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1. Halifax police ‘declined an interview’: Take 2

A Halifax Regional Police officer with no name tag, wearing a dark cap, wraparound sunglasses and a black mask, pepper spraying someone
A Halifax Regional Police officer with no name tag pepper sprayed protesters who were sitting on a wall helping others who’d already been pepper sprayed on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

“In last week’s column, I followed up on the CBC Atlantic Investigation Unit’s year-long struggle to wrest 11 years of internal discipline decisions from the Halifax Regional Police,” writes Stephen Kimber:

But when CBC reporters asked for an interview — presumably to ask why the police had withheld the information in the first place, who made that decision and had anyone been held accountable — “the department declined to do an interview.”

This week’s instalment of don’t-ask-us focuses on one of the cases the CBC eventually pried information about from Halifax police — the infamous clash between police and protesters over the dismantling of homeless encampments on August 18, 2021.

Click or tap here to read “Halifax police ‘declined an interview’: Take 2.”

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2. Deforestation Inc

A man in a suit carrying a chainsaw stands before a pile of logs as money floats down from the sky.
Credit: Ricardo Weibezahn / ICIJ

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists series, “Deforestation Inc,” has received the Online Journalism Award for Explanatory Reporting, Small Newsroom.

Joan Baxter is an integral part of the ICIJ investigation, and the Examiner published her work: click or tap here to get direct links to the 17 articles.

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3. 10-year-old dies while ATVing

A dirt road through the woods.
Plymouth Gentian Road is a dirt road that travels eastward from Canaan Road. Credit: Google Street View

An RCMP release from yesterday:

August 20, 2023, Gavelton, Nova Scotia… On August 19, at 11:25 p.m., Yarmouth Rural RCMP responded to a missing child report. The child, who was visiting the Canaan area with their family, had left a residence earlier in the evening for an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) ride and hadn’t returned. 

At 1:30 a.m. on August 20, an RCMP officer located the ten-year-old child, who was from Coldbrook, deceased. The ATV the child was driving was found in a ditch along Plymouth Gentian Road in Gavelton.

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The internet sucks

I’m an “open link in new tab” sort of guy. (As a result, I typically have so many tabs open I can’t count them all, but that’s another story.) So, I impose that on you, the reader, by formatting links so they, yep, open in a new tab, automatically.

But now the internet has decided to be “helpful” again, and is hiding that previously easy-to-do automatic formatting such that it takes five clicks to set it up instead of one. I don’t know if it is WordPress or our vendor who has made this change; I could sic Iris on it, but she has better things to do, so I’ll just suffer through it, I guess. But we’ve reached this point where someone’s arbitrary decision about what is helpful leads to either a continually degraded experience for me, the user, or the expenditure of hours of time by the already put-upon Iris in a probably fruitless quest to set it right again.

And doesn’t that describe the internet generally?

Under the weak guise of being helpful, seemingly every website in existence now presents a pop-up window asking you to register for notifications of new material. This is an almost entirely vain attempt to snarl readers into “the funnel” that leads to ever greater “engagement” such that in the end you fork over subscription money, I mean ‘recurring monthly revenue,’ and then, eventually, your house and the intellectual property of your DNA.

I know exactly one person who actually signs up for such notifications, and I think he’s insane. Every single one of the other eight billion people on Planet Earth just clicks out of the pop-up.

(In contrast, we at the Examiner don’t play these funnel games. We just straight-up ask you for money. We don’t collect your info beyond what is necessary to make the site function, and we certainly don’t sell it to anyone. Nor do we have a marketing team sitting around scheming about how to entrap you into our money-grabbing claws forever, and we certainly have no interest in your genetic code. And if the Examiner ever has a pop-up window, you have my express permission to murder me.)

Now consider the European Union’s lame attempt to be “helpful.” The EU identified a real problem — capitalism. Well, capitalism in the form of commodifying every damn person on the internet, such that people’s data and browsing history is collected and sold to marketers who in turn bombard you with ever finely targeted ads to sell you shit. And then when you buy the shit, that too gets piled into the data collection machine, and you get doubly finely targeted.

Except that it’s really bad at this. It tries to sell you shit you already bought. You ever, say, buy a pair of shoes on the internet? After you do that, you’ll get bombarded with ads for new shoes, even the exact shoes you already have.

And dog forbid you are a reporter who googles stuff like “who was that dude who stuffed his wife’s decapitated head into a chest freezer?” — for the next three months, you’ll get ads for chest freezers and S&M sex sites, and because apparently the cops pay for the data too, some awkward conversations with a cold case investigator. Don’t ask me how I know this.

Anyway, here’s what the EU could’ve done: outlawed data collection. That would’ve protected users’ privacy, made the internet a lot easier to use, kept the cold case investigators at bay, and been a service to citizens generally.

But here’s what the EU actually did: required every website to notify users that their data are being collected and give them options to either accept that unavoidable reality or pretend that they can actually control how their data are used. By doing this, it introduced a level of anxiety to users, gave them a false sense of possible control, and most dastardly, gave them another fucking pop-up window to click out of every time they visit a new website.

Sure, any one pop-up window is just a very minor annoyance, but when you start adding them up, we’re talking about a major disturbance in the space-time continuum. It’s only 8am, and I’ve already clicked out of something like two dozen pop-up windows; at this rate, it will be a few hundred by lunch time. (And I haven’t even talked about the “hide the X” game.) Now multiply that by the eight billion people using the internet, and it’s an enormous waste of human time and potential — honest, honey, I was going to clean the basement, but I had to click out of all these fucking pop-up windows.

We probably would have cured cancer by now, if it wasn’t for the EU and its dog-damned “helpful” internet law.

So far, I’ve just talked about getting on a website. If you ever successfully get through all the pop-ups and land on your intended destination, there is another brigade of marauding autoplay videos, chat boxes, and formatting innovations devised by designers on acid such that the whole experience is terrible, terrible, terrible.

I thought I had a point here, but I’ve lost it in my unfocused anger at shit I can’t control.

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What do we take away from the Vikings’ failed attempt to settle in North America?

A map of Atlantic Canada, annotated with possible Viking voyages.
“Clues to the location of Straumsfjord and Hop,” from “Visit Vinland: Developing a new and innovative tourism product in Atlantic Canada by deciphering ancient Icelandic sagas.” Credit: Sveinn Rúnar Traustason

For reasons I can’t explain, I am somehow on a mailing list that spits somewhat dated academic articles at me. I enjoy a lot of these. Just this morning, I received “An Empire on Paper: The Founding of Halifax and Conceptions of Imperial Space, 1744–55,” a 2007 article in The Canadian Historical Review by Jeffers Lennox, and “Mu Awsami Keji’kewe’k L’nuk Mi’kma’ki: New Perspectives on the Transitional Archaic Period in Southwestern Nova Scotia,” a 2016 thesis by John Andrew Campbell, then a MA student at Memorial University. I intend on reading both.

Last week I received “Visit Vinland: Developing a new and innovative tourism product in Atlantic Canada by deciphering ancient Icelandic sagas,” a 2017 Masters thesis written by Sveinn Rúnar Traustason, an Icelandic student then studying Tourism and Hotel Development at the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences in Sogndal, Norway.

Traustason explains that:

Being Icelandic I grew up reading the Icelandic Sagas. My favourite sagas were the Vinland Sagas, i.e. “The Saga of Eric the Red” and “The Saga of the Greenlanders”, that tell about the explorations of Leifur Eiríksson, and the attempted settlement by Þorfinnur (Thorfinn) Karlsefni, and his wife Guðríður (Gudrid) Þorbjarnardóttir, in Straumfjörður on Vinland, somewhere in what we now call Atlantic Canada.

The Vinland Voyages triggered my curiosity and imagination and I felt a strong connection with Thorfinn Karlsefni, who came from a farm close to where I grew up, and who also, supposedly, was one of my ancestors. I wanted to know more about the land Thorfinn, his wife and his crew, explored and the people they met. I was also very curious about their son, Snorri, who was born in a place called Straumfjörður in Vinland. As a boy, playing, I often pretended to be Snorri playing with my native friends.

As an adult, I have maintained my interest in the Vinland Sagas and studied in detail, with the help of Google Earth and various sources, the descriptions of e.g. places, people, wildlife, topography and weather, in order to get a better idea about where they had travelled. I also studied intensively theories that had been written about the Vinland voyages, by laymen and scholars, and as a result I feel confident that I can distinguish between what is plausible and what is implausible when it comes to finding the location of places mentioned in the Sagas.

When it comes to identifying saga-sites in Vinland I am completely neutral. I have no affiliation to any of the provinces or localities and have no bias towards one place or another. In my research I have tried to be as objective and scientific as I could in the timeframe that I had. All the assumptions and observations I have made should be easily understood, repeated and investigated by others in order to prove, or disprove, my conclusions.

It was with great hesitancy that I begin reading Traustason’s thesis, for several reasons.

First, there’s a painful racist history related to the the American obsession with the Viking voyages to North America. The sagas were used by white supremacists in 19th-century America to counter the celebration of Columbus as the “discoverer of America” — at that time in some quarters, the Italian Columbus was considered insufficiently “white” for such an honour, and so the counter-narrative of the pale white, blue-eyed Vikings being the “true” discoverer was pushed, with no real evidence beyond the sagas.

Of course, while the Vikings truly can be credited with discovering Iceland (and arguably, Greenland), North America proper had been discovered thousands of years previous by the predecessors of the people living here when the Vikings arrived. So, this “discovery” stuff is inherently racist to begin with.

But I’m happy to report that Traustason puts the Mi’kmaq front and centre in his thesis, first by providing a pretty good history of the people, and then by acknowledging that any efforts to lure Scandinavians to visit Atlantic Canada in search of Vikings should be focused on and led by the Mi’kmaq themselves.

I’m sure thousands of people have spent much time trying to decipher the sagas to try to come to some conclusion about the location of Vinland, but it’s always struck me that finding Vinland is a bit of a parlor game.

As Traustason points out, the sagas were handed down orally for hundreds of years before they were written down by people with political and personal agendas, and so the two in some measure contradict each other. The Mi’kmaq too were illiterate at time of contact, although there is a hint of an oral tradition about it.

Moreover, as I understand it, the Vikings may have been brave sailors and had a good understanding of latitude, but they didn’t otherwise have much in the way of navigational skills — it was basically, “head that way until you see such and such a landmark, and then turn left.” As Traustason relates it, anyway, there’s a lack of any comprehensible (to us) sense of distance.

So, the 1960 discovery of the L’Anse aux Meadows site by Helge Ingstad and Anne Stine Ingstad was a truly remarkable bit of archeological work. I doubt seriously that it could be re-created with a discovery of Vinland.

I’m not particularly well-read about the Vikings in North America, but I went to L’Anse aux Meadows a couple of years ago. The drive itself, up the west coast of Newfoundland, is worth the trip. And I was impressed by the quality of the park and its exhibits. I was also surprised to learn just how extensive the site was — probably a couple of hundred Vikings lived there for three or four years, as a way-stop for the intended settlement of Vinland — Traustason relates that the sagas mention the Vikings brought livestock with them, clearly intending to colonize Vinland.

I won’t go through Traustason’s analysis of the possible locations of Vinland, but after reading the thesis I came away with the same thought I had after visiting L’Anse aux Meadows — Vinland was probably somewhere in the Campbellton or Miramichi area.

But until someone finds some actual archeological proof, which seems unlikely, we’ll never know.

Here’s what we do know, however: The Mi’kmaq chased the Vikings away, and the latter gave up on the effort completely, removing themselves back to Greenland.

That’s a story worth telling.

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


Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 10am, City Hall) — agenda


No meetings

On campus

No events

In the harbour

05:00: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from Saint-Pierre, on a 25-day roundtrip cruise of Atlantic Canada and Iceland out of Boston
05:30: ZIM Luanda, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Valencia, Spain
07:00: Selfoss, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Reykjavik, Iceland
11:30: Selfoss sails for Portland
13:30: Baie St.Paul, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Charlottetown
15:00: Atlantic Sea, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
15:00: NYK Romulus, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint John
16:30: ZIM Luanda sails for New York
18:00: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor

Cape Breton
06:00: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, arrives at Government Wharf (Sydney) from Corner Brook
09:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, arrives at Aulds Cove quarry from Belledune, New Brunswick
12:30: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, sails from EverWind for sea
14:00: Blue Moon, Dead Dick Duchossois’s yacht, moves from Marble Mountain to Dundee


I worked eight hours Saturday and four hours on Sunday on an obscure bit of history, on which I will be the world’s expert soon enough. From a time management perspective, it’s probably not worth it, but I’m having fun.

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

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  1. That map of the fabled Vineland looks like the ill-fated outline of the equally fabled Atlantic Loop. Circles everywhere .. leading to nowhere.

  2. “Dead Dick Duchossois’s yacht,” and its whereabouts was something I didn’t know I wanted to know…interesting little tidbit there.

  3. The “discovery” semantics game is so stupid – it wasn’t as if the Europeans could have gone on Wikipedia to check if the Americas existed, so they discovered North America exactly like the people who got there first did. They didn’t know it existed, then they found out about it without being told, hence they discovered it.

    Imagine saying a high school graduate hasn’t learned anything because everything they were taught in school had been taught already to other students who got there first.

    1. Sure, but then if that high school student claimed all legal rights to said discovery and started erecting statues to themself as the discoverer you might then find yourself saying, “hey, you didn’t DISCOVER it in that way”.

      1. My entire argument is limited to “you can’t say that the Vikings or later explorers didn’t discover North America because they had no means of learning about North America other than physically travelling into the unknown and finding it”.

  4. It was worth listening to your interview with Jeff Douglas as I now understand why you oppose Bill C-18.