Barack Obama calls the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which took place on Dec. 14, 2012, “the worst day of my presidency.”
Barack Obama calls the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which took place on Dec. 14, 2012, “the worst day of my presidency.”
VICTORIA — British Columbia's top doctor and the health minister are urging the public to slow the spread of COVID-19 this weekend by limiting any festive gatherings to immediate households.Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix say 711 new infections have been recorded in the province and 11 more people have died, for a total of 492 fatalities.They say in a joint statement that B.C. is continuing to see a significant surge in community transmission so all public health orders must be followed as more than 36,000 people have tested positive for the virus.Henry has said it's important to remain vigilant in containing the virus for the next few months and that everyone in the province who wants to be vaccinated could be immunized by September.Nearly 11,000 people who have been identified as being exposed to the virus are being monitored and 25,658 people who tested positive have recovered.The latest public health orders have meant the cancellation of adult indoor and outdoor team sports, though children can continue participating in local games without spectators.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
A resident from Berens River is speaking out against his community for limiting its citizens' freedom to travel in and out of the northern Manitoba community. Jon Anthony is currently residing in Berens River. He has a small grain farm south of Winnipeg as well as a child living east of Winnipeg. Due to this, he tends to travel back and forth. On Wednesday, he emailed several news outlets, including the Winnipeg Sun, about the snow blockade preventing its residents to travel in or out unless they have a medical appointment and can provide proof. “The hardest part of the roadblock has been not being allowed movement in or out. I sometimes wonder if we live in a free country anymore,” said Anthony. He believes that the people of Berens River have been held hostage due to the decisions of the Berens River band. Berens River is located on the east side of Lake Winnipeg, about four hours north of Winnipeg. Since the start of the pandemic, Berens River First Nations (BRFN) declared a state of emergency in their community and set up checkpoints at two main access points. In November, BRFN Chief Norman McKay mentioned the need for medical appointments to leave the community on the Berens Radio. The BRFN Chief and council have signed a Band Council Resolution regarding this. Anthony noted that other residents are being quiet about this, choosing to trust their Chief, though most people he talked to said they feel like they are in prison. “This had resulted in serious costs for residents trapped outside of the community including hotel stays,” he said. “It is also a safety issue as people travel to Berens River in the winter for four hours, only to find out they don't have enough gas to travel back to Pine Falls and are stuck in the wilderness with no cell signal or hope of rescue since traffic has been cut off in and out. This recently happened to me, and I was lucky to survive the night.” According to Anthony, the blockade is mostly made out of snow and rocks. It is situated approximately two kilometres from the checkpoint. A government official told him that even though the provincial road travels through there, the road is new and has not been surveyed on some parts yet, meaning a small part of the road still belongs to the BRFN. He was told by the province that they do not have authority on this matter, even though there are provincial roads on both sides. A provincial government spokesperson said the province spoke with the Berens River First Nations Band Council Wednesday evening and the council advised that they have voluntarily locked down the community to ensure the safety of their residents due to a new case of COVID-19. Previously, the BRFN had sent out a patient through medevac to Winnipeg. When the patient returned, he was symptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19 a few days later. An RCMP spokesperson commented that they are aware of the blockade. However, the blockade is not put in place by, enforced by, nor monitored by the RCMP. As of Thursday, there are currently three active COVID-19 cases in the BRFN. BRFN Councillor Glen Boulanger confirmed that there is a snow blockade on the reserve and that it is for the safety of the Berens River community. “Cases are rapidly climbing in Winnipeg. We are just trying to prevent residents from contracting the virus and bringing it back to the community,” said Boulanger. “We are not doing this to take anybody’s freedom away or make them feel like they are in jail. This is so the community is safe, and as soon as the number improves, we will evaluate the need of the blockade.” Nicole Wong is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.Nicole Wong, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun
A West Coast MP wants the federal transport minister to ditch fines in the thousands of dollars and allow BC Ferries passengers to remain in their vehicles on enclosed car decks to protect themselves from COVID-19 despite regulations against the practice. Rachel Blaney, North Island-Powell River’s NDP MP, has written to Transport Minister Marc Garneau questioning the logic of potentially fining people up to $12,000 when they are heeding public health orders to keep their contact with other people to a minimum. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic and case numbers are growing in B.C.,” Blaney said. “And obviously it’s a concern to the point that people are willing to be written up and risk fines on the ferries to prevent exposure to COVID-19.” In the initial wave of the pandemic, Transport Canada temporarily waived regulations requiring people in cars on closed decks to head up to passenger lounges. But the federal agency rescinded the exception granted to ferry operators at the end of September. Blaney said she has made her second appeal to Garneau after learning 1,000 people have defied the order and have been reported to Transport Canada. The risks of exposure to the virus are higher now than during the initial exemption, Blaney said, adding B.C. Premier John Horgan has also called on Ottawa to extend the exemption. “The minister previously paused that rule so that people could stay safe,” she said. “Now, when case numbers are growing, why won't he do it again?” Ferry workers have not been policing passengers who choose to remain in their cars, said BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall. “We’re not an enforcement agency,” said Marshall. “We’re politely reminding customers of the Transport Canada regulations.” Staff has been handing out Transport Canada leaflets to passengers who don’t leave the decks that outline the regulations and potential penalties, she said. Those who elect to stay in their cars have their information forwarded to the transport ministry, she added. Marshall confirmed more than 1,000 incidents have been reported to Transport Canada, most often on the sailings between Horseshoe Bay on the mainland and Departure Bay on Vancouver Island. But the vast majority of passengers have been complying with the regulation, Marshall said. The rule is in effect again because Transport Canada believes that new distancing and cleaning protocols on the provincial ferry service mitigate the risk individuals face from COVID-19 exposure, she added. “We certainly understand people are concerned about COVID-19,” Marshall said, adding there a number of risks associated with staying on a car deck. Though it’s unlikely, a car fire could pose serious danger in an enclosed deck, she said. “A customer in their vehicle could be overcome by smoke inhalation or might not be able to find their way out of their vehicle or get through to a stairwell to get upstairs,” she said. Blaney feels the current risks from the virus are greater than those from remaining on closed decks. And she has asked for the risk assessment the transport ministry relied on to make its decision. Constituents in her riding, particularly those who are vulnerable to the virus but must travel to seek medical attention, are expressing grave concerns, Blaney said. “People are very scared,” she said. “They're already travelling to access the care that they need from bigger centres, asking them in their health conditions to risk exposure just adds to the tension.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
South Korean authorities urged vigilance on Saturday as small coronavirus clusters emerged in a third wave, centred in the Seoul area, with infections near nine-month highs. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 583 new coronavirus infections, down from the 629 reported on Friday, which was the highest since the first wave peaked in February and early March. This wave of infections is different from the first two, which were driven by large-scale transmission, said KDCA official Lim Sook-young.
A Fort St. James man has been fined $1,000 for flying a drone while out on a hunting expedition. Paul James Hesse was issued the penalty on November 9 in Fort St. James Provincial Court. He was also prohibited from hunting for one year and assessed a $150 victim surcharge. The outcome stems from a complaint conservation officers received on Sept. 22, 2018. The next day, officers attended a cabin on Marie Lake, southwest of Fort St. James, where they seized the drone along with a harvested bull moose. After securing a search warrant, they gathered photos and videos from the machine and forwarded the matter to Crown prosecution. Conservation officer Richard Keenan-Toop, who was the lead investigating officer on the file, said it was the first conviction for the offence in British Columbia. The Wildlife Act was amended in July 2016 to make the use of drones while hunting illegal. "It was definitely a different one and definitely a learning experience for the Conservation Officer Service for sure," Keenan-Toop said. "But it's not something we see very often, thankfully, because hunting with a drone completely defeats fair chase for wildlife." However, Connie Morrisey, a native court worker in Fort St. James who helped Hesse put together a defence against the charges said he never actually used the drone for actual hunting. Instead, she said he was using it to get images of the cabin and a route planned for a trail from big Marie Lake to little Marie Lake, but because he was at the cabin as part of a hunting trip, he was charged. "The minute you leave your house to go hunting to the minute you get back to your house, that's considered a hunting expedition," Morrisey said. "He did not use it to hunt but he flew it when he was at the cabin." She said Hesse uses the drone for work purposes and had it with him in camp. When he came back to Fort St. James, his father picked him up and went to the cabin. "He said 'I know you can't use it for hunting but if I had known you can't even have it one you, I would've went home, dropped the drone off and went out," Morrisey said. As part of the prohibition against hunting for a year, Hesse is also prohibited from accompanying other hunters and the drone was forfeited to the Crown. Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince George Citizen
OTTAWA — Procurement Minister Anita Anand says that as soon as she knows when the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine will arrive in Canada, she will share that information with Canadians. But Anand told The Canadian Press in an interview this week that the original contracts to buy COVID-19 vaccines had to be vague about delivery dates because nobody knew at the time if the vaccines would be successful. It's only in the last few weeks, when the leading candidates from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca reported such positive results from their large clinical trials, that the way forward became clear enough for Anand's department to start asking the companies to be more specific about when they can make good on their contracts with Canada. "We put these contracts in place in order to place Canadians in the best stead possible, of any country in the world, recognizing that we would need to negotiate additional terms such as precise delivery dates, once a vaccine was discovered, and regulatory approval was obtained," she said. "And that is what's happening now." As Canadians face a pandemic-plagued holiday season and dream that 2021 will not be the anxiety-laden and often tragic disaster that 2020 has proven to be, there is one gleaming hope dangling still just out of reach: a vaccine for COVID-19. Still, the federal government has yet to answer one big question: When will it get here? It is not that she doesn't want to tell Canadians when, said Anand. But the complexities of figuring out a specific date are linked to when Health Canada approves the vaccine, and when the vaccine makers can see that Canada is ready to receive and safely distribute the precious doses, some of which have to be stored at temperatures below -70 C. Those pieces are starting to converge now. Health Canada officials are days, maybe even hours, away from approving the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for use in Canada. Canadians got some more information on the logistics from a briefing of federal officials this week, including that Pfizer will ship its vaccine directly to 14 identified receiving sites in provinces. FedEx and Innomar Strategies were contracted Friday to oversee the delivery of other vaccines from a national receiving site to provinces. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization issued refined guidance Friday for who should get the vaccine first, including long-term care residents and workers, and people over the age of 80. The materials like syringes, gauze pads and bandages needed to vaccinate millions of people are in place. Ultralow temperature freezers have been purchased and nine new ones have already arrived. Provincial governments are lining up their own task forces. "We are going to have vaccines in this country, as expeditiously as possible," Anand said. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole has been decrying the lack of clarity from the Liberals about the vaccine plan. A week ago he accused the Liberals of only starting to buy vaccines in a panic this summer after a collaboration with China on a vaccine fell apart. The partnership between the National Research Council and China's CanSino Biologics was announced in May to great fanfare. But the doses to be used in a Canadian clinical trial failed to arrive, when the Chinese government — in the midst of political tensions with Canada — refused to issue an export permit for them. “I would not have put all our eggs in the basket of China,” O’Toole said Nov. 29, adding the timeline shows it wasn't until that deal fell apart that Canada "started getting serious with Pfizer, Moderna, the other options." Anand said that is not the case. She said the CanSino deal fell within Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains' portfolio, not her own, and nothing about the project prevented her from negotiating with other companies. Her marching orders to negotiate deals with other vaccine makers came weeks earlier. A team of procurement officials in her department was assigned to the file in March, at the same time as those negotiating contracts for medical supplies, personal protective equipment and rapid tests. In June, the COVID-19 vaccine task force provided a list of vaccines for Canada to pursue. Anand said talks with manufacturers began in early July. The first deal, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna, was struck July 24. Canada was first to sign with Moderna. It signed a contract with Pfizer and BioNTech a week later, on Aug. 1. It was the fourth country to do so, after the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan. News of trouble on the CanSino deal first appeared in early July when the doses still hadn't been approved for export by China. Canada walked away from the deal at the end of August when it became clear it would not happen. By then, Canada had deals with four other vaccine companies, including Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, and NovaVax. It added deals with Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca in September and then with Canada's own Medicago the next month. Anand said Canada approached every contract with a similar goal — to get 20 million doses guaranteed, and options to potentially buy more later on. In all, Canada is paying more than $1 billion to the seven vaccine makers for 194 million doses, even if those vaccines never get beyond the experimental stage. Another 220 million doses are available if Canada asks for them, a decision that will be made for the vaccines that are proving to be the best. Anand announced Friday another 20 million doses will come to Canada in 2021 from Moderna, for a total of 40 million. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 5, 2020. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Employees at the LNG Canada work site in Kitimat, B.C., complained multiple times about unsafe working conditions just months before the facility experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, according to WorkSafe BC inspection reports obtained by The Narwhal. The outbreak at LNG Canada started on Nov. 19 and there are now 54 cases. In the months leading up to the outbreak, workers raised concerns about COVID-19 cleaning procedures in common areas, rooms and work spaces, prompting inspections by WorkSafe BC on Aug. 28 and Oct. 19. The documents also reveal that a WorkSafe BC inspection of the Site C work camp’s sewage treatment facility in northeast B.C. on March 19 found the facility did not have a plan to sufficiently protect workers from pathogens, body fluids, human waste, mould and COVID-19. WorkSafe BC didn’t say if or how the issues flagged during the inspection were resolved. The first case of COVID-19 at Site C was in July and there have been 17 cases to date. On Dec. 4, BC Hydro reported five active cases and 18 people in self-isolation. The revelations come as calls grow for B.C. to shut down work camps or risk further community spread with northern hospitals already stretched thin. More than 180 frontline health workers have signed an open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that started circulating on Thursday, calling on her to immediately shut down industrial work camps on Indigenous territories. “To put the interests of economy and industry ahead of Indigenous lives is not public health,” the letter says. “To put Indigenous Elders and youth at further risk in the midst of a pandemic is to say quite clearly that Indigenous lives still do not matter in B.C.” On Thursday, the Unist’ot’en Camp said Coastal GasLink confirmed five new cases at its camp 9A on Unist’ot’en territory. Sley’do Molly Wickham, Gidimt’en Camp spokesperson, said at least one Wet’suwet’en worker in a Coastal GasLink work camp recently contracted the virus and is now hospitalized in an induced coma. David Bowering, former chief medical officer for Northern Health, said the time has come for the province to shift gears and take a harder look at what it deems essential. “Is it industry first, or the health and safety of the population in the north first? They need to rethink the essential designation and say it’s not that essential, certainly not at this price.” Coastal GasLink, BC Hydro and the Ministry of Health did not respond to interview requests prior to publication. LNG Canada declined an interview request. Bowering told The Narwhal he’s surprised it took this long for an outbreak in the work camps to occur. In the early days of the pandemic, he wrote an open letter to Henry urging her to shut down the work camps, calling them “land locked cruise ships” and warning that cases related to these industrial sites were inevitable. He knows what he’s talking about — his first job as a doctor was at a mining camp. He called the safety plans prepared by LNG Canada and Coastal GasLink “deluxe” documents but says the best plans in the world don’t mean anything if people aren’t following the rules. “They have luxury-class health and safety plans and luxury-class consultants compared to what the public sector can afford,” he said. “The virus doesn’t respect paper protocols. There’s just too much human nature involved.” Wickham said she has frequently seen workers flouting the rules. “We know that they’re not following even the basic protocols like wearing masks when they’re in vehicles together or when they’re close working closely with one another,” she said. “And they’re certainly not wearing masks when they’re interacting with our people on the territory.” Bowering is concerned that capacity at Northern Health hospitals is already stretched thin. In a statement released yesterday, the health authority said it is “experiencing an increase in COVID-19 activity and hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients requiring critical care.” There 235 active cases in the region including 33 people in hospital. Patients have already been transferred to hospitals outside the region to deal with the increase. “I think we’re in for a rough ride,” Bowering said. “The worry about our local hospitals and our local staff being overwhelmed, burned out and having difficulty coping, that’s becoming a pretty clear reality. Our communities need help.” Bowering isn’t alone in his calls to shut down work camps. The open letter from frontline health workers calls for Henry to take “immediate action” and shut down work camps. “As health professionals, we have a responsibility to uphold the current and future health of these communities, which are now under threat from the continuing of Coastal GasLink (LNG) work and man camps,” the letter says. The frontline health workers’ letter is in support of concerns raised by more than 20 Wet’suwet’en matriarchs, or Ts’ako ze’, in an open letter to Henry dated Nov. 30. In that letter, the matriarchs asked the public health officer to reconsider the essential designation given to the oil and gas industry and close work camps, which have also been shown to increase violence against Indigenous women and children and bring a host of social ills. “Not only have we witnessed an increase in drugs, alcohol and gang-related violence in our communities, we are now faced with a disease that could kill any one of us,” the matriarchs wrote. “In addition to the risk man camps have on our Indigenous women and girls, we are now facing the loss of some of our most sacred elders and chiefs.” At the time of publication, the Ts’ako ze’ said they had not received a response from the public health officer. The calls to shut down work camps come in the wake of a damning independent review that found widespread racism and discrimination against Ingienous people in B.C. health care. The 224-page report released on Nov. 30 found that racism and discrimination negatively affect the treatment and health outcomes of Indigenous people, who are already at higher risk of health issues due to a number of factors realted to systemic racism, such a poverty and intergenerational trauma. “Many Indigenous people have underlying health conditions because of all of the impacts of colonization,” Wickham said. “We have higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of heart disease. Our people are at greater risk of dying.” Wickham said a particularly alarming aspect to the increase in cases in work camps is the potential impact on Indigenous communities. Most industrial operations have a mandate to hire local and Indigenous workers and those people mix with transient workers and, on their days off, with members of their own communities. Bowering said the continued presence of industrial activity is contradictory to the goals of the public health office. “I drive by First Nations [communities] and see the barriers and the closed signs — these people are trying remarkably hard to stay safe,” he said. “But at the same time, there are buses coming and going to many of them, up to the mines and back.” The BC Centre for Disease Control noted in its guidance document for industrial sites that Indigenous people are at higher risk of COVID-19 and recommended that employers limit its workers’ interactions in surrounding towns. But Bowering and Wickham said the presence of out of town workers in the region is both common and on the rise. “We have been concerned about not just the man camps, but the fact that a lot of the workers are living in our communities and hotels,” Wickham said. “They’re going back and forth every day.” Bowering said the B.C. public health office can easily put the brakes on what could quickly become a serious and escalating crisis in high-risk communities. “They have to decide whether having everybody else not travelling, but allowing these workers to travel is a reasonable public health decision? Is it even ethically reasonable?” Meanwhile, activity on Wet’suwet’en territory is increasing. “The whole territory is just crawling with workers,” Wickham said. She lives with her partner and three children in a cabin near the Coastal GasLink work zone. “They have helicopters flying overhead at least two or three times a day, both surveillance helicopters and industry helicopters slinging materials in and out of the territory. It’s a warzone out there.”Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
NEW YORK — The Trump administration must accept new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some young immigrants from deportation, a federal judge ruled Friday, in vacating a memo from the acting Homeland Security secretary that had suspended it. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the government had to post a public notice within three days — including on its website and the websites of all other relevant government agencies — that new DACA applications were being accepted. The ruling follows one from November where Garaufis said Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawfully in his position. On Friday, the judge said that invalidated the memo Wolf had issued in July suspending DACA for new applications and reducing how long renewals were valid from two years down to one year. Wolf had issued his memo after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in June that President Donald Trump failed to follow rule-making procedures when he tried to end the program. Garaufis also ordered the government to put together a status report on the DACA program by Jan. 4. An email seeking comment was sent to the Department of Homeland Security. “Every time the outgoing administration tried to use young immigrants as political scapegoats, they defiled the values of our nation. The court’s order makes clear that fairness, inclusion, and compassion matter," said New York state Attorney General Letitia James, who led a number of state attorneys general in one of the lawsuits against the administration. DACA, which was started in 2012 during the Obama administration, allows certain young immigrants who were brought to the country as children to legally work and shields them from deportation. Those who are approved for it must first go through background checks and regularly renew. The Trump administration had announced the end of the program in 2017, leading to the legal challenges that wound up in front of the Supreme Court. In making its ruling, the Supreme Court upheld DACA, saying that the particular way the administration had gone about shutting it down was improper, but that the president did have the authority to do so. About 650,000 people are currently enrolled in the program. The Associated Press
Ahead of a looming year-end deadline, only 1,785 out of about 20,000 short-term rentals in Toronto have registered with the municipality. With fines beginning at $1,000 for both property owners and host platforms, the race is on to come into compliance. Matthew Bingley reports.
A new chamber of commerce partnership program designed to help businesses connect with new talent, and gain access to financial incentives, has just launched. The 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce is partnering with Magnet and the Talent Opportunity Program (TOP) to connect chamber of commerce members to the Magnet platform, a digital social enterprise out of Ryerson University. Through Magnet, businesses can get connected with new talent, and get access to business growth opportunities and tools to navigate the impacts of the changing labour market and the COVID-19 pandemic. Key to the partnership between Magnet and local chamber is access to wage subsidies through the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP). Funded by the Government of Canada, SWPP lets employers tap into wage subsidies of up to $7,500 when they hire a Canadian post-secondary student, in a co-op style environment . "The combination of a national recruitment platform and the SWPP wage subsidy will be an important lifeline for our members," said Amy Kirkland, executive director of the 1000 Islands Gananoque Chamber of Commerce. This chamber partnership initiative brings together local chambers and boards of trade, small and medium-sized enterprises, job-seekers, and post-secondary institutions to support opportunities for student job seekers from coast to coast, across Canada, in an effort to boost economic recovery. "The initiative represents an innovative and necessary approach to helping small businesses grow, connecting early talent to new opportunities to emerge from this challenge stronger and better," said Kirkland. Creating an account with the Magnet Business Growth Portal is free for businesses of all sizes and industries. The Magnet Business Growth Portal helps small and medium enterprises strategize, adapt, and grow with notifications about funding, wage subsidies, training and hiring programs, market research, and COVID-19 support, according to the portal. "Ensuring a strong economic recovery depends on the success of our students and youth. Programs like the Student Work Placement Program exist to provide post-secondary students with the chance to grow professionally and develop new skills while working in sectors that are in line with their interests and field of study," Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, said in a statement. The SWPP can help business, working towards recovery, offset the cost of hiring, while giving youth an opportunity to gain work experience. "Our government's investment in Magnet will go a long way in helping young Canadians gain meaningful placement opportunities in a variety of disciplines including health care and other high demand sectors, all of which play an especially important role in responding to the current pandemic," said Qualtrough.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says tougher health restrictions likely to be aimed at Calgary and Edmonton are coming if current public-health orders don’t bend the curve down on COVID-19.Kenney, taking questions on a Facebook town-hall meeting, says it makes sense to target the novel coronavirus where it’s having the most impact.“If you’re in a remote community with a negligible number of COVID cases, where there are no cases in the local hospitals, that is not the issue right now,” Kenney said Thursday night.“The issue is the hot zones in Calgary and Edmonton — and that’s what we’ll be addressing with increasing focus in the days to come.”His comments came just hours after Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, reported a concerning rise in rates in rural areas. She stressed that even one case can move like wildfire and COVID-19 doesn’t respect geographical boundaries. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem,” Hinshaw said.“Our overall active case rates prove that COVID-19 doesn't care where you live or what your postal code is."The province reported 1,828 new cases on Friday. Active cases stood at 18,243. There were 533 people in hospital, 99 of them in intensive care, and a total of 590 Albertans had died.Alberta Health says more than 15 per cent of active infections are in areas outside the Edmonton and Calgary medical zones. About 30 per cent are outside the four largest cities of Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Lethbridge. Areas with high active case counts per 100,000 population include Banff, the Municipal District of Acadia and Smoky Lake County.Kenney has been lauded and criticized for taking a regional, nuanced approach to try to stem the spread of the pandemic while trying to keep open as many businesses and community centres as possible.It's not going well.Alberta has registered well over 1,000 new cases a day for two weeks and, on some days, has had more new cases than larger provinces such as Ontario. Health officials are reassigning staff, space, and patients to free up more intensive care beds, while dealing with outbreaks at 22 hospitals and health facilities. The government is also exploring bringing in medical field tents from the Red Cross if needed.Last week, Kenney introduced tighter provincewide health restrictions that included a ban on indoor gatherings. But there are looser measures for areas with low infection rates. They don’t have to follow a 25 per cent capacity limit in businesses or a maximum of six people — all from the same household — at one table in restaurants. Nor do they have to abide by a one-third capacity rule for worship services.Most municipalities have made it mandatory to wear masks in indoor public spaces. Kenney has, unlike all other premiers, refused to implement that provincewide. He has said it’s unnecessary in remote areas and some rural folk would refuse to wear masks if it were an order. Cold Lake, a city of almost 15,000 in the province's northeast, has twice voted down a mandatory mask bylaw. Mayor Craig Copeland said Friday masks don't need to be required, because people are following guidelines from Hinshaw."Ninety per cent of the people in Cold Lake now are wearing masks," Copeland said. "Do they really need to be told by a mayor and council to wear a mask?"Opposition NDP health critic David Shepherd said Kenney’s public-health directives cater to his rural political base and the anti-mask fringe he wants to keep happily ensconced in his United Conservative Party.“(Kenney) is more interested in protecting his political fortunes with a small minority of folks who are going to resist."In Smoky Lake County, northeast of Edmonton, restaurant owner Hong Hu said her Maple Gardens Restaurant is one of the few in the area that is doing takeout only."If it gets worse, of course I (will) worry about it," said Hu, who added she's more worried about the mounting cases in Alberta than the cases in her region.She said the county has a mask bylaw and has put notes up at businesses reminding people to wear face coverings and to sanitize regularly.Back in Cold Lake, resident Cathy Olliffe-Webster, 60, said she is disappointed in the premier and her mayor for not making masks mandatory.Cold Lake is still holding indoor events such as Christmas craft sales, despite the area's first COVID-related death this week and active cases rising to more than 70, she said."I understand that Alberta's economy has been hit harder than most, but I'm really sick of people putting money before people's lives," Olliffe-Webster said.She said she was moved by an emotional speech Thursday by Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who begged people to follow COVID-19 rules."I just wish Jason Kenney was a little like him."— With files from Fakiha Baig and Daniela Germano in EdmontonThis report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Opponents of a planned correctional facility in Kemptville are organizing a Zoom meeting on Tuesday. "The recent public engagement session hosted by the Ministry of the Solicitor General provided one view of the issue; we think it is important for people to hear from other voices on this matter," said Victor Lachance, a member of the Coalition Against the Proposed Prison (CAPP) and the evening's moderator. The province plans to locate a 235-bed correctional facility on agricultural land in the community. The online meeting, dubbed an information session, will be held on Tuesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. According to a press release issued by CAPP, participants at the event will hear from experts in the field of incarceration, prison reform, and construction, as well as an Indigenous political leader. Eight speakers are on the schedule, including: Kim Beaudin, Vice-Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples; Bryonie Baxter, former executive director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa; Paul Cormier, chairman of RANA Development Inc.; Marie-Therese Voutsinos, who will talk about the importance of preserving agricultural land; Aaron Doyle, associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University; Justin Piche, associate professor at the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa; and Kirk Albert, spokesperson for the local Jail Opposition Group. "Our goal is to emphasize a positive vision for the future of Kempville and North Grenville," said Lachance. CAPP is made up of a group of residents opposed to the planned construction of the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex on 182 acres of farmland that was previously part of the Kemptville agricultural college. "It’s an important piece of the agriculture and farming heritage of the area," said Colleen Lynas, spokesperson for CAPP. According to the press release there will be a "robust" question-and-answer period following the presentations and anyone interested in participating is invited to register at firstname.lastname@example.org.Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Construction is set to begin in early 2021 on the proposed Strathmore Solar Farm after it received a major regulatory approval. A proposed 40.5-megawatt (MW) solar facility, Strathmore Solar Farm will be sited on approximately 320 acres of municipal property in the town’s southeast, located south of the Trans-Canada Highway and east of George Freeman Trail (RR 251). The project was started by Solar Krafte Utilities Inc., a Vancouver-based company with seven solar farms built or proposed across southern Alberta. Solar Krafte has partnered with Capital Power, an Edmonton-based power generation company, which is providing up to $55 million in capital investment, conditional on successful permitting and regulatory approval. On. Nov 27, the solar farm passed the last major regulatory hurdle in the public regulatory review process, when the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC), the primary provincial utilities regulator, granted it a power plant approval and a connection order. While the project is being funded by Capital Power, Solar Krafte will continue to be involved for the life of the system, said company president Mark Burgert. “That’s what we do with everything we’ve built,” he said. “Where the capital comes from and how the ownership is allocated is really irrespective of how we build a reputation and how passionate we are about everything we build.” Construction on the project will start in 2021, with an expected date of completion in 2022, according to information on Capital Power’s website. But for several months already, the procurement of some of the key elements for construction has been underway, said Burgert. The project has most of its permitting complete, but still requires some electrical permits. “They come very late in the game,” he said. “But aside from those, everything is permitted here.” The companies will also be working to ensure all conditions set by the town’s development permit are met. All construction work for the project will be contracted. Some of the companies used will perform general construction tasks, such as driving piles, that are not specific to the solar industry, while others will perform more specialist tasks, explained Burgert. “It’s a hybrid approach.” The project will be like Solar Krafte’s two existing plants near Vauxhall, Alta., but there may be some subtle differences, he said. “The modules, inverters or substructure can change slightly, depending on everything from the geotech and solar conditions, to any site-specific conditions that come into play.” There could also be differences because of costs, as supply chain dynamics affect module pricing between several providers, noted Burgert. “But, fundamentally, it’s the same system,” he said. Burgert anticipates the lease with the Town of Strathmore for the project site will commence soon. The project is slated to have a significant economic impact to Strathmore, as it will provide economic diversification and revenue from the lease and property taxes, said Doug Lagore, Strathmore CAO. “We’re very pleased the AUC has given the approval and now we can proceed,” he said, adding the project will also create recognition for the community across Alberta.” The announcement comes at a fortuitous time, when communities across Alberta are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic and a general downturn in the overall economy, including disruptions in the oil and gas industry, said Lagore. “This is perfect timing for our community,” he said. “It is going to provide us with some additional revenue right away and we’re really looking forward to them becoming a huge corporate partner in our community.”Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has appointed two close allies of President Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, to a defence advisory board, continuing a post-election purge in the final weeks of the administration. The acting secretary of defence, Christopher Miller, who was installed by Trump on Nov. 9 after he fired then-Defence Secretary Mark Esper, said in a written statement Friday that nine members of the Defence Business Board had been replaced with the appointment of 11 new members. Lewandowski and Bossie are among Trump's most vocal supporters. The nine other appointees are Henry Dreifus, Robert McMahon, Cory Mills, Bill Bruner, Christopher Shank, Joseph Schmidt, Keary Miller, Alan Weh and Earl Matthews. “These individuals have a proven record of achievement within their respective fields and have demonstrated leadership that will serve our department and our nation well,” Miller said. The Miller statement initially said the nine individuals removed from the board had been serving in ”expired positions," implying they were overdue to leave. But later the Pentagon amended the statement to say some board members had been “terminated.” It gave no reason for the firings. The board's charter says members are appointed for terms ranging from one to four years, with annual renewals. The board's charter says members must possess “a proven track record of sound judgment and business acumen in leading or governing large, complex private sector corporations or organizations and a wealth of top-level, global business experience in the areas of executive management, corporate governance, audit and finance, human resources, economics, technology, or healthcare.” The role of the Defence Business Board, which was established in 2002, is to provide the secretary of defence and deputy secretary of defence with independent advice and recommendations on overall Defence Department management, business processes and governance from a private-sector perspective. Lewandowski was Trump’s first of three campaign managers in 2016, and both he and Bossie were regulars on the campaign trail with Trump this year. Bossie was brought on as part of a 2016 campaign team shakeup to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. He briefly fell out of favour with Trump aides over his involvement with political groups that sought to fundraise off Trump’s name but did not benefit his reelection campaign. He found his way back into Trump’s orbit earlier this year thanks to his vigorous advocacy of the president. — Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. Robert Burns, The Associated Press
WHITEHORSE — Yukon recorded three new COVID-19 cases in Whitehorse as the territory prepared to introduce new rules for restaurants and bars. The territory says in a statement Friday that the new infections bring the total active case count to 12. There have been 54 people infected in Yukon over the course of the pandemic. Beginning Monday, the government says restaurants and bars will be required to collect information from their patrons to assist contact tracers.One patron from each party will be required to sign in, and the eating and drinking establishments must keep the daily lists for 30 days.The lists will only be shared with Yukon Communicable Disease Control if an exposure has been identified.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2020.The Canadian Press
Alberta’s top doctor is reminding Albertans that the COVID-19 virus is spreading across the whole province, not just in large urban centres. On Thursday afternoon, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said COVID-19 cases are rising and spreading in rural communities. The warning came on the same day the province broke another daily case record with 1,854 new cases found in the past 24 hours. “COVID-19 is not a Calgary problem or an Edmonton problem. This is a provincial problem within a global problem,” Hinshaw said. Hinshaw said in the spring rural communities were less impacted than urban areas by the virus' spread, but right now, cases are growing in the north, central and south zones, with one third of all active cases outside of the province's two major cities. COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live or what your postal code is, Hinshaw said, and she reminded residents it just takes one case in a community to cause an outbreak. On top of spread, Hinshaw said it may be more difficult to access services for serious outcomes in rural areas, including being further away from health care and intensive care beds. On Thursday, the province saw 1,854 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day case climb yet. “Anyone who contracts the virus needs our support,” Hinshaw said, reminding residents to not stigmatize those who have come down with COVID-19. In the last 24 hours, the province has conducted 19,600 tests, with 9.5 per cent coming back positive. There are currently 17,743 active cases of the virus in Alberta, with 511 people in the hospital and 97 in intensive care. “These numbers are very concerning and I know that AHS is watching them closely,” Hinshaw said. In the past 24 hours, 14 deaths due to COVID-19 were reported. “Sharing the number of lives lost is a little more difficult each day because I know the pain and sadness their deaths cause for their families and friends left behind,” Hinshaw said. On Nov. 24, the province announced new restrictions to help curb the rapid spread of COVID-19 in the province, with most of the restrictions kicking in on Friday and Monday. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
Fort Smith RCMP are asking the public's help in finding a 14-year-old boy.Dylan Lafferty was last seen Thursday at approximately 10 p.m. on Poppy Crescent in Fort Smith, N.W.T., police said in a news release late Friday afternoon. They believe Lafferty could still be in Fort Smith.RCMP say Lafferty has dark brown hair and brown eyes, is between 5' and 5'2" and weighs 130 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black sweater, grey polo pants and Nike shoes.Fort Smith RCMP are anyone with information on the whereabouts of Lafferty to call them at 872-1111, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or text nwtnutips and a message to 274637.
In a reversal of an earlier vote, today Strathmore town council passed a mandatory face covering bylaw requiring residents to wear masks when visiting indoor public spaces. The bylaw takes effect immediately. According to Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule, council worked with administration to make the bylaw the best solution for the town. “They made adjustments and amendments to make this is a more palatable bylaw that will still protect a lot of people in Strathmore,” he said. “We’re regular people caught in a really irregular health crisis, and I just hope the public will support all the councillors who have tried to make the best decision they can for the community’s health and safety.” The bylaw requires masks to be worn in all indoor public places and public vehicles, unless the person is separated from other persons by an installed screen, shield or other barrier. Businesses must also display signage at their entrances requiring people to wear masks. Anyone breaking either of these rules is liable to a fine of not less than $50. The bylaw also notes that if circumstances represent a “marked endangerment” or “increased risk of endangering public health,” a larger fine is possible. Under the bylaw, a proprietor may refuse entry to his/her business or ask a person to leave an indoor public place or vehicle and may request assistance of a peace officer. The officer can also issue a violation ticket requiring a court appearance of the person breaking the rules. The bylaw will be enacted when the number of COVID-19 cases in Strathmore exceeds 20, as reported by Alberta Health Services. However, town council may activate the bylaw at any time by resolution. Once enacted, the bylaw will be reverted once the number of cases in Strathmore is less than 20 for 14 consecutive days. The bylaw has several exemptions. Children under five years of age are not required to wear masks. Additionally, people with medical conditions or disabilities preventing them from wearing a mask are exempt. Also exempt are people who cannot use or wear a mask safely without assistance. Under the bylaw, people are not required to provide proof to an employer, business operator or proprietor of any exemption. People are exempt during certain activities, such as eating or drinking while seated at a business offering food or beverage services, during athletic or fitness activities, or while receiving services impeded by masks. The bylaw does not apply to schools and businesses already undertaking face covering measures through provincial guidelines, corporate requirements and recognized provincial professional bodies.Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
WASHINGTON — The Latest on President-elect Joe Biden (all times local): 8:05 p.m. More than a half dozen Democratic congresswomen have sent an open letter to President-elect Joe Biden urging him to make Michèle Flournoy the country's first female defence secretary. They say in the letter dated Thursday that the selection of Flournoy would be “a symbolic moment for the United States, and for all women who over the years have aspired to careers in national security.” They call Flournoy “eminently qualified to serve." Biden has been facing escalating pressure from competing factions within his own party over his defence pick. Black leaders have encouraged the incoming president to select an African American to diversify what has so far been a largely white prospective Cabinet, while others are pushing him to appoint a woman to lead the Pentagon for the first time. Meanwhile, some progressive groups are opposing Flournoy, citing concerns about her record and private-sector associations. Among the seven women who signed the letter pushing Flournoy are Reps. Jackie Speier of California, Lois Frankel of Florida and Veronica Escobar from Texas. ___ HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PRESIDENT-ELECT JOE BIDEN'S TRANSITION TO THE WHITE HOUSE: President-elect Joe Biden is adjusting the scope of his agenda to meet the challenges of governing with a narrowly divided Congress and the complications of legislating during a raging pandemic. Read more: — EXPLAINER: Trump’s failing, monthlong fight against election — Trump loves to win but keeps losing election lawsuits — Dangerously viral: How Trump, supporters spread false claims — Optimism growing for coronavirus relief bill as pressure builds ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON: 4:05 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says keeping people safe is his first consideration for his Jan. 20 inauguration, making it “highly unlikely” that a million people will pack the National Mall for his swearing-in during the coronavirus pandemic. Biden was asked about inauguration planning during a news conference Friday in Wilmington, Delaware. He suggested that the festivities could end up looking like the largely virtual convention Democrats held in August, with online activity in the states. Biden says his team is talking with congressional leaders about their plans for the inauguration. The swearing-in ceremony and a lunch for the new president and vice-president are held at the Capitol. Biden says he wants people to be able to celebrate safely. He says, “There will probably not be a gigantic inaugural parade.” He says details are still being worked out. ___ 4 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration has diminished confidence in science so much that it will take some time and effort to rebuild it across the board, including convincing people that the coronavirus vaccines are safe. He said Friday that he’s bothered by what he said were “wild assertions” President Donald Trump has made about the virus going away on its own. He noted how Trump once suggested that perhaps scientists could come up with a way that injecting bleach would kill the coronavirus. Biden says that a president’s words matter and that he hopes to especially convince hard-hit Black and Latino communities that the vaccines are safe. Biden took questions about the pandemic in Wilmington, Delaware, after making comments on the virus’s impact on the U.S. economy. ___ 3:50 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says the Trump administration’s plan for distributing an approved coronavirus vaccine to the public lacks important detail. Biden said Friday that “there’s no detailed plan that we’ve seen” for how to get vaccines out of a container, into syringes and into people’s arms. He says more equitable distribution is also needed to get the vaccine into underserved communities, not just to drugstores and large retailers. Biden noted that Black people and Latinos are more likely to die of COVID-19 than white people are. Biden says the “equity side” is an important part of the process, too. He says he’s working on an “overall plan” and adds that’s why he asked government infectious-disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci to be part of Biden’s COVID-19 team and to serve as his chief medical adviser. ___ 3:35 p.m. President-elect Joe Biden says that the most recent jobs report is “dire” and that there is no time to lose as millions of people have lost their jobs or have seen their incomes slashed. With the pandemic accelerating across the country, America’s employers sharply scaled back their hiring last month, adding 245,000 jobs, the fewest since April and the fifth straight monthly slowdown. Biden called on Congress to urgently pass an economic stimulus to help turn the corner on the impact that the coronavirus has had on the U.S. economy. Friday’s report provided the latest evidence that the job market and economy are faltering in the face of a virus that has been shattering daily records for confirmed infections. Economic activity is likely to slow further as the pandemic worsens during the winter months. “It was grim,” Biden said. “It shows an economy that’s stalling,” In the past three months, 2.3 million more people are long-term unemployed and deaths are rising. Biden says, “Americans need help and they need it now.” ___ 8:15 a.m. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease expert, says there was never a question that he would accept President-elect Joe Biden’s offer to serve as his chief medical officer and adviser on the coronavirus pandemic. Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, “I said yes right on the spot” after Biden asked him to serve during a conversation on Thursday. As the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has served several presidents, Republican and Democratic. But during President Donald Trump’s administration, he has been largely sidelined as Trump gave rosy assessments of the virus and insisted it would fade away. Fauci has urged rigorous mask-wearing and social distancing, practices that have not often been followed at the White House. On Thursday, Biden said he will ask Americans to commit to 100 days of wearing masks as one of his first acts as president. “I told him I thought that was a good idea,” Fauci told NBC. ___ 8 a.m. National Intelligence Director John Ratcliffe says foreign adversaries are using social media and other platforms to amplify allegations of voter fraud. But he won’t say which countries are using the issue to try to undermine public confidence in the U.S. democratic process. President Donald Trump and his allies continue to mount new legal cases alleging voter fraud in battleground states since he lost the November presidential election to Joe Biden. But they have been losing in court. And Trump’s own attorney general has declared the Justice Department uncovered no widespread fraud. Ratcliffe is a Trump loyalist. He says on CBS that U.S. intelligence agencies have no indication that any foreign adversary or criminal group had the ability to change vote results but that they are still analyzing all the information collected. Ratcliffe told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that he plans to issue a report on foreign election interference in January. The Associated Press
The City of Vancouver now owns the Regent and Balmoral hotels, Downtown Eastside buildings the city had been trying to expropriate after years of neglect and decay, The Tyee has learned. Land title records list the city as the current owner of 159 E. Hastings — the Balmoral — and 160 E. Hastings — the Regent. The city confirmed to The Tyee that a settlement with the owners, the Sahota family, had been reached. But the city says the terms of the agreement prevent it from revealing how much was paid to purchase the properties, which have been assessed at a value of $1 each because of their extreme disrepair. Sam Dharmapala worked in the buildings as an employee of the former owners, the Sahota family. For a decade, Dharmapala said, he worked alongside tenants and advocates to raise the alarm about the dangerous living conditions at the hotels. “This is a very good fight in the history of the Downtown Eastside,” Dharmapala said. “We want to see [the hotels] go back to the residents of the Downtown Eastside, who have lived in those buildings.” Dharmapala said the city needs to ensure all the units in the two hotels are rented at the welfare shelter rate — $375 for a single person — to provide homes for Vancouver’s poorest residents. The hotels had provided more than 300 units. The records show the transfer happened Nov. 13, one year after Vancouver city council voted unanimously to expropriate the hotels in a groundbreaking decision. Council voted to expropriate after decades of repeated building code and bylaw violations and after taking the owners, the Sahota family, to court numerous times. It was the first time the city had ever attempted to expropriate residential buildings because of extreme neglect. The city started the court action with the intention of renovating or redeveloping the properties for low-income housing. Before the expropriation vote, council heard from dozens of tenants and former tenants who described living with no heat or hot water, constant bedbug, rat and cockroach infestations and the fear of what would happen if there were a fire. Tenants had lived in squalor in the two buildings for decades. City building inspectors ordered the Balmoral to be emptied in the summer of 2017 because it was in such poor condition. One year later, the Regent was also condemned. Tenants of both buildings were moved into other buildings by the City of Vancouver and BC Housing. Karen Ward, a Downtown Eastside resident who now works for the city as a drug policy advisor, said city building inspectors initially closed just the bathrooms of the Balmoral in June 2017 because they feared bathtubs could plunge through the rotten floors. Ward worked at the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users at the time. “People were coming to me daily to say they were terrified to go into their own home,” Ward said. Ward called for the buildings to be torn down and for modular housing to be quickly built in their place. “We can build a six- to eight-story building and house 100 people by April,” Ward said. “It’s a desperate situation out here and we don’t need to do things the old way — we can use modular housing to build housing that decreases the chance of death for drug users. We can do this.” Overdose deaths have soared throughout 2020 and homelessness has increased as COVID-19 restrictions have made the drug supply more toxic and reduced the number of places people can go to find shelter. Vancouver’s mayor, Kennedy Stewart, said the city plans to work with BC Housing to turn the buildings into low-income housing. “Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” Stewart was quoted as saying in a press release. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.” B.C.’s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, David Eby, also weighed in, saying: “For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news.” The next steps will be to start community consultation sessions with the Downtown Eastside community, and city staff will report back to council on next steps and a timeline for renovating or redeveloping the properties in early 2021, according to the City of Vancouver. On Nov. 3, city communications staff told The Tyee court expropriation proceedings were paused while the city worked with “representatives of the owners of the Regent and the Balmoral to resolve the expropriation of the hotels.” The Tyee has reached out to the city for comment. In a statement emailed to The Tyee by lawyer Evan Cooke, the Sahota family confirmed they had come to an agreement with the city. “We have determined that the public sector is better equipped to respond to the acute needs of the area’s residents at this time; including their urgent need for housing, mental health and substance abuse support, and other critical programs.” The statement said the details of the transfer are confidential.Jen St. Denis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee