News

1. Halifax police officer testifies he didn’t think Corey Rogers needed medical assistance

Halifax Regional Police Const. Justin Murphy arrives at the Police Review Board hearing in Dartmouth on Monday, June 21, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

“One of the officers who arrested Corey Rogers the night he died testified Tuesday that although Rogers was intoxicated and needed to be dragged into his cell, he didn’t think the 41-year-old needed medical attention,” writes Zane Woodford in his continuing coverage of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board of this case.

Const. Justin Murphy took the stand at a hearing of the Police Review Board into Rogers’ June 2016 death in Halifax Regional Police cells, being held in Dartmouth this week and next.

Murphy and two other officers, constables Ryan Morris and Donna Lee Paris, arrested Rogers outside the IWK in Halifax following the birth of his child. Rogers was intoxicated, and the officers brought him to the cells at HRP headquarters on Gottingen, commonly known as the drunk tank. The officers placed a spit hood on Rogers’ head before bringing him into cells, and left it on once inside. Later that night, Rogers vomited into the spit hood, asphyxiated, and died.

The three officers are the subject of a Police Review Board hearing stemming from a complaint from Rogers’ mother, Jeannette Rogers. Through her lawyers, Rogers alleges the officers breached three sections of the code of conduct in the provincial Police Act Regulations, including “neglecting or lacking concern for the health or safety of a person in the member’s custody.”

In his testimony, Murphy says the packaging that usually encloses a new spit hood — and contains instructions for using the hood a warning that misuse of it could lead to injury or death for the one wearing it — was already removed when he retrieved it at the station.

A spit hood, the same kind used by Halifax Regional Police and entered as an exhibit in the Police Review Board hearing into Corey Rogers’ death in custody, is seen on a table at the review board hearing on June 22, 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

He said he and his fellow officers left Rogers unsupervised for the rest of the night, as he felt Rogers had been lucid and in good health when he was arrested. Rogers would never wake up.

Since his death, there’s been a procedural change in the use of spit hoods:

HPR implemented a new policy on spit hoods, mandating that they only be used in cells, among other requirements, in late 2019 as a result of Rogers’ death. As the Halifax Examiner reported in August 2020, HRP is still using spit hoods. In response to a Freedom of Information request, HRP said they were used 18 times between December 2019 and June 2020.

Read Woodford’s article here for a full report of Police Cons. Murphy’s testimony, including his account of the events of the night Corey Rogers was arrested, as well as the actions the officers took that led to his death in that Gottingen Street cell five years ago.

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2. COVID by the numbers

Photo: Quinten Braem/Unsplash

We started this week with no new COVID cases in Nova Scotia, but Tuesday the province reported two new cases and two deaths from the virus.

One of the deceased was a man in his 60s who’d received his first dose of COVID vaccine less than two weeks before he contracted the virus, a stark reminder that public health guidelines are as important as ever, even with more vaccinations rolling out. The other death involved a man in his 5os from the Western Zone. Ninety-two people have now died from the disease in this province. And 26 of those deaths have occurred since the start of April.

There are now 74 known active cases in Nova Scotia. Two people are in hospital, but neither is in ICU.

As for vaccinations, 71.4% of the province has received at least one vaccination dose.

Vaccination percentages in NS.

Nova Scotia is leading all other provinces in terms of the percentage of people who have at least one dose, but vaccination numbers among younger men (especially outside HRM) are lower than other demographics. Dr. Strang said Tuesday that the province is attempting to address the problem by organizing mass vaccination clinics at large employers such as Michelin.

Head to Tim Bousquet’s full COVID news roundup from Tuesday for more details on the numbers, as well as news on testing (stats and locations), case demographics, and potential exposure sites.

The Examiner also has ongoing updates on potential virus exposures on flights and Halifax Transit, as well as answers to the COVID-19 questions Tim Bousquet most frequently gets asked.

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

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3. A modified Atlantic Bubble reopens today, but travel from New Brunswick remains restricted

Original photo: visaplace.com

The other big pandemic news today: as of 8 am, Nova Scotians can travel freely to and from Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, no isolation required. But there will still be restrictions for travelers coming into Nova Scotia from New Brunswick.

That’s because New Brunswick has already decided to open up to the rest of Canada, the province announced yesterday. None of the other three Atlantic provinces have opted to do that yet, so there’s a worry that Canadians from outside the Atlantic region would be able to circumvent travel restrictions by driving through New Brunswick should the bubble fully reopen.

Tim Bousquet reports that, for the time being, the following rules will apply to those traveling from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia:

• Those who have received two doses of vaccine (and for whom two weeks has passed since the second dose) will have to self-isolate only until they get a single negative test result. Given current turnaround times for test results, that will typically mean just a day or two.

• Those who have received on dose of vaccine (and for whom two weeks has passed since that dose) will have to self-isolate for seven days, and must receive two negative test results — one from the Day 1 or Day 2 of their arrival, and the second from Day 5 or Day 6.

• Those who are unvaccinated or received their first dose less than 14 days before arriving must self-isolate for two weeks.

• Children under 12 arriving in Nova Scotia from New Brunswick must follow the testing and self-isolation rules of the least-vaccinated parent they are travelling with.

• There are exemptions for those who travel for work, school, child care, and veterinary services, and for rotational workers.

Not surprisingly, some people aren’t too happy that New Brunswick’s border won’t be fully opened as originally planned:

Dr. Strang said yesterday that the border restrictions may relax depending on New Brunswick’s COVID situation and the vaccination rates here in Nova Scotia.

Although Nova Scotia has yet to open its borders to the rest of the country, starting June 30, the rules that now apply to New Brunswick will be extended to the rest of Canada (excepting PEI and Newfoundland).

You can find Nova Scotia’s full reopening plan here. Phase 3 of the plan — retail stores operating at 75%, organized sports games with up to 50 participants outdoors  — is expected to begin on June 30 (next Wednesday).

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4. Rally for the homeless

An emergency shelter, made by Halifax Mutual Aid, next to the old Halifax Memorial Library in January. Photo: Zane Woodford

This story comes from my former classmate Chris Stoodley at the Coast. It was published yesterday, but concerns a rally held over the weekend in downtown Halifax:

“Hundreds of people rallied in downtown Halifax on Sunday afternoon in support of several temporary shelters that the city plans to demolish. Halifax Mutual Aid, a local volunteer group, organized the rally at the city’s old central library on Spring Garden Road. That library has been shut down since 2014, and HMA built several of its wooden, shed-like shelters — which it calls “crisis shelters” — on the property.”

Back in January, when Mutual Aid Halifax (HMA) started building these temporary shelters, Zane Woodford spoke to Andrew Goodsell who, after months of nights spent in a sleeping bag on park benches, moved into one of the new shelters in Dartmouth: “a small structure, about six feet by eight feet, resembling a shed, but with insulation in the walls and a carbon monoxide detector inside.”

Andrew Goodsell’s shelter in Dartmouth, made by Mutual Aid Halifax. Photo: Zane Woodford

Here’s what Goodsell had to say at the time:

“I think it’s a very sad, pitiful way of trying to give someone a hand, but it’s the best thing that ever happened and it’s from the people, not the city,” Goodsell told reporters at a rally for Halifax Mutual Aid in Dartmouth on Monday.

“It’s a lot better than getting rained on every night and just getting beat up by the elements.”

Well, it was good while it lasted. Back to Stoodley’s article — he reports that HMA built 13 more of these crisis shelters across HRM last week, despite the looming threat of their removal. The municipality never intended to let these structures stick around:

In January, the city said occupants of the shelters wouldn’t be evicted until they had somewhere else to live. Now, the city plans to demolish the shelters and house the occupants in hotel rooms for two weeks — but there are no firm plans for what will happen after that time.

“This is not a solution by any reasonable measure, and it is a cowardly, half-measure that puts profit before people,” [HMA spokesperson Campbell] McClintock read from the statement. “The only reasonable solution to this crisis is housing for everyone on the streets, now.”

I have a bit more to say on the subject of temporary shelters in the Views section below.

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5. HRP: one man charged in stabbing case from weekend, another for child pornography and drug trafficking

Halifax Regional Police cruisers lined up behind headquarters on Gottingen Street in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

According to a news release from Halifax Regional Police Tuesday afternoon, “police have charged a man in relation to a stabbing that occurred in Halifax on the weekend.”

On June 19 at approximately 5:20 p.m. police responded to the 2000 block of Gottingen Street for a report of a man who had been stabbed. A 56-year-old man was taken to hospital for treatment of what were believed to be life threatening injuries.

Officers arrested the suspect in the area a short time later. Brian Stanley Knowles, 45, is scheduled to appear in Halifax Provincial Court today to face charges of attempted murder, possession of a weapon and failing to comply with a court order.

Investigators believe this was not a random incident.

In another news release from that afternoon, HRP says they’ve arrested four men in Dartmouth for drug-related charges following an investigation into one of the men for “sharing sexually explicit images of a child online.” The search of the man’s home and electronic devices led to the discovery of an illegal cannabis dispensary at the residence. The 24-year-old man faces three counts each of possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography. The other three men, aged 22, 31, and 39, will face drug-related charges at a later date.

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Views

Toronto’s homelessness lesson for Halifax

Protestors chanting at a rally to support the homeless at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto. Lauren O’Neil/blogTO/Twitter

The City of Toronto put their plan to remove four of the GTA’s largest homeless encampments into action yesterday. The city has secured hotel space to temporarily provide shelter for all those currently living in tents in four of the city’s public parks. On Tuesday, police went in to one of those parks, Trinity Bellwoods, to remove the tent dwellers and transition them to these temporary hotel setups.

On the surface, it seems pretty reasonable. Moving people from insecure outdoor tents to indoor shelters with access to running water, meals, and medicine. It might not be a lasting solution to the problem, but it’s got to be better than nothing, right?

Maybe. But if you scrolled through any of the hundreds of photos that Toronto residents posted on Twitter yesterday, or saw any of the reporting from local outlets, you might have some questions.

Questions like, why did the city feel it was necessary to send in a small army of police in riot gear to move people out of their tents and into hotels? Why did hundreds of protestors show up to prevent them from doing this? Why were these protestors surrounded by officers and private security, as well as temporary fencing (everyone was free to leave the enclosed encampment, but they couldn’t return, so technically it wasn’t kettling, a crowd-control technique the Toronto Police Department said they’d never use again after 2010’s G20 Summit. Why were some journalists removed from the scene or denied access to cover the evictions? Why were helicopters hovering overhead all day to survey the scene? 

Seems a bit excessive, no?

It’s scenes like this that lead to calls to “Defund the Police.” At the very least, they shouldn’t be funded to do this.

According to reports from local media like blogTO and CBC Toronto, the people living in these camps, as well as the advocates who came to the park yesterday to protest the eviction, were upset that the city was simply moving people from one precarious situation to another. There were campers concerned about violence in these shelters, as well as the risk of catching COVID living in close quarters with others indoors.

On top of that, there’s the question of why the city invested money in temporary shelters to house just those people taking up space in a handful of public, highly visible spaces around the city’s core. The homeless population in Toronto isn’t limited to four parks, after all.

The city released a statement yesterday to explain the removal, saying, in part, that “encampments contravene several chapters of the Municipal Code and are not a solution to homelessness.” While temporary hotel shelters probably don’t convene any Municipal Code chapters, I’d also argue they aren’t “a solution to homelessness” either.

Here in Halifax, different temporary shelters have been operating out of hotels (and sometimes public buildings, like schools) since the start of the pandemic, when established shelters no longer had the space to safely distance residents. These hotel setups have offered precarious shelter for those who occupy them and are no substitute for permanent, affordable housing. Last May, when the Affordable Housing Association of Nova Scotia was running low on funding for temporary shelters, homeless men and women living out of the Lord Nelson spent more than a month in limbo, each week told there might not be enough money to extend their stay past the weekend. A mad scramble to find a permanent place to stay would ensue– made incredibly difficult by low vacancy rates, a lack of affordable housing options, and the community supports that many of these vulnerable people needed to live on their own. Then AHANS would muster up enough funding to buy another week or so, and the process would repeat itself. (Full disclosure, I was working for the Association at the time). It was a rollercoaster that took a serious toll on the nerves and emotional wellbeing of the people living in the hotel, never sure when they’d be asked to leave, or if they’d have another bed ready for them somewhere when that time came.

Tyler Ledden had to leave a temporary hotel shelter in July of 2020. Photo: Contributed.

One of the men at the Lord Nelson shelter, Tyler Ledden, spoke with Yvette d’Entremont in June of last year, when it seemed the pop-up site would close for good at the end of the month:

“I’m scrambling myself to find out where I’m going to go. I’m living in limbo. You’re basically living in a state of pressing pause and now it’s boom, press play again, but going full fast forward,” Ledden said in an interview. “I’m just trying to make sure that next week I have a roof over my head.”

Ledden was at the Salvation Army shelter before he was moved to one of the emergency pop-up shelters due to COVID-19. He said he was getting help and working towards getting his own place when the pandemic hit.

“The government forced me to be here, and now they’re just stopping it and sticking their heads in the sand and saying good luck to you, see you later,” he said. “Especially where there’s a lot of us, there should be some kind of a transitional period.”

As it turned out, the shelter at the Nelson would extend its operation into late July, before finally closing for good. Since then, when I visit the peninsula, I often see the men who lived there panhandling around town, or camped out on the side of the road. I know of one person I worked with who was living out of a tent on Spring Garden.

So moving people — who don’t want to move — from a park to a hotel during the summer weather, is a band-aid solution that effectively makes four parks in Toronto look nicer. How long will the city be able to put these people up? It’s expensive to rent hotel rooms for dozens of individuals every night. It’s just moving people from one temporary shelter to another, especially when future permanent housing is just a vague promise with no ETA.

For the City of Toronto, the accessibility of public parks is just too much to consider, I guess.

“Who do you protect?” chant the protesters as police move in. #TrinityBellwoods pic.twitter.com/3YD8nxbjrQ

— Lauren O’Neil (@laurenonline) June 22, 2021

Here’s more from yesterday’s statement:

City parks must also be safe and accessible to all residents of Toronto. The City will restore its parks while also helping as many people who are willing to accept the City’s offers of support.

There are an estimated 60 to 80 people staying in encampments at Lamport Stadium, Trinity Bellwoods Park, Moss Park and Alexandra Park, with far more tents and makeshift structures (more than 200) in those encampments than people.

Trinity Bellwoods is a gorgeous bit of greenery right in the heart of the city. My sister and one of my best friends both used to have apartments nearby, so I’ve spent many afternoons playing tennis there, biking around its paths, or watching the dogs run off-leash around the grassy bowl at the heart of the park. It’s a great place to relax and escape the surrounding cement. I’d rather it wasn’t a residence for two dozen homeless people.

But what’s the actual issue here?

If you look at a park in a wealthy Canadian city — or any city, for that matter — and you see large, makeshift encampments, where desperate people with few options are just trying to survive, the problem isn’t that a bunch of bums broke the law by camping out in a public park overnight. The problem is that a permanent home, no matter how humble, is just not an affordable option. The city they live in has left them behind. And that city can’t help them in the long run by putting them in a suite for a few months.

Halifax has the opportunity to learn from this. Last summer, Suzanne Rent reported that community outreach workers counted 35 people sleeping outside in Halifax, Dartmouth, and Lower Sackville one night in August. That’s not counting the homeless population who use the shelters. One of the workers said that’s worse than any other year in HRM. That number’s still nowhere near Toronto levels. But we should start dealing with this now.

A sign reads HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT at a rally in Dartmouth in January. Photo: Zane Woodford

Remember when Toronto’s skyrocketing rental and real estate prices were just a distant warning of what could happen in this city?

The Examiner recently reported on two reports calling for immediate action to combat the affordable housing crisis and ensure security and shelter are available for all Nova Scotians — one from the Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Commission, the other from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia. The former recommended the government immediately spend $25 million on affordable housing to address the issue, while the latter found 30,000 permanent affordable housing units are needed to ensure secure housing for low-income earners and the homeless.

These are ambitious, expensive recommendations. And they’re only two of many. But if we don’t act on them now, what are the alternatives? Renting out the penthouse floor of the Nelson and Hotel Halifax forever? Or we could just wait a few years and see if the Commons becomes a campground, then ask the HRP to remove people when things get too crowded. There’s plenty of open space on the fringes of Halifax where we could push people. If the time comes, let’s at least try to use less riot gear than Toronto.

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Noticed

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Photo: Steven Cornfield

The modified Atlantic Bubble, and the restrictions at the New Brunswick border are just the latest in series of unplanned pandemic restrictions. Another rug pulled out from under us, is what a lot of us are thinking right now.

Last night Tim Bousquet sent out a series of tweets, which I compiled into paragraph format here, about the fatigue surrounding COVID restrictions and frustrations with the government over the ongoing lockdown. I think for everyone it just feels like we’re supposed to be near the end, but things aren’t getting any easier:

“I don’t have a strong opinion about the NB border restrictions, but I find it sadly interesting that as the pandemic (hopefully) is winding down, people are more at odds with each other than during the height of the pandemic… which, honestly, in Nova Scotia was a month ago.

For myself, in April 2020, I honestly thought that the whole world (including Nova Scotia) would be seeing NY- and Italy-like levels of hospitals being overwhelmed, and (I feared) soon after, apocalyptic-like corpses in the street. So… having a summer of 2020 that was, well, not that, was something amazing. 

But then that third wave was heartbreaking. It’s hard. No one likes this.

Still. Consider: no one thought we’d have vaccines by now. It’s a wonderful miracle. Science! Without that, we could have gone five, six years, with terrible, unimaginable loss.”

I recently had a friend so fed up with changing restrictions and vaccine guidelines, that he shared a video with me of a roundtable of doctors discussing the merits of the vaccine. It came from the conspiracy theory spreading website Bitchute, which has articles with headlines like “Get ready for their next scam … Climate Lockdowns,” and “Keep spreading the ‘Going Free’ lexicon so that Anti-whites find it harder to implement Anti-whiteism.”

My friend’s a pretty regular guy, and I don’t think he’d buy into any of those other articles, but it’s concerning to see he’d be swayed by a video on vaccines from a site whose content is so obviously made to play off emotion and fear.

Well, I agree it’s still important to be skeptical and questioning when it comes to these decisions. Clearly, the recent death of Kai Matthews is cause for debate around how much hospitals should be prioritizing COVID over all other emergencies (19-year-old Matthews died from meningitis B in June and his family say COVID protocols at hospitals may have delayed him getting proper treatment. CBC reported on that here). And here at the Examiner, Yvette d’Entremont has written about the ethical questions of vaccine passports.

If you really are worried about government abuse of power, there’s no need to hop down the COVID rabbit hole. Instead, check out the hard work our reporters have been doing covering this provincial government.

It’s reporting that’s light on miracle cures and theories of manufactured diseases, but heavy on deep dives and investigations into this government’s practices and actions.

Earlier this week, Stephen Kimber noticed that Iain Rankin and his government have been doling out promises all around the province (some of them rehashed from pledges left unfulfilled by the previous Liberal government): $18 million for tourism here, a million for trails in Cape Breton there, maybe some previously promised investments in improved cancer care treatment in southwestern Nova Scotia, too. Hell, throw a million at the long-awaited fast ferry to Bedford while they’re at it.

Awfully nice of them to make so many promises. I’d almost think there was an election coming up, but Rankin hasn’t said anything about one so it must just be the season of giving.

Then there’s Joan Baxter’s continuing coverage of the proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) plant at Goldboro, which was given a page and a half of praise in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s quarterly newsletter. The provincial government’s on board too, with Premier Rankin still of the belief that natural gas is a safe transition fuel, even though the proposed plant would likely be the biggest source of the province’s GHG emissions should it finally be built.

The Examiner’s also recently looked into whether the Department of Lands and Forestry has been working in the interest of Nova Scotians and adequately taking the concerns of the public into account.

Or check out any of the issues on the Eastern Shore that Tim Bousquet wrote about in another Morning File this month:

“The machinery of government seems hellbent on logging the shit out the place, denuding the soil and poisoning the rivers and lakes through gold mining, and placing every cockamamie scheme imaginable — space portLNG plantmega shipping terminalbiomass energy, whatever — in this sacrificed sector of the province, as no one much who lives there objects and those who do object hold exactly zero political power, so screw ’em.”

There’s plenty of ways to keep an eye on the government without resorting to fringe theories and spreading disinformation about public health as we make our way down the home stretch of life in the pandemic.

So check out what our reporters have been looking into.

And when it comes to the frustrations of ongoing COVID restrictions, like my boss said last night:

I understand that everyone is anxious. Be kind to each other.

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Government

City

Wednesday

Community Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 11:30) — live streamed on YouTube

Heritage Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual meeting

Thursday

Transportation Standing Committee (Thursday, 1pm) — live streamed on YouTube

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual meeting

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Wednesday

FishNutrients – Innovative new tool to address malnutrition (Wednesday, 11am) — virtual event

Caregiver Support Group (Wednesday, 12pm) — info and registration here

How is ocean noise affecting marine species? (Wednesday, 3pm) — virtual event featuring Fred Whoriskey, Haley Welsh, Hansen Johnson, and Lindy Weilgart

Thursday

Speak Truth to Power Series: They found us and we are coming home – The truth about residential schools (Thursday, 6pm) — virtual forum with Patti Doyle-Bedwell, Natalie Gloade, Graydon Nicholas, and others

Saint Mary’s

Wednesday

No public events

Thursday

Canadian Contributions to the Peace Process in Northern Ireland / North of Ireland (Thursday, 11:30am) — Bridget Brownlow moderates a Zoom panel with John de Chastelain, Ray Basset, and Bonnie Weir


In the harbour

Halifax
05:00: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
06:00: MSC Rochelle, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Le Havre, France
10:30: Tavrichesky Bridge, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
15:00: Mignon, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
15:30: Atlantic Sail sails for New York
15:30: MSC Rochelle sails for sea
18:30: PS Valletta, bulker, arrives at anchorage for inspection from Damietta, Egypt
22:30: PS Valletta, bulker, sails for sea

Cape Breton
18:00: Karavas, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Mongstad, Norway
21:00: Almi Sky, oil tanker, sails from Point Tupper for sea
23:00: Aristoklis, oil tanker, arrives at Point Tupper from Es Sider, Libya


Footnotes

  1. Last night was a perfect storm for sleep depravation: extreme humidity bookended by a west coast Habs game and a Morning File deadline. An afternoon nap is in order.
  2. By the way, how ’bout that Habs game?

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Ethan Lycan-Lang

Ethan Lycan-Lang is a Morning File regular, and also writes about environmental issues, poverty, justice, and the rights of the unhoused. He's currently on hiatus in the Yukon, writing for the Whitehorse...

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3 Comments

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  1. Great morning file as usual. Thanks especially for these lines:
    “There’s plenty of ways to keep an eye on the government without resorting to fringe theories and spreading disinformation about public health as we make our way down the home stretch of life in the pandemic.
    So check out what our reporters have been looking into.”
    The examiner is doing so much great work. Thanks to all of you!

  2. There is a lot of confusion and misinformation about travel between provinces. Specifically the statement “as of 8 am, Nova Scotians can travel freely to and from Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, no isolation required” is not correct. Travel to PEI requires testing, isolation and proof of vaccination. Starting June 27 you can apply for a pass which verifies you are fully or partially vaccinated with your first does at least 21 days prior to travel. The media needs to stop with stories and headlines that make it sound like travel is free and open between PEI and NS.

  3. There’s a giant empty field on Young Avenue that would be a great spot for a tent encampment. Making it illegal to be homeless in a country that has the largest housing shortage in the G7 is a barbaric cultural practice.