China's embassy in the Philippines has denounced the United States for "creating chaos" in Asia, after a visiting White House envoy backed countries in disputes with China and accused Beijing of using military pressure to further its interests. During a trip to Manila on Monday, national security adviser Robert O'Brien underscored the U.S. commitment to Taiwan and told the Philippines and Vietnam, countries both locked in maritime rows with China, that "we've got your back". "It shows that his visit to this region is not to promote regional peace and stability, but to create chaos in the region in order to seek selfish interests of the U.S.," the embassy said in a statement issued late Monday.
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday vowed to defend the democratic island's sovereignty with the construction of a new fleet of domestically-developed submarines, a key project supported by the United States to counter neighbouring China. Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has been for years working to revamp its submarine force, some of which date back to World War Two, and is no match for China's fleet, which includes vessels capable of launching nuclear weapons. At a ceremony to mark the start of construction of a new submarine fleet in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Tsai called the move a "historic milestone" for Taiwan's defensive capabilities after overcoming "various challenges and doubts".
B.C.'s health-care workers are pleading with the public to heed health orders while bracing for difficult working conditions as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.On Monday, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced there were another 1,933 cases of COVID-19 over the last three days and 17 more deaths.This comes just over two weeks after restrictions were initially put in place in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, and a few days after those restrictions were extended to cover the entire province. Christine Sorensen, president of the B.C. Nurses' Union, says nurses are frustrated when they see people continue to gather in groups and not follow the guidelines because that increases transmission and puts additional pressure on the health-care system."It puts greater demands on the staff that also fairly tired, looking for a bit of a rest and a break and really not seeing anything coming in the next few months, particularly with the holiday season coming and people wanting to mix and mingle with their friends and family," Sorensen said. Dr. Kathleen Ross, the president of Doctors of B.C., says the prospect of burnout is looming closer for many front line health-care workers. "Many of us are afraid to go home for fear of infecting our loved ones and many more of us drop our clothes at the door and run to the shower before we even greet our family," said Ross. "We're adjusting to the new normal ... but of course we cannot expect that surge capacity to last forever."And both Ross and Sorensen point out it is not just front line health-care workers shouldering the burden, but additional staff like cleaning crews and maintenance workers who keep the whole health-care system operational."There are lots of unsung heroes in the system, not just in the emergency rooms where there are doctors and nurses taking care of our most acutely ill," Sorensen said. Sorensen says she worries the spike in cases could escalate to point where essential health-care workers are kept on the job even if they've been exposed."[I'm] very concerned [about that]. Nurses are dedicated and they do want to continue working, but if we get enough nurses exposed or sick, we won't have enough nurses to deliver healthcare," she said. Ross says this is a crucial moment."If everyone does their part, if we all step forward and follow the public health guidelines as they have been laid out, then we'll get there. But we have to do it all together."
An opposition lawmaker called on Tuesday for Malaysia to outlaw online hate speech, accusing authorities of downplaying the gravity of an issue highlighted by a Reuters investigation into abuse on Facebook of Rohingya refugees and undocumented migrants. Citing the Reuters report on rising xenophobia online in Malaysia in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic, lawmaker Chan Foong Hin asked the Communications and Multimedia Ministry last week to state its plans to combat such hate speech.
Salt that crystallizes with sharp edges is the killer ingredient in the development of a reusable mask because any COVID-19 droplets that land on it would be quickly destroyed, says a researcher who is being recognized for her innovation.Ilaria Rubino, a recent PhD graduate from the department of chemical and materials engineering at the University of Alberta, said a mostly salt and water solution that coats the first or middle layer of the mask would dissolve droplets before they can penetrate the face covering.As the liquid from the droplets evaporates, the salt crystals grow back as spiky weapons, damaging the bacteria or virus within five minutes, Rubino said."We know that after the pathogens are collected in the mask, they can survive. Our goal was to develop a technology that is able to inactivate the pathogens upon contact so that we can make the mask as effective as possible."Rubino, who collaborated with a researcher at Georgia State University in Atlanta to advance the project she started five years ago, was recognized Tuesday with an innovation award from Mitacs. The Canadian not-for-profit organization receives funding from the federal government, most provinces and Yukon to honour researchers from academic institutions.The reusable, non-washable mask is made of a type of polypropylene, a plastic used in surgical masks, and could be safely worn and handled multiple times without being decontaminated, Rubino said.The idea is to replace surgical masks often worn by health-care workers who must dispose of them in a few hours, she said, adding the technology could potentially be used for N-95 respirators.The salt-coated mask is expected to be available commercially next year after regulatory approval. It could also be used to stop the spread of other infectious illnesses, such as influenza, Rubino said.Dr. Catherine Clase, an epidemiologist and associate professor of medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, said the "exciting" technology would have multiple benefits.Clase, who is a member of the Centre of Excellence in Protective Equipment and Materials in the engineering department at McMaster, said there wasn't much research in personal protective equipment when Rubino began her work."It's going to decrease the footprint for making and distributing and then disposing of every mask," she said, adding that the mask could also address any supply issues.The Public Health Agency of Canada recently recommended homemade masks consist of at least three layers, with a middle, removable layer constructed from a non-woven, washable polypropylene fabric to improve filtration.Conor Ruzycki, an aerosol scientist in the University of Alberta's mechanical engineering department, said Rubino's innovation adds to more recent research on masks as COVID-19 cases rise and shortages of face coverings in the health-care system could again become a problem.Ruzycki, who works in a lab to evaluate infiltration efficiencies of different materials for masks and respirators, is also a member of a physician-led Alberta group Masks4Canada, which is calling for stricter pandemic measures, including a provincewide policy on mandatory masks.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
Residents were given proper notice of a vote to remove Fort Simpson's liquor purchasing restrictions, according to N.W.T. finance minister Caroline Wawzonek. MLA for Nahendeh Shane Thompson – also a minister – posted to Facebook on Monday regarding concerns constituents had raised about the plebiscite held on November 12. Specifically, the post related to concerns about how much public notice was provided leading up to the vote and how to contact the official in charge of it. Residents ultimately voted overwhelmingly in favour of lifting alcohol restrictions in the community. Of 730 eligible voters, 240 cast a ballot and 175 of those were in favour of removing restrictions. The Department of Finance, which oversees liquor regulations in the N.W.T., is now in the process of implementing the result, which may take several weeks. Thompson's post relayed a message he had received from Wawzonek addressing concerns. “Based on all of the information I have received to date, I am confident in the integrity of the plebiscite held in the village of Fort Simpson,” Wawzonek's message to Thompson reads. Wawzonek states some residents who attend school away from Fort Simpson believe they did not receive adequate notice of the plebiscite. She concludes, however, that there was sufficient notice within the village, on Facebook, and through the media in the weeks and months before the vote. She adds returning officer Tammie Cazon fulfilled her duties in the Local Authorities Elections Act by providing public notice of the plebiscite, including details on how and where to vote. Wawzonek says Cazon met legislative requirements by posting public notices in five locations – the bank, the Northern store, the Unity store, the Nahanni Inn and Pandaville restaurant. “It is not the responsibility of the returning officer to locate and notify every resident of the community who may not be currently living in the community. That would be an impossible task," Wawzonek writes. "Voters bear some of the responsibility for informing themselves about how to exercise their democratic right to vote.” The final concern regards the returning officer’s email address and confusion about how to reach Cazon. Wawzonek again asserts faith in the process, saying her department confirmed with Cazon only one email address was distributed for voters to use. Proxy voting was an option in the plebiscite but, according to Wawzonek, Cazon did not receive any emails related to proxy voting. The community of Fort Simpson requested the plebiscite after a petition with more than 150 signatures from residents was turned in to the village council late last year, asking for action to try to remove the restrictions. Restrictions are set to be lifted in the coming weeks, though an exact date has not been set. Once the regulations are changed and restrictions lifted, the village is still bound to pandemic-related alcohol restrictions, which limit customers to a maximum of $200 per day at any liquor store in the territory and six mickeys (375-ml bottles) of spirits in a 24-hour period.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
A B.C. surgeon who called his preteen patient a "loose woman" during an appointment has been fined and reprimanded by his professional regulator.Dr. Bruce Taro Yoneda, an orthopedic surgeon based in Victoria, has admitted that he "engaged in unprofessional conduct by using sexualized language during a surgical consult," according to a public notice posted Friday by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.Yoneda also acknowledged telling the same young patient he would give her a "lube job," and admitted he did not give her a full explanation before he began questioning her about her menstrual cycle.The college's inquiry committee, which investigates complaints against doctors, "was critical of the registrant's admitted conduct and concluded that his use of inappropriate language displayed a lack of insight," the notice says.As part of a consent agreement with the college, Yoneda has been fined $7,500, received a formal reprimand and has had his registration as a doctor transferred to "conditional" status. He's also agreed to take courses in clinical communication and professionalism.
MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Miss Vickie's Canada says some of its potato chips that were part of a recall in Eastern Canada earlier this month due to possible glass contamination were inadvertently shipped west. The company says the chips were only shipped to retail customers in Alberta, Brandon, Man., and Moose Jaw, Sask, and that it's working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to co-ordinate a voluntary recall. It says 630 bags are involved, and they have very specific "guaranteed fresh" dates and "manufacturing codes." Consumers who have purchased the chips should not eat them and are urged to throw them out or return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. At the beginning of November, Miss Vickie's recalled some chips sold online and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada due to what it said was "isolated reports of the presence of a small piece of glass found at the bottom of the bag." The CFIA says on its website there have been reported injuries associated with the products. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020. The Canadian Press
The staff tested positive last week and Maxwell was checked for the virus on Nov. 18 using a rapid test which was negative, the prosecutors said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan. Maxwell was placed in quarantine at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn for 14 days, said the letter. Maxwell has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19 and will be tested again at the end of her two-week quarantine.
During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic it was impossible to escape public health messaging by local, provincial and federal officials. The three practices hammered home by the hour were to socially distance (a minimum of two metres), wash hands regularly and, eventually, don a face mask whenever in contact with others. The messaging wasn’t simplistic, it was important. Public attitudes and behaviours needed to be shaped to fight a deadly virus spreading rapidly into every corner of our planet. But, in a display of hypocrisy, while these same officials told all of us how to behave, many either refused or at least willfully ignored much of the epidemiology and science of virology that medical experts began to share with them. For the first few weeks there was not a clear understanding of testing and contact tracing, the two tools public health authorities could directly deploy to control viral spread, if governments cooperated. In jurisdictions around the world where they did, the virus was effectively confronted, and in places like South Korea, a hyper focus on testing and tracing almost immediately eradicated the novel coronavirus. In places like the U.S. it was an opposite story, and a country with about 4 percent of the world’s population quickly accounted for 20-25 percent of global COVID-19 cases. Canada, was somewhere in the middle, and Ontario was somewhere in the middle of the country, in terms of testing and tracing levels per capita. But in Peel, and Brampton specifically, it was another story entirely. Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott repeatedly claimed they were taking their cues from public health experts, but new data released by the Province show that viral literacy beyond distancing, masking and handwashing did not sink in with the two people who wield more power than anyone else in the fight of our lifetime. They were responsible for a strategy to guide Ontario through its COVID-19 storm and keep residents of Peel safe. The key to any strategy was testing. "We've got to be able to test widely in the community for asymptomatic spreaders of the infection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently told the CBC, warning Canada was at a tipping point in its response to the virus. “If you just test people who are symptomatic, you're going to miss a very large contingent of the spread of infection in the community." But in Brampton, from the beginning of the pandemic, both asymptomatic and symptomatic testing fell far short of any meaningful outcome. The testing levels were so low, they were effectively useless. While Toronto was provided with 17 assessment centres and Mississauga received 3, Brampton, with a population of 650,000, was given 1, inside Peel Memorial, where between 150 and 300 tests were being done daily around the start of the pandemic. There were no drive-through testing sites, unlike in other jurisdictions, such as Etobicoke, where the same healthcare system, William Osler, that runs Brampton’s hospitals, was resourced to run two screening sites, including one where residents could drive up in their cars and be tested without getting out. In Brampton, at Osler’s lone screening facility, long lines became a feature immediately in the spring, and it was clear the city, because of certain employment and demographic patterns, was going to be a major problem. But additional resources for testing in the city were ignored by the same leaders on TV every day telling us to distance, wear masks and wash our hands. At its most basic level, testing allows officials and other experts to understand where the virus is spreading and where it is not. Testing data informs reopening policy, the protection of long-term care and acts as a trigger for lockdowns, as well as the signal for any loosening of restrictions. No part of the viral response is easy. The virus that causes the COVID-19 disease is aggressively contagious, jumping from one person to another through close contact or in situations where airflow is limited. To compound the issue, an incubation period of up to two weeks means testing data offers a snapshot of the past and must be manipulated to understand the future. In Ontario, new data released by the Province suggests efforts to expand testing since the first wave of the pandemic have focused on Ontario as a whole and not problem areas, particularly Peel. Analysis by The Pointer of several key moments between May and November reveals a rigid strategy that increased testing evenly across Ontario, instead of zeroing in on hotspots. Peel Region, where the virus is once more sweeping through already vulnerable communities, offers evidence of this. Despite positivity rates consistently above (and regularly double) the provincial average, Peel has received marginally less testing than Ontario overall. Few targeted efforts have been made to proportionally increase tests in the region based on need and a constantly worsening pandemic in certain areas of the region (outside a brief period between late July and mid-August, Brampton has not seen any relief from high daily infection numbers since the end of March). Now, with a test positivity rate above 15 percent, and daily infections averaging almost 300 cases, Brampton has become the symbol of neglect. To put into perspective the disconnect between the data and what officials did with it, consider these comments from mid-October. “Three per cent is worrisome,” Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said at the time, when the overall test positivity in the province reached 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, Brampton was approaching double digits, and public health officials, along with our political leaders including Ford and Elliott, knew it. An analysis of the failure to use available data and create responsible testing capacity in Peel was done by The Pointer. It focuses on four key dates. The first, in May, represents the highest point of the first wave outside of April, for which testing data is not available. The second, at the beginning of August, marks one of Ontario’s lowest infection periods and the day after Peel entered the most liberal restrictions since the start of the pandemic. A third date in late October was selected to coincide with the day Peel’s medical officer of health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, finally acknowledged a second wave had begun in the region, more than a month after his provincial and federal counterparts declared a second wave had arrived and two months after it had already hit Brampton. The final data point analyzes the most recently published figures. Two key metrics are included in the analysis: the seven-day average of percent positivity and the seven-day average of tests per 100,000 residents. The percent positivity, or percentage of tests that show a person is infected, is used to measure if an area is testing enough, while tests per 100,000 offer the opportunity to compare screening levels between regions and across Ontario as a whole. On May 24, Peel’s seven day average for percent positivity was 10.3 percent. By comparison, neighbouring Toronto recorded a test positivity of 8.9 percent. In Peel, 62 tests were administered per 100,000 residents, with 75 in Toronto. Overall, Ontario had a positivity rate of 5.3 percent and completed 61 tests per 100,000 across the province. Despite double the rate of test positivity in Ontario, Peel was getting the same amount of testing done per capita. It was the first sign that the hotspot was being ignored. In May, the pandemic response was well underway, but Ontario was already on the backfoot. The government had mandated an emergency shutdown in March and was scrambling to protect hospitals, while losing its battle in long-term care. It was still grappling with a testing strategy: reacting to crisis points and failing to plan forward. As restrictions played their part and cases began to fall, Ontario looked at reopening. In June, Peel Region entered Stage 2 of the Province’s old reopening framework and, by August 1, indoor dining, gyms and bars were all open under Stage 3. Over the summer, with lower rates of infection, leaders were provided with a golden opportunity to create a more responsive testing strategy than the one scraped together between February and June. There was a moment to breathe, evaluate and assess before the inevitable second wave, which epidemiologists around the world had made clear was on its way. By August, the Ontario viral picture was vastly improved, although Peel rates (driven by daily case numbers in Brampton that were four to six times higher than Mississauga) remained well above the province’s overall. On August 1, Peel’s positivity rate of one percent (brought down by Mississauga and Caledon) was double the Ontario figure of 0.5 percent. In Toronto it sat at 0.4 percent. Despite this, Peel recorded 124 tests per 100,000 residents compared to 158 in Toronto and 167 for Ontario as a whole. Peel’s rate represented a 100 percent increase over May, well below a 174 percent increase for Ontario as a whole. But instead of increasing testing in Peel, relative to screening levels across Ontario as a whole and compared to areas such as Toronto where screening capacity was expanded by a higher rate compared to its heavy hit neighbour to the west, screening here did not reflect the indicators that showed Peel was in trouble. This pattern suggests a relatively inflexible testing strategy, ignoring historical and point in time test positivity rates. Instead of learning from Peel’s first wave and earmarking extra resources to keep the region under control, testing was increased across the board, despite data that clearly showed Peel was being hit much harder than other regions. In both May and August, Peel Region had a positivity rate twice that of the province as a whole, but was resourced for similar or lower testing levels than the average. Using testing to get a general survey of the viral landscape is important, but zeroing in on specific problem areas is the key, according to epidemiologists. Identifying areas like Peel as a hotspot without creating more testing and contact tracing to control viral spread can be pointless. “The best way to [increase testing] is to make sure that people in counties with high positivity rates have access to testing and are proactively getting tested when they need it,” Dr. Charissa Fotinos, Washington State’s COVID-19 testing leader, explained in September. “Right now, this is not happening enough, and we need it to drastically increase if we are going to stop COVID-19 from spreading rapidly, especially in disproportionately impacted communities and among our essential workers.” By the summer, it was well known that demographics in parts of Peel, particularly in Mississauga’s Malton area and a number of neighbourhoods in Brampton, were more susceptible to viral spread, because of higher levels of employment in essential-work sectors such as food services and certain manufacturing industries, along with more dense living conditions and lower income levels which are correlated to factors such as a reliance on public transit. But instead of using all these known indicators and the other data being provided, to increase testing levels dramatically, above any other part of the province, which should have been done, testing in Peel, particularly in Brampton, remained far below where it should have been to keep communities safe. A high positivity rate tends to signal a lack of testing and an increase in tracked and untracked viral spread. In Ontario, including thresholds established by Peel Public Health, 2.5 to 3 percent test positivity indicates viral spread is not being controlled. New York City recently closed many of its public schools because the test positivity for the city as a whole reached 3 percent. At the same time, Brampton’s was over 15 percent. Rates exceeding these benchmarks mean testing levels have fallen far short of the numbers needed to allow contact tracing to catch infections in the community before people transmit the virus widely out in public, allowing spread to take place relatively unchecked. Portable and flexible resources should be available to blitz these areas until the infection is brought under control. To recycle an overused metaphor: significant, portable testing resources would act as air support to dump water on the heart of a forest wildfire. “A high percent positive means that more testing should probably be done—and it suggests that it is not a good time to relax restrictions aimed at reducing coronavirus transmission,” David Dowdy and Gypsyamber D’Souza from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health explained in an August article on test positivity. Between August 1, when a semblance of normality returned, and October 26, when Loh finally proclaimed a second wave in Peel, the COVID-19 picture went from decent to dire. In less than three months, Peel’s positivity rate jumped to 7.1 percent on October 26, far outpacing either Peel Public Health or the Ontario targets for keeping the virus under control. Tests did increase to 181 per 100,000, an uptick of 45 percent. But by comparison, Toronto, with a test positivity of 4.6 percent, completed 214 tests per 100,000 on the same day near the end of October, an increase of 35 percent from its August levels. Ontario as a whole (with a test positivity of 2.9 percent at the time) increased its average 25 percent to 210 tests per 100,000. Both Toronto and Ontario remained well above Peel’s testing per capita, despite the region’s dangerous positivity rate, which was three times higher than the rest of the province. Despite Ford calling Brampton “broken” on September 4 and Elliott repeatedly claiming the city would get more testing if it needed it, both of them ignored their own responsibility, and the data that was staring them in the face. In early November, Loh demonstrated an understanding of the importance of ramping up testing for areas with high positivity. “Either we’re not testing [enough] or we’re seeing … a true rise in cases, or both,” he said on November 4 to Mississauga councillors, with Peel’s positivity rate already twice as high as the next worst part of the province. “Until we actually finally get a little more data, especially with our testing levels continuing to be brought up, we’re going to have to just assume that it’s both. We’re not testing enough and we’re seeing a genuine rise in cases.” What he did not explain, was that the “genuine” rise of cases was largely due to inadequate testing and the crucial contact tracing that can only be done effectively with proper testing levels to show tracers where to look for viral spread. Other officials, particularly Elliott, have shown a lack of understanding of the dire reality in Peel. On September 14, The Pointer asked her why Brampton had operated with just one full testing centre for the entire pandemic (Osler has since opened its Cold and Flu Clinic at Memorial providing another option for residents wishing to get tested) and how she would improve the situation. “If we find that there is a need for another testing centre in Brampton, of course, we will take a look at that, because we want people to go and get tested and distance from the testing facility shouldn’t be a problem that hinders them from doing that,” she said. Provincial data for the day she spoke show Peel Region had a test positivity rate of 2.1 percent compared to a provincial rate of 0.9 percent, and, using population per municipality, Brampton’s would have likely been closer to 4 percent. In Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, 155 people were tested for every 100,000 residents, 22 percent below the provincial rate of 199, despite Peel having more than double the test positivity rate compared to Ontario overall. It seemed incomprehensible that Elliott would not have known Brampton desperately needed much more testing. After promising to look into the issue, and in the face of her own data, nothing changed. At an October 28 press conference, The Pointer again asked Elliott about Brampton’s testing resources as the city continued its status as Ontario’s hotspot. "We will look into what is happening in Brampton,” Elliott said. When she spoke, 44 days after she had last offered a similar answer, the picture in Peel had worsened significantly. The region’s positivity rate had increased 238 percent to 7.1 percent (Brampton’s rate was likely above 9 percent). Ontario had a rate of 2.9 percent. Testing in Peel had increased 15 percent to 178 tests per 100,000 residents. Still, Ontario as a whole was tested more thoroughly, with 208 tests per 100,000. Elliott’s carbon copy answers, twinned with Peel’s skyrocketing positivity rate, illustrate a rigid approach to testing. The data portrays a paralyzed government unable to move and adapt to a rapidly spreading virus. While Brampton recorded as many as six times more daily cases of infection over long periods between August and late October compared to Mississauga, it maintained three official assessment centres as Brampton suffered with just one lone testing facility. For a community as diverse as Peel, with significant visible minority populations and thousands of essential workers, this rigidity is punishing. “When scarcity does not permit mass testing, equitable allocation needs to take into consideration the risk of infection and from infection, including risks to economic well being,” University of Michigan experts Ryan Huerto, Susan Dorr Goold and Duane Newton wrote in June. “Those most at risk for worse health outcomes, and those with precarious financial stability, need to be prioritized.” In Peel, these considerations have not been taken into account. Recycling one more military analogy helps to drive this reality home. In a battle with the virus, Peel is Ontario’s weakest line of defence; it is the front the province is most vulnerable on. Without new munitions, reinforcements and a targeted game plan to shore up ranks, the virus will continue to break through the region and spread elsewhere. On November 9, Peel’s positivity rate sat at 10.6 percent, Toronto was at 5.8 percent and Ontario at 3.9. Yet, as has been the story of the pandemic so far, Peel was only able to test 194 residents per 100,000, compared to 217 in Toronto and 211 across Ontario. The failure to properly resource Peel, and Brampton in particular, has been one of the great tragedies of this deadly pandemic, and the Province’s own data proves it. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you.Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
On Sunday evening the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division notified the public that a case of COVID-19 had been identified in several schools around the division. These include one individual in Debden Public School, one individual in Ecole Arthur Pechey School in Prince Albert, one individual in John Diefenbaker Public School, two individuals in Carlton Comprehensive High School and a case in the after school program at Ecole Vickers, which is community-run. In Debden all staff and students in Grade 7 to 12 are isolating until Dec. 1, at Arthur Pechey a Grade 5 classroom and staff are isolating until Dec. 1, at John Diefenbaker a Grade 6 classroom and staff are isolating until Dec. 1, at Carlton specific Grade 9 and 12 classrooms and staff are isolating until Nov. 30 and the after school program will see all impacted children and staff isolate until further notice. All schools will remain open for in-person classes for all students that are not required to isolate. There was also a case reported Monday evening Wednesday evening and Friday evening at Carlton. “The division is hoping the recovery is quick and thorough and we extend our get-well wishes to each of these members of our school community and offer our support to the surrounding family. We also extend our support to the staff in our schools who are impacted by the isolation,” the release stated. The division was informed Sunday of these positive COVID-19 test results and communication is being shared with the classrooms/cohorts, the connected staff, as well as with the school community. The learning program will continue remotely for those students affected. As is the circumstance in all reports of COVID-19 in the division due to privacy concerns, further details of the case will not be shared. The school’s COVID Response Plan contains many important measures, processes and protocols that add layers of protection for students and staff. School personnel will continue to be informed and guided by SHA as they manage this case. Staff at all schools in the division remain vigilant in ensuring proper safety measures are in place and personnel from the SHA continue to guide and inform school administration and staff. The division explained that we all share responsibility to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. “The division deeply appreciates the support that students, parents and community members have demonstrated, especially as the number of cases in our region climbs.” The SHA’s local public health team continues to provide expert advice and strong support for our dedicated staff as we manage the pandemic in our communities. “The division is thankful to have such a cohesive team of administration and staff supported by our partners in Health.” Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
WASHINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden on Monday tapped Obama-era officials for top national security and economic roles, signalling a stark shift from the Trump administration's “America First” policies that disparaged international alliances and favoured deregulation and tax cuts.The picks include former Secretary of State John Kerry to take the lead on combating climate change. Biden is also expected to choose Janet Yellen, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama to lead the Federal Reserve, as the first woman to become treasury secretary.Biden's emerging Cabinet marks a return to a more traditional approach to governing, relying on veteran policymakers with deep expertise and strong relationships in Washington and global capitals. And with a roster that includes multiple women and people of colour — some of whom are breaking historic barriers in their posts — Biden is fulfilling his campaign promise to lead a team that reflects the diversity of America.The incoming president will nominate longtime adviser Antony Blinken to be secretary of state, lawyer Alejandro Mayorkas to be homeland security secretary and Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be ambassador to the United Nations. Avril Haines, a former deputy director of the CIA, will be nominated as director of national intelligence, the first woman to hold that post.Thomas-Greenfield is Black, and Mayorkas is Cuban American.They “are experienced, crisis-tested leaders who are ready to hit the ground running on day one,” the transition said in a statement. “These officials will start working immediately to rebuild our institutions, renew and reimagine American leadership to keep Americans safe at home and abroad, and address the defining challenges of our time — from infectious disease, to terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber threats, and climate change.”In the weeks ahead, Biden could also name Michèle Flournoy as the first woman to lead the Defence Department. Pete Buttigieg, the former Indiana mayor and onetime presidential candidate, has also been mentioned as a contender for several Cabinet agencies.In making the announcements on Monday, Biden moved forward with plans to fill out his administration even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede defeat in the Nov. 3 election, has pursued baseless legal challenges in several key states and has worked to stymie the transition process.Trump said Monday that he was directing his team to co-operate on the transition but vowed to keep up the fight. His comment came after the General Services Administration ascertained that Biden was the apparent winner of the election, clearing the way for the start of the transition from Trump’s administration and allowing Biden to co-ordinate with federal agencies on plans for taking over on Jan. 20.The nominations were generally met with silence on Capitol Hill, where the Senate's balance of power hinges on two runoff races that will be decided in January.The best known of the bunch is Kerry, who made climate change one of his top priorities while serving as Obama's secretary of state, during which he also negotiated the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord. Trump withdrew from both agreements, which he said represented a failure of American diplomacy in a direct shot at Kerry, whom he called the worst secretary of state in U.S. history.“America will soon have a government that treats the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” Kerry said. “I’m proud to partner with the president-elect, our allies, and the young leaders of the climate movement to take on this crisis as the president’s climate envoy.”Biden will appoint Jake Sullivan as national security adviser. At 43, he will be one of the youngest national security advisers in history.Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration and has close ties with Biden. If confirmed as secretary of state, he would be a leading force in the incoming administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which Trump questioned longtime alliances.Blinken recently participated in a national security briefing with Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and weighed in publicly just last week on notable foreign policy issues in Egypt and Ethiopia.He will inherit a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Trump’s two secretaries of state, Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo, offered weak resistance to the administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention.Although the department escaped massive proposed cuts of more than 30% in its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, from which many diplomats have opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancements under an administration they believed did not value their expertise.Blinken served on the National Security Council during President Bill Clinton's administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Kerry.A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement.“Democracy is in retreat around the world, and unfortunately it’s also in retreat at home because of the president taking a two-by-four to its institutions, its values and its people every day," Blinken told The Associated Press in September. "Our friends know that Joe Biden knows who they are. So do our adversaries. That difference would be felt on day one.”___Associated Press writers Michael Balsamo in Washington, Bill Barrow in Atlanta and Alexandra Jaffe in Wilmington, Delaware, contributed to this report.Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
China launched an ambitious mission on Tuesday to bring back material from the moon's surface for the first time in more than 40 years - an undertaking that could boost human understanding of the moon and of the solar system more generally. (Nov. 24)
At the regular Esterhazy town council meeting on Wednesday, more concerns regarding the West sign corridor were brought to the council’s attention. At an earlier council meeting a motion was passed to go forward with 4x8 signs for the West sign corridor—it was previously only 8x8 signs on the corridor. Without having a firm plan in place for the sign corridor since 2017, the council wanted to ensure as many signs as possible fit on the corridor. There are over 20 names on the sign corridor waiting list and the best way to give more businesses an opportunity was to move from 8x8 signs to 4x8 signs. No business with a sign up on the West sign corridor is under contract, but the town plans to provide them with the opportunity to update their signs to fit the new mandated size. One of the previous sign owners isn’t happy with the decision because they’ve kept their sign up to date and put money into it and doesn’t think it’s fair they’ll have to change their sign. Both councillors Tenille Flick and Vern Petracek understood the frustration of the sign owner because they don’t believe it’s fair to force someone to change their sign when they’ve been keeping it up to date and following the previous rules. “We made a decision and we have to stick to our guns,” said Councillor Randy Bot. “If we don’t change the signs then we won’t have sign space for the new plan,” said Councillor Maggie Rowland. “We can’t change the plan for one sign.” Economic Development Director Tammy MacDonald says that nothing has been approved by the town since 2017 so any work done was never brought to the town’s attention. MacDonald felt that all the signs should be the same size and abide by the same rules and with this plan the town will own the signs which will allow them to enforce their own policies. “The person never approached the town about renewing their contract,” said Mayor Grant Forster. “To make it work for everyone else we have to hold firm on this.” The council will not be making any changes to the sign corridor motion already passed and will be moving forward with their plan. “We’re still going forward with it,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “What happened was before 2017 there were one-year contracts put in place for the sign corridor. The town at that time gave a bunch of specifications for those signs. Some of the people—there were eight spots—abided by it and some didn’t, but this is one of the people who abided by it well. “They spent money and made sure the sign was there, but nothing was ever followed through with us after in terms of renewing the contract. Now that we’re changing it, this business is upset with the changes. This new plan has been worked on since 2017 to make these changes so we can have a nice sign corridor with more signs.” Sign corridor tender awarded The council passed a motion to award Timco Construction the tender for the West sign corridor. Timco Construction will be constructing and installing the posts for the signs. The construction and installation work will cost $625 per unit with up to 32 units to be installed for a total of $20,000 plus any applicable tax. The West sign corridor was budgeted in the 2020 budget and the council agrees in the coming years they’ll make the cost back with the new larger sign corridor and consistent contracts between the town and businesses with signs. Arena kitchen to remain closed With no response to previous tenders put out for the Dana Antal Arena kitchen, the council has decided to look into setting up a vending machine. The council looked at two options prior to the vending machine decision, to hire someone to run the kitchen or ask for volunteers. Given the circumstances with Covid-19 this year, council believes neither option seems plausible. The addition of a vending machine offers food with low maintenance and no health risks for those serving or buying food. The council says this is a short-term solution and will continue to look for volunteers in the future. “The vending machine is a good Covid-19 specific solution for the time being,” said Acting Administrator Mike Thorley. “We’re going to look at the information necessary to put a vending machine in and talk to the contractor out of Yorkton to see if we can get a one-year deal with them or up until March or April of next year. There’s nobody looking for this type of work right now and I think we’re better off to just have vending machines so there’s availability for something in the building.” NoneRob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator
Continuing on a commitment to build a diverse and inclusive community, the village of Westport is hosting three workshops to help inform both the public and council members in the village and beyond about racial issues. "I sent an invitation to area councils and was gratified to find that both Smiths Falls and Perth are on a similar track, and are forming task force committees," said Westport Mayor Robin Jones. "I will be tuning in this Wednesday," said Smiths Falls Mayor Shawn Pankow. Smiths Falls is currently in the process of selecting members to fill its task force. "We recently approved the terms of reference, and we're looking for partners in the community who have a role to play, such as police services, youth, and health care. We also want people who have lived experiences and ideally a representative from First Nations and the LGBTQIA community," said Pankow. A similar model is expected to be developed in Westport. In July this year, after passing an anti-discrimination, anti-racism bylaw, the council committed to forming a task force to examine the village bylaws for implicit bias. "I will be looking for a wide collection of experiences to form the committee," said Jones. Meanwhile, Jones is launching a series of three workshops to help inform the public and people interested in participating in the public consultation on discrimination and racism. "We haven't formed the task force yet; that will come at the end of the these three workshops," said Jones. All the workshops will be online and are free to watch on the village's YouTube feed. They will remain on the village YouTube feed for a few days so people can tune in later if they can't catch the live feed on Wednesday. The first workshop is going to air on Wednesday at 7 p.m., and will feature Senator Gwen Boniface as the speaker talking about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian and Ontario Human Rights Codes, their role, how they overlap and how they differ. "These are foundational workshops, that will examine the legal framework around discrimination and racism, the science behind implicit bias and health equity," said Jones. The second workshop, on Jan. 27, will be with Anna Laszlo, director of the organization Fair and Impartial Policing, and will tackle unconscious bias and the techniques to manage our own biases and the impact of unconscious bias in organizations. All the workshops will be moderated and audience members will be able to ask questions. "I will be putting out my email and I will moderate the workshops," said Jones, adding that participants will be able to ask questions by emailing her directly during the workshop. The third workshop, on Feb. 24, will tackle health equity, and access to the social determinants of health within a society, and will be led by Tanis Brown, a registered nurse and health equity co-ordinator at the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit. This workshop will tackle poverty and education and is an area of particular interest in Smiths Falls, where Pankow says there is bias against poverty. "As we dig deeper we want to make sure we're as inclusive and accommodating a community as possible. We know that people living in poverty face huge barriers and different forms of prejudice," said Pankow. While Westport passed a bylaw enshrining the values of inclusivity within their municipal laws, Smiths Falls made a proclamation, but regardless of how each community has approached the subject they say they are moving forward with their commitments to address bias - overt or implicit-within their communities.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times
By Melissa Renwick Esowista, BC - A member within Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has tested positive for COVID-19. The Esowista resident started displaying symptoms upon returning home from a trip to Port Alberni and contacted the nation’s Emergency Operations Centre. A COVID-19 test was issued and once it was confirmed positive on Nov. 22, community members were notified. “We knew going into the second wave that we were going to experience this at some point,” said Elmer Frank, Tla-o-qui-aht Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) chair. “It’s unfortunate that it did happen, but our community was ready.” As COVID-19 cases began to rise across the province, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation returned to Stage One of their recovery plan at the beginning of November. “We needed to put our action plan in place and start ramping up our measures so that when a virus came into our community, we’d be ready for it,” Frank said. The community’s EOC is recommending that only one person per household leave the community for essential services, like picking up prescription medication and collecting groceries. “Now that the virus is here, I think that community members are starting to see how quickly it could spread,” said Frank. “There’s a lot of cooperation and understanding when we’re making these recommendations.” Frank said that the COVID-19 patient has been fully transparent, which has helped the EOC respond to contact tracing effectively. Anyone who was in direct contact with the patient has been notified and is self-isolating, he said. While the nation is taking all of the necessary steps to keep its members safe, Frank said that citizens need to keep their guards up. “The virus is spreading so quickly because we’re letting our guards down,” he said. “It’s our friends, it’s our family, it’s our loves ones – we have got to trust them in a different way at this time.” Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has urged British Columbians to do their part in restricting social gatherings and non-essential travel, a sentiment that Frank echoed. “At the end of the day, we’re hoping we become a COVID-19 free community,” said Frank. “Tla-o-qui-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth member have to be very careful on how we all act and discipline ourselves moving forward for the best interest of ourselves, our communities and our most vulnerable – our elders.”Melissa Renwick, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Ha-Shilth-Sa
The Wood Buffalo Food Bank (WBFB) will be moving to a new downtown location, with renovations expected to be finished by late February or early March. Purchasing a new building has been considered for the past few years even before April’s flooding, which damaged the food bank’s King Street location. The new site, which is at 10100 Centennial Drive, will include offices, community meeting spaces, a kitchen and a warehouse. For the past four years, the food bank had started outgrowing its King Street location and was renting storage space to supplement the site. With everything run from one building, Dan Edwards, executive director of the WBFB, said it will be easier to support the community. “If I don’t have to spend money on a building, those dollars can go further towards doing our work, expanding our programs and bringing in new programs,” he said. “It’s going to be great.” Edwards said remaining downtown was always the best option for the food bank. The facility would still be located in a flood area, but downtown is the only area with spaces large enough for their needs. A downtown building is also easier for people to reach than its temporary location in Gregoire—which is where the food bank has been operating since the flood. Edwards said remaining downtown keeps the organization close to residential areas and major bus routes. The new site will still need some renovations, but Edwards says the finished product will be better for staff, volunteers and clients. “Just having that freedom in knowing it’s our own space will make everything much easier,” said Edwards. “We’re going to work hard to make it feel like an inviting space so our clients have somewhere to feel safe when they’re coming in for assistance.” The annual Syncrude Food Drive is also beginning this weekend, which comes as the food bank sees demand continue to rise. Since March, roughly 50 new households per month are added to its client list. The food bank is expecting this trend to continue into 2021, especially as COVID-19 cases rise. In spring, people who turned to the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will also be required to pay taxes on the benefit, which Edwards fears will make budgets tighter for some families. This year’s food drive will be done through collection bins at grocery stores. People can drop off food, cash and gift card donations between Nov. 26 and Nov. 29. A list of in-demand items will be available on the Wood Buffalo Food Bank’s website, social media and in stores. Some in-demand items include canned fish, canned meat, baking goods, canned fruit, canned vegetables, and diapers size four, five and six. The food drive provides WBFB with 30 to 40 per cent of their food for a year. The food bank’s goal is to raise a total of $300,000 and 80,000 pounds of food. -with files from Laura Beamish firstname.lastname@example.orgSarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
With Toronto and Peel Region in lockdown, Peterborough County politicians have mixed opinions about those living in those regions flocking to the Peterborough area to do some Black Friday or Christmas shopping. Trent Lakes Mayor Janet Clarkson said she doesn’t think the average person from the Greater Toronto Area is going to drive to the Peterborough region. “I can’t see people coming with what our area has to offer. There’s nothing at Lansdowne Place that’s going to attract anybody from Toronto,” she said. People living in the GTA likely expected a second lockdown was on its way, so most people who have wanted to do some heavy-duty Christmas shopping have probably already done it, or they’ll do it online, Clarkson added. But Asphodel-Norwood Mayor Rodger Bonneau said he expects shoppers from the GTA will come to the area. “I don’t know why though. I mean, you can buy so much stuff online,” he said. Sherry Senis, deputy mayor of Selwyn Township, said it’s just too soon to tell if people currently residing in an area that’s in lockdown will flock to Peterborough city and county. “I guess it remains to be seen as to whether they’re going to do that or not. I don’t think that initially that has happened, but they’re just starting the lockdown today, so it remains to be seen,” she said. Senis said she hopes people from the GTA region choose to stay there and shop online, but for those living in the Peterborough region, she said she hopes they continue to support local businesses. “It’s so convenient for people to go online and shop, but unfortunately you’re supporting the big guys and we really need to be supporting our little guys right now and continue to do that,” she said. The COVID-19 pandemic is similar to the Second World War, Clarkson said. “The only difference is this COVID-19 virus is truly a world war, instead of involving select countries. The whole world is now fighting a vigorous, deadly virus,” she said. Clarkson said she remembers as a child watching her parents with their ears tight up to the radio, listening to the advancement of their troops. “My father had been in the first war where they brought the Spanish Flu home and my brother was in the Navy in the second war. Just like that war, many people will be forever without their loved ones, and those who survive, in many cases, will have lifelong injuries,” she said. “We have survived horrific losses before with no ability to control them. This time, it is within our personal behaviour to positively impact the future. We must take this seriously if we don’t want to have more empty spaces in our lives, or forever damaged family members.” Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: email@example.comMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Parks Canada has announced it will push back the opening of its popular online parks reservation system from January to April in 2021.The plan is designed to allow for fewer cancellations due to changed plans, as well as to allow people to plan their vacation closer to the time they will travel, Parks Canada said.The change was announced on social media on Monday. The reservation system will be open to campers and travellers in April for dates starting in May 2021, through March 2022.The online reservation system services 38 national parks and historic sites, including popular Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, Alta., and is often overwhelmed with reservations on opening days. In past years, campsites or so-called oTENTiks, which are cabin-like structures maintained by Parks Canada, have been snatched up very quickly, and would-be campers have waited hours for the chance to snap up a spot in the system.This year, the opening dates are staggered from coast to coast, with B.C. opening the reservation system first on April 6, followed by Alberta on April 9, working eastward to the final opening dates of April 26 for Newfoundland and Labrador.Each province has staggered dates for different parks. For example, in Alberta, Jasper opens April 9 while Banff opens April 12. There is a complete list on the Parks Canada website.For early spring or winter camping,reservations are already open for dates up to the end of March 2021, and the next reservation opportunities, starting in April 2021, will open December 16, 2020.COVID-19 safety is also a factor. The Parks Canada website says the agency is working closely with Indigenous partners and communities to ensure safe numbers in the parks, as well as safe tourism and camping practices.For more information on national parks and to book a reservation, go to the Parks Canada Reservation Service or call the reservation line at 1-877-RESERVE (1-877-737-3783).
CALGARY — Suncor Energy Inc. says it has agreed to become the operator of the Syncrude project by the end of 2021, as long as each of the joint venture's owners grants formal approval.Suncor owns a 58.74 per cent stake in the Syncrude Joint Venture, a position it has increased from 12 per cent in 2016.Other Syncrude stakeholders who must approve the agreement are Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., CNOOC Oil Sands Canada and Sinopec Oil Sands Partnership.Suncor chief executive Mark Little says the transition will help Syncrude better compete on cost per barrel.Little says the deal could yield $300 million a year in synergies, noting Syncrude and Suncor have families employed by both operations after years of close ties between neighbouring energy projects.Suncor's statement says that Syncrude and Suncor also stand to gain from the bi-directional pipelines connecting Suncor’s Base Plant and Syncrude’s operations, which are now complete and being commissioned.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press