LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods was seriously injured Tuesday when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep roadway in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said. The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield, and his agent said he was undergoing leg surgery. Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median shortly before 7:15 a.m., crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved. The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said. Both of his legs were seriously injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odor of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and did not find any. They did not say how fast he was driving. The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to arrive at the wreck, told reporters that he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and has seen fatal crashes there. “I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said. Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club. Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from Dec. 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019. He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport. The SUV he was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational. Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event. Woods feared he would never play again until the 2017 fusion surgery. He returned to win the Tour Championship to close out the 2018 season and won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time. He last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter. During the Sunday telecast on CBS from the golf tournament, Woods was asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11 and said, “God, I hope so.” He said he was feeling a little stiff and had one more test to see if he was ready for more activities. He was not sure when he would play again. Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery. “I’m sick to my stomach,” Justin Thomas, the No. 3 golf player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.” Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away Tuesday afternoon. This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder. Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th. He has had four previous surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open, and five surgeries on his back. ___ Ferguson reported from Jacksonville, Florida. Stefanie Dazio And Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is moving slowly but surely toward reengaging with the Palestinians after a near total absence of official contact during former President Donald Trump’s four years in office. As American officials plan steps to restore direct ties with the Palestinian leadership, Biden’s national security team is taking steps to restore relations that had been severed while Trump pursued a Mideast policy focused largely around Israel, America's closest partner in the region. On Tuesday, for the second time in two days, Biden's administration categorically embraced a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that Trump had been purposefully vague about while slashing aid to the Palestinians and taking steps to support Israel’s claims to land that the Palestinians want for an independent state. The State Department said Tuesday that a U.S. delegation attended a meeting of a Norwegian-run committee that serves as a clearinghouse for assistance to the Palestinians. Although little-known outside foreign policy circles, the so-called Ad Hoc Liaison Committee has been influential in the peace process since Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1993. “During the discussion, the United States reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to advancing prosperity, security, and freedom for both Israelis and Palestinians and to preserve the prospects of a negotiated two-state solution in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside a viable Palestinian state,” the State Department said in a statement. “The United States underscored the commitment to supporting economic and humanitarian assistance and the need to see progress on outstanding projects that will improve the lives of the Palestinian people, while urging all parties to avoid unilateral steps that make a two-state solution more difficult to achieve,” it said. U.S. participation in the meeting followed a Monday call between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israel’s foreign minister in which Blinken stressed that the new U.S. administration unambiguously supports a two-state solution. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is close to Trump, has eschewed the two-state solution. Biden spoke to Netanyahu last week for the first time as president after a delay that many found suspicious and suggestive of a major realignment in U.S. policy. Blinken, however, has spoken to Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi twice amid ongoing concern in Israel about Biden's intentions in the region, particularly his desire to reenter the Iran nuclear deal. In Monday's call, Blinken “emphasized the Biden administration’s belief that the two-state solution is the best way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, living in peace alongside a viable and democratic Palestinian state,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Trump administration had presented its own version of a two-state peace plan, though it would have required significant Palestinian concessions on territory and sovereignty. The Palestinians, however, rejected it out of hand and accused the U.S. of no longer being an honest peace broker after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, moved the U.S. embassy to the city from Tel Aviv, cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority, closed the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington and rescinded a long-standing legal opinion that Israeli settlement activity is illegitimate under international law, Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
GameStop Chief Financial Officer Jim Bell will step down next month, the video game retailer said on Tuesday, as it focuses on shifting into technology-driven sales in the wake of headline-grabbing big betting in its stock. GameStop said Bell's resignation was not due to any disagreement with the company relating to its operations, including accounting principles and practices. However, a source said that while Bell's exit was unrelated to the recent wild swings in GameStop's stock spurred by retail traders on the Reddit social media site, his departure was initiated by the company.
EDMONTON — Alberta's energy minister says public consultations on coal mining will begin on March 29. Sonya Savage says her staff are still working out the details. The United Conservative government revoked a policy last May that had protected Alberta's Rocky Mountains from open-pit coal-mining since 1976. Widespread public outrage forced Savage to reinstated the protection earlier this month with a promise Albertans would be consulted on a new coal policy. The government has said it won't lease any more of the land in question for coal exploration until it gets input from the public. Leases for thousands of hectares have already been sold and the government says it will honour them. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
Grimsby council unanimously threw its support behind the inclusion of a theatre at the new soon-to-be-built West Niagara Secondary School (WNSS). Though there is no financial commitment, council voted in favour following a presentation by Friends of the Arts in West Niagara who are embarking on a $2.6-million fundraising campaign for the theatre. Matt Miller, principal of Grimsby Secondary School, presented the fundraiser to council at the Feb. 16 committee of the whole meeting, explaining the District School Board of Niagara has already allocated $4.2 million of the required $6.8 million needed to build the theatre. Miller said when fundraising starts, there will be printed material to inform the community, as well as a website for donations and contributions will be tax deductible. He said hopes to start fundraising “within the next couple weeks.” According to Miller, the proposed 750-seat venue will be attached to the school but also have separate entrances as it will not be limited to school use, but also available for rent to the community. A per-hour rate will be charged and the rate ranges from $0 to $135, depending on purpose. In his presentation, he said the community will not be responsible for any other costs associated with use of the facility, other than rental fees. WNSS is set to open in Beamsville in 2022. It will accommodate students from the now-closed South Lincoln Secondary School and soon-to-be-closed Grimsby Secondary and Beamsville District Secondary. Miller will come on as principal of WNSS as it takes on the role of a "superschool." The fundraising campaign has received letters of support from multiple members of the community, such as Grimsby Mayor Jeff Jordan, Lincoln and Grimsby Rotary clubs, the Grimsby Chamber of Commerce and former principal of Grimsby Secondary School Jim Heywood, among many others. Moosa Imran, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby Lincoln News
OTTAWA — Josh Norris scored the shootout winner to give the Ottawa Senators a 5-4 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night at Canadian Tire Centre. Tim Stutzle also beat Montreal goalie Carey Price in the shootout. Ottawa's Brady Tkachuk opened with a miss and Senators netminder Matt Murray stopped Corey Perry and Jonathan Drouin. It capped a wild and entertaining game between the two rivals. Both teams had excellent chances in the overtime session. Stutzle had two glorious opportunities but couldn't convert and Montreal's Tyler Toffoli was stoned on a breakaway with about a minute to go. It looked like Montreal's Brendan Gallagher had scored the winner with 2.1 seconds left in regulation but the goal was waved off after a review due to goaltender interference. Tkachuk scored twice for Ottawa with Drake Batherson and Erik Brannstrom adding singles. Shea Weber had two goals for Montreal. Drouin and Toffoli had a goal apiece. After a slow start, the last-place Senators have picked up their play of late. Ottawa (6-14-1) entered with three wins over its last five games, including a 3-2 overtime victory over the Habs last Sunday. The 9-5-4 Canadiens, meanwhile, were 5-1-2 last month but entered with just one win in their last five games to drop them into fourth place in the North Division. The Senators needed just 96 seconds to open the scoring. Derek Stepan delivered a low saucer pass to Batherson, who extended his goal streak to three games by beating Price with a high backhand. Ottawa was rewarded for its steady power-play pressure at 9:57. Tkachuk flipped the puck under Price's arm on a shot the veteran goalie would no doubt like to have back. With Tkachuk and Montreal's Ben Chiarot off for fighting, the Canadiens caught a break to halve the lead at 16:03. Weber fired the puck toward the net from the boards and it deflected off Nikita Zaitsev's skate and past Murray. Tkachuk was in on the action again early in the second period, catching a high stick to the face that resulted in Weber being sent off on a double-minor. Ottawa restored its two-goal cushion as Brannstrom's low shot from the high slot went through a maze of players and between Price's legs at 3:41. It was his first career NHL goal. The Canadiens quickly answered as Thomas Chabot mishandled the puck and Drouin swooped in to collect it before beating Murray at 4:52. Weber then tied it at 10:06 with a trademark rocket from the point. Toffoli gave Montreal its first lead of the game at 8:06 of the third period. He fooled Brannstrom on his way in before snapping the puck past Murray on the short side. Tkachuk pulled Ottawa even with a softie goal less than two minutes later. He steered the puck towards the net and it fooled Price at 10:11. Chabot returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury. Defenceman Brett Kulak drew into the Montreal lineup with Victor Mete sitting out as a healthy scratch. Ottawa will continue its five-game homestand on Thursday against Calgary. It will be the first of three straight games against the Flames. Montreal visits Winnipeg on Thursday. The Jets will also host the Canadiens on Saturday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. The Canadian Press
LONDON — Together, politicians Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon took the quest for Scottish independence from long shot to strong possibility. But now Scotland's former leader and his successor as first minister are locked in a feud that is tearing apart their Scottish National Party, even as its goal of an independent Scotland outside the United Kingdom is closer than ever. The two former allies have traded accusations for months over who knew what and when about allegations against Salmond, who was tried and acquitted last year on sexual assault charges. Salmond was scheduled to tell his version of the story Wednesday to a Scottish Parliament inquiry into how the Edinburgh-based government handled the allegations. He claims the sexual misconduct accusations, first levelled in 2018, were part of a witch-hunt, and he won a civil lawsuit when Scotland’s highest civil court ruled in 2019 that the way the Scottish government had handled the matter was unlawful. But Salmond on Tuesday cancelled his appearance after his written witness statement was removed from the Scottish Parliament website. He had refused to testify, if it was not made public. It was taken down after the national prosecutors’ office expressed concern about potential contempt of court, and later partially republished with some sections redacted. Salmond accuses people within the Scottish National Party and the Scottish government of a “malicious and concerted effort” to sideline him and hurt his reputation. He has also accused Sturgeon of lying about her meetings with him and of breaking the code of conduct for government ministers. If that was found to be true, she would have to resign. Sturgeon, who is due to testify in the inquiry next week, accused her predecessor of making “wild claims” that there was a conspiracy against him. “It is time for insinuation and assertion to be replaced with actual evidence,” she said. “There is no evidence, because there was no conspiracy.” The case has exposed a bitter rift between two former allies who have dominated Scottish politics for a generation. Salmond, who led the SNP for two decades and was Scotland's first minister between 2007 and 2014, built the separatist party into a major political force and took the country to the brink of independence by holding a 2014 referendum. He stepped down as first minister after the “remain” side won, and Sturgeon, his friend and deputy, replaced him. In 2019, Salmond was charged with sexual assault and attempted rape after allegations by nine women who had worked with him as first minister or for the party. Salmond called the charges “deliberate fabrications for a political purpose," and was acquitted after a trial in March 2020. The SNP has become increasingly split between Salmond's supporters, who want a new independence referendum come what may, and supporters of the more cautious Sturgeon. Sturgeon and her allies are also critical of Salmond’s efforts to stay in the public eye, especially his talk show on the Kremlin-funded English-language television station RT. Sturgeon’s popularity, meanwhile, has been boosted by her response to the coronavirus pandemic. Her calm, measured style in regular media briefings contrasts with the erratic messaging and frequent policy shifts of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is unpopular in Scotland. The crisis is amplified by the hothouse atmosphere of politics in Scotland, a small nation of 5.5 million. Among the Scottish National Party figures accused by Salmond of colluding against him is chief executive Peter Murrell — Sturgeon’s husband. The feud threatens to derail a party that is riding high in the polls and increasingly confident it can secure its long-held goal of leading Scotland out of the United Kingdom. Scotland's 2014 referendum was billed at the time as a once-in-a-generation decision. But the SNP says Brexit has fundamentally changed the situation by dragging Scotland out of the European Union even though a majority of Scottish voters in the U.K.'s 2016 EU membership referendum opted to remain in the EU. The U.K. as a whole voted narrowly to leave the bloc. An election for the Scottish Parliament is due in May, and the SNP has a strong lead in opinion polls. Sturgeon says that if she wins a majority, she will push for a new independence referendum and challenge Johnson in the courts, if the British government refuses to agree. John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde, said the twisting Salmond-Sturgeon saga did not yet appear to have had a major impact on public opinion ahead of an election overshadowed by the impact of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. “People won’t have read these detailed documents,” he said. “They know that Alex thinks that somebody was conspiring against him, and Nicola denies it. “The backdrop to this election is the most important public policy decision that the U.K. has taken at least since 1973, and the worst pandemic in a century," Curtice said. "So there’s plenty of competition for people’s attention.” Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
Nonfiction 1. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 2. A Promised Land by Barack Obama, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 3. How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates, narrated by the author and Wil Wheaton (Random House Audio) 4. Atomic Habits by James Clear, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio) 5. Think Again by Adam Grant, narrated by the author (Penguin Audio) 6. How to Train Your Mind by Chris Bailey, narrated by the author (Audible Originals) 7. Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins, narrated by the author and Adam Skolnick (Lioncrest Publishing) 8. The Sum of Us by Heather McGhee, narrated by the author (Random House Audio) 9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F(asterisk)ck by Mark Manson, narrated by Roger Wayne (HarperAudio) 10. Winning the War in Your Mind by Craig Groeschel, narrated by the author (Zondervan) Fiction 1. Relentless by Mark Greaney, performed by Jay Snyder (Audible Studios) 2. A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas, narrated by Stina Nielsen (Recorded Books, Inc.) 3. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, narrated by Julia Whelan (Macmillan Audio) 4. Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, narrated by Susan Ericksen (Brilliance Audio) 5. The Wife in the Attic by Rose Lerner, performed by Elsa Lepecki Bean (Audible Originals) 6. The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice, narrated by Nicol Zanzarella and Jim Frangione (Brilliance Audio) 7. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, narrated by Carey Mulligan (Penguin Audio) 8. 1984 by George Orwell, narrated by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio, Inc.) 9. When We Believed in Mermaids by Barbara O’Neal, narrated by Sarah Naughton and Katherine Littrell (Brilliance Audio) 10. Like You Love Me by Adriana Locke, narrated by Ryan West and Lidia Dornet (Brilliance Audio) The Associated Press
(Google Maps - image credit) A former Calgary high school teacher recently charged with 17 sexual offences against former students has died but police say the investigation continues. The body of Michael Andreassen Gregory, 57, was found on Vancouver Island. His death is not considered suspicious. The BC Coroners Service confirmed it is investigating the death of a man who matches Gregory's description. Last week, Gregory was charged with six counts of sexual assault and 11 counts of sexual exploitation in connection with incidents alleged to have taken place while he taught at John Ware Junior High School in southwest Calgary between 1999 and 2005. Gregory was a teacher at the school from August 1986 until September 2006. Police say the investigation will continue and are encouraging anyone with information to still come forward. "When a suspect or accused passes away before an investigation is complete, we still finish examining all the evidence to try to learn what happened," said police in a release Tuesday. "This hopefully allows us to give some closure and supports to victims, and helps ensure that no one else who still can be charged was involved in any offence." Police began their investigation last September when a woman reported she and other female students had been undressed by Gregory, exposing them to him and their peers during an unsanctioned canoe trip. Detectives from CPS's sex crimes unit identified five other women who reported sexual interactions with the same teacher between 1999 and 2005. "It is believed that the teacher used his position of trust to groom female students and get them into situations where a range of sexual activities could occur … young people cannot give free and informed consent for any sexual activity with a person in a position of trust," police said in an earlier release.
The buzzy documentary is officially coming to Canada.
Perhaps it will come as a surprise to few, but Nordic skiing is taking off in B.C. For many, it’s the perfect pandemic activity—(relatively) affordable, easily accessible for those living in the beautiful Thompson Okanagan region, and good for your overall health and well-being. And, oh yeah—it’s sort of COVID-proof. “A lot of people have gravitated to the sport because of [COVID-19],” said Ivor McMahen, president of the Sun Peaks Nordic Club. “COVID restrictions have shut down a lot of other sports, but because of the nature of cross country skiing, being outside and not requiring close proximity to other people, we’re able to continue almost normally.” Across B.C., the popularity of the sport has grown by around 50 per cent, according to McMahen and a recent interview Sun Peaks Independent News had with a representative from Tourism Kamloops. McMahen said he has definitely noticed the uptick in usage of Sun Peaks’ acclaimed trail system, and that membership levels in the club, which have increased to 111 this year from 92 the year previous, don’t fully capture the picture. “I think the actual popularity and interest in the sport is up much more than that,” he said. Unlike other local clubs—such as the Overlander Nordic Club and the Stake Lake trail system—the Sun Peaks Nordic Club does not manage the local trail system, which is operated by Sun Peaks Resort LLP. Adding to the usage of local Sun Peaks trails is the fact that anyone with a downhill pass can now utilize them. “Overall, I think it’s a really great thing that the resort is doing that,” said McMahen of the deal, which it has been offered for the past couple years. “It really encourages people to get out without having to buy an extra pass, but it makes it harder to tell how many people are getting out, and doing Nordic as opposed to alpine.” The club plays a pivotal role in supporting Sun Peaks’ cross country skiing community and fostering the next generation of skiers through events and programs. While it’s had to shut down its popular group skis sessions, the club has had success promoting its popular junior development program. It provides instruction for kids and youth from four to 16-years old. The program is informally known as the “Jackrabbits” program. It has a total of 32 kids involved this year. And for the first time in club history, it’s had to put a cap on its numbers. “It was named after Jackrabbit Johannsen, who was a legendary fellow in eastern Canada who skied everyday until he was over 100 years old.” McMahen said the idea of the program is to get kids turned onto the sport in an organic way and develop all-around athletes. “The main philosophy, especially in the really young ages at this, is not to aim to produce elite skiers,” he said. “It’s aim is to produce healthy, well balanced, physically capable kids. The word that they refer to as physical literacy, so it’s balance, agility, the ability to jump, run and just self-propel yourself.” McMahen added the club hopes to get a masters program up and running next year, where more experienced (and mature) skiers can get some tips on how to improve their performance. “There’s a few tricks to the sport, it’s not as simple as it looks,” he said with a laugh. The Thompson Okanagan provides a number of options for people to enjoy cross country skiing if you’re looking to try something new. – The Stake Lake Trails, located south of Kamloops and operated by the Overlander Ski Club, boasts a 60-km trail system. – Harper Mountain offers a three kilometre groomed trail system that meanders through a forested area, and is great for both traditional cross country skiing and skate skiing. -The Telemark Nordic Club, located in West Kelowna, offers 60 kilometres of trails. – The Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club offers 75-km of trails. – Sovereign Lake, located in SilverStar Resort, is also open. It offers 105 kilometres of daily groomed trails and is the largest network of cross-country ski trails in Canada. Joel Barde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sun Peaks Independent News Inc.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to work toward achieving net zero emissions by 2050. "We're launching a high-level, climate-ambition ministerial and to align our policies and our goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050," Biden said in a speech following a bilateral meeting with the Canadian leader. U.S. Special Climate Change Envoy John Kerry and his Canadian counterpart, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, will host the ministerial.
Melaine Simba will never forget the months she spent inside her home on Ka’a’gee Tu First Nation, south of Yellowknife, with her windows tightly shut to prevent wildfire smoke from seeping in. It was the summer of 2014 and she was following public health orders to stay inside during the Northwest Territories’ worst wildfire season on record. “There were fires all around us,” Simba told The Narwhal. “I couldn’t go outside, and I couldn’t take my son outside.” “It was just so hard to breathe in that smoke with all the falling ash.” According to a new study published in the journal BMJ Open, the wildfires caused extremely poor air quality during the more than two months of unrelenting smoke exposure. This led to a sharp increase in respiratory illnesses, with vulnerable populations, such as children and Indigenous people, disproportionately affected. The study also found that public health advisories asking people to stay inside during the wildfires were “inadequately protective,” possibly because people grew tired of the long period of isolation. With climate change contributing to longer and more intense wildfire seasons, the study authors say there’s an urgent need to be far more prepared in the future. “A really big take home of this study is that climate change is bad, and it is going to get worse,” Courtney Howard, the lead author of the study and an emergency physician in Yellowknife, told The Narwhal, adding that smoke exposure levels during the wildfires were believed to be some of the worst ever studied globally. “We are going to need new, proactive approaches as we go into a warmer, smokier state on this planet.” Warmer temperatures caused by climate change can spur drier conditions, increasing the risk of wildfires. In 2014, moderate to severe drought conditions and lightning strikes were the catalyst for 385 fires that impacted 3.4 million hectares of forest in the Northwest Territories. According to the federal government, temperatures across the North are warming more than twice as fast as the global rate. In Yellowknife, between 1943 and 2011, the annual average temperature in the city increased by 2.5 C. The average level of particulate matter (PM 2.5) in the air was five times higher than normal during the 2014 wildfires, compared with the two previous years and 2015. PM 2.5 — inhalable particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter — is associated with a range of respiratory conditions. The study found this increase in particulate matter was associated with an increase in visits to the hospital for asthma, pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Asthma-related emergency room visits doubled, with the highest rates found in women, people older than 40 and Dene. Visits for pneumonia increased by 57 per cent, with men, children and Inuit particularly affected. And visits for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease increased by 11 per cent, with men, the Inuit and Dene populations and people over 60 showing the greatest risk. While the results suggest that Indigenous people were more affected, Howard said it’s difficult to say for sure because they may have been more likely to go to the ER due to lack of access to medical clinics. The demand for medicine that helps alleviate the symptoms of asthma surged, too. The dispensation of salbutamol, the agent found in puffers, increased by 48 per cent. “In fact, one of the pharmacies ran out over the course of the summer,” Howard said. Supply chain problems “demonstrated a lack of resilience,” she added. The study also sheds light on systemic issues that contribute to worse health outcomes in vulnerable populations, including Indigenous people. “Climate-related health effects impact all populations but are likely to disproportionately affect communities living at the frontlines of rapid climate change, as well as those experiencing systemic racism, socioeconomic and health disparities, and/or the enduring effects of colonization,” the study states. Protracted periods of isolation, a lack of exercise, fear and stress during the wildfires also had negative impacts on people’s mental health and way of life, according to a 2018 report that Howard was also involved with. “Livelihood and land-based activities were disrupted for some interviewees, which had negative consequences for mental, emotional and physical well-being,” the report states. During the summer, Indigenous people across the territory fish, hunt and visit old villages and the gravesites of relatives, Jason Snaggs, the chief executive officer of Yellowknives Dene First Nation, told The Narwhal. The wildfires prevented people from taking part in these cultural activities, he added. “This leads to depression, and you have sort of a compounding effect, in terms of colonialism, the effects of residential schools, intergenerational trauma,” Snaggs said. “Some people were visibly traumatized by this event.” Sheltering in place can lead to increased rates of family violence, including violence against Indigenous women, Snaggs added. During the 2016 wildfires that tore through Fort McMurray, Alta., calls to a local family crisis centre increased by upward of 300 per cent, according to Michele Taylor, executive director of Waypoints, an emergency shelter for women and children. Howard said the 2014 wildfires were a seminal event in people’s understanding of climate change in the region. “At the time, ecological grief and eco-anxiety hadn’t really shown up in the evidence base,” she said. “Looking back at our analysis, I think we can easily apply those terms to what we found and say it was a trigger for ecological grief and anxiety for a lot of people.” Howard said communities — particularly Indigenous communities — need to be better equipped to withstand wildfires. Some homes in Indigenous communities are overcrowded and aren’t built to the same standards as those elsewhere in the territory. Howard emphasized the need to address this problem first and foremost. The BMJ study recommends governments install ventilation systems in old and new homes ahead of wildfire season. Doing so would ensure residents have access to clean air without having to leave the house. “Our infrastructure decisions need to be based on the temperature and precipitation patterns that we’re anticipating for the coming century as opposed to the ones we had in the last one,” Howard said. The study also recommends primary health-care practitioners identify people who may grapple with respiratory illnesses and ensure that air filters and puffers are readily available prior to wildfire season. “That will allow people to manage their symptoms at home and never get to the point where they’re stuck in the emergency department,” Howard said. “The sooner particularly vulnerable people have access [to air filters and puffers], the better.” In 2014, the City of Yellowknife waived user fees for a multi-purpose recreation facility so residents could go there to breathe clean, filtered air and exercise, Howard said. But not everyone in Yellowknife is afforded the same level of access. N’Dilo, which is part of Yellowknives Dene First Nation and is located in Yellowknife proper, only has one space people can gather in during a wildfire — a 45-year-old gym that isn’t equipped with a filtration system to keep air clean. The study suggests that public health practitioners use satellite-based smoke forecasting to determine whether clean air shelters are needed in advance of wildfire season and, if necessary, make more available. The 2018 report — which documented the experiences of 30 community members from Yellowknife, Dettah, N’Dilo and Kakisa who lived through the wildfires — found there was a consensus among participants about the need for improved communication and coordination at the community and territorial levels as wildfires intensify. Howard said residents and health-care providers need to proactively prepare for wildfire season every year. “We need to be viewing wildfire season the same way we view cold and flu season.” Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
The number of rural Ontarians working in January dropped 2.7 per cent from recent averages as the second COVID-19 lockdown clobbered retail, food services and recreation jobs in small towns, new figures show. About 16,000 fewer people were employed last month in small towns and rural Ontario compared to averages over the last three years, according to a report from the Rural Ontario Institute. “There was some backsliding in what had been a story of recovery,” said Norman Ragetlie, the institute’s executive director. “January numbers showed a drop . . . that’s pretty significant for one month, and that represents another lockdown.” The figures are even worse in some of the hardest-hit sectors: • Accommodation and food services shed 12,000 workers, dropping 46 per cent from typical job numbers. • The number employed in information, culture and recreation fell by 11,000, down 81 per cent from previous averages. • Retail and wholesale trade saw 8,000 fewer people employed than normal. These losses were offset by gains in other industries: • Construction in rural Ontario added 11,000 jobs. • Finance, insurance and real estate was up by 6,000 jobs • Utilities added 5,000 workers; and health care and social assistance showed a 4,000-job rise. The mix of losses and gains could speak to workers seeking employment in other sectors, Ragetlie said. “While there’s cause for concern, obviously from an economic perspective and more people out of work . . . hopefully, there’s adjustments in the labour market,” he said. Rural Ontario’s 2.7 per cent dip in people working is less than the gap in large urban centres that saw the number of people employed drop by 5.7 per cent, or 345,000 people, in January. The Rural Ontario Institute is a Guelph-based think-tank that advocates for and offers programs to rural areas of the province. In the report, which pulls data from Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey, rural and small towns refer to places with a population of up to 10,000. Women continue to bear the brunt of job losses in rural areas, a consistent trend since the pandemic began. In January, the number of women working in small towns dropped 9.3 per cent, while the number of men working rose 3.1 per cent. Ragetlie said that could reflect hardest-hit industries having a higher proportion of women employees, along with impacts of school closings and child-care issues. Rural employment had been steadily rebounding since last spring’s initial COVID-19 lockdowns that devastated the economy and at its peak in May saw small-torn employment down 9.8 per cent. That rebound began to decline in November as COVID cases spiked, and with the second lockdown only just lifting, Ragetlie said job losses could continue. “In terms of the arc of the storyline here, there was a major drop off, a slow recovery, and now another dip, and we’ll have to see,” he said. “We were locked down until recently in Ontario, and I would expect that the February numbers will still reflect that and may even be worse.” email@example.com Twitter.com./MaxatLFPress The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
TORONTO — A judge accused of lying to a disciplinary committee said on Tuesday that he did indeed give up all involvement with a Black federation he helped found out of fear he would be suspended from the bench.Testifying at a hearing into his alleged misconduct, Ontario court Judge Donald McLeod said he resigned from his roles on the Federation of Black Canadians in mid-2018.At the time, the disciplinary committee was weighing in on a complaint about McLeod's efforts as a member of the federation's steering committee and its lobbying of the federal government. The complaint turned on whether he was compromising his position as a judge by being a part of an activist group.McLeod, who has won widespread accolades for his work on Black issues, said he was surprised to learn he was under threat of judicial sanction and worried what would happen if that became public."It left me in an unenviable position," McLeod said. "Now they were going to suspend me. I’m the only Black judge on the Ontario court of justice. It would cause harm to my reputation.”McLeod had founded the federation in 2016. It describes itself as a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization to advance the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Canadians of African descent. The activist organization lobbied government on issues they considered key, including on behalf of Somali child refugee, Abdoulkader Abdi.Faced with suspension pending a ruling on the complaint against him, McLeod said he felt he had no choice other than to inform the Ontario Judicial Council in 2018 that he was no longer active with the federation.“I had to just go,” he said. “Then I was gone and all communication (with the federation) would have ceased.”A panel of the Ontario Judicial Council is looking at whether McLeod committed perjury when he told the first panel he was no longer active with the group."Justice McLeod resumed a leadership role in the FBC," according to the allegation against him.For example, in December 2018, evidence before the hearing was that McLeod was involved in an email chain with members of the federation. He explained they had reached out to him about proposed changes the organization wanted to make.McLeod said he offered information that only he had as a former member of the steering committee."I’m probably the only one who has the experience of the organization from the very beginning," McLeod said. “They would need my historical knowledge in order to see if this could actually be done."After the initial complaint was dismissed in Dec. 20, 2018, McLeod said he resumed limited, non-lobbying activities with the federation. He said the ruling had clarified what judges could and could not do, and he acted within those limits.“What the ruling does is it now gives us the four corners that we can work within,” he said.He said he did chair meetings but did not vote, except once accidentally on a routine motion, and absolutely refrained from any advocacy and had no role in any fundraising.. A newspaper broke the story of his new troubles and suspension with pay in September 2019 on a day he was achieving a prestigious award from United Nations in New York.“This has been a very tough run.” he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2021. Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press
(Kate Dubinski/CBC - image credit) Mary Lou Onyskevitch is like many other seniors in Saskatchewan: she is waiting for her first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The 71-year-old is hoping to receive a call from the Saskatchewan Health Authority about her vaccination, but for the last couple of months, she's also been inquiring about a shot for her 93-year-old neighbour, Gertie Lennox. Under the first phase of the province's vaccine rollout, all residents age 70 and over are eligible to be vaccinated. Last month, when Onyskevitch heard vaccinations would be available near her home in Christopher Lake, about 170 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, she phoned to try to get herself, her 71-year-old husband and Lennox on the list. She said she received an automated message that the available appointment slots were already full. Recent government of Saskatchewan news releases have said those eligible for a vaccine in the first phase should not contact the health authority or government, but should wait to be contacted. Onyskevitch said people in her community are being contacted and asked if they are 70 or older. She thought the government would use information in its database to contact people based on age. "It would have been extremely easy for them to pull that information and call people in order of their age. That, to me, would be far more efficient than having some volunteer make a list of people over 70 in their area." She'd like to get vaccinated so she can spend time with her neighbour, who she said has lived "without much company" during the pandemic. Onyskevitch said Lennox's son regularly visits, but she is not able to see her neighbour because current health orders prevent it. "I also do Gertie's foot care now that I can't take her in for pedicures anymore. So I'm anxious to also get the vaccine so I can get over and visit my neighbour." Let people book appointments Onyskevitch was relieved to learn Lennox received a call Monday to get her first vaccine dose in early March. She said she knows people around her age in her community who have already received the full two doses. The vaccination clinic in Christopher Lake was scheduled for Jan. 20. Onyskevitch was planning to go to see if she and her husband could receive a shot if someone who had booked decided not to attend. "Then they changed the date to the 19th and apparently they were phoning people. However, I wasn't told if you could be there in 20 minutes, you could get a vaccine because they had several no-shows," she said. "I think the whole thing has not been well planned or thought out at all." Onyskevitch said if the province is not going to call people based on age, it should let those over 70 put themselves on a list. "If they want people to sign up for vaccines, put out a phone number and make it widely available and have people that want vaccines … be able to call in." SHA advertises clinic in north central The first public vaccination clinics in Phase 1 were advertised on Jan. 13, with the health authority offering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to seniors living independently in Wakaw, Cudworth and Rosthern. On Jan. 14, the SHA advertised vaccination clinics in eight communities in the north central region, including Christopher Lake, Birch Hills and Shellbrook. "The COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech) is immediately available to Saskatchewan seniors over the age of 70 living in the north central area," the health authority said. "Anyone meeting this general criterion is urged to call the below number(s) in to book a vaccination appointment immediately." Six hours after announcing the north central region clinics, the health authority sent out a news release saying they were booked full. On Jan. 18, the SHA sent out a news release announcing vaccination clinics for those over 70 in Prince Albert. The authority has not sent a public news release soliciting people to book an appointment for a vaccination clinic since then. Saskatchewan's most recent vaccination totals by region. More than 200,000 people will be part of the province's Phase 1 vaccine plan, which includes long-term care residents and staff, select health-care workers and people over 70. Premier Scott Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab were asked at a news conference Tuesday about the vaccine plan for those over 70. Moe directed specific questions to the Saskatchewan Health Authority. The SHA was not included on the COVID-19 media conference call Tuesday. Moe said he was not aware of specific instances where a vaccination clinic did operate as planned. CBC has reached out to the health authority for comment on its Phase 1 vaccination plan. Determining where vaccines go Last month, Saskatchewan Health Authority CEO Scott Livingstone said the limited availability of vaccines and the logistics of handling the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — which needs to be refrigerated at extremely low temperatures — play a role in determining where the vaccines will go. But so do transmission rates in an area, Livingstone said. "One of the other big factors in the distribution is the attack rates or the current caseload in those areas of the province, which also have a high likelihood for us to be successful in … dealing with the most vulnerable," Livingstone said. The Ministry of Health added that locations are prioritized based on "a combination of risk criteria," including an area's outbreak rate. The decisions of two key groups determine where vaccines will go, according to the ministry. "While priority sequencing is determined by the COVID-19 Immunization Planning Oversight Committee, specific locations and facilities are determined by local Integrated Health Incident Command Centres," the ministry said. The ministries of Health and Government Relations are represented on the oversight committee, as are the Saskatchewan Health Authority, the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency and Indigenous Services Canada.
Golf superstar Tiger Woods needed surgery after a car crash in Los Angeles on Tuesday that left him with multiple leg injuries. Officials say he was conscious when pulled from the wrecked SUV and the injuries are not life threatening.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to confirm Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary, his second run at the Cabinet post. The former Iowa governor spent eight years leading the same Department of Agriculture for former President Barack Obama's entire administration. He was confirmed Tuesday on a 92-7 vote. “We’re going to be a USDA that represents and serves all Americans,” Vilsack said after the vote. “I am optimistic about the future and believe our brightest days are ahead.” In his testimony, Vilsack, 70, heavily endorsed boosting climate-friendly agricultural industries such as the creation of biofuels, saying, “Agriculture is one of our first and best ways to get some wins" on climate change. He proposed “building a rural economy based on biomanufacturing” and “turning agricultural waste into a variety of products.” Vilsack also pledged to work closely with the Environmental Protection Agency to “spur the industry” on biofuels. With systemic racial inequity now a nationwide talking point, Vilsack also envisioned creating an “equity task force” inside the department. Its job, he said, would be to identify what he called “intentional or unintentional barriers" that prevent or discourage farmers of colour from properly accessing federal assistance programs. Vilsack also heavily backed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — commonly known as food stamps, or SNAP — as a key instrument in helping the country's most vulnerable families survive and recover from the pandemic era. His Trump-era predecessor, Sonny Perdue, had sought to purge hundreds of thousands of people from the SNAP-recipient lists. Vilsack received minimal pushback or criticism during confirmation hearings. One of the “no” votes came from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats. Sanders later said that Vilsack would “be fine” but he would have liked “somebody a little bit more vigorous in terms of protecting family farms and taking on corporate agriculture.” Vilsack's approval was hailed by the Food Research and Action Center, which focuses on food security and equity. The organization said Vilsack's department faces a looming challenge to “protect and strengthen federal nutrition programs to help address our nation’s hunger crisis that has been deepened by the COVID-19 pandemic.” Ashraf Khalil, The Associated Press
Kati George-Jim carries teachings about the relational cycles of ecosystems, passed on to her by one of her many women. The T’suk woman speaks of how salmon are nurtured by natural water systems — when fish bones are left on the side of the beach, animals are able to feed off that same nutrition. Bears and other animals then expel that waste, which nurtures other relatives on the floor of the forest, and helps plants grow which are then harvested from the land. It’s one of many teachings that are key to understanding Indigenous food systems in the territories they serve, Jim says. “Those teachings, that language and the relationship to nutrition all comes back to food,” she says. “Whether it’s feeding us or feeding ecosystems, it’s important to understand that relationship.” George-Jim has ancestry from both her parents stemming from the southern part of so-called Vancouver Island, T’Sou-ke and W̱SÁNEĆ Territories. She says she was raised to acknowledge jurisdictions outside of those boundaries which is why she she uses the more territory-based word T’suk. She is currently the community liaison Initiative lead of ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL Indigenous Food Systems Initiative, a First Nations-led program focused on sustaining local traditional foods. ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL recently put out a call for spring grant applications for projects involving local Indigenous food and knowledge systems on Lekwungen, W̱SÁNEĆ, T’suk and Pacheedaht territories. The grants range from $100 to $10,000 and cover activities such as creating food or medicine gardens, providing nutritional education, removing invasive species, providing traditional food for entire communities, and land restoration. This year, the Initiative has created four themed categories for proposals: Fill Your Basket & Community Harvest; Maintenance & Restoration; Storytelling; and Transformation & Transition. “For us as Indigenous peoples, it all comes back to the land itself and the land, as we know, reflects our economy,” says George-Jim, who has worked with the initiative since 2019. “When we have sustenance, that comes from ensuring that we have abundance. We have the land management and the laws that ensure the longevity of the land and who we are.” The initiative initially started with the intention of wanting to do things differently — granting projects from inside the communities instead of through outside agencies. Many times, external bodies that provide funding don’t actually address the root of the problem, George-Jim says. There are philanthropic foundations and charities that are starting to take steps towards having different relationships with Indigenous Peoples on the receiving end of grants, explains George-Jim, “but as we know, alot of diversity and inclusion strategies still don’t talk about the root.” George-Jim explains that ŚW̱,ȻENEṈITEL is unique as a place-based program, because it’s about how Indigenous leaders can move between the spaces and boundaries that have been put up around them. She says the grants are about direct relationships and working together to care for communities, the land, and future generations. “It’s actually working with communities (through) community partnerships,” she says. The work of the initiative is about self-determination. This is done by creating space and resources for funders to come to the understanding of how the initiatives need to be met — with an Indigenous-led focus, says George-Jim. The Initiative is now at a place where the funders don’t want to speak on behalf of communities and instead want to act as a facilitator for change, she adds. “The work of our own people and communities often does not fit into a program or into a funding stream,” she says. The grants aren’t just about food sovereignty, but also incorporate language, culture and family structures. “We are interdependent on each other,” says George-Jim. “We can and have always been self-sufficient, and our wealth is seen as how we take care of the land and how we give back to the land versus … wealth, in the view of a foreign economy to these territories, is seen as how much can be extracted.” George-Jim speaks to the legacy of colonialism in the changing landscape through agriculture and the displacement of Indigenous peoples through colonialism, including residential schools, reserve systems, and more. “If we really want to tackle systemic issues, we need to talk about what is literally rooted here,” she says, adding that, “it’s all of our responsibility to remove the conditions of colonialism from these territories in order to restore balance to our food systems and our ways of being as local Indigenous people.” People from Lekwungen, W̱SÁNEĆ, Tsuk, and Pacheedaht territories can apply for grants either through a written or oral application by Feb. 25. Katłįà (Catherine) Lafferty, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Two geriatricians answer viewer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine and seniors including improving access to doses and the safety of the vaccines.