Roundup: Families worry as shooting hearings start, COVID update, heartbreak after South Shore fire tragedy, convicted sex offender to sue accusers

Government ordered the Mass Casualty Commission after widespread public outcry in 2020. Photo: Raissa Tetanish

Plus: Author Steven Laffoley reflects on the pandemic’s endless cruelties, and the power of ‘fatal courage’

The long-awaited public hearings into the 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia are finally set to begin today.

But after the long delays, with much of the Mass Casualty Commission’s work so far happening behind closed doors, many of the victims’ loved ones are worried they’ll never learn the truth or have their say.

“Our clients are becoming increasingly concerned,” Sandra McCulloch, a lawyer representing some of the affected people, says in an email. “Our clients deserve the opportunity to fully explore and test the evidence before the commission, including questioning those who have knowledge about the tragic events of April 2020, and to secure meaningful answers about what happened, and why.”

Premier Tim Houston shared similar concerns about the commission’s work in a recent media statement.

“This uncertainty is causing further, unnecessary trauma,” he says. “The commission should meet with the families and their counsel to listen to their concerns and provide them with a plan that gives them confidence in the process.”

Janet Whitman has the latest the Pictou Advocate.

COVID update
As of the latest government update, Nova Scotia has 54 people in hospital (including 12 in ICU) who were admitted due to COVID-19 and are receiving specialized care in a COVID unit. There are also 135 people who tested positive upon hospitalization but were admitted for another reason, or were previously in a COVID unit but no longer need specialized care. Additionally, 177 people became infected after arriving in hospital.

The update also reports 214 new lab-confirmed cases in Nova Scotia, but those numbers don’t reflect COVID’s true extent. The Houston government stopped widespread testing and follow-up, saying that the pervasiveness of the Omicron strain requires focusing on vulnerable areas like hospitals.

Heartbreak after Lunenburg County fire tragedy
Additional staff, including grief counsellors, are in South Shore schools to help students and staff cope with the aftermath of a Feb. 19 house fire in Auburdale, which resulted in the death of an adult (a teaching assistant at Bluenose Academy) and three children.

“We are heartbroken,” tweeted the South Shore Regional Centre for Education on Feb. 20. “This tragedy brings immense grief and sadness to our students, staff, and whole community.”

Gayle Wilson reports for LighthouseNow.

Convicted sex offender to sue accusers
Ernest Fenwick MacIntosh, who was convicted of sexual offences against a child in Nepal in 2015, has served notice he intends to sue six Nova Scotian men. The complainants say MacIntosh repeatedly sexually abused them in the early 1970s.

Their lawyers, Jonathan M. Rosenthal and Daniel Z. Naymark, call MacIntosh’s planned suit “blatantly frivolous.”

“It is far too late to sue for statements you made to detectives 15-plus years ago, and one cannot claim defamation for allegations in a statement of claim, which are considered ‘absolute privilege’ and immune from such lawsuits,” they say in a media statement. “This is plainly a tactic to put pressure on … It might actually be possible to stop at least some of the claim from being filed at all, but regardless I expect the claim to fail to the extent it can be filed.”

Jake Boudrot has more for the Reporter.

Steven Laffoley

Getting back up
When Steven Laffoley was a boy, his grandfather was a font of Yiddish wisdom, but one of his sayings was more puzzling than edifying: “If things are not as you wish, wish them as they are.” 

The apparent fatalism was perplexing. “(The words) seemed a perverse riddle,” Laffoley recalls. “Were they really suggesting that, in the face of life’s most difficult moments, we should simply resign ourselves to darkness and despair? That seemed too cruel for useful advice.”

But after two years of the pandemic’s uncertainty and cruelty, Laffoley has found a new wisdom in that old expression. He explains in this new Unravel Halifax essay.

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