December 31, 2018 8:00 am
Updated: December 31, 2018 6:05 pm

New Brunswick’s top news stories of 2018: January to June

WATCH: On the last day of the year we’re taking a look at the lighter side of life in 2018. Shelley Steeves provides a look back at some of the adorably odd and slightly off the wall stories from the past year.

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For many in New Brunswick, 2018 was a year marked by tragic events, dramatic change and a shift in the political landscape.

Although New Brunswick is a province that operates under the nation’s radar, stories such as the Fredericton shooting, the New Brunswick floods and the provincial election drew Canada’s attention to its only bilingual province.

Here are some of the most important stories from the first half of the year. (For a look at the top stories from July to December, click here).

January

Kissing away N.B.’s kissing bridges 

Bell Bridge in Hoyt, NB being demolished in January 2018.

Jeremy Keefe / Global News

New Brunswick’s covered bridges, otherwise known as “kissing bridges” for the romantic interludes that often occurred in the relative privacy they offered, are an example of the province’s unique history. But they’re swiftly disappearing due to old age and lack of upkeep.

The province reportedly had about 340 covered bridges in the early 1940s, but by the end of the year that number will be just 58. Since 2004, the province has lost six bridges.

WATCH: New Brunswick covered bridge damaged by crash

The Bell Bridge near Hoyt, N.B., was one of them. After raging water swept through the region in January and damaged the bridge beyond repair, it was torn down.

The loss of the structure, which had stood since the 1930s, drew fresh eyes to the plight of the province’s iconic landmarks.

READ MORE: N.B. city’s flags at half-mast, 10 years after van tragedy killed eight people

The Bathurst Boys in Red accident: 10 years later 

An RCMP officer walks past a van that was carrying the Bathurst High School boys’ basketball team that collided with a transport truck while returning from a game in Bathurst, N.B., on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2008.

Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Jan. 12 marked the 10th anniversary of an event that brought the community of Bathurst, N.B., to its knees.

Just after midnight on Jan. 12, 2008, a 15-passenger van carrying the Bathurst High School boys’ basketball team lost control on a slushy highway. An oncoming transport truck tore the van apart, killing seven teenage players and the wife of their coach.

WATCH: Bathurst Boys in Red tragedy 10 years later

The RCMP report said the 1997 Ford Club Wagon would not have passed safety inspection at the time of the accident.In the years that followed, survivors and family members of those who died pushed for changes in the vehicles and rules used for student travel.

Ten years later, the City of Bathurst remembered those they had lost, observing a day of mourning and lowering flags to half mast. It is now part of a tradition that will continue annually.

February

Remembering Rebecca 

Becca Schofield passed away in February 2018 following a courageous battle with cancer .

Jeremy Keefe/Global News

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Rebecca Schofield, who gained recognition in 2016 for encouraging people to perform acts of kindness using the hashtag #BeccaToldMeTo, was an inspiration to Canadians and people across the globe. 

In February, she died at the age of 18 after a long battle with terminal brain cancer.

READ MORE: Kindness abounds on 2nd annual Becca Schofield Day

Tributes from across the globe poured in following Schofield’s death, with supporters turning on porch lights across North America in an act of remembrance.

Schofield’s father, Darren Schofield, said that his daughter found “clarity, meaning and purpose” during her battle with cancer.

In November, Schofield was posthumously honoured with the Order of New Brunswick.

Brady Francis’ hit-and-run death

Brady Francis was killed on Saturday, Feb. 24 as the result of a hit and run.

Facebook

The fatal hit-and-run of a 22-year-old man from Elsipogtog First Nation highlighted the ongoing discussion about the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada’s justice system.

Brady Francis was hit by a pickup truck on Feb. 24 as he departed a party in Saint-Charles, N.B., a predominantly francophone town about 12 kilometres south of the Elsipogtog reserve.

Frustration mounted as Brady’s friends and family called for justice using the hashtag #JusticeForBrady, echoing Indigenous anger at the jury acquittals in the killings of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine.

WATCH: Police lay charges in connection with Brady Francis’ hit-and-run death

It took four months before RCMP made an arrest in the case. Maurice Johnson of Saint Charles, N.B., pleaded not guilty to the charge of failing to stop at the scene of an accident involving bodily harm or death in August. 

A preliminary hearing has been set for Jan. 14-15.

READ MORE: #JusticeforBrady rally held in Moncton

March

Josh Douthwright shovels snow at the entrance to the Federal Building on Highfield Street in downtown Moncton, N.B., on Thursday, January 4, 2018.

The Canadian Press/Stephen MacGillivray

New Brunswick headlines were dominated in 2018 by a series of seemingly endless winter storms that brought huge amounts of snow, heavy winds and power outages to the province.

March came in like a lion for New Brunswick when every region of the province was hit by heavy winter weather.

The weather resulted in snarled traffic, closed highways and multiple crashes.

This continued as a late March nor’easter brought heavy winds and lots of snow to New Brunswick. 

But the weather did bring some good news, with a missing dog being rescued by a team of Canadian Armed Forces and New Brunswick firefighters.

Protecting the right whales 

A North Atlantic right whale appears at the surface of Cape Cod bay off the coast of Plymouth, Mass., on March 28, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Dwyer

THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michael Dwyer/FILE

The death of at least 18 North Atlantic right whales in Canadian waters in 2017 prompted the Canadian government to announce changes to the snow crab season and restrict speed limits in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as part of an effort to protect the endangered species.

Three more were found throughout 2018, and experts estimate there are approximately 411 of the whales left in the world.

WATCH: Fisheries minister announces changes to snow crab season, speed limits to protect right whales

Lobster and crab fishermen did not greet the new rules with open arms, saying they felt the Department of Fisheries and Oceans waited until the last minute to tell them about the changes.

Fishermen even expressed concern that the new rules could unnecessarily close fisheries in the region. 

Sightings of the whales did result in areas being closed to fishermen, and it’s likely that the practice will continue into 2019.

April

Liberals can Chris Collins 

Chris Collins says he will sue the premier for a cause of libel and slander.

Global News File

April opened with New Brunswick politics descending into a tense standoff, one that was made all the more important by the upcoming provincial elections in November.

The speaker of the New Brunswick legislature, Chris Collins, was booted from the province’s Liberal caucus over allegations of harassment against a former employee of the legislature.

READ MORE: N.B. Speaker asked to apologize after probe into harassment allegations

A third party would determine that the allegations were “founded in part” and Collins would apologize, but the highly public split between Collins and the Liberals would remain.

Collins ran as the incumbent candidate in Moncton Centre during the election but did so as an independent.

He was defeated by Liberal candidate Robert McKee.

Brewing beer battle 

Beer is on display inside a store in Drummondville, Que., on July 23, 2015

Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

The court challenge of a New Brunswick retiree who just wanted to buy cheap beer came to an end in April at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Gerard Comeau wanted to buy cheaper beer in Quebec and bring it back home but was stopped by RCMP at the New Brunswick-Quebec border and was fined $292.50 for having 14 cases of beer and three bottles of liquor in his trunk. His booze was also confiscated.

The charge? A section of the New Brunswick Liquor Control Act prohibits residents from having more than 12 pints of beer not purchased through a liquor store in the province.

WATCH: Canada’s ‘free the beer’ case loses in Supreme Court

Comeau believed this was unconstitutional and took the case to court, saying it was his right as a Canadian citizen to go shop wherever he wants within the country.

The Supreme Court of Canada ultimately ruled that provinces have the constitutional right to restrict the amount of alcohol Canadians buy and transport across provincial boundaries.

The decision effectively preserved the current trade regime, giving the provinces the power to enact laws that restrict commerce if there is another overriding purpose.

May

Devastating floods hit New Brunswick

A New Brunswick flag floats in floodwater from the Saint John River in Waterborough, N.B., on May 13, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese)

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Although water levels across New Brunswick rose in late April, it wasn’t until May that the full extent of the record-breaking floods were realized.

Approximately 12,000 properties were affected by the rising waters, including in major municipalities such as Saint John and Fredericton. The Trans-Canada Highway between Fredericton and Moncton was even closed for a week due to the floodwaters.

A state of emergency was not declared, but Nova Scotia and even the Canadian Armed Forces lent a hand to the provincial government and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization as citizens began to pick up the pieces.

WATCH: Future murky for New Brunswick flood victims

But the nightmare hasn’t ended for everybody. Dozens of New Brunswick families continue to live in trailers more than eight months after the floods, while others deal with the process of insurance claims and rebuilding the memories they lost.

Some scientists say the floods are a glimpse into the future for people who live near rivers in Canada as flooding events become more common and severe.

Acadie-Bathurst Titan take home Memorial Cup 

The Acadie-Bathurst Titan beat the host Regina Pats 3-0 Sunday night to claim the Memorial Cup.

Jonathan Hayward/ The Canadian Press

One of the smallest hockey markets in Canada had a big reason to celebrate in May, as the Acadie-Bathurst Titan won the Memorial Cup by defeating the Regina Pats 3-0.

It was the first Canadian Hockey League championship in the team’s 20-year history.

READ MORE: Acadie-Bathurst Titan celebrate first-ever Canadian major junior hockey championship

With a population of less than 12,000, Bathurst was the smallest market to win the cup since Flin Flon, Man., won in 1957.

But it wasn’t the first time the Titans left a mark on the world of hockey, with Patrice Bergeron and Robert Luongo going on to great success in the NHL.

June

Controversial retreat scrapped 

A man holds a flag on a hockey stick during the Pride parade in Toronto on June 25, 2017.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

A Christian retreat planned for the summer was scrapped in June after severe criticism from the New Brunswick LGBTQ community.

Vancouver-based Christian group Journey Canada had advertised a retreat at Villa Madonna Retreat House, which its website says would have been focused on healing the “relationally and sexually broken.”

The Villa Madonna Retreat House is owned by the Catholic Diocese of Saint John.

But some members of the local LGBTQ community were outraged by the retreat, claiming Journey Canada was engaging in what it called conversion therapy.

Conversion therapy is the controversial practice of trying to influence change in a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual to bisexual or heterosexual using psychological, religious or spiritual intervention.

Journey Canada denied the claim but the retreat was ultimately cancelled.

Chocolate milk banned 

In June, New Brunswick’s Liberal government announced that the province’s schools will no longer sell chocolate milk and juice as part of a new nutrition policy.

The issue wouldn’t come to the attention of the larger public until later in the year, when parents raised the alarm that the policy had gone too far.

One of the most widely shared stories for Global News New Brunswick this year was about the backlash from parents.

WATCH: Will a chocolate milk ban at school make kids healthier?

The issue even became a topic on the New Brunswick election campaign trail, with Tory leader Blaine Higgs being filmed drinking chocolate milk during the campaign as the party said it would combat obesity in schools with meaningful programs, not token efforts.

That forced the governing Liberal Party to walk back parts of the policy due to the growing negative response from families.

When the Progressive Conservatives took power in the wake of the New Brunswick election, the policy was canned altogether.

—With files from Graeme Benjamin and Katie Dangerfield

Follow @AlexanderQuon

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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