Zen and the art of moving out of Halifax


1. Mass Casualty Commission: women recall their experiences with the mass murderer

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

In documents compiled by the Mass Casualty Commission, Tim Bousquet finds multiple interviews with women who had relationships with GW, the man who murdered 22 people in Nova Scotia in April 2020. The interviews are sexually graphic, and show a man who maintained multiple relationships simultaneously, often exploiting lower-income, vulnerable women, including patients at his denture clinic.

The women interviewed say GW had a number of sexual kinks, including a habit of having women dress up as a police officers, and could be controlling, but none suspected he might be capable of the heinous crimes he committed. In fact, he could be quite charming.

“I was in love with him,” said one woman, who’d had an affair with GW years before the shooting, but while GW was with his girlfriend, Lisa Banfield. “[He] pulled out my chair, opened the door, you know, his business was dealing with elderly people, he was soft spoken, he was articulate. He was polite, and the world just fell down at his feet.”

“I didn’t know he was the devil.”

There were red flags, though.

One woman said GW told her he was “going to go out in a bang,” and that she would hear about it. This mirrors what Lisa Banfield told investigators after the murders: “He used to always say, like, ‘when I go out I’m going out with a bang. It’ll be in the news.’”

Another woman said she was sexually assaulted by GW at his warehouse, where he stored the fake police cruiser he’d use on his shooting spree. The woman (none of the interviewees were identified by name) said the incident resulted in the RCMP being called — which Bousquet couldn’t verify. The woman said the police were told she’d been drinking, and they left without investigating further. The interview suggests another case where GW’s murders could have been prevented.

Bousquet includes quotes from interviews with multiple women, giving us further insight into the psyche of the killer, and how he was able to orchestrate his plan without suspicion.

Click here to read Bousquet’s full article.

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2. Stephen Kimber: As Lionel Desmond inquiry wraps, what answers can we hope to find?

Parents with their infant daughter.

Shanna, Aaliyah, and Lionel Desmond.

A two-year inquiry, spread out over 55 non-consecutive days, through a pandemic, involving 69 witnesses and countless exhibits and submissions is wrapping up. But there may still be more questions than answers, writes Stephen Kimber.

How much of a victim was Lionel Desmond, the Afghanistan war veteran who killed his mother, wife, and daughter before taking his own life in 2017. Was he offered adequate mental health care and resources for his PTSD? Did systemic racism prevent him from accessing that help? Was he a misogynist and abuser who killed the women in his life? A blend of both? Just why did he do what he did?

That’s what Wayne Zimmer, the veteran provincial court judge presiding over the inquiry, must now try to ascertain.

“The first question would seem to be why?” writes Kimber.

Answering that question, we hope, will lead to recommendations and changes that can prevent such tragedies from happening again. That’s the real purpose of Zimmer’s inquiry.

But an answer to that big why — as we discovered last week during closing submissions by those representing the various “interested parties” — is slippery, and it only leads to many more whys. And those whys may simply divert us from the “whats” that need to change — whether it be support for victims of domestic violence, treatments for those suffering from PTSD, or culturally appropriate mental health services.

Kimber expects Zimmer will be busy with this — and a number of other messy questions that may never find an answer — for months. Desmond is no longer here to explain himself, and his past is full of contradictions and grey areas. But how much does that matter when it comes to preventing this sort of thing in the future.

As always, Kimber breaks down a complicated issue with some thoughtful analysis. See what the big questions are from this inquiry, and what it might take to answer them, by reading the full piece here.

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3. Changes to Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act worrying: advocates, psychiatrists

A cement building with a blue sign that says Abbie J. Lane Building

Abbie J. Lane Building at the QEII Health Sciences Centre. Photo: Suzanne Rent

On March 31, the province introduced a bill to amend the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act. 

Under the Act, any physician who suspects a person has a mental disorder that could cause them to be a danger to themselves or others, or in danger of severely deteriorating, can be held for up to 72 hours, pending a full evaluation by a psychiatrist.

On April 22, the amendment passed, and some parent advocates and psychiatrists are worried. 

Philip Moscovitch speaks with some of these advocates and psychiatrists in his latest report. One of them, Dr. Jason Morrison, outlines his concerns:

While he agrees with the intent of some of the amendments, Morrison is worried about the language of others. 

Under the old act, a person could be hospitalized involuntarily if a physician “is of the opinion that the person apparently has a mental disorder” and as a result is a threat to themselves or others, or “is likely to suffer serious physical impairment or serious mental deterioration” and will “benefit from inpatient psychiatric treatment.”

The amendments change this to the physician having “reasonable and probable grounds to believe”(instead of “the opinion”) and that the person “will” (instead of “be likely to”) suffer impairment or significant deterioration. It’s a stronger test.

Morrison said he is even more concerned with the section dealing with a patient’s ability to understand the consequences of making decisions regarding hospital admission and treatment. Under the current act, a doctor needs to assess whether a patient “fully understands and appreciates” the nature of their condition and the risks of either accepting or refusing treatment. The amendments weaken that to what Morrison calls the “more ambiguous” language of having the “ability, with or without support, to understand information relevant to making a decision” and the consequences of that decision. So, again, a higher bar.

Involuntary hospitalizations increased in Nova Scotia’s Central Zone in 2021. There were 888 cases, the highest in five years. There are about a thousand involuntary hospitalizations province-wide each year.

Will those numbers start to go down now that the Act has been amended? And is that a good thing?

A range of voices weigh in in Moscovitch’s full article, including doctors, advocates, politicians, examining how we can best care for those with a potentially fatal mental illness, without compromising personal freedom.

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4. Former HRP officer sentenced to 30 days for punching homeless man

A closeup of the Halifax Regional Police Headquarters sign on the brick wall beside the front steps to their building on Gottingen Street in June 2021

Halifax Regional Police headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Jack Julian at CBC reports that a Halifax Regional Police officer has received his sentence for punching a homeless man four years ago:

A former Halifax Regional Police officer was sentenced Monday to 30 days in jail for breaking a homeless man’s nose with a punch to the face in 2018.

“It’s been a long four years and, you know, it’s changed my life drastically, not just for the last four years, but also going forward. I lost a career that I lived for,” Laurence Garry Basso, 38, told Judge Paul Scovil before receiving his sentence. 

It’s the second time the former police constable has been sentenced for assault causing bodily harm against Patrice Simard. 

In 2019, Basso received a four-month sentence for the same assault, but the conviction was overturned due a judge’s errors interpreting evidence.

Police interactions with the homeless in HRM haven’t improved drastically since Basso’s punch.

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Zen and the art of moving out of Halifax

My office this morning:

a living room is scattered with packed boxes, garbage, and other debris during a move. Two computers sit on cardboard boxes and chairs for me to write on.

A man tries to write a Morning File during a move. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

Indulge me for a moment. Call it catharsis, I need to vent.

I’m writing this morning on a cardboard box — well, on a laptop sitting on a cardboard box — surrounded by packed bags, clutter, and the debris of a move. For the past week, I’ve been helping Leslie Amminson move out of her apartment as she prepares for an internship in Toronto.

It’s almost May 1, and that means leases are up and students (Leslie included) are on the move. You’ve seen the evidence. U-hauls and borrowed trucks abound. The city’s sidewalks are littered with formerly-folding futons, stained armchairs, broken dining sets (broken anything, really), along with lamps, box springs, tacky artwork, and anything else that’s easier to leave behind than sell or keep. These street decorations are ubiquitous this time of year, popping up each spring before the flowers in the Public Gardens have fully bloomed.

But if you think the sidewalks outside these places are a mess, let me take you behind the scenes. Like a drunken, disheveled duck in a pond, it may look hectic on the surface, but it’s even more frantic below.

About a month ago, Leslie got an email from her landlord. He was considering a renovation: turning the dining room in her two-bedroom apartment into a third bedroom. She decided she’d give up the spot — the last decent, affordable apartment in Halifax was dying, we’d joke — instead of subletting for the summer.

And so the great scramble to finish her master’s, pack for Toronto, and move out of her apartment, with a little time left over for taxes, began.

For better or worse, I’ve been along for the ride.

When I moved out of Halifax in 2020, the worst move of my life, I thought I’d escaped forever. I’d packed up my life in one weekend, while dealing with passive-aggressive roommates, romantic troubles, a minor surgery, a job an hour away, and little help. It nearly destroyed me, but I moved into my new place a stronger man.

Now, for the last time (he said, hopefully), I’m part of a Halifax move. If I have to put my trauma aside to help two people, I might as well try to help a few more.

Here are my brief, handy tips for keeping your head clear while your move gets cluttered.

Chain your keys to your pants with hoops of steel, and bring a spare set

In 2020, moving out of my place on Queen Street, I borrowed my dad’s Toyota RAV. I’d sold or donated all my furniture, so the vehicle was big enough to carry all my things in one go. I had a shift at a bar in Halifax in the afternoon, so I spent the morning packing and loading everything into the back until it was filled to the brim. Ahead of schedule, I went for a run to Point Pleasant before I planned to drive to the Valley.

When I got back, I couldn’t find my dad’s keys. And I never did. I took a $200 cab to my shift, where I made $200.

Flash forward to present day. My dad lends me the same vehicle, forgetting history. I managed to lose the keys the first night in Halifax. The next day was spent figuring out how to get the RAV back to Wolfville and get Leslie’s stuff moved before the keys were finally found at a North End bar.

I managed to get Leslie’s stuff moved and get the vehicle back to my dad. But not before getting a flat tire in Grand Pré.

Thanks Dad. Sorry Dad.

God smiles on those who sell, gift, and trash more than they pack

Things. Stuff. Possessions.

You may have heard they weigh you down. That’s not just hippy, communist talk.

Facebook Marketplace is your friend. Kijiji is your friend. Value Village and the Salvation Army are your friends. Get to know them. Spend an hour or two a day on them. The less you have, the less you have to move.

A word of warning though. Don’t try to sell everything. You might want to squeeze every drop of juice out of your old books, plates, and other odds and ends, but you’ll be dealing with a million messages, trying to schedule pick up times and risking last minute back outs for things people wouldn’t pay more than $10 for. Think long and hard about what’s worth your time and money.

Case in point: Leslie and her roommate posted a bed to Facebook Marketplace. The frame broke while they disassembled it, but they thought they’d try to sell it anyway. After haggling online, a woman agreed to pick it up. After loading the whole thing into her vehicle, she noticed the break. So they unloaded it. A waste of time and energy in the pursuit of an extra buck.

Procrastinate and die

We started packing weeks ago and moved everything Leslie wasn’t taking to Toronto into storage. So yesterday was spent on last-minute packing and cleaning. Or it would have been if Leslie’s landlord hadn’t sent in plumbers to work on a pipe that runs through all three floors of her multi-unit house.

People were running in and out the front door, up and down stairs, sawing through a ceiling that crumbled on us, and using the loudest power tools in their arsenal. That cacophony, combined with the shambled state of the apartment, was enough to give third-hand stress, let alone second-hand.

We stopped moving for the day and went biking instead.

If we’d left everything to the last minute, we would’ve had to keep powering through. There’s no way of knowing for sure, but one of us likely would have killed the other if that had happened.

Pacing a move saves lives.

Time your breaks 

If you pace yourself like I suggest, you’ll have time for breaks. You’ll need them to survive yourself, roommates, and the myriad curveballs life throws at you while you try to transplant your life.

Yesterday, for example, while the plumbers were making that racket and things were getting testy in the house, I decided to walk around the block. It was a beautiful sunny day and I returned 15 minutes later, refreshed and ready to move.

I got back to find a defeated crew though. In my absence, the toilet had started overflowing uncontrollably. Leslie and her roommate tried desperately to stop it and eventually one of the plumbers had to run in and save the day. But the floor couldn’t be saved. Leslie cleaned up litres of toilet water on her hands and knees with bath towels.

Everything was clean by the time I walked back through the door.

Leslie may resent me for life, but at least I avoided unclogging a toilet and cleaning up the overflow. A well-timed break is a lifesaver. To boil it down, if you can sense trouble looming, nip it in the bud or go for a walk before it’s noticeable. The move will be much easier. For you, anyway.

You can find free wine boxes for packing at the NSLC 

You can also find a variety of wines, beers, and spirits. Used moderately, they will help you cope with the move without hindering it. It’s a two-birds-one-stone situation at the LC.

If you have the means, hire movers

In War and Peace, the Rostov family is fleeing Moscow as Napoleon’s army inches closer. In the mayhem, they manage to load carriages with most of their estate’s belongings, which they plan to take to Petersburg. Just before they go, the daughter, Natasha, sees wounded soldiers in the street and says her family will have one of the carriages emptied to carry them.

Do you think she would have been so compassionate if she’d loaded that carriage herself? Doubtful. She had movers, and had no idea what a bitch it would be to empty a carriage full of things right after loading it.

If you can pay someone else to move for you, all the breakage and lost items will be trifles compared to the crippling stress you just avoided.

Last tip: Never move

Find a place with decent natural light and permanent rent control, then stay forever. Moving’s not worth it.

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Stephen Archibald took a stroll down scenic Joe Howe Drive and the surrounding area near the Northwest Arm in his latest Noticed in Nova Scotia blog post.

Day time. Two cars drive toward the Northwest Arm on Joe Howe Drive. The Arm is just visible in the distance. The street has bare trees along the sidewalks.

“What a grand entrance to the city it is,” writes Archibald about Joe Howe Drive coming into the Armdale Rotary. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Archibald’s blog, which is often featured in Examiner Morning Files, is a treasure trove of photos capturing the small, everyday beauties of Nova Scotia communities and their landscape. He shares a mix of archival and current photos to show how Halifax’s streets have changed, how building designs have been maintained, and how intricate gravestones used to be, among other things.

Yet, yesterday, he chose to profile Joe Howe. Why?

According to Archibald, he and his partner keep a “mental list of areas around town that would be good to walk.”

“Many of these,” he writes, “are districts we drive through but have no reason to experience on foot.”

Joe Howe Drive, in my opinion, is an interesting place to have on your bucket list of HRM strolls, what with its prevalence of cars, wide lanes, and narrow sidewalks. Sure, the Northwest Arm is nice ⁠— and the Armview Restaurant and Lounge continues to grow on me even though I can never figure out how to turn into the parking lot ⁠— but there are better walking neighbourhoods in Halifax, surely.

Still, Archibald manages to get some charming shots.

A treehouse is sandwiched between the branches of a tree in an empty backyard on a chilly spring day.

A treehouse on a side street behind Joe Howe Drive. Photo: Stephen Archibald


A house on Mumford Road in Halifax with a red-and-white awning over the front door. Once a popular style, writes Archibald. Sights like this often go unseen when driving. Photo: Stephen Archibald

The rest of his blog post includes photos of wooded streams right behind the major thoroughfare, as well as beautiful residential communities with repurposed municipal buildings and condominiums that actually blend with the character of the neighbourhood. It’s not just traffic down there.

Archibald also shares a 2014 photo he took of the Armdale Rotary during the dandelion bloom.

Yellow dandelions cover the grass adjacent to the Armdale Rotary. The photo is mostly dandelions. Some of the grey street is visible.

Dandelions on Halifax’s Armdale Rotary in 2014. Photo: Stephen Archibald.

He suggests we add some blue this year as a tribute to Ukraine. Anything that makes a weed useful while showing solidarity with a peaceful yet beleaguered country is something I can get behind.

Archibald’s photos reminded me that even the car-heavy parts of town have their bright spots. But, as Archibald writes about Joe Howe, “We tend to ignore the splendor because getting through the roundabout alive uses up all our bandwidth.” When we build busy thoroughfares but fail to connect the spaces around them for pedestrians and cyclists, these areas really lose connection with the city. You can’t get a sense of neighbourhood from a car.

It’s funny, when I saw Archibald had wanted to take a walk down Joe Howe for some time, my first thought was, odd choice. It’s noisy, busy, and dominated by cars. Yet it should make sense for a walk. It’s home to the the Chain Lakes Trailhead, the start of the Rumrunners trail that stretches over 100 kilometres down the scenic South Shore. Hop on that trail — in one of the busiest parts of the peninsula, mind you — and you’re two minutes away from trading cement, exhaust, and car horns for greenery, fresh air, and birdsong.

A white man with white stubble sits on his bicycle on a bike trail. The trail is gravel and surrounded by green foliage. It's a sunny day

My dad taking the trail from Joe Howe Drive to the Bike & Bean in 2020. Photo: Ethan Lycan-Lang

But it’s difficult and unpleasant for pedestrians and cyclists south of Fairview to get there. What good is it to have easy access to nature from the city path, if there’s no easy access to the path? It’s something numerous cyclists told Philip Moscovitch in his piece on bicycle road etiquette last summer.

When we design our communities to integrate nature and green spaces, we don’t need to prescribe them as medicine (as doctors now can in the Maritimes). They become the proverbial apple a day, and we’re blessed with the quiet joy of seeing the beautiful as routine, and the neighbourhood as community, not thoroughfare. Only through ambling can you truly discover the place you live. Make a city walkable and see what happens.

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No meetings


Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting



Human Resources (Tuesday, 10am, One Government Place) — Progress Reports on the Implementation of the Canada-Wide Child Care Agreement and the Excellence in ECE Strategy (Tentative) & Agency, Board and Commission Appointments; with representatives from the Dept. of Education and Early Childhood Development, MSVU, and the Association of Early Childhood Educators of NS.

NOTE: If the House of Assembly is still sitting on April 26, the committee will meet only to consider appointments to ABCs, and the witnesses will be deferred to May 31.


Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am, Province House) — 2022 Report of the Auditor General – Follow-up of 2017, 2018 and 2019 Performance Audit Recommendations; 2022 Atlantic Provinces’ Joint Follow-up of Recommendations to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation; with Kim Adair, Office of the Auditor General

On campus



PhD thesis defence, Microbiology and Immunology (Tuesday, 10am, online) — Karla Valenzuela will defend “Shigella Flexneri Requires the Host Scaffold Protein Rack1 to Modulate Actin Polymerization, Promoting Infection”

Visibility Matters: Representation of Lesbian Communities in Archives (Tuesday, 12pm, online) — special panel discussion in recognition of Lesbian Visibility Day. The panel will be moderated by Dr. Jacquie Gahagan, founder of the NS LGBT Seniors Archive. Panelists include Meredith Batt, Anne Bishop, Elinor Crosby, Rachel Moore, and Denyse Rogrigues.


PhD thesis defence, Mathematics and Statistics (Wednesday, 10am, online) — Ethan M Lawler will defend “Fast and Effective Statistical Inference for Spatio-Temporal Data, With Applications in Marine Ecology”

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Housing Strategy: Partnership, Vision, Solutions (Wednesday, 4pm, online) — presentation and discussion with Michael McKay and Shelagh McCartney, developers of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Housing Strategy and many of its supporting projects. From the listing:

Together, McKay and McCartney will speak about the systems that have led to on-reserve housing conditions in Canada, housing as central to community health and the innovative research being undertaken to support the development of the NAN Housing Strategy.

They will ground this work through discussions of how their partnership was built and why they feel it is successful, their vision for Indigenous housing, and share advice on how others can support this resurgence.

A welcome presentation by Elder Albert Marshall and Professor Emeritus Richard Kroeker will precede the presentation and a question and answer period with audience participation will follow.

Saint Mary’s


The Town Of Vichy and the Politics of Identity: Stigma, Victimhood and Decline (Tuesday, 12pm, Room LI135, Patrick Power Library and online) — SMU Library Faculty Author Series, with Kirrily Freeman

This book explores the contours of civic identity in the town of Vichy, France. Over the course of its history, Vichy has been known for three things: its thermal spa resort; its products (especially Vichy water and Vichy cosmetics); and its role in hosting the État Français, France’s collaborationist government in the Second World War. This last association has become an obsession for the residents of Vichy, who feel stigmatized and victimized by the widespread habit of referring to France’s wartime government as the “Vichy regime.” This book argues that the stigma, victimhood, and decline suffered by Vichyssois are best understood by placing Vichy’s politics of identity in a broader historical context that considers corporate, as well as social and cultural, history.

COVID restrictions in effect; register for the event to receive a link to the recorded presentation

Mexico’s failure to protect the vaquita porpoise: the USMCA’s first environmental test (Tuesday, 1pm) — online event; from the listing:

The vaquita, the world’s smallest porpoise, is on the verge of extinction. Scientists estimate there are fewer than 10 left in the world. In February, the United States requested consultations under the USMCA trade agreement’s environment chapter related to the vaquita, the prevention of illegal fishing in Mexico, and the related trafficking of totoaba fish. Then on April 11, a key USMCA environmental body recommended a formal investigation into Mexico’s failure to comply with its fishing and wildlife trade laws.

Hear from experts about the critically endangered vaquita, the threats to its survival and habitat, including from illegal activity, and the USMCA trade agreement process to save the vaquita and hold Mexico accountable for its environmental commitments.


ReThinking Gender: Creating trans inclusive spaces and practices (Wednesday, 1pm) — online event; from the listing:

Nolan Pike, transgender consultant, educator and founder of Equity Educate, will explore key concepts around gender identity, look at common misconceptions that create barriers to trans equity and provide concrete examples of how to make our spaces and practices inclusive.

A question-and-answer period will follow.

In the harbour

05:15: MSC Donata, container ship, sails for Pier 42 for Montreal
06:00: Varna Bay, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from Sines, Portugal
06:30: Norwegian Getaway, cruise ship with up to 4,819 passengers, arrives at Pier 22 from New York
14:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
14:00: Ludogorets, bulker, sails from Pier 28 for sea
14:30: Selfoss, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for Portland
16:30: Norwegian Getaway, cruise ship sails for Belfast, Northern Ireland
17:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, sails from Gold Bond for sea
17:45: Ocean Navigator, cruise ship with up to 320 passengers, sails from Pier 23 for sea
20:00: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures.


  • Nova Scotia’s Jeopardy dream continues. I think, anyway. I don’t have cable.
  • I stepped outside this morning and didn’t even need a jacket. Keep it up, Halifax.
  • Got the Wordle in two tries on Sunday. My best ever. Impossible not to share.
  • Lobster prices just dropped drastically. I don’t remember the last time I saw something cost less than it did a few months ago.
  • Near(ish) Joe Howe, on the way to the Arm, are three of my favourite adjacent Halifax street names: Flinn, Quinn, and Blink Bonnie. Rolls of the tongue, doesn’t it?
  • A friend of mine got doored cycling down Quinpool Friday night. Broke her wrist. Keep an eye out for each other out there.

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