News

1. Proposed class-action lawsuit expanded to include province

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

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A proposed class-action lawsuit against Northwood now includes the Province of Nova Scotia. Jennifer Henderson reports on the lawsuit, which was filed by Erica Surette on behalf of her mother, who died from COVID-19 while living at Northwood Centre. Surette’s lawyer Ray Wagner alleges the province was negligent, “which caused or contributed to the death of 53 residents throughout April and May of 2020.” Says Wagner:

One of the primary goals of the class action is to effect positive change in how residents are cared for and kept safe. This means also looking to the funding, licensing and oversight decisions that the Province made that did not ensure a safe and healthy environment for vulnerable residents, or provide sufficient resources and safety-measures to hard working and underpaid staff on the front lines.

Progressive Conservative Seniors and Long-term Care critic Barbara Adams is calling for an independent and public inquiry into what happened at Northwood. Adams told the Halifax Examiner she’s been unsuccessful in trying to find out how the province and Northwood Inc. are working to prepare for a second wave of COVID-19.

Read the full story here.

2. One month after George Floyd’s murder, “woke” white people in Nova Scotia should look at their own repeating history

A Black Loyalist wood cutter at Shelburne, Nova Scotia in 1788. Nova Scotia Archives

On the one-month anniversary of the death of George Floyd, Evelyn C. White tells us the story of Reverend David George, who was one of 2,000 Black Loyalists who came to Nova Scotia, the largest group of free Blacks at the time, and the racism they faced in Nova Scotia. George started a church in Shelburne that served the community. But in July 1784, a group of angry whites destroyed George’s home, which led to rioting in the community for a week. Rev. George and more than half of the Black Loyalists left the province for Sierra Leone.

As White writes:

In honour of George Floyd, the Reverend David George, and in light of the forthcoming court trial of Santina Rao (for an alleged “assault” of a Halifax police officer), let history record that the first documented race riot in North America was started by whites in Nova Scotia.

Moreover, the Shelburne Riots of 1784 erupted less than 200 kilometres from the spot on Spring Garden Road where Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, earlier this month, took a knee in purported support of Black Lives Matters protests. The image circulated widely on social media. The history of the Shelburne Riots, not so much.

Read the full story here.

3. Court documents contradict RCMP denial that they ignored Susie Butlin’s pleas before she was murdered

Susan Butlin

Joan Baxter updates us on the story of Susie Butlin, who was murdered by her neighbour Junior Duggan on September 17, 2017. In that story, Baxter talks with Butlin’s friend, Suzanne Davis, who says Butlin was told by the RCMP she was “a menace to society.”

Baxter asked the RCMP for comment, but didn’t receive any by the time of publication. The Examiner finally did receive comment two days after Baxter’s article was published. Says RCMP spokesperson Jennifer Clarke:

I can confirm that a member of Colchester District RCMP met with Susan Butlin on September 14, 2017 in person at Colchester District RCMP and had a subsequent telephone conversation on September 15, 2017. The purpose of the meeting and subsequent conversation was to discuss the progress being made on a matter that the RCMP was investigating following a complaint she made to the police on August 7, 2017.

With reference to his notes from those dates, which are on the file, the RCMP officer has advised that during the in-person meeting on September 14, Butlin was content with what the police officer told her and the conversation was amicable. He advised that during the beginning of the phone conversation on the 15th, Butlin was somewhat upset, however, he clarified the same points as he had done in the in-person meeting the previous day, and the call was ended with her seeming to be satisfied with it. It was an amicable conversation. The RCMP officer did not tell Butlin she was a “menace to society”, or tell her to “mind her own business”.

The allegation of sexual assault was made to the RCMP on August 7, 2017 and related to an incident that is alleged to have occurred on July 2, 2017. Between August 7 and September 17, we have records of a phone conversation between Butlin and the police on August 7, followed by an in-person visit by the RCMP to Butlin’s home the same day. RCMP spoke to her on the phone on September 12, and had an in-person meeting with her on September 14, then a phone call on September 15.

But Baxter also reports on the victim impact statements from Duggan’s trial and the Agreed Statement of Facts from Duggan’s conviction. Those statements support Davis’s allegations and contradict the RCMP’s denial.

One of those victim impact statements is from Butlin’s sister. It reads:

I am still outraged over Susie’s abrupt dismissal from the RCMP office in Bible Hill on September 14, 2017 when she went there to inquire why her case had been closed. She called me in tears telling me that she was told to go home and that she was being a public nuisance. I remember the call 4 days later that she had been murdered by Junior Duggan. I know she feared for her life and for the safety of the 2 teenage female exchange students she as host mother to in early Sept / 17, because of the allocations [sic] she presented in court on Aug. 30 / 17. She told me this.

Read the full story here.

4. Atlantic Canada gets its bubble

Nova Scotians will soon be allowed to drive to Newfoundland to look at people looking at icebergs.

Atlantic Canada will get a regional bubble starting on July 3. Jennifer Henderson reports on the announcement that was made by Premier Stephen McNeil on Wednesday. The bubble means anyone travelling around the Atlantic Provinces won’t have to self-isolate for 14 days. McNeil said that requirement doesn’t apply to anyone travelling to the province from elsewhere in Canada.

That self-isolation period will however remain in effect for the rest of Canada and for anyone coming into Nova Scotia. This is exciting news for Nova Scotia families and for Atlantic Canadian families who have been missing loved ones or who have been unable to travel to their cottages or properties in respective provinces.

McNeil says the province could open to the rest of the country by the second or third week of July. Newfoundland premier Dwight Ball said that province could open to the rest of the country on July 17. Ummmm, this sounds too optimistic to me?

Nova Scotia has now had 15 days without a positive case of COVID-19. There are still two people in hospital. They are free of the virus, but still suffering from its effects.

Read the full story here.

5. Hugh Segal and guaranteed annual income

Hugh Segal

Dolores Campbell at the Cape Breton Spectator tuned into a podcast from the Conference Board of Canada’s “Bright Future” that featured Hugh Segal, former senator who once served as Chief of Staff to Ontario Premier Bill Davis and then to Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Segal has long been a proponent of a guaranteed annual income (GAI) and thinks the current CERB program could easily be turned into a GAI program. Campbell writes about Segal’s thoughts on a GAI:

When asked how he envisioned a GAI working, Segal referenced former US Democratic presidential nominee Andrew Yang’s proposal to give every citizen $1,000 a month with a tax claw-back for higher-income recipients only to specify that this is not his proposal. Segal would guarantee payments of $1,400-$1,500 a month for single people and $2,400 for couples living below the poverty line and dependent on one of the many provincial welfare systems, which provide recipients about $600 a month while clawing back any extra earned income (which, as Segal puts it, represents a “100% tax rate’). Segal’s GAI would cover people in arts and culture, gig and those whose income is sometimes low to non-existent.

CERB was organized by the Canada Revenue Agency and it got the program together very quickly. On the podcast, Segal says the CRA could also set up and distribute GAI. Writes Campbell:

Employment Insurance is slow and bureaucratic and doesn’t apply to about 40% of workers, he says, and since provincial welfare systems are even slower and demand way too much of a person’s private information, CERB provides a good model, given the CRA has taxpayers’ information at its finger tips. It’s true that some who didn’t qualify received CERB, but many have repaid what they owed, and one assumes the CRA would expect there would be those who would abuse the system.

Read the Campbell’s column here.

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Views

Finding Nova Scotia’s history and future in the drowned forests of the Minas Basin

An ancient tree stump in the intertidal zone in the Minas Basin. These drowned forests can tell scientists more about rising sea levels and climate change. Photo: Jonathan Fowler

In early May, archeologist Dr. Jonathan Fowler, who also teaches in the anthropology department at Saint Mary’s University, shared this Facebook post about ancient drowned forests in the Minas Basin. Fowler — who like many of us, was working at home — decided to dig up some stories about the work he’s done and sites he’s studied over the years. Fowler and I chatted last week about the drowned forests.

There are a lot of great archival archeologies discovered, sometimes even generations ago, or even centuries ago that people forgot about. That’s the case with this. These submerged forests have been known for a very long time.

I have to assume people see things at least somewhat like I do. I am interested in it, so I assume other people might be. So, I write about things and if people are interested, they pick it up and share it. I like to discover things about where I live that show it to me in a new light. It deepens my appreciation for this really beautiful place we are fortunate to live in.

Getting to these forests can be tricky. You have to go out when the tide times are right. As Fowler says, those tides can come back in very quickly. But some of the forests are not far from shore and can be found throughout the Minas Basin. Fowler says he’s heard they’re visible in the Cornwallis River Valley and they’re also underneath some of the tidal marshes in the Cunard River valley. There are others near the New Brunswick border and the Musquash River.

Fowler says over the last thousand years or more, the sea levels have risen and there’s been a tidal amplitude increase in the Bay of Fundy. That means a lot of dry land was flooded and swallowed up by the ocean. But this isn’t open coastline here, where the same sea levels would have destroyed forests easier and faster. Fowler says in the Minas Basin, the rising waters have sedimented the forests in and sealed them off.

Ancient tree in the intertidal zone. to get an idea of the size, the scale bar segments is 50 centimetres. Photo: Jonathan Fowler

Scientists have identified some of the trees, including pine, hemlock, and oak. These drowned forests also have a level of peat over the trees. The salt in the water killed the trees, but still left them standing for a long time and salt marshes grew up around them. Eventually, the tops of the trees rotted and fell over. The stumps were left behind and you can still see the root system. But the trees are preserved, not fossilized, because they got waterlogged. Fowler says the trees are soft to the touch.

It’s phenomenal, actually, because it’s such an image of a forest floor with this great sprawl of roots. I am particularly fascinated by the notion that long, long ago people could have walked around in that forest. Indigenous people were here and we know there are Indigenous sites in the intertidal zone that are there because that land was formerly dry land.

It’s well known in the archeological community in the Bay of Fundy, scallop draggers have brought up thousands’-years-old artifacts from former dry land sites that are now under water.

These forests also offer a few clues of what the land here might look like years from now. Fowler says by looking at these sites, scientists can get an idea of how forests here have changed. He says researchers got carbon dates on these submerged forests and they can track sea level rise over the millennia.

You can get a sense of the pace of sea level rise by measuring different tree stumps, dating them at different elevations in the intertidal zone. You can actually time the march of the tides over thousands of years. This has been done. There’s a lot of really interesting scholarship that has been done using these sources.

A view into the Minas Basin at low tide north of Grand-Pré. You can see Cape Blomidon in the distance. Photo: Jonathan Fowler

Ten years ago, Fowler wrote about the forests for a chapter on Grand-Pré in the book Underground Nova Scotia: Stories of Archeology, which he co-edited with anthropologist Paul Erickson. In the book, Fowler walks readers through the national historic site at Grand-Pré, right down to the waters nearby. He says you see an archeological history of the province as you walk closer to the intertidal zone. Fowler says he finds the forests are fascinating for all sorts of reason.

It’s partly the look of them. I know what it’s like to be in a forests and forests, in some ways, are primal environments for us, for me least. You get a lot of sensations being in a forest. There’s a kind of hush, there are different kinds of sounds, smells, the richness of it. It’s an all-encompassing feeling, particularly for urban people. So, when you go into these intertidal environments, the experience is both familiar and alien. You’re in a forest, all right. You can recognize all the patterns of tree stumps, tree roots, but the upper part of all the trees is gone. It’s almost as if you’re on the surface of the moon, really. In some ways it’s kind of jarring, I suppose. It’s beautiful and brutal at the same time.

Fowler brings his students here and he says they get more out of the experience than just shoes destroyed by the mud of the floor of the Minas Basin.

It’s a great experience because it’s something so different. Very often, you see these environments from the car or from an airplane, but rarely do we actually venture out into these salt marshes or intertidal environments. Just going outside of your normal routines can be interesting. Getting to be able to touch something that is so ancient — it’s a rare encounter, really. These things are fragile in their own way. They’ve been resilient. They have hung around for centuries, millennia, in fact. But with every winter, you get those big slabs of ice coming in with the tide moving around and it scours away at the trees. I notice there are fewer there from when I first started going out there 20 years ago. These are finite things and maybe this is the way it ought to be, but I’d like them to have the encounter while they can and recognize the value of the encounter, if they can.

You can watch a video on the drowned forests here.

I’m going shopping for boots so I can get out to the Minas Basin and see these for myself. Who’s coming with me?


Noticed

Cst. John Collins, an RCMP officer in Newfoundland, pulled over drivers who were not speeding and gave them gift cards. Photo: VOCM

Last Sunday was Father’s Day and VOCM, a radio company in Newfoundland, reported on Cst. John Collins, an RCMP officer, who thought he found a nice way to honour his late father and father-in-law. As VOCM reported, Collins was patrolling the highway looking for drivers who were breaking the law, but also those who weren’t. Collins pulled over two drivers who were driving the posted speed limits, he gave them Tim Horton’s gift cards, and wished them a Happy Father’s Day.

This is a terrible idea.

Getting pulled over by the cops is very stressful. It’s also very dangerous for some people. There’s no gift worth this.

I guess cops do these stunts to prove there are good apples in the bunch, but Collins could have found a better way to give back, when he wasn’t on duty, and not by stressing out drivers. Did he get permission to do this?

Cops like these kinds of stunts, though. Remember this one in which cops with the Halifax Police Department in Virginia pulled over drivers and gave them ice cream? And they filmed the poor, nervous drivers.


Government

City

Thursday

Special Heritage Advisory Committee (Thursday, 3pm) —teleconference; agenda here.

Friday

No meetings.

Province

No meetings.


In the harbour

11:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:00: Taipei Trader, container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from New York
16:30: Oceanex Sanderling moves to anchorage
21:30: Taipei Trader sails for sea


Footnotes

I saw one of those coin machines at a grocery store and a sign on it said, “This machine doesn’t work.” I wasn’t wearing my glasses and read it as “Time machine doesn’t work” and I was very disappointed.

Suzanne Rent

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

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3 Comments

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  1. There is only one way that GBI can be deployed so that it works for all.

    Current ideas around GLI/GBI do not take into account inflation effects, nor how these could quickly turn into problematic unfunded liabilities that would damage the economy during a downturn.

    The ethics behind having GBI are good ones. But we have to implement it in a way that it does not harm confidence in the system by banks and outside investors. It can be done, but it takes looking at how we carry out Commerce in a wiser way.

    Ideas are not enough. The concept of how to make it work seems lost in these discussions. Which means any attempt by the Feds to put it in place will be a disaster. 😐

  2. There is a drowned forest around Clarke’s Harbour, too. And maybe that’s what they found at Oak Island….!

  3. Just giving money to people makes a lot of sense. A lot of programs meant to help people who cannot support themselves spend inordinate amounts of money on the salaries of those who administrate them. People might retire early to care for their elderly parents, which is a much better way to care for old people than warehousing them in care homes where respiratory diseases are so deadly. Other people might quit the jobs they need to pay for expensive housing close to jobs and move to small towns, which would be great for everywhere in Nova Scotia except HRM.

    $1500 a month is a lot of money for a single person if they have somewhere to live, otherwise not so much. Most Canadians probably make less than $1500/month after taxes and housing. Someone earning $50,000 dollars a year and renting an average priced 1-bedroom in HRM pays about 50% of what it costs their employer to pay them in taxes and rent.