1. Northwood

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner Credit: Halifax Examiner / Tim Bousquet

“The COVID-19-related deaths of seven more residents of the Northwood nursing home were announced over the weekend, bringing the total number of deaths from the disease at the facility to 18,” I reported yesterday:

That’s three-quarters of all 24 COVID-19-related deaths in Nova Scotia.

The disease may take a few days to express itself, but the first identified case of COVID-19 at Northwood was announced on April 5, when one staff person tested positive. A second staff person’s positive test result was announced on April 7; the same day, it was also announced that two residents had contracted the disease.

As of Sunday, the number of COVID-19 cases at Northwood had grown to 249.

Click here to read “18 of the 24 Nova Scotians who have died with the disease were residents of Northwood.”

2. 13 hours of terror

Saturday morning, the Examiner published a map and detailed timeline of the April 18-19 murder spree, showing when and where the 22 victims were killed, and other information about the gunman’s movements.

Click here to read “13 hours of terror: tracking a mass murderer’s rampage through Nova Scotia.”

We’ll continue to update that timeline as we get more and more accurate information.

Photo: Joan Baxter.

Saturday afternoon, we provided a more detailed accounting of the killer’s movements on Hunter Road, “The killer was on Hunter Road for nearly three hours.”

A memorial at the Portapique church hall. Photo: Joan Baxter.

And Sunday morning we published Joan Baxter’s account of roadside memorials that have been established for the victims; Baxter’s account also helps make sense of some of the killer’s movements.

Click here to read “A memorial trail of grief and love: Nova Scotians mourn the victims of last week’s tragedy.”

3. Inquiry

Examiner columnist Stephen Kimber calls for a public inquiry:

It isn’t about assigning blame. But there are questions we need to answer, and it isn’t good enough for the RCMP to conduct an internal investigation into what happened and why, and then tell us what they decide we’re allowed to know.

Click here to read “Portapique tragedy: We need a full public inquiry.”

Kimber takes an understanding view of the RCMP in the moment of crisis:

Again, all of this seems understandable in the shell-shocked, still-smouldering immediate aftermath of what we now know was the largest mass killing in Canada, a rampage made all the more complicated and confusing for investigators because the killer managed to zigzag his way through the heart of the province, setting fires, switching vehicles, settling scores, shooting strangers with both malice aforethought and seemingly incidental savagery.

… I also believe it’s easier for the rest of us to find fault than it is to put ourselves in the unfathomable position first responders and emergency dispatchers must have confronted after a quiet rural Saturday night in the middle of a COVID-19 lockdown suddenly exploded in violence and mayhem.

Cst. Heidi Stevenson

In the actual moment, it must have been hell for the cops and other first responders. Yet within that hell, there were profound acts of courage — top of mind comes Cst. Heidi Stephenson’s fearless engagement, alone, with the gunman, which cost her her life. But undoubtedly there are other examples still unsung. And, there were also undoubtedly missteps and breaches of protocol and policy.

It’s important to understand what happened over those 13 hours, both the killer’s movements and the police response. But it’s not just about valourization of heroism and certainly not about blame for the hapless missteps of scared and confused cops on the ground. The point is to know how the institutions worked and didn’t work. Is it possible to train for something like this? If so, did the RCMP train for it properly? Were protocols followed, and if not, why not? What about the failures of communication? The emergency alert system? Has the RCMP learned from Mayerthorpe and Moncton, or is the institution hide-bound? Is the RCMP the best policing approach for rural Nova Scotia, or is it time to consider a provincial police force?

These are not questions the RCMP can answer.

4. Male violence

“Not long after Sunday’s mass killings, signs started emerging that the tragedy may have started with an act of domestic violence,” reports Suzanne Rent:

Those who knew the killer said he was jealous and had a complicated relationship with his girlfriend.

On Friday, RCMP confirmed that a woman the killer had been in a relationship with was either the first or among the first victims. She survived and managed to flee into the woods where she stayed for the night.

On Friday, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia (THANS), which represents 10 transition houses and domestic violence organizations across the province, shared a statement about the mass killings, saying it was “saddened but in no way shocked” about the killings, calling the murders “an extreme and actualized version of the male rage and aggression targeting those who are supposed to be the closest to them.”

Click here to read “Male violence: ‘A pandemic in its own right.’”

5. A Portapique love story

Emily Tuck and her father Aaron (Friar) Tuck.

“One of the many poignant stories coming from the Portapique murders involves the Tuck family: mother Jolene Oliver, father Aaron (Friar) Tuck, and their 17-year-old daughter Emily Tuck, all senselessly and horrifically murdered in their house that Saturday night,” I reported yesterday:

As we try to wrap our heads around the tragedy, male violence — “a pandemic in its own right” — has rightly become an area of focus.

Aaron Tuck’s life offers an important counterpoint. Aaron was once a troubled teenager, was caught up with the law, and landed in prison. But with a desire to change, and with the help of people who loved him, Aaron turned his life around and became a responsible husband and father.

Click here to read “‘There’s some fiddle for ya’: A Portapique love story.”

6. Fake cops

Replica police car
The killer’s replica police car. Photo: RCMP

Friday (damn, was that just Friday?), I wrote about (#3) the phenomenon of men (almost always, men) impersonating cops, which is so widespread that the Miami-Dade (Florida) Police Department has established a Police Impersonator Unit. But this is not just some “Florida Man” thing; it happens everywhere in North America.

New York Times reporter Don Van Natta Jr. related one story from Chicago:

This happened in Chicago when a 14-year-old boy named Vincent Richardson donned police garb and walked into the Third District precinct during morning roll call in January 2009. Officers handed him a radio and told him to ride along with a female officer. The teenager even helped make an arrest.

“After four or five hours, she asks, ‘Who is this guy?’” recalled Jody P. Weis, who was the Chicago police superintendent at the time. “He’s in a uniform, he has a goofy badge, he doesn’t have a weapon and he’s a high school kid. It was so embarrassing.” (The embarrassment did not end there for Mr. Weis, who said he had recommended against punishing the teenager in juvenile court because no harm had been done. Three months later, the boy was arrested and charged with stealing a car. Last week, he was arrested on several weapons charges.)

Last night, Philip Moscovitch alerted me to this article from Chris Halliday, a reporter with the Orangeville (Ontario) Banner:

The OPP has “no idea” why there are people pretending to be police officers and stopping motorists to check their essential worker status during the coronavirus pandemic.

Police have released details about two separate and unrelated incidents with different suspects and vehicles occurring in Fergus and Puslinch on April 14 and 17 respectively. A-25-year-old Puslinch man has been arrested in connection to the April 17 incident.

The OPP is advising the public that police are not conducting random traffic stops to check motorists’ work status during the COVID-19 pandemic, nor are drivers required to prove they are an essential worker to police.

I’m reminded that the Halifax police department may have added to the confusion when it issued these tweets on April 12:

In response, privacy lawyer David Fraser reminded people that the health orders do not make “recreational travel” illegal. Fraser continued:

If you are pulled over driving a car, you have an obligation to provide your license, your vehicle registration and your proof of insurance. You have no obligation to provide any other information. You can say “I don’t talk to the police.”

If you are a passenger in the car that has been pulled over arbitrarily, you have NO obligation to answer any questions of the officer or to provide ID or proof of where you live. You can say “I don’t talk to the police.”

Halliday, the reporter at the Orangeville Banner, relates advice the OPP offers:

• If you feel you’re being stopped by someone impersonating a police officer and fear for your safety, call 911 and provide your location.
• Do not get out of vehicle.
• Lock your door.
• Crack your window low enough to pass your licence and registration.
• Ask the officer for further identification (i.e., badge).
• Ask them to call dispatch on their radio in front of you to verify that the officer is not fake. Ask for another officer to attend that location.

Other points to consider when being pulled over include:

• Slow down, put four-ways on or signal to let the officer know you see them. Drive to a well-lit area with people around if possible.
• Be observant: Is the officer wearing a full police uniform or a plain clothes officer with a badge? Is he or she professional looking as opposed to unkempt?
• What does the police vehicle look like? Is the cruiser equipped with proper emergency equipment or does it look old, broken down or like something bought at a police auction?

Yes, it sucks that police officers now have the additional burden of people suspecting that they aren’t even actual police, but such is the world we live in.


1. Defamiliarization

Truro author and school teacher Leo McKay has a wonderful little essay published in Maclean’s, headlined “When real life turns surreal.”

The essay is so tightly crafted that it’s impossible to excerpt meaningfully, so go read the whole thing.


No public meetings.

In the harbour

05:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Baltimore
08:30: AlgoNova, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
10:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
11:30: Atlantic Sky sails for Hamburg, Germany
16:30: Atlantic Sail sails for New York
21:00: Hooge, container ship, sails from Pier 31 for sea


I have to make a trip to the grocery store. Wish me luck.

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

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  1. I think a review of what happened is worthwhile to help ensure that we avoid creeping determinism. Creeping determinism is hindsight bias, that tendency to think we should have know it all along. “So many red flags, but nobody acted” is often said.

    There was a lot of creeping determinism around the bombing of the World Trade Centre and the Columbia disaster (here is an article about it regarding the latter:

    Creeping determinism usually results in not investigating fully. We should have known, it is obvious, we don’t have to look any further… that thinking takes a shortcut to conclusions without investigation.