News

1. Lawsuit alleges police failures during Nova Scotia’s mass murder

The Portapique sign on Highway 2 was adorned with a NS tartan sash following the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

Jennifer Henderson reports on what’s ahead this October for the families whose loved ones were killed in the mass murder in April 2020. This October is when the Mass Casualty Commission will start its public inquiry, but as Henderson writes, its the same month lawyer Rob Pineo, who’s representing the families, will ask a judge in Truro Supreme Court to certify a class action lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages from the RCMP and the Province of Nova Scotia. An exact dollar amount hasn’t been calculated in the statement of claim. Henderson includes the grounds for the lawsuit in her article:

  • the RCMP breached their duty to protect the lives of those who died or were injured at the hands of the gunman over a 13-hour period. 
  • the RCMP failed to use the Alert Ready or Emergency Alert system to warn the public an armed and dangerous person was on the run, an omission that may have resulted in the loss of half a dozen additional lives. 
  • the RCMP failed to properly investigate previous complaints alleging the gunman possessed illegal weapons, was physically abusive to women, and wished to harm a police officer. 
  • the RCMP sent too few members to Portapique to adequately respond to the crimes being committed there. 
  • the Emergency Response Team that did arrive on the scene was ineffective in locating and containing the killer because members lacked proper instruction.

Henderson also looks at some other issues, including policing in Colchester County, how many cops were on duty the weekend of the shootings, and other yet-to-be answered questions the families have, including the motive of the killer and how RCMP communicated with the families of the victims in the aftermath.

Click here to read Henderson’s complete report.

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2. Finding hope for COVID long haulers

Halifax resident Jennifer Mont, 29, became ill with COVID-19 last April and can no longer work because of her debilitating symptoms. Photo: Contributed

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.  

Yvette d’Entremont has worked on this story for weeks, interviewing Nova Scotians who continue to have long-term complications from COVID-19. d’Entremont always knows how to tell these personal stories, and here weaves them in with updates on the research and care available for these patients known as long haulers (last week, d’Entremont won a gold Atlantic Journalism Award in the category Excellence in Digital Journalism: Breaking News, for her coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic. As you can see, she continues with that in-depth work).  

This story starts with Ellen Durkee of Middle Stewiacke who still struggles with symptoms, such as insomnia, vertigo, and exhaustion, one year after contracting the virus. Durkee says of her illness: “I got sick and I just never got better, I think is probably the best way to describe it.” 

But it looks like there is hope for these patients. d’Entremont also interviews Dr. Chrissy Bussey, the physician in charge of the Central Zone’s COVID-19 inpatient unit. Bussey is also part of the provincial COVID network, which sees COVID patients from across the province. Says Bussey: 

We’re working very hard as a group collaboratively to try and not just find the help for you, but to do it in an accessible fashion so that you do have access — no matter where you are in Nova Scotia — to the help and the supports that you need. 

This story is a follow-up to d’Entremont’s article on long-haulers from November. When I first read that story, I remember thinking how similar long-haul COVID was to Lyme disease and how its sufferers continued to deal with a mixed bag of debilitating symptoms while struggling to find care. Well, one of the sources d’Entremont interviewed for her recent article was Vett Lloyd, a biology professor at Mount Allison University and renowned tick and Lyme disease researcher. She tells d’Entremont she sees similarities between patients with COVID and those with Lyme. “What I’m doing is trying to help people who have chronic disabling illness get help from the health care system to regain health,” she told d’Entremont. 

This is a very interesting read, including the bit on the surprising reaction some long-haulers have had to their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Click here to read the full article. Stories like this one take a lot of time and work. Please consider subscribing. Thank you. 

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3. COVID-19 update: eight new cases

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing. 

We are a couple of days into Phase 2 of the province’s reopening plan (you can see the entire plan here) and new case numbers remain in the single digits, which is great news. On Wednesday, the province announced there were eight new cases of COVID-19.  

As always, Tim Bousquet has the complete overview, including numbers for zones, graphs, and details, including:

Vaccination
Demographics
Testing (you should still get tested regularly)
Potential exposure advisories

In other COVID news, New Brunswick’s border is now open to visitors. Here are the details on from the province’s phase 2 of its reopening plan:  

  • Open Atlantic Bubble to Nova Scotia 
  • Canadian (Domestic)/Maine travellers with one dose (Maine pending federal requirements)
    No isolation requirement for travellers 
  • Canadian (Domestic)/Maine travellers with no vaccine (Maine pending federal requirements)
    Isolation with testing on day 5-7 and release with negative test 
  • International Travellers with no vaccine or only one dose
    14 days isolation and day 10 test (pending federal requirements) 
  • International Travellers with two doses
    No isolation required 

There’s a COVID briefing at 3 p.m. today. You can watch that here or follow Tim Bousquet on Twitter as he live tweets all the details.

My kid is getting her first dose of Pfizer this afternoon and we are both very excited about it! We’ll have to celebrate. 

You can read Bousquet’s article here.

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4. Municipality slipping on completing recommendations

Halifax auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd speaks to reporters at Halifax City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

The municipality is falling a bit behind on completing recommendations from its auditor general, but as Zane Woodford reports in this article, COVID-19 is to blame (it’s always the virus’s fault). As Woodford writes:

Halifax Auditor General Evangeline Colman-Sadd’s office tabled its follow-up review of three audits from 2019 to council’s Audit and Finance Standing Committee on Wednesday.

Those three audits — into the municipality’s Payroll ManagementPurchasing Card Program, and Road and Sidewalk Asset Management — contained 27 recommendations. Of those, Colman-Sadd’s office found 17 have been completed, or 63%.

“The percentage complete is down overall from prior follow-ups that my office has done,” Colman-Sadd told the committee on Wednesday. “Management told us that COVID-19 contributed to challenges in getting recommendations completed over the past year.”

Colman-Sadd’s last follow-up found 87% of recommendations were complete, and the one before that found 89% were complete.

This article is for subscribers only. To learn more about subscriptions, click here.

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5. The Tideline, Episode 33: Breagh Isabel

Breagh Isabel. Photo: Carolina Andrade

You may know Breagh Isabel as Breagh Mackinnon, formerly of folk-pop trio Port Cities. In this episode, Tara Thorne learns how she has reemerged with a new skill set and a sweet new single in “Girlfriends,” which looks back at her coming-of-age as a queer person in Cape Breton. They have lots of other topics to cover, too, including why she moved on from Port Cities and her future plans.

This episode is free to listen to, just click here. 

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Views

Be nice to the person behind the counter

A sign posted near the checkout at Frieze and Roy General Store in Maitland.

On the weekend, I went for a road trip on Highway 215 along the Noel Shore. I stopped at Maitland and went into Frieze and Roy General Store, which is one of the oldest businesses in Nova Scotia, for an ice cream (orange-pineapple, if you want to know).

While I was paying for it, I noticed the sign above, taped to the Plexiglass that separated the clerk and me at the till. The sign took me by surprise, so I asked why it was there. The clerk was new there, only a week on the job, so he wasn’t sure about its history.

When I got home, I shared a bit about the sign on Twitter, although I didn’t say where I saw it. And people responded saying they have seen similar signs, adding in some cases these signs were new and likely prompted by customers’ terrible behaviour during the pandemic. Here’s what some people said:

Sadly, this is not enforced, it’s just a sign. I know we have them at our work too but I’ve still seen customers screaming at staff members including myself. – Amanda

I saw one today! I think it’s sad they have to put it up, but I respect them for standing up. I can’t stand people who are mean to any employee. – Hayley

There was also one at a store I was in yesterday, and I commented to the employee how sad it was that it even needed to be said. I just do not get it. Just don’t be a jerk.- Lesley

These signs are at every drive-thu in town. They’re new. Hoping that with the lifting of restrictions, people will be feeling more like themselves soon. – Cori Horton

Saw a similar sign at the Emergency Department Triage area at the QEII. I cannot begin to imagine the abuse that must be hurled at the front line staff. – Bernadette Murdock

My son works at Tim Hortons, he told me recently that they’re told weekly by customers to f-off. This broke my heart. I just can’t wrap my head around how someone thinks it’s okay to tell a teenage employee (or any employee) off over coffee? – Nicole Rogers

It’s too bad we need these signs to remind people about decency and common courtesy. I work at a professional association, and we have a rule that if a member or caller is awful, rude, or swears, you can hang up. The CEO takes over from there. Front line folks don’t need more BS. -Paige

On Tuesday, I spoke with Jen Wiles, who’s the general manager at Frieze and Roy. She told me the sign isn’t new at all and has been displayed at the store for the last several years. Wiles says the signs predates her time as manager, so she doesn’t know if an incident inspired the owners to put it up. She says when she started her job there, she even asked about it:

They had the sign up, I was told, for people who come in and have a little bit of an attitude. So, when they see that sign they straighten themselves up. If we didn’t carry something they wanted or we ran out of stock and they get a little bit huffy, but they see that sign and say, ‘oh wow.’ They rethink how they’ll react.

When you come into a public place, you can’t act like you’re seven.

Until recently, it was posted on a pole near the front checkout, but they made copies of it and put one on that Plexiglass where I saw it, and another in the cafe.  She says the sign is certainly a conversation starter.

They ask if we’ve had any incidents and say they feel for us that we have to deal with people like that. And they’re surprised there are people who act like that.

Wiles says she’s dealt with customers who are rude, especially when they can’t find a particular item, but that difficult customers usually display limited patience. She says that overall, their customers are polite and kind. She says she’s been “really surprised” and customers have generally been “really good” the last year or so, following the COVID protocols at the store and wearing their masks. She says if staff have troubles, they tell a customer to get in touch with her or the owner.

Everyone needs to have patience. If you’re in a rush, you’ll have to wait or move on.

Frieze and Roy isn’t the only store I saw asking its customers to be nice. Back in April, I saw this Facebook post from Halifax Seed, accompanied by a meme that says “Please be kind to retail workers.”

I always thought gardeners were the gentle sort, but apparently some have a seed of nastiness in them. The comments to the post were mostly positive; some expressed surprised that the store’s staff had to deal with that nonsense at all. Of course, a few comments were from customers that said staff were rude to them. 

Anyway, no one should take their bad days out on strangers, at a store or anywhere else. This pandemic has been tough, and it’s been tougher on some more than others. Many retail workers have been on the frontlines during the last year and a half and they deserve your kindness and patience.

Oh, and you should take a drive to Maitland and stop into Frieze and Roy (it’s a lovely little place) and be nice to the person behind the counter.

I’ll sign off with this little song, (Be Nice to) The Person Behind the Counter, by Halifax band Piggy that someone shared in my Twitter post about this topic.

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Noticed

Who defines affordability around here?

BANC Investments’ 12-storey proposal for Joseph Howe Drive — Lydon Lynch Architects

On Wednesday, the feds announced a $115.5 million low-cost loan that will go toward building some affordable housing in Halifax. You can read the press release here, but the loan will go toward affordable housing in a 12-storey development with 324 units on Joseph Howe Drive now under construction by BANC Investments Ltd. (Zane Woodford wrote about that here). Here are some of the details announced by Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister responsible for Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and Geoff Regan, Member of Parliament for Halifax West:  

  • The project will be required to maintain at least 76 units with rents at or below 30% of the median household income in the area, including 65 units with rents at or below 70% of 30 % of the median household income threshold. Affordability will be maintained for a minimum of 21 years. 
  • The Project has barrier free access; at least two units have universal design and at least two units are adaptable, in addition to the minimum of 10% of units within the Project meet or exceed the local accessibility standards. 
  • The Project is designed to achieve a minimum of 34.7% decrease in energy intensity and 35% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. 

But this news was getting some interesting attention from Haligonians, including about the “affordability” of the units, which will be a maximum of $2237.75/month in 76 of the units and $1,566.42/month in 65 of the units. 

And, here’s another line from this story that was getting to people:  

Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, says the median income in the area is $89,510.  

I guess this is nice “affordable” housing for some people in the city, but likely not those who really need it, such as people with disabilities, students, seniors, and those making far below a living wage.

Who decides the definition of affordable anyway?

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Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — live on YouTube

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — live on YouTube

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — live on YouTube

Virtual Public Information Meeting (Thursday, 6pm) — Case 22879 – Phase 3, Lovett Lake, Beechville: application by ZZap Consulting Inc., on behalf of Armco Capital Inc., requesting substantive amendments to the existing development agreement for Lovett Lake to add additional lands and allow for a Phase 3 of Lovett Lake with 91 residential units, resulting in an increase of residential units from 257 to 348 units on the site

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Working Together to Bring Home Care Home (Thursday, 1pm) — panel discussion:

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on Canadians over the age of 60, accounting for nearly 97% of all deaths in Canada. Though these effects have been more visible in long-term care (LTC) facilities, the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an overwhelming strain on the entire continuing care sector, including home care. The system continues to be under immense pressure as it grapples with neglect as well as an aging population.

As such, there is an urgent need for significant investment and reform in continuing care. As part of a wider national advocacy campaign, the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) Nova Scotia Chapter has developed five priority actions to transform home care in the province and across the country.

Speakers include ​​​​​Sandra Bauld, Retired Director of Home Care, Northwood; Mary Jane Hampton (chair), Health-Care Consultant and CBC Columnist;​ Donalda MacIsaac, Health Advocate and Community Volunteer; Bill VanGorder, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Policy Officer, CARP; Grace Warner​​, Professor of Occupational Therapy, Dalhousie University.

Saint Mary’s

Thursday

International Co-operative Governance Symposium (Thursday, 10:30) — until Saturday; an “interactive and participatory gathering of governance professionals, experts, and researchers from various countries,” which will “showcase and debate new and different governance frameworks that focus on the people-centred, democratic, and jointly-owned nature of co-operatives”

Friday

See above


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: John J. Carrick, barge, arrives at McAsphalt from sea
06:30: Nolhanava, ro-ro cargo, arrives at Fairview Cove from Saint-Pierre
07:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
11:45: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41
16:00: Atlantic Sky, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England

Cape Breton
05:30: Niagara Spirit, barge, with Tim McKeil, tug, arrives at Aulds Cove Quarry from Montague, PEI
09:00: Thunder Bay, bulker, sails from Aulds Cove Quarry for sea
16:00: Tobias, barge, with Atlantic Larch, tug, sails from Sydport for sea


Footnotes

As we learned earlier this week, the province’s new tourism campaign is Do More in Nova Scotia. Perhaps it should be “Do it in Nova Scotia”, which is cheekier, I know, but we’d have more tourists in our part of the bubble. I don’t want to see the campaign video, though.

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Suzanne Rent

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

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6 Comments

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  1. Nice item on respecting workers. Thanks for once again paying attention to the lives of everyday working folks.

  2. One definition of “affordable” is that it costs no more than 30% of income. A rent that costs no more than 30% of income is called Rent Geared to Income or RGI.

    But whose income? The best definition of affordable I’ve seen is from a presentation by Dr. Carolyn Whitzman to the Affordable Housing Commission. She starts with the 30% of income figure but then goes further:

    She defines income “categories” as “Very low income” as 20% of AMI or Area Median Income (or housing allowance social assistance); “Low Income” as 20-49% of AMI (or 1 Full Time Minimum Wage); “moderate income” as 50-79% of AMI (or starting salary of a teacher or nurse); “average income” as 80-119% of AMI and high income as above 120% AMI.
    Then says find out what % of the population is in each of these income categories and in housing need (I.e. paying over 30% of income).
    Then says you supply housing that is affordable to those income categories in the same proportion as the need, broken down by family/unit size – so for example 30% studio or 1 BR, 35% 2 BR, 35% 3 BR+. Note that this idea of Rent Geared to Income (RGI) is true whatever size of household (1 person, 2 people, 1-2 parents with children)
    This is a definition of affordable that is genuinely affordable to the people living here.

    This is the definition of affordable housing used in California and other parts of the US. It’s also used in parts of Australia and elsewhere. If everyone agrees on this kind of definition then we have a true picture of what affordable housing is needed and subsidies can be directed at fulfilling that need.

    70% of AMI, the figure used in the subsidy announcement is only affordable to some “moderate income households” by the definition Dr. Whitzman provided. It is inadequate to the needs of HRM residents. Public subsidies should require such a project to include housing that is affordable to low and very low income households as well.

    Ownership of such subsidized housing should also be transferred to a non market housing provider so it remains permanently affordable.

  3. One of those signs appears in the waiting area of my doctor’s office as well. Very sad all around but I have noticed that people generally are more rude and impatient these days. There is plenty of nasty commenting upon people who are slower and more cautious for any number of reasons – crossing streets, passing on the sidewalk, and just not being fast due to physical or mental reasons. This virus has had a negative effect in many ways beyond the illness itself.

  4. “Who decides the definition of affordable anyway?”

    I hope to learn the answer to this question as The Halifax Examiner dives deep into the housing crisis. I know the units in that very ugly building are *WAY* beyond what this person can afford. Possibly because the median income in the area is just slightly below my income over the past decade!

    It is next to impossible to have a productive discussion about affordable housing and what that should entail when there isn’t a common understanding of what affordable actually means. I certain the team here will ask everyone they talk with about the housing crisis for their definition of affordable. Here’s hoping at least a few of those definitions match so that we can all be talking about the same thing, rather than spending a lot of time talking about very different things.

  5. Re Robe Street propostal. Nice to see a slab building, not a highrise, with some interesting architectural detail. Too bad “affordable” doesn’t mean the people who are currently living in substandard housing or no housing at all can afford any of the units.