Provincial education minister Derek Mombourquette announced yesterday that Nova Scotia’s schools are lowering their flags to half mast for nine days to honour the 215 children whose remains were recently discovered buried at a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

“My heart broke when I heard the news about the children in Kamloops,” Mombourquette says in a press release. “I know that we need to do more to fight racism and honour our commitment to reconciliation with Nova Scotia’s Mi’kmaq and Canada’s indigenous peoples.”

Shubenacadie Residential School

Set up in the late 1800s and funded by the Canadian government and run by churches, the residential schools aimed to stamp out First Nations culture through forced assimilation, removing children from the influence and cultural legacy of their families and communities. The system ran for a century, with 150,000 children enduring the schools before the last one closed in 1996.

The schools were rife with physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Historians (conservatively) estimated that 3,200 to 6,000 children died in their care, although shoddy record keeping makes that number unreliable. Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Residential School operated from 1930 to 1967, and its legacy continues to loom over the province.

In 2019, Shubenacadie survivor Irene Bernadette Eisenhower told journalist Chris Benjamin about her experiences in the school.

“You could be as good as gold and you still get a strapping or your ears pulled or your nose pulled,” she recalls. “From the first night I was there, somebody always managed to get their hands underneath my blanket and sexually touch me. I would wrap myself up in the sheets as tight as I could but this did not stop the abuse. I used to screech. The nuns would come running and ask who screamed. I would tell them it was me and receive the strap.”

In this Halifax Magazine account, Eisenhower shares her experiences, her escape, and how she rebuilt her life.

Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang. Photo: CNS

COVID-19 update
Case numbers continue to dip, but the COVID-19 death toll keeps climbing in Nova Scotia, with government announcing another death yesterday, and four on Saturday. The pandemic has now killed 85 Nova Scotians, and 25,512 people across Canada.

Nova Scotia currently has 505 known active cases of COVID-19. There are 42 people in hospital with the disease, including 17 in ICU.

On Friday, Premier Iain Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health, announced the province’s pandemic reopening plan.

“Our phased plan will allow us to safely enjoy summer with public health measures in place while we work at getting most of our population fully vaccinated,” Rankin says in a press release. “Then we should be able to further ease restrictions in the fall and ease in to a new normal of living with COVID-19.”

Each phase should last two to four weeks, but that’s not carved in stone.

“In deciding exactly when to move to each new phase, we will consider case numbers, hospitalizations, and use of health system resources as well as the percentage of Nova Scotians who’ve been vaccinated,” Strang explains. “The more people who get vaccinated, the more we can reopen our province.”

The plan removes most travel restrictions within the province, although officials are still asking people to avoid non-essential travel into and out of Cape Breton Regional Municipality, HRM, Hubbards, Milford, Lantz, Elmsdale, Enfield, Mount Uniacke, South Uniacke, Ecum Secum, and Trafalgar.

Starting June 2, phase one allows most businesses to open further, permits outdoor visits at long-term care facilities, and increases gathering limits.

  • People can gather outdoors with a consistent social group of up to 10 people without distancing
  • The limit for indoor gatherings remains the people you live with; two households with one or two people each can still join together but they must be the same two households all the time
  • Faith gatherings can be held outdoors with a limit of 10 plus officiants; drive-in services are allowed with no limit on numbe
  • Weddings and funerals remain limited to five plus officiants indoors, but can increase to 10 plus officiants outdoors
  • Restaurants and bars can open patios with distance between tables, a limit of 10 people per table, and masks when people are not eating or drinking
  • Retail stores can operate at 25% capacity
  • Services such as hair salons, barber shops, and spas can operate by appointment but can’t offer services that require removing masks
  • Fitness and recreation facilities can offer outdoor activities with a limit of 10 people with distancing, or multiple groups of 10 that are distanced from each other, plus one-on-one personal training indoors
  • Outdoor pools can open with a limit of 10 people at a time, with physical distancing
  • Sports practices can have 10 people outdoors without distancing, or multiple groups of 10 that are distanced from each other
  • Arts and culture organizations can hold rehearsals with 15 people indoors and amateur rehearsals can have 10 people outdoors without distancing
  • Drive-in theatres can operate normally
  • Campgrounds can offer season and short-term camping following their sector plan with distance between campsites
  • Residents of long-term care facilities can have visitors outdoors; visitors must wear masks but no physical distance is required if the resident is fully vaccinated
  • Recreation activities and services such as hairstyling can resume for fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes
  • Fully vaccinated residents of licensed care homes can resume access to their communities
  • More people can get exceptions to enter Nova Scotia for end-of-life visits with immediate family members
  • Students from within Canada can apply to enter the province for in-person or virtual studies if they are enrolled in the summer semester

Find more details from the reopening plan here. Strang and Rankin are scheduled to webcast a COVID-19 update today at 3 p.m.

Photo: Submitted

Illegal dumping persists
Illegal dumping and littering remains a problem throughout Queens and Lunenburg counties, according to local officials.

“There is a marked increase in illegal dumpsites since the first of the year, as brought to our attention by resident complaints,” says Queens Mayor Darlene Norman, pointing to one commonly used illegal site that’s just a 20-minute drive from a landfill. “The simple fact that such individuals have such little regard for our natural environment is disturbing.”

Kevin McBain reports for LighthouseNow.

Pictou plans for wind power
The Municipality of Pictou County’s wind-energy strategy is creeping forward, with the municipal council recently passing its first reading. Embracing wind power requires revisiting various county bylaws and noise regulations.

“A lot of work went into this planning bylaw … and we had a lot of input from the public,” says Randy Palmer, chair of the municipality’s planning strategy committee.

Raissa Tetanish has more for The Pictou Advocate.

Starr Cunningham

Mental health self-care for parents
The last year has been hard on kids’ mental health, but with patience, communication, and role-modelling, parents can help them cope.

“Developing a self-care routine is just as important for kids as it is for adults,” says Starr Cunningham, president and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. “Instilling these habits at a young age allows kids to better manage the stressors that life throws at them … Promote your family’s mental wellness by making self-care a priority.”

Read more in her recent column for Our Children magazine.

Need to know
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Halifax Magazine