1. Search suspended for missing youth

Nova Scotia RCMP have suspended the search for a youth who went missing in the floods in the Brooklyn area on July 22. The search was suspended so water in one of the search areas could drain. From a press release:

“Despite an extensive search to date, we, unfortunately, have not yet located the missing youth,” said Superintendent Sean Auld, Support Services Officer for the Nova Scotia RCMP. “As the searchers continued their work over the weekend, they encountered deep pockets of water in the secondary search zone; searching these pockets is too dangerous for searchers, due to the depth of the water.”

It’s expected the pockets of water will drain naturally over the next few days. When the area is deemed to be safe, some search activities will be resumed.

The youth was one of four people, including two children, who went missing in the early hours of July 22 after the vehicles they were in got caught in flood waters. The body of a 52-year-old man was recovered Monday last week. RCMP confirmed last Tuesday that the bodies of both of the children had been recovered.

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2. Nova Scotia’s population boom

An aerial view of a downtown core with a star-shaped old fortress area surrounded by hills of green grass ending in streets of tall buildings. The city is set on a harbour
Citadel Hill and downtown Halifax.

Frances Willick at CBC has this story and data on Nova Scotia’s population boom. As Willick writes, growth in the province has been the fastest on record since 1951:

Nova Scotia’s population has surged in the past few years, driven largely by immigration and people moving here from other provinces.

The shift has been relatively sudden and somewhat surprising after about two decades of stagnant or even decreasing population figures and dire warnings about the province being on the brink of an extended period of decline.

Since 2015, Nova Scotia has added nearly 111,000 new residents — or more than 10 per cent of the current population, which as of April 1, 2023, was 1,047,232.

The boom has resulted in benefits, such as greater diversity, economic growth and stronger rural communities, but it has also posed challenges. 

An already overburdened health-care system has become even more stressed. An education system that was once shuttering schools due to declining enrolment is now seeing some schools bursting at the seams, with portables and modulars spilling into parking lots. And more Nova Scotians are struggling to find housing they can afford, both within the rental and ownership markets.

Willick has some interesting, if not unsurprising, data here. Between January and March this year, 3,843 people moved to the province from Ontario. We’ve seen that trend through the COVID-19 pandemic and it looks like it’s still going strong.

As far as immigration, Willick reports that the number of people allowed to apply to the province’s nominee program continues to increase. “Last year, the province exceeded its allocation of 2,700, approving 3,829 applications,” she writes.

The section on new residents in rural areas is interesting as it’s not just Halifax that’s seeing population growth:

The most recent figures, for the one-year period ending July 1, 2022, show that outside Halifax, which saw its population increase by 4.5 per cent, Annapolis County leads the pack in growth, with a 2.79 per cent increase.

“It’s truly remarkable,” says Alex Morrison, the county’s warden. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Annapolis County is entirely a bucolic place, but it is a place that is attractive. We have a different approach. I think it’s a more relaxed approach to life.”

Morrison says the growth is visible in the many Ukrainian refugees that now call the county home, and in the increasing number of young children.

“To see the children from the preschool classes, the long line when they cross the road, we didn’t see that five or 10 years ago.”

The province has a goal of reaching a population of two million by 2060. To get to that number, Fred Bergman, an analyst with the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, told CBC that means the current pace of growth has to keep going for the next 35 years. And Bergman brings up the challenges that go with such a goal:

“If they can’t find housing and they can’t find a job, there’s not people there that speak the same language as them or have similar cultural background, they might opt to leave,” Bergman says. “At the end of the day, it’s important not only to attract those immigrants but also to retain them.”

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3. Mass Casualty Commission recommendations updates

Three people sitting at a dais in front of a crowd.
From left to right, commissioners Leanne Fitch, Michael MacDonald, chair, and Kim Stanton deliver the final report of the Mass Casualty Commission inquiry into the mass murders in rural Nova Scotia in Truro, N.S. on Thursday, March 30, 2023. Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

“A committee that will oversee the changes recommended by Nova Scotia’s mass shooting inquiry is to meet no more than four times a year and provide updates at least twice a year,” reports The Canadian Press.

Terms of reference released [Monday] by the federal and Nova Scotia governments say the panel will be chaired by retired judge Linda Lee Oland will hold its first meeting in September.

The committee has been granted a three-year term that could be extended, while the chair will serve for one year and is to help find a replacement to serve for the remaining two years.

The joint federal-provincial public inquiry investigated the April 18-19, 2020, mass killing of 22 people and released its final report in March with 130 recommendations to ensure accountability.

At least two representatives from families of victims or survivors of the mass shooting shall sit on the 12-person panel.

Its work is to be carried out with a trauma-informed, victim-centric approach, while discussions and meeting materials can’t be made public without the committee’s approval.

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4. Nova Scotia climate update

A drone shot looking down at murky brown flood waters filling parking lots and roadways in Bedford.
Flood waters in Bedford on July 22, 2023, the day after Friday’s historic rainfall event. Credit: Shaun Lowe Photographic

“As floodwater remains in communities across Nova Scotia, the province has released a progress report on its efforts to address climate change,” reports Cloe Logan with the National Observer.

The report, released Monday, details Nova Scotia’s accomplishments over the past year, including the largest-ever procurement of renewables, the establishment of an environmental racism panel, which will make recommendations to government, and more. While the progress report highlights efforts to cut down on the heat-trapping pollution that fuels climate change, it doesn’t contain enough specifics to help communities adapt to the effects of a hotter planet, said Marla MacLeod, director of programs for environmental charity Ecology Action Centre.

To Timothy Halman, the province’s minister of environment and climate change, it “tells a story of optimism, grit and resolve by Nova Scotians to proactively respond to climate change, not let it defeat us, transform how we produce and use our energy, protect our environment and create a stronger and more inclusive economy.”

While MacLeod said it’s good to see the amount of detail in the report, the province’s actual progress on climate change has been mixed. At the same time, the province has faced the climate crisis head-on this year: hurricane Fiona, unprecedented wildfires and recent floods have all had a deep impact on the region, she said.

MacLeod told Logan the plan missed some key targets, notably the Coastal Protection Act, which was passed in 2019, but which has faced delays ever since. Jennifer Henderson wrote about the act last week when Premier Tim Houston told reporters more consultation was needed.

And another target that’s been overlooked is the Atlantic Loop. Again, Henderson has reported on delays with that project.

From Logan’s story:

The province has made some climate gains over the past year, but MacLeod said big questions with urgent answers remain: how will the province get off fossil fuels — one of the main drivers of climate change — and how will it help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change?

“We know what to do. We have the technology, we have the economic tools. We need political will and then with political will comes enough people to do work and enough money to make it happen,” she said. “Like we have to realize that it’s going to be expensive to adapt to climate change. But it is necessary.”

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Learning to swim, drowning prevention, and the importance of public pools

An outdoor pool with several swimming lanes, a two rock climbing walls alongside of the pool. In the foreground is a ladder going into the pool and in the background is a lifeguard chair.
Halifax Common Pool Credit: Halifax Regional Municipality

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah MacDonald shared this post on Twitter (I’m still calling it Twitter), asking if her followers had taken swimming lessons in school when they were children. MacDonald said she had taken lessons in grades 4 through to 6 while in school in Sydney, yet her experience seemed to be the exception. Many others mentioned never having such lessons at school, although many of the commentors said their parents had signed them up for lessons at local pools or taught them how to swim in local lakes and so on. Still others said they did go to local pools for school field trips, but lessons weren’t part of that visit.

That got me thinking about the importance of knowing how to swim. We live in a province surrounded by ocean and with hundreds of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. And really it doesn’t matter where you live, swimming is a crucial life skill, yet so many don’t know how to swim well or at all (I am not a strong swimmer myself).

Just last week there were three drownings in Nova Scotia that weren’t related to the historic floods a week and a half ago. A 19-year-old woman drowned in Great Village River Monday last week. The same day a 31-year-old man was swept away while tubing on Gold River on the South Shore. His body was found later in the week. And on Friday, a 36-year-old man drowned while swimming at an unsupervised beach in Pictou County.

The Lifesaving Society publishes regular drowning reports, including one for the Maritimes. Here’s some data collected over five years, 2013 to 2017 and published in the 2020 drowning report for the Maritimes:

  • Over the five-year period, 89% of the drowning victims were men. 11% were women
  • 26% of the drowning victims were between the ages of 35 and 49; 25% were between the ages of 50 and 64; and 23% were over the age of 65
  • 48% of the victims drowned in the ocean while 3% drowned in pools
  • 71% of the drownings occurred between May and September each year
  • 25% of the victims drowned while swimming; 38% drowned while boating; and 15% died in non-aquatic incidents
  • Of those who died while boating, 67% were on a power boat, while 16% were in a canoe

The report also lists risk factors for drownings:

  • Of the children under the age of five who drowned, all died while supervision was absent or distracted
  • Other risk factors include not wearing a PFD, alcohol consumption, swimming alone, and swimming at night. Here’s a chart that breaks down those risk factors by age categories and activities:
Risk factors for drowning: For young adults, ages 15 to 34 years: 100 % weren't wearing a personal floatation device; 48% were drinking alcohol; and 38% were swimming at night. For middle-age adults, ages 35 to 64 years: 83% weren't wearing a personal floatation device, 38% were drinking; and 51% were swimming alone. For older adults over the age of 65, 89% weren't wearing a personal floatation device; 40% were drinking; and 56% were swimming alone. In drownings related to boating: 85% weren't wearing a personal floatation device; 38% were drinking; and 42% were swimming alone And for those who died while swimming, 47% were drinking and 27% were swimming alone
Credit: 2020 Maritimes Drowning Report

So, learning to swim isn’t enough to prevent drownings. Education around drinking while swimming and boating and wearing PFDs would help, too. Currently, boat operators in Canada are required to have PFDs on their boats, but passengers aren’t required to wear them (this is a whole other story).

How would mandatory swimming lessons, offered for free through schools or public pools, change drowning statistics in Nova Scotia and across the country?

My daughter took the Swim to Survive program from the Lifesaving Society back in 2009 when she was in Grade 3. That program has been offered to Grade 3 students at other schools, too, although I couldn’t connect with anyone from the Lifesaving Society on Monday to get more details. That program isn’t swimming lessons, but rather teaches children how to survive an unexpected fall into deep water. So, the kids learn how to roll, tread water for one minute, and how to swim for 50 metres.

Several weeks ago, the Halifax Common Pool opened and by all accounts I’ve seen, it’s a huge hit. I checked the schedule and swimming lessons are offered there twice a day. I contacted HRM and spokesperson Ryan Nearing told me those lessons are offered under the Swim for Life program from the Lifesaving Society. The costs are $61.30 for a 30-minute youth class, and $91.90 for a 45-minute adult class. Each program runs for 10 weeks.

Of course, swimming lessons are offered at other pools across HRM. As of Jan. 1, 2023, those lessons were offered by the Lifesaving Societies Swim Program (they were formerly offered by the Red Cross).

Admission to the Halifax Common Pool is free, but what if lessons were free, too? Those fees for lessons aren’t accessible to everyone in the city. Maybe more children taking lessons would encourage their parents who can’t swim to take lessons as well.

Writing for The New York Times, Mara Gay argues that public pools, like libraries and parks, “are an essential piece of social infrastructure in a democracy.” While the U.S. now has its first ever Water Safety Action Plan, Gay argues there’s another way to prevent drownings: more public pools.

She writes that there are more than 10,000,000 private pools compared to 309,000 public ones. And that last number includes pools in condo complexes, hotels, and schools, so those pools aren’t accessible to everyone. There used to be more public pools in the U.S., but many closed down because of a refusal to fund during the Reagan era or because of integration policies in the 1960s when white communities simply shut down public pools rather than provide access to Black residents.

Now, Gay writes, the U.S. is a “swimming desert” where, according to Red Cross data, about half of its citizens can’t swim well enough or can’t swim at all. An estimated 4,000 people drown in the U.S. each year. Gay writes:

The United States doesn’t have to accept these deaths. Nor does it have to retreat from the water to save lives. America can build more public pools. It can transform natural bodies of water into safer places to swim. It can subsidize swimming lessons and raise pay for lifeguards, making the job more attractive. The United States can build a culture of swimming instead of one of drowning.

By many available measures, public pools can be the safest places to swim. They are more likely to be better maintained and importantly, staffed by lifeguards. Many provide free or low-cost swim lessons, something millions of Americans couldn’t otherwise afford. They give kids a safe place to play. They offer the promise of a safe dip to anyone who wants one and to many who have nowhere else to go.

Gay includes data from the Center for Disease Control on who is more likely to drown:

Drowning is the leading cause of death among 1- to 4-year-olds, the second-leading cause of accidental deaths by injury among children 5 to 14, and the third-leading cause of accidental death by injury for Americans 24 years and younger. Younger Black adolescents are more than three times as likely to drown as their white peers; Native American and Alaskan Native young adults are twice as likely to drown as white Americans. Eight in 10 drowning victims in the United States are male. Children with autism are 160 times as likely to drown or experience near-fatal drowning, a serious medical event that can cause severe and often permanent physical harm. 

The Lifesaving Society’s Canadian Drowning Prevention Plan has data on who’s more at risk of drowning in this country: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, newcomers to Canada, and people living in rural areas.

That plan also offers some insight on what could be done to prevent drowning. There are entire sections dedicated to focusing on target areas: alcohol and substance use; children ages one to four; First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people; New Canadians; Northern Canada, rural areas, and cold water; recreational boating and PFD/lifejacket wear; and supervised settings.

The plan also has a list of top five recommendations:

  • Everyone in Canada should have basic swimming skills and CPR skills.
  • Water safety & basic swim skills training should be embedded within the education system.
  • Research and evaluation must engage at-risk populations and have positive impacts.
  • Small vessel regulations should be amended to require that passengers of all ages wear a properly fitting, Transport Canada approved, personal floatation device or lifejacket while on or in a boat 6’ or under for any purpose.
  • Actions & solutions targeting change must take place at local, provincial/territorial and national levels (e.g., 4-sided pool fencing).

As the authors of the plan write, drowning is a public health issue. I am not sure we think of it this way. Starting with offering basic swimming lessons to everyone would be a very good start.

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Researching built heritage of Nova Scotia’s underrepresented communities

One side of an iron gate opens into a cemetery of green lawn, lush trees, and a colourful shrub of orange and purple flowers. A sign at the top of the gate says "Moslem Cemetery" and has a moon and star symbol. A sign that says "private property" hangs on one side of the gate.
Moslem Cemetery outside of Truro, N.S. Credit: Great

Naomi Kent, an intern at Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia, is working on a special project to find the built heritage of Lebanese and Syrian communities in Nova Scotia. Kent shared a post on the trust’s Facebook page last week asking for folks to send along any stories of built heritage or sites they have from Nova Scotia’s Lebanese and Syrian communities.

As Kent wrote in the post, there are very few buildings connected to the two communities that have been registered as heritage properties, even though Lebanese and Syrian immigrants started arriving in Nova Scotia in the late 1800s. So far, Kent said they found a few examples in Yarmouth, Truro, Amherst, and Cape Breton.

I decided to contact Kent about their work. Kent, Emma Lang, the executive director at the trust, and I spoke on Monday.

“There is a gap in the registered properties and the stories they tell,” Kent said. “The Syrian and Lebanese communities are part of that gap, so that’s why I find it so important.”

Kent has a goal of finding at least three properties or sites within her eight-week research contract with the trust. Kent said right now she’s working with Waleed Kadry, who lives in British Columbia, but who has family in Nova Scotia, to learn more about the Muslim Cemetery just outside of Truro. That cemetery is the oldest documented Muslim cemetery in the country (the one in the photo above). Lang and Kent said Kadry’s work is “impressive;” he shared his research on the cemetery with Portia Clark on CBC’s Information Morning a few months ago. Kent and Lang said the goal is to eventually get federal and municipal heritage for the cemetery.

Besides that property, Kent and Lang told me they have details on a site in North Sydney, but couldn’t share details as they said they’re still working to connect with the owners.

Kent is a graduate student at Saint Mary’s University working on her masters in Renaissance Europe. Her thesis is on Catherine de’ Medici and Margaret of Austria.

“It’s not super related, but a lot of the classes I’ve taken have been focused on Nova Scotia history and the heritage buildings of Nova Scotia,” Kent said.

Kent said the stories she’s heard so far are “all brand-new information to me.”

“It’s so nice to have a more complete picture of Nova Scotia’s history and heritage,” Kent said. “I think that’s the most exciting part for me, having a more complete and accurate picture of how things were and are.”

Kent said she did get a few responses from the Facebook post, and there are some comments from people whose families are in the Lebanese and Syrian communities. Lang said Kent was being modest about her work and that she shared a post in a Cape Breton Facebook group and got a huge response.

“People have been incredibly enthusiastic. Everyone she’s talked to has been willing to put her in touch with people,” Lang said. “I think she’s doing an amazing job.”

Lang added that it’s not just the Lebanese and Syrian communities in Nova Scotia whose built heritage is often underrepresented in heritage registries.

“We know the registries are a hit or miss and a lot of communities aren’t aware there is a non-profit that can protect their histories, their stories, their cultures,” Lang said. “We’ve been doing this for a while, but this is the beginning of a bigger push to try and let folks across the province understand we’re here to help regardless of what the story is, whether it’s a grand house or a shed. If there’s a story, we will work on helping you get it registered.”

“The project has been a fun way to get involved in Nova Scotia heritage in general,” Kent added. “It’s eye opening to see what’s out there in a heritage field.”

If you know of a property or site to share with Kent, you can send an email to

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No meetings


Board of Police Commissioners (Wednesday, 4:30pm, online) — agenda


Human Resources (Tuesday, 1pm, One Government Place) — appointments to agencies, boards and commissions

On campus


Emancipation Day at Dalhousie Art Gallery (Tuesday, 1pm, Dalhousie Art Gallery) —drop-in events, including a curatorial talk by David Woods: “A Journey through African Nova Scotian Quilts”, and an exhibition tour with Heather Cromwell of the Vale Quilters Association of New Glasgow.

In the harbour

06:30: Tropic Lissette, cargo ship, sails from Pier 41 for West Palm Beach, Florida
07:30: MSC Melissa, container ship, sails from Pier 42 for sea
16:00: GPO Sapphire, heavy lifter, sails from IEL for sea
16:30: Pijlgracht, cargo ship, moves from anchorage to IEL
17:30: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at Gold Bond from Wilmington, North Carolina
18:00: Lady Malou, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea

Cape Breton
06:30: Zaandam, cruise ship with up to 1,718 passengers, arrives at Liberty Pier (Sydney) from Port Alfred, Quebec, on a 25-day roundtrip cruise from Boston to; here’s a story about terror aboard the ship
06:30: Caribbean Princess, cruise ship with up to 3,756 passengers, arrives at Sydney Marine Terminal from Halifax, on a 13-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Quebec City
15:30: Caribbean Princess sails for Quebec City
16:30: Zaandam sails for Corner Brook


On Sunday, I was listening to CBC Weekend Morning and heard this catchy song called Olden Days. Turns out it was by my cousin Jenina MacGillivray. She included a line about our grandmother, Elizabeth, in the tune. It made my Sunday morning. I’m glad our grandmother, who I wrote about here, still inspires her grandchildren.

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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. The argument that NS needs to grow its population because of its aging population is just plain ageist. The problem is not the growing number of older persons, but the systemic discrimination that excludes older individuals participating as functioning adults in the NS economy and society. From their mid fifties on, older persons are discriminated against in the areas of hiring, employment, credit, housing and some medical care solely because of their age. Public policy and rhetoric routinely conflates being older with long term disability, frailty, diminished capacity, lack of familiarity with technology and depending on the situation, either being a drain on public resources or a hoarder of opportunities and resources that should go to others. Nova Scotia would be better served to confront the false ageist tropes and act to ensure the full and active participation of older persons in the economy and society with full adult status. The wisdom, grit, common sense and experience that comes with age is desperately needed in a province which is facing a future which is rapidly veering off of historic patterns due to climate change and its effects on the world and economies.

  2. “The province has a goal of reaching a population of two million by 2060”.  That’s almost double the current population within less than 40 years.  I haven’t seen any explanation from the N.S. government why this goal is desirable.  Yes, I understand that we’re an aging population and we need more young people and skilled people but, if that is true (as I believe it is) shouldn’t a government  be establishing goals to ensure the people we invite to our province are given adequate resources to succeed?
    By limiting its goals to population targets, the Province and HRM economic agencies can blame any shortfalls to federal immigration policies and municipal planning processes and zoning regulations. 

  3. On small boats people tend to overlook that pfd’s not only keep you afloat but also prevent injury. They work like a bumper. Seriously.

  4. The Commons pool is fantastic. A true success for a city that loves to hand out BIG money to private developers (hello convention centre) but seems to have been stingy on obvious amenities for it’s citizens.

    Next up, let’s do housing and public transit. The increase in population has revealed our city and provincial governments as the dog who caught the car. They have no idea what to do with it and are about to be run over by it.

    They are proving themselves to be failures in dealing with both big issues. Wasteful car culture MUST be ended with big investments in upgrading public transit and public housing is the solution for housing or our population gains will meet with frustration and be quite temporary.