1. Halifax police board asks for report on relevance of MCC report to local policing

Three people sitting at a dais in front of a crowd.
From left to right, commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, chair, and Kim Stanton deliver the final report of the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia in Truro, N.S. on Thursday, March 30, 2023. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

We begin today with three stories by Zane Woodford, covering municipal and provincial politics.

First up: the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners and its request for a staff report on the implications of the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report on policing in Halifax.

The MCC report does not only focus on the RCMP and its response to the murders of April 19-20, 2020, but also makes broader recommendations on policing in Canada generally, including the implementation of a “three-year degree-based model of police education for all police services in Canada.”

At the police board meeting on Monday, Coun. Lindell Smith brought forward a motion (on behalf of Commissioner Harry Critchley, who wasn’t there) for a staff report on “outlining any major factual findings of the MCC report relevant to the board’s statutory mandate,” Woodford writes.

The report, to be written by the board’s policy advisor, Josh Bates, will also outline any recommendations from the report “that are within the board’s statutory jurisdiction, either on its own or in tandem with other levels. of government.” And Bates will outline “any other information from the MCC report that the policy advisor considers would be relevant to or helpful for the board in fulfilling its statutory duties and functions.”

There was some discussion about the appropriateness of this request and its timing, which you can read about in Woodford’s full story.

I do note that, refreshingly, Halifax-district RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Christie says he is actually reading the report. Woodford writes:

Christie said the RCMP had been paying attention throughout the MCC.

“We have, for lack of better word, been leaning ahead and forecasting a number of areas which has led to the early adoption of a number of, I will say improvements, or lessons learned from the mass casualty, including alerting,” Christie said.

Click here to read “Halifax police board asks for report on Mass Casualty Commission recommendations.”

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2. Fixed-term lease loophole remains

The front of Province House in June 2021. In the front is a very clean sidewalk and wrought iron fence; in the background, rising high above the roofline, are more modern buildings.
Province House in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

The provincial government is refusing to close a huge loophole in the rent cap, Zane Woodford reports.

The province intends to raise the cap for rent increases from 2% to 5%. Woodford writes:

Unsurprisingly, landlords opposed any cap on rent increases.

But much of the talk at the committee on Monday was about what wasn’t in the bill: any movement on the issue of fixed-term leases. Landlords have been using fixed terms to skirt the rent cap, booting tenants and jacking up the price of their units for the next inhabitant above the 2% cap…

Robyn McIntosh is a tenant looking for a new place to live this fall. She’s been on fixed-term leases for almost six years, renewed annually with “reasonable increases.”

“This year, without explanation, it was not renewed,” McIntosh told the committee.

“My small, 600-square-foot one-bedroom apartment is moving from $1,248 a month to $2,195 come September. This increase of $947 per month was made specifically to avoid the rent cap, and I along with other people in my building are being forced to leave our homes at the end of the summer.”

Click here to read “PC MLAs vote down NDP amendments to close fixed-term lease loophole.”

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3. No relief for assistance recipients, who are in “deep income poverty”

A man wearing glasses and a suit with a striped shirt speaks to someone out of frame. He's sitting at a table with microphones and a stack of empty paper cups.
Vince Calderhead speaks to the Nova Scotia Legislature’s Law Amendments Committee in Halifax on Monday, April 3, 2023. Credit: Zane Woodford

“Nova Scotians on income assistance are well below the poverty line, and they’re further behind after the latest provincial budget,” Zane Woodford writes, reporting from Monday’s meeting of the legislature’s Law Amendments Committee.

Human rights lawyer Vince Calderhead was speaking to the committee about the province’s refusal to increase social assistance payments at all in the most recent budget.

Calderhead noted that about 70% of people on income assistance in Nova Scotia are disabled, and receive $1,042.69 per month. A single adult without disabilities, not living as a boarder, receives $748.92 per month from the province. Woodford writes:

“If you ask most people on the street, how much they would receive from province by way of total income support, they really wouldn’t have a clue,” Calderhead said.

“When you tell them it’s less than $750 … Most people would be completely shocked at the idea that they not only have to rent, typically rent, housing, in the middle of a housing crisis and affordability crisis, not to mention then going on to pay their other expenses, importantly food.”

Last year, I was invited to the Brunswick Street Mission’s annual fundraising breakfast. Various people spoke in person or via video about the importance of the mission’s work, and about helping people in poverty. One of those who appeared via pre-recorded video was Premier Tim Houston. I can’t remember exactly what Houston said in his video, but I do remember thinking geez, it’s too bad you’re not in a position where you could actually do something about this.

We have very messed-up ideas about poverty. We somehow think that if we make life hard enough for people who are poor, somehow they will just decide to get jobs and not be poor. We love every solution other than the most obvious one: give people money. Instead, we’ll come up with all kinds of supposedly targeted assistance, and provide much, much bigger breaks to people with a lot of more money.

If your household income is under $85,000 you can qualify for a $1,000 heating rebate in Nova Scotia. I don’t have an opinion on whether this is a good program or not. But I do note that we can help out households making up to $85,000 but somehow can’t increase income assistance.

Food banks are not a solution.

On an excellent episode of the Big Story podcast, hosted by Jordan Heath-Rawlings, University of Toronto Nutritional Science professor Valerie Tarasuk explained why food banks are no solution to poverty, and what it takes to dramatically lessen food insecurity. This quote stood out to me:

Why can’t we just give people food? Well, you know, we have been doing that, right? We’ve got more than 40 years of history of food banking in Canada. And even to this day, food charity continues to be our dominant response. You know, through the pandemic, we’ve seen both the federal government and the provincial governments allocating unprecedented levels of money to food charities… as if that was a way to stop people from going hungry.

There’s a couple of things that your listeners need to know. First, that doesn’t happen, right? When someone goes to a charity or their kid goes to a breakfast program, they get some free food, but they go back home and they’re in the same place they left that morning. Nothing in that home has changed, right? The welfare income, if that’s what the household is dependent on, is still, you know, likely to be insufficient to cover basic needs. If the family are in the workforce, and we know over half of food insecure households are reliant on employment income, still, they’re ending up not having enough money coming in to cover basic costs.

So receiving a bit of free food once in a while from food charities or even on a daily basis if that was possible — it doesn’t change any of the things that are causing people to be unable to meet their needs themselves. And you know, it doesn’t pay for their prescription medications or their rent or their utilities or their shoes or anything else. So, you know, it’s never going to be a fix, because it’s not tackling the real problem of inadequate income.

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4. New standards for treating children’s pain

A young girl of about four years old with brunette hair and wearing a yellow dress sits on the examination table in a doctor's office while a doctor checks her throat. The girl's mother is standing by, holding her hand.
Credit: Los Muertos Crew/Pexels

Treating pain can be challenging, and the challenges are even greater when it comes to children. Now, Yvette d’Entremont reports, Canada is leading the way on pain management for children and adolescents. She writes:

The first national standard for managing pain in children and adolescents in Canada was published Monday, and its creators say it’s also a global first.

The document’s introduction notes that despite exponential growth of scientific evidence related to pediatric pain, Canadian children “continue to experience untreated and preventable pain.” It also highlights how as recently as the 1980s, the infant brain was believed to be too immature to perceive pain…

The first ever standard is a collaboration between Halifax-based Solutions for Kids In Pain (SKIP) and Ottawa-based Health Standards Organization (HSO). The two non-profit groups also worked with people who have lived experience.

Ali said while there’s been a “tremendous revolution” in our understanding of children’s pain the last few decades, health care is unfortunately slow to adapt to new information. She described the new standard as a “key tool” in closing the knowledge-to-practice gap.

Click here to read “Canadian researchers’ national guidelines for treating children’s pain a global first.”

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5. SIRT botched three investigations: MCC

A sign for the Serious Incident Response Team
Credit: Tim Bousquet

The MCC final report says “the RCMP and the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), the agency charged with investigating police criminality, repeatedly failed to follow the law and established protocols after the mass murders of April 2020,” Tim Bousquet reports.

The findings relate to three incidents:

• the shoot-up of the Onslow Fire Hall by constables Dave Melanson and Terry Brown
• an allegation of “potential criminal conduct” and “corruption” on the part of unnamed cops in a municipal police force; SIRT refused to investigate the allegation
• the killing of the murderer at the Enfield Big Stop

This story is a wild, depressing, and extremely important read.

Click here to read “Police watchdog botched three investigations after mass murders: MCC report.”

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6. Interim RCMP commissioner should apologize

Two men in police uniforms sit in front of flags.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dennis Daley (left) and Interim RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme speak with reporters on March 30, 2023 in Truro Nova Scotia. Credit: Tim Bousquet

Jennifer Henderson has written a biting commentary piece called “Interim RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme: read the report, tell the truth, and apologize:

Interim RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme told a news conference Thursday that he had not read even the executive summary or recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission’s final report.

As with lawyers for family members of the victims and accredited journalists, the RCMP received the report 24 hours before it was released to the public.

On Friday, Duheme again told CBC’s Information Morning host he had yet to be fully briefed and couldn’t answer questions on the report’s contents.

That attitude speaks volumes about the RCMP’s ongoing failure to communicate with the people it services.

Henderson recaps many of the failures — operational and related to communications — from April 18-19, 2020, and links them to the contempt (my word, not hers) shown by Duheme. She also does not mince words about the lies RCMP told in the aftermath of the murders.

Click here to read “Interim RCMP Commissioner Michael Duheme: read the report, tell the truth, and apologize.”

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7. Smith-McCrossin not backing down on NDA allegation

Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin

As her former Progressive Conservative colleagues prepare to move that she be expelled from the legislature over comments she made last week, independent MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin is not backing down, Jennifer Henderson reports.

Henderson writes:

The comments in question were made during debate in the legislature on a bill that would ban the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in situations where victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment are paid to keep silent about what happened. 

Smith-McCrossin (who was elected as a Progressive Conservative in 2018) said she recently found a NDA document in her constituency office that she believes belonged to her former constituency assistant, 33-year-old Kaitlin Saxton.

Saxton died last year of a brain hemorrhage.

Henderson continues:

Saxton worked for seven years as a researcher for the Progressive Conservative caucus before her job ended early in 2018. 

Her departure coincided with a unanimous vote by the PC Ccucus in January 2018 to force PC leader Jamie Baillie to resign following a third party investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment, in the workplace…

Smith-McCrossin says the document she found recently in her office is titled “Non Disclosure Agreement” and begins with the sentence “Certain events have caused Kaitlin Saxton to terminate her employment with the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Caucus on a mutually agreed basis.”

Click here to read “‘I spoke the truth’: Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin refuses to back down on NDA allegation.”

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8. More calls for public inquiry after death of 36-year-old Sarah Rose Denny in custody

A woman smiles and spreads her arms in a green field on the coast on a sunny day.
Sarah Rose Denny Credit: Contributed/Brian Knockwood

The NDP is adding its voice to calls for a public inquiry following the death of a 36-year-old Mi’kmaw woman in provincial custody last week,” Zane Woodford reports:

Shirley Tuplin, Denny’s lifelong friend and a relative, told the Examiner she died of pneumonia. Denny was the second Mi’kmaw person to die in a provincial jail this year. Peter Paul, 27, died in the Cape Breton Correctional Facility in January.

Denny’s family and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia are calling for a public inquiry into the two deaths…

Lisa Lachance, the MLA for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, is the NDP’s L’nu Affairs spokesperson.

“I don’t think we think of people dying of pneumonia, especially young people, very often,” Lachance said in an interview Monday.

“What happened? I mean, it was a failure of the health system and of the justice system. So what happened? We need to understand.”

Click here to read “More calls for public inquiry after 36-year-old Mi’kmaw woman’s death in custody.”

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We keep raising awareness about mental health, but what are we actually doing about it?

Two photos. In the first, a young white woman stands blissfully in a field of flowers with her eyes closed and arms raised to the sun. In the second, a man stands with his face buried in his hands in distress. Maybe it's because she's another instagrammer wrecking his garden.
The two types of mental health stock photo. Credit: Maksim Goncharenok, Daniel Reche, Pexels.

I have written before about P.E. Moskowitz’s excellent Mental Hellth newsletter, but I’m going to bring it up again, because Moskowitz hit one out of the park recently with an issue on mental health awareness.

As regular readers might know, I have a thing about awareness campaigns — specifically mental health awareness. Who are these campaigns for? What are they supposed to accomplish? Too often they devolve into suggesting a hot bath.

When I worked in documentary film marketing, I was often responsible for launching films and campaigns “to raise awareness.” We raised awareness about forestry practices in New Brunswick, the implications of eating meat, child poverty, and many other issues. It is true that occasionally these campaigns led to some concrete action. But a lot of the time it seemed like raising awareness was the goal. Fine. But what comes after that? And what if people are aware but just don’t care, or can’t change things anyway?

Moskowitz is prodded to write about this after the cast of the TV series Ted Lasso visited the White House. From the newsletter:

Have you guys heard about mental health? It’s something that’s extremely important.

After you toil away at your job which I’m sure you make lots of money doing and which I’m sure provides your life with a lot of meaning, then drive home through gridlocked traffic on our crumbling infrastructure (hope that bridge doesn’t collapse!), then get home to a house you share with four other people for $1,200 each, located in a neighborhood where there is no public gathering spot, then order one slice of pizza for $73.50 in Uber fees, then scroll through three hours of content about how your life is worse than everyone else’s on apps owned by billionaires, and finally lay down on your Casper mattress (or Nectar, or whatever the fuck), perhaps you will have a moment to reflect on how important mental health is.

What is the state of mental health awareness anyway? Will the Ted Lasso cast members increase it? Moskowitz writes:

Before the briefing, 90 percent of Americans agreed that the U.S. is in a mental health crisis… Perhaps the press briefing will push our awareness as high as 91 or 92 percent… Actually doing something about mental health would cost a lot of money, and probably involve a radical restructuring of society, something we do not have time for… So awareness is our only option. I’m sure once we get to 93 or 94 percent awareness, we’ll actually do something about it. Until then, just keep being aware.

Yesterday, I read one of those feel-good stories that left me feeling terrible. Maybe you know the kind: this guy walks five hours to and from work every day because he is poor and there is no public transit, so his neighbours got together and bought him a car. This kid’s lemonade stand has raised $5,000 for his mother’s cancer treatment, etc.

The story in question had to do with former Los Angeles Dodgers player Andrew Toles, who played a total of 96 games in the Major Leagues over three years, before being placed on the restricted list (meaning he was still under contract but not on the roster). Toles has schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and it sounds like he has had a hard go of it:

During his absence from the game, Toles has continued to struggle with his mental health. In 2018 he was hospitalized for two weeks and diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. After he was found living behind the Key West International Airport in 2020, the baseball player’s father, Alvin Toles, former linebacker for the New Orleans Saints, gained guardianship and Toles has been with him since.

The heartwarming part is that the Dodgers keep renewing his contract, because health care is tied to employment, and that allows him to continue to be insured. The not-so-heartwarming part is that the contract is for $0, and that if the Dodgers (current payroll: approximately US $250 million) decide to no longer do this, whatever health care Toles has available to him will likely disappear.

The story, by the way, was from Upworthy, which at one time had figured out how to game the system so well with its heartwarming clickbait that Facebook essentially altered its news feed algorithm to downplay it. Honestly, I’m surprised the site still exists, but I guess it does. It says, “The Dodgers continually renewing the player’s contract is not only heartwarming but admirable.”

Yes, a team doing something that costs them nothing, so that a player with severe mental illness won’t be completely cut off from health care is great. So heartwarming. Maybe it will help raise more awareness.

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Lucinda Williams’ new memoir

An older white woman with shaggy strawberry blonde hair plays guitar and sings on stage.
Lucinda Williams in 2010. Credit: Alan Turkus

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on an advance reading copy of Lucinda Williams’ new memoir, Don’t Tell Anybody the Secrets I Told You.

If you like Williams’ work, you’ll like the book. If you don’t like her work, I’m not sure what to say to you.

Williams’ album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road is one of those recordings that marked me the first time I heard it. We were in the process of moving to Nova Scotia, and I was driving in Montreal, listening to Mitch Melnick, who had a sports talk show punctuated by music. Melnick played something from Car Wheels (I think it was “Right in Time”) and I had that incredible feeling that comes when you hear something that just blows you away for the first time. Or, as a friend of mine likes to say (and has said in the context of seeing Lucinda Williams live) “blew the top of my head off.”

I knew Williams was well into her forties before she had any commercial success, but I hadn’t realized she was still working in health food stores and doing all kinds of low-wage jobs to get by into her thirties.

Interestingly, Williams says she wrote the book in part for people who have family members with mental illness. I won’t get into it more here, but the book is definitely worth reading, and Wililams’ style is disarmingly conversational.

At one point she describes sending song lyrics to her father (a well-known poet) because he sometimes had good suggestions, and then she adds, “Who am I kidding,” saying what she was really after was his approval — something she’s worked through in years of therapy.

If you want a small taste of the book, there is a new interview in Vanity Fair with Williams, where she discusses it, and the process of writing it.

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Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall ) — Regional Council agenda; Committee of the Whole agenda 


Environmental and Sustainability Meeting (Wednesday, 1pm, City Hall) — agenda 

Women’s Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm, City Hall) — agenda 



Legislature sits (Tuesday, 1pm, Province House) 


Legislature sits (Wednesday, 1pm, Province House)

On campus



No events


Reflecting on Power Dynamics in Classroom Interaction (Wednesday, 1pm, online) — registration required 

Dalhousie Medical School, Black Learners Admission Pathway (Wednesday, 6pm, online) —  More information here


Public lecture series: Representations of colonization and de-colonization (Tuesday, 7pm, KTS Lecture Hall) — Dr. Heather Igloliorte will talk 

In the harbour

05:00: NYK Rumina, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Caucedo, Dominican Republic
06:00: Tropic Hope, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Philipsburg, Saint Croix
07:00: Vivienne Sheri D, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:30: Vivienne Sheri D sails for Portland
21:30: Tropic Hope sails for Palm Beach, Florida
22:00: NYK Rumina sails for sea

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.

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Philip Moscovitch

Philip Moscovitch is a freelance writer, audio producer, fiction writer, and editor of Write Magazine.

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  1. Don’t anyone tell her, but I just ordered the Lucinda Williams memoir for my sister based on your recommendation, thanks Phil for bringing it to our attention.

  2. ABOUT RAISING AWARENESS–Here is a quote from Sven Lindqvist a Swedish philosopher: “You already know enough. So do I. It is not knowledge we lack. What is missing is the courage to understand what we know and to draw conclusions.”

    ― Sven Lindqvist, “Exterminate All the Brutes”: One Man’s Odyssey into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide

  3. My problem with just giving money to low income people is that the people who prey on low income people can and do capture that money.

    1. People who prey on low income people the most are the wealthy and they capture the little money low income people have and get away with it.

      1. Yes, exactly, I should have been more clear but yes I was talking about landlords and other predators.