Roundup: Contradictions in Casualty Commission hearings worry victim’s family, closures rock fishing industry, COVID update, Pictou County shows support for Ukraine

Norwegian Getaway. Photo: NCL

Plus: Later this month, cruise ships will return to Halifax for the first time since the pandemic began — what will they bring with them?

Heather O’Brien’s family believes that she was alive for hours after RCMP officers declared her dead during the April 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting.

The 55-year-old nurse and mother of six was on Plains Road in Debert on Apr. 19, 2020 on her way to visit her grandkids when the gunman shot her multiple times, continuing a rampage that began 12 hours earlier in Portapique

Her family says the data from O’Brien’s FitBit shows she had a heartbeat until 6 p.m. They gave that information to the Mass Casualty Commission (the government-appointed body that’s conducting public hearings into the tragedy and the police response) but after hearings last week, were disappointed not to see it in documents detailing the events on Plains Road, other than a vague mention that the commission is investigating FitBit data.

“We know this information is controversial,” says a statement from the family posted on Facebook by one of the victim’s daughters, Darcy Dobson. “We also know that it has been used in cases in the U.S. to pinpoint time of death.”

The family says the data supports their belief that police left O’Brien to die. As detailed in a document on the Mass Casualty Commission’s website, two officers who approached the scene felt a pulse. One of the officers said he was later convinced it was his own pulse, strengthened by adrenaline, that he felt. They covered O’Brien with a blanket and requested a critical care unit, which dispatchers refused, fearing for the crew’s safety as the shooter continued to elude police.

Janet Whitman reports for LighthouseNow.

Jim Walker

Cruise ships return
If all goes as planned, the Ocean Navigator, a cruise ship with a capacity of about 200 passengers, will dock in Halifax around 6 a.m. on Apr. 26. A couple hours later, the behemoth Norwegian Getaway (maximum capacity of 3,965 passengers), will follow it into port, and the 2022 cruise season will be in full swing, with Nova Scotia hosting cruise ships for the first time since the pandemic began.

Many local businesses rely on cruise traffic, which generated $165 million in economic activity in 2019, according to Halifax Port Authority figures.

But some industry experts say Halifax should be leery about rushing cruising’s return.

Miami lawyer Jim Walker runs a practice that exclusively sues cruise lines, primarily representing sick or injured crew members. He’s filed thousands of suits over the last 25 years and writes a blog called Cruise Law News, with the tagline “Everything cruise lines don’t want you to know.”

Walker says his sources who work on cruise ships “paint a very disturbing picture of the industry … It’s an industry that has a historical propensity to hide the ball, hide the truth, and to lie to government officials and the U.S. Coast Guard” about health and environmental practices. “I’ve been calling them plague ships, ships of pestilence and disease,” he adds.

Phil Moscovitch reports for Unravel Halifax.

Joyce Murray. Photo: GoC

Closures rock fishing industry
Last week, fisheries minister Joyce Murray announced a “temporary” closure of the Gulf of St. Lawrence spring herring and Atlantic mackerel fisheries.

Fish populations “have been in the critical zone for lengthy periods and need to be allowed to regenerate for the continued sustainability and success of the entire fishery,” she says in a press release. “I recognize many harvesters depend on these fisheries. I will continue working with them and fishing groups from across Atlantic Canada and Quebec to ensure the best outcomes for these stocks and the people who depend on them.”

The Maritime Fishermen’s Union, which represents over 1,300 fishers, says it learned of DFO’s announcement “at the same time” as the general public.

“We are appalled at the impact of this decision on our fishers, but also on the coastal communities and workers who depend on these fisheries,” says a union press release. “This type of decision demonstrates that the department is imposing significant changes without consulting the major players in the industry and without knowing the real impact of such a decision on the population.”

Jake Boudrot has more for the Reporter.

COVID update
In neighbouring P.E.I., the government announced plans yesterday to continue mandatory masking to combat the ongoing spread of COVID-19, but in Nova Scotia, Premier Tim Houston says he’s not ready to “hit the panic button” and restore public health protections.

The World Health Organization tallies 872,868 confirmed cases globally in the last 24 hours, although the real number of infections is likely much higher, as many jurisdictions (including Nova Scotia) are now withholding daily data, making it impossible to get an accurate picture of the disease’s spread.

So far, COVID has killed 6,155,344 people worldwide, including 37,690 people in Canada and 255 Nova Scotians

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has drawn widespread praise for his courage and defiance. Photo: Ukrainian Government

Pictou County shows support for Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently put out a call for global displays of support for his country, as it continues to battle the Russian invaders.

“President Zelenskyy made the following call for action: ‘Come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, to support life,” says Westville Mayor White in a social media post. “Come to your squares, to your streets, make yourself visible, and heard.’”

The Pictou County town answered the call with a recent flag-raising ceremony at the cenotaph.

Steve Goodwin has more for the Pictou Advocate.

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