News

1. Mass shooting

A poster at the roadside memorial in Portapique commemorates the 22 people killed in the mass shooting that began there on April 18, 2020. Photo: Joan Baxter

“The class action lawsuit brought against the estate of the man who killed 22 people and injured seven others during a fiery rampage across northern Nova Scotia has been updated through an amended statement of claim,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

The lawsuit includes three groups of plaintiffs: those whose loved ones were murdered by the person the Halifax Examiner refers to as “GW,” those who were injured by him, and those who lost property and pets as the result of his actions.

In addition to seeking financial compensation for their losses, more family members are coming forward to demand a public inquiry to resolve some of their unanswered questions about the mass shooting.

Nick Beaton and the parents of Alanna Jenkins, who was killed alongside her husband Sean McLeod at their Hunter Road home near Wentworth, have recently been joined by Darcy Dobson. Darcy is the daughter of VON employee Heather O’Brien, yet another of the shooter’s 22 victims. Here’s a portion of the plea Dobson posted to Facebook:

I am the third born of six children to Andrew and Heather O’Brien. On behalf of my family and our community I am writing this to formally request the start of a Public Inquiry into the Mass shooting on April 18th and 19th

Heather O’Brien was a strong woman; she raised her children right! She taught us to be brave and to stand up for what we believe in… we are requesting you give us the information we all deserve. I am just one voice of many families you will be hearing from and I know we all have similar stories about the beautiful people we’ve lost.”

We understand that there is an active investigation. We also know we have rights to information especially regarding our individual circumstances. I think we can all agree that public safety is of the utmost importance and feeling safe in our communities is a must. The back and forth about who’s responsible for an inquiry is unreal. It causes the families of this senseless crime more distress and again I’m sure we can all agree that is not okay…

Hell, I’d like to go back 40 days ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone about when to put my garden in and something funny the kids did, but I can’t. The sad reality is our loved ones were stolen from us. Mistakes were made at the provincial and the federal level and we need answers, we need answers to heal, we need answers so we can find a way to live in this new normal that we’ve been forced into.

If this is the worst Massacre in Canadian history why are we not trying to learn from it? What’s the hold up in the inquiry? Why hasn’t this happened yet? Where are we in the investigation? Was someone else involved? Why can’t we get any answers at all 40 days in?!

2. Nursing home wait times

The Northwood nursing home on Gottingen Street in Halifax. Photo: Halifax Examiner

“If there was any doubt there are not enough places for people who need long-term care, the pandemic should lay that notion to rest,” reports Jennifer Henderson:

According to numbers provided by the Department of Health and Wellness yesterday, the wait-list for a nursing home bed grew by 200 in the past two months. As of May 27, there were 1,452 people awaiting placement. There were 1,247 awaiting placement at the end of February, roughly the same number reported a year ago in March 2019.

The increase is a direct result of the fact from March 8 until the present, nursing homes have been in lock-down and not accepting new residents to reduce the risk of introducing COVID-19. The virus has claimed the lives of 60 elderly Nova Scotians, 53 of them at Northwood in Halifax. The reality is — with no new nursing home beds having opened since the McNeil government took office in 2013 — the wait list will continue to grow. Demographic projections show the number of people over age 65 will double by 2036.

Click here to read “Wait times increase for long-term care.”

3. Masks

Elizabeth Guitard. Photo: Yvette d’Entremont

“As a mother to three girls under the age of eight, Elizabeth Guitard’s life was busy before the pandemic hit,” reports Yvette d’Entremont:

But things have ramped up considerably in the days since the province’s state of emergency was declared on March 22. Guitard is now pulling 12 to 16 hour long days to ensure Atlantic Canadians who need face masks can get them. For free.

Her Dartmouth home is the headquarters of Masks for Humanity Atlantic Canada, a volunteer effort that rapidly grew from five people sewing masks at the end of March to a community-based endeavour that includes a steadily increasing stable of more than 200 needleworkers.

With more than 7,000 masks made as of Monday and almost 5,000 already delivered, the initiative doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Click here to read “Masks For Humanity is making and delivering thousands of masks for free for people across Atlantic Canada.”

4. Lead pipes

Lead service lines removed from the ground in Halifax last year. Photo:  Zane Woodford

“Halifax Water wants to pay to replace every lead pipe in the city over the next 18 years with a plan that’s unrivalled across the country, but the utility heard concerns on Monday that the timeline may still be too slow for some homeowners,” reports Zane Woodford:

The utility made the case for the plan to its regulator, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) on Monday along with an application to keep its rates flat for the year ahead. The UARB has to approve the application because it needs to amend Halifax Water’s rules and regulations to explicitly allow the utility to pay the full cost of removing lead pipes.

Lead is a neurotoxin that is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and young children, potentially causing cognitive and behavioural issues. Prolonged exposure can cause a litany of health problems for adults, too. Health Canada says there is no safe level of lead in drinking water, and it should be “kept as low as reasonably achievable.”

But up until the mid-1950s, lead was the preferred pipe for bringing drinking water into homes in Halifax.

There are an estimated 3,500 private lead service lines — the pipes carrying water from the shut-off at the property line into the meter in ratepayers’ homes — left in peninsular Halifax and urban Dartmouth. There are another 2,000 pipes on the public side, carrying water from the main distribution line to the shut-off.

Now Halifax Water is proposing to pay 100% of the cost of replacing the lead pipes and get them all out of the ground by 2038. No other Canadian utility is paying the entire cost.

Halifax Water’s board approved the ambitious plan in December following a nationwide collaborative investigation led by Concordia University’s Institute for Investigative Journalism, with partners including Global News, the Toronto Star and the now-defunct StarMetro Halifax. That investigation uncovered dangerous levels of lead in drinking water in schools and wells across Nova Scotia, and revealed a testing history of high levels of lead in homes in Halifax amid lacklustre uptake in the utility’s rebate program.

Click here to read “Halifax Water makes the case for its accelerated lead pipe removal plan.”

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Zane Woodford

Woodford doesn’t mention it, but he was one of the 120 reporters who worked on that nationwide investigation, and just on Saturday the entire team was awarded the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Data Journalism award. Congratulations Zane!

5. Entrepreneurship

This bit needs an introduction, but I’m so flabbergasted by it I’m speechless. “I can’t even” is about the best I can come up with. Mary Campbell has her own intro: “do not read the following story while drinking a beverage of any description or there will be a spit-take in your future.”

Seriously. This is… well.

Let’s just get into it. Writes Campbell in the Cape Breton Spectator:

Earlier this week, I received an invitation from the Cape Breton office of Innovacorp, the Nova Scotian crown corporation managing the province’s early-stage venture capital fund. They’re hosting a “Story Arc Series” of virtual events and the come-on was:

Regardless of your product or service, you must be able to tell your story clearly to sell effectively. Through virtual meetings, we’re able to tap some of the best communicators in the world every two weeks, for a mix of presentations, workshops and interviews that will boost your story-telling prowess.

Alastair Campbell

According to Entrevestor, the Innovacorp arm that masquerades as a news outlet, the series is being organized by Cape Breton Entrepreneur-in-Residence-Who-Is-Not-Actually-in-Residence Permjot Valia and the speakers are his “friends.”

The next presentation is called “Winning in a crisis with [Permjot Valia’s friend] Alastair Campbell.

Alastair Campbell’s frontline experience as Tony Blair’s chief spokesperson and strategist during 9/11 and the war in Iraq has made him an expert in communicating and leading during a crisis. In his bestseller, Winners and How They Succeed, Alastair examines winning tactics and other insights that have made him a sought-after strategic advisor in all sectors. You’ll leave this session with tips from Alastair your company can use right away.

This would be a fantastic opportunity if I’d decided the best way to take the Spectator to the next level was to invade Iraq — neutralize an obvious threat to the future of my business, secure my home heating oil supplies — because telling that story clearly and selling it effectively would pose obvious challenges and who better to assist me than the man who communicated an almost equally fantastical story — one in which Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an immediate security threat to an island nation on another continent — and sold it so well he helped get Britain into a war in which as many as 1 million Iraqis died and 400 million people were displaced?

Although Innovacorp’s chronology is a little off — having helped get Britain into the Iraq War, which began in March 2003 when the “coalition of the willing” dropped the first bombs, Campbell resigned abruptly  in August 2003. The war would go on without him for another eight years.

Campbell has more, including the best book review I’ve ever read — John Crace’s retelling of Winners and How They Succeed.

Click here to read “The Thick of It.”

As with the Examiner, the Cape Breton Spectator is subscriber supported, and so this article is behind the Spectator’s paywall. Click here to purchase a subscription to the Spectator, or click on the photo below to get a joint subscription to both the Spectator and the Examiner.
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6. Silver Don

Silver Don Cameron

Silver Don Cameron has died.

Stephen Kimber writes:

When I decided I wanted to be a writer in Atlantic Canada back in the 1960s, my role models were Silver Donald Cameron and Harry Bruce, two immensely talented and accomplished writers who chose to live in and write about this place we call home. They still are my role models.

I count myself lucky — and privileged — that the first piece of fiction I ever published was in an anthology called “Voices Down East,” which Don edited back in the early 1970s.

Linda Pannozzo writes:

The loss of this wonderful, insightful, and extremely talented man is heartbreaking. I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working with Silver Donald Cameron on The Green Interview for nearly ten years and was exceedingly grateful for every moment of it. He was not only the best writer I know, but I was inspired constantly by him, his work, his way with words, and those visionaries he sought out for the interviews. He will be sorely missed. The world was a better place with him in it. Compassionate, brilliant, attentive, and so very kind. His incredible legacy and body of work will send positive ripples in to the world well into the future.

John DeMont has written a lovely tribute to Cameron.

Silver Don is top on my list of people I wish I had gotten to know better. I met him I think around 2008, at a book reading he and his wife were giving at a waterfront restaurant in Fisherman’s Cove. I had no idea who he was before then, but I was immediate swept away by his intelligence and kindness. We’ve kept up a correspondence ever since.

I once asked him where the “silver” part of “Silver Don” came from, and he explained that when he moved to the Maritimes there were so many “Don Cameron”s that if he were to make a name for himself as a writer, he would need a distinctive moniker, so came up with “Silver.” Remember that, all you Andrew Murphys and Ian McLeods of the Maritimes.

I researched Silver Don’s past from time to time, and discovered that he was one of the founders of The Mysterious East magazine in New Brunswick, which is described as follows:

During the winter of 1969, the group engaged in numerous conversations regarding the state of news media in Canada (particularly the Maritime provinces), the lack of critical journalistic voices, and the need for reporting on serious issues pertaining to Maritime life. That summer they gathered at Donald Cameron’s home in Fredericton with the aim of creating an alternative news magazine or paper. Unsure as to what form the new publication should take, they were certain they wanted to critique current media and provide background information to their news stories.

The fledgling editors of The Mysterious East were Robert Reid Campbell, a graduate student at the University of New Brunswick focusing on the Canadian little magazine and its function in Canadian culture; Russell Arthur Hunt, an assistant professor of English at St. Thomas University who was interested in politics and literature as well as journalism and education; Thomas Peter Warney, a poet, musician, and graduate teaching assistant at the University of New Brunswick; and Donald Cameron, a professor of English at the University of New Brunswick who contributed to a variety of Canadian periodicals and was a commentator for CBC.

“[A] product of people who are fed up, frustrated, [and] angry with rotten journalism” (ME fonds), the editors of The Mysterious East, none of them practicing journalists or knowledgeable about assembling and distributing a news magazine, were unconcerned that they might lose money or that the magazine might fold after one or two issues. Rather, they believed that what was at stake was whether a Maritime audience would support a “fair, hard-hitting and lively” magazine that “objects to the vulgar, the pompous and the dishonest … to tell not only what happened, but why it happened”

One of these days, I’m going to produce a history on radical publications in the Maritimes, and The Mysterious East will be properly profiled.

I asked Don about The Mysterious East, and he laughed and said something along the lines of “well, we learned how to lose money” and that was a lesson he vowed not to repeat. That led to a long discussion about his newest project, The Green Interview, and the Examiner, which I was just then beginning, and how the heck do we fund journalism. We both hit on the subscription model, and then each subscribed to the other’s outlet. Silver Don subscribed on the very first day of the Examiner’s existence, continuing his long support for new projects.

Everyone who speaks of Don uses the same word: kind. His huge talent aside, he was one of the very best people around, always with an encouraging word.

Don was one of the great ones.


Government

City

Tuesday

Special Halifax Peninsula Advisory Committee (Tuesday, 4pm) — teleconference; agenda here.

Wednesday

No meetings.

Province

Who are we kidding?


In the harbour

07:00: Algoma Integrity, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from New York
07:00: Acadian, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
08:00: Asterix, replenishment vessel, arrives at Dockyard from sea
14:00: Acadian sails for sea
15;30: AlgoCanada, oil tanker, sails from Imperial Oil for sea


Footnotes

I’ve got nothing.

Tim Bousquet

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I consider myself lucky to have interviewed Silver Don Cameron five years ago for a video production my husband was creating about the environment. He lived on the Arm then before moving to Vancouver. Now we walk past that house from our apt near by and never fail to remember him and what an extraordinary person he was. The world misses him but his legacy will nurture us for years.

  2. Re: Silver Donald Cameron. I first happened to meet Don five months shy of 50 years ago at an emergency meeting of the editors of the Mysterious East. It was the day Trudeau the elder imposed the War Measures Act to deal with the Quebec FLQ crisis in October 1970. A stress-filled evening, as they considered whether the Irving interests would sic the Mounties on them, whether they’d be in jail the next day (real possibilities under the WMA…) and still Don was cheerful and befriended (permanently, it turned out). this happenstance couple who had landed in his living room.
    We were struck by his appearance – Don’s head (at a mere 32) was already completely white, though his mustache was black. He did not yet know he’d become “Silver Donald” – that very descriptive moniker would come after he had moved to D’Escousse Nova Scotia and began to fit himself into the nickname-rich Cape Breton culture that became his permanent home.

    He had a genius for friendship, and a genius for working with friends, and for growing, learning and recreating himself and keeping friends. We’ll miss him.

  3. Re: Don Cameron – thanks for the tribute. He was just a lovely man and I am glad you got to meet him. The 4th ESTATE reunion was fun, wasn’t it? And remember the story he told? Best to you.