1. Autumn Doucette

“As many as five fires set by a killer in the wooded community of Portapique drew a number of curious onlookers the night of April 18, 2020,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

Among them was Autumn Doucette. She lived a short distance away at Five Houses and was concerned “the forest fire” might cross the Portapique River and reach her home or her mother’s house, also in Five Houses.

Henderson documents how Doucette (and separately, her son Dean Dillman) drove to Portapique and took photos of the fires; Doucette’s phone records help fill in the timeline of events proposed by Mass Casualty Commission investigators.

Her interview with investigators touches on one of the most maddening aspects of this story:

Doucette said her son had reacted to seeing a Facebook post on his phone that mentioned a “shooter” or “shooting” in the area captured as a screenshot from an RCMP twitter feed. (In fact, the RCMP Twitter feed mentioned a “firearms complaint,” not a “shooter.”) This was around the time she was taking a second photo of the fire at 200 Portapique Beach Road, at 11:14. The reference on Facebook to a shooting convinced both mother and son it was time to head to their own homes.

The lead investigator for the MCC, Dwayne King, asked Doucette how she would describe the information provided by the RCMP through its Twitter feed. Doucette said she didn’t have Twitter on her phone Saturday night but she added the Twitter app to her phone early Sunday morning.

the tweet reads: "#RCMPNS is responding to a firearms complaint in the #Portapique area. (Portapique Beach Rd, Bay Shore Rd and Five Houses Rd.) The public is asked to avoid the area and stay in their homes with doors locked at this time."
The RCMP’s first tweet about Portapique, at 11:32pm

The first message the RCMP tweeted to the public was sent at 11:32pm on Saturday advising that the RCMP were at Portapique for a “firearms complaint” and asking the public to avoid the area and for residents to stay inside and lock their doors. The first time RCMP told residents and neighbours about an “active shooter” came via a tweet at 8:02am, which advised people in the area to stay inside and lock their doors.

the tweet reads: "#RCMPNS remains on scene in #Portapique. This is an active shooter situation. Residents in the area, stay inside your homes & lock your doors. Call 911 if there is anyone on your property. You may not see the police but we are there with you #Portapique."
The RCMP’s second tweet about Portapique, at 8:02am Sunday.

“Vague, now that I look back and know more,” replied Doucette to King’s question about the RCMP information sent over Twitter. “Inaccurate; very inaccurate.” 

“And why do you say that?” continued King.

“Because if he had come to my house that night in a police car, I would have opened my door and welcomed him in, and I would probably have been dead. Yeah. Because they knew he was driving a police car and it was Gabriel Wortman at 10 something that night, not the next morning. I heard all three 911 calls and all three of them identified him. And then they [the RCMP] said they didn’t know it was him until the next morning, 6:30am. And that’s disgusting, and I’m really angry about it.”

The three 911 calls she referred to came from Jamie Blair, the Blair and McCulley children, and Andrew and Kate MacDonald.

Click here to read “’If he had come to my house that night in a police car, I would have opened my door and welcomed him in, and I would probably have been dead.’”

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2. When “defunding” means increasing the budget

Police riot squad at the ready
Halifax Regional Police in full riot gear on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford Credit: Zane Woodford

“By a thin margin, councillors voted on Friday in favour of an increased budget for Halifax Regional Police,” reports Zane Woodford:

It’s the culmination of a months-long budget building process that saw the increase for the police budget fall from 2% in December to 0.4% this week as the Board of Police Commissioners and councillors heard from residents and passed the spending plan back and forth.

Kinsella stuck to what is essentially an emotional argument: officers are off because they’re tired, so if we hire more officers the problem will be solved. And it won over a majority of councillors.

“This is more than just the money. This is about the the mental health and support of officers. They are run down and run ragged,” Coun. Trish Purdy said.

Police are suddenly not the tough guys we’ve always been told they are, I guess. RCMP cops are traumatized, Halifax cops are tired. But don’t assign any of their duties to non-cops because only they are tough enough to do those duties, or some such.

I mean, if Halifax cops are tired, maybe we can get like, I dunno, mental health professionals to respond to mental health calls and let the cops take a nap?

Click here to read “Halifax councillors vote for increased police budget.”

“Halifax City council approved a slightly smaller increase for policing than the chief requested,” writes Stephen Kimber. “But it’s still an increase. And not the ‘rethinking’ of the role of policing in our society critics are asking for.”

Click here to read “Defunding the police by increasing funding for the police?”

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A painting showing the pit of hell, with bodies dropping into the flames.

War is a force that gives us meaning

The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are all susceptible to war’s appeal.

— Chris Hedges

In his book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, former war correspondent Chris Hedges details that while war is often created by psychopaths and criminals, it aggrandizes everyone it touches, and can make anyone capable of committing the most terrible atrocities. Having the righteous power to take another’s life is “ennobling,” says Hedges, and therefore terrifying.

I fear war. I don’t know if I fear the horrors of battle — I’ve never experienced them, so I can’t say with certainty. Rather, I fear what war can do to my psyche, or if you will, my soul — I’ve seen the ravages war has done to others firsthand, and I don’t want to go down that path.

So I avoid going too far down the rabbit hole of war porn, following too closely the competing battle strategies, the daily movements of troops, the body count. Oh, I know I need to be aware of what’s going on — the issues at play are truly important. And I’ll acknowledge the bravery of those defending their homeland, and “support” them, to the degree that support means an emotional allyship, paying higher gas prices, and worrying. Whatever that’s worth. And to that degree anyway, I’ve already walked a few steps down the path of meaning Hedges warns us about. There’s no escaping war, alas; not even from a comfortable living room in Canada. But I don’t need to be constantly checking CNN.

My reluctance to get pulled down the path of terrible meaning is in contrast to those who have uprooted their lives and travelled to or near the warfront.

There have always been such people, with varying motives. I think of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who later jokingly referred to themselves as “prematurely anti-fascist”; they demonstrated that it’s always somebody else’s war, until it isn’t. It’s impossible to fault their bravery, but they were part a spectrum, the opposite end of which are the amoral mercenaries and soldiers of fortune that clutter up every battlefield. In between those two ends are a lot of unrooted (mostly) men, looking for purpose and meaning.

There are articles in local media about two such men.

In an article picked up by Entertainment Tonight Canada, Global News reporter Alicia Draus brings us the story of Forbes March, who is going to Poland to help Ukrainian refugees. March is the actor son of “free speech” philosopher Peter March, who never met a racist he didn’t want to amplify — not that one is defined by one’s parents, but growing up in that shadow must have had its challenges. Forbes March, wiki tells me, recently gave up his acting career and started a firewood company, which he is evidently abandoning in order to go to Poland. Reports Draus:

March, who is in his late 40s, says he initially thought of fighting, but he feels too old and has no training in any sort of combat.

Social media is full of photos of Ukrainian grandmothers carrying AK47s, and since when did late 40s become old? But it’s good for one to know one’s limitations, I suppose.

Instead, he felt he could use his skills to help families who are escaping.

“I can do the most that I can do … I can go over there and bring a woman a cup of tea and a bowl of soup, maybe give her a chair, ‘sit down let me entertain your kids,’” said March.

The former Nova Scotian says he knows it’s not a lot but says there is a need for volunteers on the ground.

“They’re pretty desperate for people there, it’s well arranged, it’s peaceful it’s well organized, there is an excess of food, what they don’t have is people to help, they need boots not goods at this point, is my understanding.”

There are 38 million people in Poland.

March has “no direct ties to Poland or Ukraine but says the war is something that’s having an impact worldwide and he wanted to do his small part to help,” reports Draus.

The second story, by Cape Breton Post reporter Jessica Smith, profiles a “local man” named either Brandon Langton or Brandon Kroetsch, who likewise is going to Poland to “aid in citizen evacuation efforts in western Ukraine.”

Langton/Kroetsch is “local” because he lived in North Sydney for an entire month, Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator explains. Campbell goes on to relate a bizarre trek Langton/Kroetsch made:

…per his GoFundMe, [he] apparently left Kitchener, Ontario in February 2021, after the death of his mother, and “walked” to Halifax, raising $2,500 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation with his “A Walk to Wake Up” campaign. (The GoFundMe page says he raised $897 of his $2,500 goal, which was to cover his mother’s funeral expenses and his own travel costs.) He also admits in the story that he didn’t actually walk the entire way because he was out of shape.

I’ve written about the “earnest young person who was bicycling or hiking or canoeing or pogo-sticking across the country, around the province, to the North Pole or what have you, ‘for charity.’ … To be sure, there’s benefit in ‘raising awareness’ about the cause of the week, but more often than not the point of these ‘charity’ rides/hikes/canoes/pogos seems to be more about raising awareness of the rider/biker/paddler/sticker.”

In any event, the Cape Breton Post article includes a photo of the gear Langton/Kroetsch is taking to Poland, which includes a bow and arrows, which I’m sure will come in handy helping refugees.

Campbell goes on to say that:

I don’t want to come down too heavily on Langton/Kroetsch, who admits to struggling with mental illness, but how did this story make it past an editor?

To some degree, war affects everybody‘s mental health. I think these guys who pick up and go to Poland are just the leading edge.

I have a theory that war never truly leaves us. Just as the reaction to some terrible pandemic 100,000 years ago is embedded to this day in our genetic code, forgotten wars of long ago still ripple through our social fabric. Our society — how we deal with each other, how we raise our children, what we’re afraid of, our personal neuroses — is here in Nova Scotia, today, to a not-insignificant degree shaped by, say, a cataclysmic war 10,000 years ago between peoples of the Eurasian Steppes, or by the Sea People invading Bronze Age Egypt. Every time we unleash the demons of war, we change the future of all of humanity.

So yes, I have immense sympathy for the people of Ukraine, and yes their cause is righteous and meaningful. But I also know that even should they prevail (which I think they will), they will come out the other side having by necessity done terrible things, and they and theirs will suffer forever more. As will we.

War, as they say, is hell.

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No meetings

On campus


PhD thesis defenceMicrobiology and Immunology (Monday, 11am) — online; Adam Nelson will defend “Natural Killer T Cell Immunotherapy in Combination with Recombinant Oncolytic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus and Immune Checkpoint Therapy in Pancreatic and Breast Cancer Models”

Saint Mary’s


Assessing the Role of Indigenous Peoples in Arctic Governance (Monday, 9:30am, Room 519, McNally North) — public talk with Andrew Chater


Marriage, Separation & Divorce in England, 1500-1700 (Tuesday, 12pm) — virtual Faculty Author Series talk with Tim Stretton; hear the stories of women from the 16th-18th centuries who found themselves in broken marriages, and challenged a legal system that viewed them as subordinate to men and denied the option of divorce

In the harbour

02:30: ZIM Yokohama, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for New York
06:00: Algoterra, oil tanker, moves from anchorage to Imperial Oil
07:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Baltimore
10:00: Hyundai Faith, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Colombo, Sri Lanka
11:30: US naval ship departs from Dockyard
12:00: Horizon Enabler, offshore supply ship, sails from Dartmouth Cove for sea
13:30: Asterix, replenishment vessel, moves from Irving Oil to Dockyard

Cape Breton
05:00: CSL Kajika, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove quarry for Cape Canaveral, Florida
07:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Tampa, Florida


I have no problem driving driving to Maine or Quebec, crossing from Atlantic Time to Eastern Time, or back across again — I don’t notice the time change at all. And flying across multiple time zones “backwards” four hours to California or “forward” four hours to Europe is disruptive, but I get over it after a day or so. But if I’m sitting here right here at home and “they” move the clocks an hour, it takes me a week or 10 days to adjust.

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Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. A small addendum

    The Canadians who went to Spain to take up arms against fascism formed their own battalion called the “Mac-Paps”–after Mackenzie and Papineau the two leaders of the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion, still the closest we came to a revolution in Canada.