It looks like this big brother was out for revenge, even though he swears it was an accident! Sibling love!
It looks like this big brother was out for revenge, even though he swears it was an accident! Sibling love!
LOS ANGELES — When “WandaVision” wraps its initial run next month on the Disney+ streaming service, Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda will make her next appearance in the big-screen “Doctor Strange” sequel. It’s storytelling that determines how and when characters from the Marvel Comics universe hopscotch between TV and movies, Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige said Wednesday. “All of the crossover between series, between films, will always vary based on the story,” Feige said. “Sometimes (a series) will go into a season two, sometimes it’ll go into a feature and then back into a series.” Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch, plays opposite Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” planned for a 2022 release. Feige wouldn’t say whether “WandaVision,” Marvel Studios' first original series for Disney+, has a future after its March 5 season finale. The riff on generations of TV sitcoms — with the added superhero twist — brought Wanda and Paul Bettany's character, Vision, to the fore from the “Avengers” movie franchise. “I’ve been at Marvel for too long to say a definite no or definite yes to anything,” Feige replied when asked about the show's future during a virtual panel discussion held by the Television Critics Association. But second seasons are being considered and planned for series, he said, without giving away details. There’s a flurry of potential new Disney+ candidates, including “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” debuting March 19 with Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprising their roles from “Avengers: Endgame.” “Loki,” starring Tom Hiddleston revisiting his character following the events of “Endgame,” debuts June 11. After “Ms. Marvel” arrives on the streaming service (with the date yet to be announced), the character will move to the next “Captain Marvel” movie, Feige said. He was asked if shifting Marvel stories and characters between film and TV might end up cutting into the potential audience. “I always say when the lights go down and and a movie starts, it’s a clean slate — forget everything that’s come before and be able to enjoy something that’s its own self-contained story line,” Feige said. He acknowledged that as the studio makes more shows and films and introduces new characters, it “becomes harder and harder” to meet that goal. “But it is something that all of our writers and filmmakers pay great attention to, to make sure that fans can follow" the latest chapter and that newcomers can enjoy it too, he said. When the Walt Disney Co. acquired Marvel Entertainment for about $4 billion in 2009, prior deals left some of its properties with other studios. Asked if Marvel Studios might be able to regain them, Feige said he believes it could happen, but added that “rumours online about things reverting” to Marvel aren't always true. Lynn Elber, The Associated Press
A Vancouver Island community has seen a dramatic shift in how it approaches food insecurity — and hopes the change is here to stay. Maurita Prato, executive director of LUSH Valley Food Action Society and co-ordinator of the Comox Valley Food Policy Council, lives and works in the Comox Valley. Prato and her team, with help from other community members, organizations and funders, were able to start a "Good Food Box" program, where healthy, free boxes were delivered directly to people’s homes at the beginning of the pandemic. In the 1950s, 85 per cent of local food came from farmers on the island. Now, approximately 96 per cent of food is being imported into the Comox Valley, which LUSH wants to change. In spring 2020, 100 per cent of the food going into its boxes came from local farmers. “We worked primarily with 12 different farms,” Prato said. “I think it’s a necessary local food distribution tool because we can support farmers (and) even when there is a potential glut in one specific crop, we can still distribute it to people.” Canada’s National Observer spoke with her about the community’s response and its plans for 2021. The Comox Valley Food Policy Council started pre-pandemic in 2019. How did it set the stage for emergency food efforts? The food policy council consists of elected officials, a board director and a number of other representatives from across the food system. This group was in its infancy when COVID-19 hit. We had already done a community consultation and set some goals, which all focused on how to get more local food to people dealing with housing and food insecurity. We received three years of funding through the Vancouver Foundation to hire a food access manager to help. That was in January 2020, and one of the main projects was to start a food box and hot meal program. And where are the meal programs at now? The programs took off so well. Our area’s most vulnerable people didn’t have access to food support in March 2020 — the food bank was shut down. They didn’t even have access to water from community buildings. They were all closed, so we made water taps available in community gardens. Meals on Wheels also ended service, so restaurants immediately stepped up. A chef who had been laid off started making 1,000 meals per week out of a kitchen in Courtenay. It was like this really interesting scramble, but like an incredibly rich sort of creative and innovative time where we just chopped through the red tape and got things going in a couple of weeks. By December 2020, we’d delivered 11,400 boxes of food to people. The program has changed a bit since then, and is now available through other organizations LUSH works with, such as Comox Valley Family Services. We’re working on redefining how to continue the program throughout 2021. How did you see unlikely bodies or partners step up? The school board got bus drivers who weren’t working at that time to drop off boxes. The education assistants who were also off the job helped pack boxes and started a phone line for people to call for food delivery. You’ve seen this really amazing response throughout the pandemic. What has that shown you about the potential to tackle food insecurity in your area? My real hope is that we develop a system with all of these community members and organizations where we continue to collaborate because it only worked and happened so quickly because of the range of people involved. I think it's totally possible to continue, but it will take effort. There will likely be less money for emergency food support in 2021, so we need to look for funding to keep it going. Do you think you’ve seen a permanent shift in your local food system? We have been able to see how quickly we can mobilize and change during a state of crisis. But there’s a cautionary tale here: It requires a lot of effort to keep that momentum going. Just as easily as this system has been set up, it could fall apart and return to status quo. We can't let go of continuing to create these solutions, of feeling the pressure of food insecurity. Things like a food box, a hot meal program or one of our other programs shouldn’t be an emergency measure. These are solutions that we need ongoing in our world. The crisis of climate change certainly hasn’t gone anywhere, the gap between the rich and the poor is still there, and we have no idea what the long-term effects of a post-COVID recession will have on our food system. It’s a marathon — we have to keep going and stay aware. I hope we can move from an emergency model to a sustainability model this year. That’s the challenge. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A remote First Nation in Northern Ontario has declared a state of emergency for its off-reserve members in Thunder Bay after an outbreak among them in the city, where COVID-19 infections continue to surge. In a press release Wednesday, Chief Chris Moonias of Neskantaga First Nation said 12 off-reserve members in Thunder Bay have confirmed infections, affecting six per cent of the 217 members living in the city. Chief Moonias is asking Indigenous Services Canada to provide emergency housing for at least 14 of its members who are among those without adequate housing in Thunder Bay and at higher risk of becoming infected. He says a lack of housing in Neskantaga forces members to leave the community. Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said his department is prepared to offer support to the community and has been in close contact with Thunder Bay authorities as the cases rise. COVID-19 outbreaks have affected the city’s homeless population and schools. Associate Deputy Minister Valerie Gideon said the department has funding available for First Nations affected by COVID-19 while living away from their communities. Chief Moonias said immunizing First Nation members living in Thunder Bay against the virus has to be a priority as soon as more vaccines are available. Ontario has identified all Indigenous adults as among the next priority groups in phase one of its vaccine rollout. In a COVID-19 update Wednesday, Mr. Miller said Ontario’s Ornge air-ambulance service and Weeneebayko Area Health Authority in Northern Ontario are close to vaccinating 70 per cent of members in 31 remote, fly-in First Nations, including Neskantaga, with the first dose. Manitoba has opened up vaccinations to the general public, with appointments now available to people 95 and older and First Nations people older than 75. Mr. Miller said the department is working closely with the National Association of Friendship Centres and provinces and territories in the vaccine rollout for Indigenous adults in urban cities and towns across the country. “Urban Indigenous populations face many if not the same systemic barriers to accessing services of those living in isolated or remote communities or on reserve,” said Mr. Miller. Jocelyn Formsma, the executive director for the National Association of Friendship Centres in Ottawa, has been advocating for safe and accessible vaccination clinics for urban Indigenous populations. She said that because the vaccines are allocated by provinces and territories to local public-health authorities, Friendship Centres are pushing for provincial vaccine rollouts to include a plan for urban Indigenous people. She said it’s encouraging to see vaccine clinics for urban Indigenous adults being set up in places such as the Wabano Centre in Toronto – a result of local public-health authorities partnering with urban Indigenous organizations. However, she added that there need to be vaccine clinics in rural locations, as well, and that Friendship Centres have the resources to facilitate those clinics and ensure that all Indigenous adults have appropriate access. Mr. Miller said that overall COVID-19 case counts in First Nations continue to decline and that more than 103,000 vaccine doses have been administered in about 450 First Nations, Inuit and territorial communities. Tom Wong, Chief Medical Officer of Public Health for Indigenous Services, said that there have been no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 variants in Northern Manitoba. However, Dr. Wong said that it’s a matter of when, not if, the variants arrive in First Nations and that redoubling public-health efforts will be key to stopping the spread to prevent outbreaks. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
EDMONTON — An Edmonton Police Service officer has been charged with sexual assault. Alberta's police watchdog, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), says the alleged assault happened on Jan. 20 when the officer was off duty. In a release, ASIRT says the man knows the woman and during an encounter committed a sexual assault. Investigators forwarded their findings to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service which determined the evidence met their standard for prosecution. The release says Const. Samuel Sanson was arrested Wednesday and charged with one count of sexual assault. Sanson has been released and is to appear in Edmonton provincial court on March 23. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
A few days after new rules came into effect requiring incoming international travellers to quarantine at an airport hotel, police near Toronto are not enforcing the rules. They say enforcement is in the hands of a federal agency which is tight-lipped about whether it is planning to charge anyone who may have flouted the rules. Seán O’Shea reports.
TORONTO — Parole board officials say a drunk driver who killed three children and their grandfather in a Toronto-area crash still has difficulty recognizing that his attitude towards alcohol prior to the incident was problematic.The Parole Board of Canada raised several concerns today in releasing its written reasons for granting Marco Muzzo full parole.Muzzo, 34, appeared before the board via videoconference earlier this month and was questioned over the factors that led to the 2015 crash.In the document issued today, the board said that while Muzzo has made progress in each of his hearings, some of his answers suggest he is still lacking insight on issues related to alcohol and empathy.It notes Muzzo told the two-member panel he considered his alcohol use before the crash "under control and manageable," and either was unaware of some of his other driving infractions or trying to minimize them.Muzzo pleaded guilty in 2016 to four counts of impaired driving causing death and two of impaired driving causing bodily harm.He was sentenced to 10 years behind bars and is under a 12-year driving ban. Nine-year-old Daniel Neville-Lake, his five-year-old brother Harrison, their two-year-old sister Milly and the children's 65-year-old grandfather, Gary Neville, were killed in the September 2015 crash. The children's grandmother and great-grandmother were also seriously injured in the collision in Vaughan, Ont. The board imposed a number of restrictions when it granted Muzzo parole on Feb. 9, including that he not consume alcohol or go into bars and strip clubs, and that he stay out of Brampton, Ont., and the Regional Municipality of York. The geographic limitations are meant to reduce the likelihood of accidental contact with the victims' relatives. The board gave "considerable weight" to the family's statements regarding their "unrelenting grief, anger, fear, and frustration," it said in the document."Their anguish is palpable. Your choices and actions have left them struggling psychologically, emotionally, physically and financially," the board said.Muzzo, while stressing the importance of prioritizing the Neville-Lake family's needs, proposed moving back into the home he shares with his fiancee, which is close to a memorial for the victims and in an area regularly visited by their relatives, the board noted. "It appeared to the board that you were thinking more of your own interests than those of the people harmed by your offending," the panel wrote."The board is concerned that your focus on yourself gives rise to a risk of you deliberately or inadvertently moving within the relevant geographic region without fully considering or respecting victim concerns."It may eventually be desirable for Muzzo to return to his home community, but any such move is premature and would have a "significant negative impact" on the Neville-Lake family, the board said.Muzzo had sought full parole last April, but was denied at the time and given day parole instead.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
After a night of un-staffed ambulances and 911 call response times of up to an hour in Metro Vancouver on Friday, Feb. 19, the ambulance union went public, calling on the BC Ambulance Service to do better. It was the urban area that hit a breaking point, but Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia president Troy Clifford said the system is strained across the province, especially in the Kootenays and northern B.C. The first five to 10 minutes in a medical emergency are critical for the best chance of positive outcomes, Clifford said. BC Emergency Health Services which runs the ambulance and dispatch system in B.C. said in an emailed statement that staffing levels are stable overall, with the Friday night delays caused by a combination of higher than average calls that night, general increased calls relating to the opioid crisis and COVID-19, and some paramedics booking time off that night. The ambulance service said the only calls with a one-hour wait time were less critical calls, but that life-threatening symptoms were still prioritized. “Our median response time for these most critical “purple” and “red” calls in Vancouver and area on Friday was 10:03 and 9:14 minutes respectively,” COO Darlene MacKinnon said. Clifford points at the BC Ambulance Service, saying they wait until a vacancy exists before posting the job, leading to delays in filling positions. “Those are capacity issues, those are system issues that should not be holding up getting care to people.” Hiring delays coupled with what Clifford says is a non-existent recruitment and retention strategy have culminated in February being the worst month yet for staffing shortages. About three-quarters of the province is served by on-call paramedics who earn $2/hr when they’re on call, $15/hr on standby, and only get their full paramedic pay when they’re on an actual ambulance call. On average, new paramedics put in four to five years as an on-call, part-time employee before getting a chance at a full-time job. For many, it’s unsustainable. In smaller regions, where new recruits often end up, the call volume is low to the point that they don’t make a living wage. “We haven’t done a very good job of enticing people because we don’t have a lot to offer them in this model we have,” Clifford said. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
Karen Knox remembers that the adventure-filled bike rides from her family’s cottage on Big Straggle Lake to Agnew’s General Store on Allen Lake in Harcourt Park began in the mid-1960s, around the time that her brother, Kent, was nine, and she was seven. “Back then our parents didn’t know where we were most of the time, and we were always safe,” she told the Echo. “Not just my parents, everyone’s parents – there were no telephones.” That smaller store was open simultaneously for a time with the Agnew family’s flagship shop in Wilberforce, where Knox’s parents bought big, juicy T-bone steaks when visiting their cottage from their home in Scarborough. But the treat that Knox remembers is the penny candy – the blackballs and pixie sticks, black licorice cigars and Lik-m-aid candy powder, all washed down with Orange Crush and Tahiti Treat - worth the bicycle ride she actively participated in to get to it. “We’d buy candy and ride home,” she wrote on the Agnew’s General Facebook page. “Kent peddling and steering and me sitting on the back carrier. I’d jump off to push when necessary.” While Knox’s nostalgic memories reflect her own childhood, the presence of Agnew’s General Store in Highlands East has long held a place in the hearts of both residents and cottagers – this year, the historic landmark celebrates 100 years since Fred G. Agnew took on the store in 1921. Fred had come to Canada from England solo, as a 16-year-old. “It wasn’t unheard of at the time, it was what you did, I guess,” Cathy Agnew, Fred’s granddaughter, said to the Echo in retelling his story. He ended up in the Lindsay area, doing a number of jobs that included logging in the lumber camps and on the river drive, leading him to working for the railroad. His position as station agent in Gooderham gave him the opportunity to meet the woman - Mary Ellen (Mae) Dixon - who would become his wife in 1913, and then acquire a job as a travelling train agent on the Bancroft to Howland Junction route. “He got to know the towns along the way, on the stops, and that’s how he ended up knowing Mr. Reynolds, here in Wilberforce,” said Cathy. The history as to how Fred ended up working with S.W. Reynolds at his store after the railroad job, is part of the Agnew family lore, passed along by Fred’s children to their children. “We kind of feel that he left the railroad because he had an accident one night on the side car, which he wasn’t supposed to use after dark, and took it out on the railroad tracks,” said Cathy. “He was transporting a child who needed medical attention. Anyway, there was an accident and he lost his sight in one eye. He started working for Mr. Reynolds, and that’s how he ended up, eventually, the owner of Agnew’s General Store.” The history page on the Agnew’s website said the store, originally a boarding house, exchanged hands with “no more than a verbal agreement and a handshake.” “Reynolds decided to eventually retire, and the story goes that he said to Fred, ‘there’s not enough money here for the two of us, why don’t you take over the business?’ and then Reynolds left town on the train, and Fred took over running the business for Reynolds, and eventually ended up buying the business from him,” said Cathy. “We also heard that Fred didn’t tell his wife until Reynolds was already gone, that they were now running the store.” By all accounts, Cathy said, Fred was an affable type. “He was very easy-going, he took to people,” she said. “Mae probably had more of a business head on her than Fred.” Numerous people have told the Agnews over the years about the generosity of Fred as a shopkeeper, ensuring that nobody went without proper clothing or adequate food supply. “Back in those days, everybody ran lines of credit, everybody had credit,” said Cathy. “But Mae would get to the point where she would cut people off of credit - she was the authority figure in the store, I think. And we’ve been told that Fred would then sometimes slip out and catch up with the person and slip them a bit of money, eh?, to get them through.” The store, a general store then as it is today, sold everything from dried goods and cooking pots, everything that you might need in a house. In March of 1938, it burned in a fire, and the rebuilding of the store just down the street with a warehouse and house attached to it - the post office would come later - cost about $300, “so we’ve been told,” said Cathy. During construction between March and November that year, the store temporarily operated in the Orange Hall. “But for years, they didn’t have any furniture in the house,” said Cathy. “There was nothing. Uncle Ross, who died a few years ago, he remembers when they built the house, them not having any furniture in it. They had four hard chairs, dining room chairs, and a table. It was years down the road before they could afford to furnish it.” The store was built with a 16-foot counter at the back, running across the store, which customers would approach with a list for the shopkeeper to fill. The counter was fitted with large drawers where flour, sugar, baking soda, raisins, dates and the like were stored. “Ross got tired of walking out of the house, behind this counter, all the way to the end of it to get to the other part of the store, so one day he got the idea to cut it in half and make a walkway halfway down,” said Cathy. “We still have part of that counter in the store here, that we use to this day. That’s kind of a treat. We’re happy to have this piece that we still have right now.” Cathy said that in those days, she was told everything came in on the train, which came through three days a week. “The roads weren’t open in the wintertime and were very poor quality in the summer,” she said. “Everything had to come up in sleighs in the wintertime and carts in the summertime.” Popular tubs of ice cream would come from Silverwoods Dairy in Lindsay on those trains. “It would come packed in dry ice, up on the train, and then they would put it in the freezers,” said Cathy. “There was no hydro here then, so you would have to chip at the blocks of ice that came out of the lake in the wintertime, and store it in the ice shed packed in sawdust. That was part of Ross and Murray’s job, to go out and chip the ice off these big blocks, and bring it in and pack it in around the tubs of ice cream to keep it frozen. They said it was an awful job doing that, but at the end of the day, the treat was that you could have some ice cream.” Fred Agnew died in 1945, at the age of 59, when his youngest son, Gary, was only 10 years old. After that, Murray Agnew received a discharge out of Trenton to help his mother run the store. Mae Agnew died a few years later, in 1951, at the age of 55. Murray continued running the family business, with Gary finishing his schooling and joining to help at the age of 16. “I know that he [Murray] was offered several different jobs over the years, but felt that this was his place,” said Cathy, his daughter. He was the postmaster, as well, a job now managed by his eldest daughter, Mary Barker. On Sept. 1, 1952, Murray married Eileen Taylor. “The wedding had to be on Labour Day because that was one of the few days the store was closed,” notes a history of the store’s succession. Murray carried on the legacy of his dad, bringing the community together and looking out for residents both inside and outside the store, occasionally going to bat for people who needed advocacy on political issues. Gary, who worked as the butcher at Agnew’s, ended up joining council himself. “Dad was such an outgoing and gregarious person. he loved to talk, and knew everybody,” said Cathy Janette Packard, who lives on Wilbermere Lake, wrote on the store’s anniversary post on social media that she remembers the post office in three different places, and a conveyor belt coming up from the basement. “If you couldn’t find it on the shelf, someone would go upstairs or downstairs and 99 per cent of the time come back with what you needed in hand, or something that would do,” she wrote. “There was a big book at the cash with all the accounts or tabs that people mostly paid on payday, but no one went without. Definitely a true general store and heart of the community. If they didn’t have what you needed, no one did.” Ross Agnew, Fred and Mae’s eldest son, ran a Gooderham store [now the Lucky Dollar] in the early 70s, before selling it and moving back to Wilberforce. The park shop on Allen Lake in Harcourt Park that Knox rode her bike to for penny candy was open for about four or five years, Mary remembers, and was run by Mary and Cathy’s mom, Eileen Agnew, and their aunt Bev, Gary’s wife. “It was promoted to the women as their chance to ‘cottage,’ while running a store six days a week and caring for six kids in very cramped living quarters attached to the more expansive store footage,” said Mary. “The store closed on Thursdays. Wednesday night we came back to town. By Thursday night we were headed back to the park with a station wagon crammed full of grocery boxes and us kids packed in around them. If we hurried to unpack and got all the merchandise priced and on the shelves we got to stay up and watch ‘Spine Tingler,’ on a snowy TV and go to bed scared out of our minds. It was probably the birth of two more kids that made the women put their foot down and say they had had enough ‘vacationing’ in Harcourt Park.” Growing up, Cathy said, it was unique to be connected to the store. “You always had a job, there were always things to do after school,” she said. And then, laughing: “I have to admit, as a teenager, I did not work here because you had to work weekends. No, thank you. During summer break, I would find a different job.” In 2018, the store changed hands, from the Agnew family to Frank Meurer, who shares the initials F. G. with Fred Agnew. He had started coming to the area a few years prior to that for an interest in rockhounding. On one of his first visits to the store at that time, he said he walked around, “amazed at everything they had here … this is a real general store.” “When it was for sale - and three years left before the 100 years - and I loved the store myself as a customer, I went OK, is this possible to do?” said Meurer. “I lucked out.” Despite the sale, sisters Mary, Cathy and Wynne are still very much involved at the store. “When I purchased it, I made sure that the agreement came with it that the Agnews’ family had to stay,” he laughed. “This is Agnew’s store and I need your touch, your feel …Everybody’s been very supportive, the community has accepted me and likes me - just because I haven’t changed things.” “When I say hi to the Agnew girls, they still remember me,” said Knox, who ended up buying the family cottage in 1994. “It’s interesting to watch the community grow and change,” said Cathy. Despite the years going by in the community - Cathy notes the setbacks of the current pandemic, and also the loss of the lumber industry - she said she is hoping it will continue to grow; she has noticed more and more young people have been moving to the area. As times have changed, so has the store – from what is sold, to the method in which goods are sold, and even how people shop, doing so with more independence now although visiting with other shoppers and a genial closeness to store employees still very much occurs. Meurer said it’s common for people to share stories, and to hear “I remember when …” “They’ll be chatting and I love hearing the laughter,” said Meurer. “I can just hear the laughter at the front end, from the customers interacting with the people who work here. That’s another thing I love about this place, everybody who works here is really a part of the store, they’re not just an employee of the store. One of the people here told me she loves working here, and to me, that means everything.” A website to allow for online sales is being developed, and clever merchandise posts on the store’s Facebook page virtually draw in customers old and new. A future look-back on the store’s history will see that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Agnew’s thrived at being the general store the community needed when so much else had shut down, working to provide the essential service of mail distribution but also providing a town cornerstone to keep face-to-face greetings - even behind masks - going in the rural area. “We need to service this community and that’s definitely something we strive to do in the best way possible,” said Meurer. “It’s very heartwarming,” said Cathy, of the customers who care about the store and share their memories of it with the staff. “People are genuinely happy that it’s still operating and there are people who make a point of coming in and spending their dollar here, because they want it to stay here. That’s really, really heartwarming.” “Agnew’s General Store has been at the heart of downtown Wilberforce for 100 years and hopefully it won’t miss a beat over the next 100,” said Mary. Centenary celebrations will be held throughout the year, spreading events out so the community can help mark the milestone occasion year round. For more information about Agnew’s General Store, visit agnews.ca or stay up-to-date with anniversary celebrations via https://www.facebook.com/agnews.wilberforce Sue Tiffin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Minden Times
Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson hosted a virtual town hall meeting on Tuesday evening to allow the public to discuss how they've been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and everything relating to the government imposed restrictions and lockdowns. Lasting approximately 70 minutes, the veteran NDP MPP fielded many questions, and allowed people to vent on various frustrations. A wide range of topics were covered. VACCINES A citizen named Gladys called in and asked: “How will I be notified, as to when and where, I'm going to go and get this vaccine?” Bisson said it was a great question, and one that he receives many times each day. He prefaced his response by acknowledging that regardless of political stripe, every government is facing a tremendous amount of challenges in handling the pandemic. “Currently we're in what they call 'Phase 1' – which means to say they are going to vaccinate, as vaccines become available, and we've started in Timmins already, people living in long-term care homes, people living in some retirement homes that are higher risk...and then they move to healthcare workers, people living in alternate levels of care at the hospital, hospital workers, ambulance people, paramedics, police, and others. People at risk,” said Bisson. He said once that step is done, the government will likely set priorities for the general public by age or other risk factors. He noted that the Province of Quebec has said they will be vaccinating those 85 years of age and up beginning next week. “I think that's how they're going to do it. They're going to say everybody over a certain age, get them done, and then they'll move to the second, third, fourth, and so on.” Gladys followed up by stating that she believes she is a “high risk” individual due to a compromised immune system, but doesn't feel she will be included in the higher priority category. “More than likely, you should be able to go ahead of others,” replied Bisson, adding that he is personally immunosuppressed due to a medication he takes for his psoriatic arthritis, but that at only 63 years of age, he will likely be well down the priority list. He added that the province has yet to release the full details of the immunization plan, and how exactly people will be notified. Later on, a citizen who identified himself as Wayne asked what will happen to people who outright refuse the vaccine. “I'm going to go over there Wayne, and tackle you if you don't take your vaccine,” joked Bisson. “People have the right to refuse vaccines. Nobody is going to be forced to take a vaccine if they don't want to take it. I would highly encourage you to take the vaccine, but that is a personal choice, and people have the right to make that decision themselves,” he explained. MENTAL HEALTH A question came in regarding the strong likelihood that mental health and addiction issues have been exacerbated during the pandemic, and what exactly has the province done to assist those struggling. “I think the short answer is, even at the best of times, we do not have the capacity in the system to respond to both addictions and mental health problems the way that they should be,” responded Bisson. “During this pandemic, it has certainly gotten worse. People who are under stress, and are having a difficulty dealing with this from a mental health or an addiction perspective, don't have a lot of extra services to be able to provide the kind of support they need to get them through this. This has been a real problem.” PUBLIC EVENTS With some aspects of the economy now re-opened, there are some wondering if Ontarians can expect to see live entertainment, such as concerts and sporting events, made available any time soon. “The government, because of the recommendations they're getting from health officials, like Chief Medical Officers, and other health experts, and the health panel, are reluctant to open up sporting events in a big way until we reach a certain point of people being vaccinated,” said Bisson. “So this whole term they call 'herd immunity' is when 70 or 80 per cent of the population is vaccinated, the chances of people being able to spread the disease is much lower. So they'll be able to get back to a more normal setting when it comes to going to concerts, and going to sporting events, and doing the various things we used to do.” He said the short answer is, the government is in no hurry to relax on their current restrictions regarding large public events. “I think it will be in stages, and it will be slow to come until we get to the point of having a good part of our population vaccinated.” ENERGY BILLS There were several questions and comments regarding increased bills for utilities such as natural gas and hydro electricity throughout the past year, particularly with people spending most of their time at home. Bisson stated bluntly that the fluctuation in hydro bills, including his own, over the past year have been “extremely annoying.” “I don't think there is anybody in Ontario who supports what has happened to our hydro system, and what it means to us. The private sector, when it comes to natural gas and others, there has been absolutely no push on the part of the province for them to give any kind of respite to people when it comes to their energy bills, other than what we control, which is Hydro One.” He added that during the last provincial election campaign, both the Ontario Progressive Conservatives and the NDP had very specific plans to how to deal with hydro, and to lower the rates. “The Conservatives won the government on the basis of their promises, and their campaigning, and rates have gone up every year since they've been in office. “They should have, for the time of the pandemic, left electricity rates at the 10 cents per kilowatt, no matter what time or day of the week it is, as a way for people to cope.” TRAVEL BARRIERS A citizen named Jason called in to ask about the possibility of the province implementing travel barriers to mitigate the spread of possible new COVID-19 variants. “With the springtime coming up, a lot of people from Southern Ontario come up to Northern Ontario to enjoy all of our splendour up here. Is there anything we're going to do to stop that, or is there any contingency plan there?” he said. Bisson replied that any measures like that are extremely complicated to put in place. “We started looking at that ourselves, sometime before Christmas, and a number of our Northern colleagues started looking at it. “It gets quite complicated because, if you're the mine operator, and you have to have somebody come up and do specific work to keep the mine running, do you prevent those people from coming up? Doctors travelling, truckers moving goods, it gets really complicated when it comes to shutting down regions of the province.” Bisson said that although it was looked at, the government ultimately decided not to go that route. “Was that the right decision? I think only time will tell.” GENERAL REMARKS Bisson acknowledged that it is very easy to criticize government currently, whose members have a very tough job, and not a lot of of precedence to work with in dealing with a major public health crisis. But the provincial government's performance, led by Premier Doug Ford, has been a mixed bag. “Mr. Ford, I've got to tell you, I give him full marks, when he goes in front of a camera, he says the right things,” said Bisson. “The problem with Mr. Ford, I find, is that he doesn't deliver on what he has talked about, and then it becomes sort of an undeliverable.” Bisson said overall, the chatter among those at Queen's Park, is that the Ford government isn't doing a very good job of listening to the concerns of its constituents that have been brought forward by MPPs. “It's unfortunate, but that's kind of the direction this government has taken.” Andrew Autio is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for The Daily Press. LJI is a federally funded program. Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
(Jeremy Cohn/CBC - image credit) One person is dead and one person is in custody after a homicide in a Richmond Hill, Ont. home on Wednesday night, York Regional Police say. Police were called to the residence in the area of King Road and Yonge Street just before 7:45 p.m. for a report of unknown trouble. The incident is now being investigated as a homicide, police said. One person was pronounced dead on the scene, according to York Region Paramedic Services. The other was taken to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries. According to police, there is no public safety concern and the incident was contained to the home. Police are remaining at the scene as the investigation continues.
(CBC News - image credit) Alberta voters will have ability to recall their MLAs, municipal representatives or school board trustees before the next provincial election should new legislation pass this spring, the government says. Government house leader Jason Nixon said a pledge to adopt recall legislation was in the United Conservative Party election platform, and he wants the citizen-led mechanism in place as soon as possible. "Obviously, the process has to be done right, and make a sustainable system within our election system to make that work," Nixon said on Wednesday. At a news conference highlighting some of the bills coming to the legislature this spring, Nixon said the debate and approval of the budget would be the initial focus, given the uncertainty the COVID-19 pandemic creates. Also on a list of upcoming bills is the introduction of citizen-led initiatives. With enough signatures on a petition, a law would allow citizens to prompt a referendum on a policy or law of their choice. Recall legislation and citizen initiatives were both studied last fall by a special all-party committee of the legislature. No details are available yet about how they would work. If the legislature passed, Alberta would join B.C. as the second province allowing voters to turf an MLA for performing poorly. Barry Morishita, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and mayor of Brooks, said the nuances of the legislation will be critically important. The petition thresholds for prompting a recall vote should be different in municipalities of different sizes, he said. Otherwise, it would be too easy for a few people in a small town to unseat a mayor or councillor. It's challenging enough to get qualified people to run in some small communities, Morishita said. If a councillor was acclaimed then recalled, he wonders who would replace them. "I'm really concerned about what the disruption would be," he said. He also worries recall legislation would prompt local officials to avoid making unpopular decisions to avoid being booted out. An independent provincial body to hear code of conduct complaints would be more useful in holding municipal politicians to account, said Morishita, who noted the AUMA has not been consulted about the bill. Competing federal and provincial bills In December, Michaela Glasgo, the UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat, introduced the private members bill, the Municipal Government (Firearms) Amendment Act, that proposed to stop Alberta municipalities from banning firearms. The federal government has since introduced legislation that would give municipalities the power to ban handguns. Now, the Alberta government wants to make Glasgo's bill a government bill, which could allow it to pass more quickly. "Unfortunately, the federal government has continued to focus again on farmers and hunters instead of dealing with the real issue, and has now overstepped, from our perspective, to try and give municipalities powers that are certainly within the purview of the provincial government, not the federal government," Nixon said. Legal opinions vary on whether the federal or a provincial government would have the ultimate authority. Nixon said Wednesday that Albertans will have a provincial referendum in the fall to express whether they support federal equalization. The result would not compel the federal government to take action. The government also intends to amend the Vital Statistics Act to prevent dangerous offenders from legally changing their names. Last year, the legislature passed an amendment to prevent sex offenders from altering their names. Also listed on the government's order paper is the College of Alberta School Superintendents Act. Last summer and fall, the government consulted with education groups about whether school superintendents should be given the legal power to regulate their own profession. NDP Opposition house leader Christina Gray said the government's legislative priorities show it is pandering to UCP members rather than responding to the substantial changes and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other than a labour mobility bill, there was little mention of legislation or policy that would improve Albertans' access to health care or boost the economy, Gray said. "That lack of having that vision for Albertans, that lack of responding to the very real crisis that Albertans are going through is very concerning to members of the official Opposition," she said. The spring sitting of the legislature will begin Thursday with the tabling of the 2021-22 provincial budget. Nixon said he anticipates the government will introduce 18 or 19 bills before breaking for the summer.
VANCOUVER — The union representing thousands of transit operators in Metro Vancouver says TransLink has not been transparent about a major data breach that affected workers. Unifor says in a news release Wednesday that the transit authority has been slow to reveal information about December's cyberattack. The union says the company took more than two months to admit what information was stolen, including social insurance numbers and bank account details, and failed to include Unifor on communications sent to affected workers this week. It says it has no confidence that it will get answers to questions about the data breach. Unifor president Jerry Dias says he's urging TransLink to take a collaborative approach to problem-solving. TransLink spokeswoman Jill Drews says affected employees began receiving personal notification letters specific to their situation and how they were affected, which were not shared with the union. "Not every employee would have had every element of their personal information accessed from what we can see right now," she says. "So, what the letter does is list out the exact items that may have been accessed." The transit authority confirmed in December that it was the target of a ransomware attack on part of its information technology system. Ransomware is a type of malicious software that disables part of a computer system or access to data until a ransom is paid. Drews says the company is conducting a "thorough long-lasting forensic investigation," adding that the cyberattack was "very sophisticated." "We'll investigate and it's going to take some time to safely bring everything up and get a complete picture of what exactly occurred." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
Many B.C. teachers and parents are incredulous the province isn’t mandating masks in classrooms, especially as new COVID-19 variants begin to crop up in school settings. Over the weekend, health authorities revealed a number of positive cases of the faster-spreading U.K. COVID-19 variant at seven different schools in Surrey and Delta. On Monday, Island Health reported the number of positive cases in north island communities had more than doubled over three days as a result of social contact. And exposure alerts were announced at the two high schools in Campbell River, Timberline and Carihi High, and at schools in the Comox Valley over the past week. The province reported 559 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, with 39 occurring in Island Health. Dave Harper, president of the Campbell River District Teachers Association, said he can’t understand why provincial authorities won’t err on the side of caution and make masks mandatory in schools at all times to increase safety. It's a relatively easy fix in comparison to addressing ventilation concerns, school capacity for social distancing and securing smaller class sizes, he added. “It all ties back into the fact that the rules that apply in general society simply don’t apply in schools,” said Harper. “It’s just maddening.” For the most part, everybody, including young people, is now obliged and accustomed to wearing masks in public settings, like grocery stores or offices, he said. “And yet, somehow, that's not being made mandatory in schools. And that just drives teachers nuts.” As a teacher, parent and grandparent, Harper questioned the notion young students aren’t capable of wearing masks while seated in the classroom but can when they move through the halls. “I don't think that in grades 4 through 12, that a system of mandatory masks all day is unreasonable,” Harper said. “My grandson wears his mask all day at school because we expect him to, and he does. “All over the world, kids are wearing masks all day long, even in kindergarten, and they aren’t having a problem with it,” Harper added. Emerging variants of the virus that are potentially more transmissible and virulent only compound teachers’ concerns about the lack of masks, he said. Plus, it’s a question of safety for families, Harper said, noting health authorities suggest young people who get the virus are less likely to suffer serious or visible symptoms. But there are lots of students who have multi-generational families, he said. “What if a kid has been exposed (to the virus) and they’re asymptomatic?” Harper asked. “... The next thing you know, grandpa or grandma comes down with it, and they are at a much higher risk. “Just because they refuse to put a mask mandate in schools? To me, that’s deplorable.” The BC Teachers’ Federation reiterated its call for a mandatory mask policy in all schools. The federation also wants increased testing in schools and for school districts to be able to make regional or site-based adjustments to the safety protocols. However, provincial health authorities and the education and health ministers aren’t committing to a change in approach at schools. “We are in a period of what I'm calling vaccine hope and pandemic reality,” provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday afternoon. There is contrasting news with the demonstrated effectiveness of vaccinations in the province and the uptick in positive cases in B.C. and COVID-19 variants in Fraser Health schools, Henry said. “Our focus has to be to hold steady and support each other to get through this part of our marathon,” she said. However, neither Henry nor Health Minister Adrian Dix committed to any changes in the mask policy or districts’ ability to individually cater their pandemic response at their Tuesday briefing. When cases of variants arise in schools, extra testing takes place, as it is in the Fraser Health region at the moment, said Henry, adding more information would be available in coming days. “We are paying extra attention so that we better understand where, and if, these (variants) are spreading, particularly in environments that are so important like our school system,” she said. Transmission of the new variants seems limited, said Henry. “So far, it does not look like there is significant transmission from these variants, which is really good,” Henry said. “It shows us that the safety plans in schools are working.” Parents are also expressing concern around the lack of mandatory masks in schools. Quadra Island parent Tara Taylor has a 15-year-old son who attends Grade 10 at one of the Campbell River high schools experiencing an exposure alert. The current situation in schools is stressful for students, parents and teachers, she said, especially since districts don’t tell you how many cases are involved. “We don’t know what level of concern we should be having,” Taylor said. “Is it one kid infected or 20?” Her son, Nate, has been wearing a mask all day at school since the start of the school year. And if he can do it, most other students can, too, she said. Taylor said she wrote letters to her school district as well as the ministries of health and education to express her concern about the lack of a mask mandate in schools. But she was told the district is unable to impose a change in mask policy because it didn’t comply with provincial health orders, Taylor said. “I really feel like there have been a lot of opportunities for the government to take a stronger stance with (masks) in schools, particularly with the older kids,” said Taylor. “With the variants being more contagious, and potentially more intense, it's really becoming more and more stressful on everybody,” she added. “At some point, we have to make the hard choices … if we don’t, I just feel like we’re throwing our kids under the bus.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press - image credit) The Alberta government will offer a one-time payment of $561 for parents who used child care (including licensed or unlicensed daycares, day homes, out-of-school care or pre-school) between April and December of last year. Families with annual household incomes of $100,000 or less will be eligible for the benefit. They can apply online between March 1 and 31. Around 192,000 children are expected to be supported by the $108-million fund, which will be paid for out of unspent money in the Children's Services budget. That money would have normally gone toward child-care subsidies but went unused due to lower enrolment during the pandemic. The government had been facing questions around its plans for the fund for months leading up to the budget, which will be unveiled Thursday. One-time payment comes as $25/day program winds down The benefit comes as the province winds down the $25-per-day child-care pilot program, which was implemented by the previous, NDP government. Last summer, the federal government announced it would give Alberta $45 million for child care, much of which will go toward subsidizing costs for families under a new provincial program. Children's Services Minister Rebecca Schulz said expanding the $25-per-day pilot program would be too costly. "To expand this program right across the province would cost more than a billion dollars. This is a difficult economic time, and the feedback from the pilot, this includes from parents and centres … felt that it was inherently unfair because it did choose winners and losers and didn't necessarily always support the parents and families that needed that support," Schulz said Wednesday. The median cost of child care was $1,100 per month in Calgary and $975 in Edmonton in 2018, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Opposition party criticized the announcement, saying that providing universal, accessible, affordable child care is significantly more effective than a single payment in getting parents back to work. "Parents need affordable child care every month, not just when the UCP has a budget to sell," NDP children's services critic Rakhi Pancholi said. "The economic imperative in this moment is to get Albertans back to work. No parent is going to be able to return to work or school based on half a month's worth of child-care fees."
VICTORIA — Police say a bust of the Queen in Beacon Hill Park in Victoria was vandalized with the head removed from the body. Victoria police say they were called to the area on Wednesday afternoon. The head of the statue has not been recovered. The vandalism follows an overnight graffiti spree targeting several buildings, businesses, and public and city property in the area. Police say many of the messages in the graffiti make a reference to Beacon Hill Park and they are investigating whether the incidents are connected. The Canadian Press
(Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit) Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet is calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to apologize for the alleged actions of his father, claiming former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau asked one of Quebec's leading businesspeople to harm Quebec's economy and six million Quebecers. "If there was a moment when a head of state should apologize in the name of another who preceded him, it is now," said Blanchet in a video tweeted by the Bloc Québécois. "I clearly call for the prime minister to apologize for such actions and I ask above all for us to respect democracy and the interests that Quebecers choose for themselves." Trudeau dismissed both the Bloc's call for an apology and an attack by Bloc MP Stéphane Bergeron during question period today, dismissing it as a debate over history. Quebec Premier Rene Levesque (R) shrugs his shoulders and walks away from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau (L) after a chat prior to the beginning of the second day of the Constitution Conference on Sept 9, 1980. "Today I'm not going to begin a historical debate with the Bloc Québécois MP," Trudeau said. "What preoccupies me these days is the protection of citizens, it is the fight against COVID-19, it is the strong return of the Quebec and Canadian economy and that is what I am going to continue to concentrate on." Blanchet's call came in response to a CBC News report about once-secret U.S. State Department documents discussing how Pierre Trudeau's government responded to the sovereignist Parti Québécois' surprise rise to power in 1976. In a telegram dated Dec. 22, 1976, little more than a month after René Lévesque became premier, U.S. Ambassador Thomas Enders said Pierre Trudeau might take a more aggressive approach to dealing with the fledgling PQ government. Enders said Paul Desmarais, head of Power Corporation and one of Quebec's top business leaders, told him Trudeau had suggested that Desmarais "make it as tough as possible" for the PQ government by transferring jobs out of Quebec and increasing unemployment. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it's up to Justin Trudeau to decide whether to apologize. Power Corporation said it didn't move jobs out of Quebec at the time. The State Department records were declassified several years ago and recently republished as part of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States series. While the documents are 44 years old, they have sparked debate across Quebec. While some have described them as a bombshell, those close to Trudeau at the time, such as former cabinet minister Marc Lalonde, have questioned their accuracy, saying it was at odds with the message the government was sending nervous business leaders at the time. Premier François Legault waded into the question Wednesday. "It has to be verified. It is very worrying," Legault told reporters in Quebec City. "It is very serious if it is true." In Ottawa, asked about Blanchet's call for an apology, New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh said the choice is up to Trudeau. "I think it is deplorable. The idea of putting a lot of Quebecers into a difficult position, not having work, is completely inexcusable," Singh told reporters during a news conference. "But for the work of the prime minister, I think he should focus on one sole priority which should be getting enough vaccine and making sure everyone is vaccinated. Getting people the help they need in this pandemic should be his sole focus right now." Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre rises during question period in the House of Commons on November 23, 2020. Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre also raised the subject during question period, drawing parallels with job losses during the pandemic. "The first Trudeau killed jobs in the West, and now we learn intentionally in Quebec," he told the House of Commons. "This prime minister, by contrast, spreads job losses around equally — in fact, 850,000 of them, the highest unemployment in the G7 and the worse economic growth per capita since the Great Depression." Trudeau defended his government's performance on the economy, saying that 71 per cent of pre-pandemic jobs have returned in Canada, versus 56 per cent in the United States. "We have been, from the very beginning, there to invest in Canadians, to support small businesses through this historic pandemic, and working with families and workers to support them as we make it through this," Trudeau said. Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at email@example.com
CALGARY — Suncor Energy says former TC Energy CEO Russ Girling is returning to the energy producer and will stand for election to its board of directors in May. The Calgary-based energy giant says Girling is well-known in the North American energy industry following a 35-year career. Girling recently retired after 26 years at TC Energy, including a decade as president and chief executive. He previously worked at Suncor Energy, Northridge Energy Marketing and Dome Petroleum. Girling also sits on the board of fertilizer company Nutrien Ltd. as well as some private boards and non-profits. He holds a commerce degree and a master of business administration degree from the University of Calgary. "In addition to his deep understanding of issues directly affecting the industry, Russ brings exceptional commercial and financial acumen. His commitment to strong governance aligns with Suncor’s values and we believe he will be a valuable addition to the board,” stated Suncor chairman Michael Wilson. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:SU, TSX:TRP) The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Two of Alberta's largest First Nations have written letters to coal companies saying they will oppose any new mine proposals in the Rocky Mountains since the provincial government has consistently ignored their concerns. The Siksika and Kainai, southwest of Calgary, say new mines would threaten one of the few places that can still support traditional Blackfoot culture. The two First Nations account for about 70 per cent of the Treaty 7 population. "After careful review of all proposed metallurgical coal projects, and in response to the government of Alberta's failure to address the Siksika Nation's concerns ... Siksika has formally adopted a position opposing any new applications," says one letter from Chief Ouray Crowfoot. The letter has been sent to Montem Resources, Atrum Coal and Cabin Ridge Coal — companies with exploration leases on land that was previously protected from surface mines. The Kainai Nation, also known as the Blood Tribe, has sent similar letters. "The Blood Tribe has communicated its serious concerns with proposed metallurgical coal projects in the Crowsnest Pass Region that will threaten the rivers and environmental integrity of the region," said a release from the First Nation, which stressed its concerns over the headwaters of the Oldman River. "(The) Blood Tribe will oppose any new applications for metallurgical coal projects in the Crowsnest Pass Region." The letters do not apply to a proposal, currently before regulatory hearings, from Benga Mines. "We've got to make sure our treaty rights are not impacted," said Scotty Many Guns, a Siksika consultation officer who works with industry. "Alberta isn't listening." Last spring, the United Conservative government revoked a policy without public input that had protected the summits and eastern slopes of the Rockies from surface coal mines since 1976. That led to the sale of coal exploration leases on thousands of hectares of land, some of which is home to endangered species and the water source for much of southern Alberta. The government recently reinstated the policy, but did not dissolve the leases it sold in the interim. Many Guns said land in southwest Alberta is traditional Blackfoot territory that has been used for thousands of years. It remains a hunting ground, a garden of edible and ceremonial plants and a gathering site. The headwaters of the Oldman River must be protected, said Many Guns. Even the teepee rings that dot the area have cultural meaning. "Crowsnest Mountain is one of the most sacred sites we have, like Mount Fuji to the Japanese," he said. "We used it in the past, we use it today and in the future we will still be using this area." Lawyer Clayton Leonard, who works with the Kainai and Siksika, said the government hasn't taken their concerns seriously enough. "Siksika's tried for a couple years now to communicate to Alberta that what's needed is a government-to-government process," he said. "That process needs to be a wide-open discussion of what are the concerns and interests of the Blackfoot and what can government do to work with them." At least one coal company is urging the government to take those concerns seriously. "Cabin Ridge recognizes and respects Indigenous rights and the importance of reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples," Brad Johnstone, that company's chief development officer, said in an email "Cabin Ridge encourages the Government of Alberta to fully consult Indigenous Peoples as part of its announced consultation process on development of a modern coal policy." Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage has said public consultations are to begin March 29. That will have to do, said department spokesman Kavi Bal. "The consultation process is being designed to hear all of the perspectives on future coal development from Albertans, including First Nations," he said in an email. The Siksika are part of a legal challenge of the province's original decision to revoke the protection policy. The letters sent this week go much further than the court action. "Both nations have spoken quite clearly that in the current circumstances, the answer is no to further coal development," Leonard said. "When we hear what Alberta's going to propose, we'll assess it." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
(Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit) An Edmonton police officer was charged Wednesday with sexually assaulting a female acquaintance. Const. Samuel Sanson, 38, was arrested without incident and charged with one count of sexual assault, Alberta's police watchdog said in a news release. The charge stems from a January incident, ASIRT said, "where an off-duty police officer encountered an adult female acquaintance, and during that encounter committed a sexual assault." The Alberta Service Incidence Response Team investigated the incident and forwarded its findings to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether the evidence was sufficient for prosecution. After being advised by the Crown, ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson determined that Sanson should be charged. Sanson was released with conditions and is scheduled for first appearance on March 23 in Edmonton Provincial Court. ASIRT's mandate is to investigate incidents where the actions of police officers may have caused serious injury or death, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
Participating pharmacies in Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary will now be able to schedule COVID-19 immunization appointments for Albertans aged 75 and older. In a Tuesday press conference, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said 102 community pharmacies are now working to schedule appointments for the first week of March. “This is just the start,” said Shandro. “As soon as we have the supply and the processes in place, we plan to expand the pharmacy program to help us get doses in the arms of every Albertan who wants to get vaccinated when they are eligible.” Participating pharmacies were chosen based on location, population needs and demonstrated ability to handle large volumes of immunization in short time frames, added Shandro. Albertans born in 1946 who are not living in Edmonton, Red Deer or Calgary are still able to receive their doses of the vaccine through Alberta Health Services (AHS). “We know that many pharmacies across the province are keen to jump in and assist in this immunization program,” said Shandro. “However, we must start small due to the limited vaccine quantities that we are being provided by the federal government and the strict storage and handling requirements for the Pfizer vaccine.” Alberta Health is also working with the Alberta Medical Association on plans to expand the vaccine rollout to community physicians, as well as developing large immunization clinics that can be set up when there is more vaccine supply in the province. “We are ready and we are able to keep expanding our approach,” said Shandro. “As more vaccines arrive, participating pharmacies in many other communities will begin to offer the vaccine as well.” Shandro also addressed the technical difficulties AHS experienced while launching the online vaccine appointment booking system this morning. More than 150,000 users tried to visit the booking site and AHS was temporarily overwhelmed online and over the phone. Shandro said he will be speaking to AHS and expressing his “disappointment” in the technical difficulties. “We have made it clear the money is not an issue in responding to the pandemic,” said Shandro. “We did have the expectation that this rollout would be smooth.” With more than 230,000 seniors to immunize in Alberta, Shandro said it will take some time before all seniors are fully immunized. “We won’t get to everybody right on the first day but we will get to all of you,” he said. “I want to emphasize that shots are happening and the delays in getting through to the booking system will not slow down the actual vaccinations.” COVID-19 numbers for Alberta, reported on February 24: COVID-19 in Fort McMurray: COVID-19 in rural areas and Wood Buffalo National Park: COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s schools: COVID-19 outbreaks at Wood Buffalo’s workplaces: Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today