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  • VOCM Year in Review 2017

    January: Newest Province Ushers Canada Into 150th Year

    All eyes were on Newfoundland and Labrador as people came together to count down to the new year. As the furthest eastern province, NL was the first to greet 2017, and kick off Canada 150 celebrations.

    Thousands gathered in communities across the province to reflect on the troubles and triumphs of the past year, and welcome whatever 2017 had to offer.

    Book Tax Breaks Back of Broken Books

    (Photo courtesy Broken Books via Facebook.)

    The provincial book tax was hot on the minds of consumers, book enthusiasts and store owners alike as the year got started. Matt Howse, owner of Broken Books, spoke out against the newly implemented tax, and the peril it put smaller stores in.

    Newfoundland and Labrador implemented a 10 per cent tax on books in 2016, becoming the only province in Canada to place an additional tax on books. Their goal, to raise $2.1-million over the year.

    Howse says the increased taxes were crushing, and would ultimately leave him unable to pay his business’ monthly rent. Representatives with the finance department met with Howse to discuss the concerns and social implications of a tax. However, it remained in place.

    In August, newly forged Finance Minister Tom Osborne announced government would be removing the tax.

    Message in a Bottle Found in Ireland 12 Years Later

    A message in a bottle launched off the coast of Labrador was found on a beach in Ireland – 12 years later.

    The note was tossed from the Northern Ranger by Lewis Knight in November 2004. Over the course of 12 years, it eventually made its way to a beach in Donegal, Ireland, where it was found. The note, stashed inside a purity syrup bottle, was one of many launched by Knight over the years, and one of the few that received response.

    Knight’s daughter Yvonne says her father got a kick when people would get back to him.

    Before he passed away, Knight received responses to his bottles from Norway, the Shetland Islands, Scotland, Iceland, Ireland and the Isle of Scilly.

    Emotional Testimony at Dunphy Inquiry

    Hearings in the inquiry into the shooting death of Donald Dunphy started with an emotional testimony from Donald’s daughter, Meghan. The inquiry probed into the events that lead to and happened on the night that Donald Dunphy was shot and killed by RNC Cst. Joe Smyth in his Mitchells Brook home.

    With Justice Leo Barry at the helm as Commissioner of the inquiry, testimony was heard from 56 witnesses—including Joe Smyth, and family and friends of Donald Dunphy.

    Rally in Support of Women’s March on Washington

    A rally spreading across North America came to St. John’s as people showed support of the Women’s March on Washington. The march was set to protest President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and sexist comments. An estimated 500,000 people marched in Washington, with similar numbers in New York and Los Angeles.

    A snowstorm disrupted the plans to march at City Hall in St. John’s, but organizers instead held the event online. Event organizer Elisabeth de Mariaffi says it was to show solidarity with friends in the United States, and to send a message to Canadian politicians that misogynistic and racist rhetoric will not be tolerated.

    Town Rocked by Arson

    The town of Milltown-Head of Bay d’Espoir was rocked by an an act of arson that destroyed, or extensively damaged, three prominent buildings in the town. In the early hours of January 17th, the town hall, local RCMP Detachment, and Bay d’Espoir Academy were torched. By sunrise, all that was left of the elementary school was twisted metal and rubble. Clarence Kelly, deputy mayor at the time, says the town was in shock following the fires. During its destruction, he described the elementary school’s gym as ‘an inferno.’

    Donald MacHaight would later plead guilty to three counts of arson for the fires.

    February: Tearing Down a Tragedy

    With a new year came the possibility of a new beginning as the Carbonear home in which Quinn Butt was allegedly murdered was itself torn down.

    The half-burnt wreck was the subject of controversy as the town had pushed to have it town down for some time, with the fate of the structure stuck in red tape. At last it was removed.

    Quinn’s father Trent Butt would go on to plead not guilty in the alleged murder and arson.

    His trial is set for March.

    A Targeted Attack

    In Paradise, a terrifying home invasion ended with four arrested and one found dead sometime later.

    Several armed, masked men forced their way into a home on Angels Road and made off with electronics and jewelry in what police called a targeted attack.
    One man suspected in the incident, Mohamed Salim of Toronto, was found dead sometime later in a nearby quarry. The remaining four, Tyler Donahue, Mitchell Nippard, Gary Hennessey and Abdifatah Mohamed were all arrested on over 100 charges collectively. They will appear in court in February.

    “I Believe Her”: RNC Officer Trial Raises Questions of Consent

    Finally protests erupted after RNC Constable Carl Snelgrove, charged with sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman while on duty and called “an idiot” by his own lawyer was found not guilty by the jury.

    Protests were held at RNC headquarters and graffiti sprang up around the city following the decision, which critics and advocates cited as an example of the justice system’s inability to deal with sexual assault cases, an issue that would be brought back to prominence later in the year as the #MeToo movement outlined the depth and extent to which sexual assault permeates culture.

    The verdict is being appealed by the Crown.


    March: “Like the Perfect Storm But With a Better Ending”

    Five fishermen were airlifted from their boat in a vicious storm off the northeast coast of St. John’s.

    The crew members on board the Northern Provider managed to walk away from the ordeal without a scratch after their vessel ran into trouble heading home after a weekend looking for seals. Fearing they wouldn’t make it back to shore because of high winds and surging seas, they put out a distress call.

    Ultimately, while a bit worse for wear, their ship made it back to shore after the four-day affair, that for a time saw the boat on collision course with Cape Spear.

    Winter’s Coming… Again…

    Folks on the Northern Peninsula and Labrador had to cope with winter’s last wrath as three straight days of blizzard conditions slammed the area.

    Then-Mayor of St. Anthony, Ern Simms said some snow banks were reportedly 15-20 feet high.

    However, residents affected by the storm banded together, and helping others dig themselves out of their homes.

    Later that month, central and western Newfoundland had their own taste of winter’s return. Gander dealt with back to back blizzards, seeing over 110 cm of snow had fallen on the town in under a week—breaking the monthly snowfall record at the airport.

    Before plows could carve a path, some communities were effectively cut off from the province.

    Katarina Roxon Rocks the Canadian Sports Scene

    Gold medal winning Paralympian swimmer, Katarina Roxon of Kippens was honoured by the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sports.

    The group named her as one of the most influential women in Canadian sports, following an impressive showing at the 2017 Paralympic games

    Roxon took home the gold medal in the 100m Breaststroke. when she took home the gold medal in the 100m Breaststroke.

    Upon returning to home soil, the province announced she would be honoured by having a portion of Route 490 named ‘Roxon Way.’

    “Worse Than Igor”: Hurricane Winds Strike

    A massive windstorm that battered the Avalon Peninsula in March made the list of top 10 weather stories across Canada this year, according to a meteorologist from Environment Canada.

    On the weekend of March 11, hurricane-force winds uprooted trees, knocked out power, and destroyed dozens of traffic lights across the capital city. The insurance industry estimated upwards of $45-million of damages were caused by the storm, categorizing the storm as a “catastrophic event.”

    Newfoundland Power estimates that 70,000 customers, at one point, were left in the dark early Saturday afternoon.

    Environment Canada recorded the strongest winds at 180 km/h in Placentia, while St. John’s Airport marked 158 km/h gusts—the strongest recorded in 40 years.

    Photo courtesy City of St. John’s.

    Team NL Takes Team Canada, Title During ‘Brier Blackout’

    While the windstorm ravaged the Avalon, the 2017 Tim Hortons Brier Cup took the capital city by storm, marking a major victory for NL’s home team in the championships.

    The tournament brought national attention to St. John’s as people flooded local hotels to catch the tournament. TSN measured over 1.3-million Canadians tuning in for the final match.

    Local representation, Team Gushue, consisting of Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant, stomped much of the competition, battling it out against Team Canada in the finals. With a final score of 7-6, the Gushue rink toppled Team Canada, lead by Kevin Koe, by about the length of half a stone. The victory earned the title of Team Canada for the Gushue Rink.

    By the end, the City of St. John’s claimed the tournament a massive financial boon for the city, despite competing with hurricane-force winds. With 122,592 tickets sold, the 2017 Brier was the 20th biggest in its 90-year history.

    ‘Praying’ Polar Bear Captures Hearts

    (Photo courtesy Jessica Power)

    An amateur photographer in the area of New-Wes-Valley got a once-in-a-lifetime snap that made waves across social media.

    Jessica Power of Ocean View Photography headed out with her camera after receiving notification that there was a polar bear sighting in the area.

    Before long, after she returned from work, she spotted the bear on an island across the cove, and spent the next two hours playing on the island, snapping photos of the encounter before it disappeared once more.

    But out of over 400 photos taken, the one that got the most attention was of the polar bear ‘praying’ at a large cross set up on the island.

    Chief Janes Hangs Up Hat

    March was capped by the announcement that RNC Chief Bill Janes would be hanging up his hat by the end of June. Janes began his career back in 1985 as a patrol officer, before working his way through several units including the Joint Forces Drug Investigation Unit, and several supervisory positions.

    Janes says out of a number of goals he achieved, he was particularly proud of the RNC’s response and approach to intimate partner violence.

    He would be succeeded by Chief Joe Boland, who took over as police chief in July.

    April: Fire and Ice

    Black smoke covered parts of St. John’s, prompting closed schools and air quality warnings as the old Belvedere Orphanage building erupted into a blazing inferno in the middle of town.
    Three dozen firefighters battled the burning heritage structure throughout the morning of April 7, but in the end it was a total loss. Built in the mid-1800s, the wreck of the building was demolished in December.

    No New Taxes?

    The whole province held it’s breath as Budget 2017 came down, especially following the previous year’s budget, labeled an “austerity budget” by critics and resulting in widespread protest.

    But the fears were unfounded this time around, with a budget offering no new fees, taxes or layoffs. This left critics scratching their heads and public sector unions wary of future layoffs, considering the savings needed to cut down the deficit.

    Asked if Finance Minister Cathy Bennett had any regrets about the previous year, she replied “That I wasn’t elected sooner.”

    “The Fishery is Gone”

    FISH-NL Vice President Richard Gillett set up camp in front of DFO in St. John’s and held an eleven day hunger strike, demanding a meeting with the federal Fisheries Minister and an independant review of the union FISH-NL was attempting to break away from, the FFAW. While neither of those things came to pass, President Ryan Cleary, who had advised Gillett agains the hunger strike, called it a success.

    Picture courtesy Donald Spence.

    FISH-NL harvesters in Port au Choix protested and burned their gear in solidarity with Gillett. Spokesperson Stella Mailman siad they no longer needed it, because as far as they were concerned “the fishery is gone”.

    If not gone, it was certainly frought. Pack ice, jammed into the island by prevailing winds, put the inshore fishery in deep freeze in what Superintendent of Ice Operations with the Canadian Coast Guard, Trevor Hodgeson called the worst ice conditions the region has seen in the last four decades.

    Twillingate Mayor Gordon Noseworthy said while the boats were ableto get out using icebreakers, many were forced to land their catch in other ports: a blow to the local a economy. The FFAW called for compensation for harvesters unable to work, while some took their lives in their hands and braved the icy conditions: occasionally with disastrous results, as in the case of seven fishing boats trapped and ultimately abandoned in Notre Dame Bay.

    June: “We Will Not Give Up Until You Come Home”

    A young woman, a single mother with a six-year-old son, went missing on a Wednesday in early June.

    By the end of the month her disappearance would have the province rally around her family, stoke a hard conversation about gender violence, and become one of the biggest stories of the year.

    Cortney Lake was last seen on June 7. Within a week, RNC deemed her disappearance suspicious. Within three, it was considered a homicide.

    The only suspect was Cortney’s ex-boyfriend Philip Steven Smith. The last known footage of Lake shows her getting into Smith’s vehicle. Smith himself spent much of the month in custody on breaches of orders to stay away from Lake and her family.

    Smith himself would be found dead on Bellevue Beach in November.

    After several massive search efforts, few clues have been discovered as to Lake’s whereabouts, though the RNC say they believe there to be people in the community who know more than has been said. Cortney’s family, along with friends and supporters continue the search.

    Sunday Morning Coming Down

    After a long battle with city council and 180 years standing, the heritage structure Richmond Cottage was destroyed.

    It had been the subject of controversy for years, and the centre of a debate about lack of protections and support for heritage in the capital city. Council had finally agreed to allow for the demolition only if no buyer for the property could be found. The deadline came and went.

    At the same time, another heritage structure, Waterford Manor made headlines as one of its owners, David Badrudin, was charged with arson. That building is also scheduled for demolation at a later date.

    “Put your Hands in the Air for Baby Quinn!”

    The 2016 death of 5-year-old Quinn Butt and the subsequent charges of murder against her father Trent Butt affected everyone in the province.

    While being held for court at HMP, Butt was allegedly attacked and stabbed by 25-year-old Justin Jordan. While being brought to court on attempted murder charges, Jordan looked into the camera and shouted “Put your hands in the air for baby Quinn!”

    Both trials are set for 2018.

    July: Dredging Up History

    Kraken Sonar, a local tech company, lead the charge in the search for a lost piece of Canadian History. The company, based in CBS, used an autonomous underwater craft called the ‘Thunderfish’ to scan the depths of Lake Ontario for remnants of the legendary Avro Arrow project. Namely, the CF-105 Avro Arrow models that were created during the fighter jet program, but were scrapped when the program was abruptly cancelled in 1959.

    All materials relating to the Avro Arrow were ordered to be destroyed, however that not the case for the long lost models sent to the murky depths of Lake Ontario. The replicas, about one eighth the size of the original aircraft, were the only known remaining artifacts of the original program.

    After several weeks of scanning, the mission was marked a success after they discovered the models resting at the lake’s bottom.


    Supporters Back ‘Labrador Three’

    (Photo Facebook: Labrador Land Protectors)

    Three Inuit protesters—Jim Learning, Eldred Davis and Marjorie Flowers—were taken into custody after refusing to abide by a court injunction against them. The injunction was set by Nalcor following protests at Muskrat Falls to ensure safety of people in and around work at Muskrat Falls.

    The Nunatsiavut Government and NunatuKavut Community Council spoke up to condemn the incarceration of the three protesters. NCC President Todd Russell said protesters have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. He called the incarceration of the three demonstrates a “clear flaw in the justice system.” Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe said detaining Marjorie Flowers at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary—in a men’s maximum security prison in St. John’s—was “shameful and disrespectful” and did little to advance reconciliation.

    Demonstrators gathered outside Her Majesty’s Penitentiary in protest of the incarceration. Holding signs reading “Human rights not hydro dams” and “Free Marjorie,” they insisted all three Labrador elders be released, otherwise protests would continue.

    Jennifer Hale, daughter of Jim Learning, drew major attention to the efforts in freeing her father from custody. Hale, a well known voice actor, posted to her 58,000 followers that she was concerned his health could decline if he didn’t have access to health care before attending his next court appearance. The plea for support drew major support, with one of her posts being shared over 1,000 times by followers and other members of the entertainment industry.

    By month’s end, the “Labrador Three” were released to return home on various conditions.

    Bishop Banished

    Gordie Bishop, 32, faced an unusual probation condition after pleading guilty to aggravated assault resulting in the injury of two police officers. Along with 2.5 years time served for the 550 days he was held in custody, he was sentenced to one year of probation on the conditions that he must not live in Newfoundland and Labrador while serving the order.

    Justice Alphonsus Faour, who laid judgment, said the banishment order served two purposes: protect the local community from Bishop, and separate him from bad influences in the province.

    Cathy Bennett Resigns, Triggering Cabinet Shuffle

    On the last day of July, the local political scene was shaken by the sudden resignation of Cathy Bennett from her position as Finance Minister. Her resignation came about 19 months after accepting the position. In a statement, Bennett said she resigned for ‘numerous personal reasons.’

    “I informed the Premier of my intention to step down from Cabinet. For numerous personal reasons, I will no longer serve as a Cabinet Minister but I will maintain my position as MHA for Windsor Lake. It has been a privilege to serve the people of the province, a job I held with great pride and one which I took very seriously. I look forward to continuing to work for the people of Windsor Lake.”

    -Honourable Cathy Bennett

    In her role, Bennett was the lead designer behind the highly unpopular 2016 Budget. In December 2016, Bennett revealed publicly that she had been the target of vicious and threatening online attacks, outlining several disturbing messages she received during her first year as Finance Minister.

    Following the announcement, in a surprise move, former Speaker of the House Tom Osborne shifted back into the liberal cabinet as the new Finance Minister.

    August: Face To Face With Chase The Ace

    Forget 50/50 tickets and bake sales. The new fundraising craze started in Inuvik caught on in Newfoundland and Labrador in a big way, making national headlines and attracting thousands to the parish of St. Kevin’s in the Goulds, all looking for a shot at the elusive ace.

    Over a period of months the pot grew until by late August it was close to an unheard-of $3-million.

    But the chase was not without its bumps. Crowds that dwarfed the St. John’s Regatta made life difficult for the small group of parish volunteers, and traffic in and out of the area was at a standstill the day of each draw.

    In July, a printer’s error led to multiple tickets printed with the same number, postponing the entire thing.

    With the deck dwindling and school year approaching, the decision was made to end the fundraiser one way or another at the end of August. Finally after two draws, Don and Marg Gorman from CBS pulled the ace and $2,605,451, which they said they’d be sharing with friends.

    But the real winners were the members of St. Kevin’s, who after the dust settled hauled in almost $6-million, and a long earned rest.

    Your Call Cannot Be Completed as Dialed

    Calls were dropped, texts failed, and tweets left untwittered as thousands of customers of Bell, Koodo, Virgin and Telus found themselves without service after “third party construction work” cut the cable connecting much of Atlantic Canada’s telecommunications on what came to be known as “the Day the Cell Phones Died”.

    While there were plenty of jokes to be made, particularly at the expense of net-savvy “millennial” culture, businesses and banks were forced to shut down, and the incident raised serious concerns about connectivity and accessibility of emergency services.

    Association of Fire Services President Duane Antle said it was a wake up call for rescue crews who depend on cell phones when responding to situations.

    “What’s Your Policy on Updog?”

    Candidates took to social media to promote themselves for the September municipal elections, but didn’t always reckon with how foolish social media can actually be.

    Former St. John’s mayor and chair of the PUB Andy Wells made another bid for the big chair at city hall, and frequently employed Twitter as a platform to weigh in on issues and answer questions. One of those came from user Sean J, who simply asked “What is your policy on updog?” leading to what some called the greatest moment in the history of Newfoundland politics.

    September: Memorial Highway

    The days leading to the beginning of fall were marred by a series of tragic events, the effects of which were felt across the province.

    From the beginning of August until mid-September, at least 16 people lost their lives in accidents on the highways across NL. These numbers included three members of a family, two 18-year-old girls, and a 17-year-old student who was walking home from school.

    The accidents were met with sorrow and anger, spurring increased calls for government and law enforcement to increase efforts to prevent future accidents.

    In one case, an online petition collected close to 20,000 signatures, calling for a guard rail to be extended along a stretch of the TCH that saw two fatal accidents in as many years. The Department of Transportation and Works quickly began a review of the area, and started work on extending the guardrail.

    Meanwhile, community leaders in the Conception Bay area called for solutions as the Veterans Memorial Highway saw multiple fatal accidents, in some cases within days of each other.

    Several tragic crashes, some involving only a single vehicle on clear pavement, occurred in a short span of time. While some called for increased police presence or extended passing lanes on the small highway, others said it just came down to increasing caution among drivers.

    Mayor of Bay Roberts Philip Woods said people in the region were left perplexed to see so many fatalities happening on a road thought to be in good condition.

    Murder Reignites Calls for Provincial Domestic Abuse Strategy

    Marystown was left in shock following an incident that left two people dead and reignited the call for a province-wide domestic abuse strategy.

    18-year-old Ryanna Grywacheski, originally of Saskatchewan, was found dead in a home in the town. Police say she was murdered by a 37-year-old man, Jeff Kilfoy, with whom she was in a relationship. Kilfoy’s body was later discovered by police.

    Amelia Reimer of the St. John’s Native Friendship Centre said the murder of Grywacheski, who was of Indigenous descent, added to shocking statistics. She said approximately 30 per cent of cases of murdered women documented involve an Indigenous woman. Out of that 30 per cent, 60 per cent are confirmed as Inuit.

    You can hear Amelia Reimer’s full interview with VOCM’s Lacy O’Connell here:

    Jenny Wright of the St. John’s Status of Women’s Council spoke about this incident, saying without massive changes to the system in Newfoundland and Labrador, “women will continue to die.” As part of her recommendations, she suggested schools add instruction on healthy relationships, gender equality, and issues around domestic violence, from an early age.

    Ryanna Grywacheski’s name was one of 116 read aloud at the “Remembering Her” vigil in October, along with Cortney Lake and Jennifer Hillier-Penney—both of whom were added this year.

    RCMP Constable Passes Away After Struggle With PTSD

    On September 11, people across the province were shocked by the loss of Cpl. Trevor O’Keefe. He passed away on September 11 after a lengthy battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

    Through his career, Cpl. O’Keefe touched the lives of many. He was remembered as someone always ready with a smile or a joke, and his compassionate and caring approach to policing.

    Hundreds attended funeral services to pay respects, and honour the life of O’Keefe, on September 15. O’Keefe’s father, Perri, says his family was ‘overwhelmed’ by the support shown to them over the difficult time. He said Trevor would have been in his glee had he seen the outpouring of support.

    An event was later held in Clarenville, to honour Cpl. O’Keefe, and raise awareness of PTSD and mental health. Donna Hancock says during his time at the Clarenville RCMP detachment, O’Keefe helped her through a difficult time. Hancock said at some point in your life, mental illness will affect you, and nobody should ever suffer in silence.

    Federal Ministers Barge Into Wrong Home, Are Offered Drinks

    MP Seamus O’Regan said a group of Federal Cabinet Ministers got a taste of local hospitality, when they accidentally let themselves into a stranger’s home while looking for O’Regan’s house.

    The ministers saw a house with people gathering inside, and assumed it was O’Regan’s residence. After letting themselves in they encountered the homeowners, realizing they had entered the wrong home. The homeowners shared the correct address with the group of muddled ministers, and insisted on giving them refreshments for their troubles.

    The mishap—while embarrassing—gave a great glimpse into local spirit, as O’Regan said his colleagues were delighted about the surprise reception.

    Province Boards Bourdain

    The province was swept up in star-fever as celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain made a few appearances around the province while filming an episode for his show, “Parts Unknown.”

    In the series, Bourdain highlights lesser-known food-related traditions around the globe. As for local food, Bourdain sampled jiggs dinner, and tried to go moose hunting in central. While he didn’t get his moose, Bourdain says he was well-received on the island.

    A photo of the chef lounging in style on a local beach sent social media into a tizzy, trying to guess the location of his outdoor dining spot. However, many were just impressed that they managed to rig up a chandelier in the great outdoors.

    Dinner last night #Newfoundland

    A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on

    October: A Sorrowful Refrain

    (photo by Adam Scotti, from Downie’s facebook page.)

    It was a hard month for musicians, music lovers, and Canadians as first Tom Petty, then the Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie passed away, leaving the country to mourn.

    Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in May of 2016, but refused to slow down, championing reconciliation and touring one last time with the Tragically Hip, climaxing in a final performance in Kingston that made rock and roll history and was watched on television by over 11.7 million people.

    VOCM’s Renell LeGrow, an ardent Hip fan, said the impact of Downie’s creative genius has been extraordinary and unique to Canada. She says what he’s given to Canada, through both his music and his project, The Secret Path, has been remarkable, and is a legacy he’s left for everyone.

    Our Own Personal Sasquatch

    A social media post claiming that two women encountered a black panther while walking near Deer Lake sent the province into big cat fever, with unconfirmed sightings appearing across the island.

    While Deer Lake officials didn’t rule out such an encounter and urged caution, the sightings remained unconfirmed. Folklorist Dale Jarvis weighed in, saying over the last two decades there have been a number of big black cat, cougar, or panther sightings reported throughout Newfoundland, though none verified.

    Beware the Sleepwatcher

    Residents of a St. John’s apartment complex were shocked on receiving an RNC advisory saying a man had moved in after having served five years for break and entry in Halifax, and who police believed would commit “a violent offence against a woman.”

    Barry Sinclair, also called “the Sleepwatcher”, moved into Bristol Apartments on Blackmarsh Road, causing a flurry of concern, both for the safety of residents and for the privacy of ex-convicts who had served their time.

    Residents of the building said the news had affected their lives, with on woman no longer able to look after her grandchildren for fear of their safety, and others wondering how he was approved to move into the complex in the first place.

    November: Ferry Tale Of Newfoundland

    Ferry woes filled 2017, with concerns over service coverage, regular ferry maintenance plaguing certain runs, and poor weather halting crossings. However things came to a head in November when protesters blocked provincial ferries near Bell Island and Fogo Island, over growing frustrations with service and scheduling.
    The catalyst for the protest was when the MV Veteran, a ferry with a bad habit of breaking down, had to undergo another series of repairs. Government announced it would move the new MV Legionnaire from Bell Island to Fogo Island-Change Islands to fill the void. In its place, Bell Island would take the smaller MV Beaumont Hamel and run a two-vessel schedule, along with the MV Flanders.
    Upset at the prospect at losing their new ferry for an undetermined period, protesters prevented the Legionnaire from leaving until their concerns were heard.

    After days of delays, an agreement was reached between protesters and the province, releasing the Legionnaire to make its way to Fogo Island.

    However, when it arrived, another group of protesters blocked the Beaumont Hamel from leaving to head to Bell Island. Their goal, to address inadequate service on the Fogo Island-Change Islands run.

    After a tentative agreement was reached with protesters, the ferry returned to service.

    “I’m broken. Our family is broken,” Vicky Head’s Family Responds to Murder Charge

    On November 11th, the body of 37-year-old Victoria Head, originally from Placentia, was located near a walking trail off Mount Scio Road. She was the third woman murdered in the province since June.

    Darlene Dinn, Victoria’s sister-in-law, says Vicky was a wonderful and kind-hearted person, and doesn’t want her being remembered as anything else.

    In December, the RNC arrested 35-year-old Stephen Bragg in connection to the death of Victoria Head, charging him with second degree murder. Bragg, who has no previous criminal record, was the focus of a missing person report in the days following Head’s death. He is scheduled to return to court on January 11.

    Trudeau Apologizes to Survivors of Residential Schools

    Photo courtesy Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (@ITK_CanadaInuit)

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood before survivors of five residential schools, offering an apology for the dark period of Canadian history on behalf of the federal government.

    The schools, located in Cartwright, North West River, Makkovik, Nain and St. Anthony were established for the purpose of educating Indigenous children with a promise that the students would be taken care of—but that wasn’t the case. Trudeau said children were separated from their families, traumatized and abused when they should have been nurtured and protected.

    The apology wasn’t received without some controversy. Some of those affected by residential schools said that no apology could mend the damage done. The Innu Nation as a group chose to refuse the apology. However, individuals like Elder Elizabeth Penashue were on hand for the historic event.

    During an emotional speech heard across the nation, survivor Toby Obed said, “Today is happy, but it’s sad.” Obed accepted the apology on behalf of other residential school survivors, saying because he comes from a “patient and forgiving culture” he felt it proper to accept the apology.


    Trudeau acknowledged sorry is not enough. However, he said the burden that survivors carry shouldn’t have to be carried alone, and hoped that those who suffered can “put [their] inner child to rest.”

    Steele Engineers Re-Tire Vehicle

    A teenager from CBS’ evening took a quick turn for the worse when one of her tires blew out in front of VOCM on Kenmount Road.

    Helana Menchion, 18, was forced to leave her vehicle outside the building overnight, but left a note that she’d be back to claim it as soon as possible.

    However, before she could do that, the engineering department at Steele Communications checked out the car and noticed that her tires were in rough shape. A few quick calls, and a set of four tires and rims later, the damaged tires were replaced and the car was ready to go back on the road.

    Menchion was saving up for new tires, but was left speechless by the act of kindness.

    Shawn Basha, Director of Engineering, says they were happy to help out and encouraged more people to step forward to do some good for others as well.

    December: Stay Close To Your Children Over Christmas

    It was the hottest December recorded on the Avalon since 1874.

    The trial of Brandon Phillips, charged with the shooting death of Larry Wellman during a botched robbery at the Captain’s Quarters, came to a close finding him guilty of second degree murder. But the trial had one more bombshell to drop: that it was Premier Dwight Ball himself who had identified Phillips to police.

    According to court documents, Ball, then leader of the opposition, identified the jacket Phillips was wearing that fateful night as one that was missing from his own property. Phillips was dating Ball’s daughter Jade at the time of his arrest.

    The Premier came on VOCM Open Line to speak with Paddy Daly about the case, and what his family—particularly his daughter—had been dealing with at the time during her battle with addiction.

    The story struck a chord with many families dealing with addiction and mental illness in the province. The Premier extended his condolences to the Wellman family, and asked parents to remember to stay close to their children over the holiday.

    Deemed Ineligible

    From families dealing with present addition to the person struggle in its aftermath, supporters rallied around a prominent indigenous activist after it was revealed that she did not meet Ontario’s six-month-sober benchmark for a life-saving liver transplant.

    The internationally recognized rights activist 26-year-old Delilah Saunders, sister to Loretta, suffered acute liver failure in Ottawa, but was denied the transplant, sparking national protest and letters from Nunatsiavut president Johnnes Lampe and Amnesty International condemning what many called the discriminatory practice.

    Saunders has since returned to the province.

    Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Dies Following Hunting Accident

    The Labrador town was left in shock after the sudden death of Mayor John Hickey.

    Hickey received a gun shot wound while checking his traps near Happy Valley-Goose Bay on Saturday, December 9th. Despite his injuries, he managed to snowmobile to the highway where he got help and was taken to hospital.

    He succumbed to his injuries on Thursday, December 14th. He was 62.


    Femicide, and the War for Women

    On December sixth, vigils were held across the country for the 14 students killed at L’École Polytechnique in 1989 because they were women.

    Twenty-eight years later, in a year that started with the largest political demonstration in US history in the Women’s March, problems of gender abuse and violence have not gone away, but voices calling for justice have never been louder.

    December saw both the first meeting of a provincial government’s Committee on Gender-Based Violence and the launch of the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Femicide Observatory to try and tackle the problem. Three high-profile murders of women in the province, Cortney Lake, Ryanna Grywacheski, and Victoria Head, were among the top stories of the year, underlining the urgency of such groups.

    As 2017 drew to a close, 35-year-old Steve Bragg of Mount Pearl was charged with second degree murder in the case of Victoria head.

    In the deaths of Grywacheski and Lake, both suspects died before charges were laid.

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