Barack and Michelle Obama are celebrating an Oscars nod after the first film released by their production company was nominated for Best Documentary on Monday morning.
Barack and Michelle Obama are celebrating an Oscars nod after the first film released by their production company was nominated for Best Documentary on Monday morning.
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
Niagara College now requires staff and students to wear enhanced personal protective equipment where physical distancing is not possible. In a recent release, Niagara College said in consultation with Niagara Region Public Health, and in light of the spread of the new United Kingdom variant of COVID-19 in Ontario, it has implemented the enhanced PPE requirements on campus. A medical-grade face mask and eyewear is now required for all staff and students attending classes, labs and workspaces where it is not always possible to maintain a physical distance of two metres. The college said a reusable fabric face mask is acceptable when outside of classrooms and labs and when physical distancing can be maintained, It will be providing staff and students enhanced PPE with medical-grade face masks and eye protection. The college will address staff and students who have a medical exemption that prevents them from wearing PPE on a case-by-case basis. The college also implemented schedule changes. To comply with provincial orders regarding on-campus/in-person instruction that requires classes and labs to be limited to 10 students or fewer plus faculty, several courses will be re-sectioned to ensure class sizes are within provincial limits. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Sean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
Families battered by the pandemic recession soon may discover that the tax refunds they’re counting on are dramatically smaller — or that they actually owe income tax. Congress offered a partial solution, but the fix hasn’t been widely publicized, consumer advocates say. Refunds are crucial to many lower- and moderate-income households, which use the money to catch up on bills and medical treatments, pay down debt and boost savings. But the unemployment insurance that kept many people afloat last year may cause problems at tax time this year. Unemployment benefits are taxable, but tax withholding is typically voluntary — and many people who lost jobs either didn’t know their unemployment checks would be taxed, or they decided against withholding. (Relief checks, such as the $1,200 sent out last year, are not taxable.) Further, unemployment benefits are not earned income and so don’t count toward two crucial tax benefits that keep millions of working families with children out of poverty: the earned income tax credit and the additional child tax credit. “If you’re a single parent or a couple with kids living on, say, $25,000 a year, you might see 25% or more of your annual income in the form of your federal tax refund because of these credits,” says Timothy Flacke, executive director of Commonwealth, a non-profit that promotes financial security. THERE’S A FIX ON CREDITS, BUT NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT There isn’t an easy workaround for tax refunds shriveled by inadequate withholding. But Congress provided a potential fix for the tax credits issue in the $900 billion coronavirus relief legislation passed last month: Filers can choose to use their 2019 income to determine their credits rather than their 2020 income. But that fix hasn’t been widely reported, says Leigh Phillips, chief executive officer of SaverLife, a non-profit that encourages working families to save. Not everyone uses up-to-date tax software or well-informed tax preparers, and Phillips worries that many eligible people won’t learn about it before filing their returns. The IRS will begin accepting returns Feb. 12. “People are going to start trying to file taxes as soon as they possibly can,” Phillips says. “If you think that you’ve got thousands coming in the mail or to your bank account, you’re there day one with your paperwork ready to go.” THOSE WHO RELY ON REFUNDS TEND TO FILE EARLY Research confirms that the earliest recipients of refunds each year tend to be lower income, says Fiona Greig, co-president of the JPMorgan Chase Institute, which studies data from millions of customer bank accounts. “(A tax refund) tends to be a larger relative cash infusion event for them, and as a result, they tend to seek their refund earlier in the tax refund season,” Greig says. In typical years, tax refunds equal almost six weeks’ take-home pay for the average recipient, the institute found. Last year the average refund was more than $2,500. Families who qualify for the earned income tax credit can receive thousands more. The maximum credit for working families with three or more children is $6,660 for 2020, and it’s refundable, which means filers get the money even if they don’t owe any tax. The amount you can earn and still qualify rises with family size, so that a married couple with three or more children could get at least a partial credit with adjusted gross income up to $56,844. A single person without children may qualify for a small credit with an adjusted gross income up to $15,820. Meanwhile, the regular child tax credit for children under 17 is $2,000 and not refundable. But low-income families may qualify for a refundable credit, which can be up to 15% of earned income over $2,500, up to $1,400 per child. TAX CREDITS HAVE WIDESPREAD SUPPORT The credits have been around for decades and have widespread bipartisan support among lawmakers, Commonwealth’s Flacke says. “It’s one of the few areas of some consensus across the parties that rewarding workers on the low end of the wage spectrum with these tax credits makes sense,” Flacke says. If you might qualify for one of the tax credits, make sure your tax software or tax preparer looks at both your 2019 and 2020 incomes before submitting your return. If you find out too late that you could have received a bigger refund, you can file an amended return, but you may face a longer wait. Instead of getting your refund in a few weeks, an amended return can take up to four months to process. Going forward, President Joe Biden has proposed one-year expansions of the credits as part of his coronavirus relief package. He wants to increase the maximum earned income tax credit for childless adults from $538 to nearly $1,500 this year and to raise the income limit. He also wants to increase the child tax credit to $3,000, plus an extra $600 per child under age 6, and make the full amount refundable. If enacted, these credits could be claimed on returns filed in 2022. ____________________________________ This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @lizweston. RELATED LINK: NerdWallet: Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC): What It Is and How to Qualify in 2020-2021 http://bit.ly/nerdwallet-EIC-2021 Liz Weston Of Nerdwallet, The Associated Press
L’annonce de la démission de Julie Payette représente une occasion de renouveler l’équipe dirigeante du bureau du gouverneur général « dans le but de répondre aux préoccupations concernant le milieu de travail que des employés ont soulevées », a déclaré le premier ministre. Prenant acte du départ de celle qu’il avait nommée en octobre 2017, le premier ministre, Justin Trudeau, s’est contenté d’indiquer que Mme Payette avait « rempli ses obligations de préserver la démocratie parlementaire et de servir les Canadiens. » « Tous les employés du gouvernement du Canada ont le droit de travailler dans un milieu sain et sécuritaire, et nous prendrons toujours cette question très au sérieux », a-t-il cependant reconnu, en référence au rapport confirmant les allégations de harcèlement en milieu de travail dont la représentante de la Reine Élisabeth II fait l’objet. Justin Trudeau a ajouté que le juge en chef de la Cour suprême du Canada, Richard Wagner, assurerait l’intérim. « Une recommandation concernant un remplaçant sera présentée à Sa Majesté la reine Élisabeth II et annoncée en temps voulu », a-t-il conclu. Une démission qui arrive « à point nommé » « Bien qu’aucune plainte officielle… n’ait été formulée au cours de ce mandat, ce qui aurait immédiatement déclenché une enquête détaillée comme le prescrivent la loi et les conventions collectives en vigueur, je prends toujours ces allégations très au sérieux », a assuré Julie Payette dans un communiqué, rappelant qu’elle a encouragé « à maintes reprises » les employés à participer à l’enquête sur le climat de travail à Rideau hall. La firme commise en septembre dernier pour faire la lumière sur des allégations de harcèlement à Rideau Hall a remis un rapport accablant au président du conseil privé de la Reine pour le Canada, Dominic Leblanc. Les allégations visaient principalement l’ancienne astronaute et sa secrétaire Assunta Di Lorenzo, démissionnaire. Dans un reportage diffusé sur le réseau de CBC, des agents et ex-employés de Rideau Hall avaient accusé ces deux personnalités d’avoir intimidé et humilié des membres du personnel. « Pour le bien de notre pays, pour l’intégrité de ma fonction vice-royale et de nos institutions démocratiques, je suis arrivée à la conclusion qu’un nouveau gouverneur général devrait être nommé, car, dit-elle, “les Canadiens méritent la stabilité en ces temps incertains”, a indiqué Mme Payette. Sur les raisons de sa démission, elle s’est contentée de constater que “des tensions sont apparues à Rideau Hall au cours des derniers mois”, s’est dite “désolée”, et a ensuite souligné une démission qui arrive “à point nommé” pour des raisons personnelles. “La santé de mon père s’est sérieusement détériorée ces dernières semaines et ma famille a besoin de mon aide”, a-t-elle précisé. Godlove Kamwa, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Asia’s top club soccer tournament announced changes Monday to adapt to the coronavirus pandemic for a second straight season. The expanded 40-team Asian Champions League will have a group stage played in centralized hubs — in cities not yet decided — over 17 days in the east and west of the continent, the Asian Football Confederation said. Western region matches, including clubs from the Middle East, will be played April 14-30. The eastern region including Australia, China, Japan and defending champion Ulsan Hyundai from South Korea is scheduled April 21-May 7. It follows the 2020 edition being completed entirely in Qatar from when the pandemic-delayed later stages of the groups resumed in September through to the final in December. The 2021 competition schedule also cuts back round of 16 and quarterfinals pairings to single elimination games in September instead of over two legs. The semifinals and final revert to home-and-away games over two legs in October and November — when travel restrictions likely will have eased. “Once again, the AFC will put the safety and welfare of all its stakeholders as its overriding priority,” confederation general secretary Windsor John said in a statement. The Asian Champions League was originally scheduled to start in February. Preliminary rounds now kick off in April to qualify for a 40-team lineup instead of 32. Choosing hub venues for the four-team groups will begin after the draw on Wednesday with national federations invited to host. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are reportedly interested in staging games. The Saudis and Qataris are also competing with India and Iran in a bidding contest for the 2027 Asian Cup. The AFC also cancelled or postponed four other continental tournaments due to take place in 2021. The men’s Under-16 and Under-19 championships were cancelled in Bahrain and Uzbekistan, respectively. Both will host the next editions of the tournaments. Those decisions follow FIFA cancelling editions of the men’s Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups, which next take place in 2023. Also scrapped are this year Asian championships in futsal and beach soccer. Kuwait and Thailand will retain hosting rights for 2022 and 2023, respectively. The AFC Cup, a second-tier club tournament reserved for developing nations, will go ahead in a shorter form, starting in May and ending in August. The start of qualifying for the women’s Under-17 and Under-20 Asian Cup tournaments in 2022 was also pushed back from March this year to August. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports John Duerden, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
A second impeachment trial against former U.S. president Donald Trump is set to begin in two weeks and a growing number of Republican senators now oppose convicting Trump.
After arguments between residents who lived near Meadowcrest beach erupted in the later summer, McDougall’s council has decided that boats will not be permitted to launch from that location. At the previous meeting in December, Leduc brought forward three recommendations to council on how to remedy the situation at the small beach. The first option was to operate the beach the same as before the pandemic, with the launching of small boats limited to a vessel that a person can carry to the water. Option two was to operate the beach with the added restriction of no vessel launching of any kind, and the third option was to allow people to launch small boats or vessels on trailers only from ice out until May 31 and then again from Sept. 15 to the time the lake ices. Here are some quotes from the council meeting regarding the decision: “This isn’t a resolution, it’s just direction to staff; currently it is established as a beach and I spoke at the previous meeting about leaving it as a beach and my position hasn’t changed on that,” said Mayor Dale Robinson. “Are there any other spots on Portage Lake where it’s possible to look at for future boat ramps?” asked Coun. Joe Ryman. “The spot at Portage Creek right now is municipal property; there is no dock there currently, so there really is no encumbrance for us to put a dock there if we needed to, as it is our property,” said parks and recreation director Brian Leduc. At the Jan. 20 council meeting, three councillors and the mayor voted in favour of the beach remaining simply a beach. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
Environment Canada has lifted the last of its remaining weather warnings for B.C.'s South Coast, as the weather system that was expected to dump heavy snow faded away. A final snowfall warning for Metro Vancouver was lifted just before 8:30 a.m. on Monday. Weather alerts were in effect for much of the South Coast over the weekend, but many residents expecting a dump of snow woke up to rain on Sunday instead. The snow that did fall was not as heavy as expected in areas like the Fraser Valley, though the central and northern areas of Vancouver Island saw a healthy amount of snow. Shelter available Despite the lack of snow, temperatures are still cold. The City of Vancouver has opened additional indoor shelter spaces until Jan. 27 for people experiencing homelessness. The Powell Street Getaway, at 528 Powell St., from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Vancouver Aquatic Centre, at 1050 Beach Ave., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Creekside Community Centre, at 1 Athletes Way., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. The Odd Fellows Hall, at 1443 West 8th Ave., from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. First Avenue Shelter at 1648 East 1st Ave., from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. The Gathering Place, 609 Helmcken St., from 8:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The city said these centres will allow people who have pets and carts, and hot drinks and snacks will be provided. All sites have reduced their capacity to meet the province's COVID-19 physical distancing requirements. In Abbotsford, B.C., people can warm up at the Gateway Christian Reformed Church on Gladys Avenue, which is open from 7:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. whenever the weather dips below freezing or there is snow on the ground. Jesse Weygand, an extreme weather shelter coordinator in Abbotsford, said all shelter guests are screened for COVID-19. "We've been resourced to isolate people who are exhibiting symptoms, who are then brought often to hotel rooms as they await their test results," said Weygand, speaking Monday on CBC's The Early Edition. In Surrey, B.C., seasonal shelters are open at Pacific Community Church at 5377 180th Street and Peace Portal Church at 15128 27B Ave. Tap here, or dial 211, to find a shelter location in Metro Vancouver.
Structure and rhythm are important for Ayden Rana. The six-year-old is on the autism spectrum and requires a little extra help to complete his studies. When the winter break turned into an extended period away from the classroom, keeping most children and teachers at home, it presented a unique challenge for Ayden and his mother, Karen, who found herself playing the role of teacher, therapist, support worker and parent. “He was very receptive the first two days, I would say, to virtual learning because he got to see the teacher and the educational assistants,” Karen said. But the novelty quickly wore off. Studying became much harder. Learning became even more challenging than usual. Touch and sense are key to Ayden’s educational development, meaning the curiously flat, two-dimensional world of pixels on a screen, fell far short of meeting his needs. “The educational assistant realized his needs for tactile material — he’s not grasping the Chromebook — so she put together a binder with all the activities,” Karen explained. “All the math, English, all the subjects he would do at school, along with his puzzles, his timer [and] his favorite pens [are included].” The binder is carefully prepared by his educational assistant every week and left for Ayden to pick up, offering new material to make the best of a difficult situation. For some other students with special needs, learning at home — even with the extra work and resources — isn’t a possibility. As a result, despite the province-wide shutdown and stay-at-home-order, some are still physically in school. A few teachers are on hand, along with a small army of special education assistants. At the Peel District School Board, they are referred to as educational assistants (EAs) and a large number of the board’s 3,800 EAs are reporting for duty. At Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, where they are known as educational resource workers (ERWs) 40 school sites are open and staffed. A major issue for EAs working at PDSB is a lack of coordination and tracking by the board, Natacha Verdiel, president of OPSEU Local 2100, the union representing EAs at PDSB, explained to The Pointer. Unlike students and teachers who cohort together, EAs do not have to sign into classrooms and are not included in contact tracing efforts when an outbreak is declared. “An EA might cross cohorts 14 times on any given day,” she explained. “They might report to 12 different classrooms to provide support to high needs students. They’re now cross contaminating between students, that’s alarming, and no one knows they’ve been in that classroom.” As a result of their specific profiles, many children with special needs are unable to wear a mask. Some even find staff wearing them to be upsetting and can attempt to physically remove them. Depending on a child’s age, size and unique needs, such behaviour can be challenging. In some instances the desire to create normalcy can even lead to aggressive actions by some students. That’s why some personal protective measures to mitigate the risk of viral spread can’t be used. “Here’s what I don’t think the public understands: the students that are reporting to the physical building right now are students who cannot wear masks,” Verdiel said. “They are all unmasked, all of the students are unmasked. Most of them are extremely behavioral, they are our highest needs students in the system.” Verdiel described one situation where a particular student coughs, spits and sneezes as part of their behavioural profile. “The staff in there are covered in bodily fluids, all day long,” she said, lamenting the lack of effective personal protective equipment and how masks can act “as a target” for some students who attempt to remove them or strike the workers wearing them. For the parents of children with special needs, the role EAs, ERWs and the education system play can be nothing short of a miracle. Staff are able to look after children during the day, calm them and tend to their various behavioural and physical needs. “Some of our workers have phenomenal skills… some of them are outrageously amazing at what they can do,” Pam Bonferro, president of the Dufferin Peel Educational Resource Workers’ Association, told The Pointer. “They’re like pied pipers, they walk into a room and the students calm down.” Karen Rana agrees, describing Ayden’s EA as a rock. “He changed three classes [due to COVID-19 attendence variations], so you can imagine,” she said. “Three classes, three teachers, three sets of students, but with the same assistant. She has been the constant and it’s been very positive for Ayden.” The work of classroom assistants is often born of passion. As a vocation, many pursue the work out of a desire to help care for children and assist with their challenging development. “It’s not that they don't want to support the students that are there,” Verdiel added. “They want the Province to acknowledge that those who are reporting in person are unable to maintain any kind of physical distancing at all. Their job is very, very, very high risk in terms of exposure to bodily fluids.” Highlighting the fact the government is working hard during a crisis, but still missing key supports, Bonferro said ERWs and EAs are being inadvertently positioned in opposition to the very families they support. “What they have technically done is they have pitted the EAs against the parents,” she said. “They are taking the EAs voice away, if an EA speaks up, they’re going to be kind of vilified as the bad guy [in the] situation. So they are way beyond stressed and what’s really tearing them apart is: they have a conscience, they care about the kids they work with.” The Ministry of Education did not provide a response in time for publication. Despite working in the same space as teachers, classroom assistants have unique demands, detailed by the unions who represent them. Where teachers can safely distance from pupils, even in the same classroom, EAs and ERWs are unable to make the space. Their duties include helping students use the bathroom, feeding and, when needed, physically helping them to calm down. “The exposure level that a teacher has when they’re standing in front of a classroom teaching versus the exposure that an EA has when they’re being spat in the face or restraining a student [is significantly different],” Verdiel said. The unions have several specific asks of the Doug Ford government to improve the situation. They include pandemic pay, more robust PPE and rapid access to the vaccine. Under the Province’s current vaccination rollout, teachers and classroom assistants find themselves on the list at the same time. The second phase, which also includes older adults living in the community and several other key worker categories, could run as late as July, which risks some EAs and ERWs not being vaccinated until during the summer break. “The government has taken on the position that EAs are now essential workers; however, they are not being provided with the same level of pay or protection,” Verdiel said. “The NDP has long called for pandemic pay for all frontline workers, and believes educators should be included among the groups prioritized to get their vaccine,” NDP Education Critic Maritt Stiles told The Pointer. “Special education assistants, who are now working in classrooms with vulnerable people, should be vaccinated as soon as possible, when the vaccine becomes available.” PDSB provided a statement offering extensive instructions to EAs around wearing PPE. It did not address questions around contact tracing and EAs working in multiple classrooms. “Since returning from the winter break, all students and staff, including EAs, who have returned to in-person learning and working are required to follow the Active Daily Screening process,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. At DPCDSB, contact tracing does not appear to be an issue and ERWs are carefully monitored. “School principals maintain a record of any ERWs that are working in the school and should a positive COVID case be reported, any staff and students that worked with, or could be considered to be a close contact, would be identified for contact tracing,” Bruce Campbell, general manager of communications and community relations for the board, told The Pointer. As most schools remain closed and the majority of children learn at home, EAs and ERWs continue to show up for work feeling increasingly isolated and vulnerable. “Everybody is sympathetic, everybody understands,” Verdiel said. “Nobody is willing to do anything.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Returning to work after layoffs in the first wave of the pandemic was daunting for Brampton resident Nathan Aitken. Between managing his asthma and fibromyalgia, and having just welcomed a newborn at home, COVID-19 was a significant risk due to his serious underlying conditions. As a welder, Aitken said there was some peace of mind in knowing his mechanic-grade respirator and uniform provided an added layer of protection at the Milton auto-industry plant where he works. “I'm just very diligent about…how I do my job, cleaning and everything else, but it’s definitely something I worry about all day,” Aitken said. In the building, floor markings indicate the pathways for workers to follow to promote safe distancing, and staff are also asked to sanitize their stations every four hours. Despite the protocols, Aitken said he’s concerned about the diligence of individual workers, especially those like him with no paid sick days. “I've never gotten that. If I call in sick, I don’t get paid,” he said. Toronto’s medical officer of health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, has joined the Opposition NDP, labour unions and other increasingly frustrated voices across the province calling for paid sick days. She characterized them as “essential” protection during the pandemic in a report two weeks ago and called for the ruling PCs under Premier Doug Ford to legislate five permanent paid sick days, and 10 during a pandemic like the one causing the current public health crisis. Ford continues to ignore the pleas, claiming there’s “no reason” for sick days. He has said the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit program, and its $500 weekly payout (with a maximum of two weeks) to sick workers is enough for Ontario’s frontline employees. He has repeatedly said he would do anything to support these heroic residents who have kept the province running throughout the pandemic. From the early second-wave public health restrictions to the current stay-at-home order, little has changed for essential workers who continue to show up on the frontline, said Tim Deelstra, a spokesperson for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 and 633, which represent about 70,000 members in the province. Data included in the 2016 Census provide a picture of Peel’s labour force that shows why the region has been particularly hard-hit by viral spread among the essential work force. The sector that employs more Peel residents than any other is manufacturing, including jobs that are deemed essential to keep supply chains running and the flow of needed products uninterrupted. Some 90,000 Peel residents worked in the sector, according to the Census figures. Other job categories that also include large numbers of essential workers are also heavily represented in the region’s labour force: There were 69,920 resident working in transportation and warehousing; 59,270 in healthcare and social assistance; 44,755 in construction; and 42,205 in accommodation and food services. Labour unions like UFCW have been calling on the government to implement more robust protections to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus at essential workplaces, including paid sick days as part of the Employment Standards Act and priority vaccine access for those workers most at risk. For many who may be experiencing minor symptoms, the risk of losing pay or even their job, is enough to keep them going to work, potentially putting their colleagues at risk. “Even before the pandemic, we were very critical of the Ford government, that one of the first things they did upon getting elected was removing the two paid sick days” from the Act, Deelstra said. He points to former Progressive Conservative party leaders, Toronto Mayor John Tory and Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, as being vocal supporters for sick leave. “They’re now seeing the need for their constituents,” he said. Mayor Brown is spearheading a campaign and motion – endorsed by Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie – at the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario and GTHA Mayors group to advocate for higher levels of government to support better sick-day policies. He told Brampton city council on Wednesday the provincial and federal governments would be discussing the issue in a conference call this week. “I hope that there's going to be a mechanism that can be found to bring this to the table,” he said. Some of Peel’s largest employers include Maple Lodge Farms, Fiat Chrysler, and PepsiCo Foods Canada, as well as airport-related warehouses and businesses, including airline food catering company Gate Gourmet Group Inc., in Mississauga. In April, Maple Lodge Farms suspended operations at its Brampton poultry plant after three cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the facility. At that time, there were about 2,864 confirmed and probable cases of infected residents throughout the Region, with about one-fifth of them in long-term care homes. Now, there have been almost 53,000 confirmed and probable cases in Peel since the start of the pandemic, along with 204 outbreaks, according to the Region’s January 22 epidemiological summary and its most recent data. In the 14 days up to January 21, 232 cases were reported as being linked to a workplace outbreak. The region’s test positivity rate fell to 11.9 percent for the week that ended January 16, down from 13.8 percent the previous week. Anything above 2.5 percent in a jurisdiction suggests viral spread is not under control. Peel’s weekly incidence rate, which has consistently been the highest of all Ontario regions since early in the pandemic, decreased slightly to 247 positive cases per 100,000 residents for the week that ended January 16, compared to 262 the previous week. Once the current emergency order is lifted, to be moved down through the grey-lockdown and red-control categories and into the Province’s orange-restrict category, under Ontario’s COVID-19 reopening framework, a region’s incidence rate has to be below 40 cases per 100,000 residents. Of the federal government’s $19-billion Safe Restart Agreement, about $1.1 billion is dedicated for helping workers through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. It has been criticized by some advocates who say that narrow eligibility criteria, including the requirement of an at least 50 percent reduction in income in the prescribed period, while only $500 per week is offered for a maximum of two weeks, leaves many without proper support. “Paid sick days are necessary. Continuing to lob things off to the federal government is not acceptable. We need people to know that they can immediately take time off, make the right decision, and not have to worry that their next pay packet is going to be short,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said at a media conference Tuesday. She urged the premier to call Ontario MPPs back to the legislature to advance a private member’s bill introduced last month by Peggy Sattler, opposition critic for employment standards. Following the current winter break, Queen’s Park is set to resume business in mid-February. Among proposed amendments to the Employment Standards Act in Bill 239 (the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act) the NDP are tabling the requirement of 14 paid sick days instead of “unpaid leave in situations related to declared emergencies and infectious disease emergencies.” In Brampton, in addition to the risks facing essential workers in the City’s prominent manufacturing, transportation and food processing sectors, non-unionized workers face even more precarious conditions. “They should be confident enough that if I'm feeling any symptoms, right away, I go [get] tested, and I sit at home…I don't have to worry about three or four days that I lose or how I eat, or how I will pay my bills. That should not be the thing to worry right now,” said Gurbaaz Sra, a community advocate and team member of Humans in Brampton, a social media campaign calling attention to the plight of essential workers. Sra, a mechanical engineer, has heard dozens of stories from members of the South Asian-Canadian community in Brampton who also fear professional reprisal for speaking out, and share their experiences anonymously with Humans in Brampton via their Instagram and Twitter. Despite the reach of social media, Sra said digital literacy among new immigrants remains a barrier for accessing updates about the local COVID-19 picture and public health guidance. “The information is changing rapidly…so that needs to be understood,” he said. “To capture that, they need to make sure that the messaging reaches everyone.” Language barriers can also affect workers who are trying to advocate with their employer for further protections. “In certain cases…they are not really able to express their demands fully because a lot of workers in the warehousing industry are new immigrants to this country,” said Gagandeep Kaur, a postal worker and an organizer at the Brampton-based Warehouse Workers Centre for Peel. Social distancing concerns within warehouses is another common concern, said Kaur, who has worked in warehouses for the last 12 years and with the Centre when it launched last January. “Employers are not doing enough to protect the workers, we know with this new variant of COVID-19 that spreads like crazy…people are scared,” she said. In Mississauga, a recent outbreak at the International Mail Processing Centre, also known as the Gateway Postal Facility located at Eglinton Avenue and Dixie Road, resulted in a total 182 postal employees testing positive for the novel coronavirus as of January 1, Canada Post confirmed in a statement to The Pointer. Rapid tests were used on-site to identify new cases. Responding to The Pointer at a Mississauga press conference on Wednesday, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Lawrence Loh, explained how rapid tests have been deployed in the community but did not detail where, specifically, this has been done. “The idea would be to try to deploy things in a bit of a concentric circle, around the cases and clusters that have been initially identified,” he said. For Nathan Aitken, the option of on-site rapid testing at his auto-sector plant, complemented by an app-based pre-screening protocol to pass through the security checkpoint, and frequent temperature checks, are “good standards and practises to keep things safe, and keep people safe,” he said. While the advocacy around paid sick days continues in Peel, Aitken is facing work precarity on another front, in his role as a hip-hop and R&B emcee and producer under the moniker TempoMental. He previously toured Ontario and did a small project in Japan right before the pandemic, relying on show and merchandise revenue to fund his art. He is holding back his latest music to release it when touring will be possible, but did one show when some venues could reopen, between the first and second waves. Aitken appeared behind a large plastic screen, with a barricade between the stage and audience, with masks mandatory inside the venue, likening the show to a jazz club experience. “I’m a hip-hop dude so everybody usually crowds the stage and jumps around, and we really can’t do that now,” he said. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @LaVjosa COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Vjosa Isai, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
TORONTO — Scientists and health experts are launching a nationwide campaign to counter misinformation about COVID-19 and related vaccines. The #ScienceUpFirst initiative is an awareness and engagement campaign that will use social media to debunk incorrect information and boost science-based content. The campaign team says in a news release that it emerged from conversations between Nova Scotia Sen. Stan Kutcher and Timothy Caulfield, Canadian research chair in health law and policy at the University of Alberta. The initiative is now being led by the Canadian Association of Science Centres, COVID-19 Resources Canada, and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. Anyone interested in participating can follow @scienceupfirst and use the #ScienceUpFirst hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and tag the account to amplify science-based posts and alert it to misinformation posts. The campaign says there is a marked rise in misinformation and conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 vaccines, virus transmission and government response, and it represents a threat to the health and safety of Canadians. "Misinformation is a dire, imminent threat to the lives of all Canadians and is proven to be one of the factors fueling COVID-19 infections, and dissuading Canadians from getting vaccinated," says Caulfield. "The #ScienceUpFirst initiative seeks to help fill an urgent need to beat back misinformation with the truth, and save lives." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Le gouvernement fédéral n’exclut pas d’invoquer cette Loi fédérale pour limiter les déplacements en raison des taux d’infection de COVID-19 de plus en plus élevés dans certaines parties du territoire, a déclaré le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Marc Garneau, dans une émission télévisée. «Nous examinons toutes les actions potentielles pour nous assurer que nous pouvons atteindre nos objectifs. La Loi sur les urgences n’est pas quelque chose qu’on peut prendre à la légère», a déclaré M. Garneau sur les antennes du réseau CBC. «Mais nous sommes avant tout préoccupés par la santé et la sécurité des Canadiens. Et si nous devons disposer du pouvoir réglementaire pour le faire, nous le ferons», a-t-il poursuivi. Dans son préambule, la Loi sur les mesures d’urgence promulguée en juillet 1988 par le gouvernement de Brian Mulroney autorise le fédéral à «prendre des mesures temporaires spéciales qui peuvent ne pas être appropriées en temps normal». Elle permettrait à Ottawa de réglementer ou d’interdire les déplacements à l’extérieur ou à l’intérieur d’une zone spécifiée, lorsque cela est nécessaire pour la protection de la santé ou de la sécurité des Canadiens. Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau a exhorté les Canadiens à maintes reprises à reconsidérer tous leurs projets de voyage, en particulier à l’approche de la période de relâche en mars. Justin Trudeau a rappelé que le gouvernement fédéral pourrait prendre à tout moment et sans préavis, «de nouvelles mesures qui entraveraient considérablement la possibilité de revenir au Canada». Contrairement à la Loi sur les mesures de guerre invoquée pendant la crise d’octobre au Québec, les pouvoirs exceptionnels que celle sur les mesures d’urgence donne au gouvernement sont encadrés par la Charte canadienne des droits et libertés. De plus, Ottawa devra recueillir l’avis des provinces. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Canada Français
VANCOUVER — A weekend of Environment Canada warnings about snow over the south coast of British Columbia produced very little of the white stuff and all warnings except the one covering Metro Vancouver have now been lifted. But the weather office says up to five centimetres of snow is still likely for higher elevations of North and West Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Coquitlam and Maple Ridge. Other areas of the Lower Mainland can expected to see rain or occasional sleet through the day, but little or no snow on the ground. Environment Canada had been calling for as much as 15 centimetres in some south coast regions by Monday morning. Parts of eastern Vancouver Island, higher areas of Greater Vancouver and the eastern Fraser Valley reported modest accumulations over the weekend. Snow also covered highways leading into the southern Interior early Monday, but no warnings or advisories were posted. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
THE LATEST: B.C. recorded 1,344 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths over a three-day period. There are currently 4,392 active cases of the coronavirus in B.C. 328 people are in hospital, with 68 in the ICU. B.C. has detected six cases of the variant from the U.K. and three cases from South Africa. The province. will not be receiving new doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine next week. Second doses of the vaccine will now be administered 42 days after the first, instead of 35, in order to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible. Eleven outbreaks in long-term care homes have been declared over. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is urging people in B.C. to stay home, saying cases have plateaued but that possible resurgence is very concerning. B.C. has recorded 1,344 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths over a three-day period. At a Monday news conference, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry urged B.C. residents to stay home, saying COVID numbers have plateaued at an average of 500 cases a day. There are 4,392 active cases of coronavirus in the province, with 328 people in hospital, 68 of whom are in intensive care. Henry said that over the weekend the province received further updates on future shipments of vaccinations — and that B.C. will not be receiving new doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines over the next two weeks. As a result of the shortage, second doses of the vaccine will be delayed to Day 42, rather than 35 in order to provide protection to a greater number of people. B.C. identifies more cases of variants In a Friday press release, health authorities quietly updated the number of variant cases of coronavirus detected in the province, confirming six cases of the variant first reported in the U.K. and three cases of the variant from South Africa. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said all cases of the variant from the U.K. are travel-related, but none of the variants first detected in South Africa have been linked to travel. "Those are concerning. If we start to see rapid increase again, there's potential for these variants to [take hold], so this is just a way of saying we all have to be really careful right now," she said. B.C. laboratories are working on fast-tracking how they test for new, more infectious coronavirus mutations, so that the province's recent success in flattening its pandemic curve is not quickly undone. Long-term care report The province is expected to reveal the findings of an independent third-party report on the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care facilities in B.C. The full report, completed by Ernst & Young, is to be released Monday, according to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix. Dix said the report, which was commissioned in the summer, will show how the government can better service these facilities. READ MORE: What's happening elsewhere in Canada As of 7 p.m. PT on Sunday, Canada had reported 747,383 cases of COVID-19, and 19,094 total deaths. A total of 63,668 cases are considered active. What are the symptoms of COVID-19? Common symptoms include: Fever. Cough. Tiredness. Shortness of breath. Loss of taste or smell. Headache. But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia. What should I do if I feel sick? Use the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's COVID-19 self-assessment tool. Testing is recommended for anyone with symptoms of cold or flu, even if they're mild. People with severe difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty waking up or other extreme symptoms should call 911. What can I do to protect myself? Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Keep them clean. Keep your distance from people who are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Wear a mask in indoor public spaces. More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.
Police in Waterloo Region say a church allegedly held an in-person service yesterday despite a court order compelling it to comply with provincial pandemic rules. Investigators say they are working with public health officials to ensure "appropriate action" is taken regarding the Trinity Bible Chapel in Woolwich, Ont. They say the church already faces "numerous" charges under the Reopening Ontario Act. Ontario legislator Randy Hillier, an independent MPP and vocal critic of the province's lockdown measures, tweeted a photo yesterday that appeared to be from the service. He also posted a photo that appeared to be of the outside of the church. The government of Ontario declared a state of emergency and imposed a stay-at-home order on Jan. 12, which includes a ban on indoor gatherings and activities, including religious services. Some religious services, such as weddings and funerals, are permitted provided they include no more than 10 people and physical distancing can be maintained. The rules apply to the entire province and will remain in effect until at least Feb. 11. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
Phil Chilibeck came upon his latest professional development by accident. The professor of kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan was studying the effect of walking for high blood pressure — something that is known to improve that condition. The walking group would walk, while they had the other group do some stretching. To their surprise, the stretching group was having better outcomes. Both exercises are known to help improve high blood pressure, but now we know that stretching is better than walking when it comes to high blood pressure. "When you stretch a muscle, you're also stretching the blood vessels in the limb that you're stretching. And when you stretch the blood vessels, it looks like it reduces the stiffness of those vessels," Chilibeck said. "If you can make the artery less stiff, it improves blood flow and it reduces your blood pressure." As for the type of stretches, any one that utilizes a major muscle group is effective. "Any type of stretch for your hamstrings, your quadriceps, your calf muscles, so I think the stretches in your lower legs would be most important," he said. This is not to say you should stop walking — you should keep that up if it's part of your routine, Chilibeck said, but add in some stretching too. Chilibeck acknowledged the sample size was small for the study, so the next step is to run a bigger study. According to a news release, 40 older men and women participated in the eight-week study, with a mean age of 61. "One [group] did a whole-body stretching routine for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and the other group walked briskly for the same amount of time and frequency," the release reads. The finding was published Dec. 18, 2020 in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump’s former chief spokeswoman and one of his closest aides, announced Monday she’s running for Arkansas governor, vying for political office even as the former president’s legacy is clouded by an impeachment charge that he incited the deadly siege at the U.S. Capitol. The former White House press secretary, who left the job in 2019 to return to her home state, launched the bid less than a week after the end of Trump’s time in office and as the ex-president faces an impeachment trial. But her announcement reflected how much she expected voters in solidly red Arkansas to embrace the former president, if not his rhetoric. “With the radical left now in control of Washington, your governor is your last line of defence,” Sanders said in a video announcing her bid. “In fact, your governor must be on the front line. So today I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas.” The daughter of former Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders had been widely expected to run for the office after leaving the White House — and Trump publicly encouraged her to make a go. She’s been laying the groundwork for a candidacy, speaking to GOP groups around the state. Sanders joins a Republican primary that already includes two statewide elected leaders, Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. The three are running to succeed current Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who is unable to run next year due to term limits. No Democrats have announced a bid to run for the seat. Sanders launched her bid weeks after a riot by Trump’s supporters at the U.S. Capitol left five people dead. More than 130 people have been charged in the insurrection, which was aimed at halting the certification of President Joe Biden’s win over Trump. Sanders was the first working mother and only the third woman to serve as White House press secretary. But she also faced questions about her credibility during her time as Trump’s chief spokesperson. During her nearly two-year tenure, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary ended after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy and the investigation into possible co-ordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia. But Sanders earned reporters’ respect working behind the scenes to develop relationships with the media. Trump’s tumultuous exit from the presidency may do little damage to Sanders in Arkansas. Republicans hold all of Arkansas’ statewide and federal seats, as well as a solid majority in both chambers of the Legislature. Trump in November won the state by nearly 28 percentage points, one of the biggest margins in his ultimate loss to Biden. Sanders’ nearly 8-minute video prominently features photos of Trump, along with references to his favourite targets such as “cancel culture,” socialism and the Green New Deal. Griffin and Rutledge have spent months positioning themselves ahead of Sanders’ announcement, lining up endorsements from the state’s top Republicans and raising funds. Combined, the two have raised more than $2.8 million. The race could also get even more crowded. Republican State Sen. Jim Hendren, a nephew of Hutchinson’s, is considering a run for the seat. Sanders, who published a book last year and joined Fox News as a contributor after leaving the White House, enters the race with a much higher profile than any of the candidates. She remains an unknown on many of the state’s biggest issues, though in her announcement she called for reducing state income taxes and cutting off funding for cities that violate immigration laws. Andrew Demillo, The Associated Press
Over 150 McKellar ratepayers have signed an online petition against a proposed electric vehicle charging station in the township. The petition was started by Chris Skinner, who was unable to comment at time of publication. Posted in multiple McKellar Facebook pages on Jan. 19, it quickly gained traction and reached its 100-signature goal. Many ratepayers commented that they were against the potential charging station. “Why should we have to pay for something as ridiculous as these charging stations if the majority of residents in McKellar are never going to use them?” asked Tammy DeCarle-Bier in the McKellar Free Speech Facebook page. The Nov. 10 minutes from the McKellar council meeting state that the township “identified the installation of electric vehicle charging stations as part of its action plan” and that the community centre complex would be the ideal location. The initial cost per charging station is estimated at $100,000, but council requested that Hydro One apply to the federal government NRCan Grant, under the Zero Emission Vehicle Infrastructure Program, which would provide up to 50 per cent of the total cost of the acquisition and installation of two electric vehicle charging stations. However, David Downing, a McKellar ratepayer, said that he’d rather see a gas station in McKellar before electric vehicle charging stations. “You cannot even buy gasoline in the township,” said Downing. “How many (electric vehicle) owners? One I think, and he is a councillor … sure, the government will match to 50 per cent but we have other needs for our $100,000.” McKellar’s mayor, Peter Hopkins, said that the township was working on a response to the petition but had no further comment at this time. Sarah Cooke’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Sarah Cooke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Parry Sound North Star
JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska held the enviable position of having the highest rate of coronavirus vaccinations per capita in the nation as of last week, the state's top health official said. Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink said last Thursday that the progress was the result of community efforts to quickly distribute vaccinations and additional allotments for federal agencies within the state, KTOO-FM reported. Zink told the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce that Alaska receives more doses of vaccine because of allowances above the state’s share for the Department of Defence, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Indian Health Service. “We have the highest veterans per capita population. We have a large military presence. And we have a large Indigenous population with over 229 sovereign tribes,” Zink said. “And so, because of those reasons, we did get some additional vaccine in the state via those federal partnerships.” The allotment for the Indian Health Service, which works with tribal entities to deliver health care to Alaska Native residents, could have been subtracted from the state’s share of the federal supply, but ultimately was allowed to be added, Zink said. “That’s been transformational for Alaska, that decision for Operation Warp Speed,” Zink said of the Trump administration's name for the national vaccine distribution initiative. More than 14,000 people had received both required doses of a vaccine cycle as of last Thursday, while more than 67,000 people had received at least one of the shots in the series. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The Associated Press