Demand for Public Inquiry into Northwood Tragedy
Jason MacLean is President of the Nova
Scotia Government and General Employees' Union (NSGEU).
NSGEU is firm in its demand for a public inquiry into the disaster that
took place at the Northwood nursing home in Halifax and into Nova
Scotia's long-term care system. Can you tell us more about this demand?
As far as Northwood is concerned, we must not forget that it is central
to Nova Scotia's long-term care system. Northwood has been considered
the shining star of long-term care in the province. It's the biggest
long-term care facility east of Montreal. It was looked upon positively
as the place where people
would end up going for long-term care. It is central geographically
because it's located in the central region, in Halifax, and is also
central figuratively because it was considered as the standard. And
this is where we had this tragedy whereby 53 residents lost their lives
in the spring.
We must learn what mistakes were made, where we
had gaps in the whole system. We are also going to learn that we need
to invest more into long-term care and the only way for us to be able
move along there, because it is going to cost money, is for everybody
to be brought along into this whole pandemic and to look back at what
were made leading into it. But also, if we do that, we are going to set
a framework for the future, so that other governments won't make the
kinds of decisions that led to what happened at Northwood. It did not
just happen out of thin air. It happened because of certain decisions
and of course, because of COVID-19. Nova Scotians need to be part
of that because they need to embrace reform in long-term care. It is
only going to happen if they bring people along in the review, instead
of holding it behind closed doors and then making decisions with nobody
understanding why changes are being made or if they are actually going
to have an impact in improving the situation. Our demand is
all about a public inquiry.
WF: Is there
a motion at this time amongst the people of Nova Scotia to hold such a
has sought a public inquiry since the beginning. We were actually the
first group to ask for a public inquiry. And then you even had the CEO
of Northwood saying that she is open to having a public inquiry. Then
there's the 53 families of the people we lost at Northwood, who are
also demanding a public inquiry.
We believe there's an upswell of support for a public inquiry amongst
Nova Scotians, especially after they realized the power they do have in
demanding an open public inquiry into the mass shooting that happened
That changed the mind of the federal and the provincial government,
which finally agreed to hold a public inquiry. If Nova Scotians want it
to happen, it will happen.
report Neglecting Northwood says that what happened
at Northwood is a
failure of public policy? What is the failure according to you?
reports on long-term care have been written over the years and the
recommendations coming out of them were not followed. Besides, in 2015
and 2017 there were budgets with cuts in them to long-term care
facilities. In the entire seven years that Stephen McNeil has been in
power, no new long-term care beds have been
created, even though the acuity level of people in long-term care and
those in hospitals have both increased. In home care, people are kept
in their homes longer, with the acuity level rising there as well. So
public policy has dictated that people are sicker longer in their homes
instead of getting good care in long-term care facilities. Public
has been offside for quite some time and we are seeing it now with this
pandemic that has casualties attached to it, as we have seen at
Northwood. That is tragic.
Public policy has been driven by budgets. The
current government was not willing to invest in long-term care and that
was to the detriment of people who need it. Our population is not
getting any younger and more people are going to need long-term care
WF: Do you
want to say something in conclusion?
JM: We are
stuck in a pandemic. Things happened. Governments made decisions. What
we are trying to do is to outline that we cannot continue in long-term
care the way we have for the last 10 years. Investments in long-term
care have deteriorated. We have to improve the system. It's not about
who's right and who's wrong.
It's about having a good level of care for our seniors because they
April 18 and 19, a lone gunman dressed as an RCMP officer went on a
13-hour shooting rampage that began in the small rural community of
Portapique in Nova Scotia. Twenty-two people were killed, and the
gunman was shot dead by the police. For weeks, while the families of
victims and the people of the province demanded a public inquiry into
the mass shooting, both the federal and the provincial governments
stalled, finally announcing not a public inquiry but an independent
review by a three person panel. As public pressure mounted against
them, both the federal and provincial governments finally acceded to
demands and announced a public inquiry into the mass shooting.
This article was published in
Number 54 - August 13, 2020
Nova Scotia: Demand for Public Inquiry into Northwood Tragedy - Interview, Jason MacLean