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2017 Year in Review: October, November and December in Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne counties

2017 dumping day in southwestern NS got off to a start the early morning of Nov. 28. This was the scene in Pinkney's Point, Yarmouth County NS. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
2017 dumping day in southwestern NS got off to a start the early morning of Nov. 28. This was the scene in Pinkney's Point, Yarmouth County NS. TINA COMEAU PHOTO


Yarmouth residents were at Las Vegas concert, scene of horrific mass shooting

A Yarmouth couple were among the thousands of people attending an outdoor concert in Las Vegas Oct. 1 when it became the scene of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. When it was over, 59 people – including the gunman – were dead and 546 had been injured. Shelly Adams and her boyfriend, Adam Blooi, both from Yarmouth, were there. When the shooting started, they first thought they were hearing fireworks. From there it was a harrowing three hours before they finally felt safe again. “It’s something you see on TV and you think it’s only on TV,” Adams said. “After it’s like, okay, how do you pick up the pieces?” Even while trying to absorb what had happened, though, the Yarmouth couple were thinking of others, noting that there was a great need for blood donors in the wake of the tragedy.


Advocates welcomed province’s plan to help with cost of take-home cancer meds

Cancer care advocates welcomed the Nova Scotia government’s promise of financial help for patients struggling to afford take-home cancer medication. The province was giving cancer patients a cash injection of $846,000, along with another $2 million per year for the next three years under a new provincewide take-home therapies program. “It makes us feel that after three years we’ve finally been listened to,” said Deb Maskens, co-chairwoman of the CanCertainty Coalition. “It has taken thousands of Nova Scotians to sign petitions, to meet with the minister, to go on the media, and the truth is that some of these people are no longer alive to hear this announcement and that is bittersweet.” (The funding had been announced as part of the provincial budget.)


['Costumed Shag Harbour UFO Incident festival goers disembark from the bus to watch the re-enactment at the impact site involving the Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat Clark’s Harbour and the RCMP.']
['Costumed Shag Harbour UFO Incident festival goers disembark from the bus to watch the re-enactment at the impact site involving the Canadian Coast Guard lifeboat Clark’s Harbour and the RCMP.']



Big turnout for festival marking half-century since Shag Harbour UFO incident


Oct. 4, 2017 marked the 50th anniversary of the Shag Harbour UFO incident, and the annual festival commemorating the 1967 event was a big draw, with a record-setting attendance.

An estimated 400 people from as far away as British Columbia turned out for the festival, which saw a stellar lineup of speakers and panelists taking the stage at the Woods Harbour Community Centre. Chris Styles, who has been researching the Shag Harbour incident since 1993, was the keynote speaker. He gave several presentations, including new research findings about the incident that served to deepen the mystery, among them discrepancies in the logbooks of navy ships that were involved in the search in 1967.






Work was moving forward on Shelburne’s new medical clinic

After nearly a decade of ups and downs, construction equipment had rolled onto the site where Shelburne’s new medical clinic was to be built. Rikjak Construction, which had been awarded the tender for the clinic, was about to break ground. “The past year has seen plenty of work on the site, including the demolition and clearing away of the old building,” said Fraser Mooney, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. With construction beginning on the new facility, the Department of Health and Wellness was continuing the conversation with the health authority to plan the clinical services that would be offered at the new clinic, which was expected to open in the fall of 2018.


Fisherman was shocked after his boat was taken and burned

RCMP were calling a boat fire at the Comeauville wharf in Digby County suspicious and the vessel’s owner felt he was targeted because he is an Aboriginal fisherman. Alex McDonald said he had never had any trouble or been given any grief in his years fishing alongside non-natives. He acknowledged there had been tension lately over concerns fishermen had about commercial fishing taking place under the guise of the Aboriginal food fishery, but he said, “I wasn’t doing much food fishery. Maybe once a month me and the wife and kids come down. We set a couple of traps, take the lobster home. There’s some old people, we give them lobsters.” MacDonald said he didn’t think the fire was caused by any of the non-native fishermen he fished with, saying many had called him to say they were sorry this had happened to him.



Weymouth firefighter Nick Glavin takes a water break after fighting the fire on board Amanda's Pride at the Weymouth North slip.
Weymouth firefighter Nick Glavin takes a water break after fighting the fire on board Amanda's Pride at the Weymouth North slip.


RCMP were investigating two suspicious vessel fires in Digby County


By the time Alex McDonald discovered his boat was missing from the Comeauville wharf on Oct. 9 – and was later observed at sea by DFO on fire before sinking – the RCMP already had declared another boat fire in Digby County to be suspicious. This one occurred in Weymouth North Oct. 5.

The Weymouth Fire Department responded to the blaze at about 7:20 in the morning. “The fire was contained to the boat’s wheelhouse, where it would have originated,” said Weymouth Fire Chief Roy Mullen. The boat was out of the water at the Weymouth North slip, where it had just been painted. Later, when interviewed by The Vanguard after losing his own vessel to a suspicious fire,

Alex McDonald said he knew the owner of the boat involved in the Weymouth North blaze, saying it was a non-native vessel. “He’s a nice guy,” he said. “We’re at the same wharf during the fishing season.”





A public meeting was held Oct. 10 to provide information and answer questions about a new arts and culture center project the Town of Yarmouth is pursuing.
A public meeting was held Oct. 10 to provide information and answer questions about a new arts and culture center project the Town of Yarmouth is pursuing.




Questions about proposed new Yarmouth arts centre were raised at public session

Location, size, cost and parking were among the questions raised during a public meeting to discuss the Town of Yarmouth’s plans for a new arts centre.

The town had chosen the Collins Street parking lot as the site for the proposed facility. Architect Brian MacKay-Lyons went over some of the work his firm had done following some stakeholder sessions. There was no specific design yet, but he presented some examples of possibilities.

The proposed facility would include two theatres: a 500-seat auditorium and a 200-seat performance venue. For many at the meeting, parking was an issue.

The proposed centre included 115 underground parking spaces. Many also wondered just how practical the project was.




Amid concerns about Cape Sable Island Causeway, province was doing engineering assessment

Humps and bumps and ripples in the road surface, along with sinkholes on the walking trail, had many people in western Shelburne County wondering and worrying about the Cape Sable Island Causeway. The causeway, which opened in 1949, had been a concern for various reasons for many years. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said an engineering assessment of the causeway was being completed, which should help identify the cause of the problem and the work required. In the more immediate future, some patching on an area of settlement was planned. Barrington Warden Eddie Nickerson said the issues with the causeway had to be addressed. “Every time we talk to TIR we talk about the causeway,” he said. “Hopefully this time it gets addressed.”


Cat ferry season was over, engine problems had impacted schedule

Bay Ferries carried 41,462 passengers during its 2017 Cat ferry season between Yarmouth and Portland, up from 35,551 passengers in 2016. The company had anticipated higher numbers in 2017, but the season had been impacted by a failure on June 28 of The Cat’s starboard outer main engine, which necessitated significant modifications to the sailing schedule, both in terms of reduced crossings and some cancelled crossings. The engine could not be fixed until the season ended. A secondary engine issue in August, which was repaired, also had resulted in a few cancelled crossings. Overall, the ship did 84 round trips rather than the 112 that had been scheduled. Still, Mark MacDonald, Bay Ferries’ chairman and CEO, said the company was “very pleased with the steady growth” the service had experienced.

4 other things that happened that happened in October

1. An online housing survey – part of a housing needs assessment for an area of western Nova Scotia covering five counties and part of a sixth – was launched.

2. Yarmouth’s Ryan Graves played in three NHL pre-season exhibition games and once again went deep on the roster during the New York Rangers’ training camp.

3. The 84th Independent Field Battery in Yarmouth held an open house as part of nationwide effort to promote the army reserve.

4. Crosswalk flags were stolen from three separate crosswalks in downtown Digby. The 30 flags stolen were part of a safety program initiated to increase safety at three of Digby’s busiest crossings



Health-care rally held in Shelburne

Shelburne-area residents concerned about health-care accessibility in their community had a chance to express their thoughts at a public session. Among those in attendance were people who were waiting to access health care, those who didn’t have a physician and those who had faced emergencies during times of emergency room closures at the Roseway Hospital. Indeed, the frequency of ER closures in Shelburne was one of the issues that led to the health-care rally being organized. “No one can predict when we will have an emergency,” said Shelburne Mayor Karen Mattatall. “The ER should be open 24/7.” The plan was to create a video – featuring interviews of people expressing their health-care concerns – to help get the word out. It was important that people’s voices were heard, the mayor said. “This is the only way to effect change,” she said.



Coast guard member from Shelburne County jumped into rough sea to save sailor during this rescue in November 2016. COAST GUARD PHOTO
Coast guard member from Shelburne County jumped into rough sea to save sailor during this rescue in November 2016. COAST GUARD PHOTO




Coast guard member from Shelburne County was honoured for bravery

A Shelburne County man who risked his life during a rescue at sea was honoured by the province with a Medal of Bravery. Leading Seaman Eric Nickerson of the Canadian Coast Guard was one of four Nova Scotians recognized for their heroic efforts.

The medals were presented Nov. 8 in Halifax. Nickerson was a crewmember on a coast guard vessel that in November 2016 was tasked with helping to rescue a 68-year-old man from a 32-foot sailboat with a broken mainsail boom that was taking on water in rough seas about 50 miles offshore.

The man ended up being knocked into the water by a wave and Nickerson dove in after him and was able to save him.






Disconnecting from public Wi-Fi

The downtown Digby area soon would be without public Wi-Fi, but a town official said Wi-Fi remained on Digby’s radar. The public wireless network had been installed by local internet and networking company bNetworked. It was an initiative to try to connect the town with local business, but it proved difficult to manage after businesses didn’t buy into the new advertising platform. “There was a steep learning curve with this and it was challenging,” said bNeworked owner Brian Joudrey. Tom Ossinger, the Town of Digby’s CAO, said the town probably would take the winter to consider what other options there might be. Referring to the bNetworked project, Ossinger said, “We tried but couldn’t find a way to keep this going.”


Initiative shining light on woman abuse was introduced to tri-counties

The Shine a Light on Woman Abuse campaign was developed by the London Abused Women’s Centre and November 2017 marked the campaign’s debut in southwestern Nova Scotia. As part of the month-long initiative, people were invited to use purple lighting to draw attention to the problem of violence against women. The effort would lead into the blue ribbon campaign, which is held annually in late November/early December. Lisa Newell-Bain, executive director of Juniper House, was asked if she felt progress was being made in the fight against violence against women. “People are talking about it more,” she said, “and I think people are reaching out for services more. There’s still much more work that needs to be done, but it is a community effort and I think this community has been very receptive and very supportive.”


Smoke in cockpit resulted in unscheduled landing for Aurora

A CP-140 Aurora aircraft made an emergency landing at the Yarmouth International Airport after the airport was told the crew had detected smoke in the cockpit. There were no injuries and any emergency had dissipated quickly by the time the plane was down safely on the runway. The tower operator in Yarmouth had received a call from Moncton Air Traffic Control that an Aurora was going to touch down very quickly at the Yarmouth airport. “They had smoke in the cockpit, no fire,” said Yarmouth airport manager Mike Fields. A spokesman for 14 Wing Greenwood said an investigation would be done to find out what had happened. Meanwhile, although the incident wasn’t more serious, Fields said the airport was prepared and things went smoothly.


Effort underway to make change in Clare as ‘seamless as possible’

A transition committee had been formed and was meeting monthly to discuss major changes coming to the school system in Clare. A few months after a decision by the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP) to close four elementary schools in the Municipality of Clare – two to be closed at the end of the 2017-18 school year, the two others to be shut down at the end of the school year in 2022 – there were questions and some uncertainty among the affected communities. The plan eventually is to have a new school built to replace the existing four. That decision lies with the province. Before then, however, students displaced by the scheduled closure of the first two schools (St. Albert and Jean-Marie Gay) at the end of the 2017-18 academic year would be relocated to the two schools remaining open (Stella-Maris and Joseph-Dugas). The latter two schools would be shut down four years later, when/if a new school would be ready, according to the CSAP’s decision.


Customs issue in Portland raised questions about Cat ferry service

There was word of potentially rough waters for the ferry service between Yarmouth and Portland due to a customs issue on the American side of the route. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) said it would suspend customs for the ferry service beyond the 2017 season if the City of Portland did not make upgrades to facilities at the Ocean Gateway terminal. The work was expected to cost about $6 million to $7 million. A spokesperson for the City of Portland said they did not want to lose the ferry but that the cost of the required work was too high for the city to shoulder on its own. She said they would try to come up with an interim solution that would enable the ferry service to continue in 2018. Bay Ferries president and CEO Mark MacDonald said his company had been working with both USCBP and the City of Portland “to attempt to identify appropriate solutions to this issue.” In late December the sides said things were being worked on and Bay Ferries CEO Mark MacDonald said it was full steam ahead for 2018.


Windy forecast prompted one-day delay for start of lobster fishery

The opening of the 2017-18 lobster season in LFA 33 and 34 was delayed by a day due to anticipated windy weather. The season was scheduled to begin Monday, Nov. 27, but the start was pushed back to Tuesday, Nov. 28. Dumping day – the day vessels head to their fishing grounds loaded with traps and gear – is considered the riskiest day of the six-month season. Safety again was a priority as the season began, and while there were no incidents reported on the first day, the second day was a different story, with a number of vessels requiring assistance. On one vessel, a medical issue resulted in a 25-year-old man being airlifted. Elsewhere, a vessel’s crew was picked up by another boat after issuing a Mayday signal due to a mechanical failure. Heading into the new season, the Lobster Council of Canada said there was reason for optimism. Among other things, it cited the Canada-U.S. exchange rate, as well as positive developments regarding the export of lobsters to Europe.


4 other things that happened in November

1. Dawson, Tyler and Wesley Nickerson decided to show thanks to their tenants with a tenant appreciation day in Barrington. “I always tell my kids and my boys you can never say please and thank you enough,” said Tyler Nickerson.

2. Work continued to repair water damage that has closed the offices of blood collection at the Barrington Community Health Clinic.

3. Yarmouth’s Irene d’Entremont was among five Nova Scotians who were invested into the Order of Nova Scotia for their outstanding contributions to the province's culture and its people.

4. Digby’s harbour lost one of its most beloved figures when Fred ‘Bunk’ Ells passed away at the age of 95.



NSLC would sell pot; province set legal age for cannabis use at 19, but some wanted it higher

The Nova Scotia government announced that the legal age for use, purchase and possession of marijuana in Nova Scotia would be 19, with distribution and sales taking place in Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation stores and online. The number of locations had yet to be determined. The government said it had made its decision after consultation with Nova Scotians, health experts, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders, but many in the health-care field – including Doctors Nova Scotia – felt the minimum age for cannabis use should be 21. Some said it should be even higher than that. “Regular cannabis use can actually have a significant impact on brain development up until about your mid-20s,” said Dr. Phil Tibbo, director of the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Program at Dalhousie University.


Development strategy was sought for Digby Industrial Park

The Municipality of Digby was looking to come up with a development strategy for the Digby Industrial Park. Jointly owned by the municipality and the Town of Digby, the park consists of about 22 acres south of Highway 217. Roughly 10 acres of land was available and the municipality was hoping to fill the gap, said Linda Fraser, the Municipality of Digby’s CAO. “The part of the park that we’re looking at is a large area that right now is not in service and not even cleared,” she said. “So we’re looking at how best to lay out the park.” A consultant was working on it and would report to council. Meanwhile, both municipal units would continue to promote and market the park through various initiatives.


Yarmouth youth received human rights award from province

Josh Cochrane of Yarmouth received a Nova Scotia human rights award. The 11-year-old was honoured for his work towards fostering an inclusive environment for persons with disabilities. He was one of five Nova Scotians to receive the award during a Dec. 8 ceremony. Josh, who at a very young age was diagnosed with autism, has used his personal journey to show the world what people on the autism spectrum are capable of. Among other things, Josh has attended the World Autism Festival several times and was featured in a documentary called Connected: A Film About Autism. Prior to being honoured by the province with a human rights award, Josh recently had received the Prince of Wales Youth Service Award.


Lobster landings were looking good in the early going of new season

It looked as though lobster landings were holding their own two weeks into the new season. “We’re seeing about the same as last year,” said Clark’s Harbour lobster buyer Gary Blades. “Some fishermen are up, some are down.” The start of the season had been delayed a day due to weather concerns, but since then, for the most part, the weather had been co-operative.” Steven Atkinson, manager at Atksym Fisheries in Woods Harbour, said catches had dropped “fairly quick” the second week of the season. “But it’s still up quite a bit so I would say overall they are doing good,” he said. The season-opening price was $5.75. Quality-wise, while there had been some soft-shelled lobsters, it had been steadily improving, Blades said. “I would say the quality is there,” he said. “There’s all kinds around and everyone’s looking to buy and move them.”


Warming weather cited as factor in rising number of Lyme disease cases

The number of Lyme disease cases in Nova Scotia was growing and a medical official cited climate as one of the reasons. The number of reported cases for 2016 alone (326) was nearly half the total for the period from 2002 to 2015 (701). Lynda Earle, medical officer of health for South Shore, South West and Annapolis Valley, said disease-carrying ticks can be active anytime there are a few days of temperatures over four degrees, which is more common in southwestern Nova Scotia than anywhere else in the province. On a positive note, she said there was growing awareness of the disease, which could lead to a further increase in the number of reported cases.


Apparently inspired by movie, many tourists visited Maud Lewis replica house

Now that at a Digby Neck tourist attraction dedicated to Maud Lewis was closed for the season, its owner had a chance to reflect on 2017. Murray Ross, owner of a Maud Lewis replica house that he built in 1999, said hundreds of people, from all over the world, had come by to see the house, which pays tribute to the famous folk artist. Visits had picked up, he said, after the release of Maudie, the movie about Lewis that came out in the spring of 2017. Ross had met Lewis as a youth, he said.


Th’YARC was buying former Arcadia school from Municipality of Yarmouth

Mitch Bonnar, president of Th’YARC Playhouse and Arts Centre in Yarmouth, confirmed the organization’s purchase of the former Arcadia elementary school from the Municipality of Yarmouth, with the intention of turning it into an arts centre. Previously, Th’YARC had hoped to build a new arts facility at the site of its current building on Parade Street. Bonnar did not disclose the price but said it was a reasonable offer. Turning the old school into an arts centre likely would cost around $6 million, he said, while a completely new building at Th’YARC’s Parade Street location would have cost around $11 million. Meanwhile, John Cunningham, the Municipality of Yarmouth’s deputy warden, expressed relief at the sale of the Arcadia property, given the cost to the municipality of maintaining the former school.



Millie with a doll that a woman in Trenton, N.S. named Margaret Greenlaw sent to the family. The woman said she makes these dolls for special little girls, such as Millie. “I will keep you in my heart and prayers,” she said when she sent the doll.
Millie with a doll that a woman in Trenton, N.S. named Margaret Greenlaw sent to the family. The woman said she makes these dolls for special little girls, such as Millie. “I will keep you in my heart and prayers,” she said when she sent the doll.




As Baby Millie celebrated a year of life, her parents were thankful and cherishing every moment

As she neared her first birthday – Dec. 23, 2017 – the Yarmouth infant known to many as Baby Millie already had personified the power of hope and prayers.

A legion of supporters had been cheering her determination to survive since her first operation for a congenital heart defect, performed in Toronto while she was still tucked inside her mother’s uterus.

Since then, there had been more surgeries, more challenges. In early 2017, not long after her birth, Millie’s prognosis was so poor that her parents – Caroline and Derek Robertson – came up with a bucket list of things to do and see as a family and they accomplished much of it. “It’s a miracle,” Caroline said.

“Millie is such a gift and our family is so happy. We are incredibly thankful for the time we get to spend with her and we cherish every moment.”








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