Weather Network meteorologist Nadine Powell has the forecast for B.C.
Weather Network meteorologist Nadine Powell has the forecast for B.C.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
From a global perspective, there was nothing unique about the recent raid on the U.S. Capitol. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have backed military coups around the world for decades.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 41,760 new vaccinations administered for a total of 692,899 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 1,828.264 per 100,000. There were 18,975 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 907,515 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 76.35 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were 2,400 new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 13,575 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.98 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,684 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 5,910 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 37.257 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 8,250 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.64 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 5,344 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 9,175 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 9.402 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 23,000 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 39.89 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 17,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 58.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 10,207 new vaccinations administered for a total of 174,260 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.365 per 1,000. There were 16,575 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 237,125 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 13,784 new vaccinations administered for a total of 237,918 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.197 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 277,050 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 1.9 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,514 new vaccinations administered for a total of 20,265 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 14.717 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 46,290 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 43.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,658 new vaccinations administered for a total of 27,233 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.095 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 29,300 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 92.95 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 2,928 new vaccinations administered for a total of 95,243 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.636 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 101,275 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,756 new vaccinations administered for a total of 98,125 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.122 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 133,475 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 73.52 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,347 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 32.278 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 17 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 18.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 7,200 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 16 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 26.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,545 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 65.718 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 6,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 15 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 42.42 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
A director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association believes provinces should set targets for vaccinating inmates in provincial jails — something half of jurisdictions have yet to do. The Correctional Service of Canada has started vaccinations for federal prisoners who are older or considered "medically vulnerable." But, as of last week, provinces had yet to start giving shots to inmates awaiting trial or serving shorter sentences in provincial jails. "Prisoners are disproportionately impacted by health conditions that would make them very susceptible to serious illness and death as a result of COVID," said Abby Deshman with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Because of a limited vaccine supply, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends people in correctional centres get inoculated behind those in long-term care homes, seniors 70 and older, critical health-care workers and adults in Indigenous communities. British Columbia, Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia said that, as of last week, prisoners and staff are scheduled for vaccination in the second round of inoculations, with estimated start dates between next month and June. Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec didn't provide a timeline for when inmates will receive their shots. Newfoundland and Labrador said its inmates will be part of the second phase of its vaccine distribution, but didn't specify dates. Saskatchewan said the ranking of vulnerable groups is still to be determined. The Northwest Territories and Yukon planned to start giving shots this week. Nunavut didn't respond to inquiries. Deshman was part of a research project that tracked COVID-19 cases in jails and prisons. It found that since Dec. 1, there have been at least 1,962 infections among staff and inmates — more than all of the cases reported from last March until November. “We should have targets for immunizing key vulnerable populations, regardless of who they are," she said. “If those targets need to be adjusted, if they cannot be met, that needs to be publicly communicated and explained.” She noted some politicians, including federal Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, have pushed back against early vaccinations for federal inmates. Justin Piche, a criminology professor at the University of Ottawa, said there are far fewer older prisoners in provincial jails than in federal prisons, where one out of five inmates is 50 and older. He said rhetoric from leaders that pits one group against another isn't helpful. “Prisons are among the congregate settings that are seeing significant transmission," he said. “You have prisoners who are getting COVID-19 at higher rates. You have prison staff that are going in and out of there on a day-to-day basis, going back to their families, going back to their communities." The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers believes it's wrong that Ottawa didn’t vaccinate correctional staff along with prisoners, and instead left it up to provinces to decide where staff fall in the vaccine line. "It’s completely foolish," said national president Jeff Wilkins. “We have (Saskatchewan Penitentiary), for example, which has seen quite an extensive outbreak. Our members are getting burnt out." As of last week, Manitoba listed provincial and federal correctional health-care workers as eligible to be vaccinated. Wilkins wants to see correctional officers inoculated along with long-term care staff. "In some areas, we’ve seen the rates of the institution be much higher than the community.” Catherine Latimer, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada, questions why doses were sent to institutions in Atlantic Canada, which have no active COVID-19 cases, while inmates in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are at higher risk. Latimer is also concerned about what she says is solitary confinement-like measures being used to contain the novel coronavirus. “It’s a very, very harsh correctional environment right now," she said. "We’re probably going through the worst period in terms of general corrections, at least on the federal side, in the last 50 years." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020. Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
Recent developments: Renfrew County has had its second COVID-19 death. Quebec's premier is expected to speak at 1 p.m. ET. What's the latest? Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 180 new COVID-19 cases Thursday and six more fatalities, marking the deadliest day of the pandemic since late May. Renfrew County's health unit is reporting the second death in its area from COVID-19. It has just five known active COVID-19 cases. WATCH LIVE | A Quebec pandemic update starts at 1 p.m. ET: How many cases are there? As of Thursday, 12,674 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 1,056 known active cases, 11,203 resolved cases and 415 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 22,600 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including nearly 22,000 resolved cases. One hundred and eight people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 147 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Places such as Kingston have started to take patients from other regions struggling with hospital capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't be stopping people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Schools can reopen to general in-person learning Monday in the areas of eastern Ontario with lower COVID-19 levels — not in Ottawa nor communities under the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. There is no return date for them. WATCH | Ottawa parents react to the at-home learning extension: Child-care centres remain open. Outdoor recreation venues remain open. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. Health officials say there are signs they have slowed COVID-19's spread and there's been some talk about what it will take to lift them. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with to ease the "very critical" load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries. An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have been given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Local health units have said they've given more than 29,800 doses, including about 22,000 in Ottawa and more than 7,300 in western Quebec. Ontario wants every long-term care resident and worker to have at least one shot by Feb. 15. That's already happened in Ottawa. That, and Pfizer temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, means some areas can't guarantee people will get a second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. Ontario's campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available to the public in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by August. Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible, starting with people in care homes and health-care workers, then remote communities, then older adults and essential workers and finally the general public. It said before Pfizer's announcement people will get their second dose within 90 days. Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. Its Alexandria and Casselman sites will reopen Monday. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 130 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and five deaths. More than 240 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 18. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had its only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
CALGARY — WestJet Airlines will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. Transport Canada lifted its grounding order for the Max on Wednesday after approving design changes to the plane and requiring pilots to undergo additional training. WestJet executives will hold a press conference after the morning flight between Calgary and Vancouver. The event is part of a campaign to reintroduce the Max to service while assuring the public that the plane's safety issues have been addressed. Air Canada is expected to follow suit on Feb. 1. Air Canada has already said it will offer passengers booked on a Max the option of changing their flight at no extra charge. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:AC) The Canadian Press
Researchers have said around 52,000 deaths in Europe could be prevented each year if emissions are cut to WHO guidelines. View on euronews
Coal mining is already having an impact in Alberta's Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry's presence in one of the province's most beloved landscapes. "They've been very active up there," said Kevin Van Tighem, who lives near one of the areas now heavily leased for coal exploration. The United Conservative government's decision to revoke a policy that had protected the eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976 has convulsed the province. Petitions opposing the move have gathered more than 100,000 signatures. Popular Alberta entertainment figures have come out against it and area ranchers and First Nations are trying to force a judicial review of the decision. Documents from the Alberta Energy Regulator show that permission has already been granted for hundreds of drill sites and kilometres of roads threading through critical wildlife habitat and land previously untouched by mining. "The day after the coal policy was rescinded we started seeing applications for exploration," said Katie Morrison of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. "Before we've done any real assessments of the impacts, we're seeing these companies have some potential pretty big impacts on that land." Documents filed with the regulator give some sense of what's already been permitted. Cabin Ridge Coal, operating 50 kilometres north of Coleman, Alta., is putting in 197 drill sites on land once protected by the coal policy. It plans 15 new access roads and 19 "reactivated" roads — abandoned for decades and now being refurbished. The exploration plans require nine new stream crossings. Elan Coal, north of Blairmore, Alta., has been permitted for 456 drill sites that include 66 kilometres of new roads and 29 kilometres of reactivated roads. Montem Resources, active south of Coleman, has the OK for 71 drill sites with an unspecified length of "new and existing access." Almost all of the drill sites are on grizzly bear range. Mountain goat and sheep habitat will be affected. Company plans detail how environmental impacts are to be reduced by careful construction and timing work for when it will cause the least disruption. They suggest the amount of land directly disturbed will be small — less than 100 hectares for Cabin Ridge. That's not the whole story, said Van Tighem, a former chief superintendent of Banff National Park. Wildlife steer clear of active roads and drill sites by up to 500 metres, he said. Roads cut into hillsides — no matter how well built — are "erosion traps" and roads that run uphill are "sluiceways" for run-off that would normally feed streams, he said. Mitigation measures aren't all they're cracked up to be, he added. "They're not ever as good as (companies) promise and not as consistently applied as the government would lead us to believe." Morrison points out that at least twice since the coal policy was revoked, companies have asked for exemptions to rules that prevented them from operating during sensitive times for wildlife. "Both exemptions were applied for, granted and work started within a day or two," she said. "That doesn't scream rigour to me as far as decreasing impact." Peter Brodsky, spokesman for Energy Minister Sonya Savage, said the government takes public concern seriously. This week, it paused all lease sales on formerly protected land and cancelled a small number of them, refunding $80,000. "The department will be working with Alberta Environment to determine next steps to best address the concerns that have been raised," he said in an email. "We will not choose between protecting the land for future generations and providing economic opportunities. We need to — and will — do both, in a measured and environmentally responsible way." Area rancher Gordon Cartwright looks up into the hills on his neighbour's land and recalls what a geologist told him last summer about what his neck of the foothills looks like. "He said, with the intensity of the operations and the drilling, it looked more like mining preparation than exploration," Cartwright said. "That activity's pretty damaging. A lot of these soils are highly susceptible to erosion and are hard to revegetate. "You would have thought consultation would have happened before you start opening up the country and creating that kind of disturbance." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Ontario's plan to vaccinate the populations of its most remote First Nations communities against COVID-19 faces many challenges, but Indigenous leaders say that earning the trust of the people must be a priority. Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization that represents 49 of Ontario's 123 First Nations, said that the most obvious hurdle of Operation Remote Immunity is geography, as those remote communities may not have an airstrip and must have their winter roads built in time for the vaccine to be delivered. But he said that even more important than the physical logistics of delivering the vaccine is ensuring that Indigenous people are willing to accept it. "Making sure that communities are aware of the vaccine, that they understand the vaccine and why it's important so they can consent to getting the vaccine is part of the challenge," said Fiddler. All 31 remote First Nations that are participating in Operation Remote Immunity are part of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, so Fiddler and his staff have been working with Ontario's vaccine task force as a liaison between the individual communities and the government. Communication has had to flow both ways before the vaccines start arriving on Feb. 1. "We're creating material for distribution with our health authorities, creating pamphlets and social media, making sure everything is translated into Ojibway, Ojicree and Cree," said Fiddler. "So our elders can really understand the information that's being sent to them. "Once they do understand it they can give it serious consideration before giving their consent." Fiddler said that making sure everyone understands what's in the vaccine and why it's important to take it is necessary for First Nations people who are living with the trauma of Canada's colonial history. "It's not just the vaccine itself, it's the whole history of the sad, sometimes tragic past of health care and how it's been delivered in our communities," said Fiddler, adding that historically there has been a two-tiered system where Indigenous people received inferior health care. "That's what we're up against. It's a massive undertaking and it's a challenge we know that we have to address as part of this rollout." Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who is on the province's vaccine task force, said she was also aware of some reluctance by First Nations people to take the vaccine. She pointed to a history of medical experiments being performed on Indigenous people from the 1930s to the 1970s. "We do know that in the past vaccines were tested in First Nations communities," said Archibald, who added there is no mechanism for polling First Nations populations about things like vaccine hesitancy. "The trauma and experiences from residential schools have left our communities in a state of hesitancy when it comes to trusting Canada." A spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs said that the administration of vaccines has already begun in Ontario's larger First Nations communities, starting with long-term care homes in Six Nations of the Grand River, Mohawks of Akwesasne, Oneida Nations of the Thames, and Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. Vaccinations have also begun at the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, with a focus on hospital and long-term care and chronic care staff and residents. Spokesman Alex Puddifant said Ornge, the province's air ambulance corporation, is leading the operations for the 31 fly-in First Nation communities, transporting the vaccine from hub cities in Northern Ontario to the reserves. Partner organizations including, Northern School of Ontario Medicine and Queens University, will help provide nurses and paramedics to administer the doses. Fiddler said that NAN is playing a supporting role, ensuring that communities are ready when the vaccines arrive with interpreters, drivers, and a co-ordinator to make sure that all of the residents in a territory consent to the vaccination and receive their dose. Dr. Sarita Verma, the dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, said that she and her team know they'll have to build trust with patients who are, or are directly related to, residential school survivors. "Taking a patient-centred approach that's different in Northern Ontario with First Nations communities will be important," said Verma. Indigenous Services Canada reported on Tuesday that there were 428 active cases of COVID-19 among Ontario's First Nations. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a growing list of music industry professionals to monetise their older work by selling valuable tracks and albums as the global health crisis has all but shut down earnings from live concerts. London-listed investment firm Hipgnosis announced a discounted placement offering of its ordinary shares on Thursday along with the deal, which is at least the fifth for the company this month after agreements with Shakira and Neil Young.
Some Ottawa parents and teachers are questioning the sustainability of virtual learning as in-person classrooms stay closed with no end in sight. On Wednesday, the Ontario government announced school boards within seven public health regions in southern and eastern Ontario would resume in-class learning on Monday, but boards in Ottawa weren't among them. The province did not say when schools in Ottawa might reopen, only that Ontario's chief medical officer of health will "continue to review the public health trends and advise the government on the resumption of in-person learning," according to a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board say they have not been told when in-class learning might resume. Eastern Ontario's French public school board says virtual learning will continue for its students until at least Feb. 10. 'I'm at a loss' While she doesn't want to put her children in an unsafe situation, parent Neelam Charania said she's "exasperated, frustrated, tired." "At this point, with the information that we have, I'm at a loss. I really don't understand," Charania said, who has two children attending Half Moon Bay Public School. "They miss school. They miss going to play with their friends and I think that they learn better in an in-person environment." "It would be really nice to know how to start planning for safe reintegration or what the measures will be like," said parent Malaka Hendela of the announcement. She said she worries how students, parents and teachers are coping when there's no indication of when schools will reopen. Plan is 'unsustainable': Teacher Meanwhile, teachers are having to pivot again, now having to prepare even more lessons that will have to be taught online. "The amount of time that I am putting into putting my stuff online is unsustainable. It really is," said Rachel Inch who teaches at Broadview Public School. "A lot of time and energy is spent converting things to make them doable online. So without knowing an end date, it's a daunting task. It sort of feels quite heavy." St. Leonard Catholic School teacher Krista Sarginson said she's not sure how much longer her students are able to keep up either. "I'm seeing that my kids are struggling a little bit. They were really looking forward to going back," she said. While Sarginson commends the government for being cautious when it comes to public health, she described the ongoing school closure as "death by a thousand cuts."
The town of Oyen in southeastern Alberta has been enjoying a rare thing in the province these past few months: an economic boom. The community has been bustling with pipeline workers who arrived by the hundreds last summer to help build the Canadian leg of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doug Dingman, who owns a grocery and liquor store in the community, said his business has been up 20 per cent with the crews in town and he thought they'd be around until next fall. Those workers could soon start hitting the highway out of town as TC Energy announced a suspension in the project on Wednesday, after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled the permit for the proposed pipeline and rejoined the Paris climate accord as expected. "I'm still pretty upset that he [Biden] is going to shut it down," said Dingman, who worries about the ramifications for the oilpatch, the province and the economy. But the situation also has him wondering about other important projects for the province's oil and gas sector, including the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. The TMX project is owned by the federal government and is under construction, but some Albertans continue to worry it will never be completed. "I really don't think that'll happen, either," he said. "I think that B.C. is going to block it all." All eyes on TMX No doubt, the pressure from the oilpatch on the prime minister to complete Trans Mountain will intensify after this week. Like many, Mark Salkeld was not surprised by the Biden decision, but is still left feeling "disappointment and frustration," said the executive with Katch Kan, an Edmonton-based oilfield service company. "We can't be strangled by the U.S. We've got lots [of oil] moving there, no doubt about it, but there's lots more yet to move," he said, suggesting there will be renewed oilpatch interest in any export proposal whether it's a pipeline, rail project, or some other alternative. The Trans Mountain expansion has faced a slew of its own setbacks, yet construction continues on the pipelines that will transport oil from Edmonton to the Vancouver area for export. Besides past legal and regulatory challenges, the construction was recently paused after a series of safety problems. "I don't think just because there's no other country to deal with on that project that there aren't going to be significant challenges," said Connie Van der Byl, director of Mount Royal University's institute for environmental sustainability in Calgary. In fact, the demise of Keystone XL could invigorate opponents of Trans Mountain to try to stop that pipeline project too, she said. "Overall, this is another signal to Alberta and those connected with oil and gas that it's tough times. You have to have empathy for those in the industry," said Van Der Byl, who worked for TC Energy as a business analyst in its natural gas division more than a decade ago. Climate policy, demand uncertain Alberta's oil industry has wanted more export pipeline capacity for years in order to reduce the risk of expensive bottlenecks, such as the ones that hit the sector in 2018. When export pipelines are full, there can be backlogs in the province, which drives down prices and forces more companies to move oil by rail. It's the reason the Alberta government had a curtailment policy recently in place to limit the amount of oil production and maintain higher prices. The existing Trans Mountain pipeline is operating at maximum capacity. For many years, Keystone XL was seen as a necessity by the oilpatch, but assessing the impact of losing it now largely depends on where climate policies, world oil demand and Canadian oil production is headed. For instance, the latest modelling by the Canada Energy Regulator shows a need for Keystone XL, the Trans Mountain expansion, and Enbridge's Line 3 pipeline under its reference scenario, which assumes "a lack of future domestic and global climate policy action." However, under what the regulator calls its evolving scenario, Canada brings in new greenhouse-gas reducing measures to meet its stated climate targets. Canadian oil and gas production declines, and there could be ample export capacity with Enbridge's Line 3 and the Trans Mountain expansion. But that's still assuming those projects can be built. Considering all the hurdles pipelines have faced in the last decade, that's no guarantee. The risk is why the federal government decided to purchase Trans Mountain and why the Alberta government committed billions of dollars to TC Energy last year. Stephanie Kainz is a senior associate with the intelligence team at Enverus, an energy data analytics firm in Calgary. She expressed doubts for months about the future of Keystone XL, but she feels confident about Trans Mountain getting built. "On the heavy crude front, I think that Trans Mountain is crucial — it does provide that additional capacity," she said. The project continues to face determined opposition, including protests and blockades, from groups concerned about increased tanker traffic, oil spills, and climate change. Kainz believes there's broad support for the project, but she said the government and Trans Mountain need to work with stakeholders to assure community members that live along the pipeline system that the line "will be safe, and that they'll be safe." Plan B for KXL For now, the Alberta government and TC Energy will consider their next moves, which could include pursuing legal action to recoup their investment, like the company briefly attempted in 2016, or beginning the liquidation process of pipe and other assets to help offset costs. For TC Energy, there will be dissatisfaction, but it's merely one of many projects the company is pursuing. Considering the firm operates throughout North America with a variety of businesses from oil and natural gas to electricity and nuclear, the company still has many growth opportunities. As for Trans Mountain, the public spotlight has always shone brightly on the multi-billion dollar expansion project. Still, with Keystone XL no longer in the picture, the focus on the federal government's pipeline project will only sharpen — for those for and against.
MENDON, N.Y. — Three National Guard members on a training flight were killed Wednesday when their helicopter crashed in a farmer's field in western New York. The craft, a UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter, crashed around 6:30 p.m. in Mendon, New York, a rural town south of Rochester, officials said. The circumstances were under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration said it would take part. Photos of the crash scene posted by local news media showed the aircraft wreckage burning on a snow-covered field. The helicopter flew out of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, and was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, according to Eric Durr, public affairs director of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said flags on state buildings would be lowered to half-staff on Thursday to pay tribute to the troops. “National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honourable heroes," he said in a statement. Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said at a news conference that witnesses who called 911 reported hearing the sounds of an engine sputtering and said the aircraft was flying very low. There were no survivors of the crash, he said. Baxter called the three guard members who perished “great Americans.” “Keep them in your minds and your prayers,” he said. The Associated Press
A full-throated, supremely confident Lady Gaga belted out the national anthem at President Joe Biden's inauguration in a very Gaga way — with flamboyance, fashion and passion. The Grammy winner wore a huge dove-shaped brooch and an impressively billowing red sculpted skirt as she sang into a golden microphone, delivering an emotional and powerful rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” She was followed at Wednesday's ceremony by Jennifer Lopez, dressed all in white, who threw a line of Spanish into her medley of “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful" — a pointed nod to multiculturalism, just two weeks after white supremacists and other violent rioters stormed the Capitol in an effort to undermine the peaceful transfer of power. And country star Garth Brooks, doffing his black cowboy hat, sang a soulful a capella rendition of “Amazing Grace,” his eyes closed for much of the song. He asked the audience to sing a verse with him: “Not just the people here, but the people at home, to work as one united.” The three superstars were among a slew of glittery celebrities descending on Washington — virtually or in person — to welcome the new administration of Biden and Kamala Harris, a duo popular in Hollywood, where former President Donald Trump was decidedly not. While stars mostly eschewed Trump's inauguration four years ago, the A-list was back for Biden. Brooks was careful to call his decision to perform on Wednesday non-political, and in the spirit of unity. He had performed during the inaugural celebration for Obama in 2009, but turned down a chance to perform for Trump in 2017, citing a scheduling conflict. Gaga went on Twitter later to explain that the giant brooch accompanying her Schiaparelli haute couture outfit was “a dove carrying an olive branch. May we all make peace with each other.” Lopez was in all-white Chanel, and Brooks kept it real in jeans, an open-collared black shirt and blazer. While the podium was full of high-wattage star power, there was little question that a new star had also emerged: 22-year-old poet Amanda Gorman, whose poise and urgency as she recited “The Hill We Climb” enthralled a global audience. None other than Bruce Springsteen launched the evening's entertainment: “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that took the place of the usual official inaugural balls, with Biden and Harris watching along and giving brief remarks. Alone with his guitar, The Boss sang his “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial. “I will provide for you, and I’ll stand by your side," he sang. "You’ll need a good companion, for this part of the ride.” Hanks, also at the Lincoln Memorial, spoke of “deep divisions and a troubling rancour in our land” over the past few years. "But tonight we ponder the United States of America, the practice of our democracy, the foundations of our republic, the integrity of our Constitution, the hope and dreams we all share for a more perfect union,” he said. Jon Bon Jovi contributed a rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” from Miami, and Ant Clemons and Justin Timberlake performed “Better Days” from Memphis. John Legend sang “Feeling Good” in Washington; Foo Fighters sang “Times Like These” in honour of teachers, and Demi Lovato performed “Lovely Day” along with doctors and nurses in Los Angeles. A starry collection of Broadway's most prominent musical actors collaborated on a medley of “Seasons of Love” from the show “Rent” and “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” among them Christopher Jackson, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Laura Benanti, Betty Buckley, Leslie Uggams and Javier Muñoz. “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda recited from “The Cure at Troy” by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Reciting excerpts of notable past inaugural addresses were basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, labour leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history. Peppering musical performances among stories of ordinary Americans and their contributions, the show included tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The proceedings ended with a lavish fireworks show in the Washington night sky, watched by Biden (at the White House) and Harris (at the Lincoln Memorial) and their families to — what else? — “Firework,” performed by Katy Perry. The history of celebrities performing at inaugurations dates back to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941, when a gala celebration the evening before saw performances from Irving Berlin, Mickey Rooney and Charlie Chaplin, says Lina Mann of the White House Historical Association. “Chaplin performed his monologue from ‘The Great Dictator,’” Mann notes. The celebrity component only increased over time, and one of the starriest inaugurations was that of John F. Kennedy in 1961. That celebration, hosted by Frank Sinatra, drew Harry Belafonte, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Ethel Merman, Laurence Olivier, Sidney Poitier and other celebrities. Fast forward to the first Obama inauguration in 2009, where Aretha Franklin sang “My Country, 'Tis of Thee” at the swearing-in, and the new president and his wife, Michelle, were serenaded by Beyoncé singing “At Last” at an inaugural ball. ___ AP Entertainment Writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this report from Los Angeles. ___ For complete coverage of the inauguration, please visit: https://apnews.com/hub/biden-inauguration Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
WALTHAM, Mass. — The man who designed some of the world’s most advanced dynamic robots was on a daunting mission: programming his creations to dance to the beat with a mix of fluid, explosive and expressive motions that are almost human. The results? Almost a year and half of choreography, simulation, programming and upgrades that were capped by two days of filming to produce a video running at less than 3 minutes. The clip, showing robots dancing to the 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours, was an instant hit on social media, attracting more than 23 million views during the first week. It shows two of Boston Dynamics' humanoid Atlas research robots doing the twist, the mashed potato and other classic moves, joined by Spot, a doglike robot, and Handle, a wheeled robot designed for lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse or truck. Boston Dynamics founder and chairperson Marc Raibert says what the robot maker learned was far more valuable. “It turned out that we needed to upgrade the robot in the middle of development in order for it to be strong enough and to have enough energy to do the whole performance without stopping. So that was a real benefit to the design,” Raibert says. The difficult challenge of teaching robots to dance also pushed Boston Dynamics engineers to develop better motion-programming tools that let robots reconcile balance, bouncing and doing a performance simultaneously. “So we went from having very crude tools for doing that to having very effective rapid-generation tools so that by the time we were done, we could generate new dance steps very quickly and integrate them into the performance,” Raibert says. The quality of the robots’ dancing was so good that some viewers online said they couldn't believe their eyes. Some applauded the robots’ moves and the technology powering them. Others appeared to be freaked out by some of their expressive routines. Others added that what they were seeing was probably computer-generated imagery, or CGI. Not so, Raibert says. What was on display was a results of long, hard work fueled by a determination to program the robot to dance to the beat, he says. “We didn’t want a robot doing robotlike dancing. We wanted it to do human dancing and, you know, when a human dances, the music has a beat and their whole body moves to it — their hands, their body, their head,” he says. “And we tried to get all of those things involved and co-ordinated so that it, you know, it was ... it looked like the robot was having fun and really moved with the music. And I think that had a lot to do with the result of the production.” Teaching robots to dance with fluid and expressive motions was a new challenge for a company that spent years building robots that have functional abilities like walking, navigating in rough terrain, pick things up with their hands and use attached advanced sensors to monitor and sense many things, Raibert says. “You know, our job is to try and stretch the boundaries of what robots can do, both in terms of the outer research boundary, but also in terms of practical applications. And I think when people see the new things that robots can do, it excites them,” he says. The advanced Atlas robot relies on a wide array of sensors to execute the dance moves, including 28 actuators — devices that serve as muscles by converting electronic or physical signal into movement — as well as a gyroscope that helps it to balance, and three quad-core onboard computers, including one that processes perception signals and two that control movement. Still, the fact that video of the dancing robots has fired up the public imagination and inspired a sense of awe was gratifying, Raibert says. “We hoped ... that people would enjoy it and they seem to. We’ve gotten calls from all around the world,” Raibert says. “We got a call from one of the sound engineers who had recorded the original Contours performance back in the '60s. And he said that his whole crew of Motown friends had been passing it around and been excited by it.” Rodrique Ngowi, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Lani Muller doesn’t have to visit a doctor’s office to help test an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — she just climbs into a bloodmobile-like van that parks on a busy street near her New York City neighbourhood. The U.S. is rightly fixated on the chaotic rollout of the first two authorized vaccines to fight the pandemic. But with more vaccines in the pipeline — critical to boosting global supplies — scientists worry whether enough volunteers will join and stick with the testing needed to prove if they, too, really work. Those studies, like earlier ones, must include communities of colour that have been hard-hit by the pandemic, communities that also voice concern about the vaccination drive in part because of a long history of racial health care disparities and even research abuses. To help, researchers in more than a dozen spots around the country are rolling out mobile health clinics to better reach minority participants and people in rural areas who might not otherwise volunteer. Muller, who is Black, said her family was worried about the vaccine research so she didn’t mention she’d signed up to test AstraZeneca’s shot. “The legacy of African Americans in science in these sort of trials hasn’t been great and we haven’t forgotten,” said Muller, 49, a Columbia University employee whose participation in some prior research projects made her willing to get a test injection earlier this month. Muller knows more than 20 people who have gotten or died from COVID-19. “I’m much more afraid of the disease than the vaccine trial," she said. From the beginning, the National Institutes of Health was adamant that COVID-19 vaccines be tested in a population about as diverse as the nation's — key to building confidence in whichever shots proved to work. In studies of the Pfizer and Moderna shots so far cleared for widespread U.S. use, 10% of volunteers were Black, and more were Hispanic. Diversity is an even tougher challenge now. The high-risk volunteers needed for final testing of other vaccine candidates have to decide if they want to stick with an experimental injection — one that might be a dummy shot — or try to get in line for a rationed but proven dose. AstraZeneca, with about 30,000 volunteers so far, didn't release specific numbers but said the last weeks of enrolment are focusing on recruiting more minorities and people over age 65. Another maker, Novavax, just began recruiting for its final testing last month. Studying the vaccines in diverse populations is only one step in building trust, said Dr. Wayne Frederick, president of Howard University, a historically Black university in the nation's capital. Howard's hospital shared video of Frederick and other health workers getting vaccinated as a public service announcement encouraging African Americans to get their own shot as soon as it's their turn. Frederick, a surgeon who's also at high risk because of diabetes and sickle cell disease, said he's dismayed to get emails espousing conspiracy theories such as that vaccination is “an experiment on African Americans.” “There is misinformation that does require all of us to be in the forefront of getting involved and challenging it," he said. But efforts to build confidence in the vaccines could be undermined if, once there's more supply to go around, hard-hit minority communities get left behind. “The equity issue is absolutely important,” said Stephaun Wallace, a scientist at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center who also is part of the NIH-created COVID-19 Prevention Network that helps with vaccine research and education. “It's important that we ensure that the vaccine is getting to the people, and that is an access issue." Using vans to reach at-risk communities has long been a staple of fighting HIV, another illness that has disproportionately struck Black Americans. And as more doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines arrive, mobile clinics are expected to help expand COVID-19 vaccination access, especially in rural areas. But the NIH program has a different focus, offering RV-sized mobile clinics from Matrix Medical Network to help improve the diversity of ongoing vaccine studies. Officials say they've been used at a Lakota reservation, at chicken-processing plants with a largely Hispanic workforce, and in cities like Washington where Howard University is recruiting volunteers for the new Novavax study. “I don’t think we can sit in the ivory towers and hope that people come to us. I think that would be a mistake,” said Howard's Frederick. Researchers from the New York Blood Center regularly park their lab-on-wheels in parts of Queens and Brooklyn with large Black, Asian and Hispanic populations, so that even after study enrolment ends the participants can pop in for required check-ups. They also make a point of standing outside to answer questions from passersby confused about COVID-19 vaccination in general. It's "building trust and rapport,” said Dr. Jorge Soler, who helps study the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of the blood centre's Project Achieve. “I’m Latino and I’m a scientist. To be able to say that to people means something.” Soler sometimes has to dispel fears that getting vaccinated might mean being “injected with a chip," or having information collected for surveillance purposes. He stresses that the Pfizer and Moderna shots now being used cannot give someone the coronavirus — that's biologically impossible as neither is made with the actual virus. And over and over, people wonder how these vaccines appeared so quickly. Soler’s simple explanation for how to speed research without cutting corners? “This is what happens when the world is invested in something. You build a car faster with 20 people than you do with two.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content. Lauran Neergaard And Joseph B. Frederick, The Associated Press
Joyce Obaseki has never been to Calgary, and she's never been charged with a crime. So she was floored when Toronto police contacted her in 2002 to tell her there was a warrant out for her arrest after skipping bail in Calgary. The Toronto woman says she explained to police there had to be some mistake, and the officers realized someone had likely impersonated Obaseki. Investigators then asked her to take a look at the photo of the woman who was arrested and charged with credit card fraud using her name. "I went in and they showed me the picture, lo and behold, it was someone I know," Obaseki told CBC News. "I said, 'Oh my God, Christee.'" Obaseki says she recognized the woman in the photo immediately as Christee Imuya, a classmate from her high school days back home in Nigeria — who Obaseki knew had also moved to Toronto. She says police told her not to contact Imuya and to steer clear of her in the future. CBC News reached out to Imuya for comment on this story but did not receive a response. "I never got a call from police ever since," said Obaseki. "So I thought the situation was dealt with by police." Turns out, for Obaseki, it wasn't. Nearly two decades later, Obaseki discovered that she and Imuya were still considered the same person in the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), the national electronic police database maintained by the RCMP. In practical terms, that meant that for roughly 18 years a CPIC search on Obaseki would show that she was also known as Imuya, and that she'd been charged with, but not convicted of, several criminal and immigration offences. The RCMP, who confirmed Imuya fraudulently used Obaseki's name, and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre told CBC News they don't receive reports about false identity cases like Obaseki's very often. But that fact isn't of much comfort to Obaseki, who believes the CPIC record affected her family's ability to visit her in Canada. "That is the most painful part for me,"she said. "It affected me and my family." Shock, embarrassment and pain Obaseki tried to bring her sisters and mother to Toronto to visit from Nigeria multiple times, but the visitor visas were always denied. Until last year, she thought it was just because her family didn't qualify. She found out about the CPIC record just before she was supposed to be interviewed as a witness in an immigration appeal hearing for her sister, whose husband was trying to sponsor her to come to Canada. CBC News has reviewed a copy of the results of a CPIC search an immigration official did on Obaseki in February 2020. The record identifies Obaseki as the same person as Imuya. It lists credit card fraud and theft charges, which were all later withdrawn, and one charge that ended with a peace bond. The record also lists immigration charges that ended in an acquittal. WATCH | How Joyce Obaseki felt when she found out about false criminal record: As part of the immigration appeal for Obaseki's sister, her family obtained transcripts from Obaseki's past attempts to bring her mother and sisters to Toronto on visitor visas. In one of those transcripts, an immigration official references Obaseki's "issues with respect to fraudulent credit cards in Calgary." "The shock, and the embarrassment and the pain, how do I explain that to my family?" said Obaseki. "It robbed me of my credibility. Somebody with such a long list of criminal records, would you invite such a person to your house?" Name removed from CPIC record this month Once Obaseki found out about the record falsely identifying her as Imuya she got to work trying to figure out how to remove her name from Imuya's charges. After months of going back and forth with police, Obaseki hired a lawyer to help her last fall. In November, Obaseki received a report from the RCMP confirming that the fingerprints she submitted to them do not match "any immigration-related file or existing criminal record" in the police service's national database. The following month, Obaseki's lawyer emailed a complaint to the RCMP with the record of the fingerprint search to prove that Obaseki and Imuya are not the same person and to ask that Obaseki's name be removed from the record. The RCMP had to explain the situation to Calgary police and get their permission to remove Obaseki's name from Imuya's record because the 2002 credit card charge and use of Obaseki's name came from Calgary police. 'Up until then, it was hell for me' Earlier this month, Obaseki received confirmation from the RCMP that her name had been removed "from the criminal record belonging to Christee Imuya," according to a letter from the RCMP. "It was a huge, huge relief," said Obaseki. "It was like some heavy body lifted off my shoulders. Up until then, it was hell for me — I don't sleep at night. I think about it every day." In a statement to CBC News, RCMP spokesperson Robin Percival said the service is "pleased that the matter was resolved." Percival also explained that individual police services are responsible for verifying a person's identity before submitting biographic information to the CPIC database. Unless there's a fingerprint match to an existing record in the database, the RCMP says it can't confirm the identity of the individual. Obaseki says police told her that when Imuya was first fingerprinted in 2002, she used Obaseki's name, which is why the initial CPIC record had her name attached to it — and why Obaseki's true fingerprints were required to clear her name. Anyone who believes they have been falsely attributed to a criminal record can submit a fingerprint-based civil criminal record check that "will verify that their fingerprints do not match the fingerprints of the criminal record created under their name," according to Percival. Warrant for Imuya's arrest outstanding in Alberta While she's relieved that her name is no longer on Imuya's record, Obaseki still has questions for Imuya and wants her to be held accountable for the effect she's had on Obaseki's life. "I want her to face the consequences," said Obaseki. "She cannot be walking free, and then I have to suffer all this loss, my family has to suffer this. "I'm hoping to get justice." Calgary police told CBC News the service issued a warrant for Imuya's arrest for impersonating Obaseki in 2002. The warrant remains outstanding in Alberta.
The Vancouver School Board says changes are being made to secondary school schedules to increase in-person class time after parents questioned why high school students were getting fewer instructional hours than students in other districts. On Wednesday night, the Vancouver School Board's student learning and well-being committee heard from parents. Parent Nancy Small told the committee she feels her children are being short-changed and doesn't understand how the situation could be considered acceptable. "Our Vancouver secondary students are receiving one-third of the amount of in-class time that other districts have," pointed out Small. Those concerns are in addition to opinions from parents collected during a survey conducted by the school district from Nov. 25 to Dec. 6, 2020. Small said she doesn't understand why the situation has gone on so long in Vancouver when other districts are providing more education during the pandemic. "Kids across the board like mine are struggling academically with motivation, there is no social interaction, lack of direction, and too much screen time. My Grade 8 son who has just gone into high school is expected to self-direct and self-manage his own homework and his time." Changes to school instruction During the meeting, director of instruction Aaron Davis said the Vancouver School District has noticed a trend in student performance. "One of things that was noticed with Grade 8s is [they] are performing slightly below the three-year average particularly in literacy and science." Earlier this week, Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said a review of Vancouver's instructional model, involving parents, students, Indigenous representatives and unions, was underway. On Wednesday, associate superintendent with the Vancouver School District, Rob Schindel, announced that beginning on Feb. 4, there will be more instruction and more opportunities for interactive learning. "We have been listening to students, families and staff, and we have been analyzing information about student attendance and achievement," said Schindel. The VSB says the changes will allow all Grade 8 students to attend their remote class in person twice a week. The board also announced that all high schools will go to a one-week rotation of remote and in-person classes and all students will have three interactive learning opportunities per week for remote classes. Schindel said, "These changes ensure that health and safety remain our top priority for students and staff. The changes also reflect our commitment to student well-being, transparency, and data-driven decision-making."
Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack in a crowded Baghdad market on Thursday, killing at least 32 people in Iraq's first big suicide bombing for three years, authorities said, describing it as a possible sign of the reactivation of Islamic State. Islamic State claimed early on Friday that two of its men blew themselves up in Tayaran Square in the centre of Baghdad, according to a statement posted on the group's Telegram communications channel. Reuters journalists arriving after the blasts saw pools of blood and discarded shoes at the site, a clothing market in Tayaran Square in the centre of the city.
What a difference a day makes in the outlook for the Canadian economy. Earlier this week, some economists were predicting that the Bank of Canada's Tiff Macklem would cut interest rates again when presenting Wednesday's Monetary Policy Report. But while Canada's chief central banker warned that a resurgence in the effects of the pandemic was sending the economy further down, prospects for a vaccine-led recovery meant Canada would see a sharp return to growth later this year and next. And while borrowers did not benefit from the "micro-cut" some had predicted — what Macklem carefully described as reducing already low rates "to a lower but still positive number" — perhaps more important for ordinary Canadians was his assurance that the bank-set interest rate would not rise. Startling transition to growth And that reassurance came despite the central bank's outlook of a startling transition from a shrinking economy in the first three months of the year to extraordinarily strong growth of four per cent in 2021 and five per cent next year. In a previous meeting with reporters at the end of last year, Macklem based his forecast on the assumption that a vaccine would not be widely available until 2022 and that the economy would be scarred by the impact of the virus on jobs and businesses. But this time, there was no talk of scarring. "Certainly the earlier-than-expected arrival of the vaccine is a very positive development," the Bank of Canada governor said. "But we're starting off in a deeper hole." Some economists have suggested that a strong rebound of the type Macklem and the bank's Governing Council foresee would lead to a new burst of inflation that would require the bank to raise interest rates. There have been worries, including from the real estate industry, that a hike in the rock-bottom rates that have allowed Canadians to afford large mortgages would lead to a sudden slowdown. But Macklem offered several reasons why that was unlikely to happen, for a while at least, and probably not until 2023. For one thing, any decision to reduce stimulus would begin with a slow winding down of the Bank of Canada's quantitative easing (QE) program. Currently the bank is still going to the market and buying at least $4 billion worth of government bonds every week, effectively releasing that cash into the economy. Macklem expects that to continue. Another reason why the bank feels it won't have to raise rates — the same logic for why it can continue QE — is the deep hole Macklem mentioned. Despite the hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus money from the Canadian government — plus the $900 billion US COVID-19 relief package already approved south of the border and the $1.9 trillion pandemic plan unveiled by newly installed U.S. President Joe Biden — the battered North American economy has lots of climbing to do. Still lots of slack in the economy Economics tells us that inflation does not kick in until the supply of goods, services and labour is used up such that people competing for those things start to bid up the price. But with so many unemployed, buildings empty, lots of raw material and plenty of money available to borrow and invest, the Canadian economy is not likely to reach those capacity limits until 2023, Macklem said. Inflation numbers out Wednesday showed prices rising at the slowest rate since the financial crisis of 2009, plunging in December to an annual rate of 0.7 per cent — well outside the central bank's target range of between one and three per cent. The Bank of Canada expects that number to bounce back this year to an ostensibly comfortable two per cent, but as Macklem described, that will be deceptive. "This is expected to be temporary," he said. "The anticipated increase in inflation reflects the effects of sharp declines in gasoline prices at the onset of the pandemic, and as those base year effects fade, inflation will fall again, pulled down by the significant excess of supply in the economy." As well as being an unequal recession, this has been an unusual one in that those who kept their jobs have been building up a savings hoard that some have suggested will be released in a deluge of spending once the lockdowns end — as everyone heads out dancing and partying like in the Roaring Twenties. Asked if a rush of spending was likely, Macklem once again explained why, even if it happens, a return to the days of the Great Gatsby is unlikely to unleash inflation. As retail experts explained in early December, those who have money to spend have been saving on services while continuing to spend plenty on goods. And even if we spend more on dancing, services do not lend themselves to a burst of excessive consumption. WATCH | Bank of Canada predicts wealthier households will hold on to savings: "If you don't get a haircut," Macklem said, gesturing to his own longish style, "when you go back to getting haircuts, you don't get extra haircuts." All that said, Macklem was clear to point out that with so many uncertainties, the bank's outlook is not a foregone conclusion. The economy could recover faster. "That would be a good thing," he said. A rising loonie, which would allow Canadians to spend more on imported goods and trips abroad, may slow the recovery as Canadian exports get pricier. And with an unpredictable and evolving virus, things could stay bad for longer, too, in which case the Bank of Canada has tricks up its sleeve, including micro-cuts, to add a little more stimulus if that turns out to be necessary. Someday the low interest rate party will be over, but for now, Macklem sees the most likely path as a strong if choppy and protracted recovery and continued rock-bottom borrowing costs until 2023 — or until a full recovery happens. Follow Don Pittis on Twitter: @don_pittis