1. SIRT: RCMP officer who shot and killed Eastern Passage man was “justified”
To start today, Zane Woodford reports on a recent SIRT decision absolving an RCMP officer who shot and killed a man outside his home last summer:
An RCMP officer was “justified” in shooting a suicidal man holding an imitation handgun last year, Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) ruled in a decision released Tuesday.
The police shot 60-year-old Richard Kenneth Wheeler on July 9, 2020 outside his mother’s house, where he lived, in Eastern Passage. As the Halifax Examiner reported in July:
Wheeler’s obituary … said he “loved being with his friends and family.”
He would be the first one to lend a helping hand and would give the shirt off of his back for anyone in need. He was always up for a good time and made himself well known anywhere he went, from the race tracks to the rinks, he was there with a timmies in hand supporting his children. He loved hunting, fishing, long drives, animals and gardening to name a few. There wasn’t another person like Richard.
In a news release, the Mounties said they were responding to “a call of an armed man who was uttering threats.”
“When police arrived, they located the man, a 60-year-old from Eastern Passage, armed with a handgun outside the residence. The man did not respond to officers’ directions,” the release said.
“After a short time, the man raised his handgun towards the responding officers. Responding officers discharged their firearms.
Wheeler’s children, Kevin and Katelyn, posted on Facebook about his death a few days later, writing in part:
Dad was sitting outside on the steps with a pellet gun in his hand pointing it towards the ground, not the police. The police did not try to negotiate with him at all or use any other avenues to resolve the situation. They asked him to “drop the gun” then immediately shot him 4 times.
The SIRT report released on Tuesday confirms one RCMP officer shot Wheeler four times, and he was holding what director Felix Cacchione described as “an air gun pistol which was not loaded and did not have an air cartridge in it at the time.”
Last week, the Examiner reported on another SIRT decision which involved officers who had fired at a fire hall in Onslow during the mass shootings in April. The officers in that case were also absolved of wrongdoing.
You can read Woodford’s article here.
2. COVID-19 Update: 5 new cases, a possible Maritime bubble, and self-isolating police
There are a few things to cover this morning from Tim Bousquet’s most recent COVID-19 report, so let’s get right to it.
There were five new cases of COVID-19 reported in Nova Scotia Tuesday. Three of the cases are in the Central Zone and two are in the Western Zone. All new cases are traced to close contact with previously known cases. The total number of known active cases in the province is now 25.
Additionally, five more of the variant strains of coronavirus — three British and two South African — have been discovered in the province, all in the Central Zone. Nova Scotia Health investigations do not suspect any community spread from these variant cases.
Strang: Police will not skip the vaccine queue
The province has no plans to move police officers up in the line for vaccinations.
If you’ve kept up with the Examiner this week, you’ll know that on Monday, HRP Chief Dan Kinsella and Halifax-district RCMP Chief Superintendent Janis Gray said they believe police officers should be vaccinated sooner than the province has planned. The call, made during a virtual meeting of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners, came two days after the Halifax Regional Police announced that four of their department employees had contracted COVID-19. The Examiner has also learned that over 40 employees are now self-isolating following contact with those cases.
Tim Bousquet asked Dr. Strang yesterday if there were indeed over 40 HRP employees self-isolating and whether Nova Scotia Health intends to place police higher on the priority list for vaccinations. Here’s part of Strang’s response:
“It’s unfortunate it’s being portrayed that the people are seeing that those cases are a result of frontline work. There was an individual case that was then spread throughout the office, not because of people exposed on the street, frontline police officers. It happened in the office setting, which then created a number of contacts. So we’re having a conversation with the police about their office-based COVID protocols, which have allowed spread of the virus within their office space, which is very different from their frontline officers being at risk. If you look across the country, we are not seeing frontline police officers being a group that jumps out as having excessive amounts of COVID cases.”
“I’ll take that as confirmation that over 40 police employees are self-isolating,” writes Bousquet. “And that Strang has no intention of moving police up the vaccination queue.”
As of right now, police officers in Nova Scotia are slated to be vaccinated based on age along with the general population during the third phase of the provincial rollout. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s guidance on the prioritization of initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines recommends that workers providing essential services that can’t be performed virtually should be included in what it calls Stage 2 of vaccine rollout plans.
Premier discussing potential “Maritime bubble”
Premier Iain Rankin said Tuesday that he’s in preliminary talks with his counterparts in PEI and New Brunswick about opening up borders between Maritime provinces. The Premier said further discussions are needed — likely to take place next week — on what a possible “Maritime bubble” would look like. Due to recent flareups of COVID-19 cases in Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Rankin says he has no immediate plans to ease travel restrictions with that province, so the Atlantic bubble is unlikely to return any time soon.
The Halifax Examiner is providing all COVID-19 coverage for free. Please help us continue this coverage by subscribing.
3. 13 storey development approved on North End heritage property
Another interesting development approval here in Halifax, this time on a heritage property on Gottingen Street. Zane Woodford reports:
Council approved a substantial alteration to Victoria Hall during its meeting on Tuesday, paving the way for a revised 13-storey development proposed to be built behind the heritage property.
Through Fathom Studio, developer Joseph Arab applied to the municipality for a development agreement for 2438 Gottingen St., on the same lot as Victoria Hall, which dates back to 1884 and is a municipally-registered heritage building.
Because of the heritage building, the application follows two concurrent planning processes. The developer needs approval for a development agreement, ultimately from the Halifax and West Community Council, but he first needs approval to substantially alter a heritage property from regional council.
Arab originally applied for a 19-storey apartment building, municipal heritage planner Aaron Murnaghan told council on Tuesday. The height was later revised down to 16 storeys — with Halifax’s Peninsula Planning Advisory Committee recommending in favour of the planning aspect of the proposal and the Heritage Advisory Committee recommending against the heritage aspect of the proposal.
Murnaghan recommended against the heritage approval citing the “scale and design” of the proposed new building. Specifically, substantial alterations to heritage properties in HRM are weighed against a set of federal standards for the conservation of historic places. One such standard requires new buildings next to heritage buildings to be “physically and visually compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place.”
Now that the new design has cut the building to 13 stories, the developers say that Victoria Hall’s facade remains the dominant view from the street, with less of the proposed building visible behind it. Sometimes developments in this city feel like haggling at a market. “We’ll build it 16 stories” “How about 10?” “13?” “Sold.”
It’s baffling sometimes.
4. What’s environmentally wrong with clearcutting?
The spread of clearcutting over eastern landscapes holds many dire environmental consequences for soils, wildlife populations, waterways, climate, and humans. Leaving thin ribbons of trees along waterways and occasional, see-through clumps of trees on the landscape does not maintain an ecologically healthy environment.
Many insist that clearcutting the forest every few decades is no problem; that it will magically re-appear. In New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, plans are underway to increase harvests over larger land bases and channel more of nature’s energy into fewer tree species, ignoring the degrading, ecological consequences this will have for wildlife and nature as a whole.
Acadian forests represent a diverse portfolio of stable ecological investments. They have, to use a banking term, “accrued interest and capital.” The current practice of clearcutting mixed Acadian forests does not sustain them. It degrades them. We’ve allowed too many withdrawals from the soil account.
5. Nova Scotia legislature returns
Nova Scotia’s provincial legislature returned to session yesterday — the first since Iain Rankin took over Stephen McNeil’s role as premier — with the Lt. Governor’s speech from the throne. As Jean Laroche reports for the CBC, the legislature is returning more in spirit than in body:
Just 12 of 51 MLAs will be allowed to sit at Province House this spring to respect COVID-19 protocols.
Premier Iain Rankin says it will be “interesting” to have most provincial representatives logging in rather than filing onto the floor of the legislature.
“Ideally there will be more co-operation and less spirited heckling,” Rankin said of the hybrid model. “The tone of our government will be a collaborative one, working with other parties if they choose to join us on that journey.”
PC Leader Tim Houston, leader of the province’s Official Opposition, isn’t worried about MLAs logging on to take part in the proceedings.
“Should work smoothly, I mean everyone else has figured out how to use technology, Zoom meetings and all that stuff,” said Houston.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill welcomed the call for a more co-operative approach from the governing Liberals.
“The new premier has clearly indicated that a collegial approach is the one that is to be preferred by him,” said Burrill. “It’s obviously the one that’s to be preferred by us.
“And I think that one of the things that will make the session singular is that we will see the extent to which that’s true.”
Prior to Rankin, with McNeil at the helm, Nova Scotia’s legislature took until December to meet for the first time during the pandemic. That marked the first time in 282 days that the body had met. Stephen Kimber recently wrote a piece for the Examiner in which he called for an increase in transparency from the Liberal government now that Rankin has taken over. We’ll see if this new, semi-virtual setup will lead to a more open government.
1. Marathon mentality: how to keep going after a full year in the pandemic
Tomorrow marks one year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Strange to think, isn’t it? It only feels like three years.
There have been some retrospectives in the news this past week: timelines of how the pandemic’s progressed, tributes to the people we’ve lost (nearly 2.6 million now, according to WHO) and the brave folks who’ve put their health on the line to keep us safe.
Although we’ve had lots of success keeping infections down in this province — thanks to some strong leadership, brave work from those in health care and other essential services, as well as a provincewide buy-in to public safety — we haven’t been immune to the effects of the pandemic. So far, 65 Nova Scotians have succumbed to the coronavirus, 53 of whom died at Northwood — the province’s greatest pandemic-related tragedy.
Overall though, we’ve fared better than most of the country. My sister was able to visit from Toronto for most of January and she couldn’t believe how normal everything felt after being stuck in a shoebox apartment in the Beaches for a year. And with vaccines on the way, the pandemic hopefully won’t have a second birthday.
This week, like a lot of us, I’ve been looking back at some of the news and events that came out over the past year. There were long ago, straightforward news reports of a strange virus that some scientists overseas were worried about. Then, as the outbreak spread to our shores, articles began to pop up about how unprepared we were, how we should adapt to isolation, and what hobbies people were picking up as things shut down and we found ourselves with newfound time on their hands (toilet paper and sourdough were incredibly popular topics of discussion). There were heavier, more philosophical writings on the questions pandemic life had raised about the future of work, the economy, class, the environment, and the way we wanted our world to look when we got past this.
Rather than write some retrospective about the bleak year that was, I thought I’d mark this unpleasant anniversary by sharing part of one of my favourite pieces from the pandemic, one that’s helped me a bit these past few months. It was written by Alex Hutchinson for the Globe and Mail back in November, when the second wave was ramping up and vaccines were yet to be approved. With no end point in sight, Hutchinson suggested we deal with the endless fog of the pandemic — the zoom and news fatigue, the constantly fluctuating restrictions and vaccine updates, the tedious cycle of days spent at home waiting for a return to normalcy — by taking on the mentality of an experienced marathon runner. We should be focused more on running than on how much of the race is left.
Now, four months after that article, with news of vaccine rollouts and promises of herd immunity, it’s easier to see the finish line. Hoping for the end and a return to a world where we can walk both directions down an aisle without a mask seems more reasonable. As Stephen Kimber recently wrote for the Examiner, “It’s almost spring and vaccines are in the air. I hope to hope.” In Hutchinson’s article, though, he cautions against this kind of thinking. He looks at a subfield of sports psychology called teleoanticipation, which he describes as “how our knowledge of an eventual endpoint (or telos) influences the entirety of an experience.”
Using endurance sports as their medium, researchers in this subfield have probed what happens when you hide the finish line, surreptitiously move it or take it away entirely. For those of us tempted by promising vaccine updates to start fantasizing about an end to the pandemic, these researchers have some advice: don’t.
The standard Aesopian view of pacing – slow and steady wins the race – is based on a simple, mechanistic view of human limits. If you have a certain amount of fuel in the tank and a certain distance to cover, you can calculate how fast to go in order to reach the finish just as your tank runs dry.
But that’s not how humans actually pace themselves. It’s a familiar sight at the local fun run to see runners burst into a sprint as they round the final corner and spot the finish line. This isn’t a sign of inexperience – even the best runners in the world do it, no matter how hard they’ve been pushing.
He then applies the sports concept to the early days of adapting to the new normal of the pandemic, when many of us just laid low, made the best of things and hoped it would all be over soon, before we had to make peace with the fact we were in it for the long haul:
I remember – hazily, oh so hazily! – when the first Ontario school shutdown was announced in March. It was for the two weeks immediately after March break. As a parent with two young kids, the hassle, the chaos, the sheer magnitude of the disruption seemed inconceivable. But, like holding your breath while you hurry past a bad stench, I knew I could put my life on pause and make it through to the other side.
And when the closing was extended, I knew I could do it again. And again. And again. Each time, though, it became harder to pretend that the end was imminent, and I had to start making adjustments, finding ways to make the situation sustainable instead of putting everything off “until this is all over.” You can only hold your breath for so long.
As the situation seemed to calm down over the summer, sustainability seemed possible. Deep down, I almost managed to convince myself that, in this one solitary respect, Donald Trump was right: The pandemic would some day, “like a miracle,” just disappear.
But with the fall resurgence, as we stare down the barrel of a joyless winter, that fictional finish line is gone for good.
So how should you approach a race with no finish line? The good news is that letting go of your illusions might actually help.
In studies where, instead of racing, volunteers were asked to run or cycle at a preassigned pace with or without being told how long they would have to maintain that pace, those with no knowledge of the endpoint showed a lower heart rate and reported a lower subjective perception of effort. Their brain activity also shifted away from high-energy executive function regions to the more restful default network associated with daydreaming. When we’re settling in for the long haul, in other words, our bodies and minds make appropriate adjustments.
Now I admit, it’s hard to achieve that zen-like runner’s high sitting in front of a webcam in your PJs — hell, it’s hard to achieve it while running — but the point is not to start running out the clock now, but to continue living our best, pandemic-adapted lives, all the while knowing this too shall pass, without too much concern for when exactly it will pass. It’s when we focus on the end that we set ourselves up for heartbreak, he writes:
I’m not getting invested in next spring or even next fall. Because of all the various scenarios tested in the teleoanticipation literature, the very worst is when you’re about to step off the treadmill at the end of your prescribed bout, only to have the experimenter say, “Ha, just kidding, I need you to keep going for another 10 minutes!” That’s when your perception of how hard things are shoots through the roof. It’s the mismatch between expectation and reality, more than the details of whatever reality you’re dealing with, that really stings.
For now, just keep running. Focus on your breath and heart rate, with your eyes focused more on the steps in front of you than on the horizon.
This article came out about a month after I started to replace my daily bike ride with a daily run. I found the “teleoanticipatory” mindset quite calming. In a way, it’s a pretty familiar ideology. “Stay in the moment.” It’s helped me get through a pretty dark winter and hopefully it’ll continue to help in the coming months.
I’ll add one thing to Hutchinson’s comparison of long-distance running to getting through the pandemic. When I first started running in the fall, it was really hard to get motivated and just as hard to keep pushing myself once I was out on the trail. It got easier with each day, but running never became pleasant for me. There are stretches of tranquility when I run, but there are also stretches of boredom and fatigue. The main difference is I no longer fixate on when the run will be over. I know it will be over eventually, so I just keep running. Same goes for the pandemic.
I haven’t watched Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and I don’t intend to. I’ve seen snippets and read the jist and that’s enough for me. I feel for Meghan Markle and her family, but stories about the Royal family have never interested me, The Crown included. Along with Julie Payette’s undignified exit from the office of Governor General and the revelations about Prince Andrew in 2019, views on royalty in Canada are diminishing fast.
There are renewed calls for abolishing the system of constitutional monarchy in Canada and removing the Queen as head of state. It’s nothing new and I can’t see it happening. Mostly out of apathy and a “more trouble than it’s worth” mentality than anything.
Then I found this piece written in the New York Times 23 years ago that stated public opinion in Canada at the time was, in large part, actively for the monarchy. The piece was about the negative response to an informal proposal the Chretien government had made to cut ties with the British monarchy as Canada headed into the new millennium. That surprised me. I’ve never felt like there was a huge pro-monarchy movement in this country, but I guess it exists — and in the recent past it apparently existed in the majority. I’m always interested to hear the pro-monarchy argument. To me, it seems like the only reason to have a monarchy is pomp and tradition.
So what did this 1998 article have to say about why so many Canadians were up in arms about the possibility of ditching the Queen? Here’s what the reporter, Anthony Depalma, had to say:
Canada’s relationship to the Queen is a complex one, similar to that of Australia, another member of the British Commonwealth seeking to come out from Britain’s shadow. For several years, the Australians have engaged in a debate over whether to remove the Queen as head of state.
Feelings toward the royal family are warmer in Canada than they are in Australia, said Mr. Aimers of the Monarchist League, at least in English-speaking Canada. While most Quebecers are cool to the crown, royal visits to the Maple Kingdom, as the Monarchists call it, almost always attract big crowds, and members of the royal family often vacation in Canada.
While vowing allegiance to the Queen is considered by some Canadians to show a lack of independence, Mr. Aimers points out that under the Canadian Constitution, Queen Elizabeth is actually Canada’s own monarch, quite separate and apart from being Queen of England or Queen of Australia, titles she also holds. And the Queen’s role as head of state, he adds, ”is first and foremost the most significant distinction between Canada and the United States.”
On its Internet site (www.monarchist.ca), the Monarchist League sells stickers with pictures of the Queen that it suggests can be attached to letters to the Government to show support for the Maple Crown, and bumper stickers that say ”My Canada Includes the Monarchy.”
The Canadian writer Robertson Davies once called the crown ”the consecrated spirit of Canada.” Despite changing times, monarchists want the Queen’s profile to remain on all Canadian coins, and they insist the Queen is still a central figure in Canadian life.
There’s really very little written about why we should keep our allegiance to the Queen, except that it separates us from the U.S.A. It’s been a few hundred years since the American revolution, and 150 years since Confederation. I think we’re safe to cut ties now if we want to go through the trouble.
Also, in what world is the Queen still a central figure in Canadian life? When she occasionally shows up for a visit, or speaks on TV at Christmas? Or is it just when you see her face on a quarter or at the post office?
I don’t have a lot against the royals, but I certainly don’t have any affinity for them. Sure, a monarchy seems out of touch with the modern democratic ideals of the West, and they have a dark history of colonialism, but they’re pretty neutered these days. I’m also not that envious of their wealth and lifestyle. As the recent Oprah interview shows, the royal life isn’t necessarily the best one. In fact, I imagine it’s untenable for the average person.
Even if the monarchy is working at its best an ocean away, adapting to the shifting winds of modern society to nominally lead the commonwealth, what are the actual arguments for maintaining it here in Canada? Aside from the idea that it’s too much of a hassle to rid them from our constitution? I’m not trying to be hostile or anti-royal; it’s a serious question. Pomp, circumstance and tradition are pretty weak answers, in my opinion, but they’re the only answers I’ve ever really received.
The royals are like a benign mole. I’d be happy to remove them, but they aren’t really causing any harm hanging around our country — even if they look weird on our modern, democratic sovereignty. I mean, we’ve been without a governor general for about a month now and we’ve yet to run into a constitutional crisis. I’d be willing to wager that a large swath of the Canadian population has yet to notice she hasn’t been replaced yet.
Polls suggest their popularity is dropping in Canada, but the CBC reports Trudeau isn’t too concerned with removing the Queen as head of state. I don’t blame him. Looking at the news these days, I feel like there are bigger fish to fry. That being said, if the royals can be fried quickly and easily, go for it. Or if anyone can give me a solid reason to validate their existence in our political life, please let me know. Best of luck to all of them.
Budget Committee (Wednesday, 9:30am) — live webcast, with captioning on a text-only site
Design Advisory Committee (Wednesday, 4:30pm) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available
Appeals Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting; dial-in or live broadcast not available
Design Review Committee (Thursday, 4:30pm) — live broadcast of audio and all Power Point presentations
Public Accounts (Wednesday, 9am) — video conference with closed captioning; Department of Lands and Forestry: Forest management and protection
Some basic questions about the body’s most important structural protein (Wednesday, 4pm) — Samuel P. Veres from SMU will talk.
Caregiver Support Group (Thursday, 12pm) — online meeting
Race and Party Platforms in the Coming Nova Scotia Elections (Thursday, 1pm) — Zoom panel discussion with Dorene Bernard, Aruna Dhara, El Jones, Lynn Jones, and Ajay Parasram.
Race has always been a defining, and silenced aspect of Nova Scotia politics. Race intersects with gender, class, sovereignty, development, gentrification, and so much more. Join us while we discuss what all provincial parties need to address in their next policy platforms to be taken seriously on the politics of race.
A “Brutalist” Beauty: the Killam Library on its 50th anniversary (Thursday, 3:30pm) — online lecture with Christine Macy:
The Killam Memorial Library officially opened in March 1971. On the 50th anniversary of this landmark building’s opening, we’ll be exploring the origins of the Killam Library, why it looks the way it does, and what other buildings on campus and across Canada are its “siblings”.
Professor Christine Macy, former Dean of the Faculty of Architecture & Planning, will take us on an illustrated tour of the Killam Library, interpreting it through the lens of post-WWII reconstruction in Europe and nation-building in Canada.
In the harbour
05:30 – MSC Anya, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Sines, Portugal
06:00 – Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container ship, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
06:00 – Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for New York
14:00 – Elka Hercules, oil tanker, sails from Irving Oil for sea
16:30 – MSC Anya, sails for New York
16:30 – Carmen, car carrier, sails from Autoport for sea
19:00 – East Coast, oil tanker, arrives at Irving Oil from Saint John
21:30 – Yantian Express, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Dubai
I’m glad my grandparents aren’t around to see the news about the royals. My grandmother, especially, would be heartbroken. On the other hand, my curling team just picked up our first win of the season. I just started the sport during the pandemic and it’s my first-ever victory in league play. I’m sorry they missed that. And yes, the season’s almost over. We’re terrible. I’m just happy to be able to play a team sport this year.
Also, is there anyone else out there who has zero interest in The Crown on Netflix? Just me? OK.