1. Floods

Four people swept away in flood waters are still missing, and have presumably died. Yesterday afternoon, the RCMP released this update about the four missing people:

July 23, 2023, West Hants, Nova Scotia… Nova Scotia RCMP, with the assistance of its partners, continues search efforts to locate four people reported missing in the West Hants area on July 22.

Early yesterday [Saturday] morning, West Hants District RCMP received reports of two separate incidents, in the same area of West Hants, involving missing people. Two children, one youth and a man remain unaccounted after the vehicles they were travelling in were submerged.

Last [Saturday] evening, the RCMP Underwater Recovery Team conducted an underwater search of a flooded field and located an unoccupied pick-up truck believed to have been the vehicle that the children were travelling in.

Search efforts continue in the same area for the four people and the second vehicle. 

Today industrial pumping equipment is being mobilized, with assistance from civilian contractors, in an effort to lower the water level in the search area.

The multi-agency search led by the RCMP also includes efforts from the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables and Ground Search and Rescue Teams from West Hants, Colchester and Valley.

Out of respect for the families we will not be releasing their identities or any additional personal information at this time.

We continue to ask the public not to attend the West Hants area in a search for the missing as current conditions are dangerous and could hinder search efforts.

The storms from Friday afternoon into Saturday morning brought anywhere from 200 to 300 millimetres of rain, depending on location, which Halifax Mayor Mike Savage described as of “biblical” proportions — about what Nova Scotia typically receives in an entire summer, in one day.

There was flooding just about everywhere through the middle swath of the province, but the worst of it appears to have been in the Sackville/Bedford and Windsor/West Hants areas.

I reported Saturday that flooding in downtown Windsor was related to a decision to not open the aboiteau on the Avon River early enough. There’s an evident obsession with Lake Pisiquid:

In 2021, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans ordered that the gates in the aboiteau on the Avon River beneath the Highway 101 causeway be opened, allowing the free passage of fish on the river. 

That order drained the artificial Lake Pisiquid next to downtown Windsor, returning that stretch of river to its historic tidal path. The order also angered some people in Windsor who used the lake for paddling, the annual “pumpkin regatta,” and for the classic lakefront view it provided, instead of the more natural beauty of the mud flats. It also angered property developers who felt a view of the lake was a selling point for their new subdivisions.

So on June 1 of this year, as wildfires raged across southwestern Nova Scotia and in Halifax Regional Municipality, John Lohr used the powers granted to him by the state of emergency called during the fires to order the aboiteau be closed. 

Lohr said fire officials said Lake Pisiquid was needed as a source of water to fight potential fires in the Windsor area. This was a lie. As reported here, no fire official told Lohr any such thing.

The obsession with the lake is such that even as he declared a state of emergency related to the biblical rainfall, John Lohr, the minister responsible for Emergency Services, made sure to reiterate that the state of emergency related to biblical firestorms remains, at least for Lake Pisiquid. The order reads:

This State of Emergency declaration by the Province supersedes and replaces any municipal State of Local Emergency declarations made under subsection 12(2) of the Emergency Management Act to address the impacts of this storm event.

However, this State of Emergency does not supersede the Provincial State of Emergency declaration on June 1, 2023 for the Pisiquid Lake area in response to the Wildfires, and subsequent renewals or any Minister’s Directions made under that State of Emergency for that area of Nova Scotia continue to be in effect.

Yesterday, Abraham Zebian, the mayor of the West Hants Regional Municipality, said that in no way was the lake responsible for the flooding of Windsor, even though the flooded areas were adjacent to the lake:

Downtown Windsor, mainly along Gray Street, Stannus Street, Albert Street, that area. So these are historically flooding prone areas. Not so much to do with Lake Pisiquid, to be honest with you. It’s just low lying areas and seems the whole topography of the community of Windsor drains down into this little section where our community centre is Victoria Park.

I hesitate to criticize someone for the comfort that they find in spirituality or religion, as these are deeply personal issues, but Zebian used the platform of a press conference to praise his preferred deity for bringing nice weather Sunday:

It’s a lot safer today. We were blessed by God’s blessing with a little nicer weather today and last night. So it allowed people to clean up. 

I guess the deity was out to lunch Saturday, when four people were swept to their deaths in flood waters.

You just can’t escape the dualism of this: if god saved you from the tornado, it means god damned the family that perished in the house next door in the tornado; if god suddenly decided to stop the rain, then he earlier wanted two kids to die because of it.

As I say, find comfort where you will, but leave it out of the public sphere.

In the secular sphere, now starts the long and expensive process of cleaning up, rebuilding, and battling with insurance companies.

Premier Tim Houston said yesterday that 25 provincial bridges were damaged, six of which were destroyed completely. Across Halifax Regional Municipality, roadways will need to be rebuilt, the Bedford pool repaired. The damage assessment alone will take weeks, I’d guess.

The CN line to Halifax is not passable, as there have been many trestles washed out. In response to my question about that yesterday, Houston said he had not been briefed on the CN situation. This could end up being enormously costly, as shippers will likely bypass Halifax until the rail line is repaired. There’s an ultra large ship, the One Swan, in port today. I’m going to keep an eye on the containers stacking up at the port.

At heart of all this — hurricanes, fires, floods — is climate change. This is what a climate-broken world looks like, and it’s the new normal. We’ll see ever more climate disasters at ever greater levels of calamity. We can maybe blunt the worst of that by controlling our greenhouse gas emissions, and we can better build our communities to withstand some of the Earthly rage, or we can ignore the new reality to our further peril.

And exactly on key, just as Zebian inappropriately religiousized the press conference yesterday, Houston inappropriately politicized it, using it as an opportunity to rail against the carbon tax. But that takes more analysis than I have time for here.

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2. Woman says police failed to properly investigate her assault

People congregate on the street and sidewalk outside a bar.
The Dome. Credit: Facebook / The Dome

“A full five years after Carrie Low reported to police that she had been drugged at a bar and then gang-raped, another woman has come forward with a similar nightmare,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

It’s not only that this 23-year-old woman reports she was drugged at a Halifax bar this past April and subsequently sexually assaulted by unknown men; it’s that her experience with law enforcement officers bears shocking similarities to Low’s:

• She was not believed the first time she reported the assault. 
• There was unprofessional, careless handling of potential evidence. 
• It has taken strong advocacy on her part to ensure police follow up and search for her attackers before more women get hurt. 

Click or tap here to read “Police ‘belittled me’: Halifax woman says the police investigation into her sexual assault parallels Carrie Low’s story.”

The woman’s account is straight-forward, and Henderson captures it fully, so read the entire article. But I was particularly concerned about this part:

We asked for information about reports of sexual assault that included allegations of drugging or drink tampering. According to public information officer Constable John MacLeod, that was “beyond the scope” of the department and would require filing a Freedom of Information request. He indicated drink tampering or drugging allegations may be captured by different databases or filters.

I was so concerned about this, that I asked Henderson for the correspondence from MacLeod. It reads:

All sexual assaults reported to police would be given a case number and investigated. If a victim disclosed that they believed drink tampering was involved, that information would form part of the investigation. As part of our trauma-informed approach to sexual assaults, the victim determines their participation in the file including if they wish to provide a statement or proceed with an investigation.

From January 1, 2023, to May 2, 2023, Halifax Regional Police received 105 sexual assault reports. Of these incidents, four files had an address listed between Brunswick Street and Halifax Harbour. A review of these four files found that all four locations were associated with a bar and none of the reports included information from the victim that he/she believed they were drugged prior to the assault.

It is important to note that the location/address in our records is generally where the offence occurred or the location of the caller when the report is made. Each of the 105 files would have to be read to fully respond to your questions regarding how many reports noted or mentioned bars situated between Brunswick Street and Halifax Harbour, how many reports included information from the victim that he/she believed they were drugged prior to the assault and how the investigations proceeded. Additionally, drink tampering may be captured in our system under a variety of incident types and would require a review of a large number of files and a detailed analysis to identify incidents involving drink tampering. 

This office is not able to undertake a review of that scope. You may reach out to our access to information office to see what information would be available in relation to your queries. [emphasis added]

But the Violent Crime Linkage Analysis System (VICLAS) was created precisely for this purpose.

The VICLAS database was created after police had missed important connections between assaults in the Paul Bernardo/ Karla Homolka case because the assaults crossed jurisdictional lines. To address that problem, police are now required to enter into the database known details about each assault — characterizations of the perpetrator and victim, methodology, weapons and techniques, etc. That allows a serial rapist or serial murderer to be identified earlier in the investigation.

It should be a simple matter of querying the matching the geographic entries for Halifax with the methodology of drink-tampering, and voilà, here’s your list of sexual assaults that involved drink tampering in Halifax. MacLeod seems to be saying that information about drink-tampering isn’t entered into VICLAS, or at least, if it is, he’s not going to use the system to retrieve it.

I’ve long had my doubts about the VICLAS system, which I detailed here, and I asked Kirk Luther, an academic who studied the system what he thought. He responded in part:

The major issue we see is that the only two published studies examining ViCLAS have revealed the data entered into the booklets was unreliable. That is, the study participants entering the information did not all agree on the case facts and how they were entered into the ViCLAS booklets. We see this as a major issue as ultimately you can’t trust the reliability of the data entered into the system — the data used to make real-world linkage decisions. Of course, the claim may be made that the new computerised questionnaire or the ViCLAS Specialists reduce these errors, the RCMP would need to provide relevant data to ensure accuracy and reliability.

A more broad concern is whether crimes can actually be linked. Our previous work has called into question the reliability of offender and geographic profiling, which seems to be one of the aims of ViCLAS — determine if there are any linkages in crimes within/across jurisdictions based on a number of variables (e.g., suspect actions, victim demographics, location).

I suspect that this is a fairly classic case of police not knowing how to use the tools available to them.

But perhaps it also reflects police simply disbelieving victims who say they were drugged. Henderson refers to the woman in her article as “S” to protect her identity, and here’s how S says she was treated by the initial responding officers:

She says the officers appeared uninterested and did not take any notes.

“They belittled me,” says S. “They said the only crime they could see was that I had my jacket stolen.”

Early the next week, S called the station to voice her concern about the way she had been treated. She asked for her case number.  

“At that time, I was told there was no case number because no assault had been reported,” says S. “The only thing that was filed was a report saying I had a missing jacket.”

S says that’s when she became “really angry.”

There’s so much more to say about this. I recently spent many hours in two interview sessions with Carrie Low, in which we explored many aspects of her story. I had intended to start writing a long article detailing her story on Saturday, but then the storms came, there was other reporting, and I lost internet besides. I’ll return to it today, but it will take several days to write.

So you’ll soon see how deeply this goes. But what’s abundantly clear right now is the Sexual Assault Investigative Team is irreparably broken. At one point in our interviews, Low stopped and said something to the effect of, “it doesn’t matter if they received trauma-informed training. It’s an online course. And they click the right boxes. But you either get this or you don’t, and they clearly don’t.”

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3. Bank of Canada

A smiling white man with glasses and a dark suit.
Tiff Macklem, Governor of the Bank of Canada Credit: Bank of Canada

“I am not now, nor ever have been, an economist,” writes Stephen Kimber:

But I have questions. And concerns. And confusion… Lots of confusion.

Let’s start with the Bank of Canada’s obsessive, reflexive, ongoing campaign to crush inflation and slow “out of control” economic growth. To achieve that end, the bank has ratcheted up interest rates, driving up the costs of life for ordinary Canadians charged with the crime of … well, living.

Click or tap here to read “You don’t need an economist to know which way the economy blows… It just does.”

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Fire and rain

With one disaster after another befalling us, I look to culture to find meaning or at least solace.

To be honest, I’ve found neither meaning nor solace, but I found some songs.

YouTube video
YouTube video

The iconic “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor gets to the despair the current moment evokes, and the backstory on the song is heart-wrenching:

YouTube video

I think the closest to what I’m looking for is Joe Henry’s “Our Song,” in which the haunting lyrics speak, to me, anyway, about searching for purpose in a world gone to shit:

YouTube video

But ya know, fuck it. Let’s party like the end is nigh:

YouTube video

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Grants Committee – Special Meeting (Monday, 10am, online) — agenda

Advisory Committee on Accessibility in HRM (Monday, 4pm, online) — agenda


Halifax and West Community Council – Special Meeting (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — agenda


No events this week

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sun, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
05:30: One Swan, container ship (145,407 tonnes), arrives at Pier 41 from Norfolk, Virginia
07:00: Lagrafoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:30: Lagrafoss sails for Portland
15:00: Nor’easter, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:30: Atlantic Sun sails for New York
01:30 (Tuesday): One Swan sails for Dubai

Cape Breton
11:00: Silver Shalis, yacht owned by billionaire Larry Silverstein, the developer of the World Trade Center in New York, transits through the causeway north to south, en route from Ballantyne’s Cove to St. Peter’s
12:30: Harmonic, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
13:00: Silver Shalis arrives at St. Peter’s
13:30: Bass, bulker, moves from Port Hawkesbury anchorage to EverWind


It’s weird not being connected to the global system of tubes.

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

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  1. Excellent reporting. However, before rebuilding roads and other infrastructure that is intimately linked to the use of fossil fuels and promoting the consumption of goods produced in other countries we need to re-think and re-imagine other vastly different alternatives if we are to have a chance to survive the new normal.The link between the “gods” of capitalism and constant growth and ecological disasters is not coincidental or accidental. Capitalism and growth demand a constantly expanding market, faith in the constant availability of enough natural resources to support a consumption economy and the valuing everything in terms of profit and efficiency. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult for all of us to turn our backs on these false gods.

  2. Excellent work , Tim ! You connected great dots for us and your DJ work was brilliant !

  3. HI Tim and team, yes, brilliant reporting all round…But I don’t think we can call any of this, plus the extreme temperatures and floods in other parts of the world, too, the “new normal.” There isn’t a plateau of any kind of normal we’ve reached. It all feels like the new abnormal, because it’s going to keep changing…for the worse. Right?

  4. As always, excellent reporting and links to our present and past culture.
    It is unreal and hard to fathom the disasters that Nova Scotia has experienced lately and difficult to view from afar.
    Thank you for being my window into Nova Scotia along with my Dad.