1. Man whom police shot at during manhunt for mass killer says he has no malice towards the RCMP officers who fired at him
“I’ve never had malice toward the two individuals that pulled the trigger. I still don’t to this day,” said Dave Westlake, coordinator for the Colchester Regional Emergency Management Organization. “I want to ask them how they missed — because I can’t hide behind telephone poles.”
Today, Jennifer Henderson adds more detail to what we know about the police response to the mass shooting of April 18/19, 2020, with her report on the man who was inside the fire hall police mistakenly shot at when in pursuit of the mass shooter.
Having arrived to help set up a Comfort Centre in the hall for families displaced by the previous night’s deadly shootings and arson, Westlake figured he was just a guy “at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
At 10:17 Sunday morning, April 19, Westlake was wearing a reflective yellow vest with an orange “X” while talking to the officer inside an RCMP car parked in front of the fire hall. Westlake said he looked up to see an Altima parked in the middle of the two-lane road and “a long gun” emerge from a door before hearing a sound “like a sonic boom.”
“I did not hear ‘put your hands up’…I didn’t duck behind a car,” said Westlake. “I heard (imitating the screeching sound of car tires), then ‘Get down’. And then shots rang. It was just like that.”
2. Study: Northern Pulp in a league of its own when it comes to polluting
A new study shows that in spite of the many claims over the years that it was cleaning up its environmental act, and in spite of the $28 million it received in 2011 from the “green transformation program” of Conservative government of Stephen Harper to do so, when it came to air pollution, the Northern Pulp mill in Nova Scotia really was in a league of its own.
It wasn’t a good league.
Northern Pulp recently forced the province of Nova Scotia into a mediation claim in BC Court (I don’t get it either) to settle losses caused by the closure of Boat Harbour. What did they lose? A bunch of chemicals in our air, I guess.
Here’s what Nova Scotian lungs found:
The pollutants the authors looked at were carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, total particulate matter, fine particulate matter (PM2.5), coarse particulate matter (PM10), sulphur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds.
They found that overall, the annual releases of these pollutants were “several orders of magnitude higher than federal reporting thresholds suggested by Environment and Climate Change Canada.”
But of all the nine mills and for all the pollutants they looked at, Northern Pulp had the ignominious distinction of exceeding federal reporting thresholds by the greatest amount.
Perhaps Pictou Centre’s MLA Patt Dunn didn’t know all this when he put up that booster sign for Northern Pulp in his office last month. Or he’s just a fan of big league polluting. Correction: was. The premier had him take that sign down after it swirled up a bit of public controversy.
3. Kimber: Law amendments committee being abused, hypocritically, by a new government
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
In his latest column, Stephen Kimber notes that Tim Houston once railed against Stephen McNeil and his Liberal government’s abuse of the law amendments committee to rubber-stamp legislation. Now Houston’s in power, and his government seems to be content to follow suit.
On Monday, April 4, 2022, Nova Scotia’s law amendments committee met to consider Bill 120, amendments to Nova Scotia’s Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act.
Brian Comer, the Tory minister responsible for the office of addictions and mental health, claimed the amendments will “enhance the protection of patients … having a mental disorder or severe, persistent mental illness by enabling them to be admitted for involuntary treatment, either in hospital or in the community.”
Comer introduced his legislation on Thursday, March 31.
The next day, after less than half an hour of polite debate featuring tentative responses by just three MLAs — “Some of the amendments so far look good,” noted the NDP’s Lisa Lachance. “I’m looking forward to hearing from folks at Law Amendments Committee” — Comer rose again in the House:
HON. BRIAN COMER: Mr. Speaker, I thank my honourable colleagues for their comments. With that, I rise to close debate on Bill No. 120.
THE SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 120. All those in favour? … Contrary minded? … Thank you. … The motion is carried. Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.
Two days — just one weekend — later, the legislation landed in the lap of the law amendments committee. Its critical role in the legislative process is supposed to be to give bills “clause-by-clause consideration and hear representations from any interested persons or organizations.”
Although Comer claimed his amendments had been developed using consultation that happened in the past and that he was satisfied with the changes as presented, it wasn’t clear from the hearing with whom he’d consulted or what he’d actually heard.
4. Cultural patchwork
“Travelling in all these communities, rescuing quilts that had been sentenced to basements or thrown away, but also inspiring a new crop of quiltmakers to make new work has been very inspiring to me, to be able to translate that story to not only Nova Scotia, but the rest of Canada.”
Matthew Byard recently talked to David Woods, curator of Secret Codes: African Nova Scotian Quilts. It’s a collaboration between the Black Artists Network of Nova Scotia (BANNS), and the Vale Quilters Association, a group comprised of mostly Black women from the Vale Road area of New Glasgow, and Nova Scotia’s only incorporated guild of Black quilters.
Sixty quilts created and inspired by members of Nova Scotia’s Black communities are currently on a national tour and on exhibit at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown, PEI.
Click here to learn what’s behind these quilts and, just as important, see some beautiful pictures of some stunning local heritage.
Some progress on ecological forestry, while Lahey still delayed
Last week, the province announced it will give $500,000 to a private woodlot owners’ association to “explore the barriers and benefits of ecological forestry for private woodlot owners.”
The Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) had a small surplus at the end of the fiscal year, and now the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association (NSWOOA) has half a million dollars to help willing woodlot owners learn how to sustainably operate, maintain, restore, and harvest their private part of the forest.
How will they do that? What’s the criteria? Who’s eligible?
The province has left that up to NSWOOA. The association’s spokesperson, Andy Kekacs, was unavailable for an interview this past week, but the group put me in touch with Greg Watson, a manager with North Nova Forest Owners Co-op, who’s working with NSWOOA to help find private woodlots in need of restoration whose owners are willing to move toward ecological forestry.
Watson said details are still being worked out, but the idea is to find degraded private lots unsuitable for harvest and offer landowners an assessment, treatment, and some guidelines for practicing forestry in a way that sustains private forests for generations.
“The number one goal is to restore ecosystems and speed up recovery of that forest,” said Watson in an interview. “Versus just [harvesting] timber as the number one objective.”
That all sounds nice enough, but you could be forgiven for being cynical about this new spending.
The government is spending leftover money to look like it’s acting on moving toward a greener type of forestry practice, but there’s no regulation or enforcement, you might think. Who’s to ensure private woodlot owners who receive help through this funding won’t turn around and clear cut their land once it’s fully restored? Or that they’ll have the knowledge to continue cutting in a sustainable way after NSWOOA’s helped them treat their forest?
“My hope is that there’s the opportunity to come back and do follow up,” said Watson. He said there’s not enough money to check in with woodlot owners on their ecological progress after treatment and restoration.
“It’s like building a house; if you framed it up and got the roof on, but didn’t come back and do some more work to it, it’s an incomplete project,”
“But this is a start to getting things moving in the right pathway. And I hope the government will consider reinvesting and keeping it moving at some point. But, if nothing else, if you get in and do an intervention, and you do a good job, the forest will be set on a trajectory to sort of recover quicker and get back to its natural state quicker.”
The $500,000 will only help a limited number of willing woodlot owners get on track with ecological forestry, Watson said. This money won’t help everyone, and it won’t allow for any follow up.
So, if we want to encourage ecological forestry practices on private lands in Nova Scotia — broadly speaking, practices that put the environment and biodiversity ahead of production and profit — why are we only spending a few hundred thousand dollars to help a few people once?
Why don’t we just regulate these practices on private lands?
You need look no further than last year’s Biodiversity Act, and the propaganda blitz that gutted it, to see why the province might be hesitant to try regulating private land.
Beyond that unfortunate circus, William Lahey, in his independent review of forestry practices, opted not to recommend regulating his “triad model” of forestry — identifying areas for heavy cutting, no cutting, and ecologically sustainable cutting — on private lands. From the report:
The report concluded that [unsustainable clear-cutting] should be addressed on both Crown and private lands, but in different ways with different kinds of measures for pragmatic reasons. Most importantly, it was to respect landowner rights and to prevent progress on forestry practices from becoming entangled in a debate over those rights and government’s authority over them.
Privately owned lots make up more than two-thirds of Nova Scotia’s forests, so the decision to leave them unregulated was a major compromise. However, I once again refer you to the story of the Biodiversity Act to show why it may have been practical.
Lahey chose to focus on publicly-owned Crown forests. There, the ecological forestry practices he recommended could be implemented without the pushback of landowners, since the province — and the people of Nova Scotia — is both the regulator and the landowner.
“Legislating ecological forestry on private land,” reads Lahey’s report, “[Is] impractical, potentially counterproductive and distractive to what can be accomplished with concerted effort on Crown land.”
So, the Crown Land model should be a beacon to private woodlot owners, and the province should encourage private foresters to align with its practices, but not prescribe them on private lands.
That’s what’s happening here. It’s in line with what Lahey recommended.
And it’s been well-received by those I’ve spoken with. Bob Bancroft and Donna Crossland, biologists who formerly worked with the government and unsuccessfully tried to improve forestry practices in the province, both said NSWOOA is an environmentally-oriented group of foresters and this money is a step in the right direction for implementing ecological forestry on private lands. Watson said he feels the same, as did Ray Plourde at the Ecology Action Centre.
The province is acting on a recommendation from the Lahey Report and biologists, private woodlot owners, and advocates are on board. It’s a small bit of good news for the future of Nova Scotia’s forests and wildlife.
It’s also yet another reminder that the ecological model of forestry recommended in the Lahey report four years ago still hasn’t been implemented on Crown Land.
“The management of Crown land,” Lahey wrote in 2018, “should in substance become the model of ecological forestry for private land, including by implementation on Crown land of the ecosystem‐based management system recommended in this Report.”
Three years later, in November 2021, in his own assessment of the progress being made on his report, Lahey said the province could no longer focus solely on Crown forests. Too much time had passed, too little was being done, and the fact remained that the majority of forest in this province is on private land.
Following that November assessment, a group of scientists and advocates, Bancroft and Plourde included, held a news conference demanding the province stop all Crown land cutting until Lahey’s recommendations are implemented. The forests and the province’s soils no longer have the capacity to sustain the level of high-production cutting that’s been going on for decades. Make the ecological shift, or shut it down, they said.
But the province kept cutting. And although DNRR is spending some money on private woodlots now, Crown land is still being managed under unsustainable interim forestry guidelines.
In a phone call last week, DNRR Minister Tory Rushton told the Examiner the province is still working on implementing Lahey’s triad model, but he’ll have more to say in the coming weeks. Areas for “high-production” forestry and ecological forestry are still being identified, while the ecological plan for forest management is ready to go (it has been for over a year now).
“We’ve been very clear that this is the approach forestry that we’re taking on crown lands,” Rushton said, despite the fact that Lahey’s recommendations have yet to be implemented, though they’ve existed through three provincial governments. “And we were also recognized the fact that there’s there’s a lot of private landowners that have looked at this aspect and want to follow suit.”
Still, this small bit of spending is welcome news. We should celebrate any effort to restore private woodlots and shift them to the ecological model the province is supposed to be exemplifying.
Crown harvests continue though, stuck in limbo between the old model and the desperately-needed ecological one. Planned harvests are still scheduled for a lot on the banks of the world’s only known habitat of Atlantic Whitefish, and in a small plot where protestors are camped out to save the habitat of endangered lichens, moose, and other species.
And in the southwest of the province, WestFor keeps cutting what’s left.
In an email to the Examiner last week, Bob Bancroft talked about the harm this is doing while we wait for Lahey to be implemented:
The last big wood basket is now in western Nova Scotia, where soils are impoverished by a history of fire, acidic precipitation, and have been cut-over about five times by humans since the 1700s. Now they are cutting forest stands on soils that may be unable to grow another forest for lack of nutrients already taken away.
We’ll need private woodlot owners to change their practices if we want to restore our forests and maintain them for future generations of people, plants, and animals. They manage the majority of our wooded lands.
That doesn’t absolve the province from practicing what it preaches.
People want housing. They also want a say in it.
People want the province to get to work on housing, but they’d like to have a say in things.
This weekend, dozens of Dartmouth locals sandwiched themselves between the shoulder of Mount Hope Avenue and the edge of the Eisner Cove Wetland to protest the government’s plan to fast-track an 800-unit development in Southdale’s largest green space.
Residents have been voicing concern about possible development of the area for months, saying the land is an important metro space for native wildlife, carbon sequestration, and community life. On March 25, however, the province announced it would become one of nine new “special planning areas,” meant to fast-track developments to help ease the province’s affordability crisis. Saying the province needed more housing stock fast, Housing Minister John Lohr cut out red tape — like public consultation in these areas — giving himself authority to approve or deny those development proposals upon the recommendation of an unelected Housing Task Force.
There’s no question the province needs more housing. And these fast-track zones have been identified in the name of affordability. But the proposed Eisner Cove development, which is set to break ground in the fall, is the only one of the nine special planning areas so far to have guaranteed affordable housing — 373 affordable units, with prices based on the average market price, for the next 20 years. Essentially, fewer than half the units will be cheaper than the average rental for two decades, and the health of the wetland will be forever altered.
Dartmouth South MLA Claudia Chender spoke at Saturday’s rally, asking why the public’s ability to shape their community was being taken away for housing that might not even be affordable.
“Most people, I would say, in Dartmouth South, acknowledge the need for more development,” Chender told the Examiner in an interview before the rally. “But, you know, they want to understand that that development will happen in an environmentally-sensitive way, and in a way that actually delivers to the community the kind of housing we need. And I don’t think we have any clear assurances on either of those.”
In a CBC article in January, Pam Berman wrote about the original development proposal from Clayton Developments as it went before council:
A spokesperson for Clayton Developments said the project is targeting first-time homebuyers with modest prices by building small homes on small lots.
“You can have a beautiful home that’s 16 feet wide by 40 or 50 feet deep,” said Kevin Neatt, Clayton’s vice-president of planning and development. “Middle income, average households, should be able to buy a home.”
Sam Austin, councillor for Dartmouth Centre, told the crowd Saturday the municipality had been bypassed and the province was now developing without the planning know-how to ensure community needs are being met. By taking away public input and Halifax council’s vote, he said the province was acting in the interest of developers, not the community.
“The way that this is being painted by the province is completely like a black-and-white thing,” Austin said in an interview. “It’s like, you can have a planning process, you can have community input, or you can have a solution to your housing crisis. And I just, I just don’t buy that.”
Some of the other eight special planning areas have given locals cause for concern. A strip of land running alongside Kearney Lake and the 102 Highway would put a 1,300-unit development on the edge of Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes, and this week Jen Taplin at Saltwire wrote about residents worried about proposed developments near Sandy Lake (6,000 units) and Port Wallace (up to 4,900 units).
These are lands that can’t be undeveloped once an incredibly small group of Nova Scotians decide what to do with them. Using affordability to fast-track development — even in the housing crisis in which we find ourselves — is undemocratic. It’s also unclear whether it will actually do anything to solve the housing crisis. It’ll definitely get developers’ proposals approved quicker, though.
Grants Committee (Monday, 10am, online) — agenda here
Budget Committee and Halifax Regional Council (Tuesday, 6pm, City Hall and online) — more info here
Halifax Regional Council, Public Hearing Session (Tuesday, 6pm, online) — Case 23166 – Municipal Planning Strategy Amendments for 7 McIntosh Street, Halifax
Law Amendments (Monday, 10am, Province House) — eight bills considered
Legislature sits (Monday, 4pm)
Health (Tuesday, 9am, Province House) — Access to Birth Control and Sexual Health Services, with representatives from Department of Health and Wellness, NSHA, Wellness Within, IWK Health, and Sexual Health NS
Aquatic animal movement from the poles to the tropics to inform species to ecosystem level management (Monday, 10am, 5th Floor Lounge LSC, and online) — Nigel Hussey, University of Windsor, will present this seminar as candidate for Professor of Biology and Scientific Director of the Ocean Tracking Network
Integrating biomaterials and biomanufacturing to engineer the next generation of tissue analogues (Monday, 12pm, online) — CRC candidate research seminar with Liqun Ning, Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University School of Medicine
Vision for the Scientific Directorship of the Ocean Tracking Network (Tuesday, 5th Floor Lounge LSC and online) — Nigel Hussey will talk
Open Dialogue Live: Data and its impact on health (Tuesday, 6:30pm, online) — from the listing:
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted individuals and society in many ways. As we transition out of the pandemic, we need to think about how we view and process health data and what we can learn for future public health events. Heath data collection and restoration (especially data on diagnosis, race/ethnicity, age, geo location, gender) are critical not only to analyze and understand the impact of COVID-19 across our community and the globe but also to respond to the public appropriately, inform our health care system to allocate resources and plan for the future.
Reflections on Nourishing the Learning Spirit (Tuesday, 5pm, online) — guest talk by Marie Battiste
This presentation will explore the nature and effects of Eurocentric colonialism and cognitive imperialism in education, beginning with the affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights, the acceptance of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the contemporary influences of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on education systems today. It will explore decolonization and its approaches that nourish the learning spirit of all youth through inclusive and balanced knowledge systems.
In the harbour
Ship listings will be updated later today.
- I don’t often get to kick off the week with the Monday Morning File. It’s a privilege. A privilege I hope to return to Tim Bousquet immediately.
- Baseball started up a few days ago. As far as I know, every professional league in the world now has the designated hitter. I’ll still watch, but my heart weeps for the sport.