last week’s announcement that Postmedia is buying the chain:

Postmedia? It didn’t officially arrive on the scene until 2010, but it was even more awful than all the rest.

As business columnist David Olive wrote in 2016:

There is a cancer on Canadian journalism.

The malignancy is Postmedia Network Canada Corp., a foreign-controlled, debt-burdened contrivance flirting with insolvency that nonetheless is relied upon by about 21 million Canadian readers. Postmedia’s 200-plus media outlets, mostly newspapers, including some of the biggest dailies in the country, represent a far greater concentration of news media ownership than exists in any other major economy. And a degree of foreign ownership of the free press that would not be tolerated in the U.S., France, Japan or Germany.

You will note that that column was written in 2016. Six years later, 80 of those media outlets seem to have disappeared, sacrificed at the alter of stockholder profit.

As with the journalists at the old Daily News, our Hobson’s choice seems to be between awful and more awful.

But perhaps the best hope is behind Door Number 3 — the ultimate collapse of both Postmedia and Saltwire and a fresh start for journalism in Canada.

Click here to read “One media dinosaur gobbles up another.”

This article is for subscribers. Click here to subscribe.

In response to Stephen’s column, a reader commented:

With the future so bleak, how does Postmedia re-coup their $7.5 million? That sounds like real money. The $8.6 million in stock, though predicted here to be worthless soon, is hardly an “exit from the media business.”

To which I responded:

Postmedia has done this time and again. They see an advertising revenue stream that is more “sticky” than the costs going out, which they can cut quickly by slashing staff and pay. It doesn’t matter that the advertising revenue stream also eventually is reduced to nothing as papers close; all that matters is that is reduced at a slower rate than costs are reduced. The difference is huge profits, which in this case will far exceed the $16.1 million.

In other words, the goal is not to continue producing papers for the long-run and getting reasonable returns for many years into the future; the goal is get large immediate returns by not investing in the future at all.

I could, theoretically, lay off all the Examiner employees today, and not publish a thing, and we’d still have revenue coming in for a few weeks or months as people slowly cancel their subscriptions, and I’d personally make a lot of money (for me) immediately, as I wouldn’t be paying anything out. Yes, that’s stupid short-term thinking because I actually care about producing journalism and besides, what would I do two months from now? For Postmedia, which doesn’t care about producing journalism, what they do when the revenue finally collapses is buy out and raid the next company.

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4. Development

Apartment buildings under construction on Clyde Street in Halifax in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

“Halifax’s head of planning and development is hopeful new staff would speed up development permitting processing,” reports Zane Woodford:

Regional councillors voted during a virtual meeting on Friday to add $924,700 to their budget adjustment list for consideration at the end of their budget building process. That money would be an ongoing annual expense used to hire new staff in Planning and Development to process and approve building permits.

Click here to read “Halifax councillors to consider increased staffing to speed up development permitting.”

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5. Child care

Photo: Beth Bap Church/Unsplash

“The province has announced additional funding to help Nova Scotia’s child care centres offset costs associated with the move towards $10 a day child care by 2026,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

The funding includes a $1 million one-time grant for child care centres to help support rising operational costs and offset the freeze on parent fees.

An additional $35 million in federal dollars will be used to help providers offset the 25% fee reduction for parents (retroactive to January 1) that was announced as part of the Nova Scotia Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Agreement last month.

Click here to read “More funding on the way for child care centres as the province moves towards $10 a day child care.”

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6. Halifax’s apartment vacancy rate lowest in Canada

Apartment buildings in Halifax. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“The apartment rental vacancy rate in Halifax is back to 2019’s historic low, according to new numbers from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC),” reports Zane Woodford:

CMHC released its national Rental Market Report on Friday, reporting that the vacancy rate in October 2021 was 1%. That’s down from 1.9% the year before, and matches 2019’s figure. It’s tied for the lowest vacancy rate in Canada, along with Victoria, BC and Peterborough, Ont. The national average is 3.1%.

The report is based on a sample survey of buildings with three or more rental units, and also found average rents in Halifax increased 5.1% to $1,244.

Click here to read “Halifax apartment rental vacancy drops back to 1%, the lowest in Canada.”

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7. Tragedy in Auburndale

An RCMP release from yesterday:

The investigation into the fatal fire in Auburndale is continuing and is being led by the Nova Scotia Fire Marshal’s Office.

On February 19, Lunenburg District RCMP, EHS and several local fire departments responded to a house fire on Upper Branch Rd. in Auburndale. The fire was put out after a number of hours. Two people, a 36-year-old man and a 4-year-old child escaped the home.

The remains of a 33-year-old woman, an 11-year-old child, a 9-year-old child and an 8-year-old child, were located in the home. Autopsies have been completed by the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Nova Scotia Fire Marshal’s Office continues to investigate the cause of the fire. The evidence and information gathered to date continues to indicate the fire is not suspicious. The Lunenburg District RCMP will continue to offer assistance as required.

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8. Misty Moon

Misty Moon Gottingen Street location. Photo: Nova Scotia Memories of Days Gone By/Facebook

“Charlene Boyce was a ‘Moon Girl,’” writes Suzanne Rent:

She recalls the first time she went to the Misty Moon at its location on Barrington Street. It was 1988 and Boyce just arrived in the city as a student. She was living in residence with another young woman named Jenny, who introduced her to the cabaret that for years had hosted local and international bands on its stage.

“We went downtown fairly regularly, as you did, and we went to the Misty Moon,” Boyce said. “We were Moon Girls. There were Palace Girls. And then there were girls who went home at 1am, which I can’t even imagine.”

The Misty Moon was the city’s rock bar and Boyce said it had been built up as this dangerous place. But Boyce said she quickly learned that wasn’t the case.

“It was awesome,” Boyce said. “There was always the feeling we were being watched over. It never felt dangerous when we were going there.”

Boyce, a graduate student of Atlantic Canada Studies at Saint Mary’s University, spent the last two and a half years working on her thesis, Music, Money, Memory and Cultural Identity: An Oral History of the Misty Moon Show Bar.

On Friday, she defended that thesis and on Saturday she chatted with the Examiner about all the research she put into her work.

This will undoubtedly be the most shared Examiner story this month, heh.

Click here to read “Music, money, and memories: remembering Halifax’s Misty Moon.”

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Government

City

Tuesday

Halifax and West Community Council (Tuesday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Wednesday

Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Western Common Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 6:30pm) — virtual meeting

Province

Tuesday

Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am) — video conference: Addressing Affordability for Post-Secondary Students in Nova Scotia Post-COVID, with representatives from the Department of Advanced Education and Students Nova Scotia; also Agency, Board, and Commission Appointments

Natural Resources and Economic Development (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) — also via video conference:  Protecting Employment in the Transition from Coal, with representatives from the Department of Labour, Skills, and Immigration, Nova Scotia Power, IBEW Local 1928, and Clean Foundation

Wednesday

Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — Department of Community Services – Child Protection Services Caseloads, with Tracey Taweel


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

Safe Space For White Questions – Freedom Edition (Wednesday, 2pm) — Live and anonymous online Q&A with Ajay Parasram and Alex Khasnabish hosted by Fernwood Publishing:

We’ve heard the word “freedom” a lot these days, but it seems like everyone defines it differently. Join us and ask your pressing questions about what is happening and why, or how to respond to people in your life about mandates, the convoy, the far-right, and freedom. Safe Space For White Questions is a monthly YouTube show with Dr. Ajay Parasram (Dal) and Dr. Alex Khasnabish (MSVU) intended to help predominantly white people deepen their racial resilience by having a judgement free and anonymous space to ask any questions they may feel uncomfortable asking in public.

PhD Thesis, Industrial Engineering (Wednesday, 3pm) — Scott Fleming will defend “Problem definition in engineering design: Using the universe of problems approach to aid novice performance”


In the harbour

Halifax
18:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 42 for Palm Beach, Florida

Cape Breton
01:00: Mia Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for Corner Brook
12:00: CSL Metis, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
21:30: SLNC Severn, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for sea


Footnotes

Today the Examiner is reporting on Senator Michael MacDonald, former Supreme Court Justice and current Mass Casualty Commission commissioner Michael MacDonald, and Doobie Brothers keyboardist Michael McDonald. These are three different people.


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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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  1. During the last week two distinct but related things have simultaneously brought me rage and deep sadness. Canada’s flag has been snatched from us and distorted into an alt right symbol fed by false information, discredited conspiracy theories and disjointed anti-government rants. All of this egged on by sinister forces skulking the halls of social media. I have also been deeply saddened by the existential danger our media and front line forces now face at the hands of those whom they are covering. David Common at CBC has had to disguise himself because he is a recognizable CBC reporter. He has served in war zones with live fire and it was right here in Ottawa where he faced what might have been his greatest threat.

  2. Okay, I get it. I get it.

    But we ink-stained wretches have got to stop bleating about how we are the last saviours of all things just, free and noble. We aren’t. I’ve been a newspaper writer and editor and owner for 48 years (never a journalist). The number of “journalists” I have met and know of–including many of the “big names”–who are ready to step up and talk back to the powers that be and actually risk living up to their self-appraisal as being the last bulwark against barbarism, wouldn’t fill the tables at a Tim Hortons in Ecum Secum,

    Let me illustrate. Once, years ago, NABET members were on strike. They managed to infiltrate a production team and shut down a TV news show in mid-broadcast. When a manager stormed into the studio to demand to know who did it. The first person to jump up and point out who did is was the journalist reading the news.

    We writers are not noble or special or essential to democracy. We are chopped liver. Like all workers. We are subject to the same fate as all workers under capitalism. We should not demand or expect that some deus ex machina make us into a protected species–any more than baristas, or teachers, or nurses, or lumberjacks, or,or,or…

    We’ve simply got to get over ourselves and do the work. I’m looking at you Ian Hanomansing or Rosemary Barton: how many times during the last four weeks did you think to tell us that 40% of truckers in Canada are Asian and are fighting the good fight against virulent racism and bosses who regularly steal their wages?

    Enough with the self-absorbed hand-wringing, breast beating and tub thumping. We just need to do the work we say we can do, and the rest will take care of itself.

    It strikes me, the Halifax Examiner is a case in point.

  3. Ottawa had 3 different police chiefs in four days. The capital of Canada has provided comic relief to the world.

  4. In Shubenacadie:

    Court documents the Examiner helped get released, showed Constable Morrison testifying that he saw a police car coming behind him (which turned out to be the shooter), and radioed asking if any cars were near him, with a response from Constable Stevenson saying she was almost at their previously appointed meeting place. Are there any records of this call? Was the scene investigated to see if Morrison’s account was even physically possible?

    The RCMP claimed numerous times that Constables Morrison and Stevenson were aware they were looking for the shooter in a fake cruiser. They were on Enfield Detachment radio, and the first public announcement of the fake cruiser was the tweet only minutes before they were ambushed. Is there any evidence that the constables were warned?

    What does the physical and eyewitness evidence show about whether Constable Stevenson had any idea why she had been rammed by a police vehicle? Was she able to fire a shot? What is the evidence whether she even had a weapon drawn?

    When police arrived shortly after, there were multiple witnesses who saw something. More than one saw the shooter leave in Joey Webber’s silver Tracker. The RCMP knew that because they issued a warning about the shooter in that car. The Moncton ERT secured the scene, knowing already about the two victims, and that the shooter had left. He was over ten minutes at the nearby home of his last victim, Gina Goulet. Why did not any of the numerous RCMP vehicles follow?

    The RCMP for some time had been proceeding on information the shooter was headed to Dartmouth. Why were there no attempts at roadblocks going south from the Shubenacadie murders?

  5. Were any RCMP vehicles waiting on Highway 4 at the Hunter Road junction, 5 minutes from the crime scene. How long were they there? What were their instructions, including of course what were they waiting for? How did they miss Wortman coming out? Were they already positioned there before Tom Bagley as killed ?

    If they were out there (and the evidence is strong that they were), this raises the same questions about warnings- both general public warnings, then warnings to residents.

    What are the actual times of the first calls from Hunter Road about a fire and shots fired? What time was the Wentworth Fire Department told not to go to respond to the fire? How do these times compare to RCMP accounts in public briefings and to the families of the victims? What is their account of any discrepancies?