1. Emotional testimony about RCMP mistakes during the mass murders

A man sitting at a table and testifying at the mass casualty commission

Tim Bousquet is live tweeting the Mass Casualty Commission today — you can follow along here — and he has this article about the testimony from Staff Sergeant Bruce Briers yesterday. During his testimony, Briers talked about the push bar on the fake cop car. Bousquet writes:

In his testimony before the Mass Casualty Commission yesterday, Briers said that had he known about the push bar, he would have notified all RMCP officers about it and, perhaps, the killer could’ve been stopped.

In particular, Briers pointed to an incident on Highway 4, when Cst. Rodney Peterson passed the killer. (Briers mistakenly referred to Peterson as “Cst. MacDonald.”).

Click here to read Bousquet’s article. 

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2. Victims’ families: ‘trauma informed’ inquiry has ‘further traumatized’ us

A poster with a red heart on a blue background, with names hand written on it
A poster at the roadside memorial in Portapique commemorates the 22 people killed in the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

“Family members of the victims of the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020 have instructed their lawyers to boycott the next four days of the proceedings of the Mass Casualty Commission,” Jennifer Henderson reports in this story.

The boycott is in response to a decision issued by the commissioners yesterday that grants “accommodation requests” for three RCMP officers who are to testify.

Staff Sergeant Al Carroll, who is scheduled to testify tomorrow, will appear via Zoom, and not in person, and he will not be cross-examined directly by the families’ lawyers.

Sergeant Andy O’Brien and Staff Sergeant Brian Rehill will be questioned next Monday and Tuesday separately via Zoom but not in public — their interviews will be recorded and posted to the website later. As with Carroll, O’Brien and Rehill will not be cross-examined directly by the families’ lawyers.

You can read the commissioners’ decision here.

As Henderson writes, this is not good enough for the victims’ families, most of whom are represented by Patterson Law, which released a statement on the decision that read, in part:

Our clients firmly oppose the Commissioner’s decision and take this action to send a clear message that they will not be associated with this restricted fact-finding process for such critical evidence.

Click here to read Henderson’s full story.

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3. ‘Next thing I know I’m getting tased’

In a screenshot from a video, four police officers surround a Black man who's on the ground, pressed up against a white police car with blue decals and flashing lights on. One of the officers on the left is holding a Taser. Another on the left is leaning over the first officer. On the right, one officer has his leg on top of the man as another officer watches. The scene is captured from across the street. There's a vehicle in the right of the frame stopped. In the background, the word bagel is seen on a round decal on a shop window.
A Halifax Regional Police officer uses a Taser on a Black man during an arrest in December 2019 as other officers hold the man down. — Screenshot/Twitter/@jsrutgers Credit: Screenshot/Twitter/@jsrutgers

Zane Woodford is at the Nova Scotia Police Review Board for a few days covering the hearing into a 2019 arrest on Quinpool Road. Clinton Fraser, the man who was arrested and tased, is testifying at the hearing and told the board he didn’t know why he was arrested that day. Woodford writes:

Clinton Fraser believed he’d done nothing wrong on Dec. 4, 2019, he told a hearing of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board in Dartmouth. But Halifax Regional Police had pulled him over and ticketed him for changing lanes unsafely.

“Next thing I know I’m getting tased and I don’t remember anything after that,” Fraser testified on Wednesday.

“Only thing I had in my hand was a phone.”

A video of the traffic stop, posted on Twitter by reporter Julia-Simone Rutgers after the incident showed Fraser being tackled to the ground by a group of officers, and one of them using a Taser on him as he screamed in agony. Police spun the event that night, claiming Fraser would be charged with assaulting police. He was never charged, and the traffic ticket was thrown out.

As the Halifax Examiner reported last July the officer who tased and arrested Fraser, Const. Nicole Green, was appealing a disciplinary decision that found she was in the wrong.

Click here to read Woodford’s article. 

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4. Halifax committee recommends in favour of plan for historic Elmwood

An architectural rendering shows a modern addition towering behind an old Victorian apartment building.
A rendering of the proposed addition and alteration to the Elmwood. — HRM/Zzap Consulting

There are big plans ahead for the Elmwood at the corner of Barrington and South streets. As Zane Woodford reports, on Wednesday the Heritage Advisory Committee recommended council approve the plan that would see the historic building be moved, restored, and altered. Woodford writes:

The Elmwood, at 5185-5189 South St., dates back to 1826. The structure there today was mostly built later, in 1896, when it was converted to a Victorian hotel. The building was at risk in recent years, with the former owner, Peter, Paul, and Renée Metlej’s Principal Developments, looking to demolish it and build new.

In 2018, it was sold to a different Metlej family business, Anthony, David, and Elias Metlej and Anna Kabalen’s Galaxy Properties. The new owners started working with municipal staff on a proposal back then, and it came to a virtual meeting of council’s Heritage Advisory Committee on Wednesday.

Galaxy’s plan, submitted on its behalf by Zzap Consulting, is to pick up the Elmwood, move it closer to the street and put it down on top of a new foundation. It also includes rehabilitation of the building’s windows, trim, and roofing, and the restoration of some lost elements, like the full wraparound porch and wrought iron parapet, municipal heritage planner Seamus McGreal told the committee.

The Elmwood is actually not a heritage property, but it is part of the Old South Suburb Heritage District.

This article is for subscribers. You can subscribe here. 

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5. Judge Corrine Sparks

Black lady in blue graduation gown gives speech at a podium
Retired Judge Corrine Sparks gives acceptance speech after receiving an honourary degree from Mount Saint Vincent University. Photo: MSVU / Youtube.

Last week retired Judge Corrine “Connie” Sparks joined the Spring convocation at Mount Saint Vincent University where she was presented with an honorary degree. Matthew Byard watched the convocation online and had this story. Byard writes:

Sparks, who is from the Black community of Lake Loon/Cherry Brook, graduated from MSVU in 1974 with a bachelor of arts in economics. She was the only woman of African descent in her year of law school and went on to co-manage the first all-female law firm in Nova Scotia.

In 1987, Sparks was appointed as a Family Court judge making her the first Black judge in the history of the province and the first Black female judge in Canada.

“This list of firsts would be impressive on its own,” said Dr. Elizabeth Church, who presented Sparks with the honorary degree, “but Connie’s impact has been even more profound through her deep commitment to her community.”

Sparks talked to the graduating class about the meaning of success. I especially liked this part of her speech:

You graduates are living in an era where financial gain is at times extraordinarily excessive and therefore creates a surreal financial zone of the mega-rich. But I would suggest we should ask the question of how financial reward is leveled in our society, and should we, more importantly, be striving for a world which works for everyone where even those who do not have the advantage of post-secondary education, a degree or a diploma can still generate a modest living tied directly to a livable wage.

Click here to read Byard’s story.

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6. The Tideline: Episode 80, Willie Stratton

A young man wearing a purple shirt and sporting a moustache lies on the green grass surrounded by pink plastic flamingos
Willie Stratton

On this week’s episode of The Tideline, Tara Thorne interviews singer-songwriter Willie Stratton, who, as Thorne says, started his music career “with raw acoustic folk as a teen phenom, moving through surf rock as Beach Bait, and landing in a Roy Orbison-style classic country on his new album Drugstore Dreamin’.

Stratton is playing at the Marquee Friday night, so he stopped by to talk to Thorne about how mixing those musical influences makes the best art, how he approaches his guitar playing, and tell us more about his day job as a barber.

Click here to listen to the episode.

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Feeding the discussion on breastfeeding and infant formula

Two babies of colour, one feeding from a breast and one from a bottle.
No complaints from these little ones. Photos: Unsplash / internet

On Friday a friend messaged me to ask a question — yes, an actual friend, not a “friend.” This friend, who doesn’t have children, asked why a mom would choose to give their baby formula if they could breastfeed. It wasn’t a judgmental question, but rather a curious one prompted after she read about the formula shortage in the US. She had (bravely) put the same question out on Twitter, but got only one response, so she thought she’d ask me. 

I told her I could only speak for myself, and that I fed my daughter formula when she was an infant. That was almost 20 years ago.  

It’s not that I didn’t try to breastfeed. Before my kid was born, I asked my doctor about breastfeeding. This doctor, who has two kids of her own and delivered hundreds of babies over her career, said, “Yes, definitely try it, but you may not even like it.” I remember thinking then — and still do now — that was such a radical statement: I may not even like it. It seemed unimaginable that something a mother might not like could be an option.

But despite trying, my daughter wouldn’t latch properly, so we switched to formula. I wasn’t shamed for my decision. The nurses were all very helpful with my attempts to breastfeed and then my decision to use formula. I would have shut down any opposition. I also went back to work bartending, freelance writing, and trying to break into this news business just weeks after she was born. (My partner took most of the parental leave). 

I felt no guilt about our decision to feed her formula, and still don’t. My kid was fed and healthy. I think I fed — and still feed — her in other ways: in laughter and fun, in adventure, in support, in creating a relationship of trust, and in giving good advice (most of the time, I hope). 

The formula shortage in the US has parents all over discussing formula feeding and breastfeeding. All of the usual discussions are out there: breast is best. Fed is best. You’ve likely read several of them.

I’ve read many stories from parents who are still racked with guilt because they couldn’t breastfeed their children. It’s incredibly cruel that they were made to feel this way, and they shouldn’t carry that guilt with them. Their children are now healthy and happy. I don’t know all the reasons moms choose to feed their babies formula (readers, help me here). Breastfeeding doesn’t come easily to all moms and babies. There are medical reasons, or they can’t produce enough milk and have to supplement with formula. I know some moms who were already overwhelmed with physical and mental exhaustion and whose nipples were raw, cracked, and bleeding as they tried and tried to breastfeed with bodies still trying to heal from childbirth. 

And like me, some moms don’t breastfeed for financial reasons, or they go back to work soon after their babies are born. Despite living in a country that now gives parents up to 18 months of paid leave, not everyone qualifies for it. When I applied almost 20 years ago, I got about $200 a month in maternity leave, which wasn’t enough to pay for much of anything (I was in university when I found out I was pregnant and worked just casual shifts that year before, so I didn’t accumulate enough hours to get more). I suspect many moms who are self-employed or working low-wage jobs face the same issue. Still, I never worried about a shortage of formula, but some families do struggle to afford it. 

Those who choose to breastfeed face ridiculous shame, too, notably when feeding their children in public. They are told to cover up or go to a room where they can’t be seen or offend others around them. This is atrocious, of course, as breastfeeding is a human right. No one is asking those people to cover up or shuffle off into another room where they can eat their lunch.

And despite what Bette Midler says on Twitter, breastfeeding is not free and on demand. There are special bras, pumps, pillows, and storage containers to buy. There’s the time to spend pumping and storing all that milk. Those who choose to breastfeed should have our complete support to do so, easy access to consultants, all the supplies they need, and they should be able to feed their babies whenever, wherever that baby is hungry without negative comments from anyone.

Breastfeeding wasn’t the sole source of infant feeding before the invention of formula. Carla Cevasco, a historian of infant feeding at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey, wrote this fascinating Twitter thread on what parents fed their children well before formula was around. Cevasco wrote there are many reasons breastfeeding wasn’t an option: there were health reasons; the mother died in childbirth; she had to go back to work; or she was enslaved and forced not to breastfeed.

Cevasco continued the thread with what babies did eat if they weren’t breastfed: Wabanaki women in the 18th century sometimes fed infants a mixture of boiled walnuts, cornmeal, and water. Mothers in early modern Europe fed their infants a mixture of animal milk and water. Some of these foods weren’t always safe. As Cerasco wrote, before commercial formula was invented in the 1950s, many babies died of starvation or illness because of the lack of safe or adequate food.

This week Lesley Frank, a Canada Research Chair in Food, Health, and Social Justice at Acadia University, wrote this article for the Globe and Mail , about infant formula shortages in Canada. Frank, who wrote the book Out of Milk: Infant Food Insecurity in a Rich Nation, writes in her article in the Globe about the breastfeeding paradox: those families that are least able to afford formula are the most likely to use it. Frank continues:

While infant food supply is made up of two streams – commercial formula and non-commercial breastfeeding – we know that among the 91 per cent of Canadian mothers who initiate breastfeeding, only about one-third breastfeed exclusively for six months, meaning that most infants rely on formula to varying extents. Milk banks are few and far between in Canada, and this milk is mostly limited for use by fragile infants for whom it is classified as medicine.

We are especially quick to judge mothers who have trouble affording formula; after all, they “chose” not to breastfeed, forgoing “free” and accessible food. But, as we say in the sociology field, choices are always based on circumstance. Not all mothers are able to breastfeed with ease, and depending on their work environment, not all women are able to pump breast milk to leave for their babies while they are away. As a society, we often fail to provide the social and economic support needed to produce breast milk, which leads many families to turn to formula.

Frank argues that Canada needs not only short- and long-term strategies to stabilize formula supply, but also “adequate economic protections to guarantee food access for Canadian children and their families.”

The stories from women talking about the ways in which they feed and fed their babies remind me of the stories women tell about why they had abortions. Women shouldn’t have to constantly share their stories to justify decisions that are no one else’s business. Shame is not support.

Let’s support parents who choose to breastfeed and who choose to use formula, and let’s nourish their families beyond infant feeding — because we fail them in those ways, too.  

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Last week Craig Ferguson, who’s behind the Twitter account Dead in Halifax, tweeted this photo of a gravestone in Camp Hill. “Archibald Lawson was a doctor who once fled Halifax after a patient died during an illegal operation (I’d LOVE to learn more about this.) He was the father of American impressionist painter Ernest Lawson. Archibald died of arteriosclerosis. Camp Hill,” Ferguson wrote in the tweet. 

An old headstone that says in loving memory of Arch Lawson, MD, Died October 29, 1919 age 76 years
Photo: Dead in Halifax/Twitter

Ferguson, who always encourages followers to help him fill in the blanks of the stories of the people whose headstones he photographs, got his answer about that “illegal operation.” Sarah Palmer, a genealogist in Halifax, found this bit about Lawson in a Google search:

“O’Connor, Bridget – deceased – A coroner’s jury in Halifax, Nova Scotia returns a verdict on October 11, 1883 that her death was caused by criminal abortion produced by Dr. Archibald Lawson of that city. (JRO 83)”

Palmer also found this headline from the Herald:

A photo of an old newspaper clipping with the headline The latest sensation: a woman dies from the effects of an abortion. The physician accused takes refuge in flight.

The story was also printed in the New York Times here. Palmer really dug to find more information and also found this article in Canada Medical and Surgical Journal, Volume 12, which tells us more about Bridget O’Connor.

A clipping from a magazine

And Palmer also found Lawson’s obituary:

A newspaper clipping of an obituary of Archibald Lawson

Ferguson finds some fascinating stories in the city’s cemeteries and I enjoy how followers like Palmer help him with the research. Ferguson is now working on a book about Dead in Halifax, which will be published this fall.

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Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting


No meetings

On campus



PhD Defence, Law (Thursday, 10am) — Akinwumi Olawuyi Ogunranti of the Schulich School of Law will defend “Voices from Below—Africa’s Contribution to the Development of the Norm of Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights”

Book launch (Thursday, 1pm, Tupper Medical Building Lobby) — Allan Marble will present “The History of Medicine in Nova Scotia from Confederation to Medicare: the Transition from Allopathic to Scientific Medicine.”

The book spans 1867-1967 and covers topics including the prevention, treatment, and control of infectious diseases, Nova Scotia’s first general hospital, the establishment of hospitals in rural Nova Scotia, the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion, and the impact of the Spanish Influenza Pandemic on Nova Scotia.

Author remarks and reception with refreshments afterwards. Details and registration here.

Open Dialogue Live: The Space Race of the Twentieth Century (Thursday, 6:30pm, McInnes Room, SUB and online) — a conversation with Tony Pellerin from Canadian space Agency, and Arad Gharagozli from GALAXIA. They’ll discuss satellites and nano satellites, the science and research behind them, and the societal impacts of the space race of the twentieth century.


Resounding: a celebration of the arts (Friday, 7:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — a concert with “world class” and emerging artists including Keifer Sutherland, Jeremy Dutcher, Hillsburn, Ashley MacIsaac, and the Fountain School of Performing Arts students. Info and tickets here.

Saint Mary’s


Womens’ Empowerment Conference: Women in Finance (Thursday, 5:30pm) — the third event in a week-long virtual conference. More details and registration here.


Womens’ Empowerment Conference: Women in Entrepreneurship (Friday, 1pm) — the fourth event in a week-long virtual conference. More details and registration here.


Encaenia 2022 (Thursday, 2:30pm, Rebecca Cohn Auditorium) — King’s graduation ceremony

In the harbour

06:00: MSC Joanna, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
06:45: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Pier 42 from Sydney, on a seven-day cruise from Montreal to Boston
07:00: Pacific Dawn, cargo ship, arrives at anchorage from Laem Chabang, Thailand
08:30: BBC Gdansk, cargo ship, arrives at Pier 9 from Gijon, Spain
12:00: Pacific Dawn sails for sea
15:00: MOL Experience, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Antwerp, Belgium
15:45: Zaandam sails for Bar Harbor
16:00: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
19:00: BBC Gdansk sails for sea
19:00: Algoma Mariner, bulker, sails from Pier 25/26 for sea
22:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves from Autoport back to Pier 41
23:00: MOL Experience sails for New York

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


I shall go feed myself now.

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Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent and on Mastodon

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  1. Thank you Suzanne for the well balanced view on breast feeding vs formula feeding. Breast feeding came very easy for me and I was fortunate enough to have 15 weeks of maternity leave for each of my children. i have seen very many women who have struggled with breast feeding and those who chose formula from the start. You have highlighted the many reasons very well.

  2. ” Women shouldn’t have to constantly share their stories to justify decisions that are no one else’s business.”

    So say we all.

  3. I breastfed all three of my kids til they got tired of it (each quit of their own volition between 8-10 months) I also supplemented with formula after the first month or two whenever I felt like it- occasionally so I could go out for the evening and leave the kid home to get fed by someone else, but more often so I could take medication for my chronic back pain or sudafed for a cold, both of which (and basically every other drug) are contraindicated for use while breastfeeding. I got comments about it (but only once by each offender, they all seemed to learn their lesson quickly, haha!) I also supplemented my last kid way more often with formula because he wanted to eat about 40oz of milk a day and I could not handle how much of my time that required me to sit in one spot (especially with two more kids running around!)

    How you feed your kid is an extremely personal choice, and I wish more people knew that even asking for a rationale is not cool- especially since the reasons can include things like a woman’s prescription drug use, eating disorders, support structure within the family, etc etc etc. Ask yourself “is there a good reason for me to have this info?” before asking pregnant/postnatal women… basically any question. It would cut down a LOT on how often we put women in awkward positions of having to disclose personal info or seem ‘rude’ for declining to answer.

  4. Though in this case not a good outcome but a doctor performed abortion in 1883? How many women did not have access to a doctor?

    Is there any doubt that women have deserved and continue to deserve that decidedly safer choice than back alley procedures?