December: Top stories from the final weeks of 2019

ANTIGONISH: Two former StFX students were acquitted of sexually assaulting another student in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

Jonah Williams, 21, and Tyler Ball, 20, played defensive back for the X-Men football team when they were accused of sexually assaulting a classmate at a party in Cameron Hall in November 2017.

Justice Timothy Gabriel’s not-guilty verdicts issued on November 27 were greeted with emotion, ending a trial highlighted by intimate details of the sexual encounter that was analyzed during prolonged cross-examination of the female accuser.

With respect to the complainant, the judge said it is accurate to observe her evidence was, at times, incomplete and spotty. Gabriel was struck by how well the woman remembered certain events of the evening but he contrasted that with how little she claimed to retain from the time the four other men entered the room for the rest of the night.

He described some of the woman’s testimony as evasive and explained her testimony during the trial was contradicted by evidence she provided during the preliminary inquiry.

WE’KOQMA’Q FIRST NATION: After 405 days of remaining tight-lipped, the RCMP finally provided their first update on the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard.

The father of Cassidy’s twin daughters, 20-year-old Dwight Austin Isadore of Wagmatcook First Nation, was arrested in Baddeck on Monday by the Nova Scotia RCMP and charged with second-degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a child in relation to her death.

In May, Isadore was questioned by the RCMP but was later released without charges and on September 23, band officials in We’koqma’q First Nation issued a notice banning him from the community.

Sgt. Bonvie said he hoped the arrest and charges will be a step forward in the healing process for the family and the entire community.

Because the investigation is now before the courts, he wasn’t at liberty to comment in regard to timelines or specifics about the case, but indicated, at this time, the RCMP is not anticipating more arrests or charges.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A community leader greatly respected for helping families through end-of-life situations left this world far too early.

After it was discovered that 41-year-old John Green had died at home on November 25, former Premier Rodney MacDonald said Green was someone who cared about people and he doesn’t know if you can say something that’d a greater tribute.

MacDonald and Green were long-time friends. Over the last two decades, the men were stalwarts for the Progressive Conservative Party in Inverness and Richmond counties as MacDonald rose to lead the Tory party.

In addition to his political aspirations, Green was a very successful business man. He owned and operated Green’s Funeral Home, having set up the business in August of 1999.

Indeed, just five days before Green passed on, the funeral director was given a well-deserved pat on the back at the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Awards Dinner. He was presented the Chamber’s Excellence in Business Award.

Green was the president of the Funeral Association of Nova Scotia, a member of the Funeral Service Association of Canada, and a past chair of the Atlantic Provinces Funeral Directors and Service Convention.

HALIFAX: A man from Port Hood who survived the fatal capsizing of a fishing boat last year was rewarded for his heroism.

On December 4, Elijah Watts of Port Hood was awarded the Nova Scotia Medal of Bravery for his courageous actions following a tragic fishing accident.

On May 12, 2018 at around 6 a.m., Watts was fishing with his father Captain Hugh Watts and fisherman Glen MacDonald in the Ocean II off Colindale when their vessel capsized and the occupants were thrown overboard. Watts pulled his father and MacDonald ashore, but both men perished in the accident.

The rough condition of the sea and the chaos of the boat capsizing, along with him being alone, were recognized in rewarding the bravery of Elijah Watts’ actions. He was just 18 years old at the time.

Each year the medal recognizes people who have risked their lives to help another person, and awards those who have demonstrated acts of bravery. Since 2008, 40 brave Nova Scotians have received the medal of bravery award.

PORT HOOD: Inverness Municipal Council spent more than an hour behind closed doors discussing a number of serious but unsubstantiated allegations regarding Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Keith MacDonald.

After meeting in-camera, Warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie said she and council feel a letter they received regarding the CAO’s work is unfounded.

The letter was signed by Councillor John MacLennan, who services District 4. However, when asked to explain where the four-page note came from, MacLennan said it was from an unnamed taxpayer. It is MacLennan’s job, he said, to take the letter to council on that person’s behalf.

Since the meeting, media reports state the letter was written by county resident Gerard Gillis.

The items of concern outlined in the letter were divided into four main areas: hiring practices; awards of contracts; a breach of public trust; and professional conduct.

The letter writer maintained that contracts were awarded without proper procurement practices being followed. In terms of a breach of public trust, the letter outlined two alleged instances of mismanagement. In terms of professional conduct, the letter writer cited an allegedly instance of an employee being dismissed with cause receiving a retirement allowance.

MacDonald said he would have to look over the letter before he’s able to make a comment on the matter.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Lawyers for both the Crown and defense in Cassidy Bernard’s murder case asked for more time to review the evidence against Dwight Austin Isadore.

The case is now adjourned until January 15 in Port Hawkesbury; the location of any future dates was described as an indignity to Cassidy by her family and friends who were in attendance on Monday afternoon in Port Hawkesbury Provincial Court.

Judge Laurie Halfpenny-MacQuarrie indicated any hearings taking place after January 15 will happen in Wagmatcook – the home community of the 20-year-old Isadore.

Following the judge’s decision, Annie Bernard-Daisley – Cassidy’s cousin and a three-term band councillor in We’koqma’q – said family members have safety concerns in regards to Wagmatcook being the venue location.

Halfpenny-MacQuarrie suggested Wagmatcook, as a new facility, has the same safety measures and sheriffs in place as the Port Hawkesbury Justice Centre, so unless she can be convinced beyond a doubt of any safety concerns – all future hearings will take place in Wagmatcook.

Bernard-Daisley highlighted Cassidy’s supporters all feel the same way in regards to switching the venue location to Wagmatcook and they don’t understand why Isadore can return home when Cassidy will never be able to again.

Isadore, who appeared by video link at the December 16 hearing faces one count of second-degree murder and two counts of abandoning a child in the death of his ex-girlfriend, and mother of his children.

CALGARY, ALTA: Fueled on the expectations of a 10-fold increase in its net operating income, Pieridae Energy Ltd. is planning to invest in its proposed Goldboro LNG facility in a Final Investment Decision (FID).

On December 12, Pieridae announced a pre-FID capital budget of $32 million for 2020, along with a $16 million development expense budget for their LNG project in Guysborough County.

The updated corporate guidance for 2020 focuses on increasing net operating income via: operating efficiencies; increasing production with the recent, previously disclosed acquisition of key Alberta Foothills assets; lower per barrel operating costs; a higher capital budget; and a development expense budget for Goldboro as they move toward FID for the project.

Pieridae now faces a deadline of September 30, 2020 for FID – that deadline was extended earlier this year from September 30, 2019. The current timeline targets commercial deliveries to start in 2024.

The company expects their net operating income increase to $80 million – $110 million in 2020, something otherwise that would have been approximately $10 million, if not for the acquisition of Shell Canada’s midstream and upstream assets in the Alberta Foothills.

STRAIT AREA: A bus carrying a minor hockey team left the road during a late-fall storm which hit the Strait area.

At 2:18 p.m. on November 30, Waycobah RCMP responded to a report of a single-vehicle collision involving a bus on Highway 105 in Queensville.

Police said the bus was carrying 19 major bantam hockey players and their coaches when it left the road and rolled onto its side. A 13-year was taken to hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries. No other serious injuries were reported.

POINT TUPPER: Reducing the reliance on fossil fuels for energy and increasing the sustainability of paper production operations, Port Hawkesbury Paper (PHP), Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) and IFE Project Management Canada (IFE) announced December 17 the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalizing their collaboration on the potential Pirate Harbour Wind Farm.

Pirate Harbour would supply green energy to PHP, the largest industrial employer in the region, with the goal of further enhancing the sustainable energy supply to Nova Scotian industry.

With support from the Province of Nova Scotia, PHP and IFE are evaluating the potential development of a 112 megawatt wind farm, comprised of 28 four megawatt wind turbines, 15 kilometres of overland transmission lines and two kilometres of subsea cables.

The Pirate Harbour Wind Farm is expected to produce approximately one-third of the mill’s needs.

HALIFAX: After Farm Credit Canada (FCC) spent weeks trying to track down Cape Breton-Richmond MLA Alana Paon after defaulting on $178,000 in loan payments, Justice James Chipman granted an Order for Substitute Service on December 18 – allowing for a foreclosure to proceed.

Chipman’s decision grants permission for FCC to send their Notice of Action for Debt to her through registered mail to both her Halifax and St. Peter’s constituency offices. Paon will have 15-days from the time the order is placed in the hands of Canada Post to file a defence.

As of August 26, 2019, Paon still owed $99,447.88 on her advancer loan and $79,084.76 on her standard loan; stemming from a 2011 loan agreement with FCC advancing her $200,000 for a farm along Highway 7 in Ashdale.

In documents filed with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the Crown corporation indicates it has attempted at least 27 times to serve notice on the Independent MLA that it’s requesting to foreclose on her farm in Antigonish County.