Two provinces with similar COVID-19 infection numbers have made opposite decisions on school going forward. Alberta is sending kids back to the classroom next week, while Ontario is keeping most students at home.
Two provinces with similar COVID-19 infection numbers have made opposite decisions on school going forward. Alberta is sending kids back to the classroom next week, while Ontario is keeping most students at home.
An envoy hired to defuse tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous commercial lobster fishermen in Nova Scotia has released a bleak interim report highlighting poor communication and a lack of trust between both sides. The report by Université Sainte-Anne president Allister Surette found perhaps the only thing the fishermen can agree on is blaming the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for the situation. "The lack of trust and respect has been presented to me by many of the individuals I interviewed," Surette said in his interim report filed with Federal Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan and Carolyn Bennett, minister for Indigenous-Crown relations. "Firstly, I have heard from Indigenous and non-Indigenous parties of the lack of trust in government," Surette wrote. "Added to this level of the lack of trust and respect, some interviewed also expressed the lack of trust and respect within parties involved in the fishery and I also heard of the lack of trust and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals, stakeholder groups and organizations." Appointed by Ottawa Surette was named special federal representative by the Trudeau government after an outbreak of violence and protests at the launch of an Indigenous moderate livelihood lobster fishery by the Sipekne'katik band in St. Marys Bay last fall. The band cited the Mi'kmaq's right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood, recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1999 but never defined by Ottawa. The fishery was conducted outside of the regulated season for commercial lobster licence holders in Lobster Fishing Area 34, who objected saying the fishery was a blatant violation of fishery regulations. The reaction included alleged assaults, arson, blockades, volleys of wharfside profanity and online venom. It garnered international attention. The blowup capped years of tensions over an escalating Sipekne'katik food, social and ceremonial lobster fishery in St. Marys Bay that was, in some cases, used as a cloak for a commercial fishery. Lobster caught under food, social and ceremonial licences cannot be sold. In one case, a Crown prosecutor said the lobster caught under those licences from Sipekne'katik supplied an international "black market operation." Despite a number of federal initiatives to integrate the Mi'kmaq into the fishery since 1999 — including half a billion dollars for training and buying out and providing commercial licences — there has been a lack of progress defining moderate livelihood and implementing the fishery. Expectations of the First Nations were not met, leaving many of them to doubt the sincerity of DFO, Surette reported. Debate over enforcement Surette said the issue is complex and will not be easily solved. Non-Indigenous fishermen have argued there is not enough enforcement when it comes to Indigenous lobster fishing while the bands have complained of harassment. "However, the point to note on this matter, and more closely related to my mandate, seems to be the lack of clear direction from the government of Canada and the multiple facets and complexity of implementing the right to fish in pursuit of a moderate livelihood," he said in the report. Surette's mandate is not to negotiate but rather to "restore confidence, improve relations" and make recommendations to the politicians. His interim report calls for more dialogue to build trust, suggesting areas of declared common interest like conservation and marketing. A lack of information from DFO was a recurrent complaint from the commercial fishermen, said Surette. "There should be some type of formal process for the non-Indigenous to be kept up to speed, especially the harvesters, since this could affect their livelihood. Some process, even though they're not involved in negotiation, that they could have input or at least understand what's going on," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Friday. Improving communication He made three suggestions for improving communication: a clearinghouse for accurate information, a formal process for talks between the commercial industry and the government of Canada, and forums to create a "safe space" to talk on important issues without extreme emotions. Surette interviewed 85 people — 81 per cent were non-Indigenous. "In some cases, they were heavily focused on the fishery. Others said that they preferred dealing with the ministers at this present time," he told CBC News. Surette said he will be reaching out to gather more perspectives. MORE TOP STORIES
Saskatchewan will start to stretch out the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses, as supplies run short. Second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine will be administered up to 42 days after the first dose. Official guidelines say the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is meant to be given as two doses, 21 days apart, while Moderna recommends spacing doses 28 days apart. The National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI), a body made up of scientists and vaccine experts, say provinces should follow the dosing schedule as closely as possible, but the panel is now offering some wiggle room. WATCH | Canada's COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee approves delaying 2nd dose NACI recommends spacing out the doses up to 42 days when necessary. The recommendation is also supported by the World Health Organization and Canada's chief medical health officer. "The flexibility provided by a reasonable extension of the dose interval to 42 days where operationally necessary, combined with increasing predictability of vaccine supply, support our public health objective to protect high-risk groups as quickly as possible," reads a statement released Thursday from Dr. Theresa Tam, as well as the provincial and territorial chief medical officers of health. The same day, Saskatchewan announced it would further space out its doses. "Saskatchewan will be implementing these recommendations of up to 42 days where operationally necessary in order to deliver more first doses to eligible people," the government of Saskatchewan said in a news release. WATCH | Dr. Howard Njoo addresses questions on taking first and second dose of vaccine 42 days apart: Saskatchewan's supply runs short As of Friday, 96 per cent of the province's vaccines have been administered, and new supplies coming in are not enough to replenish what has been used. Pfizer has said it will not ship a single vial of its highly effective vaccine to Canada next week as the pharmaceutical giant retools its production facility in Puurs, Belgium, to boost capacity. Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says it's very reassuring to have the length between doses extended to 42 days. "When there's a sudden, further disruption that does present challenges," Shahab said during a news conference on Tuesday. "Most provinces are able to give the second dose of both Pfizer and Moderna within 42 days ... and that becomes very important with the disruption of shipment." Scott Livingstone, the CEO of the Saskatchewan Health Authority, agreed. "It does mitigate some of the decreased doses coming in. We also know through contact with the federal government that once the Pfizer plant is back online, they'll be increasing our shipment," Livingstone said during Tuesday's news conference. Livingstone said the new shipments coming in will be allocated for an individual's first and second shot. WATCH | Canada facing delays in vaccine rollout More vaccines on the way Another shipment of vaccines will arrive in Saskatchewan on Feb. 1, says the government. The province is expecting 5,850 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine and 6,500 doses of Moderna's vaccine. The government says they will be distributed to the Far North West, Far North East, North East and Central West. A second shipment of 7,100 doses from Moderna will arrive on Feb. 22, and will be distributed to the Far North East, North East and Central East. "Our immunization team is trying to be as nimble as possible knowing that we could at any time through the pandemic receive more vaccines, but also then having to readjust our targets and still focusing on the most needy in this Phase 1, and we will continue to do that as vaccine supply keeps coming back up," Livingstone said.
B.C. health officials confirmed 508 new cases of COVID-19 Friday and said nine more people had died of the disease. In a written statement, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix put the number of hospitalized patients at 315 people, 74 of whom are in intensive care. A total of 1,128 people in B.C. have lost their lives due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began. There are currently 4,479 active cases of coronavirus in the province, which is an increase from Thursday's number when there were 4,450 active cases. Public health is monitoring 6,719 people across the province who are in self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure. More than 56,455 people who tested positive have recovered. Bend curve, not rules In their statement, Henry and Dix again asked residents to closely follow measures in place to reduce infections "We can break the chains of transmission and bend the curve through our individual actions," it said. "This weekend, choose to bend the curve, not the rules." B.C. has recorded two new outbreaks in health-care facilities — one at Royal Inland Hospital and the other at Royal Columbian Hospital. Interior Health said that as of Friday morning, six patients and two staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 at Royal Inland Hospital. Late Friday, Providence Health announced that an outbreak has been declared in another unit at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver. There are now outbreaks in three separate areas of the hospital, but the health authority says there is no impact on other parts of building. Interior Health has announced an additional 11 cases of COVID-19 linked to the community cluster at Big White Mountain, bringing the total there to 214 cases since the cluster was first declared. Meanwhile, a community cluster in the Williams Lake area has grown to include a total of 268 cases. Interior Health says most of those cases are related to transmission at social gatherings and events, which are not permitted under current public health orders. The province has also declared an outbreak at the North Fraser Pretrial Services Centre in Port Coquitlam, where 20 inmates have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The new cases announced Friday break down by region as follows: 132 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 228 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 13 in the Island Health region, 79 in the Interior Health region and 55 in the Northern Health region. There was one new case of a person who resides outside of Canada. About 29 per cent of the new cases announced Friday were in the Interior Health, Northern Health and Island Health regions, compared with 39 per cent of new cases in those regions that were announced Thursday. Also on Friday, the province released its plans to vaccinate 4.3 million residents against the virus by September. Officials will vaccinate people in four phases based on age with high-risk and most elderly populations going first. So far, 110,566 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., including nearly 2,202 second doses. Friday's statement said that even as more people are vaccinated in B.C., residents need to continue to keep their guard up against infection. "We need to remember our risk remains high right now, even as we protect more and more people with vaccine," said the statement. "We are not at the point where we can lift restrictions in our community or long-term care." Henry and Dix's statement Friday follows news that B.C. will not ban non-essential travellers from other provinces in order to halt the spread of COVID-19. Thursday evening, Horgan said that the government has explored its legal options but won't be restricting travel at this point, although that could change.
WASHINGTON — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his piece with U.S. President Joe Biden. The two leaders spoke by phone for about 30 minutes late Friday — Biden's first conversation with a foreign leader since Wednesday's inauguration. It was also Trudeau's first chance to express Canada's official dismay at the decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, and Biden's first to explain it. One of Biden's first actions in the White House was to rescind predecessor Donald Trump's approval for the US$8-billion cross-border expansion project. Trudeau, however, is urging Canadians to look past the decision and focus instead on all the areas of mutual agreement the two countries can look forward to. In particular, Trudeau says Biden and Canada share a vision of tackling climate change while fuelling economic growth at the same time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
A $60-million class action filed in the days after a January 2019 bus crash at Westboro station that killed three people and injured at least 23 others will not go ahead in its current form. The Ontario Superior Court issued a decision Thursday rejecting the certification of the proposed lawsuit, according to a memo issued late Friday afternoon by City of Ottawa solicitor David White. The lawsuit had alleged the city was liable for the crash itself, as well as the design and maintenance of the Transitway and its stations. It had been filed along with — as of last week — 17 other individual statements of claim. The city has already acknowledged its civil responsibility and has paid out more than $5 million in settlements. "The court took note of the fact that, in its handling of the individual court actions, the city has admitted liability for the losses arising out of the motor vehicle collision," White wrote in his memo to city council and the transit commission. Not in 'the interests of justice' In the superior court's dismissal, Justice Calum MacLeod wrote that the proposed lawsuit and its single plaintiff — a passenger who was on board the double-decker bus — did not provide evidence that a class-action proceeding would be "the best vehicle to deter future negligence or to enhance public safety." The Ottawa Police Service, with help from the Transportation Safety Board, investigated the crash, MacLeod wrote. An inquest and subsequent safety directives from Ontario's Ministry of Transport could also occur, he noted. "Class proceedings are not to be used to needlessly inflate tragic incidents into public spectacles," MacLeod wrote. "I am not satisfied on the evidence before me that a class proceeding is either necessary or in the interests of justice." The plaintiff now has until April 23 to either file an individual claim or amend the class-action lawsuit and resubmit it for certification. As for the City of Ottawa, it would be making submissions to recoup its legal costs, White said. The eight-week criminal trial of bus driver Aissatou Diallo is still slated to get underway March 22. She faces more than three dozen charges, including three counts of dangerous driving causing death.
Nicola Mining, the company who owns the old Craigmont Mine site on Aberdeen Rd., has announced its 2021 Exploration Objectives at the New Craigmont Copper Project. Last year, the company applied for a multi-year area-based (MYAB) exploration permit that would facilitate a five-year exploration plan. The 2021 program includes five new trenches, the reactivation of six historic trenches and up to 21 drill holes. Trenching is aimed at developing three target areas where copper occurrences have been observed but have not been drill tested. The 2021 season has been divided into two phases, with the second phase contingent on results from phase one. A complete explanation of both phase one and phase two of the 2021 program is available in a report by Yahoo Finance found here. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
Hopefully Dan Levy inherited his father's sketch comedy chops. The "Schitt's Creek" co-creator is set to host "Saturday Night Live" next month. Levy will make his hosting debut on Feb. 6, joined by singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. The Emmy winner can get tips from his father, Eugene Levy, who starred on legendary skit show "SCTV," which some have called Canada's "SNL." NBC says "SNL" will return from hiatus for a five-week run starting on Jan. 30, when John Krasinski will kick things off with musical guest Machine Gun Kelly. Regina King will host on Feb. 13 with music from Nathaniel Rateliff. Guests for Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 haven't been announced. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Canadian scientists say blood thinners appear to prevent some COVID-19 patients with moderate illness from deteriorating further, offering a "massive" advance in treatment they expect will ease suffering and lesson strain on hospital ICUs. University Health Network scientist Ewan Goligher said Friday that blood thinners could soon be part of standard care after the interim results of global trials showed Heparin reduced the probability of requiring life support by about a third. The news comes on the heels of promising early data for another COVID-19 drug targeting seniors, as health systems across the country wrestle with the impact of a recent surge in cases and long-term care homes battle devastating outbreaks. Considering how many people around the world end up in intensive care because of COVID-19, Goligher said this finding is "massive." "They're very, very ill, they're often in the ICU for a long time. It's a devastating life event," Goligher, a critical care physician at Toronto General Hospital, said of the patients he sees. "Even if they do survive, it means immense suffering, and to prevent people from becoming critically ill is huge." Interim results of clinical trials spanning five continents in more than 300 hospitals suggest full-dose blood thinners could significantly reduce the number of severe cases that are now straining health-care systems. The study involved more than 1,300 moderately ill patients admitted to hospital, including hundreds of people admitted to hospitals across Canada. Researchers found the full dose was more effective than the lower dose typically administered to prevent blood clots in hospitalized patients. Goligher, co-chair of the therapeutic anticoagulation domain of the trial, said he expected patients at his downtown hospital would be on routine blood thinners "imminently," and "fully expected" hospitals around the world would, too. "Before people change their practice they're going to want to see the full paper published so we're working very hard now to write up the results and get them published in a high impact journal," he said. "One of the exciting things about this treatment is that Heparin is already cheap, widely available, and available in low and middle-income countries, as well as countries like Canada and the United States. So this is a cheap therapy that can make a significant impact on outcomes for patients." Goligher said researchers still needs to look into other questions surrounding blood thinners, such as whether to continue treatment if a moderately ill patient develops severe COVID-19, and whether adding an antiplatelet agent would help. Doctors noticed early in the pandemic that COVID-19 patients suffered an increased rate of blood clots and inflammation. This led to complications including lung failure, heart attack and stroke. Back in December, investigators found that giving full-dose blood thinners to critically ill ICU patients did not help, and was actually harmful. However, Goligher noted there have been other drugs that appear to ease mortality in severe cases, expecting more trials to release promising data soon. Goligher was heartened by the news that blood thinners could soon ease a devastating winter surge of infections. "I personally find the thought that this treatment will prevent (patients) from getting to this state incredibly gratifying. It's even better than if it was an effective treatment for severe COVID-19, to be able to prevent people from becoming severe is huge." The trials are supported by international funding organizations including the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the NIH National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute in the United States, the National Institute for Health Research in the United Kingdom, and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia. Meanwhile, U.S. drugmaker Eli Lilly said this week that early trial data reveals its antibody drug bamlanivimab – developed in partnership with Vancouver’s AbCellera Biologics – can prevent some COVID-19 illness in nursing home residents and staff. Early data from a Phase 3 trial found that in addition to offering therapeutic value, bamlanivimab "significantly" reduced the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 among 965 residents and staff of long-term care facilities in the U.S. Health Canada has approved its use as a therapy for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, but not to prevent infection. A spokesman for Eli Lilly Canada said the company expected to present the new data to Health Canada, but noted their findings were still early. In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada had purchased 26,000 doses of the drug, with shipments to arrive between December 2020 and February 2021. But Lauren Fischer, VP of corporate affairs for Eli Lilly Canada, says the drug is not being used on patients here yet. Fischer said the provinces have raised "some implementation concerns" about bamlanivimab, which involves an hour-long intravenous infusion. "The provinces are still considering their approach to making it available but we haven't seen a lot of progress on that," Fischer said. "The provinces have really moved with commendable speed on vaccinations, they've shown that they can overcome implementation difficulties to make needed solutions available.... We stand ready to partner with provincial governments as they try to make those solutions happen." The drug is meant for patients over the age of 65 with underlying conditions. Dr. Doron Sagman, Eli Lilly's VP of research and development and medical affairs, said the early data suggests some level of protection for older Canadians waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine, or if their immune response to a vaccine is not as robust as others. "The intent again is to provide a therapeutic bridge to those vaccines and fill a gap in those individuals who have been affected by the illness and have not yet been vaccinated," said Sagman. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that Health Canada relies on clinical experts "on the ground" treating patients "to decide what's best for them." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Images of National Guard soldiers camped in a cold parking garage after being sent to protect Washington sparked new calls Friday for investigations of the U.S. Capitol Police, now facing allegations that the agency evicted troops sent to help after its failure to stop rioting mobs two weeks ago. President Joe Biden expressed his “dismay” Friday morning to Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard, about how the troops had been treated, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. Members of both parties were irate about reports that Guardsmen were forced to take rest breaks outside the Capitol building. About 25,000 Guard members from across the country deployed to help secure President Joe Biden's inauguration, which went off with only a handful of minor arrests. Psaki said the president thanked Hokanson and the Guard for their help the last few weeks and offered his assistance if Hokanson needed anything. First lady Jill Biden visited Guard troops outside the Capitol on Friday, bringing them cookies and thanking them for protecting her family. She noted that the Bidens’ late son, Beau, served in the Delaware Army National Guard. A jittery Washington had requested aid following the riot where police were badly outnumbered, locking down the nation's capital with soldiers, police and barricades. Lawmakers and Biden took pains to thank security forces for their effort. All 25,000 Guard members were vetted by the FBI over concerns of an insider attack, and a dozen were removed from their posts including two who made extremist statements about the inauguration. Both the Guard and Capitol Police issued a joint statement Friday afternoon saying they have now co-ordinated to establish “appropriate spaces” within Congressional buildings for on-duty breaks. The statement noted that off-duty troops have hotel rooms or “other comfortable accommodations.” The National Guard said it originally moved troops out of the Capitol Rotunda and other spaces to garages at the behest of the Capitol Police. The Guardsmen were allowed back inside late Thursday after reports were widely shared of the conditions in the garages, with few bathrooms and little covering from the cold. Capitol Police Interim Chief Yogananda Pittman issued a statement Friday saying her agency “did not instruct the National Guard to vacate the Capitol Building facilities.” But two Capitol Police officers who spoke on condition of anonymity contradicted her statement, saying they were told department higher-ups had ordered the Guardsmen out. It was unclear why. The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the department to speak. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said that “multiple members of military leadership” had told him a uniformed Capitol Police officer told them to leave the Capitol Visitor Center. “The troops didn't move on their own,” said Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. He added: “This isn’t a blame game, but I want to know what happened so we can make sure it can’t happen again.” Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who leads a subcommittee that oversees the Capitol Police budget, said Pittman and other commanders would eventually need to testify about their decision-making. “If the Capitol Police in any way, shape, or form pushed the Guard out into a cold garage, then there’s going to be hell to pay,” Ryan said . “We’re already trying to re-establish trust with the Capitol Police and we’ve got to figure out exactly what happened.” The National Guard Bureau said Thursday that of the nearly 26,000 Guard troops deployed to D.C. for the inaugural, just 10,600 remain on duty. The bureau said the Guard is helping states with co-ordination and the logistics so that troops can get home. Thousands of Guard troops from all across the country poured into D.C. by the planeload and busload late last week, in response to escalating security threats and fears of more rioting. Military aircraft crowded the runways at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, carrying Guard members into the region in the wake of the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Guard forces were scattered around the city, helping to secure the Capitol, monuments, Metro entrances and the perimeter of central D.C., which was largely locked down for several days leading up to Wednesday’s inaugural ceremony. Some local law enforcement agencies have asked for continued assistance from the Guard, so roughly 7,000 troops are expected to stay in the region through the end of the month. The insurrection highlighted multiple failures by the Capitol Police to prepare for what became a violent mob overrunning parts of the building. Officers who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said there was little planning before the riot or guidance from department leaders once the riot began. The riot left five people dead, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was hit in the head by a fire extinguisher. Another officer died in an apparent suicide after the attack. ___ Merchant reported from Houston. Nomaan Merchant, Lolita Baldor And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's Edmundston region is moving into a 14-day lockdown beginning Saturday at midnight as health officials try to curb rising infections, chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said Friday. "The growth of cases in this zone and the spread through several workplaces and long-term care homes has really reached a point where the strongest measures are needed," Russell told reporters. "The measures being announced today are stern but they are necessary." Russell's new health order forces the closure of all non-essential businesses as well as schools and public spaces, including outdoor ice rinks and ski hills. The situation in the region will be evaluated every seven days, Russell said, adding that cabinet may extend the lockdown if required. She said the Edmundston area, which borders northern Maine and Quebec's Bas-St-Laurent region, has 129 active reported infections. Because of the way the virus multiplies, that number could grow to 200 cases by next week and 400 before the end of the month, she said. Russell said the infection rate in the northern region is 309 cases per 100,000 people — nearly six times the rate for the entire province, which is 59 cases per 100,000 people. Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told reporters all non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of Edmundston. "We are trying to minimize interaction," Shephard said. "Fewer people going out and about for non-essential reasons will allow us to get out of this lockdown faster." Formal indoor gatherings, such as weddings and religious services, are also prohibited. Shephard said there will be a ban on evictions during the lockdown, adding that landlords will have to wait until at least 10 days after the measures are lifted to evict tenants. Gatherings are restricted to members of a household, she said. New Brunswick's recent spike in cases traces back to gatherings over the holidays and increased travel in and out of the province, Russell said. "We had almost 3,000 more travellers around that period of time than we normally do." New Brunswick reported 30 new COVID-19 infections Friday — 19 of which were identified in the Edmundston area. Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton will remain at the red pandemic-alert level, while Campbellton, Bathurst and Miramichi will stay at the lower, orange level, Russell said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. — — — This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
The Grand River Conservation Authority is sharing its technical expertise with the public in a live webinar series covering topics of interest for landowners in the watershed. The four-part series includes sessions on the conservation authority’s popular cost-sharing tree planting program, invasive tree diseases and pests like the gypsy moth and oak wilt, aquatic species at risk in the Grand River watershed, and the water quality program where conservation staff work with landowners to customize a cost-sharing plan to reduce pollutants entering the river. Each webinar will consist of a presentation given by a conservation expert followed by a dedicated time for participants to ask questions. “We all have a role to play as landowners in improving watershed health,” said Louise Heyming, supervisor of conservation outreach at the Grand River Conservation Authority. “This series of webinars focuses on supporting rural landowners with information on programs that they can access to help make further improvements to benefit the watershed, and their properties and water quality.” The program was announced earlier this week and 40 participants have registered. The series is designed for rural landowners with more than two-and-a-half acres of land but is open to anyone. The sessions are free of charge but require registration. Recordings of the webinars will also be posted to the conservation authority website and will be free to access. Typically, the conservation authority hosts in-person workshops or attends outreach events to interact with landowners. An online format is being piloted this year because of COVID-19. If all goes well and there is enough interest, Heyming said more sessions will be added. Two of the webinars will focus on the Grand River Conservation Authority’s private land tree planting and rural water quality programs — programs the conservation has been running on behalf of the watershed’s municipalities for decades. “I love working with the individual landowners and those relationships that we have,” said Heyming. “We have a team of staff that has been delivering the program, some of us, for 20 years.” “When we drive through the watershed now, we see the individual projects on the landscape, and know that they’re still there and we get to play a role in supporting those landowners.” The private land tree planting program has been running for more than 60 years, said Heyming. The conservation authority works with an average of 70 landowners to plant about 100,000 trees in the watershed each year. Trees provide multiple benefits for a watershed, including preventing erosion and providing habitat for species at risk. The rural water quality program is a cost-sharing program between the Grand River Conservation Authority on behalf of municipalities and landowners to complete projects designed to improve the watershed’s water quality. Since the program began in 1998, nearly 7,000 projects have been completed with more than $56-million invested in water quality. In Waterloo Region, nearly $500,000 was invested into 65 water quality improvement projects for the 2020 year. More information and registration details can be found at grandriver.ca Leah Gerber’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows her to report on stories about the Grand River Watershed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org Leah Gerber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Waterloo Region Record
The Ontario government is kicking off a new social media campaign with actors, singers, athletes, and business owners who are all asking you to remain at home. Meanwhile, data tracking mobility in the city continues to show progress. Matthew Bingley reports.
NEW YORK — NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw said Friday that he is retiring from the network after 55 years. Brokaw, author of “The Greatest Generation,” was NBC's lead anchor at “Nightly News” and for big events for more than 20 years before giving way to Brian Williams in 2004. The 80-year-old newsman did documentaries and made other appearances for the networks after that, but he has fought cancer and his television appearances have been more sporadic. He said he will continue to be active in print journalism, writing books and articles. Brokaw began at NBC in its Los Angeles bureau in the 1960s, where he covered Ronald Reagan's first run for public office and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. He was a White House correspondent during Richard Nixon's presidency, and began co-hosting the “Today” show in 1976. He started hosting “Nightly News” in 1983. For two decades, the triumvirate of Brokaw, ABC's Peter Jennings and CBS' Dan Rather were the nation's most visible broadcasters, anchoring major stories like the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. “During one of the most complex and consequential eras in American history, a new generation of NBC News journalists, producers and technicians is providing America with timely, insightful and critically important information, 24/7." Brokaw said. "I could not be more proud of them.” The Associated Press
About 20 patients at Montreal's Douglas Mental Health University Institute have contracted COVID-19 in the past week. The first case of COVID-19 at the Douglas Institute dates back to Jan. 15, and nine other cases were recorded the next day. On Thursday, an additional 13 patients tested positive. Patients and staff of the affected unit have all been tested and infection control measures have been enhanced, said Hélène Bergeron-Gamache, a spokesperson for the local public health authority, the CIUSSS du Centre-Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal. "Fortunately, the majority of patients are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms," she said. Bergeron-Gamache said visits are temporarily suspended in the unit concerned, and even the family of staff will need to be tested. The Douglas is designated to receive COVID-19 patients, she said. This is not the first time there has been an outbreak at the facility. Back in April, a total of 16 patients and 22 employees tested positive for the disease, the CIUSSS said at the time.
WASHINGTON — Newly confirmed Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin will have to contend not only with a world of security threats and a massive military bureaucracy, but also with a challenge that hits closer to home: rooting out racism and extremism in the ranks. Austin took office Friday as the first Black defence chief, in the wake of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where retired and current military members were among the rioters touting far-right conspiracies. The retired four-star Army general told senators this week that the Pentagon’s job is to “keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.” Ridding the military of racists isn’t his only priority. Austin, who was confirmed in a 93-2 vote, has made clear that accelerating delivery of coronavirus vaccines will get his early attention. But the racism issue is personal. At Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, he explained why. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers, described as self-styled skinheads, were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who was walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. They included 17 who were considered white supremacists or separatists. “We woke up one day and discovered that we had extremist elements in our ranks,” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And they did bad things that we certainly held them accountable for. But we discovered that the signs for that activity were there all along. We just didn’t know what to look for or what to pay attention to.” Austin is not the first secretary to grapple with the problem. Racism has long been an undercurrent in the military. While leaders insist only a small minority hold extremist views, there have been persistent incidents of racial hatred and, more subtly, a history of implicit bias in what is a predominantly white institution. A recent Air Force inspector general report found that Black service members in the Air Force are far more likely to be investigated, arrested, face disciplinary actions and be discharged for misconduct. Based on 2018 data, roughly two-thirds of the military’s enlisted corps is white and about 17% is Black, but the minority percentage declines as rank increases. The U.S. population overall is about three-quarters white and 13% Black, according to Census Bureau statistics. Over the past year, Pentagon leaders have struggled to make changes, hampered by opposition from then-President Donald Trump. It took months for the department to effectively ban the Confederate flag last year, and Pentagon officials left to Congress the matter of renaming military bases that honour Confederate leaders. Trump rejected renaming the bases and defended flying the flag. Senators peppered Austin with questions about extremism in the ranks and his plans to deal with it. The hearing was held two weeks after lawmakers fled the deadly insurrection at the Capitol, in which many of the rioters espoused separatist or extremist views. “It’s clear that we are at a crisis point,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., saying leaders must root out extremism and reaffirm core military values. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., pressed Austin on the actions he will take. “Disunity is probably the most destructive force in terms of our ability to defend ourselves," Kaine said. "If we’re divided against one another, how can we defend the nation?” Austin, who broke racial barriers throughout his four decades in the Army, said military leaders must set the right example to discourage and eliminate extremist behaviour. They must get to know their troops, and look for signs of extremism or other problems, he said. But Austin — the first Black man to serve as head of U.S. Central Command and the first to be the Army's vice chief of staff — also knows that much of the solution must come from within the military services and lower-ranking commanders. They must ensure their troops are trained and aware of the prohibitions. “Most of us were embarrassed that we didn’t know what to look for and we didn’t really understand that by being engaged more with your people on these types of issues can pay big dividends,” he said, recalling the 82nd Airborne problems. “I don’t think that you can ever take your hand off the steering wheel here.” But he also cautioned that there won't be an easy solution, adding, “I don’t think that this is a thing that you can put a Band-Aid on and fix and leave alone. I think that training needs to go on, routinely." Austin gained confirmation after clearing a legal hurdle prohibiting anyone from serving as defence chief until they have been out of the military for seven years. Austin retired less than five years ago, but the House and Senate quickly approved the needed waiver, and President Joe Biden signed it Friday. Soon afterward, Austin strode into the Pentagon, his afternoon already filled with calls and briefings, including a meeting with Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He held a broader video conference on COVID-19 with all top defence and military leaders, and his first call to an international leader was with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Austin, 67, is a 1975 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He helped lead the invasion into Iraq in 2003, and eight years later was the top U.S. commander there, overseeing the full American troop withdrawal. After serving as vice chief of the Army, Austin headed Central Command, where he oversaw the reinsertion of U.S. troops to Iraq to beat back Islamic State militants. He describes himself as the son of a postal worker and a homemaker from Thomasville, Georgia, who will speak his mind to Congress and to Biden. Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
The auditor general of Canada has a "clean" opinion of the Northwest Territories government's 2018-19 financial statements. "This means that the information in the statements is reliable," said auditor general Karen Hogan. Hogan appeared remotely before the territorial government's Standing Committee on Government Operations on Friday for a belated review of the government's 2018-19 public accounts. The review was supposed to take place in May 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hogan made two observations during her video presentation. The first had to do with public-private partnerships, also known as P3s. The new Stanton Territorial Hospital — which has had a significant impact on the government's finances — came into being through a public-private partnership. P3s are "usually large and complex," said Hogan. "It is therefore important to have accurate reporting of costs for informed decision making." She noted that auditors found public-private partnerships were recorded accurately, with one exception, and that correcting it resulted in a $30-million increase to both tangible capital assets and liabilities presented in the 2017-18 financial statements. Hogan's second observation had to do with the recording of certain revolving funds' revenues and expenses. Revolving funds can be continuously replenished to help ensure certain government operations. A recording correction resulted in a $34-million increase in both the revenues and expenses presented in 2017-18, said Hogan. "It wasn't an error in that revenues were forgotten or expenses were forgotten, it was just the way they were presented," she said. Gov't has 'limited flexibility' to raise money The public accounts are the annual financial statements of the government and include information on assets, liabilities, net debt and the accumulated surplus or deficit. Each year the auditor general of Canada audits the territory's consolidated financial statements and gives its opinion on whether the statements are a fair and accurate reflection of the government's financial position. The auditor general also looks at noteworthy transactions to ensure that they fall within the government's powers. The 2019 public accounts show that the N.W.T. government had revenues of about $2.4 billion and had expenses of about $2.03 billion, leaving an operating surplus of about $4 million, Julie Mujcin, N.W.T.'s comptroller general, told the committee. Although the government had an operating surplus, it has "limited flexibility" to raise money, as well as "vulnerabilities" related to its revenue sources, "which requires a need for careful fiscal management," said Mujcin. She said the government's finances in 2018-19 were affected in part by the opening of the new Stanton Territorial Hospital, as well as wage increases under government workers' collective agreement. The comptroller general also noted public agencies' challenges in completing audits and reports within the legislated timeframes. Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson noted that the public accounts under review were based on a budget approved by the previous legislative assembly. He also said that many revenue projections from that time were "inaccurate" because, among other factors, "COVID obviously messed up a lot of this."
En milieu d’après-midi, le cabinet du maire Demers confirmait que Virginie Dufour «demeurera au comité exécutif de la Ville» qu’elle vient tout juste de réintégrer. Rappelons que dans les heures qui ont suivi l’annonce de son retour au comité exécutif, le mercredi 20 janvier, le cabinet du maire apprenait que le Directeur général des élections du Québec (DGEQ) ouvrait finalement une enquête relativement aux allégations de financement politique illégal dont fait l’objet la conseillère municipale de Sainte-Rose depuis le 30 novembre. «Madame Dufour accueille cette nouvelle avec très grande satisfaction, a indiqué par voie de courriel le directeur des communications du cabinet, Alexandre Banville. Après tout, rappelons que c’est elle-même qui demandé au DGEQ d’ouvrir une enquête à son sujet. Elle demeure convaincue que cette opération permettra de clarifier sa situation et de rétablir entièrement sa réputation.» Il précise par ailleurs que «le maire de Laval l’a réintégrée à la suite du dépôt d’un affidavit confirmant l’impression soutenue par madame Dufour, soit qu’elle serait la victime collatérale d’une chicane de couple». Preuve à l’appui, une information confidentielle transmise au <@Ri>Courrier Laval<@$p> ce vendredi 22 janvier révèle que l’avocat saisi du dossier au Service des affaires juridiques du Bureau du DGEQ avait recommandé autour de la mi-décembre la tenue d’une enquête concernant l’usage de prête-noms dans le versement de contributions politiques impliquant Virginie Dufour et Normand Cusson. Impossible toutefois de connaître le moment précis où la décision d’ouvrir une enquête fut prise. De fait, l’institution responsable de l’application des dispositions de la Loi sur les élections et les référendums dans les municipalités relatives au financement politique «ne confirme ni n’infirme» jamais la tenue ou non d’une enquête, indique sa porte-parole, Julie St-Arnaud. «On ne communique absolument rien en ce qui a trait à nos démarches d’enquête», ajoute-t-elle, précisant que cette politique vise, entre autres, à protéger la réputation des gens ciblés par ces enquêtes, lesquels ont droit à la présomption d’innocence. Ce n’est qu’une fois les infractions constatées et les poursuites intentées que le DGEQ sort de son mutisme et que l’information devient publique.Stéphane St-Amour, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Nearly 10 years after four Black teens were accosted by police on their way to a neighbourhood mentorship program in Toronto, two of the officers involved have been found guilty of misconduct. In a Toronto Police professional misconduct hearing decision released Friday, Const. Sharnil Pais and Const. Adam Lourenco were found guilty of unlawful arrest. Lourenco was also found guilty of one count of discreditable conduct. The charges stem from the arrest of three 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old on Neptune Drive in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood in November 2011. Lourenco and Pais drove up in an unmarked van, stopped the teens and asked them for identification — a practice known as "carding," which is now banned in many situations. In an interview with CBC News in 2016, one of the complainants said he asked the officers if he and his friends were under arrest. The answer was no and the teen proceeded to try to leave. "That's when Officer Lourenco decided to single me out and physically attacked me. He grabbed me. Then isolated me. He swore at me and said a lot of provocative things to try to aggravate me and I didn't respond," the complainant said. Neither he nor the others involved can be identified because they were underage at the time of the incident. Since then, one of the four teens dropped out of the proceedings, while another, Yohannes Brhanu, was killed in a 2018 homicide that remains unsolved. WATCH | Surveillance footage captures arrest of four teens on Neptune Drive Video footage from Toronto Community Housing captured the minutes that followed, showing one of the officers hitting the teen. When the teen's twin and two friends approach to stop the officer, the officer draws a gun and points it at them, the video shows. When Lourenco tried to arrest one of the young men, one yelled, "F--k you," and spat in Lourenco's face, Pais told a hearing in 2018, adding he thought the teens would "attack." The complainant denies spitting at the officer. All four of the teens were arrested and charged, and later strip-searched at a police station. The charges were eventually withdrawn. While Lourenco was found guilty of two of the charges against him, he was found not guilty of one other count of discreditable conduct. In a statement, a lawyer for the complainants, Jeff Carolin, said his clients were "disappointed" that the hearing officer "did not find any indications of racially biased actions on the part of any of the parties." "In my opinion, this is part of a broader pattern, which demonstrates that justice in cases involving systemic racism is not easily found inside courtrooms," the statement said. Nevertheless, he said, the facts of the case speak to the "trends as to how systemic anti-Black racism and unconscious bias manifest in individual encounters with police." As for his clients' reaction to the decision: "They were in general disappointed in the outcome," Carolin said, adding they strongly believe race was a factor in the case. "I think overall their reaction was ... 'this doesn't feel like vindication." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
TORONTO — The federal government is sending two mobile health units to the Greater Toronto Area to help address the strain COVID-19 is placing on hospitals, as the facilities ramp up patients transfers to address a serious capacity crunch. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the units will bring an additional 200 hospital beds to the area to help free up space for people who need intensive care and provide medical equipment and supplies. "The spike in COVID-19 cases this month has put a real strain on hospitals," Trudeau said. "For Ontario in particular, the situation is extremely serious." The federal government said the deployment comes in response to a request from the province earlier this week. The units will be "deployed as rapidly as possible" and will be available to Ontario until May 1. Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said the mobile health units will also help with the transfer of non-critical care patients out of critical care units to free up resources. "This will help relieve pressure on Ontario's strained hospital capacity due to the prevalence of COVID-19," he said. The province will provide the staff for the units. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said the units are another tool in the fight against COVID-19. "As Ontario continues to add more hospital beds and build capacity in our health-care system, these new mobile health units will further help us alleviate the strain on our hospitals and intensive care units," she said in a statement. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the Ford government should have made the request for federal help weeks ago. "Everybody knew from the modeling projections that things were likely going to get pretty tight in hospitals and there was no preparation," she said. "What the heck took so long to get into gear and actually make this request?" Horwath said she's concerned the province may not have a plan to staff the units as soon as they arrive. "We know that a lot of frontline health-care workers are burnt out, they're exhausted," she said. "Some are actually sick and there's some that are in quarantine. So, I think it's pretty much an unknown as to, once we get the units here, how do we set them up?" The province's hospitals have been struggling with capacity challenges for weeks because of surging COVID-19 cases. The situation has become so dire that patients requiring treatment in intensive care units in hot-spot regions are being transferred to hospitals hours away to receive care. The province has said a new hospital set to open in Vaughan, Ont., will be used to help relieve the capacity crunch once it opens on Feb. 7. The head of the Ontario Hospital Association said in a statement Friday that while it appears virus spread is slowing, the province's hospitals continue to struggle with capacity issues. CEO Anthony Dale said over the last few days the number of patients in Ontario hospital intensive care units have decreased slightly from an all-time high of 420 earlier this month. The province reported 383 patients were in its ICUs on Friday. But Dale warned that 193 patient transfers out the worst-hit regions were planned this week, more than double the rate of transfers between November and January "The rate of transmission appears to be decelerating, but we cannot declare victory," he said in a statement. "We must remain extremely cautious and keep up the fight against community spread to keep up our progress and prevent a third wave, especially when we see the new variant's impacts in the United Kingdom.” Dr. Barbara Yaffe, the province's associate medical officer of health, said Thursday that the provincial case rate has started to decline for the first time since November – sitting now at 145.4 cases per 100,000 people – although that figure is still high. “We’re seeing some improvement,” Yaffe said. “But we do need to see more data to determine if those decreasing rates are a real trend.” On Friday, Ontario reported 2,662 new cases of COVID-19 and 87 more deaths related to the virus. - with files from Mia Rabson. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Six weeks into Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, a panel of medical experts weigh in on the bumps in the road and where to go next.