1. The mass murder inquiry has a crisis of legitimacy

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

Jennifer Henderson and I have been covering the Mass Casualty Commission, and have published a series of articles related to it:

The first day of the mass murder inquiry was dominated by a condescending and offensive panel on mental health

Night of Hell: here’s what happened in Portapique on April 18, 2020

“I don’t know who has command”: RCMP confusion on the ground in Portapique

Mass murder inquiry: here’s what the victims’ families want to question cops about

The Maine connection: the Houlton Elks Lodge, the call that precipitated the murder spree, and how the killer obtained his guns

I’m sitting in and live-tweeting the inquiry proceedings each day, and both Henderson and I are poring through the thousands of pages of documents to bring you more stories in coming days.

Next week, arguments about whether individual police officers should be subpoenaed and required to testify under oath will continue, and the commissioners will issue rulings related to that. Already the commissioners rejected a request for a blanket exemption to all cops testifying, so let’s wait and see what happens.

Still, even the argument that this or that cop shouldn’t have to take the stand is offensive. This is an inquiry intended to get answers: how can the cops not testify? The cops were on the ground in Portapique, seeing and hearing events as they played out, making command decisions, collecting evidence. They have firsthand knowledge, and the public needs to hear from them.

Oh, the lawyers for the commission are going on about process, saying it’s “premature” for this or that cop to talk about a specific incident because that may come up in proceedings two months from now. But as one of the lawyers for the victims’ families pointed out yesterday, a definitive narrative of what happened on April 18 in Portapique is being established by the commission lawyers, and the families have had no chance to challenge or question that timeline before it is set in stone.

I can’t speak for the families, and I’m sure they have their own strategies and responses to how the inquiry is proceeding.

But as I see it, the inquiry has a crisis of legitimacy: if cops are not brought to testify, under oath, to be cross-examined, and sooner rather than later, then much of the public — including myself — will see this entire process as a mockery of justice.

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2. Lots of people are dying from COVID

Weekly (Sat-Fri) new COVID case counts, deaths, and hospitalizations since Dec. 3. Chart: Tim Bousquet

As of yesterday, 16 people have been reported to have died from COVID this week in Nova Scotia. There’s still one day left in my Saturday-Friday tabulations, but so far this week is tied for second for the highest weekly death count throughout the pandemic — exceeded only by the week of Feb. 12-18, 2022, when 18 people were reported to have died (16 people also died in the week of May 2-May 8, 2020).

The Dept. of Health started hedging the death count figures two weeks ago, saying the deaths being reported on any day may have occurred weeks before, so therefore the daily death count doesn’t “reflect the current extent of the virus.”

I asked the department:

Have COVID deaths always been from days or weeks before the day they are reported? If so, why is this explanation only coming out this week? If not, what explains the difference?

And received this response from Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis on Feb. 18:

Depending on the nature of the death, it can take time to determine whether it is COVID related or not. In situations that are more complex, such as a person who dies with multiple contributing factors, the cases are reviewed by clinicians to determine whether COVID-19 may have contributed. This has always been the case throughout the pandemic; however, many of the deaths recently have required time for review and we felt this was important context to share with Nova Scotians to convey that these deaths don’t reflect the current extent of the virus, but rather its extent several weeks ago.

So I guess the deaths around Feb. 18 may have been from several weeks before, so the record death count for the week of Feb. 12-18 wasn’t as really as bad as the daily numbers seemed, except the death count now is about as high as it was for the week of Feb. 12-18, and if the deaths this week were from deaths several weeks ago, then in fact the numbers for the week of Feb. 12-18 were as bad as they seemed then even though we were told they weren’t, as reflected by the death numbers now.

You may want to write this down and make annotated diagrams.

The point is there seems to be a decision to ignore the fact that a large number of people are dying, and that we are in the highest death stage of the entire pandemic, right now.

Moreover, if death counts lag two or three weeks behind case counts, and we’re now experiencing case counts at about the same level as we saw two or three weeks into the Omicron wave, then… well, let’s mumble something about vaccination and pretend none of this death stuff is happening.

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3. A Sydney cop and the convoy

a man carrying Canadian flags
Photo: Facebook

“I mentioned in last week’s edition that I’d seen a video of Cape Breton Regional Police Services (CBRPS) officer distributing Canadian flags to a group of local ‘Freedom’ protesters in front of MP Mike Kelloway’s office in Dominion,” writes Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator.

Campbell asked the police service for comment and got the perfunctory non-response. She continues:

The owner of the video, one of 413 (as of this morning) members of the Cape Bretoners for Freedom 2022 Facebook group, has since removed both it and some still pictures — one of which I’d already downloaded — “out of respect for the officer” and the group has been made private.

She also posted the CBRPS statement and people’s reactions to it were in line with my own impression of what I’d seen, namely, that the cop was completely sympathetic to the protestors…

About four posts down from the account of the protest in front of Kelloway’s office, I found myself watching a video claiming Justin Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s son — giving the “newscaster” an opportunity to a) display his lack of understanding of the word “communist” and b) say some ugly, misogynist things about Trudeau’s mother. He then brings on a guest — a “personal transformation coach” who looks like her own personal transformation involved a lot of late nights and an indiscriminate application of mascara — who explains that Trudeau (who, like Stephen Harper, is gay) is intent upon “ushering in an agenda of pedophilia” and “queering all of society” in Canada.

When I viewed the group’s Facebook page last week, there wasn’t much in the way of commenting on or sharing of these more Q-Anonish posts, but they’re clearly tolerated.

Before I got locked out of the group, I had thought about reaching out to some of the members to try to have one of those rational conversations that are supposed to allow people with differing views to better understand one another, but how do you have a rational conversation about Justin Trudeau’s (let alone Stephen Harper’s) efforts to “queer” society?

You don’t, that’s how.

I could understand, for example, a cop being tired of having to enforce COVID measures. I could understand a cop who didn’t like being forced to get a vaccine (although, again I wouldn’t be particularly sympathetic to him). But what if this cop believes Trudeau is Castro’s son and he’s trying to queer Canadian society?

Support for the convoy from active and retired cops and military personnel makes me nervous and the CBRPS version of what happened in Dominion last week doesn’t satisfy me which, oddly enough, gives me something in common with the protesters.

Click here to read “Showing the flag?”

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Earlier this week, I was walking to the Bridge Terminal to catch the bus over to the convention centre for the mass murder inquiry. I got to the corner by the schools, and the crossing guard, Carol, was waiting with about eight small kids.

A man in his early 20s was on the opposite corner and about to cross against the light. Carol motioned for him to stop — that’s her job, and crossing against the light is bad modelling for the little ones besides.

But Carol’s gentle reprimand caused the man to get irate. He crossed anyway, yelling, “Fuck you!” at Carol, and then doing that pointing his thumbs at his chest thing, and screaming “I’m a real man!”

He was, obviously, an asshole. But I got to thinking about it, and decided that the thing that bothered me the most wasn’t the bad modelling for the kids, nor even the “fuck you!” at Carol, who is a pleasant woman who has been watching over children for years and deserves nothing but kindness and thanks.

Rather, what bothered me most was the “I’m a real man!” part of this asshole-y-ness.

My feminist friends will, I hope, forgive me for being late to the game here, but it seems that of late some sort of gate broke and there is now a veritable flood of examples of men defining “real man” as simply being transgressive: no real man observes a traffic signal, no real man wears a mask, like that.

We recently saw a Canadian city shut down by “real men” who refused to get a shot. I don’t think they were really worried about the vaccines; as I see it, it was that being asked to do anything for the common good, no matter how minor, was an affront to their “freedom” to be a “real man.”

My attention this past week has been focused primarily on the effects of one man who stated plainly that he would “go out” in a fashion that would “make the news.” And what would make the news? The most violent possible transgression of the foundational value of respecting human life. He not only did not care a whit for the lives, the loves, the struggles, the joys, the families, the anything of his fellow humans — in his warped mind, doing the opposite established his legacy. Talk about your toxic masculinity.

Between my reporting and at the end of the day at home, I tried to catch up on the big news of the week, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Another man who sees his identity as a man tied to violence and the transgression of international norms. And thousands will die as a result.

I don’t sit around thinking about what it means to be a man, and never have. It’s all bullshit, from Robert Bly banging on drums in the woods to let’s bomb the fuck out of people in some random country for democracy to Jordan Peterson telling his pathetic followers to not beat off and instead clean their rooms to wannabe warriors storming capitols, it’s all about dudes being insecure in their bodies and minds, and looking for scapegoats and outlets to displace that insecurity instead of just dealing with it like, er, a man.

But if I had to think about what it means to be a man, I’d land on the stereotype of the strong, quiet version of masculinity. Sure, there’s sexism embedded in that stereotype too, but at least the silent guy who cares for his family and community and country by doing what’s necessary as a provider and protector, at personal cost to himself, is not an asshole.

Guys: whatever unfairness you think there is in, name your grievance — women getting a needed leg up on this or that job, being asked to do a little more than your neighbour, someone telling you to shut up with your bullshit opinions — suck it up, buttercup. Because whatever the fuck you think is unfair is tiny, tiny, tiny compared to the actual unfairness and terrible violence experienced by women for millennia, centuries, years, and right now today.

Get the fuck over yourselves and step up already.

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Budget Committee – Contingency Date (Friday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting


Mo meetings

On campus


Foregrounding Justice in the Use of Novel Artificial Womb Technologies (Friday, 12pm) — online talk by Claire Horn (with closed captioning)

Mount Saint Vincent


Panel to discuss sexual empowerment this International Women’s Day (Tuesday, March 8, 12pm) — Register now for this online panel discussion:

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2022, a panel of sex and pleasure educators will join in an open conversation about the topic of sexual empowerment, in particular dating, hook-up culture and COVID-19. Members of the public are welcome. Please note that this session will include mature content that may not be suitable for all audiences. The panel will be moderated by Shannon Pringle and panelists will include Katie Allen, Carmel Farahbakhsh, Rachele Manett and Luna Matatas. Find more information on the panelists and the events here. For more information, email here.


Conference of the Contemporary (Friday, 7pm – Saturday 3:30pm) — Via Zoom, students in the Contemporary Studies Program will present a conference on their work. On March 4 at 7 p.m., Hilary Ilkay will present a keynote lecture. On March 5, students will present their work in panels from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

In the harbour

08:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, moves from Pier to Fairview Cove
14:30: NYK Remus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for sea
15:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, sails from Pier 41 for St. John’s
15:00: CSL Tacoma, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
18:00: Nolhanava sails for Saint-Pierre
18:00: Pacific Jade, oil tanker, arrives at Imperial Oil from Antwerp, Belgium
20:00: MSC Sandra, container ship, arrives at Berth TBD from Montreal

Cape Breton
11:00: Sarah Desgagnes, oil tanker, sails from Government Wharf (Sydney) for sea
11:00: Seacalm, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
18:30: Algoma Victory, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from sea


It’s been a very long week, and so a short Morning File.

And this week, the Examiner crew stepped up even more than usual. Jennifer Henderson has been invaluable to the inquiry reporting. Suzanne Rent took over all the assigning and most of the editing. Iris continues to be The Amazing. And all the writers did great without me peering over their shoulders. I appreciate it more than I can say.

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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. It used to be that assholes like the “real man” at the crosswalk would be loners in the sense that overt expressions of assholeity would render the perpetrator somewhat isolated in the crowd. Now with social media, assholes have managed to congregate in critical masses which gives them the false sense of being part of a special breed. There are not more assholes, just more assholes who are not afraid to be assholes openly because they believe that they have strength in numbers and engage in their own form of social activity like “freedom” convoys. We see the dawning of the Age of the Asshole. Hooray for Facebook.

  2. Tim, you’re on a roll for today’s Morning File. Agreed, being a ‘man’ means first being a good human. That was one sad human being.
    Then, your articulate, matter of fact calling out of the outrageous legal gymnastics happening at the MCC Inquiry actually helps stabilize my nervous system in my own shaking grief and anger reaction to it.
    And then you’re COVID analyses, thank you thank you, for your eyes and spreadsheets. Yes, there are many people dying. Yes, there’s definitely a tone of mumbling about those clear numbers and true facts.
    Your reports are and have been my baseline resource from the beginning of the pandemic.
    I really appreciate your clarity, and calling out THIS particular shifty/shifting view of the provincial response now. The current state of the pandemic is essentially being ignored – cus ‘we’re tired of it’ – and that is / will be a big problem for all of us. Why is 16 people in May 2020 dying the Show Stopper it needed to be, but 16 people dying last week – ok, lets lift restrictions! Being immune compromised, my world just gets smaller and smaller as this idea of ‘opening up’ expands. I simply can’t wrap my head around being ‘expendable’.
    There needs to be a balance, but nope, this does not feel like a balanced response.

  3. Just a bit of humour — I see that above it says

    Mo meetings”… and at first I laughed thinking yup – Province – def MORE meetings… but I think it likely should be “no meetings” LOL Not a pedant or anything… (yeah sure)

  4. Here’s an Alden Nowlan poem that came to mind when i read Tim’s crosswalk asshole rant.
    The Rites of Manhood

    It’s snowing hard enough that the taxis aren’t running.
    I’m walking home, my night’s work finished,
    long after midnight, with the whole city to myself,
    when across the street I see a very young American sailor
    standing over a girl who’s kneeling on the sidewalk
    and refuses to get up although he’s yelling at her
    to tell him where she lives so he can take her there
    before they both freeze. The pair of them are drunk
    and my guess is he picked her up in a bar
    and later they got separated from his buddies
    and at first it was great fun to play at being
    an old salt at liberty in a port full of women with
    hinges on their heels, but by now he wants only to
    find a solution to the infinitely complex
    problem of what to do about her before he falls into
    the hands of the police or the shore patrol
    — and what keeps this from being squalid is
    what’s happening to him inside:
    if there were other sailors here
    it would be possible for him
    to abandon her where she is and joke about it
    later, but he’s alone and the guilt can’t be
    divided into small forgettable pieces;
    he’s finding out what it means
    to be a man and how different it is
    from the way that only hours ago he imagined it.

    Alden Nowlan

  5. Tim,
    I agree with your summation about toxic masculinity and general assholery but I suspect you are preaching to the choir on here.
    That’s the thing about our polarity of opinions on social media and news sites.
    Like never before we are going to sites that reinforce opinions ‘we’ already adhere to, looking for reinforcement of our beliefs and biases.
    Entrenchment of intolerance of opinions and point of view has in my opinion reached
    unsurpassed levels.

  6. I totally agree with Tim Bousquet’s interpretation of the ‘progress’ the MCC Inquiry has made to date. How can they look themselves in the mirror each morning without asking “What the hell are we doing?”

  7. There was a big amount of ” craziness ” on talk radio this morning ….. craziness seems to be spreading rapidlly. … maybe it has something to do with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 ???

  8. Most overt in-your-face aggressively self-labeling “real men” are just assholes, plain and simple….they’ve merely co-opted a different term to describe themselves so that they don’t have to pound on their chest and yell aggressively at other people “I’m an asshole.” They seem to think that using a different label means that most of the rest of us don’t know who they really are, but we do.

    Sad & pathetic really.

  9. Justice is a subjective concept; an activity and action. I do not expect justice. The problem is far deeper, and far more important than “justice not being served”.

    If the members don’t testify, the MCC is a mockery of the concept of truth.