Roundup: Westray’s emotional weight continues 30 years later, Desmond inquiry concludes, employers struggle to find workers, COVID update
Hundreds gathered in Pictou to mark the 30th anniversary of the Westray mine explosion that killed 26 men. Photo: Steve Goodwin
By Trevor J. Adams 11 May 2022 Share this story
Plus: A new life doesn’t come easily — a Bangladeshi immigrant shares her experiences starting over in Halifax
It’s been three decades since the Westray mine explosion killed 26 workers, and Nova Scotia — particularly Pictou County — continues to carry the “emotional weight,” says Rev. Glen Matheson, who was among many clergy who comforted friends and loved ones as they waited for word about the fate of the miners after the blast.
On Monday, he conducted the anniversary service, even as he continues to process the experience.
“I’m good now that I got here, but the last four days were a struggle,” he says. “The people here got me through.”
Desmond inquiry concludes
Prior to killing his wife, mother, and daughter, and then himself, army veteran Lionel Desmond — who was known to be experiencing PTSD — had access to “the best of care,” says a lawyer representing Veterans Affairs.
“It would be so easy to lay everything at the feet of Veterans Affairs,” Lori Ward says in her final submission to the inquiry exploring the tragedy. “There’s a narrative that is perpetuated about an uncaring bureaucracy.”
Allen Murray, the inquiry’s lead counsel, disagrees. “To say there was a gap in his treatment … would be an understatement,” he says. “The depth and complexity of his mental health challenges can’t be overstated.”
The provincial fatality inquiry that started in January 2020 is finally complete, after long COVID delays and a change in venue. In the fall, presiding judge Warren K. Zimmer is scheduled to file his findings and recommendations.
Hunting for workers
With the cost of living rapidly outstripping offered wages, particularly for entry-level and customer-service jobs, employers around the province are facing a staffing crunch.
Melissa Robinson is general manager of Liverpool’s Best Western hotel, currently looking for five workers. “We have been struggling in a huge way to get employees; we’ve been using a few different avenues,” she says, citing “improved” wages and better benefits.
She’s one of several South Shore employers teaming up for a job fair that they hope will address their problems. Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.
Starting over in Nova Scotia
In each issue of Unravel Halifax, Marianne Simon interviews newcomers about their experiences starting anew in the city. In our latest edition, she talks with Tori Bhattacharya (name changed), who recently immigrated here from Bangladesh.
Not long after she arrived, she became sick, and what she learned about Nova Scotia’s health-care system shocked and disappointed her.
“In four months, I had to go to the hospital emergency department three times,” Bhattacharya recalls. “Every time I had to wait for seven to eight hours before I could get any help … (In Bangladesh) I could walk into any clinic or private hospital and get immediate help. If I didn’t have money, I could go to a government hospital where emergency cases are attended to without much delay. I am concerned about my health, and I am afraid. What will I do if I become seriously ill again?”
The World Health Organization reports 347,644 new COVID-19 cases globally in the last 24 hours.
The real number of ill people is likely much higher though, as many jurisdictions (including Nova Scotia) are withholding daily data, making it impossible to get a full picture of the disease’s spread.
So far, COVID is known to have has killed 6,255,835 people worldwide, including 39,783 in Canada and 314 Nova Scotians. World Health Organization officials add that those are only the deaths directly from COVID. When they tally deaths that doctors could have otherwise prevented had COVID not exacerbated an existing condition, the toll skyrockets to 14.9 million.
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Trevor has been a magazine editor and journalist in Halifax since 1998. He's won multiple Atlantic Journalism Awards and was shortlisted for the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence in 2014.
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