1. Mass Casualty Commission

The Mass Casualty Commission, with (left to right) commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, and Kim Stanton, in February 2022. Pool photo by Andrew Vaughan/ Canadian Press

What’s the point?

That’s the question I keep asking myself about the Mass Casualty Commission, as the commissioners, the many lawyers (so many, I’ve lost count), the relatives of the victims, the police, the academic experts, the reporters, and the public participate in the months-long inquiry.

For sure, the inquiry has helped us understand what happened before and during the murders of April 18 and 19, 2020. There is a veritable treasure trove of documentation released, the likes of which I’ve never seen publicly available before.

And the inquiry is at least raising important questions about the “why?” of it all, questioning that looks at issues of policing, emergency responses, care for first responders, how next-of-kin notifications work, intimate partner violence, political and bureaucratic intervention in police operations, and more.

I’m a reporter. It’s my job to cover all these issues, and in that tiny prism of insight, I’ve learned a lot and hopefully explained to the public in an intelligible manner some of what I’ve learned.

But again: what’s the point?

In November, the three commissioners will release their final report, including a long list of recommendations. I have no doubt the recommendations will be thoughtful, and also that they will mostly be ignored.

Oh, any recommendations about buying cops new gear and increasing police budgets will be latched upon with enthusiasm by the RCMP and its supporters. Post-inquiry, probably a bunch of money will be spent on stuff we didn’t need an inquiry to tell us to do — radio equipment and emergency alert systems will be upgraded, consultants will write new internal RCMP policies about active shooters in rural areas, and already overworked general duty cops will be saddled with more training and paperwork. But whatever lessons are learned from Portapique won’t apply to the next mass murder, and all too soon we’ll be going through this whole process again.

So far as any commission recommendations that involve institutional or societal change go, the commissioners will be thanked for their work, patted on their heads, and sent on their way. And the RCMP will continue to be the same broken bureaucracy it’s always been, and we’ll continue to have the same broken, sexist society we’ve always had.

Maybe this process will bring closure to those who have lost loved ones? We might hope so, but it won’t. That’s not how this ends. No matter what the commission does, those family members will continue to carry pain and anger, and will continue to have questions about the unanswerable. Long after this inquiry is over and the rest of the world moves on to whatever comes next, those who have lost will continue to shoulder their enormously heavy losses.

For now, we’re spending tens of millions of dollars on the inquiry, and everybody gets a slice of the pie. The commissioners themselves get their six-figure salaries, as judges do. The lawyers get their hourly rate, as lawyers do. The academics land some commissioned contracts, as academics do. A litany of support staff (communications and tech staff, security, venue cooks and janitors, etc.) get much-needed work in these difficult financial times, as support staff do. And reporters get a bunch of assignments at shit pay, as reporters do.

That’s not criticism, and it’s especially not criticism of those who are just working their damn jobs and trying to survive. We all need to eat. But let’s not ignore that we’re spending those tens of millions of dollars on this public process and not on some other public need, like providing housing or addressing the climate crisis. We should think about what we value, and what we don’t value so much.

I feel like I’m playing something more than an observer’s role in a public ritual that sometimes borders on Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery — someone is selected for the daily stoning, and we all join in to appease whatever god we think we’ve been neglecting.

Maybe the metaphorical stoning is deserved. It’s impossible not to fault those who were aware of the violence inflicted upon Lisa Banfield and did nothing, or those who had knowledge of the killer’s illegal weapons and failed to report them. Clearly, there were multiple policing failures by many individual cops. There’s a lot of blame to go around, and I’ve tossed my fair share of stones.

Yet I often come out of the daily proceedings of the inquiry not so much angry about this or that person, but rather disappointed with humanity in general. We’re a messy species, full of contradictions and pain and weird desires and strange motivations, and we’re not very capable of deep thought or changing our ways. All that messiness plays out every day in eight billion little dramas across the full spectrum of tragedy and comedy, but it takes a terrible mass murder before we give it any real scrutiny.

Which is to say, I don’t know what the fuck the point of this is.

There was a terrible loss of life, and too much pain to be privately contained. The hurt is enormous, and inescapable. So as messy humans do, we ritualize it with an inquiry.

And I report on it, because that’s what I do. And because I’m a messy human too, some of my reporting is better and some worse. I sometimes don’t give enough attention to things that deserve more attention, and sometimes give too much attention to things that deserve less. I have my own interests, my own insights and lack thereof, my own skills and inabilities.

Sometimes a few stones are tossed in my direction. I won’t go into this at any depth, but I will say that it’s my job as an editor to make informed judgment calls about what to publish and what not to publish, and there are reasons for those decisions. I can’t always make those reasons public, but I try to do this work with integrity, and it has to be left there. I won’t get in a pissing match about it.

Anyway, next week RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell and C/Supt. Chris Leather will testify, for two days each. So I’ll be covering that in depth. And then I’m going to take a mini vacation before returning in late August for the testimony of Lee Bergerman and Brenda Lucki.

My apologies for being a bit disjointed here. But if you value the Examiner’s reporting on the inquiry and everything else, please consider subscribing. Subscribers make this work possible. Thank you!

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2. Gender-affirming care

Two surgeons in blue coats wearing yellow surgical masks work on an unseen patient
Photo: Pavel Sorokin/Pexels

“Gender Affirming Care Nova Scotia (GCANS) is applauding a provincial government decision that will mean fewer barriers and shorter wait times for Nova Scotians seeking gender-affirming surgeries, but says this is just the beginning,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

“Gender Affirming Care Nova Scotia is happy to hear about the recent changes made by the Department of Health and Wellness to decrease barriers to accessing gender affirming surgeries. This is an important step forward for our failing system,” the non-profit organization wrote in an emailed statement to the Halifax Examiner on Wednesday afternoon.

“But it is, at the end of the day, one step in a marathon to address the inequalities the Trans, Intersex, and Gender Diverse Community experiences in healthcare, both generally and in gender affirming care. We are hopeful that this is a sign of what more is to come in the near future.”

Click here to read “Advocates applaud province’s decision to remove barriers for gender-affirming care, but say more needs to be done.”

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3. Rooming house rent increase

a large white house, with two people walking a dog in front
The North Street rooming house. Photo: Google Street View

“After living in a Halifax rooming house for close to 14 years, Barry Smith came home from work one evening in June to find a troubling letter taped to his door,” reports Nicola Seguin for the CBC:

The note from his new landlords said the monthly rent per room in the 29-unit house at 6273 North St. will increase to $700 per month on Aug. 1.

Smith currently pays $540 per month for his room, which includes a bed, table, sink, fridge, air fryer and microwave. His area of the building has no kitchen, and residents share a bathroom.

The new rate is nearly a 30 per cent increase for Smith. Nova Scotia currently has a rent cap in place that bans any rent increase over two per cent until December 2023. It also states rent can only be increased once per year, and four months’ notice must be given.

The rent increase is flat-out illegal. After the new owners of the building were contacted by Seguin, they walked back the increase, sort of, but made themselves look even more sketchy.

I don’t know, but I’d guess that there will soon be a demolition permit issued for the building and new six-storey apartment building will be built on the large site.

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4. The Tideline, Episode 88: Andre Fenton

Andre Fenton, a young Black man with a moustache and goatee, against a bbackground of roses and other flowers in shades of pink
Andre Fenton. Photo contributed.

In this week’s episode of The Tideline, author Andre Fenton returns to the show with a new book, The Summer Between Us: It’s a complex, empathetic YA story about teens on the cusp of adulthood in the under-examined summer between high school and university, an expansion of the characters explored in his debut, Worthy of Love. He reveals his writing process, how his personal mission to unpack toxic masculinity dovetails with his hero’s, and what inspires him to write. Plus the lead track from the brand-new Aquakultre album out this week.

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Westlock County, Alberta

Westlock County, Alberta feted the end of interim CAO Pat Vincent’s term at its July 12 meeting, reports George Blais for the Westlock News:

Coun. Sherri Provencal admitted council got off to a “rocky start” and she felt intimidated during her opening months in office, but Vincent’s “honesty, integrity, knowledge and calm demeanor” helped not only her, but steadied the organization.

Funny how people come to value “honesty, integrity, knowledge and calm demeanor” after the absence of same.

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Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm, Power House Youth Centre, 1606 Bell Rd.) — agenda here


No meetings

On campus



PhD Defence – Plant, Food & Environmental Sciences (Friday, 9am, online) — Joel Ayebi Abbey will defend “Wild Blueberry (Vaccinium Angustifolium Aiton) – Microbe Interaction and Botrytis Blight Management.” Bring your own blueberries.

PhD Defence – Interdisciplinary PhD Program (Friday, 10am, online) — Mary Margaret Brown will defend “Intergenerational Effects of Maternal Health on Pregnancy and Neonatal Outcomes in Nova Scotian Children.”

PhD Defence – English (Friday, 1pm, Room 3107 Mona Campbell Building, 1459 LeMarchant St.) — Brittany Kraus will defend “Realizing the Refugee in Contemporary Canadian Literature and Art.”

In the harbour

06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:30: CMA CGM Laperouse, container ship (151,446 tonnes), sails from Pier 42 for New York (the ultralarge ship arrived yesterday at 05:20, so it took about 26 hours to be processed in Halifax)
08:30: ZIM Constanza, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Valencia, Spain
16:00: MSC Shanghai, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Asyaport, Turkey
18:00: Gotland, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Bilboa, Spain
21:30: ZIM Constanza sails for New York

Cape Breton
05:30: Advantage Start, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
07:00: SFL Trinity, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from New York
11:00: CSL Tarantau, bulker, sails from Coal Pier (Sydney) for sea
18:00: Paul A. Desgagnes, oil tanker, arrives at Government Dock (Sydney) from Quebec City


Everybody talks about the weather, but no one is doing anything about it.

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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 can’t imagine anyone credibly complaining about your integrity and effort in covering the inquiry. I only check in with the reporting every once in a while because of how challenging it all is to consume and consider. We’re all very fortunate to have you paying attention to this for us in a way that is clearly representative of good intent, integrity, and an evident love for your community.

    It doesn’t look like there can be a single point to the commission. If there can only be one point it probably should be about enabling the ritualized aspect of the proceeding you’ve highlighted. Unfortunately way too much of it is about protecting the various employees and departments who played a role in enabling this tragedy through their incompetence and neglect. We can’t really call it that though because everyone fucks up and I’m sure they all feel terrible. I don’t understand how they’ll ever feel better without an actual open inquiry though. Those feelings aren’t feelings you can forget, they’re only feelings you can ignore.

    There’s still value to the inquiry. It’s definitely better than nothing, but it’s also further evidence that we seem to always deserve better than what we get.

  2. Re: what’s the point of the MCC?
    It’s like the weather – ya just gotta talk about it – but is it possible to do anything about it? Well, we are now experiencing climate change – which we have brought upon ourselves, as in: we did something. Just not the right thing. It’s a depressing fact if extrapolated to the task of the MCC, but it does show that change is possible. The topic is heart-breaking from every vantage point: can we make sense of the senseless?