1. Mass murder inquiry
This item is written by Tim Bousquet.
Yesterday, the families of the victims of the mass murders of April 18/19, 2020 issued a statement through their lawyers, objecting to how the Mass Casualty Commission is proceeding next week. You can read the statement here.
The families make an important point: so far, the commission has released just three documents to them, because that’s all that’s been produced so far. The reports that will detail much of the public is looking for — about the response by police, the murderer’s access to guns, and his history of domestic violence, for example — aren’t to be released until April and May, even though the public hearings start next week and conclude the following week.
That’s why the families want the ability to question what is not being discussed later this month. They want to be active players in the search for truth.
“This has been the review that we fought against,” notes Nicholas Beaton in the statement. “We wanted the tools that a public inquiry would give us, that a review would not… All this has done is cost taxpayers millions of dollars, only to give us a review anyway.”
2. New commercial tax scheme in Halifax will have big box stores paying more
“Big changes are coming for big box stores after Halifax councillors voted to change their commercial tax system,” writes Zane Woodford in his first report from (virtual) Halifax regional council Tuesday.
Yesterday, in an online committee of the whole meeting, councillors considered three options — which have been in the works for a couple years now — that would change the current tax system in an effort to level the playing field between big box stores and smaller businesses. In his article, Woodford sums up the inequities in the tax system that council was trying to ameliorate:
Namely, commercial properties in walkable areas of the peninsula or in downtown Dartmouth, where land is worth more, end up paying much more per square foot than big box stores in car-dependent places like Dartmouth Crossing or Bayers Lake.
Currently, HRM has two commercial tax rates: urban/suburban at $2.9530 for every $100 of assessed value, and rural at $2.6160.
On Tuesday, council heard from a number of parties on the issue. City staff recommended HRM create tiered tax rates based on property value, no matter the location of a business and representatives from bigger businesses opposed all three proposed changes to the current tax system.
But it was the option favoured by property owners in HRM’s Business Improvement District areas — who are currently paying the most taxes — that won out. Council voted to implement a tiered tax scheme for five different zones: business parks, high density, industrial, small medium enterprise, and rural. Other than rural areas where the tax rate would be $2.616/$100 of property value, here’s how that tiered system breaks down:
- The first $1 million of assessed value, property owners will pay $2.803 (a reduction of 15 cents).
- On assessed value between $1 million and $2 million, they’d pay $2.653 (a reduction of 30 cents).
- The rates for assessed value over $2 million are different. In business parks and industrial areas, for example, assessed values over $2 million would be taxed at $3.513 and $3.103, respectively.
Here’s a handy graphic to help clarify things.
Still a little murky on how this works, how it will impact businesses big and small, and what was debated at yesterday’s meeting? It’ll all become clear after reading Woodford’s full report from Tuesday evening.
3. NS Health expects influx of long-COVID patients following Omicron wave
We’re almost two years into this pandemic now, so we’ve had plenty of time to start to seeing the long-term effects COVID-19 can have. Many experience a full recovery. Symptoms fade away completely. Some people are even lucky enough to be symptom-free throughout, and the infected person resumes life as usual.
Others aren’t so lucky.
Some experience what has been called “long-COVID.”
“In this province, and many other jurisdictions,” writes Yvette d’Entremont, defining the affliction, “patients are considered to have long-COVID if they have common, persistent symptoms and a functional impairment due to their symptoms 12 weeks after an initial — or a suspected —COVID-19 diagnosis.”
Though it’s unclear how many of those who contract the virus are expected to develop long-COVID, one researcher told the Halifax Examiner last month the rate could be between 13% to 15%. Nova Scotia Health says Canadian literature suggests that number is closer to 10%. Essentially, if you know 10 people who’ve contracted COVID, there’s a decent chance one of them is (or was) experiencing symptoms long-term.
Almost a year after contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, [Krista] Blaikie Hughes still struggles with brain fog and fatigue. She doesn’t have the energy to go on the adventures she used to with her daughters, who are nine and 14.
“I kind of feel like a spectator in my own life with my kids. They’ve adapted relatively well … but I feel that they’ve lost some of what they might have had,” she said.
“I’m fortunate to have a very supportive spouse who has taken on a lot more of the housework and the other chores. I prioritize and then some things, well, they just don’t get done.”
Soon, there could be a lot more Nova Scotians experiencing what Hughes says she’s been experiencing. Nova Scotia Health says now that the Omicron wave seems to have hit its peak, the province can expect another wave — one of long-COVID patients — in two week’s time. That’s when Omicron’s first appearance in Nova Scotia hits the 12-week mark.
The province has supports in place, which d’Entremont outlines. Seeing as one in 10 of us who contract COVID will feel long-term effects, it’s worth knowing what those supports are. Read the full article to see how the province is preparing for the oncoming influx of long-COVID patients and to get a personal account of what it feels like to live with long-COVID.
4. COVID update
A few more important numbers to know from the province’s pandemic front.
Nova Scotia reported Tuesday that six people have died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of COVID-related deaths in the province to 182. There have been 72 deaths since the start of the Omicron wave in December. Tim Bousquet had the update here.
As of Tuesday, 361 people were in hospital with the virus. Here’s the breakdown:
- 74 admitted because of COVID symptoms, 11 of whom are in ICU. Those 68 range in age from 0 to 93 years old, and their median age is 66;
- 125 admitted to hospital for other reasons but who tested positive for COVID during the admissions screening or who were admitted for COVID but no longer require specialized care;
- 162 who contracted COVID in the hospital outbreaks
On Tuesday, the province announced 50% of the province has now received three doses of vaccine. Unvaccinated Nova Scotians make up 8.4% of the eligible population.
There was some news from the federal government yesterday regarding international travel and COVID. In a news release Tuesday, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that public health measures at the Canadian border will be easing due to high vaccination rates and the decline of the Omicron variant. On Feb. 28, international travelers will now be able to take a rapid test (within 72 hours of arrival), rather than a full PCR test, when returning to Canada. The following regulations will also come into effect:
- Fully vaccinated ravellers coming to Canada from any country will be randomly selected for arrival testing. Travellers selected will also no longer be required to quarantine while awaiting their test result.
- Children under 12 years old, travelling with fully vaccinated adults, will continue to be exempt from quarantine, without any prescribed conditions limiting their activities. This means, for example, they no longer need to wait 14 days before attending school, camp or daycare.
- Unvaccinated travellers will continue to be required to test on arrival, on Day 8 and quarantine for 14 days. Unvaccinated foreign nationals will not be permitted to enter Canada unless they meet one of the few exemptions.
- International flights will be permitted to land on all Canadian airports designated to receive international passengers.
- The Government will no longer recommend that Canadians avoid travel for non-essential purposes.
5. Accessible fun: final part of our series on accessibility in Halifax
The Examiner has published the third and final instalment of Suzanne Rent’s three-part series on Milena Khazanavicius, a Halifax woman who is blind and is working to make the city more accessible for others who are blind and partially sighted.
After speaking with her about accessibility on Halifax’s sidewalks (especially around construction sites) and accessibility in health care, the series conclusion looks at the ways Khazanavicius makes fun and entertainment accessible for herself and others.
Khazanavicius has worked to make everything from pole dancing to urban gardening to Neptune Theatre more accessible for all Haligonians. Most recently she took part in a weekly circus program. As you can imagine, Khazanavicius says there’s a lot of trust involved in learning circus tricks while visually impaired. But it’s not impossible. In fact, Khazanavicius says it’s almost therapeutic.
From Rent’s article:
For Khazanavicius, this circus program — and some of her other adventures — are a reprieve from fighting to make everyday life, like navigating the city sidewalks and the health care system, accessible.
“Just about anything and everything is accessible, especially when it comes to life’s adventures,” Khazanavicius said. “And with this, I don’t have time to think about construction [in the city] because I am thinking of hanging on for dear life so I don’t fall on my head.”
One of the founders of the circus program, Vanessa Furlong, says accessibility extends beyond getting people into seats. Her program brings accessibility to the stage:
“I think when folks think of access, they’re thinking of who is in the audience and they’re forgetting about who is the stage,” Furlong said. “Particularly adults. You see so many programs for youth when it comes to adaptive anything. I find for adults when it comes to learning new skills, very rarely is access considered.”
“At the end of the day, I would love it to be normal to see and experience a disabled circus performer on the stage. And the only way to do that is to train them.”
Read the full article here and see how bringing accessibility to HRM isn’t always a battle; it can actually be a lot fun.
6. Protestors camped out on future cutblock say province’s surveyor has found at-risk lichen on site; renew demand to stop cutting
Protestors who’ve been camping out out on Crown land approved for logging in Annapolis County say a surveyor from the province has found three species at risk on site.
Since December 2, protestors have been camped out on a 24-hectare parcel of Crown land to prevent WestFor, a consortium of mills in southwest Nova Scotia, from starting to cut down trees on the site. They say the lot, which is located near Beals Brook off Highway 10 in Annapolis County, is a small haven for wildlife, surrounded by clearcuts that have removed important habitats and travel corridors from an area that’s seen evidence of pine martens, mainland moose, and wood turtles. The protestors want the province to stop the approved cut in the area and leave the site alone.
Right now, the planned harvest is officially on pause. Last month, as the Examiner reported, a man visiting the protestors discovered three types of lichen on the site, all at-risk, and relayed his findings to the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre.
On January 21, the Department of Natural Resources and Renewables (DNRR) placed a temporary halt on the approved cut until a lichenologist visited the area to survey the site for at-risk species. A spokesperson for the department told the Examiner in an email Tuesday that an official survey had taken place Sunday, but the province has yet to receive or review the data.
“The department will take necessary steps to protect and conserve species at risk,” reads the email. “Buffer zones will be applied to any confirmed occurrences of rare lichens, in accordance with Special Management Practices for this species, prior to the temporary hold on harvest approval being released.”
Protestors believe the buffer zones required between cutting and the at-risk lichen would make cutting on this small piece of land unfeasible, or at least more trouble than it’s worth.
Nina Newington, who’s been part of the protest since the beginning, said in a news release she’d like to see another survey scheduled for a time when snow isn’t covering the base of the tree trunks to see if the presence of at-risk lichen is more prevalent than the recent survey will show. Currently there are about two feet of snow on the ground of the site.
“But is that what DNRR will do?” she asks in the release. “Or will they declare this survey good enough, slap 100m buffer zones on the individual specimens of lichens found so far, and lift the freeze they put on this harvest? Get that forest cut before anyone has a chance to find any more pesky lichens?”
“In other words, does DNRR actually care about protecting Species at Risk, whether lichens or mainland moose or wood turtle, or do they want to do the barest minimum? Doing the minimum required by law or, often, less than that, has been business as usual for decades.”
The additional survey has also led Newington and other protestors to ask why the initial survey of the cutblock didn’t find any at-risk lichen before the site was approved for harvest.
Nature Conservancy of Canada buys and protects nearly 1,100 hectares of Nova Scotia forest
In other forestry news, the CBC is reporting the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) has purchased a large piece of land in Upper Ohio, about 25 kilometres north of Shelburne, which it will leave undisturbed for wildlife.
The land — about 1,100 hectares worth of property — was purchased for $2.8 million and contains a large area of mature Wabanaki-Acadian forest and 130 hectares of freshwater wetlands.
CBC’s Information Morning spoke with NCC program director Jaimee Morozoff about the significant wildlife that calls that land home:
This past summer, [Morozoff] said the NCC surveyed the property and found 300 different plants, including several rare species such as Virginia meadow beauty, swamp loosestrife and long-leaved panic grass. Several endangered lichens were also spotted.
The group noted 66 different bird species; among them 15 rare and three endangered ones, including the Canada warbler. It also found eastern painted turtle and snapping turtle, which are both listed as species of special concern.
The forest itself, which includes eastern hemlock, maples and white spruce, is a rare find. Only one to five per cent of mature forest remains intact in the Maritimes due to centuries of harvesting, said Morozoff.
7. Sharing stories of the Black experience in Atlantic Canada
On Tuesday morning, Matthew Byard told us about Black in the Maritimes, a podcast and media portal that attracts a diverse group of guests to talk about the lived experience of Black Maritimers.
Two of that podcast’s former hosts have since moved on to create their own show highlighting that experience and Black stories from around Atlantic Canada: Blacklantic. Now Byard tells us their story.
The two hosts (and co-creators) are Clinton Davis, a Toronto native who now lives in Moncton, and Hillary LeBlanc, who took the reverse route, growing up in Moncton and now living in Toronto.
In a joint interview with the Examiner, they laugh at how despite their backgrounds being “quite the opposite,” they’ve still come to similar perspectives and viewpoints with respect to the Black experience — and particularly the Black experience of Black Canadians living in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. The pair now want to share those perspectives. They launched launched the show on February 1 to mark the start of Black History Month and are now three episodes in.
“We’re primarily a Black Atlantic centric podcast, website, and media channel through which we post on our social media channels with the goal of bringing unheard Black and POC voices to the world — unheard Atlantic voices,” Davis told Byard in an interview.
“Our endeavour,” adds LeBlanc, “is to show that Black people tend to experience racism, but every other experience they have is different and unique, and we’re all different people. You cannot speak to one person and get “the” Black Experience, and that’s why we want to amplify as many voices as we can.”
For a sample of the show, check out this clip from their first episode, discussing racism at the Ottawa rallies from a Black Canadian perspective. Or check out their third episode featuring a conversation on Black people who support the convoy.
8. Cop charged with sexual assault
A Halifax Regional Police Officer has been charged with sexual assault and was expected to appear in court Tuesday, reports Zane Woodford.
Const. Steven Mason, 37, was charged by Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) on. Jan 10 after Halifax Regional Police contacted SIRT in December 2021 and reported a sexual assault “by an officer of the Halifax police in the summer of 2020.”
The officer has been suspended with pay.
The “nice” Canadian society is a myth
“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.”
So goes the oft-misinterpreted line written by the late Joan Didion.
“A sentence meant as an indictment… transformed into personal credo,” as Zadie Smith put it in a tribute published the day after Didion died.
Didion was talking about people, and our need to make sense of things by creating narratives, but it applies to countries, too. Nations also tell themselves stories. Americans have the American Dream and American exceptionalism. The French have Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité. Canada has its own myths as well.
For a country that sometimes struggles to pin down an identity, hockey, at least, is an indisputable pillar of our culture. We tell ourselves we own the sport and no other country on Earth produces better players than us.
We proved that in 1972. Remember that series?
I was born over 20 years after it ended. But I’ve seen the footage and the famous photo. I’ve heard the stories of schools gathering in gymnasiums and businesses closing early so the country could watch the deciding game.
It was a series that pitted the best hockey players of Canada and Russia, the two superpowers of the sport, against each other for the first time. International hockey was an amateurish joke, it was thought, and Canada would mop the floor with the Russians. The Canadians were pros. It was our game. In our blood. The opposing communists were cold, emotionless, almost alien. Canada had floppy-haired farm boys from the Prairies who didn’t mind getting rough or letting their passions show. They had a level of heart and grit that the Russians could never understand or defeat. Canada would prevail, but the team only did so by the skin of their teeth, as the Russians proved more than formidable opponents. Still, we’d proved ourselves. We were undeniably the best.
For a certain generation of Canadians, Team Canada’s win in ’72 was a cultural touchstone. Paul Henderson became a national hero. The highlight of his goal and Foster Hewitt’s call on TV were immediately stitched into the national fabric. When Canadians look back on that series, they do so with pride.
But what happened in those eight games, really? A bunch of cocky, out-of-shape pros took a highly disciplined team for granted and got run around for four games. Rough play, intimidation, and a dirty, two-handed slash to the ankle of Russia’s star player helped Canada claw their way back in. Along the way, members of Team Canada flipped off a stadium of Russians, wrestled with Soviet military officers, and threatened to beat a referee with a stick. Then a lucky garbage goal gave them the last-second victory. I know all that and I still get goosebumps when I read about that series, or see video of that famous goal.
Despite the ugly truth, the myth persists.
I thought of this while reading an article about the Ottawa protests in the New York Times yesterday. In it, Catherine Porter writes about how Canadians are as “baffled” as the rest of the world by the chaos in the capital these past few weeks.
The chaos of recent weeks has left many wondering if Canada is witnessing the birth of a political alt-right, or if it is a pandemic-induced tantrum that, once exhausted, will curl itself asleep, leaving behind a country bewildered but essentially unchanged. It could also be, some argue, that the so-called freedom convoy is not an aberration at all but a mirror to an integral part of the country that doesn’t fit the stereotype, and so is ignored.
The unrest seems a rebuff to the cherished mythology imposed on Canada’s citizens from abroad and held by many Canadians themselves as moderate, rule-following, levelheaded — and just plain nice.
“It feels like a national nervous breakdown,” said Susan Delacourt, a veteran Canadian political columnist from Ottawa who like many of her fellow citizens is wondering what exactly is happening to her country right now.
Maybe it is because Canada, unlike the neighbor that overshadows it, was born not from revolution but from negotiation that its approach to rebellion now seems more than a little unconventional, even quirky.
I’ve seen a lot of international media coverage focus on how the occupation in Ottawa flies in the face of Canadian politeness and wont for peacekeeping. It’s embarrassing to see the mayhem in Ottawa play out on a global stage, but for me, it’s not because it tarnishes Canada’s rep for being nice.
Look at the last line of the New York Times insert above. It says Canada was born from negotiation, not revolution. But Canada was also conceived from the genocide of the people who first lived here. We grew and connected the country with railroads built with cheap labour — “expendable,” Chinese workers — then put a head tax on immigrants from that country to prevent them from moving here. My mother remembers military in the streets of Montreal during the October Crisis, a Canadian event that’s been much discussed in the lead-up to Trudeau’s decision to enact the Emergencies Act, just as his father enacted the old War Measures Act. It feels like the country’s been falling apart before.
We’ve had conflict and hate between colonialists (and their successors) and Indigenous Peoples, between French and English, East and West, and so on.
More than 150 years of evidence that we are not solely a country of peace, order, and good government. Though I’m proud of a lot of what we’ve done as Canadians, and I expect us to be more level-headed, I’m not shocked by what’s happening in Ottawa (though incredibly saddened and embarrassed). There’s no “Canadian gene” that makes us say “sorry” and hold doors open too long. It’s an easily-broken custom.
I’m a human being first and a Canadian second. As the saying goes, we are humans; nothing human can be alien to us.
National myths aren’t necessarily bad. How else could I feel connected to people living thousands of kilometres away in the Arctic or on the Pacific Coast in British Columbia? I also think it’s a good thing to take pride in where you live. But equally important, if not moreso, is to be realistic and honest about who you are.
It’s events like the rallies going on now that remind us that maintaining a society of peace, order, and good government, one of nice, polite people, isn’t an inherent birthright of being Canadian. It requires hard work, honesty, and a willingness to address problems and poisons in our society as they arise. Not to ignore them until they go away.
Even then, when things are going well, the “nice” Canadian society is a myth.
Lot of stories to feature in today’s Morning File, so just a quick Noticed this time around.
I haven’t been following the Olympics much.
I’m not sure if it’s the host country’s crimes against humanity, the West’s half-measure diplomatic boycott, or the par-for-the-course Russian doping scandal, but something’s soured the competition for me this year.
No professional hockey players — now I remember.
So I’ll skip Beijing here and look ahead to 2026.
There’s a Nova Scotian trying to get there right now. His name’s Brad Farquhar. It’s doubtful you’d recognize him from any Olympic qualifying competitions. You might, however, recognize him as the owner of the local Halifax provider, Purple Cow Internet.
Recently, Farquhar, who graduated from Saint Mary’s University in 2008, decided he’d like to compete in the next Winter Olympics. In an Instagram post at the end of last year, Farquhar announced he’d be training in Alberta to compete in skeleton.
“I am owning this outlandish ridiculous goal with high hopes and a lot of drive,” he writes in the post. “I decided on the sport Skeleton as it has the right combination of ‘barrier to entry,’ scariness and beer bellies seem to be acceptable so far. I am going to work my tail off over the next 4 years.”
That’s hardly worth mentioning in the Morning File, you might be saying. Any grown man can say they’re going to try to make it to the Olympics.
But Farquhar has a history of training hard to accomplish incredible athletic feats, be it learning how to swim only to cross the English Channel eight months later. Or to train for ultramarathons across the Sahara. There’s no reason to doubt he might have a small, but realistic shot at the next Winter Games.
He’s got exactly four years now.
In the meantime, why not watch his 2018 video documenting his completion of the Iditarod in 2018. For those unfamiliar with the event, it’s a 1,600 km dog sled race across the Alaskan tundra. It took him 12 days to complete. And before you ask: No, he’d never been on a dog sled before training for the race.
I thought I’d share that video here, for anyone else whose interest in this year’s Olympics has waned. It also goes out to those of us who think it’s too late to follow through on an “outlandish ridiculous goal.” (A.K.A. all of us).
If you have 16 minutes today I’d highly recommend viewing it in full. Or go watch the rest of the Olympics; I won’t tell you how to spend your time.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — virtual meeting
Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting
Audit and Finance Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — virtual meeting
Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — more info here; EHS, Department of Health and Wellness, and IUOE 727
Identity Captured in the Archives (Wednesday, 10am) — an open virtual classroom with Elder Harry Bone, Elder Florence Paynter and Raymond Frogner, Head of Archives at the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Home is where the binding partners are? Synaptic targeting of a metabotropic glutamate receptor (Thursday, 11am) — seminar via Teams with Melina Agosto
Fitting African Centred Perspectives into Social Work Practice (2) (Thursday, 5:30pm) — Teams webinar with Vivian Dixon, Afolake Awoyiga, Mario Rolle, Dave Este, Robert Seymour Wright, and Terrence Lewis
Communicating climate change and environmental journalism (Thursday, 7pm) — a conversation with Carol Linnett, Co-Founder of The Narwhal
The last year emphasized just how vulnerable Canadian communities are to deadly heatwaves, wildfires, landslides and floods — in the midst of surviving through dangerous climate change-induced catastrophes, 2021 also brought mass civil unrest, the construction of blockades against natural resource extraction and the arrests of Indigenous land defenders and journalists by the RCMP. It’s a lot. The team of environmental journalists at The Narwhal know how easy it can be to simply tune the bad news out, but also how powerful, meaningful and even beautiful storytelling can be key to social transformation, to democratic action and to challenging power. This session will explore The Narwhal’s unique vision for environmental journalism in Canada, one that seeks to bring publics back into a meaningful engagement with news and in-depth reporting. Using the best tools of the trade, the sharpest insights of the industry and their readership relationship, The Narwhal rehumanizes stories about our natural world and draws readers back into some of the most urgent issues and conversations of our time.
The Neurobiology of Trauma & Supporting Survivors (Wednesday, 5pm) — online workshop
Black Representation in Health: Why seeing YOU matters (Thursday, 12pm) — online discussion with Rohini Bannerjee, Kelly Carrington, and Akila Whiley
Mount Saint Vincent
Indigenous Futurisms and Horror: Articulations of Resistance, Survivance, and the Soul Wound (Wednesday, 5pm) — virtual conversation to consider Indigenous Futurism and speculative fictions as Indigenous agency, sovereignty, and survivance, healing the soul wound. We will begin with a panel discussion with our esteemed guests Grace Dillion, Stephen Graham Jones and Waubgeshig Rice, followed by an audience Question and Answer period. Register here.
In the harbour
- I called Paul Henderson’s goal “a garbage goal.” It was, I’m sorry. It was also beautiful.
- I’ll try to watch the women’s hockey final tonight — it’s at midnight, so I’ll do my best to stay up.
- Lots of hockey to end today’s Morning File: last night, Cole Harbour’s own Sidney Crosby scored his 500th National Hockey League goal. Congrats to The Kid!
- Could’ve sworn I saw a couple robins yesterday. Maybe Shubenacadie Sam was wrong.