Roundup: RCMP finally ends illegal blockade, another COVID school case, Inverness man pleads guilty to sex charges, Mahone Bay nixes wildlife feeding ban, arson rampage in Pictou Co.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A fringe group of anti-vaxxers and people opposing the province’s pandemic travel restrictions blockaded roads in in Cumberland County, preventing travel (including medical supplies and health-care workers) between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick for much of yesterday.

Conservative MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, who posted a video on Facebook on June 22 urging “the residents of Cumberland” to shut down the Trans-Canada Highway, made a widely-ignored attempt to call them off yesterday. “I am encouraging those keeping the Trans-Canada Highway closed to allow traffic to move,” she posted.

Conservative leader Tim Houston defended his initial silence on the blockade by telling reporters he was only aware of it “after the fact.” Later he also posted a video, urging the protestors to stop—but having no apparent impact.

The RCMP tolerated the lawlessness for most of the day, before finally breaking up the protest and arresting two people last night. In a press release earlier in the day, the police force offered an explanation for allowing the illegal roadblocks to continue.

“The RCMP respects the Charter right of all Canadians to assemble peacefully,” says the statement from Cpl. Chris Marshall. “Our members are trying to balance respecting the protestors’ rights with enforcing the law, and they are continuing to engage protestors in meaningful dialogue in the hopes of achieving a peaceful resolution.”

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney was among many observers to note the departure from how the RCMP has treated other protestors, tweeting: “If you doubt if white privilege is real, compare the treatment of white highway blockaders by RCMP crippling movement on the main artery between N.B./N.S. to the aggressive militarized treatment of Wet’suet’en and Mohawk land protectors upholding their treaty rights.”

Premier Iain Rankin. Photo: CNS

COVID-19 at elementary school
Nova Scotia has 60 known active cases of COVID-19, with fourteen recoveries and no new cases reported in the latest government update. Three people are hospitalized in provincial COVID units, including one in ICU.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the co-operation and hard work of Nova Scotians,” Premier Iain Rankin says in a press release. “I understand the restrictions are hard, but given the risks with the Delta variant, they are needed to protect Nova Scotians as we continue to work get people fully vaccinated with two doses of vaccine.”

As of June 22, provincial health-care workers have dispensed 808,713 doses of COVID vaccine, with 112,328 Nova Scotians getting their second dose. That means that 70.9% of Nova Scotians have received the first dose, and 11.4% have had both. Across Canada, 66.4% of people have had one dose, and 21.7% have had the second.

Officials also reported a COVID case connected to Joseph Howe Elementary in Halifax. The school is closed until June 28 for testing and cleaning.

Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang are scheduled to webcast an update today at 3 p.m.

Dorene Bernard. Photo: Submitted

Another discovery of residential school graves
After another horrific discovery in Western Canada, people worry what researchers will find at Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie residential school site. APTN is reporting that officials from Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan have found hundreds of unmarked graves at the site of the Marieval school: “the number of unmarked graves will be the most significantly substantial to date in Canada.”

The earlier discover of mass graves at a school in Kamloops sparked investigations of school sites around the country. Dorene Bernard is guiding the search in Shubenacadie, where researchers have found no graves so far. She’s glad Canadians are finally accepting the racist realities of the residential school system, but adds that the truth has always been there, for those willing to hear it.

“They’re finally doing something about it,” she says. “But we’re talking about 20 years, 30 years, a long time in our history, that people have come forward and nothing was done. Because they were children, they weren’t believed. Even as adults when people came forward to try to have something done about the abuse they suffered, they weren’t believed.”

Learn more in this recent Halifax Magazine interview by Janet Whitman.

Arson rampage in Pictou County
Local fire officials believe someone deliberately set four overnight fires on June 22–23 in Pictou County.

The fires were at a shed on First Street in Trenton, two vacant homes on North Main Street in Trenton, and a vacant dwelling at the corner of Granville and Nelson streets in New Glasgow. Local police say no one was hurt.

“As the arson investigation continues, police are urging the public to remain vigilant and report any unusual or suspicious activity,” Cst. Ken MacDonald said in a press release. “Any information provided may be crucial in helping solve this.”

Steve Goodwin reports for The Pictou Advocate.

Inverness County man pleads guilty to sex charges
A man from Sugar Camp has offered a guilty plea for sex charges involving two different minors.

Charges against Hunter James Smith included three counts each of invitation to sexual touching, sexual interference, and sexual assault, and two counts each of luring a child, indecent acts/exposure, and obtaining sexual service for consideration from a person under 18 years old.

In October, Smith pled not guilty to all charges, but on June 14 changed his plea to guilty on two counts of obtaining sexual service for consideration from a person under 18 years of age. He’s due in court on Aug. 3 for sentencing and to face the other charges.

Jake Boudrot has more for The Reporter.

A deer in Mahone Bay.

Mahone Bay nixes wildlife feeding ban
Mahone Bay council has voted down a proposed ban on feeding wildlife, an idea first proposed in May after local garden club members complained about deer feasting on their perennial plantings.

Just before council defeated final reading of the proposed bylaw, Mayor David Devenne, cited comments from a former councillor whose professional background is as a wildlife biologist.

“The deer and the raccoons have been here a long time and they are going to keep on feeding here whether you give them a bylaw or not,” he says. “Everybody’s got to eat.”

See Keith Corcoran’s story at LighthouseNow.

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This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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