During a hike, a B.C. man was stalked by a cougar and eventually had to strike it with a big stick to drive it away.
During a hike, a B.C. man was stalked by a cougar and eventually had to strike it with a big stick to drive it away.
The call came in earlier this week, first thing in the morning. It was from Northwest Territories public health officials, and they said it was urgent. "So I call public health and they let me know that my eldest son tested positive for COVID," said Ravan Bedingfield. "Then my heart just sunk." Bedingfield is one of innumerable parents caught in the frightening web of the COVID-19 outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. Her 11-year-old son is a student there, ground zero for a cluster of cases reported at the start of the week that has since ballooned into the dozens. As of Thursday, there were 47 COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife. For Bedingfield, the situation has been "heartbreaking," "frustrating" and "mentally exhausting." Thankfully, she said, her two other children — eight and two — tested negative, as did she and her partner, who are vaccinated. But working from home while safely caring for an ill child, homeschooling, constantly disinfecting, and keeping a toddler entertained has been — well, you can imagine. "I don't think I've ever been more furious in my life over this whole situation," said Bedingfield. "But I think it's amazing what you can do when you know you're not alone, like there's other families who are in the same boat." 'He is pretty anxious about the whole thing' Right how, her son has mild symptoms, she said. "So he's feeling kind of crummy, physically, but mentally, he is pretty anxious about the whole thing, and he feels responsible," she said, for possibly passing the virus onto his friends. "It's so hard to explain to a child, 'It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong,' but they can't help but take it to heart because they're hurting, and they see their friends hurting, and everybody is nervous and scared." It's also hard easing his worries from two metres away. "You want to be there to, like, even physically comfort your child, you know, but you have to maintain your distance," said Bedingfield. Community spirit shines In this period of fear and uncertainty, though, Yellowknife's community spirit has shone. A Facebook group has popped up offering the pickup and delivery of essential items to isolating residents. Bedingfield said people have been inundating her with messages of support. A friend is doing a huge grocery run that will help feed the family until they're out of isolation. And public health, she said, has been "nothing but helpful." One nurse offered her personal cell phone number so Bedingfield can call if her son's symptoms worsen. "It's incredible the amount of support everybody is giving each other." But Bedingfield also said not everyone isolating right now has the support network — or the employment benefits — she does. "I'm a government employee, so I'm happy that I have those benefits, but my husband doesn't," she said. "I'm sure there are many, many other people who don't have any kind of benefits, and they must be like — I can't imagine how they're feeling." Though it's been just a few days since her son's diagnosis, Bedingfield said one thing she's taken away so far is to take help if it's offered. "I get it. I'm a proud person and I'm often way too proud to accept help," she said. But in cases like this outbreak, she added, saying yes to support can help keep your family fed, and the bills paid. Bedingfield also implored residents to follow public health orders, for the safety and wellbeing of the whole community. "It's all about people," she said. "It's people being responsible and taking care of each other."
Ronald Smith sounds tired. Despite good news last month, when a bill to resume executions in Montana was unexpectedly defeated, the Canadian on death row in that state is in a sombre mood. Smith, originally from Red Deer, Alta., has been facing capital punishment since 1983 for killing two young Montana men in 1982. "I thought we were screwed," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press from Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge, Mont. "I didn't think there was a chance in hell that this wouldn't be approved. Once my daughter found out, I explained to her which road we were going down and what the probable outcomes were going to be. I was that sure that it was over." All executions have been stayed in Montana since 2015 because the state requires the use of an ultra-fast-acting barbiturate, which is no longer available. There hasn't been an execution in Montana since 2006. Montana's house of representatives passed a bill in February that would have amended protocol to include any substance in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death. But the senate voted it down 26-24. The execution issue is likely to arise again in two years when the state legislature reconvenes. "Obviously, I'm happy about it, but at the same time it keeps running through the back of my head, 'Oh crap. I'm stuck sitting around here again,'" Smith sighed. "A lot of people look at it and say, 'Well at least you're alive,' but I'm really not. I'm just sitting around like a bump on a log is all I'm doing, and after almost 40 years of this, anything is preferable." Smith, 63, rephrased his response when asked if he would prefer to be executed. "Well, maybe not preferable, but I wouldn't be bothered by it. As soon as I heard what was going on, I accepted it. I went, 'OK, cool. I don't have to deal with this crap anymore.' "I was worried about my family because they were going to take it hard. Personally, I don't care. I've hit that point where I've done enough of this. If they're (legislators) not going to cut me a break, than go ahead and do away with me." Smith and Rodney Munro, both high on LSD and alcohol, shot and killed two Indigenous cousins near East Glacier, Mont., in 1982. They admitted to marching Harvey Mad Man, 23, and Thomas Running Rabbit, 20, into the woods by a highway. They shot each man in the head with a sawed-off .22-calibre rifle. Court heard that Smith and Munro wanted to steal the victims' car. Smith also said at the time that he wanted to know what it was like to kill someone. He was initially offered a plea deal that would have taken the death penalty off the table, but he rejected it. He pleaded guilty and asked to be put to death, but later changed his mind. He has had five execution dates set over the years. Each has been overturned. The victims' families have continued to push for Smith to be executed. Munro took the plea bargain, was eventually transferred to a prison in Canada, and has been free since 1998. "He's been out 23 years and doing well and I wish him all the very best. Had I taken that plea deal, then I'd have been out a long time ago. It's hard not to have that in the back of your mind on a pretty regular basis." Smith said he's content with paying for his crimes, but would like to be transferred to a prison in Canada, where he has a daughter, two sisters, grandchildren and a great-grandchild. "I'm getting pretty much what I deserve for the crime I committed," he said. "If I was in a position where I could see my family on a constant basis, then leave me locked up. I don't care. "It is what it is. I committed the crime." This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021. — Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press
Public health officials on Prince Edward Island reported one new case of COVID-19 and three new possible exposure sites in a news release issued late Friday afternoon. The person is in their 30s and had recently travelled outside Atlantic Canada, the release said. The person tested positive through routine testing and is self-isolating. Contact tracing is underway. The release also listed three sites linked to the new case where Islanders may have been exposed to the virus. They are: Pilot House restaurant in Charlottetown on Monday, May 3, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. (seek a test on Saturday, May 8). Montana's restaurant in Charlottetown on Thursday, May 6, from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 pm (seek a test on Sunday, May 9). Home Hardware at 115 St. Peter's Road in Charlottetown on Thursday, May 6 from 10:30 am to 11:30 a.m. Officials are asking anyone who was at Pilot House or Montana's during those times to get tested on the date noted above and self-isolate until a negative result is received. The dates of testing are based on the time between when you are potentially exposed to a case of COVID-19 and when a test would detect any viral material in your body. Anyone who was at Home Hardware during the noted times on Thursday does not need to be tested, officials said, but should monitor closely for symptoms. If any develop, people should visit a drop in testing site and self-isolate until a negative result is received. In an email to CBC News on Friday, the Chief Public Health Office said warnings issued about sites in such cases "are based on a risk assessment conducted by CPHO in consideration of the type of exposure, length of exposure and other precautions in place in the exposure location. "If the risk of exposure is considered low, then individuals are asked to monitor for symptoms for the next 14 days and get tested if symptoms develop," the email said. "If the risk of exposure is considered to be higher, individuals who were in the public place at specified times are asked to proactively seek testing." Prince Edward Island currently has 10 active cases of COVID-19. The province has had 186 positive cases since the pandemic began. Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.
Friday's Saskatchewan COVID-19 case numbers illustrate the unpredictability of the province's pandemic curve. Just a day before, on Thursday, health officials reported 156 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest daily bump in nearly a month and a half. But the numbers surged on Friday, with the Ministry of Health reporting 295 new cases based on 3,652 tests — the highest single-day increase since 294 new cases were reported on April 15. One new death was reported: a person their 70s from the southwest region. Saskatoon leads in new cases Saskatoon surpassed Regina as the region reporting the highest new daily crop of cases for the third time in the last week and a half. Saskatoon led all areas with 98 new cases Friday, with the Regina area coming in second with 68 new cases. The rest of the new cases were found in the following regions: far northwest (two), far northeast (five), northwest (33), north central (17), northeast (nine), central west (one), central east (10), southwest (nine), south central (seven) and southeast (32). Two regions, the central east and northeast, reported their first cases of the highly transmissible P1 variant. (Government of Saskatchewan) Saskatchewan's seven-day average of daily new cases stands at 221, or 18.0 new cases per 100,000 people. There are 174 infected people in hospital provincewide, including 38 people under intensive care. Vaccine deliveries continue to happen at a strong pace, with 10,530 doses administered on Thursday. Saskachewan is getting closer to its first threshold for beginning to relax or lift COVID-19 public health measures. As of Friday, 69 per cent of residents aged 40 and above have received one dose of vaccine. That's just one percentage shy of the province's Step One reopening target of 70 per cent of people 40 and over receiving a single dose. However, three weeks need to elapse after that threshold is met and vaccine eligibility must be lowered to people aged 18 and over by that time for Step One to be initiated. (Government of Saskatchewan) Currently, only residents in the general population aged 35 and over can book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. On Friday, the province announced that age requirement will be lowered to 32 starting on Saturday. In a scrum with reporters, Health Minister Paul Merriman was asked whether slower first-dose vaccine uptake among people in the 50-to-59 and 60-to-69 age brackets has him concerned about vaccine hesitancy. As of Thursday, 65 per cent and 79 per cent of people in those age groups, respectively, had been inoculated once. One week earlier, on April 29, the percentages stood at 59 per cent and 76 per cent. Meanwhile, despite being eligible for vaccination for a shorter period of time, 47 per cent of people aged 40 to 49 had received one dose by Thursday, up from 28 per cent the previous week. "No, I don't think there's that much vaccine hesitancy out there," Merriman said. "I think some people were waiting and seeing and I respect that. But now that their neighbours or their family members have been vaccinated, we're seeing people in that higher age range that are coming in for the first time." (Government of Saskatchewan)
BANGKOK — A U.S. citizen charged with killing his pregnant Thai wife in Thailand was accused of attempting to kill what appears to be the same woman while living in Colorado in 2019. Jason Matthew Balzer, 32, was arrested Thursday in the northern city of Chiang Mai and confessed to killing Pitchaporn Kidchob, 32, Maj. Gen. Weerachon Boontawee, chief of Provincial Police Region 5's Detective Department, said Friday. It is not clear whether he had a lawyer representing him. The name of the woman Balzer was accused of attempting to kill while living in Longmont, Colorado, was redacted from court records. However, a spokesperson for the 20th Judicial District Attorney's Office, Shannon Carbone, said the victim in the domestic violence case and the woman killed in Thailand have the same name and appear to be the same person based on photographs of her in the media. The office has not received any official information about the victim in Thailand, she said. According to court documents, the victim met Balzer around 2017 and later left Thailand to live with him in the United States. In 2019, after the victim rebuffed Balzer's attempt to have sex, he allegedly grabbed her arms, hit her in the face and slammed her head repeatedly into a headboard in the bedroom of their apartment before pointing a gun at her and saying “I will kill you," an arrest affidavit said. According to the document, the victim pushed the gun away, and it fired a shot next to her head. She escaped while Balzer tried to cover up bullet holes in the wall. She also told police that Balzer strangled her two weeks before during an argument in which he accused her of cheating on him. While Balzer was charged with attempted second-degree murder, he was able to plead guilty to a lesser charge of third-degree assault because the victim went back to Thailand and did not want to return to Colorado to testify, Carbone said. He was sentenced to probation, including domestic violence treatment, she said. “This murder highlights the danger of domestic violence as well as the potential for lethality that can often exist for victims. Our hearts go out to the victim’s loved ones; it is a very tragic case. We hope that he will be held fully responsible for the murder,” she said. Balzer was also arrested in Colorado in December after police allegedly found 73 guns in his van, a violation of his probation that prohibits him from having any firearms. An attorney listed as representing Balzer in that ongoing case as well as in the domestic violence case did not return a telephone call seeking comment. Police in Thailand said Balzer was interrogated Friday in the northern city of Nan, where he had lived with Kidchob, police Lt. Col. Somkiat Ruam-ngern said. The murder charge carries a maximum penalty of death. According to Weerachon, Balzer said Pitchaporn had “given him hope,” so he married her and bought her a house in Nan, her home province. Balzer said he became enraged when she tried to chase him out, so he stabbed her with a knife, the police officer said. He said Balzer put her body in a rubbish bin that he sealed and buried in the woods about 5 kilometres (3 miles) from their home. Balzer then drove on a motorbike to Chiang Mai, where he was arrested, Weerachon said. Police had been alerted to a possible crime when Pitchaporn’s mother, who was unable to reach her daughter by phone, went to the couple’s house and found blood stains. Balzer, a programmer, met Pitchaporn in Thailand and they were married in the U.S., after which Balzer quit his job, sold all his property and moved to Nan, the newspaper Thai Rath reported, citing Provincial Police Region 5 commander Prachuab Wongsuk. Balzer said he did not know his wife was three months' pregnant, Prachuab said. ____ Associated Press writer Colleen Slevin contributed to this report from Denver. Chalida Ekvitthayavechnukul And Grant Peck, The Associated Press
The founder of a failed B.C. cryptocurrency exchange has been ordered to pay $535,000 to a man who agreed to sell him 50 bitcoin in 2019 — despite the fact the missing commodity is now worth more than $3 million. According to a B.C. Supreme Court judgment, Michael Gokturk wrote to Scott Nelson in August 2019, two months after Nelson transferred bitcoin into Gokturk's digital wallet at an agreed price of $10,700 a piece. Within months, Gokturk's Einstein Exchange would shut its doors amid a B.C. Securities Commission investigation, a cloud of complaints, lawsuits and debts of $16 million owing to customers. "None of this is your problem and I owe you what I owe you," Gokturk wrote to Nelson, who was asking for the money he'd been promised. "Keep these text messages and email records as proof. I am sorry I have been avoiding you. This has been the absolute worst year of my entire existence. These are not excuses, I just don't know what to tell you besides the truth." 'Wire is being set up right now' The details of the correspondence are contained in a B.C. Supreme ruling released this week. Nelson, a Vancouver technology entrepreneur, sued Gokturk for breach of contract in 2019, asking for either the amount the bitcoin was worth on the open market on Feb. 16, 2021 — $3,084,393 — or the amount Gokturk originally agreed to pay. The Einstein Exchange shut its doors in 2019 after a slew of complaints. An interim receiver found that the company had assets of $45,000 and debts of $16 million.(Yvette Brend/CBC) In coming to a decision, Justice Sheila Tucker found Gokturk had breached a contract that concluded on June 7, 2019, when he sent Nelson a text reading: "BTC received! Thank you. Wire is being set up right now. Will send you confirmation." Tucker said the law required her to award Nelson the amount lost at the time of the breach, not the amount his bitcoin would be worth in 2021, following recent astronomical gains. "Using the date of breach to assess the damages puts the defendant in the position he would have been had the contract been fulfilled, Tucker wrote. "The fact that [bitcoin] is worth more now than it was at the time of the contract does not result in an injustice." 'No one will lose their money here' The judgment comes a year and a half after accountants estimated that the Einstein Exchange had "hard" assets of $30,000 in cash and less than $15,000 in cryptocurrency when the court appointed an interim receiver to take control of the company on Nov. 1, 2019. The same report noted that customers were owed around $16 million, noting Nelson's lawsuit and another call from a creditor who said they were owed $7 million but had not yet filed a claim with the court. A visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Bitcoin has seen a massive increase in value, which poses a question for judges trying to determine the value of the loss in a contract breach. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images) Gokturk spoke to the CBC in January 2018 about a storm of online criticism that accompanied the opening of the exchange. Customers claimed that staff were slow to respond and expressed fear they might lose their money. At the time, Gokturk claimed his team was overwhelmed by the response and demand for digital currency and promised that "no one will lose their money here." Gokturk has filed responses to a number of B.C. Supreme Court claims in the months since the collapse of the Einstein Exchange, arguing that he was not personally liable for agreements made with the company. The responses claim the customers signed agreements acknowledging that "some digital currency exchanges had been the subject of cyberattacks that have resulted in the loss or theft of digital currencies to their users and there is a risk that a similar cyberattack could affect Einstein's services and result in the theft or loss of your digital currencies." According to Tucker's decision, Gokturk's counsel withdrew last November, after which he stopped responding to Nelson's lawyer and failed to attend an examination for discovery. He did not respond to a request for comment through LinkedIn. 'Which date do you use?' Evan Thomas, a Toronto-based litigator with Osler who specializes in digital assets and blockchain, says Tucker's decision is notable because it's one of only a few in a growing body of Canadian law to deal with disputes involving cryptocurrency. He says it's interesting to see judges treat bitcoin as property in the same way as a physical asset like a gold bar. Thomas says courts have also had to grapple with the question of how to determine the value of a commodity that has seen such rapid shifts in worth in recent months. A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ruled that the founder of a collapsed bitcoin exchange must pay $535,000 for breaking a contract to purchase 50 bitcoin.(David Horemans/CBC) In the past year alone, bitcoin has risen from around $13,000 Cdn per unit to highs of nearly $80,000. One bitcoin was worth $68,000 Cdn Thursday. "This has come up before in cases about how do you value bitcoin, a cryptocurrency which is a bit unique in commodities in that the prices can change quite dramatically over relatively short periods of times," he said. "So, of course, there's an obvious question: which date do you use?" Thomas says it's well-settled law that breach of contract disputes assign value at the date the breach occurred — which in Gokturk and Nelson's agreement was June 2019, "when the buyer actually failed to pay the money for the bitcoin." The decision says Nelson doesn't know whether Gokturk sold the 50 bitcoin and if he still has any or all of it in his possession. Thomas says it's easy to see how Nelson might feel out of pocket by $2.5 million, even if Gokturk pays the court-ordered amount. But had bitcoin dropped in value instead of soaring in the interim, Thomas says Nelson likely would not have asked for 50 worthless bitcoin as compensation. "The law says it you're going to make that argument when the price goes down, you have to live by the same argument if the price goes up," Thomas said. "We can all disagree on whether that's fair or not, but that's just what the law is."
There's a "dirty little secret lurking under the ocean of Newfoundland and Labrador" and the documentary, "Hell or Clean Water," tells the story of the one man who is trying to fix it, part of the 2021 Hot Docs festival.
A Metro Vancouver real estate agent who's been stripped of his licence for impersonating another agent during a deal says he was new to the industry and "blindly followed" the orders of his boss. Tian Yi Li, also known as Richard, has consented to the cancellation of his licence after admitting to professional misconduct, according to a recent notice from the Real Estate Council of B.C. (RECBC). Li used another agent's business cards to cultivate a new client and allowed that other agent's name to be used on official documents, including a contract of purchase and sale, a consent order says. The other agent was out of the country at the time. Li had only been licensed for a few weeks when this happened in 2016, and he says he was unfamiliar with the rules and misled by his boss, a man identified by the initials R.K. in RECBC documents. "As a team leader, he asked me to use another licensee's business card in the transaction. I was in the industry at that time for less than two months and blindly followed his order," Li wrote in an email to CBC News. "it makes no sense for me to use someone else's card because it would mean that the commission would go to another person instead of me. I only did it because my team leader [R.K.] told me to." Li said his advice for new real estate agents is to be cautious about joining a team and be sure to "follow an experienced and honest team leader." The real estate agent Li identified as R.K. has not responded to requests for comment, but denied the allegations, when they were put to the council, according to RECBC documents. Spokespeople for the council have yet to respond to requests for comment on whether there are any disciplinary proceedings involving R.K. Li's licence will be cancelled on June 21, and he will not be eligible to apply for a new one for the next three years. He's also been ordered to pay $1,500 in enforcement costs. Impersonated agent was overseas The full background to what happened, including more of Li's explanation for why it happened, is contained in a consent order proposal he submitted to the council in April, in which he agrees his licence should be terminated. It all happened in the fall of 2016, when Li was working for Metro Edge Realty in Richmond, according to the proposal. Li told the council that in September 2016, the brokerage informed its agents that anyone who did not give three months' notice before leaving the agency would not receive any pending commission. Li was planning to find a new employer at the time. But another agent, referred to by the initials J.J., left the agency soon after, and Li alleges R.K. told his team they could work under J.J.'s name. Realtor Richard Li's licence will be terminated for professional misconduct on June 21, 2021.(Realtor.ca) When J.J. left, he gave Li some of his new business cards and provided R.K. with some samples of contracts and other documents with his name and new brokerage. "J.J. says that he provided the documents to R.K. because he wanted to show R.K. that he would now be doing deals under his own name, rather than under R.K.'s name, as was the practice while he was part of R.K.'s team," the proposal says. Li said R.K. introduced him to a buyer in October 2016, and before they met with a seller's agent for a condo development in Delta, "R.K. instructed him to use J.J.'s name as the buyer's agent and to provide J.J.'s business card to the development's presentation centre," the proposal says. Li helped the buyer make an offer using J.J.'s name, gave J.J.'s business card to the seller's agent, signed a "Working with a Realtor" brochure below the name J.J., and did not correct the contract of purchase and sale when it listed J.J. as the buyer's agent, according to the proposal. Li told the council he tried to reach J.J. while the deal was being negotiated but had no luck. J.J. only discovered what had happened when staff at the presentation centre emailed him to let him know he was owed a commission. He replied to tell them there must be some mistake. "Mr. Li advised that after J.J. returned from China, J.J. blocked his number and would not speak with Mr. Li," the proposal says. The seller ended up releasing the buyer from her contract and returned her deposit.
WASHINGTON — G. Balachandran turned 80 this spring — a milestone of a birthday in India, where he lives. If not for the coronavirus pandemic, he would have been surrounded by family members who gathered to celebrate with him. But with the virus ravaging his homeland, Balachandran, a retired academic, had to settle for congratulatory phone calls. Including one from his rather famous niece: Vice-President Kamala Harris. During a Zoom interview Thursday from his home in New Delhi, Harris' uncle said he spoke with the vice-president and her husband, Doug Emhoff, for quite a while. To close out the conversation, Harris assured him she’d take care of his daughter — her cousin — who lives in Washington. “Don’t worry, Uncle. I’ll take care of your daughter. I talk to her quite a lot,” Balachandran recalls Harris telling him in their March conversation. It was the last time they had a chance to speak. Since then, the coronavirus has raged out of control in India, overwhelming the health care system and killing hundreds of thousands of people. Harris addressed the crisis in taped remarks at a State Department event Friday on COVID-19 relief efforts in India. She called the surge in infections and deaths “nothing short of heartbreaking” and said “the welfare of India is critically important to the United States.” She summarized U.S. aid to date to India, along with U.S. support for suspending patents on COVID-19 vaccines to help other countries vaccinate their people more quickly. Harris noted that India helped the U.S. at the start of the pandemic when its hospital capacity was stretched. “And today, we are determined to help India in its hour of need,” the vice-president said. While the crisis in India has created diplomatic and humanitarian challenges for the Biden administration, for Harris it is also personal: Her mother was born there, and she’s spoken emotionally throughout her political career about the influence of her many visits to India as a child. Speaking at a fundraiser for the Indian nongovernmental organization Pratham in 2018, Harris talked about walking hand-in-hand with her grandfather, P.V. Gopalan, and listening to him speak with friends about the importance of a free and equal democracy. “It was those walks on the beach with my grandfather on Besant Nagar that have had a profound impact on who I am today,” she said. She spoke often on the campaign trail about her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, a headstrong and resilient woman who bucked tradition and decided to leave India to pursue a career as a scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. And during her acceptance speech at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Harris opened her speech with a shout-out to her “chithis” — a Tamil word for aunt. One of those chithis, Sarala Gopalan, is a retired obstetrician who lives in Chennai. As a child, Harris used to visit India every other year. Now all that remains of her extended family there are her aunt and uncle. Another Indian-born aunt lives in Canada. Balachandran said that while he used to hear about friends of friends getting the virus, now it’s hitting close to home. Those he knows personally or worked with are getting the virus, and some are dying. Balachandran considers himself one of the lucky ones, as he’s retired and largely stays home alone, leaving only occasionally for groceries, so that “nobody can infect me other than myself.” His sister Sarala is the same, he says, and has largely isolated herself in her apartment in Chennai to avoid exposure. Both are fully vaccinated, something he knows is a luxury in India, which has suffered from a severe vaccine shortage. That shortage is part of what prompted criticism in India of what many saw as an initially lacklustre U.S. response to a humanitarian crisis unfolding in the nation over the past month. The U.S. initially refused to lift a ban on exports of vaccine manufacturing supplies, drawing sharp criticism from some Indian leaders. When COVID-19 cases in India started to spin out of control in April, there were calls for other countries — particularly the U.S. — to get involved. While a number of countries, including Germany, Saudi Arabia and even India's traditional foe Pakistan, offered support and supplies, U.S. leaders were seen as dragging their feet. The White House had previously emphasized the $1.4 billion in health assistance provided to India to help with pandemic preparedness and said when asked that it was in discussions about offering aid. The delay in offering further aid was seen as putting a strain on long-standing close diplomatic relations between the two nations, and on April 25, after receiving scrutiny over the U.S. response, a number of top U.S. officials publicly offered further support and supplies to India — including a tweet and a call to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi from President Joe Biden himself. Harris’ niece in California, Meena Harris, has retweeted a half-dozen accounts calling for more aid to India, including one from climate activist Greta Thunberg admonishing the global community to “step up and immediately offer assistance.” Harris' office declined to comment for this article. The U.S. announced it would lift the export ban on vaccine manufacturing supplies and last week began sending personal protective equipment, oxygen supplies, antivirals and other aid to India to help it combat the virus. The administration gets no criticism from S.V. Ramanan, an administrator of the Shri Dharma Sastha Temple in Harris’ grandfather’s hometown Thulasendrapuram in southern Tamil Nadu state, 215 miles (350 kilometres) from the coastal city of Chennai. “Everyone has their priorities. America also passed through something similar and we helped then. Now they are helping us,” he said. Ramanan added that he didn’t expect that having Harris as vice-president fast-tracked aid to India or that it somehow meant help should have come earlier, adding: “I think in general all other countries should help, and I’m glad the U.S. has stepped up.” He hopes Harris can make a visit to her ancestral village when things are better. While Harris has embraced her Indian heritage as part of her political profile, in responding to the crisis there she’s been careful to speak from the perspective of a vice-president rather than an Indian American worried about her family’s safety. “We are all part of a world community. And to the extent that any of us, as human beings who have any level of compassion, see suffering anywhere around the world, it impacts all of us. You know, it impacts us all,” she told reporters last week in Ohio. A ban on travel to and from India was announced that day. Harris said only that she hadn’t spoken to her family since the ban was announced. And G. Balachandran, Harris’ uncle, doesn’t fault his niece for how the U.S. response has played out. He said that, knowing Kamala, “she would have done all that she can in order to expedite the matter.” For now, he's content with the occasional phone call from his niece. When the two talk, it’s mostly about family; he doesn’t share much about current affairs in India because, he joked, “she’s got a whole embassy that’s sending her cables every hour on all of India!” But he does hope to visit the vice-president's residence in Washington at the Naval Observatory when he can travel again. Balachandran said he'd like to meet Biden again and remind him that the last time they met was when Biden was vice-president and swore in Harris as a U.S. senator. “I wish we could all be together at the same time,” he said of the extended family, “but that’s a big wish to look for at this moment.” ___ Associated Press writer Krutika Pathi contributed to this report from New Delhi. Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press
A man from the North Battleford area has been charged in connection with a death of Damian Moosomin about a year ago. Denver Roy, 36, is charged with indecent interference with a dead body and accessory after the fact to homicide. Roy is from Sweetgrass First Nation, about 30 kilometres west of North Battleford. Moosomin, 20, was found dead in the backyard of a North Battleford home on May 16, 2020, five days after he was reported missing. A second person who was recently charged was under 18 at the time of the offence and cannot be named in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. As of May 7, 2021, six people in total have been charged in connection to Moosomin's death. The other four people, charged in April after the Saskatchewan RCMP's 11-month investigation, were: Tye Partridge, 23, from Moosomin First Nation is charged with first-degree murder. Jannay Blackbird, 32, from Saulteaux First Nation is charged with second-degree murder. Stormy Wapass-Semaganis, 23, from Edmonton, Alberta is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. Melissa Semaganis, 41, from Poundmaker Cree Nation is charged with accessory after the fact to murder. The RCMP didn't say when the two most recently charged people are scheduled to appear in court.
OTTAWA — The Canada Revenue Agency is being taken to task by a federal watchdog for not being as up front as it should be over how long it might take to process applications for pandemic aid. The $500-a-week Canada Recovery Benefit is paid out by the agency to qualifying workers who have earned at least $5,000 in the preceding 12 months. In most cases, the application process is quick, but in others, the agency has to do additional digging to verify eligibility. The taxpayers' ombudsperson said his office has received complaints that CRA call-centre agents can't offer a timeline for when verification work will be done, leaving thousands in financial hardship. Francois Boileau said taxpayers should be able to have more details on how long it will take the agency to verify documents so they can plan how to cover their bills like rent. He said complaints to his office have said the agency can take up to 10 weeks to finish the process before issuing a payment. The process differs from one that was used one year ago for the CRB's forerunner, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. Applications were quickly approved and payments issued with the government opting to do a review after-the-fact to recoup improper payments. With the CRB, the government pushed that verification to the front of the application process, including asking for pay slips or records of employment if the agency couldn't easily confirm that someone met the earnings threshold. Once the documents came in, the agency started the clock. In March, there were complaints that it could take four to six weeks for the process to play out. More recently, it has risen to eight to 10 weeks. The agency had differing timelines referenced on different parts of its website, but updated them to in recent days after Boileau suggested the CRA do so. "The CRA understands that the longer processing times for these recovery benefit applications may place a financial burden on Canadians who depend on these benefits as income replacement," the agency said in a statement. "In some cases, processing times may be extended for unforeseeable reasons." The CRA says the process shouldn't be nearly as long for anyone who filed their 2020 tax return, which would easily let the agency verify income eligibility when an application rolls in. This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ottawa is reporting 110 new COVID-19 cases and one more death. The load on the city's intensive care units is lightening. Three more people from the area have died of COVID-19. Today's Ottawa update Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is reporting 110 new COVID-19 cases and one more death on Friday. The city has now surpassed 25,000 confirmed cases. Many key indicators that rose to record levels during this third wave of the pandemic are now in decline, though still much higher than what health officials are comfortable with. A graph showing coronavirus levels in Ottawa's wastewater, which peaked in early April, steadily declined for about a month and has recently plateaued. Data for much of March may have been affected by the spring melt.(613covid.ca) Numbers to watch 6.6%: The rate of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has dropped slightly. 0.78: The number of people infected by a single COVID-19 case, or R(t). The spread of the coronavirus is considered under control if that figure is kept below one. 91.1: The weekly incidence rate, a rolling seven-day total of new COVID-19 cases expressed per 100,000 residents. 20: The estimated incidence rate deemed safe to lift Ontario's stay-at-home order, according to one expert. 129: The combined number of patients currently in intensive care in Ottawa, according to the latest updates from local hospitals. All hospital numbers in this section have dropped from the last update. 57: The number of those patients who have COVID-19. 25: The number of COVID-19 patients from Ottawa in an Ottawa ICU, according to OPH. 32: The number of COVID-19 patients from other regions in an Ottawa ICU. 368,616: The number of Ottawa residents who have received their first vaccine dose, an increase of about 15,000 since Monday. 35%: The percentage of Ottawa residents who have received at least one vaccine dose. 27,993: The number of Ottawa residents who have received their second vaccine dose, about three per cent of the city's population. Across the region Public health officials in the Outaouais are reporting 33 new COVID-19 cases Friday and one death. The region is under Quebec's strictest measures, which start to loosen on Monday. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reports five more COVID-19 cases and one death. A total of 901 people have now died across the wider region of COVID-19. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit reports 25 more cases. Ontario is under a provincewide stay-at-home order until at least May 20.
What are the markers and icons that signify an Indigenous presence in Montreal? That is one of the many questions a collective of artists plan on tackling as they take a deep dive into the city's Indigenous history as a part of a year-long theatre residency. "Haudenosaunee people have so much history connected to the island," said Ange Loft, a Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) interdisciplinary performing artist from Kahnawake, south of Montreal. Loft, a part of the newly formed Talking Treaties Tio'tia:ke Collective, was selected as the inaugural Indigenous artist-in-residence at Montreal's Centaur Theatre. The residency, which begins in August, will be used to develop a new theatrical performance at the theatre and surrounding grounds with the incorporation of historic research, music, Kanien'kéha (the Mohawk language), large-scale puppetry, verbatim text, and dance. "We use big images and tactile props and stuff because you hit them with the heavy content, but do it in a beautiful, soft, fun and weird way," said Loft, who now lives in Toronto. The focus, Loft said, is on pre-contact governance symbolism and alliance patterns of the Haudenosaunee in the 1700s, such as the Great Peace of Montreal treaty and Dish with One Spoon agreement between Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee nations. Talking Treaties uses symbols and stories of agreement making that were gathered through interview, audio gallery, dance, choral composition, spectacle and arts based research in Toronto. (Talking Treaties) It builds on her work with Talking Treaties, a project she's been running since 2015 in Toronto with Jumblies Theatre. "I say it's an artful way to share Indigenous knowledge," said Loft. "Symbols of governance and alliance-making [are] things that you need to know before you can even start to break down treaties and conversations around that." Centaur's 1st Indigenous artist residency The Centaur Theatre is located in the Old Stock Exchange Building in the heart of Old Montreal. Eda Holmes, artistic and executive director at Centaur Theatre, said in a statement that although Indigenous stories have been essential to Montreal's heritage, they have been missing throughout theatre's half-century history. LISTEN: Ange Loft talks about her new residency with Centaur Theatre It's why the residency was created with new funding from the Conseil des arts de Montréal. "We sought an artist who was knowledgeable of Indigenous cultures and plugged into local Indigenous artistic communities and Ange is that and more," said Holmes. "Her curiosity, imagination and passion, combined with her wide range of talents and years of experience, make her ideal as our first Indigenous artist-in-residence." 'We are still here' The collective also includes Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo and Iehente Foote. Both are also Kanien'kehá:ka from Kahnawake. "I love that it is in Old Montreal. The visuals I see there are mostly the settlers, the statues of the settlers and the architecture of the settlers. It's like we're forgotten," said Diabo, a dancer and choreographer. "I'm hoping that our presence with this is going to re-show people that we've been here. We are still here." Barbara Diabo performs a hoop dance as part of her Sky Dancers piece.(Robert Newton) Foote has worked as an actor, stage manager, costume designer and production assistant in theatre, television and film since she was a teenager. She said the performing arts can be an accessible way to understand complex histories and relationships. "It's visual and it's eye-catching and there's repetition for memory," said Foote. Diabo echoed similar sentiments. "Being a live performance, there will be a sharing of energy and emotions that will touch people at a deeper level that they'll understand things more, feel things more, and remember things more with all these visuals."
LOS ANGELES — Aubrey Plaza has married her longtime boyfriend, director and screenwriter Jeff Baena. The “Parks and Recreation” actor called Baena “my husband” for the first time publicly Friday in an Instagram post. Her publicist confirmed the two had married but gave no details. Plaza, 36, and Baena, 43, have been a couple for about a decade. She has appeared in two of his films, 2014's “Life After Beth” and 2017's “The Little Hours,” and is slated to appear in his forthcoming “Spin Me Round,” which was the subject of her Instagram post. “So proud of my darling husband @jeffbaena for dreaming up another film that takes us to italia to cause some more trouble,” Plaza said alongside a photo of the couple. She also appears in the new Showtime anthology series “Cinema Toast,” which he created. Plaza is best known for playing April Ludgate from 2009 to 2015 on the NBC comedy series “Parks and Recreation.” In addition to his films with Plaza, Baena directed the 2020 Netflix drama “Horse Girl” with Alison Brie, who also co-wrote “Spin Me Round” with Baena and will co-star with Plaza. The Associated Press
Lobbying by Poland and Hungary has led to the removal of the phrase "gender equality" from a Friday declaration on advancing social cohesion in the European Union as it strives to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. Poland's nationalist ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) and eurosceptic ally Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban promote what they call traditional social values at home and have repeatedly clashed with their more liberal Western peers over the rights of women, gay people and migrants. The two countries opposed mentioning "gender equality" directly in a statement by the bloc's 27 national leaders, who are meeting in the Portuguese city of Porto on Friday and Saturday to look for ways to reduce social and economic inequalities that widened during the pandemic.
Frustration. That was the broad reaction to the revelation the BC Centre for Disease Control has been providing detailed information on COVID-19 case counts and vaccinations at a neighbourhood-based level in Metro Vancouver — but not releasing it to the public. "Experts have been asking for this data package for so long, and to find out that it was available but not being shared is really disappointing and really frustrating," said Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau. The data, originally leaked to The Vancouver Sun, shows a number of different metrics that journalists and data scientists have long been asking for. The biggest immediate story was one some had suspected but the government had only hinted at through the partial data it revealed — positivity rates for the virus in the poorest and more diverse neighbourhoods of Surrey were the worst in Metro Vancouver last week, but the per cent of people vaccinated was lower than richer, whiter areas of the Fraser Valley. It also shows that positivity rates were above 20 per cent in Peace River North last week (the local health area surrounding Fort St. John), while the per cent of people who had been vaccinated was the lowest in the province. "To really understand geographically, especially in the high transmission areas, what the rates were is really important. It's less about modelling and more about equity issues," said Jens Von Bergmann, a data scientist and member of the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group. But the leak also shows a broader story of this pandemic: the public not having the same information as the government to help inform its own personal decision making. "It's frustrating to constantly run into things like this, especially when you see what other provinces provide," said Von Bergmann. Leaked data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control showed vaccination rates in northwest Surrey were less than many other areas of the Fraser Valley, despite the area having much higher case counts and positivity rates. (BCCDC) What do other provinces provide? B.C. is the only province other than PEI not to provide any data on weekends. It's the only province with a major outbreak that doesn't provide regular vaccine updates by age. On variants, on cases by neighbourhood or positive cases after vaccination: whatever metric you can think of, chances are B.C. provides less information than other large states and provinces. This isn't a question of political debate or ideology, it's the objective truth. Throughout the pandemic, officials at various health authorities and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control have told CBC News the lack of data is primarily a result of two issues: insufficient IT and the government prioritizing many other aspects of the pandemic much more than open and accessible data. In other words: the relative lack of daily data is rooted in B.C. being behind the curve on technology. But the lack of weekly data or any proactive effort to improve access to data through the pandemic is ultimately due to political interest. "I think government has to recognize its responsibility to continuously build and maintain trust," said Furstenau. "Other provinces provide much more granular data than we have shown. That is a way to keep building trust and being able to explain clearly why we're making the decisions we are and what's informing our decisions." 'Transparent as any jurisdiction in North America' At the same time, public data isn't a silver bullet: while Alberta and Ontario provide much more data, they're both struggling with a third wave with much higher per capita case counts and hospitalizations than B.C. "I think in a health emergency like this, what we should be striving for is continual improvement, always looking at how we can be better," said Furstenau. The BCCDC has already said releasing community data "might now be changing" after this leak. Should that happen, it would follow a similar pattern of the province releasing information on municipal data and care-home data: originally saying it wasn't necessary due to privacy concerns, only to reverse its decision after public criticism reached a fever pitch. In the end, it's a reflection of a government led by a premier who said the following on Nov. 18 in response to a question about data. "We're not hiding anything," said John Horgan. "We have been as transparent as any jurisdiction in North America." It wasn't true then. And it's not true now.
Juniper Falvo of Yellowknife was among the first teenagers in Canada to receive a COVID-19 vaccine dose after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for those ages 12 to 15.
BARCELONA, Spain — Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi often spent time hanging out together at their neighbouring homes on the Mediterranean coast when taking a break from scoring goals for Barcelona. It will be less relaxing on Saturday when Suárez returns to Camp Nou with Atlético Madrid, aiming to inflict a major blow on his former team's title hopes in the Spanish league. Facing mounting debts and desperate to reduce its payroll, Barcelona sold the 34-year-old Suárez to Atlético on the cheap at the start of the season. The deal, which could reach 6 million euros ($7 million), proved to be a steal for Atlético. While not as mobile as he once was, Suárez’s world-class finishing touch gave Atlético coach Diego Simeone the scorer he had failed to find since Antoine Griezmann swapped clubs for Barcelona. Suárez missed the first meeting of the teams in November due to the coronavirus. Yannick Carrasco's goal — and its smothering defence — gave Atlético a 1-0 win that helped to build a lead that it is still clinging to with four rounds left. Atlético plays third-place Barcelona a day before second-place Real Madrid hosts fourth-place Sevilla on a weekend that promises to shake up the closest title fight in years. Atlético is two points ahead of both Madrid and Barcelona, while Sevilla is a further four points behind. Suárez departed Barcelona as its third highest scorer with 198 goals, behind César Rodríguez (232) and Messi (670). He helped Barcelona win 13 titles after arriving in 2014 from Liverpool, including four Spanish league trophies and the Champions League in 2015. Messi complained publicly after Barcelona got rid of Suárez, who had wanted to stay. Barcelona took a conciliatory approach on Friday toward Suárez, who scored 21 goals for Barcelona in the 2019-20 season. “We were teammates. Today we are rivals. But we will always be friends, Luis Suárez,” Barcelona tweeted along with a photo of Suárez embracing Messi and other former teammates. Since his move to Spain's capital, the Uruguay striker has become Atlético’s top weapon. He leads the team with 19 goals in the league. “He has met all the expectations we placed on him,” Simeone said. Simeone will have to choose from Carrasco, Marcos Llorente, Ángel Correa and João Félix to accompany Suárez in attack, giving Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman lots to worry about. “It will be strange for (Suárez), but also for my players. But we are professionals and each one of them will give it their all,” said Koeman, who is suspended for the match. “We will have to focus on him, as well as the rest of his team that plays behind him. We must think about how we must pressure them to disrupt their attack.” Atlético also has an opposition player on its mind as Messi looks to add to his league-leading 28 goals this season. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
RCMP in Sherwood Park are investigating a targeted shooting Friday morning that left one person dead and another injured. A suspect is in custody, police said in a news release. Strathcona RCMP responded to a firearms complaint on Baseline Road at 6:30 a.m., police said. Preliminary investigation shows that a suspect fired shots toward a vehicle before fleeing the area. One victim was declared dead on scene. A second person was taken to hospital with serious injuries, police said. RCMP using a police dog found the suspect near Broadway Boulevard. "Police believe this incident is isolated and targeted and there is no further risk to the public," RCMP said. Traffic is being re-routed on Baseline Road between Highway 21 and Clover Bar Road. Drivers are asked to avoid the area. The traffic disruption is expected to continue for several hours.
A Stratford woman says Ontario's recommended COVID-19 vaccination schedule has left her with a difficult decision: Whether to get her second shot or stay on track with treatment to prevent her multiple sclerosis from worsening. Lindsey Martchenko, 32, was diagnosed in 2018 with MS, a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, and can cause symptoms including extreme fatigue, weakness and loss of muscle co-ordination. Since then, she's been receiving an infusion of the medication ocrelizumab, sold under the brand name Ocrevus, every six months. The immunosuppressive drug, recommended for people with relapsing forms of MS, works by controlling symptoms and stopping certain cells from causing damage. "My body has loved Ocrevus. I haven't had any new flare-ups of MS," said Martchenko, a mom who works full time as a fundraising specialist and volunteers with the MS Society of Canada's Oxford-Perth chapter. I don't want to end up being in a position where I'm not protected against COVID or I haven't done everything possible to keep myself healthy. - Lindsey Martchenko of Stratford, Ont. But the drug can also make MS patients more vulnerable to serious COVID-19 complications that could put them on a breathing tube, so it's important they get fully vaccinated as soon as possible, said Dr. Courtney Casserly, a neurologist based out of the London Health Sciences Centre. Ocrevus is also believed to make the COVID-19 vaccine less effective if given too soon after the last infusion of the MS drug, said Casserly. It's recommended people on Ocrevus wait at least four months after their last dose before getting vaccinated, she said, although even longer would be better. Narrow window of time That means patients like Martchenko have a narrow window to get both vaccinations against COVID-19, to ensure they are fully effective and stay on track with their MS treatments. They should be getting vaccinated three to four weeks apart — as per the original instructions for Pfizer and Moderna — to allow enough buffer time on either side of the infusions. This schedule would also allow them to keep getting their infusions on schedule, said Casserly. But the current four-month recommended interval between doses makes that impossible, said Casserly. They either must delay an Ocrevus infusion or hold off on vaccination — neither of which, she said, is ideal. Dr. Courtney Casserly, a neurologist with the London Health Sciences Centre, says it's important for people with MS to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19.(Submitted by Dr. Courtney Casserly) "This particular patient population ... they're making this difficult decision of whether or not they want to be protected against COVID or whether or not they want to go forward with a treatment that could be preventing worsening of their MS," said Casserly. "It puts them in a really difficult spot." Difficult choice Martchenko, who received her first vaccination at the end of March, has an Ocrevus infusion scheduled for early next week, and is mulling whether to cancel the appointment. Martchenko got her first COVID-19 shot in March and hopes to get the second dose as soon as possible. (Submitted by Lindsey Martchenko) If she proceeds with the infusion, Martchenko said, she would have to wait until mid-September to get the second dose of the vaccine, an idea that doesn't sit right with her. "As a person on Ocrevus, I am more prone to upper respiratory infections and have been told by a medical professional that if I were to get COVID, I would likely end up in the hospital because of that. "I don't want to end up being in a position where I'm not protected against COVID or I haven't done everything possible to keep myself healthy." Martchenko has reached out to both Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) and the nearby Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) asking if she can get an exemption to receive her second dose, but said she hasn't heard back. In a statement to CBC News, HPPH said it couldn't comment on individual health matters for privacy reasons. But the health unit said it follows guidelines on vaccine dose intervals set out by the province in consultation with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). The health unit explained those guidelines only allow certain patients to receive their vaccines on a four-week interval, such as transplant patients and people receiving chemotherapy. MS patients taking Ocrevus are not among those eligible for this kind of schedule. The MLHU said it is also following provincial guidance, and directed questions involving Stratford to the HPPH. Shortened interval On Monday, Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is expecting increased shipments of COVID-19 vaccines in the weeks to come, which may allow it to shorten the current four-month interval between the first and second shots. As that supply ramps up, Casserly hopes patients taking Ocrevus, and a similar drug called rituximab, will be prioritized to get that second dose sooner. She said while it isn't clear just how many people are taking these drugs, it's a relatively small proportion of the population who would get a lot of benefit from an expedited schedule. CBC News asked the Ministry of Health if it plans to allow these patients to get vaccinated on the four-week schedule or to prioritize the group for the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine when it becomes available. The ministry did not provide a statement by publication time. 'I don't want to end up being in a position where I'm not protected against COVID or I haven't done everything possible to keep myself healthy,' says Martchenko.(Submitted by Lindsey Martchenko)