1. RCMP officers privately warned their loved ones that a killer was on the loose, but didn’t warn the broader public

a woman sits at a table in front of a microphone. She's wearing a beige blazer with a green top underneath.
Sandra McCulloch speaks to the Mass Casualty Commission on May 11, 2022.

On the morning of April 19, 2020, many Nova Scotians were using Twitter and Facebook and trying to find out what was happening in and around Portapique. Meanwhile, as Tim Bousquet reports, the family members of RCMP officers were getting private messages that there was an active shooter. Bousquet writes:

On the morning of April 19, 2020, Sandra McCulloch was at home, playing with her two pre-schoolers.

“I had my cell phone with me, taking pictures, as we played in the backyard,” McCulloch told the Mass Casualty Commission yesterday.

McCulloch lives an eight-minute drive from the Elmsdale PetroCan, where just at that moment, the man who had killed 22 people in a 13-hour murder spree pulled up to one of the pumps in a failed attempt to get gas. (In response to the ongoing emergency, the clerk had turned off the pumps, and neither the killer nor two RCMP officers who had pulled up at an adjacent pump could get gas; both vehicles drove away.)

“I get a text message from a friend at 11:25 telling me of the direction to stay inside and lock doors, and that there was an active shooter in the area,” said McCulloch. “She received a call from a friend of hers who had family who were RCMP members, and they conveyed a private alert to their loved ones.”

“So that’s how I learned of the mass casualty event — not through Twitter, not through Facebook, not through Alert Ready, but because I was lucky to have a friend who had a member of the RCMP as a family member, who was alerting their loved ones.”

Bousquet goes on to write about the testimony of Paul Mason, the executive director of Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office (EMO), who talked about how in years before the mass murders that office tried to give the police forces in the province, including the RCMP, direct access to the emergency alert system.

Click here to read Bousquet’s story.

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2. Community health centres

A close up of the chest of a doctor in a white lab coat holding a stethoscope.

“Community-based health organizations helping keep Nova Scotians out of emergency departments need stable provincial funding and a seat at the table, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts heard Wednesday,” Yvette d’Entremont reports.

North End Community Health Centre executive director Marie-France LeBlanc, Leigh Heide, provincial coordinator for Sexual Health Nova Scotia, and Lorraine Burch, executive director of Our Health Centre (OHC) in Chester all spoke at the committee meeting yesterday. And what they shared about the amount of work they all do gives quite a picture of health care in our province.

LeBlanc told the committee that the North End Community Health Centre has the same complement of physicians (4.25) since it opened 50 years ago. Burch said the two walk-in clinics at OHC in Chester have seen 12,000 patients in the last four years. Its mental health walk-in programs are funded by grants from Bell Let’s Talk and the United Way. And Heide said patients are traveling from Yarmouth to Halifax for STI tests or from Cape Breton to Halifax for pap tests.

LeBlanc put in an ask for the health centres. d’Entremont writes:

Marie-France LeBlanc said in addition to stable funding, what community health centres want and need is a seat at the table where decisions are being made.

“Decisions are made and then we have to fit into those sections,” LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc said community health centres have already proven they’re a solution.

“We’ve been doing it for a long, long time and we’ve been doing it on a shoestring,” LeBlanc said. “We’re exhausted, we’re underfunded and we’re not, I apologize for the word, but we’re not appreciated in the way that we should be appreciated.”

This is a really detailed and frustrating look at all the work these clinics do with little support from the province.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s story.

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3. Peter Kelly fired

A man at a desk in front of another man at a desk.
Peter Kelly at a Charlottetown city council meeting. Photo: Halifax Examiner

Peter Kelly is out as CAO of Charlottetown, CBC reports. 

Charlottetown city council has passed a motion to terminate Peter Kelly as chief administrative officer effective immediately.

Council voted 8-3 in favour of the motion in an open session that followed a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.

Donna Waddell will be stepping in as interim CAO. Waddell retired from that position when Kelly took over in 2016, and had previously served as the city’s director of corporate services.

Kelly is being terminated without cause. Councillors Jason Coady, Mitch Tweel and Bob Doiron voted against the motion.

Prominent Canadian employment lawyer Howard Levitt told CBC Tuesday that if the City of Charlottetown could build a case to fire Kelly with cause, he wouldn’t be entitled to any severance pay.

Given he’s being terminated without cause, Levitt said it’s likely Kelly’s entitled in his contract to 14 to 18 months severance pay due to his high-level position, older age, and number of years in the job.

That’s all I am writing about this. Until we hear about Kelly again, I guess.

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4. The Tideline, Episode 79: Minute Women

Two women pose for the camera smiling. The woman on the left has long dark hair and is wearing a black sweater with a red, white, and black scarf. And the woman on the right has long dark blonde hair and is wearing a pale blue sweater.
Grace McNutt and Linnea Swinimer are the hosts of Minute Women.

Tell me if these lines ring a bell for you:

  • “Come on, come on, acknowledge!”
  • “I think it really means those houses down there.”
  • “Is this normal!”
  • And finally, “I can smell burnt toast.”

Well, if you don’t know, all of those lines are from Heritage Minutes, those 60-second films that depict a person, event, or story in Canadian history.

Grace McNutt and Linnea Swinimer of Halifax love Heritage Minutes, too. This week on The Tideline, Tara Thorne interviews McNutt and Swinimer, who started a podcast called Minute Women that shares Canadian history through the lens of the Heritage Minutes. McNutt and Swinimer are celebrating the second birthday of the podcast, so they stopped by the show to chat with Tara Thorne about their favourite minutes, and the impact their show has had.

Plus, music from brand-new ECMA winners Hillsburn and Zamani.

Listen here for free.

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Walking through the stories of the volunteers of the North End Services Canteen

A sepia toned book cover with a photo of a young woman on a bicycle with a sign that says Canadian Red Cross.

On Saturday morning, I headed to the north end of Halifax and took part in one of the Jane’s Walks events. Each May, Jane’s Walks are held in cities across the country. The walks, inspired by Jane Jacobs, are free and led by citizens as a way to connect with and learn more about their neighbourhoods. I planned on going to a few, but my schedule only permitted me to attend one, and it was the one at the top of my list: “Unsung: The north end outpost where women volunteers fought the Second World War,” hosted by journalist and author Lezlie Lowe.

This year, Lowe published her latest book The Volunteers: How Halifax Women Won the Second World War, and this walk was dedicated to that topic. A good size group of folks met at the base of Fort Needham Memorial Park, just close to the public washrooms, which were unfortunately closed (Lowe, who also wrote No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs, quickly noticed the closed sign on the washroom door).

This walk had five stops, including this first one, through which Lowe would tell us the story of the volunteers of the North End Services Canteen, all women who help feed servicemen who descended upon the city during the war as they waited for their convoys heading to Europe. At the park, Lowe gave us the 50,000-foot view of the story and helped us all imagine what Halifax looked like in 1939 as a city not really prepared for war. The population of Halifax at the time was under 80,000, but that number swelled during wartime. Lowe said each night there were 400 to 800 servicemen in the city, many of whom were sleeping rough, on the streets. There wasn’t enough housing. The feds, Lowe said, simply didn’t do much about it all. They did track and monitor servicemen in and out of the city, but they never tracked the work of the women volunteering to support those servicemen.

While I texted a few notes to myself, I am really going by memory here, but I did remember some pretty good tidbits. Still, I fear I can’t do this walk — and Lowe’s guiding of it — justice. It was very good! Lowe told us that in 1939, there were 61 restaurants in Halifax. Now, as Lowe pointed out, the word “restaurant” was a generous one to apply to these places where people ate, that were registered in city directories. One of those restaurants in 1939 included a hotdog stand on Almon Street.

A woman in a pale jean jacket, black pants, and white sneakers, stands on a rock on a hill talking to people surrounding her.
Lezlie Lowe during the Jane’s Walk. Photo: Suzanne Rent

We all walked through the park, took a left on Union Street, and headed down Novalea. We stopped on the sidewalk on Novalea, at the bottom of the park, and Lowe stood atop a rock sitting on the park’s hill. She wasn’t pointing to anything in particular here; no historic buildings or statues. It was here Lowe told us that this walk would be about this neighbourhood in the north end where many of these women volunteers lived. The women in this area all stepped up during the war, volunteering their time in many ways to help out. Sometimes they boarded families of servicemen who came to the city waiting to head overseas, even setting up cots in their kitchens. They all did what they could.

“They did a great job of meeting people where they were and meeting the needs they had,” Lowe said.

And Lowe had a personal connection to this story. Her grandmother, Marie, grew up on Stairs Street just nearby. Lowe herself lives not far from here, too. Marie attended school at Richmond School, which is now the family courthouse on Devonshire. But Lowe said she never asked her grandmother about her volunteer work during the war. Still, Lowe threaded Marie’s story into each stop on the walk.

Next was a stop at St. Mark’s Church at the corner of Gottingen Street and Russell Street. We all gathered in a grassy spot next to the church and near a smaller building where the North End Services Canteen once stood. When Canada declared war on Germany on September 10, 1939, it took just five weeks to set up the canteen. It was here women served sandwiches, hot meals, and tea to the hundreds of servicemen who were in the city. This was a place to meet and eat. They fundraised to get the floor replaced. It was a busy spot.

They also hosted dances. It was at one of these dances Lowe’s grandmother, Marie, met, Ted, who would eventually become her husband. (Although it seems Ted first dated Marie’s older sister, Dot.) Eventually, Marie, then 18, and Ted, 21, got married at St. Mark’s on May 31, 1941, just before Ted himself headed overseas on one of those convoys.

A woman in a pale jean jacket, black pants, and white sneakers stands on a grassy area near a red brick church building talking to people.
Lowe at St. Mark’s Church where the North End Services Canteen once stood. Photo: Suzanne Rent

We then headed down Young Street and stopped at a dead-end on Vincent Street, and stood at a fence where we could all peek into the Stadacona base. The base, Lowe told us, takes up two linear kilometres; a pretty sizable chunk of the city. (The peninsula is 18-square kilometres, the size of Pearson Airport, she said).

Lowe shared with us some of the stories of the servicemen and their lives, but in particular the division of the city by class and race. We learned about the differences between the lives of officers and ratings (lower-rank servicement) while they were in the city. Lowe talked about access to alcohol, which was prohibited and you couldn’t get a drink at a restaurant. Rather, you’d have to buy your booze at a provincially run store and quickly take it home where you could drink it.

She also told us about Dolly McEwan, a spitfire of a woman and wife of an officer, who did a lot of the networking and fundraising for the canteen, and apparently didn’t take much nonsense from anyone.

While it was never said out loud, the North End Services Canteen was a whites-only establishment. Anyone of colour went to the Gerrish Community Hall, which welcomed anyone. Lowe said there’s not much information out there about this hall and its history, although she told us about Margaret, one of the women who volunteered there, and who is now 100 and lives in Northwood (and survived COVID). Lowe interviewed Margaret for her book on the volunteers.

Our final stop was at a triangle of green grass just between Devonshire and the traffic on Barrington Street, overlooking the HMCS Dockyard. This spot is pretty close to the second location of the North End Services Canteen. The women who ran the canteen got $20,000 from the Red Cross and fundraised more on their own. The new building was bigger, there were more volunteers, and it kept feeding the servicemen in the city. Lowe said in a week, there were 130 volunteer shifts at the canteen in its new location, and those volunteers served 550 hot meals a day, every day, for two years. Some women were staff. Still many others were volunteers. When the women got married and took their husbands’ names, they disappeared off city directories. All is left of this history is that triangle of grass where we stood on Saturday.

“The building is gone. The women are gone. The stories are gone,” said Lowe.

Lowe really brought their stories to life. She was an engaging, informative, and funny host, and this was the first time I met her in person (we writers need to get out more). I bought a copy of her book, and am looking forward to reading more about these women. I always enjoy these sorts of talks because you get to see how life in the city played out during a period of history, especially for people who we sadly don’t recognize as well as we should.

Just last week I was speaking with a friend about how many volunteers there are in this city, many of whom are women, and whose work often goes unnoticed, not monitored or tracked, just like the women who volunteered during the Second World War. Today, these women volunteer at churches, charitable organizations, schools, community halls, animal rescues, and more. Sure, we may have awards for these volunteers now, but somehow a lot hasn’t changed since those women set up the North End Services Canteen.

If those women stopped giving their time, talent, and effort many, many organizations would simply shut down, and that work wouldn’t get done. We’re walking by their work in the city every day.

The work of the volunteers, it seems, carries on.

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Four women in masks stand around a sign that says "We own beautiful, Black Beauty Culture Association."
Samantha Dixon Slawter, centre, with guests from a Black Beauty Culture Association event in Shelburne.

Over the last few years I’ve written about the work of Samantha Dixon Slawter, the master hairstylist who runs a salon on Portland Street in Dartmouth, and who’s been fighting for proper training of stylists to do Black and natural hair care.

Well, good news: According to a press release from May 2, The Black Beauty Culture Hair Innovator is now a voluntary trade under the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act. The Nova Scotia Apprenticeship Agency will offer apprenticeship technical training starting later this year. As the release says, “Practitioners analyze the client’s hair and scalp; style, such as with braids, locs and twists; and incorporate extensions, weaves, hairpieces and wigs. Services may also include incidental cutting, straightening, curling and hair drying.”

I first met Dixon Slawter through a mutual friend, Donalda MacIsaac, whose hair Dixon Slawter has been styling for years. In February 2020, I attended the The Black Hair-Story of Nova Scotia: What’s Your Hair Story? that Dixon Slawter hosted at the Sackville Public Library. That event was part of the library’s African Heritage Month celebrations. She told me about The Black Beauty Culture Hair Innovator program then, saying it would not only teach students about Black hair care, but also create jobs in the local industry. Back then, Dixon Slawter told me that Black hair care was more than beauty:

Hair has soul, hair has spirit. It lives.

It’s cultural, but it’s spiritual, too. Black hair wasn’t celebrated at one time. When we were brought here, we weren’t celebrated. Our beauty wasn’t celebrated. Our hair wasn’t celebrated. We were good for making money. So, taking care of us wasn’t on the list of things to do.

As I learned over the years, Dixon Slawter comes from a long line of stylists who’ve worked to get proper hair care for Black Nova Scotians. Dixon Slawter herself trained with one of Viola Desmond’s students. Last year, Dixon Slawter created a display in a storefront on Portland Street close to her salon dedicated to Black hair care and its history. Dr. Wanda Robson, Desmond’s sister, and her husband, Joe, visited Dixon Slawter’s salon last summer.

She’s travelled across the province teaching about Black hair care and asking Black Nova Scotians to share their hair stories, too. Dixon Slawter has been working for years to get this innovator program up and running. I reached out to her last night to ask how she felt about the apprenticeship finally happening. This really is Dixon Slawter’s hair story.

I believe that God has done all of the dirty work in these past 30 years to keep me standing. Battling the racism in the beauty industry has been mountainous. It’s like a Black Beauty Culture Revolution is about to go down! I am still digesting this win. I would like to thank everyone who helped and ask that people remember this one name. Samuel Dixon Sr., my father. He represents for me the fortitude, determination and adaptability of Black Nova Scotians to still be here, still be standing. I am hopeful the community’s work and skill in the beauty industry will be recognized and developed! The Black Beauty Culture Hair Innovator designation’s approval can benefit the overall community and enhance the social and economic infrastructure of the Black community. It’s like we’re about to make Viola Davis Desmond’s dreams come true. I hope my mama is proud as well. I think the time has come. This is a step in the right direction.

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No meetings

On campus

Saint Mary’s

Moose Hide Campaign Day Kiosk & Workshops (Thursday, 10am, Student Centre) — live and virtual events:

The Moose Hide Campaign was founded on the side of the ‘Highway of Tears’ in response to the injustices and violence faced by women and children in Canada, particularly those who are Indigenous. What started 11 years ago with a small gathering of men and boys intent on raising awareness of the crisis of violence against Indigenous women and children has now become a national ceremony inviting all Canadians to join together to end gender-based violence.

Register here for virtual workshops and live-streamed ceremonies.

In the harbour

06:15: Oceanex Connaigra, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
10:30: AlgoScotia, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea
10:30: Supreme Ace, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Davisville, Rhode Island
11:30: Morning Lena, sails from Autoport for sea
12:30: MSC Sao Paulo, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Gioia Tauro, Italy
14:00: John J. Carrick, barge, and Leo A. McArthur, tug, sail from Cherubinin dock for sea
15:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves to Autoport
16:00: MSC Shanghai, container ship, arrives at anchorage from Malaga, Spain for inspection
16:30: Supreme Ace sails for sea
19:30: MSC Shanghai moves to Berth TBD
22:00: Oceanex Connaigra moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
13:00: Algoma Value, bulker, sarrives at Pirate Harbour anchorage from Sydney


Walking up Young Street from Devonshire to Needham did me in for the day. I had a nap when I got home. I need to walk more.

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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. How many incompetent Peter Kellys are there out in city governments everywhere? His 13 years as mayor in HRM were so obviously the lost years for our city.

    I believe in public service wholeheartedly but perhaps the grifters are also on the hiring committees.

  2. Kelly – the grift that keeps on grifting.
    One has to wonder about the people that keep hiring this guy and how he keeps skating with 6 figure severance packages.