Roundup: Honouring Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Bernadette Jordan reflects on election loss, Port Hawkesbury fetes sports heroes

Solitutde by Jacqueline Potvin-Boucher, Indigenous Artist

Plus: Many COVID precautions to continue in Phase 5, mandatory vaccinations for some workers

Today is Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a nationwide commemoration of the harmful legacy of colonialism and systemic racism, and the ongoing impact on First Nations people.

“Our community has always recognized this day,” Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul says in a recent interview with The Pictou Advocate. “To have it nationally recognized is a bit overwhelming. The response has been so positive and heartfelt — how people, organizations, and businesses want to be a part of this day.”

There are events planned at sites around the province. Among the most poignant will be a ceremony at the site of the Shubenacadie Residential School, unveiling a plaque to remember the children who suffered there. Most Canadians are only starting to understand the horrors of the government-funded and church-run residential school system, which separated thousands of kids from their families, putting them in an environment rife with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Due to pandemic precautions, organizers are inviting people to stream the ceremony online rather than attend in person.

In this first-person account, originally published in Halifax Magazine in 2019, Shubenacadie survivor Irene Bernadette Eisenhower recounts how that residential school abuse still looms over her life, decades later.

“I’ve talked to my children about my experiences at the school,” she says. “If I was mean to them in any way they understand and forgive. We have a good relationship. I don’t feel ugly or ashamed of myself anymore. There are times I want to give up my job, go back to drinking. But if I give up, those Sisters will win. They said we were no good, we’d never be anybody. I know I’m somebody.” Read more.   

Mike Sack, chief of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, reminds Nova Scotians that the racism that led to the residential school system, and countless other injustices, still simmers in our province, and across the country.

“Even today, when we walk into a local village like Shubenacadie, we’re still treated differently,” he says. “We’ve been there; I’m sure some businesses wouldn’t survive if it weren’t for our population in the area, but we’re still treated differently in our neighbourhood community. I guess I faced enough dynamics in my life that I feel sorry for that person … shame on them that they can’t get past it. We’re all people, we come from different places, and we’re all human beings.” Learn more in his recent interview with Unravel Halifax.

Also in that issue of Unravel, you’ll find “The Changemakers,” a roundtable discussion with some of the people working to make Halifax a more fair and just place.

Joining the discussion was Mi’kmaw writer and activist Rebecca Thomas, who says she’d be happy to never see another orange shirt or a flag lowered to half-mast to honour lost Indigenous children if the federal government would stop taking residential school survivors to court and provide Indigenous people with clean drinking water. 

“I’m done with symbolism,” she says.

A start would be to fire all white people who run things for First Nations, she adds. “We have never had an Indigenous minister of Indigenous Affairs in Canada,” she says. “Have Indigenous people run things for Indigenous people because it’s incredibly paternalistic to think that politicians and white people would be able to properly assess and decide what Indigenous people need for success.”

COVID precautions continuing
The fifth and final phase of Nova Scotia’s reopening plan is set to begin Oct. 4, but government has modified the original scheme, keeping many pandemic precautions in effect and adding border restrictions for people coming from P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • Masks remain mandatory in indoor public places.
  • Distancing and gathering limits for events hosted by a recognized business or organization will end.
  • The informal gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors will remain.
  • Proof of full vaccination will be required for non-essential events and activities.

“The Delta variant has impacted our epidemiology,” Premier Tim Houston says in a press release. “The fourth wave is taking its toll across the country and it’s now in Nova Scotia. We can lift some restrictions with the added protection of the proof of full vaccine protocol and our high vaccination rates, but masking and limits for informal gatherings need to stay in place.”

Starting Oct. 4, proof of full vaccination will be required for people who are 12 and older to participate in non-essential events and activities that gather people together, such as going to restaurants, movies, sports, performances, and fitness facilities. Vaccination still isn’t mandatory for people who work at these sites.

Also beginning on Oct. 4, everyone coming to Nova Scotia will need to complete the Nova Scotia Safe Check-in form and isolate (with the isolation conditions based on vaccination status and testing).

Nova Scotia has 224 known active cases of COVID-19, with 41 new cases and 21 recoveries reported in yesterday’s update. Twelve people are hospitalized in provincial COVID units, including two in ICU.

Janet Hazelton

Mandatory vaccinations for some workers
The government also announced yesterday that it’s making vaccines mandatory for thousands of education and health-care workers, a move that the union representing many of those people welcomes.

“An individual’s personal decision not to get vaccinated has tangible implications, life-and-death consequences, for others,” Janet Hazelton, president, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union, says in a government press release. “The Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union supports the advice of public health officials regarding mandatory vaccination policies.”

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, says the vaccine mandate won’t include police. The National Police Federation, the union serving Mounties across Canada, opposes mandatory vaccination. Earlier in the pandemic, many police officers and their spokespeople were demanding to be prioritized for vaccination.

“It’s situations … where police have no protection and unsure if the people they deal with are infected,” said an editorial in The Laker in February, arguing their case. “If they are, the cop then takes it home to their families and don’t know until a few days later.”

Bernadette Jordan reflects on election loss
Former federal fisheries minister Bernadette Jordan, defeated in the South Shore-St. Margaret’s riding in the recent federal election, blames her loss on widespread dissatisfaction with unnamed “decisions” she made as cabinet minister, an apparent veiled reference to the ongoing turmoil around the First Nations fishery.

“People were angry in some cases and it was really, really tough,” she says. “We saw a lot of things in this election that I have never seen before.”

Kevin McBain interviews her for LighthouseNow.

Feting Cape Breton sports heroes
The Town of Port Hawkesbury recently announced the latest inductees to its sports wall of fame: judo fighter Wayne Granville Reynolds, who has had a 50-year-career in the sport, long-time track and field official Brian Ellis Langley, and athlete Shaun Charles MacDonald, who distinguished himself in golf, hockey, and softball.

The Reporter has more.

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