A beaver exits the water and nibbles on a nearby branch in Saskatoon.
A beaver exits the water and nibbles on a nearby branch in Saskatoon.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
Peterborough County councillors have agreed to send a request to the province to deploy rapid COVID-19 testing into long-term care facilities across the province to test residents and staff. The motion brought forward by Sherry Senis, deputy mayor of Selwyn Township, will be sent to both the federal and provincial governments and health officials further requesting they commit to vaccinating all long-term care residents, retirement and other congregate senior living facilities by Feb. 15. While the province has already made the Feb. 15 commitment, Senis said council members would be reiterating that commitment by supporting the motion. “Health Canada has yet to approve the rapid COVID testing for widespread use. Once this is done, we ask the province to deploy the testing into long term care facilities. At this time, Fairhaven is on a pilot project for the testing,” she said. During their special virtual council meeting held on Thursday, Senis said the pandemic has put a spotlight on long-term care homes across the province with devastating results for family members. “As of this week, over 3,000 (Ontario long-term care) residents have died, along with 10 staff. Every day we hear about another outbreak in a long-term care home,” she said. “As I’m a board member of Fairhaven, I felt it appropriate to bring forward this motion with the executive director, Lionel Towns supports.” The motion also requests the federal and provincial governments provide sufficient emergency funds to hire adequate staff, provide training and continue to enhance long term care wages, similar to what Quebec has done. “Quebec has done a massive hiring of staff and trained them for their long-term care homes and their numbers have decreased substantially as a result. In Ontario, we should be following suit and pay the staff accordingly,” Senis said. The Peterborough census metropolitan area has the second largest proportion of seniors living in Canada’s 34 census metropolitan areas, she said. “Many of them are vulnerable and cannot speak for themselves. County council represents a large swath in Peterborough County and I feel it would be appropriate for us to support the recommendations and send them forward. We have a voice and I can’t think of a better reason than this to use it,” Senis said. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MP Jamie Schmale, Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP Phillip Lawrence, federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot, Premier Doug Ford, Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith, Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott, Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini, Long-Term Care Minister Merilee Fullerton, the City of Peterborough, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario and the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus will all receive a copy of the motion. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Surrounded by snow and ice — with sleet starting to fall — Ellen Lamont had all the teaching tools she could ever want to explain the states of matter to her elementary students this week. “What happens to our masks when we breathe outside?” Lamont asked her Grade 4/5 immersion students, each one seated in a homemade snow seat in their outdoor classroom, during a natural sciences lesson taught in French. She told them what they first exhale is a gas that condenses on their face coverings, and if they are outside long enough in the cold, that liquid may freeze and turn into a solid. Lamont could never have predicted she would be using personal protective equipment to conduct a lesson, nor she would ever be teaching in what her students have come to affectionately call “snow class” (classe de neige). The first-year teacher said she has taken all the pivots required during the COVID-19 pandemic in stride — and that’s how Laura Secord School’s snow class came to be. On Rupert DePape’s first day back after the holiday break, the fifth grader said he came across a sign posted near the designated school door for his class. The 10-year-old followed Lamont’s written instructions, and instead of entering the Wolseley area school as usual, built himself a snow chair. “We’re stuck in our seat, and have to stay far apart, and can’t really talk much (this year). Outside, it’s a lot more flexible with all the things you can do,” said Rupert, whose favourite subjects are history and math; the latter of which is taught outside, unless the wind chill makes the temperature feel -28 C or colder. While noting snow class can get “a bit chilly,” he said it’s superior to in-class learning, because all of the students can learn together and move freely. Lamont and David Seburn, an educational assistant, have been overseeing a duplex classroom, with Grade 4s in one room and Grade 5s in another, since Manitoba schools entered a restricted level (code orange) on the province’s pandemic response system. “I thought to myself, ‘It would be so nice — if just for this morning, we could all be outside so I could deliver this material once, altogether,’” Lamont said, recalling the moment she first decided to hold class outdoors Jan. 4. Engagement levels immediately spiked and students were more focused when they returned to their indoor classrooms to do pen-and-paper activities, she said. The success of an initial outdoor period has led to daily snow class lessons, which involve physical activity and the use of natural manipulatives, such as tree branches and ice cubes. Community members have donated Christmas trees, food colouring and a tree stump to decorate the space. The students also went on a nature walk to find items to make ice art with to spruce up the space. “To immerse children in nature and to create a love and reverence of nature is very important for this generation so we have kids that care about the environment and will protect it as they grow older,” said Seburn, an educational assistant and forest school practitioner-in-training who is currently enrolled in a course at the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. It’s not only easier to engage students outdoors, he said, but also safer, at present. Lauren Phillips said she is incredibly appreciative of how her children’s teachers, at both Laura Secord and River Heights School, have put emphasis on the importance of fresh air this year, in recognition COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosols. “There’s this notion of schools being safe, but schools aren’t safe if the behaviours aren’t safe,” Phillips said. While her seventh grader’s teacher keeps the windows open during the school day, she said her son is ecstatic about snow class with Lamont. “Most people say school sucks, but I don’t really get why,” said Callie Neek, a fourth grader in the class. The nine-year-old said she would much rather be in school than at home, so she can see her friends and learn outside. As long as students are getting something out of it, Lamont said snow class will continue throughout the school year. “They’ve been so adaptive, so flexible, so willing to happily go along with whatever we’re doing and show up and try their best,” the Winnipeg teacher said. “They have really truly amazed me.” One of her students has suggested the class collect more stumps, so they can continue to learn outside when the snow melts. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
VICTORIA — The B.C. government says a review of legal options has made it clear it cannot prevent people from travelling to the province from elsewhere in Canada. Premier John Horgan says in a statement that much of the travel that is happening between provinces is work-related and can't be restricted. The province had asked for a review of legal options related to restricting interprovincial travel last week in response to concerns that visitors have contributed to the spread of COVID-19 in B.C. Horgan says the province also asked for "a better understanding of the impact of travel on transmission" of the illness. He says B.C. can impose restrictions on people travelling for non-essential purposes if they are causing harm to the health and safety of residents. If transmission increases due to interprovincial travel, the premier says B.C. would impose stronger restrictions on non-essential travellers, though he did not offer details on potential measures in Thursday's statement. Horgan said he spoke with premiers in other provinces Thursday and asked them to share messages that now is not the time for non-essential travel. "We ask all British Columbians to stay close to home while vaccines become available. And to all Canadians outside of B.C., we look forward to your visit to our beautiful province when we can welcome you safely," he said. Public health officials indicate it's most important that everyone obey health orders, wherever they are, rather than imposing mobility rules, said Horgan. While announcing the legal review on Jan. 14, Horgan said he wanted to put the matter of interprovincial travel restrictions "either to rest, so British Columbians understand we cannot do that" or find if there's a way to do it. Horgan added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is exploring further restrictions on international travel and “B.C. stands ready to assist.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
Leaders from across Canada recently gathered to talk about Indigenous child and family wellbeing, and the implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. “This legislation ensures that First Nations laws are paramount, so we can focus on prevention, as opposed to apprehension,” says Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), in a welcome letter to those participating in the virtual gathering on Jan. 19. Since the Act came into force, “there has been significant effort by First Nations across Canada to take back authority for child and family services,” says University of British Columbia law professor Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who broke down the Act’s key principles in her keynote presentation. This was the first of five virtual leadership gatherings focused on the Act — which came into force on Jan. 1, 2020 — to be hosted by the AFN. Over the course of the series, attendees can expect to “hear presentations and updates about the Act and its implementation, learn about tools and resources for First Nations leadership implementing the Act, and discuss the changes that will come with implementation,” says Bellegarde. The Act was co-developed with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care, according to the Government of Canada. “We are in a moment of change,” says Turpel-Lafond, who served as B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth from 2006-2016. Under the Act, there are two options for Nations to exercise their jurisdiction over child and family services, according to the Government of Canada. Nations can give notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction to the Minister of Indigenous Services and relevant provincial or territorial governments. In this case, the Indigenous governing body’s laws on child and family services would “not prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” Or Nations can request a “tripartite coordination agreement with Indigenous Services Canada and relevant provincial or territorial governments.” In the latter case, if parties can reach an agreement within 12 months “or reasonable efforts to reach an agreement were made” during that year — “including use of alternative dispute resolution mechanism” — the Indigenous governing body would exercise its jurisdiction and its laws on child and family services would “prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” As of Dec. 23, 2020, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) had “received requests and notices to exercise jurisdiction under the Act from 26 Indigenous governing bodies, representing 64 Indigenous groups and communities,” according to an ISC spokesperson. Nine Nations have sent notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction while 17 Nations have requested coordination agreements. Not only does the Act create pathways to self-determination for nations working to reclaim jurisdiction over child and family services, but Turpel Lafond says it also “reframes’’ the best interests of the child — a key concept in Canada’s child welfare system. “There’s a concept or doctrine in the provincial child welfare system to remove the kids, and to say it’s not in the best interest of First Nations kids to be with their families.” Under the new legislation, the best interests of the child are reframed to include the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, she says. “We know [that UNDRIP] has very important protections and provisions,” she says, pointing to Article 8 of the declaration, which calls on the state to “provide effective mechanisms” to prevent “any form of forced assimilation.” “The best interest is no longer about the removal,” says Turpel-Lafond. ”The best interest is about keeping children with community.” The next virtual gathering in AFN’s series will be on Feb. 9, with a continued focus on navigating Indigenous child and family services legislation. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Jordan Eberle scored twice, Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists and Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves as the New York Islanders beat the New Jersey Devils 4-1 on Thursday night. The Islanders improved to 3-1-0, while the Devils lost for the first time in regulation, falling to fall to 2-1-1. Varlamov has all three Islanders' wins, allowing only one goal. That came early in the second period by forward Nathan Bastian, who ended Varlamov’s season-opening shutout streak at 142 minutes and 10 seconds, the eighth-longest in NHL history to begin a season. Barzal opened the scoring with his second goal of the season at 4:43 of the first. Josh Bailey and Noah Dobson had assists. Eberle made it 2-0 at 19:39 of the first, beating goalie Scott Wedgewood with a backhand off a feed from Anders Lee. Barzal had the other assist. Wedgewood started in place of Mackenzie Blackwood, who was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list before the game. Blackwood had started each of the Devils' first three games. Wedgewood was playing his first NHL game since Feb. 13, 2018, when he was with the Arizona Coyotes. He made 31 saves. Bastian narrowed the deficit at 2:10 of the second with his first goal of the season. Rookie defenceman Ty Smith assisted on the goal. Smith has points in each of the first four games of his career and became the 11th defenceman in NHL history to achieve that feat. Eberle made it 3-1 with a power-play goal at 1:56 of the third with Devils forward Travis Zajac in the penalty box. Eberle’s second goal of the game and season came after Dobson’s shot from the point ricocheted off the boards to Eberle below the right circle. Barzal also assisted. Nelson added another power-play goal at 5:16 of the third with a clean tip-in of a Nick Leddy point shot. The Islanders outshot the Devils 15-6 in the first. The Devils had a 13-9 advantage in the second. The Islanders were coming off a 1-0 victory over the Bruins in their home opener on Monday after splitting two games against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden last week, including a season-opening 4-0 shutout by Varlamov last Thursday. The Islanders improved to 6-1-0 against Devils in their last seven meetings over three seasons. ZAJAC NEARS MILESTONE Devils centre Travis Zajac played his 995th career game with the franchise, fourth best in franchise history. He needs five more to join Ken Daneyko, Martin Brodeur and Patrik Elias as Devils to reach the 1,000-game mark. GREEN AGAINST DEVILS Islanders defenceman and former Devils captain Andy Greene, who spent 14 seasons and played 923 games with the team before his trade to the Islanders, played his first game against his former team. UP NEXT: Islanders: Visiting the Devils on Sunday night. Devils: Hosting Islanders on Sunday night. ___ More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Allan Kreda, The Associated Press
Windsor is the first Canadian city to partner with the Ford Motor Company on a pilot project looking to improve traffic safety. Ford vehicles purchased after 2017 collect and send data, such as speed, forward collision warnings and harsh braking events, to computers at Ford over a cellular network. A Ford program, known as Safety Insights, is now going to use that data to inform the City of Windsor of emerging traffic safety concerns and areas that need to be improved. "Sometimes it can be a change in policy or providing information to police where enforcement might be better to address speeding issues resulting in collisions," said the city's transportation planner Jeff Hagan. The collaboration between Ford and Windsor is a one-year pilot that is being funded through the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp's $30,000 FedDev grant for Automobility Ecosystem building. "This collaboration will contribute to safer roads and more efficient traffic planning and infrastructure in the City of Windsor and strengthen Windsor's growing reputation as the automobility capital of Canada," said Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens. The collected data also includes the vehicle identification number (VIN), but Ford said that that information is not shared with the city, adding that vehicle owners need to give consent for their data to be used. Ontario's former information and privacy commissioner says that gives the car owner more assurances. "I think that's the way to go because the whole point is you want individuals to have the choice as to whether they want to be tracked or not," she said. While there are millions of Ford vehicles providing information, tens of thousands are located in the Windsor area — enough to provide some good insight, according to Ford. "Still a significant number that can be generating this data and again that sort of aggregate view to help power very rich insights about overall driving trends," said Cal Coplai from Ford mobility, Ford Motor Co.
NEW YORK — A lawyers' group filed an ethics complaint against Rudy Giuliani with New York's courts, calling for him to be investigated and his law license suspended over his work promoting former President Donald Trump's false allegations over the 2020 election. Lawyers Defending American Democracy, which includes former judges and federal attorneys among its members, sent the complaint on Wednesday to the Attorney Grievance Committee of the state's court system saying Giuliani had violated the rules of professional conduct. “Giuliani has spearheaded a nationwide public campaign to convince the public and the courts of massive voter fraud and a stolen presidential election," the complaint said. The complaint called for the committee to investigate Giuliani's conduct, including his comments at a rally before rioters stormed into the U.S. Capitol, and to suspend his law license immediately while any investigation is being done. A message was left with the committee seeking comment. An investigation would be the first step in a process that could lead to a disbarment. Another complaint against Giuliani was filed earlier in January by New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, who asked that disbarring Giuliani be taken up for consideration. The New York State Bar Association separately has opened an inquiry into whether he should be expelled from that organization, which is a voluntary membership organization. An email seeking comment was sent to Giuliani's representative. The New York Times reported that on his radio show on Thursday, Giuliani said “the whole purpose of this is to disbar me from my exercising my right of free speech and defending my client, because they can’t fathom the fact that maybe, just maybe, they may be wrong." The Associated Press
It has taken one volunteer to spearhead the effort to develop and open up cross-country and snowshoeing trails in North Grenville. While the municipality has been supportive, Sarah Herring is the driving force behind the Kemptville Winter Trail initiative. "I first heard a few years ago about a new trail being developed in Ottawa and thought, wouldn't it be wonderful to develop something like that here?" said Herring. She had moved to Kemptville in the spring of 2017 and soon after got involved with Friends of Ferguson Forest Centre, and the municipal Active Transportation Committee. "I have a strong appreciation for nature and water in particular; that's what drew me to Kemptville. I'm a boat builder, my husband and I have built three boats," said Herring. She added she grew up cross-country skiing with her dad, but early onset arthritis took her off the trails for a number of years until she was able to get a new hip and now she's hoping to get back out gently. "Sarah got started with the idea of forming a trails group to work collaboratively with the municipality and Ferguson Forest Centre, and I supported it," said Coun. Doreen O'Sullivan, who sits on the same two boards. The land within the Ferguson Forest Centre is mostly Crown land with some municipal land as well, according to O'Sullivan, and there are already a number of walking trails, a dog park and a newly opened toboggan hill within the boundaries of the forest centre. "COVID has changed things quite a bit and we need these trails more than ever now. The curling club is closed, the arena is closed, travel is restricted and snowbirds are staying home. Hence the winter trails are very important to provide to our community; it's a physical and mental health issue, and a safe environment for social contact," said O'Sullivan. The new Kemptville Winter Trails will not be using the established walking trails in Ferguson Forest, but are developing new trails on the 25 acres of land known as the arboretum. "We had permission to start working in Ferguson Forest. Our goal is to start the multi-use trails at the forest centre but expand throughout the municipality. In total we expect to have six kilometres of trails this year and then expand into more of the residential areas, but avoid the snowmobile trails," said Herring. The idea, she said, is to create trails that can be used for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skate skiing and fat bikes. "It'll be trial and error in the first year to see what works for everyone and whether it's right for fat bikes or whether we’ll need the trails to be more packed, whether we need a roller as well as the trail groomer," said Herring. This year, Herring says the tails will be groomed for cross-country skiers, and there will be a flat area for snowshoeing, skate skiing and fat bikes. If all goes well, the trails should open by the end of January, when it's hoped more snow will have arrived. Herring started working on the project last year, just before the first pandemic lockdown. One of the first things she did was register the group as a not-for-profit corporation to give it the legitimacy to fundraise. "We've since raised more than $5,000 in the community through a GoFundMe campaign, Facebook and direct approaches to businesses," said Herring. Between corporate and individual donations the group has raised enough money to buy a trail grooming machine, which has just been ordered and is expected to arrive in the next day or two. Herring says they'll still need to secure more funding for operations and are just working through the last hurdle before they can open the trails – namely insurance. "There’s a lot of red tape – getting set up with bank accounts, finding someone who can offer the kind of insurance we need to operate, creating and paying for signage – that kind of thing," said Herring. Although the municipality has been supportive of the initiative, in the end the project has been a volunteer effort. "What we've done as an organization is bringing pieces together, but it's the whole community that’s making this happen," said Herring. Over the past two months, Herring, who is retired from Statistics Canada, says she's put in about 20 hours a week, but hopes the pace will drop off once the trails open. "While Sarah is very determined and I admire her 'get-up-and-go' attitude, she can be impatient with the bureaucracy, and I do appreciate her frustration. I share her passion for the outdoors and support the whole concept," said O’Sullivan, adding that as a cross country skier herself she's thrilled that there are going to be new winter trails in the municipality. O'Sullivan said she has encouraged the group to apply for a municipal community grant to top up their coffers and speed up the opening. The total municipal grant envelope is $125,000. Herring said the group has pulled together an application for about $1,500 to $2,000, which was headed to council. The biggest hurdle right now is insurance, but because the group is incorporated privately, it can't be covered under municipal insurance. "It's been very difficult to find someone who understands what we need and can provide it. There aren't very many insurance companies that do this kind of insurance," said Herring. Meanwhile, O'Sullivan said the municipality is working with the group to try to get them over the last hurdles if they can. She also appreciates the support of local business and individuals who have supported the fundraising initiatives. "This is a great thing for our community, particularly during COVID, people need things to do, and it's going to be a wonderful asset," said O'Sullivan, who also has the backing of Mayor Nancy Peckford. "It was one of the things we heard over and over again from residents when we were campaigning. People wanted to see more recreational options close to home," said Peckford. Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
Nearly a year into the pandemic, economists believe it’s abundantly clear that COVID-19 has psychologically and materially transformed Canada’s consumer behaviour. But with lockdowns and restrictions still in effect across much of the country, business experts say the dust has yet to settle around these “tectonic shifts” in the state of commerce. That means for retailers — big and small; local or national — preparing a pathway to adapt beyond the pandemic remains a muddy prospect. A new report by fintech firm PayBright released this week suggests the key to navigating future strategies for businesses is to use concrete data about where potential customers and clients stand in 2021. Surveying over 2,500 people from coast to coast, the 24-page study points to statistics that show how Canadians are approaching, and not approaching, their future shopping habits. Trends indicate significant changes have been seen in the “5 Ps” of consumer behaviour: products, payments, planning, place and psychology. “If 2020 was a year of disruption and uncertainty for Canadians, this will certainly be the year of building safety, security, and long-term solutions,” said Wayne Pommen, senior vice-president of Affirm Holdings Inc., which owns PayBright on Wednesday. “This is especially crucial as Canadians gain access to vaccines and look ahead to living in a post-pandemic world.” Findings in the report show shoppers are becoming increasingly discerning about where and how they spend their money. Around 55 per cent said they now read several product reviews before making a purchase, and 38 per cent said they prefer to spend more money to purchase premium brands or products to avoid lower-quality items that do not last. Around 52 per cent also said they are likely to avoid doing business with a brand that does not align with their ethics and values. On top of that, the pandemic has caused people to hold back on their overall spending. While 49 per cent anticipated no significant change to their planned 2021 budget, 36 per cent predicted a decrease and only 3 per cent said they would increase their spending. From an age perspective, those most likely to experience a decrease in their 2021 budget are those in the 18-24 and 35-44 age ranges. In terms of clothing and basics (such as groceries or pharmaceuticals), only about 10 per cent of respondents said they would spend more in those categories. But 43 per cent said they’ll be spending less on clothing versus only 22 per cent for basics. Authors of the report believe retailers with basics in their catalogue should emphasize essential products both in-store and online, citing a rise in earnings for supermarket chains who have done this such as Loblaw who have done this. They also said stores should ramp up on their reviews because fewer of them could mean less likelihood of making a sale. Deals and sales, however, will continue to be significant drivers behind consumer purchases in 2021, they added, noting personal protection is almost just as important when it comes to in-store purchases. “Frankly though, no matter what time period you compare this to, we haven’t seen trends like this ever before,” said Sylvain Charlebois, a leading supply chain expert who’s a professor at Dalhousie University. “COVID’s legacy is concerning because it’s pretty much changed everything.” From skyrocketing e-commerce as businesses quickly moved online, to the lasting trends predicted for in-store shopping such as sanitization stations and social-distancing measures, Charlebois explained how none of those changes would have ever happened without the pandemic. “Even if everyone does get vaccinated, people are just generally very risk-averse now,” he said. “That’s a massive psychological shift which translates to the fact that businesses will also not be taking risks by eliminating these measures anytime soon.” Dan Pontefract, a strategist who consults for large companies like Salesforce and TD Bank, said businesses will need to get creative and unique with their solutions. “And it has to happen fast,” he said, “or they probably won’t survive.” Pontefract said those ideas could range from pairing up to compete with larger chains to creating ads “that have chutzpah and can actually make fun of the big guys.” He also said creating the “perfect COVID shopping experience is incredibly important,” whereby customers can seamlessly be moved from shopping in-person to shopping online. “Ultimately, it’s all about the consumer,” said Pontefract. “And for better for worse, what we do know is that they’re the ones making these trends go all over the place — so they’re the ones you should follow.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — On the first day of Joe Biden's presidency, Native Americans had reason to celebrate. Biden halted construction of the border wall that threatened to physically separate Indigenous people living on both sides. He also revoked a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline that tribes fought in court for years, and he agreed to restore the boundaries of the first national monument created specifically at the request of tribes in southern Utah. Inaugural events showcased tribes across the country in traditional regalia, dancing and in prayer. But amid the revelry, some Native Americans saw a glitch in Wednesday's swearing-in ceremony. The only mention of Indigenous people came in the benediction delivered by the Rev. Silvester Beaman. And then there was the mishmash of songs sung by Jennifer Lopez that included lyrics from “This Land is Your Land." The folk tune is popular around campfires and in grade schools, but it also called to mind the nation's long history of land disputes involving tribes. “Oh, I love J.Lo," said Kristen Herring, who is Lumbee and lives in Austin, Texas. “It wasn't super disappointing that she sang it. But I was like, ‘Oh, why did that have to be on the list of things to sing?’" Woody Guthrie, who wrote the song in the 1940s, meant it as a retort to “God Bless America” and a rebuke to monetizing land at a time of economic crisis, said Gustavus Stadler, an English professor and author of “Woodie Guthrie: An Intimate Life." Lopez put a twist on it, throwing in part of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish that translates to “justice for all.” The Guthrie song has been a symbol of equality, inclusion and unity. Lady Gaga sang a rendition of it at the Super Bowl months after Donald Trump took office. It was part of Barack Obama's inaugural programming, with a trio of singers, including Bruce Springsteen, adding back some of the original, more controversial verses. But arriving amid an effort by some tribes to be recognized as stewards of ancestral land, a movement known as Land Back, the lyrics hit the wrong note for some tribal members. “It's a nice little sentiment that America is this mixing pot,” said Benny Wayne Sully, who is Sicangu Lakota and lives in Los Angeles. “But does anybody believe this land was made for you and me? Or was it made for white folks? People forget this land was made of brown people before it was colonized." Rep. Deb Haaland, who is from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, acknowledged that perspective in a virtual welcoming to the inaugural events over the weekend. She's been nominated to lead the Interior Department, which oversees tribal affairs. If confirmed, she would be the first Native American in a Cabinet post. That's one of the reasons Cherie Tebo was able to look past the song that she said was inappropriate and emphasized how little some Americans know about Indigenous people. She sees an opportunity for tribes to have a seat at the table in Biden's administration, citing Haaland and Winnebago tribal member Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, who has been named a deputy solicitor for the Interior Department. “In order to make it work, ‘this land is your land, this land is my land,' people (need) to understand it doesn’t belong to us,” said Tebo, who also is Winnebago. “If anything, we belong to it. And when our land is sick, we are sick." ___ Fonseca is a member of The Associated Press' Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/FonsecaAP. Felicia Fonseca, The Associated Press
An additional $50 million in provincial funding is being earmarked for K-12 school capital projects, ranging from roof replacements to ventilation system upgrades, Manitoba’s education minister announced Thursday. Combined with a prior 2020 budget commitment of $160 million, the sum will both help facilities get much-needed upgrades and bring the province closer to its goal of opening 20 new schools in 10 years, Education Minister Cliff Cullen told reporters. “We must continue Manitoba’s ongoing investment in school infrastructure for the longevity of our schools and to improve accessibility for all students,” he said during a news conference. Cullen said investments will be made into multi-year projects already underway, purchasing future school sites, upgrading mechanical systems in schools, structural projects, and building new portable classrooms across Manitoba. Of the $210 million in total funding for infrastructure projects, $76 million has been allocated for existing projects and $61 million for new schools. Six new schools have opened, two are going to tender in the spring, and design will start on four projects during the 2021-22 school year, Cullen said. New schools are expected to be built in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Brandon, Louis Riel, River East Transcona, Seven Oaks, and Pembina Trails school divisions in the coming years. The province plans to spend $64 million on 84 renewal projects. That sum is broken down into: $10 million for access projects, such as elevator and wheelchair lift installations; $21 million for mechanical system upgrades for infrastructure, such as boilers and ventilation systems; $16 million for roof replacements; and $16 million to fix structural problems with aging foundations, walls and historic entrance stonework. The remaining $8 million is for building portable classrooms that can be moved wherever needed. Following the announcement, NDP education critic Nello Altomare called on the province to make “a real” investment in schools. “Now more than ever, kids deserve a quality education system that helps them succeed despite the pandemic. The Pallister government can continue to make promises, but the reality is they would rather underspend than help kids,” Altomare, MLA for Transcona, said in a statement. Last year, for the third year in a row, public schools received a $6.6-million boost in funding, totalling $1.33 billion — an approximately 0.5 per cent increase. Critics voiced concerns about the operating funding allocations — which are typically announced in late January — not keeping up with inflation and the province hamstringing divisions by capping education property tax increases to a maximum of two per cent. Also on the education file, Manitoba Education confirmed Thursday it is calling off spring senior provincial exams for the second year in a row. The province previously cancelled Grade 12 winter exams, citing learning disruptions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re still expecting that teachers will be evaluating Grade 12 students, whether that be some form of exam or testing,” Cullen said, adding the decision was made to ease the burden on students and teachers this year. The minister added Manitobans can expect an announcement on the teacher COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot in the coming days. Sixty rapid tests had been completed, as of Thursday afternoon. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
She has served as a member of the Central York Fire Services for more than a decade. It is a job she loves, serving the community which has become a second home and, earlier this year, Kristy Paterson became a somewhat reluctant trailblazer as the Central York Fire Service’s first female Acting Captain. A historic first, to be sure, but Paterson has a different perspective. “I am proud of my accomplishment because I think it is a great position, but I don’t think it is special that I am the first woman,” Patterson tells The Auroran. “I am super happy for everyone who passed the test and was a successful candidate, but I don’t think I should be given any more recognition as the first female because everyone passed the same time. The public doesn’t care, or shouldn’t care, if it is a man or a woman who is responding to [a call], all they really care about is if you can do the job when the time comes.” Instead, the Barrie resident wants to be seen as a good role model for all genders, regardless of whether they want to follow in her footsteps to a local fire station. Being a fire fighter was not a life-long dream for Patterson. As a student at the University of Toronto, she was a player on their varsity hockey team. Athletics came to her naturally and she focused on kinesiology. In her fourth year, however, a conversation with a firefighter left her pondering a career pivot. “It just sounded like a super interesting path to follow,” she says, noting she undertook college training to become a firefighter soon thereafter. It didn’t take long for her to be hired by the CYFS – and, perhaps most importantly, realize she made the right choice. “I loved it probably from Day One,” she says. “Every day is different, you’re always learning. It’s a team environment and everybody works together. You’re constantly learning new things and every shift is different and you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re not confined to an office; you’re out, you’re helping the community, you’re involved and you’re just helping people. It is a good feeling to be there for the community. “I am super happy to come to work every day and to work with really awesome people just being part of a team and knowing we get to help the towns of Aurora and Newmarket.” Currently stationed in Aurora, Patterson hopes that in her new role she will continue learning and being there for the community. “In my new role, I want to be a good role model to not only young girls but young boys as well, that if you work hard, you’re able to achieve it,” she says. If it is something you want, then work hard, take the right schooling and you will be able to do it. I understand the support [stemming from being the CYFS’ first female Acting Captain], but at the same time, why is it special? I am proud of my accomplishment and it didn’t have anything to do with being female. My goal is to just be better every day than I was yesterday. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it is just that you’re capable of doing the job.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
PORTLAND, Ore. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in the final days of the Trump administration issued a grazing permit to Oregon ranchers whose imprisonment sparked the 2016 armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge by right-wing extremists. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s restored Dwight and Steven Hammond’s grazing permit earlier this week, which lasts for 10 years, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The father and son had their permit revoked after a jury convicted them in 2012 of arson on public lands a decade earlier. The men went to prison, served time and were released, but the U.S. Department of Justice later ordered them back to prison to finish the mandatory minimum five-year sentence. That kicked off the 41-day armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, which is 300 miles (483 kilometres) southeast of Portland. The Oregon State Police fatally shot one occupier, saying he reached for a pistol at a roadblock. The leaders of the takeover, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and five others were later acquitted of conspiring to impede federal workers from their jobs at the refuge. In 2018, Then-President Donald Trump pardoned the Hammonds, allowing them to be freed from federal prison. In a proposal to grant the Hammonds grazing rights on Dec. 31, the land agency said Hammond Ranches should be allowed to graze their cattle on about 26,000 acres (10,522 hectares) in the high desert of eastern Oregon. The federal agency cited the Hammonds’ “extensive historic use of these allotments, past proper use of rangeland resources, a high level of general need, and advantages conferred by topography.” In 2014, when Barack Obama was president, the agency denied Hammond Ranches a renewal of its grazing permit, saying the business “does not have a satisfactory record of performance” and cited numerous incidents of arson. At the father and son's trial, witnesses testified that a 2001 arson fire occurred after Steven Hammond and his hunting party illegally slaughtered deer on federal property. One said Steven, the younger of the Hammonds, handed out matches with instructions to “light up the whole country.” The jury also convicted him of setting a 2006 blaze. Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians have said they would protest the decision to grant the Hammonds a grazing permit. The Associated Press
Jurisdictional issues are causing concerns when it comes to the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to Indigenous people. “There … (are) challenges to overcome when we try to work in partnership with multiple levels of governments and the prioritization province-by-province,” said Marion Crowe, CEO for the First Nations Health Managers Association (FNHMA). During the weekly virtual townhall Jan. 21 hosted by FNHMA, Crowe referenced comments by premiers who have questioned the need to provide their provinces’ allocated vaccines to Indigenous peoples because First Nations are a federal responsibility. Crowe said one premier even went so far as to say that First Nations were not a priority. She did not report which premiers she was referring to in her comments. The federal government’s role is to procure the vaccines. It’s up to the provinces to distribute them. However, said Dr. Tom Wong, executive director and Chief Medical Officer of Public Health with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), that distribution should follow the guidelines set out by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Wong, who sits on NACI, told the virtual forum audience that NACI did a “thorough evidence review” and developed prioritization recommendations, including Elders and residents and staff in long-term care and Elder care facilities; frontline healthcare workers; and Indigenous peoples in communities in settings where they are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. “Those are the groups right at the very, very beginning. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is telling the whole country please follow these evidence-based guidelines and that includes marginalized, racialized groups in urban settings, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit in those settings,” Wong said. Issues have arisen in dealing with the urban Indigenous population and Wong highlighted outbreaks in Montreal, Vancouver and Winnipeg. “In particular, the (intensive care unit) admissions for off-reserve in urban areas in Manitoba has been found to be even worse than that on reserve. So this really highlights the point that, yes, there are great needs in the north, but equally that there’s huge needs in some of the urban centres where there’s a lack of services, overcrowding, in homeless shelters,” he said Kim Daly, senior nurse manager, Communicable Disease Control Department with ISC, is also with the COVID-19 vaccine working group for urban Indigenous populations. She told the virtual audience that working with provinces goes beyond prioritizing Indigenous groups. It’s also about making the vaccine accessible. “When we’re talking about items such as systemic racism, it’s important that provinces recognize that just opening a clinic down the road does not mean equal access for all the populations. We’re really trying to break down those barriers so that they know that it’s not just on reserve. It’s not just on remote and isolated (communities). There are barriers all across this country and we’re working together with them,” she said. Epidemiology, said Daly, also dictates how the vaccine is used province-to-province and that was clear throughout the country. Some provinces, like Newfoundland/Labrador, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia prioritized remote, isolated or fly-in communities, while other provinces, like Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, prioritized those 18 years and over in Indigenous communities. Manitoba, Alberta and the Northwest Territories prioritized Elder care homes. In Saskatchewan, northern communities were included in the first phase. Daly applauded provinces, like Quebec, which initially saw only about a 50 per cent uptake from Indigenous residents in remote communities for the vaccine. “The province was really gracious with communications, stating, ‘When you’re ready, the vaccine will be here.’ And there was a provision they kept back vaccines… So we really like that approach so people don’t have to make an on-the-spot decision, that they feel comfortable to come back through,” said Daly. Vaccine hesitancy, she added, should be answered with “kindness and understanding and facts.” Daly also pointed out that there were some First Nations and organization like Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which led the process, setting the example for how the vaccine should continue to be rolled out. Wong said more than 160 Indigenous communities have started immunization clinics. “As vaccine deployment continues it remains critical that First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders and partners are included at decision-making tables in each province and each territory and continue to engage in co-planning to determine ongoing capacity and needs with respective communities,” he said. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential.
Christmas was always going to be a difficult time for residents of retirement and long-term care homes unable to spend the festive season with their families. For individuals living at Aurora’s Kingsway Place Retirement Residence, the season was especially challenging as they were declared in an active COVID-19 outbreak situation on Christmas Eve. The outbreak, which York Region Public Health closed on Tuesday, January 19, ultimately took the lives of three residents and, this past Friday, there was a much-needed dose of “relief” and “elation” as residents and staff received the COVID-19 vaccine. Kingsway Place was one of several retirement and long-term care residences across York Region to receive the Moderna vaccine last week. As of Friday, January 15, 5,190 doses of the vaccine were delivered to long-term care homes and 1,620 to retirement homes. 2,831 had been administered to residents of long-term care, not including staff and essential caregivers. 1,320 doses were given to staff and essential caregivers in long-term care and a total of 1,569 residents and 91 staff of retirement homes have received doses. “The safest place for our residents was their suites and when the vaccine rolled in on Friday of last week, it has been tremendous because it has given people the sense that as a little more time goes past, they are getting some level of safety against the virus and that has been huge for people,” says Ray Barlow, Director of Operations for Fieldgate Retirement Living. “There was a lot of elation, families were extremely happy, residents were incredibly relieved. York Region did a tremendous job bringing in the paramedics. They were on site, the family doctor was here, Southlake was here, and York Region Public Health nurses were on site, so there was a real show of force to come in and get the job done quickly and efficiently. They all worked extremely hard and gave a lot of confidence to our residents that they were on the road to safety.” Mr. Barlow praises staff for their response to the outbreak, noting that not one of the caregivers left once the outbreak was declared. In fact, many stayed nights at the residence to pitch in to combat the outbreak. “That tells a real story and I think that is a testament to the staff at Kingsway,” says Mr. Barlow. In his weekly update, Dr. Karim Kurji, York Region’s Medical Officer of Health, said work continues “diligently” between York Region Public Health, Paramedics, hospital partners and nurse practitioners in the community to get the job done in long-term care and retirement settings. “These are places that the majority of the outbreaks have been happening and these are the places where about two-thirds of the deaths have been experienced in York Region have occurred,” he said. “As more and more vaccine becomes available, we’ll be moving into other groups, but we have to work very closely with the Province to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines across the Province.” That being said, the delivery of the Moderna vaccine to retirement homes has been temporarily stopped by York Region Public Health to “re-allocate the Pfizer vaccine to homes in an effort to hold back a second dose for long-term care home residents, staff, and essential caregivers who received a first dose of Moderna,” according to Patrick Casey, Director of Corporate Communications for the Region of York. “As such, the remaining doses, 2,190, are being held back as second doses for those in long-term care and retirement homes who already received the first dose,” said Casey on Friday. “Immunization with Pfizer is ongoing in retirement homes and will be continued over the weekend and on Monday. Some catch-up of long-term residents, for example those not able to receive the vaccine at previous visits due to being COVID-19 positive or consent not provided by substitute decision-makers were done on Saturday, January 16.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Beijing launched mass COVID-19 testing in some areas on Friday and Shanghai was testing all hospital staff as China battles its worst outbreak of the disease since March, with families fretting over Lunar New Year reunion plans amid new curbs. Mainland China reported a slight decline in new daily COVID-19 cases on Friday - 103 from 144 infections a day earlier. Of the new cases, 94 were local transmissions, Heilongjiang province in the northeast reported 47 new cases, while Shanghai reported six new cases and the capital, Beijing, reported three new cases.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico posted new one-day highs for the pandemic Thursday, with 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths from COVID-19 recorded for the previous 24 hours. The recent surge in cases has swamped hospitals. Mexico City is the country's epicenter of the pandemic, and its hospitals are at 89% capacity, while nationwide 61% of hospital beds are filled. The difficulty in finding space in hospitals has led many families to try to treat their relatives at home, which has created spot shortages of oxygen and tanks. That has been accompanied by a jump in prices as well as an uptick in thefts targeting oxygen tanks. The situation has also sparked home remedies, including home-made oxygen concentrators that officials warned are dangerous. One video circulating on Facebook shows a Mexican couple connecting a fish-tank air pump to a hose in an effort to boost the man's oxygen levels. The head of civil defence for the city of Puebla, Gustavo Ariza, issued a public warning against such improvised devices, noting they do not increase oxygen concentration and simply re-circulate air. “This is trickery. Please, people, don't do this," Ariza said. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell joined in the warnings. “We are concerned that people might waste time in te hope that this would work, and over the course of hours or days, very few days, the person's condition worsens,” hel said. López-Gatell said the Mexican government is going to pass rules that would give priority to medicinal oxygen production over industrial uses to free up supplies. The government is also looking to buy oxygen tanks abroad. The Associated Press