Roundup: RCMP testimony begins at mass shooting inquiry, COVID update, South Shore groups fundraise for Ukraine, Pictou hockey team feted for good deeds

During the April 2020 mass shooting, the RCMP knew the attacker was described as a cop for hours before they warned Nova Scotians. Photo: Submitted

Plus: Why one local safety expert isn’t giving up his mask any time soon

The Mass Casualty Commission resumes public proceedings today, with testimony from three RCMP officers who responded to the April 2020 mass shooting.

Government and police union lawyers fought unsuccessfully to keep the Mounties from speaking, arguing it would be too traumatic for them, even though testifying about crimes they’ve witnessed is a routine part of their job.

Constables Stuart Beselt, Adam Merchant, and Aaron Patton will comprise a so-called “witness panel,” with the commission requiring lawyers to ask permission if they want to cross-examine them. The fight to get their testimony and the unusual rules leave victims’ families wondering if they’ll ever get a clear picture of how police responded to the tragedy.

Lawyer Sandra McCulloch represents most of the families in the public inquiry, and in two proposed class-action lawsuits.

“What they really want to know out of this is the truth,” she says. “The families want to know what happened and what can be done differently so it doesn’t happen again. What good is the work of the commission if we don’t get all of those answers?”

Janet Whitman has more for the Reporter.

Premier Tim Houston. Photo: CNS

COVID update
The Houston government is now releasing weekly COVID-19 updates instead of daily reports, so it’s almost impossible to get an accurate picture of how the disease is currently affecting the province, but the latest federal information shows it’s still widespread across the country.

There are 132,004 known active cases of the disease across Canada (although with Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the Maritime provinces no longer sharing daily tallies, it’s likely the real number of infections is much higher).

So far, COVID has killed 37,336 people in Canada, and 245 Nova Scotians.

A simple way to stay safe
When he cut most pandemic-related public health protections in the province earlier this month, Premier Tim Houston also ended Nova Scotia’s mask mandate, with government now just recommending that people mask in public, instead of requiring it.

Safety expert James Golemiec isn’t in any hurry to shed his protection, though.

“I’ll continue to wear a mask at work,” he says. “I’m used to taking safety precautions, and it’s just another piece of clothing to put on, like my steel-toed boots. I’ll also wear it in crowded public places to protect myself and others around me who are at higher risk … Despite what some people wish to believe, the pandemic is still raging. In November 2021, scientists detected a variant dubbed ‘Stealth Omicron,’ which is even more contagious that the current COVID Omicron variant, and it expected to make up at least half of the infections in the near future.”

Read more in his latest Unravel Halifax column.

Soldiers in Ukraine defend their homeland after Russia’s unprovoked invasion. Photo: Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

South Shore organizations fundraise for Ukraine
Businesses and organizations along the South Shore are joining the push to raise funds for Ukraine, as the Russian invasion continues to ravage the country, sparking Europe’s largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.

Luda von Pickartz from Bridgewater’s St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church is one of the campaign volunteers.

She immigrated to Canada in 2009 but her parents still live in Eastern Ukraine, in a small town near the Russian border where her father works as a beekeeper. As they struggle to survive the war, von Pickartz’s reports of Canadian support hearten her family.

“You cannot imagine how happy they are just to see the pictures, to know that people here care,” she says. “It’s so very important.”

Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.

Pictou hockey team feted for community service
Throughout the season, members of the Pictou County Under-13 Crushers hockey team have also been working hard off the ice, doing a number of charitable acts around their community.

“Planning good deeds was easy,” says Janice Croft, mother of one of the players. “The players had a ton of great ideas, and I was so proud … The players have worked hard over the past several months.”

After working to raise funds for youth groups, the food bank, and many other local causes, the Crushers are the Nova Scotia finalists for the Good Deeds Cup, an annual campaign to promote community-mindedness in youth hockey. Twelve teams are vying for the title and its $100,000 prize.

The Pictou Advocate has the story.

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