Moments like this just totally melt your heart!
Moments like this just totally melt your heart!
(Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse/The Associated Press - image credit) Health Canada's approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and the Serum Institute of India's version to prevent COVID-19 in adults follows similar green lights from regulators in the United Kingdom, Europe Union, Mexico and India. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, called ChAdOx1, was approved for use in Canada on Friday following clinical trials in the United Kingdom and Brazil that showed a 62.1 per cent efficacy in reducing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 cases among those given the vaccine. Experts have said any vaccine with an efficacy rate of over 50 per cent could help stop outbreaks. Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, said the key number across all of the clinical trials for those who received AstraZeneca's product was zero — no deaths, no hospitalizations for serious COVID-19 and no deaths because of an adverse effect of the vaccine. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines," Sharma said in a briefing. "We're putting more on the buffet table to be used." Specifically, 64 of 5,258 in the vaccination group got COVID-19 with symptoms compared with people in the control group given injections (154 of 5,210 got COVID-19 with symptoms). Dr. Susy Hota, medical director of infection prevention and control at Toronto's University Health Network, called it a positive move to have AstraZeneca's vaccines added to Canada's options. "Even though the final efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine appears lower than what we have with the mRNA vaccines, it's still reasonably good," Hota said. "What we need to be focusing on is trying to get as many people as possible vaccinated so we can prevent the harms from this." Canada has an agreement with AstraZeneca to buy 20 million doses as well as between 1.9 million and 3.2 million doses through the global vaccine-sharing initiative known as COVAX. WATCH | AstraZeneca vaccine safety: Canada will also receive 2 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the government announced Friday. Here's a look at some common questions about the vaccine, how it works, in whom and how it could be rolled out. What's different about this shot? The Oxford-AstraZeneca is cheaper and easier to handle than the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which need to be stored at ultracold temperatures to protect the fragile genetic material. AstraZeneca says its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (2 to 8 C) for at least six months. (Moderna's product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures for 30 days after thawing.) The ease of handling could make it easier to administer AstraZeneca's vaccine in rural and remote areas of Canada and the world. "There are definitely some advantages to having multiple vaccine candidates available to get to as many Canadians as possible," Hota said. Sharma said while the product monograph notes that evidence for people over age 65 is limited, real-world data from countries already using AstraZeneca's vaccine suggest it is safe and effective among older age groups. "We have real-world evidence from Scotland and the U.K. for people that have been dosed that would have been over 80 and that has shown significant drop in hospitalizations to the tune of 84 per cent," Sharma said. Data from clinical trials is more limited compared with in real-world settings that reflect people from different age groups, medical conditions and other factors. How does it work? Vaccines work by training our immune system to recognize an invader. The first two vaccines to protect against COVID-19 that were approved for use in Canada deliver RNA that encodes the spike protein on the surface of the pandemic coronavirus. Health-care workers Diego Feitosa Ferreira, right, and Clemilton Lopes de Oliveira travel on a boat in the state of Amazonas in Brazil, on Feb. 12, to vaccinate residents with the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The product can be stored at refrigeration temperatures, which facilitates its use in remote areas. In contrast, the AstraZeneca vaccine packs the genetic information for the spike protein in the shell of a virus that causes the common cold in chimpanzees. Vaccine makers altered the adenovirus so it can't grow in humans. Viral vector vaccines mimic viral infection more closely than some other kinds of vaccines. One disadvantage of viral vectors is that if a person has immunity toward a particular vector, the vaccine won't work as well. But people are unlikely to have been exposed to a chimpanzee adenovirus. How and where could it be used? Virologist Eric Arts at Western University in London, Ont., said vaccines from Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, which is also under review by Health Canada, and Russian Sputnik-V vaccines all have some similarities. "I do like the fact that AstraZeneca has decided to continue trials, to work with the Russians on the Sputnik-V vaccine combination," said Arts, who holds the Canada Research Chair in HIV pathogenesis and viral control. Boxes with AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine are pictured at St. Mary's Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. Health Canada says the vaccine is given by two separate injections of 0.5 millilitres each into the muscle of the arm. "The reason why I'm encouraged by it is I think there might be greater opportunity to administer those vaccines in low- to middle-income countries. We need that. I think our high-income countries have somewhat ignored the situation that is more significant globally." Researchers reported on Feb. 2 in the journal Lancet that in a Phase 3 clinical trial involving about 20,000 people in Russia, the two-dose Sputnik-V vaccine was about 91 per cent effective and appears to prevent inoculated individuals from becoming severely ill with COVID-19. There were 16 COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group (0.1 per cent or 16/14,964) and 62 cases (1.3 per cent or [62/4,902 ) in the control group. No serious adverse events were associated with vaccination. Most adverse events were mild, such as flu-like symptoms, pain at injection site and weakness or low energy. An analysis of results from 2,000 adults older than 60 years suggested the vaccine was similarly effective and well tolerated in this age group. Arts and other scientists acknowledged the speed and lack of transparency of the Russian vaccination program. But British scientists Ian Jones and Polly Roy wrote in an accompanying commentary that the results are clear and add another vaccine option to reduce the incidence of COVID-19.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two U.S. Navy warships operating in the Mideast have been struck by coronavirus outbreaks, authorities said Friday, with both returning to port in Bahrain. A dozen troops aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock, tested positive for COVID-19, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea also has “confirmed several cases of COVID-19," she said. “All positive cases have been isolated on board, and the (ships) remains in a restricted COVID bubble,” Rebarich told The Associated Press. “The port visit and medical support have been co-ordinated with the host nation government and Bahrain Ministry of Health.” The San Diego sails with nearly 600 sailors and Marines aboard, while the Philippine Sea carries some 380 sailors. The 5th Fleet patrols the waterways of the Mideast. Its vessels often have tense encounters with Iran in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Gulf through which 20% of all oil traded worldwide passes. The Navy’s largest outbreak so far in the pandemic was aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, which had to be sidelined in Guam for nearly two months last year. More than 1,000 sailors tested positive and one died. Eventually all of the 4,800 crew members were sent ashore in Guam for weeks of quarantine, in a systematic progression that kept enough sailors on the ship to keep it secure and running. The failure of the ship’s leaders to properly handle the outbreak exploded into one of the biggest military leadership crises in recent years. The ship’s captain, who pleaded for faster action to protect his crew from the rapidly spreading virus, was fired and the one-star admiral on the ship had his promotion delayed. Earlier this month, three sailors tested positive as the aircraft carrier was conducting operations in the Pacific. The sailors and those exposed to them were isolated, and the Navy said it is “following an aggressive mitigation strategy,” including masks, social distancing, and proper handwashing and hygiene measures. Jon Gambrell, The Associated Press
Edmonton Police are warning the public that Clint Carifelle, 30, is a dangerous offender who has removed the monitoring ankle bracelet that was placed on him due to his violent tendencies. Police say he has ties to Saskatchewan and may be making his way to this province. He was last seen Wednesday at a residence in the area of 119 Ave and 101 Street. Carifelle is 6-foot-3 and 214 pounds, with brown hair, brown eyes and full face tattoos that he is known to cover with makeup. He is known to carry weapons and should not be approached. Anyone who encounters him should contact police immediately by calling 911. email@example.com Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
(Mitch Cormier/CBC - image credit) The minimum price of a litre of regular, self-serve gasoline rose 3.5 cents overnight, a continuation of a steady increase that goes back to the end of last year. The price was set at $1.21, the highest since July of 2019. Gas prices crashed during the early months of the pandemic, but recovered to sit around $1 a litre at the pump for most of the last half of the year. The current upward trend started in December. On Jan. 1 the price was $1.05. Diesel and furnace oil prices have also been increasing. The minimum pump price of diesel was up 2.3 cents to $1.27. Furnace oil was up 2.1 cents to a maximum of $0.96. For the year, diesel prices are up 11.9 per cent and furnace oil 15.4 per cent. More from CBC P.E.I.
(Submitted by Alexis Kolody - image credit) Alexis Kolody has noticed that fear and nervousness no longer take over her voice when she talks about surviving sexual violence. "I can hear a different voice. I hear the strength of my voice," she said. "Back then, you wouldn't be able to say his name. Like the day would be over and I'm crying the night away. Now I'm able to confidently talk about it and I'm OK talking about it." The change is one of the many Kolody feels after spending the last few years focused on healing. Awet Mehari sexually assaulted Kolody while she was sleeping in 2017. He was 27 and she was 19 at the time. Mehari was found guilty in 2019, but successfully appealed the conviction. However, the Supreme Court ended up tossing out that appeal earlier this year and his other grounds for appeal were later deemed unsuccessful. He surrendered himself back into custody this week. "When I got a call from the police letting me know that he turned himself in, that's when it actually sunk in and actually felt real," Kolody said. Kolody went public about being sexually assaulted early on during the court proceedings. She applied to have the publication ban on her name lifted so she could speak freely. She said dozens of men and women flooded her with messages of support after she went public. Kolody was both heartened and overwhelmed as she tried to maintain a balance between managing the influx of messages and coping with the trauma of the assault. People were also confiding to her about their own trauma, something she said was both uplifting and difficult. "I respect and appreciate them so much to even share that with me, then all of a sudden I'm crying for them and I'm crying for me, for us and what we have to go through," she said. "It was a big responsibility, but I wouldn't turn back." 'All I did was tell the truth' Kolody said it's important to keep pushing conversations about sexual violence and the complications of healing from it into the public dialogue. Some people have called her efforts brave, but she doesn't see it that way. "All I did was report it, and all I did was testify and all I did was tell the truth. That's it. So many people think so highly of me or speak so highly of me, and I appreciate it, but it just confuses me because I'm like, all I did was just tell the truth." Kolody said healing from a sexual assault is more complicated than what is often portrayed in short media stories. She still remembers the painful events that followed the assault: the rape kit at the hospital, the police statement, the court testimony and then the waiting. She also lost friends. Some seemed afraid to talk about sexual violence, whereas others supported Mehari. She was devastated when, after she confided in her best friend about the assault, he texted her mom '''are you sure she didn't wake up and want it?'" Kolody said she's grateful to her mom, dad and stepfather for their unwavering support. "I went through a lot of hurt more than just the physical sexual assault." Not acknowledging it and not healing from it, whatever that healing looks like to you, will only damage you more. - Alexis Kolody Kolody used the medicine wheel to explain how moving forward involves all aspects of herself. "The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual all come together." She's relied heavily on the spiritual through prayer, smudge and ceremony. Kolody said today she feels like she has become stronger through navigating this trauma. "I feel like it's totally shaped who I am as a person with holding people accountable, using my voice, speaking up when I know something is wrong or there's an injustice," she said. "And supporting other people in a positive way, connecting with others on a very vulnerable and raw level." She encouraged others who have experienced sexual trauma to be honest about what happened to them. "Trying to suppress it and forget about it and maybe lying to yourself about it won't do you any good," she said. "Not acknowledging it and not healing from it, whatever that healing looks like to you, will only damage you more." Kolody said she also wants other survivors to know that in the thick of the pain it might seem like things will never feel better, but eventually they do. "When you start healing, that's when you start seeing light."
NYON, Switzerland — Former European champions Manchester United and AC Milan will meet in the round of 16 of the Europa League. Friday's draw sends Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic back to the English club where he played for two years, including the 2016-17 season when United won its only Europa League title. Seven-time European Cup winner Milan has never won the Europa League, or its predecessor the UEFA Cup -- the only continental title it has yet to win. Arsenal will face Olympiakos and goes back to Piraeus for its second straight game in the competition. Arsenal used the Olympiakos stadium as a neutral venue on Thursday to beat Benfica 3-2 in the “home” leg in the round of 32. Two-time UEFA Cup winner Tottenham plays the first leg at Dinamo Zagreb, and 1992 winner Ajax is at home first against Young Boys of Switzerland. Some venues could change due to national restrictions on travel and quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moulde is unlikely to play in Norway for the second leg against Granada of Spain. Molde played its round-of-32 “home” game against Hoffenheim at Villarreal’s stadium in Spain. First-leg games are on March 11 and return matches on March 18. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit) The Alberta Teachers' Association says the devil will be in the details for education funding in the 2021-22 school year. ATA president Jason Schilling says documents usually released on budget day, including school funding manuals and school jurisdiction funding profiles, weren't made available Thursday and aren't expected to be released until next month. Overall funding for K-12 education in Alberta will go from $8.32 billion in 2020-21 to $8.24 billion for 2021-22, and stay that way for the following two years. "The exact impacts of this budget for the next school year are unclear, because the government is not releasing details of funding for school boards until the end of March," Schilling said. "We are concerned that the government may be obscuring the reality of school board funding by conflating government fiscal years with school board fiscal years, while delaying the release of the details by over a month." Calgary Catholic School District chair Mary Martin said school boards need those documents to understand how unique packets of money — like grants and specialized learning supports — are being divvied up. "The funding manual is like the recipe book for funding jurisdictions," she said. "We need to see the details that are forthcoming to understand what this budget's going to mean for Calgary Catholic." Martin said school boards have been told that Alberta Education is looking at adjusting some of those unique packets of money, but they haven't been given any further details. In an interview with CBC News on Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said that while those documents are forthcoming, she wants to ensure school divisions that none of them will see their funding go down compared with the current school year. "But they will receive their funding profiles by the end of March, and in the meantime we've shared data, you know, the formula so that they can look at their weighted moving average and that they can kind of use the current funding model to to project out while they are waiting for the new funding model," she said. LaGrange said the government has moved significant dollars in the education budget into the learning supports envelope, which covers the costs of things like the Program Unit Funding (PUF) grant and the school nutrition grant. "We really felt strongly because of the fact that we've been in a COVID environment, as well as what we've been hearing from school divisions, that we wanted to re-look at that whole envelope and as such there's an additional $40 million in that overall funding envelope," she said. "Which is quite significant, when you think that the overall funding in that envelope is going to be at $1.35 billion." Schilling said the ATA is also concerned that the budget shows $27 million less in spending on instruction, while private school funding sees an increase of $20 million. "When you see a decrease in the basic instructional grant, we need to know how that's reflected in the school board's funding manuals," he said. "When you don't have those funding manuals right away, it's difficult to see what that impact will be on schools and students and teachers." LaGrange said that because this is the first year utilizing this funding model, there were still a few things in the funding manual and funding profiles they needed to iron out. "We had committed all along that we would review it and ensure that we had all the right points. And we want to make sure that the new funding model reflects what we are hearing from school divisions," she said.
(Submitted by Ron Rousse - image credit) As the head of a construction company which operates primarily in the U.S., Ron Rousse of Belle River, Ont., has had no issues crossing the Windsor-Detroit border for work, even during the pandemic. But that changed Tuesday when he was fined $3,755 for failing to comply with the Quarantine Act. Rousse, president of Roumann Construction Company which is currently building a new grocery store in Michigan, says he normally crosses through the Windsor-Detroit Tunnel about once every two weeks — working from home whenever he can. Tuesday marked his first trip across since new rules were implemented, requiring non-essential land travellers entering Canada to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The fine confused Rousse. He thought he was an essential worker, and thus exempt. But Rousse — who holds an E-2 visa allowing him to enter the U.S. for business purposes — was told by an officer with the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) that he was non-essential because he doesn't cross every day. He says he was then pulled in to secondary screening, where he was met by two officials with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) who backed up the officer's reasoning. Rousse sent CBC News this photo of his E-2 visa, allowing entry to the U.S. for business reasons. "That was the only reason given multiple times — that you're not essential because you don't cross every day," said Rousse. He says he was given two options: get a test in the U.S. and return with a negative result, or quarantine in a Toronto hotel for two weeks. "I refused because, in my mind, I'm an essential worker," he told CBC News. "I need to run my business in the United States." Though construction workers may be considered essential, it's less clear whether that would apply to a higher-up like Rousse. Rousse says he was issued the $3,755 ticket by PHAC and sent on his way. 'Explicitly stated' In a statement to CBC News, the CBSA said its officers "do not have the discretion" to exempt travellers from quarantine or testing, and that all rules are "explicitly stated within the Order in Council." Frequency of crossing, it said, now affects whether one is exempt. "The traveller must cross the border regularly to go to their normal place of employment and demonstrate a regular pattern of travel, which is generally defined as daily or weekly. The nature of their work does not impact this assessment." PHAC says failure to present the required negative test result can result in a $3,000 fine or criminal prosecution. With "applicable victim fine surcharge and costs," Rousse's fine amounted to $3,755, PHAC said in a statement to CBC News. In Rousse's case, going back to be tested and wait for the results would have added up to two days to what was intended to be a four-hour work visit. WATCH | Definition of 'essential' confusing for many, lawyer says "What they are essentially requesting is to go over, get your test as soon as you cross the border, stay in a hotel for two nights and then come back with your negative test result," he said. The federal government has, from the outset, posted definitions of essential work and essential travel, but this marks the first time that frequency of travel has mattered. Not an isolated incident Laurie Tannous, a lawyer and special adviser for the University of Windsor Cross-Border Institute, says since Monday she's received about "15 to 20 calls" from various businesspeople who have faced situations similar to Rousse's. "Everything seemed to be upended on Monday and there were a series of incidents where Canadian citizens were refused entry for not having a negative PCR test on hand, although they were essential workers," said Tannous, adding that the CBSA's rationale was the same in all incidents. WATCH | Rousse says fine was 'incorrect and immoral': "The various officers at the ports advised these individuals that because they were not regular border-crossers, they would not be able to enter without having to go into quarantine." This has caused a significant amount of "chaos and confusion" across all sectors, Tannous said. She says the information disclosed to the public about what constitutes an essential worker is far too unclear. She says many companies consider certain of their employees to be essential — even if they aren't needed every single day or week. Tannous says if the purpose of the rules is to limit the risk of COVID-19 crossing over from the U.S. into Canada, putting restrictions on some essential workers and not others could actually have the reverse effect, and increase possible exposures. "People are now saying, 'I'm going to go into the U.S every day to make sure that my permit is valid." she said. "It is counterintuitive if we're trying to prevent these border crossers." The Canada Border Services Agency says its officers 'do not have the discretion' to exempt travellers from quarantine or testing. Rousse says his issue isn't whether he broke the rules but that the rules have changed and not been made clear. "This whole thing was to stop leisure and to stop travel ... I've got employees depending on me," he said. "This has gone from regulating the traveller to attacking essential workers." Rousse says he can afford to pay the fine, but he's acquired legal counsel to fight it so others don't go through the same hardship. "There are multiple business owners in Windsor, some smaller, some larger, that are going to need access to their companies — and they're doing essential work in the United States," he said. If crossing the border continues to be a problem, Rousse says he'll consider moving to the United States temporarily so he can continue running his business. "You're preventing essential workers from making a living," he said. "We all need to put food on the table. We need to pay our bills. We need to work." COVID-19 measures for entering Canada by land as of Feb. 22, 2021, according to the PHAC.
(Lee Jin-man/The Associated Press - image credit) After a months-long review, Health Canada regulators today approved the COVID-19 vaccine from Oxford University-AstraZeneca for use in Canada — clearing the way for millions more inoculations in the months ahead. The department's regulators concluded the shot has an efficacy rate of 62 per cent and have authorized it for use in all adults 18 and older. While it's less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at preventing infection, the shot is 100 per cent effective in preventing the severe outcomes of COVID-19 — including serious illness, hospitalizations and death — the regulators said. "Overall, there are no important safety concerns, and the vaccine was well tolerated by participants," the decision reads. Canada has secured access to 22 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, most of which are slated to arrive between April and September. A nurse administers a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Goyang, South Korea, on Friday. Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand has said the government is trying to negotiate faster delivery of these doses now that new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are taking hold in Canada. Health Canada also has authorized the vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute, which has partnered with AstraZeneca to make that company's COVID-19 product at its facilities in India. That version, which is biologically identical to the AstraZeneca shot but is manufactured under different conditions, has been branded "Covishield." The Serum Institute, which is working with Mississauga, Ont.-based Verity Pharmaceuticals, will deliver 500,000 doses of its vaccine next Wednesday, the company told CBC News. A further 1 million doses will arrive in April and 500,000 more in early May. With these new doses, Canada now stands to receive about 6.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines by the end of March. That's enough to fully vaccinate just over 3.2 million people. "This is very encouraging news. It means more people vaccinated, and sooner. Because for AstraZeneca, just like we were for Pfizer and Moderna, we are ready to get doses rolling," Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. "Vaccines will keep arriving faster and faster as we head into the spring." WATCH: Anand says Canada will receive first batch of AstraZeneca in coming days Anand told reporters her department "will leave no stone unturned" in its quest to bring more doses into Canada "as quickly as possible." She said the government has received "positive indications" that the other AstraZeneca deliveries are on track but she could not say just how many shots will arrive in the second quarter. What is known is that at least 26.4 million more doses — 23 million from Moderna and Pfizer combined, 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from the Serum Institute and another 1.9 million AstraZeneca doses from COVAX, the global vaccine-sharing initiative — will arrive between April and June. All told, the country is projected to have enough supply to fully vaccinate at least 16.45 million people by Canada Day. The supply will grow once delivery schedules for the AstraZeneca doses are confirmed. Canada is a vaccine laggard in the Western world right now; dozens of other countries have vaccinated more people per capita. The government has been insisting that everyone who wants a shot will get one by the end of September. Asked today if the new approval will result in an earlier end date for the vaccination campaign, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said she's hopeful but there could be more "bumps" and "unexpected challenges" that disrupt delivery schedules. Canada faced shortages earlier this year when Pfizer retooled its Belgian plant and Moderna slashed planned deliveries. 'Promising evidence' Some countries — such as France — have restricted the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under the age of 65, even though the World Health Organization insists the product is safe and effective for all age groups Health Canada said the clinical trial results "were too limited to allow a reliable estimate of vaccine efficacy in individuals 65 years of age and older," but the department was comfortable with approving the shot because of "post-market experience in regions where the vaccine has already been deployed." Speaking at a technical briefing today, Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada's chief medical adviser, conceded there was limited clinical trial data about the efficacy of the shot in people over the age of 65 but said regulators approved it because of "promising evidence from real-world use of the vaccine." Other countries — notably Australia, the European Union and the United Kingdom — have authorized AstraZeneca already for use in their jurisdictions. WATCH | How the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has performed so far: In a study of vaccine efficacy in Scotland — where both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer products have been in widespread use for weeks — researchers found the AstraZeneca product reduced the risk of COVID-19 hospital admissions by roughly 94 per cent, 28 to 34 days after the first shot. The researchers also warned that the study sample was quite small. While there are risks associated with any vaccine, Sharma said, the benefits of getting an AstraZeneca shot "outweigh their potential risks." Sharma said it will be up to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to decide which groups should get each type of vaccine. And while the AstraZeneca product was found to be less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna shots already approved, Sharma said there's no doubt that a dose of this vaccine is better than no dose at all. Still better than the flu shot She cautioned Canadians against comparing efficacy rates of the various vaccine products, saying that in the areas that matter most — preventing serious illness, reducing hospitalizations and curbing the number of deaths — "all these vaccines are good." "If you look across all the clinical trials of the tens of thousands of people who were involved, the number of cases of people who died from COVID-19 that got vaccines was zero," Sharma said. "The number of people that were hospitalized because their COVID-19 disease was so severe was zero. The number of people that died because of an adverse event or effect of the vaccine was zero." She also noted that the AstraZeneca vaccine's efficacy rate is actually higher than that of other common vaccine products — including the flu shot. Flu vaccines, which differ each year depending on the flu strain in circulation, are typically 54 to 64 effective against seasonal influenza, Sharma said, and yet they are still widely used to offer some level of protection to more people. "I think Canada is hungry for vaccines. We're putting more on the buffet table to be used," she said. WATCH: Dr. Sharma outlines efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine Health Canada is recommending that the second dose of the AstraZeneca product be administered four to 12 weeks after the first, but Sharma said there is early evidence suggesting it's best to wait the full 12 weeks to deploy the second shot. "With an increased interval, the efficacy might be much higher," she said. The product was approved in Australia, for example, but regulators there recommended a three-month wait between shots. Unlike the Moderna and Pfizer shots, which are based on groundbreaking mRNA technlogy, the AstraZeneca product uses a more conventional viral vector load vaccine platform. The AstraZeneca shot also doesn't require the same cold storage equipment necessary for the other two. The product can be stored and transported at normal refrigerated temperatures of 2 to 8 C for at least six months. This vaccine also can be easily administered in traditional health care settings, like a doctor's office or pharmacy. Regulator still reviewing 2 other vaccine candidates Health Canada is still reviewing two other vaccine candidates: one from Johnson & Johnson and another from Novavax. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's vaccines advisory committee will meet today to review the clinical trial data for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. A final U.S. decision on issuing emergency use authorization (EUA) could come as early as this weekend. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September. While Health Canada regulators are aiming to make a decision on this product on a timeline similar to that of the FDA, Sharma said the department is still collecting some data from the manufacturer and a final decision is not expected this weekend.
(Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit) Nova Scotia's information and privacy commissioner says Cape Breton Regional Municipality's estimated fee of nearly $43,000 to answer a freedom of information request in 2016 is likely the highest ever issued in the province and is "inflated and inaccurate." In a report issued this week, Tricia Ralph said CBRM's method for calculating the fee estimate was unfair and recommended the fee be waived entirely. Guy LaFosse, a Sydney lawyer whose anonymous client made the FOIPOP request, said the public has a right to know public information and shouldn't have to pay high fees to get it. "I wasn't overly surprised by the decision, but I was surprised with how strongly worded the decision was and how critical the commissioner was of CBRM," he said. "This is a very scathing report when one reads this, particularly when you realize that this is information that should have been disclosed way back in 2016." LaFosse said the ruling shows the province's freedom of information system needs teeth. 'Not acceptable' "The fact that you have to wait a little better than four years to get a report from the commissioner is not acceptable in my opinion and the kind of costs that in this instance the municipality was charging … raises various concerns about how business is conducted, particularly in CBRM." LaFosse said his client cannot afford the high fees CBRM says it needs to charge. His client, who LaFosse said remains unwilling to be identified, requested details four years ago on contracts and expenses related to former mayor Cecil Clarke and employees in his office and at the port. After LaFosse asked the information commissioner for a review, the provincial office worked with both sides to narrow the scope of the request. The commissioner's office also worked with CBRM to determine how it came to estimate the fee at $43,000. In her report, the commissioner said CBRM staff did not use a representative sample of all the document types to determine the estimate and it estimated the time required using higher rates than those that have been previously established. She said the provincial guide suggests it should take between 30 seconds and two minutes to review a single page, but CBRM estimated three minutes per page. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell. According to the report, after negotiations CBRM provided a second estimate that came in at just under $3,900, but the commissioner said that's still too high. Ralph said CBRM has not met its legal duty to assist the applicant in getting access to public information and it should waive the fee entirely. This is the second report from the commissioner critical of CBRM's handling of FOIPOP requests. In November, the commissioner said CBRM broke the law by withholding or failing to locate 900 pages of information on CBRM's port marketing contracts requested by Sydney journalist Mary Campbell of the Cape Breton Spectator. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial PC Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, says the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. That request was made five years ago and after the commissioner's critical report late last year, CBRM released most of the documents to Campbell. LaFosse said that may bode well for his client. "The new council and mayor have made indications that they are going to be very transparent and will be hopefully assessing as to how they will deal with FOIPOP applications in the future," he said. LaFosse, who was involved in the provincial Progressive Conservative Party's court case seeking details on the Yarmouth ferry management fee, said the FOIPOP system needs to be overhauled. "All of these cases really raise the issue about the way the legislation is worded and how government, whether it's the provincial government or municipal governments, can simply delay things and hope that people will forget that they've made an application, or make them so expensive and time-consuming that they will just fade away and that's not the way that government should be run." Clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan says CBRM has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and needs to hire a full-time FOIPOP administrator. In the meantime, CBRM council may be hiring a full-time FOIPOP administrator. During pre-budget discussions last week, clerk Deborah Campbell Ryan said the municipality has received 100 freedom-of-information requests in the last seven years and dealing with those is only one of her duties. "The applications are certainly growing in number and complexity," she said. "They're not just routine requests. There are a number of steps that have to be followed." During pre-budget discussions last week, CBRM Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. Deputy chief administrative officer John MacKinnon, who oversees CBRM's communications department, said the one full-time employee is already too busy. "She really doesn't have the ability to do FOIPOP as well as her current communications activities," he said. "We're struggling as it is to get information out to the public with one person." Mayor Amanda McDougall said she sees the need for a full-time FOIPOP administrator. "I think it's important to highlight how much work we might take from the corner of one desk and put to another in hopes that it is a fix that oftentimes it's just kind of prolonging the inevitable, that we do need to hire more people." MORE TOP STORIES
The tattoo industry, like many others, have been hit hard during COVID. Obviously not being an essential service, the pandemic has shutdown thousands of tattooers’ livelihoods. Tattooing has grown to become a $3 billion industry worldwide, with 38% of Canadians having at least one tattoo. Revenue growth for the Tattoo Artists industry is expected to decline 9.5% as a result of the pandemic and overall economic downturn. All tattooers have been forced to close up shop during the lockdowns as their work requires close contact and sitting with people for prolonged periods. Sjeli Pearse, a local tattoo artist who is currently living and working in Toronto, shares her experience with SaultOnline as she is currently closing up her studio. “We recently made the hard decision to let go of our location,” Pearse shares that for more than half of her lease she has not been able to work in her rented space due to the pandemic, “it’s hit the community really hard in Toronto especially because the lockdowns have been so much longer.” “At this point we really can’t trust that we will open, or that we will be allowed to stay open, or that clients will even have money to get tattooed.” Although the tattoo industry usually weathers economic downturns well, COVID has stopped them from providing their services. They already have to maintain sterilized work spaces and be extremely aware of their shop environment. Adapting their practice to COVID safety measures will be a necessity in order for tattooers to reopen and return to business. Follow SaultOnline as we follow this industry going forward. Josie Fiegehen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, SaultOnline.com
GameStop Corp closed 6% lower on Friday as an early rally fizzled but the stock finished the week 151% higher in a renewed surge that left analysts puzzled. Analysts have struggled to find a clear explanation, and some were skeptical the rally would have legs. Analysts mostly ruled out a short squeeze like the one that fueled GameStop's rally in January, when individual investors using Robinhood and other apps punished hedge funds that had bet against the stock, forcing them to unwind short positions.
“We’ve been subject to these gravel guerrillas now for at least 50 years, trying to build more highways, more urban sprawl.” Those were the words this week of Mississauga Ward 11 Councillor, George Carlson, who brought them down like a blunt hammer on the heads of builders determined to continue profiteering from the land. “I can almost hear the old scotch and soda tinkling as the decision was made to add another highway and let the developers build more stuff north of Toronto. They haven’t even finished doing infill in Toronto.” As the planet continues to reel from the catastrophic impacts of climate change, some Peel politicians have finally picked their heads from the sand, while others remain largely oblivious. On Wednesday, after more than a year of silence, the City of Mississauga finally threw its considerable weight behind calls to cancel the proposed GTA West Corridor, also known as Highway 413. Carlson’s comments underscored the frustration felt around the virtual council chamber. It was better late than never in the eyes of environmentalists. Meanwhile, many municipal leaders in Brampton and Caledon continue to claim support for environmentally friendly policies, as they walk the fence on a project that will devastate local watersheds, ecosystems and wildlife, while adding hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon emissions into the air above Peel. Since the Progressive Conservatives, led by Premier Doug Ford, restarted the GTA West Highway’s Environmental Assessment (EA) in the first half of 2019, Mississauga has been largely silent. Presentations by the Province to Region of Peel councillors outlining the highway’s debatable benefits have been received unanimously. The City’s lobbying power at Queen’s Park has been used on other priorities but not to fight the planned 400-series transportation corridor. A recent swell of opposition to the highway forced the issue back to the top of the agenda. After a request by Environmental Defence and Ecojustice to have the federal government complete a study of the environmental impacts of the proposed route, and even wrestle control of the project from Queen’s Park, opposition groups have received a new round of support. Unlike their previous requests, which have fallen on deaf ears in Peel Region and only seen success in Halton and Orangeville, this recent campaign has bigger supporters with more clout at the provincial and federal level. At a special council meeting on Wednesday, called to pass Mississauga’s 2021 budget, the City adopted a new and aggressive stance. Councillors voted unanimously to approve a lengthy motion, brought forward by Ward 5 Councillor Carolyn Parrish and seconded by Ward 8’s Matt Mahoney, explicitly opposing any construction activity relating to the GTA West Corridor. “I find it interesting that the buzzword in today’s day and age is climate change action, environment and all of these things and then we kind of fly in the face of it,” Mahoney said, welcoming the strong position detailed in the lengthy motion. “With projects like this, [we] almost talk out of both sides. I am very pleased to second this motion.” The GTA West Highway was scrapped by the Liberal government in 2018. The decision came after an expert panel came to the conclusion it would do almost nothing to solve the GTA’s congestion problems. The report was completely ignored by the PC government, which quickly restarted the environmental assessment process and began touting benefits of the corridor, including unsupported claims it will reduce traffic congestion. Mississauga’s new stance — directly opposing the highway — is the clearest in the Region of Peel. To the north, Brampton and Caledon have both recently voiced concerns, but stopped well short of opposition. In Brampton, Mayor Patrick Brown and Wards 2 and 6 Councillor Michael Palleschi have been pushing for a boulevard in place of the highway through Brampton. The concept, brought to life by a consultant, has come with few technical details, with no one able to explain how a highway would morph into a walkable, urban corridor and back again. Brampton’s mayor has refused to condemn the highway, and, despite his claims to recognize a climate emergency, he’s bragged about being the one who put the GTA West Highway back on the table when he added it to the PC campaign platform ahead of the 2018 election, before his dramatic fall from provincial politics. In its requests to the Provincial government, Brampton has asked for its boulevard design to be considered for a portion of the route without stating opposition to the highway. On Wednesday, Brampton also backed calls for the federal government to take over the route’s EA. Bowing to growing pressure, the Town of Caledon has also backed the same calls. The move is a 180-degree turn from previous calls by Caledon council members who pushed for an expedited environmental assessment – currently being conducted by the provincial government – to get the project started even faster. A federal EA would have the power to override the provincial government and cancel the project should the environmental impact be deemed too great. On Thursday, Mississauga brought its motion to the Region of Peel. Parrish and Brampton Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Martin Medeiros put the proposal on the floor, offering Brampton and Caledon councillors a chance to make a clear statement against the highway and in support of their own climate emergency declarations. But they shied away. Spearheaded by Caledon Wards 3 and 4 Councillor Jennifer Innis and Mayor Allan Thompson, the issue was deferred to a later date. Stating concerns about rushing to a decision and the need to hear from more residents, a referral was proposed to revisit the idea of opposing the highway in a fortnight, once a staff report has been completed detailing the implications cancelling the highway would have on the Region’s long-term planning strategy. “I do believe that a referral to start to bring back a fulsome report, simply with the history and the impacts, what impact would a decision to oppose have on the planning process [would be prudent],” Peel CAO Janice Baker said. “There has been extensive work done, some of which may very well have to be looked at or re-examined as a consequence of this.” The vote resulted in a tie, with Chair Nando Iannicca voting in favour of the referral to break the deadlock. Iannicca said it may have been the first tie-breaking vote he has cast since being elected chair. The delay means official positions in Peel are divergent. Mississauga stands alone opposing the highway, while all three municipalities have recently passed motions expressing support for a federal EA. The Region itself does not have a current position, but the clerk noted Thursday that a 2012 motion “indicates a level of support for the GTA West Transportation Corridor.” Mississauga’s vote on Wednesday was far less complex and more emphatic. Where several regional councillors, including Brown, Thompson and Innis, raised concerns about rushing the process on Thursday, Wednesday simply saw Mississauga representatives congratulating one another on their newly adopted stance, in support of the environment. The wholehearted support for Mississauga’s new stance raises questions about timing. In October 2019, Mississauga’s 12 regional representatives unanimously accepted a presentation from the Province outlining the GTA West Corridor and its unfounded benefits, while there was no concerted outcry over the Province’s decision this summer to approve a route and speed up the environmental assessment. As recently as January, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie told The Pointer she did not think she could convince the Province to change its course. “I think they’re committed to the GTA West Corridor,” she said. Asked this week what precipitated the change of heart and the unambiguous stance, Crombie admitted she and her councillors had been asleep at the wheel. “I think there’s been a groundswell of momentum opposing the building of the highway,” she said at a Wednesday press conference. “I have to say I think we as a council have been a bit complacent, I think we thought it was a done deal; a fait accompli. But now there are so many questions arising from the building of this highway... I think that we saw that there were other voices who opposed it and we agreed we would join them, at least to undertake the full federal environmental assessment.” Parrish shook her colleagues out of their slumber. Mississauga’s new stance sits in harmony with its internal policies and publicly declared goals. Just over a year-and-a-half after declaring a climate emergency, the move is tangible evidence of council’s resolve to make good on a popular promise to help stop the degradation of the planet. Parrish, who has made a career of taking on the establishment, led the way with her detailed motion. “You can just see the vultures waiting to build completely along that belt rather than compact developments, which is what we should be looking for — complete communities.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
LONDON — A woman who ran away from London as a teenager to join the Islamic State group lost her bid Friday to return to the U.K. to fight for the restoration of her citizenship, which was revoked on national security grounds. Shamima Begum was one of three east London schoolgirls who travelled to Syria in 2015. She resurfaced at a refugee camp in Syria and told reporters she wanted to come home, but was denied the chance after former Home Secretary Sajid Javid revoked her citizenship. Begum's lawyers appealed,, saying her right to a fair hearing was harmed by the obstacles of pursuing her case from the camp. The U.K. Supreme Court disagreed, ruling Friday that the right to a fair hearing does not trump all other considerations, such as public safety. “The appropriate response to the problem in the present case is for the deprivation hearing to be stayed - or postponed - until Ms. Begum is in a position to play an effective part in it without the safety of the public being compromised,'' said Justice Robert Reed, the president of the Supreme Court. “That is not a perfect solution, as it is not known how long it may be before that is possible. But there is no perfect solution to a dilemma of the present kind.” Javid argued that Begum was Bangladeshi by descent and could go there. She challenged the decision, arguing she is not a citizen of another country and that Javid’s decision left her stateless. The human rights group Liberty said the court’s ruling sets “an extremely dangerous precedent”. “The right to a fair trial is not something democratic governments should take away on a whim, and nor is someone’s British citizenship,'' said Rosie Brighouse, a lawyer with Liberty. “If a government is allowed to wield extreme powers like banishment without the basic safeguards of a fair tria,l it sets an extremely dangerous precedent.'' Danica Kirka, The Associated Press
(Colin Perkel/Canadian Press - image credit) Hydro One is in the process of planning for a new high-voltage power line that will connect a transmission station just outside Chatham with one being built just outside of Comber. But the proposed route would take it across Highway 77 between Comber and Hwy. 401. Mayor Tom Bain said that section is too close to a populated area. "You're looking at a lot of interference for TVs and computers and you're going to get objections to the unsightly mess," said Bain, who supports the construction of the line because it is being built to meet the needs of the growing greenhouse industry and development in general. Hydro One chose the line out of eight options because it best met a number of criteria that took into account the natural and socio-economic environments, technical considerations and cost and consultation with a number of stakeholders such as Indigenous groups. It will increase the power to the entire region by 400 megawatts. But Comber resident Jodi Langley wants to know more. "I don't feel like we're very informed about what's going on in our community for the power. I want to know what it's going to do for us or how it's going to affect what's going on around here," said Langley. But Hydro One's vice-president of stakeholder relations Daniel Levitan says there's still a lot of work to do to determine the exact pathway. "We will be circling back with Mayor Bain and the County of Essex and local mayors, councils and certainly local businesses to now take a look at the specific path and ensure that it's safe and impacts the local environment, local businesses as minimally as possible," said Levitan. Hydro One will hold an online information session on March 11.
A single dose of Pfizer and BioNtech's COVID-19 vaccine cuts the number of asymptomatic infections and could significantly reduce the risk of transmission of the virus, results of a UK study found on Friday. Researchers analysed results from thousands of COVID-19 tests carried out each week as part of hospital screenings of healthcare staff in Cambridge, eastern England. "Our findings show a dramatic reduction in the rate of positive screening tests among asymptomatic healthcare workers after a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine," said Nick Jones, an infectious diseases specialist at Cambridge University Hospital, who co-led the study.
(Dave Croft/CBC - image credit) Murray Lundberg spends an awful lot of time peering into the past, but this week he's pretty excited about the future — he's going to turn his passion project into a book. The Whitehorse-based amateur historian has just signed a contract with a publisher to translate his popular Yukon History & Abandoned Places Facebook group into print. "I am so pumped by this whole thing. Yeah, it's awesome," he said. Lundberg says he was called out of the blue earlier this week by small, Nova Scotia-based publisher MacIntyre Purcell. The company published 10 to 12 books per year, and many of them focus on photography and local histories — Old Winnipeg: A History in Pictures and Abandoned Alberta are among the titles in its catalogue. "They came to me. Yeah, this is — I didn't know that ever happened. I mean, like most writers, I have a substantial stack of rejection letters," Lundberg laughed. "So to have a publisher come to me was pretty amazing." Vernon Oickle, managing editor of MacIntyre Purcell, says he came across the Facebook group not long ago while surfing the internet, looking for new book ideas. He says he followed various online rabbit holes until he landed on Lundberg's group. "It's a fantastic page, lots of wonderful photos, and historic perspective of Whitehorse and the region," Oickle said. "The more I looked at the Facebook page, I thought, jeez, there's potential for a book there." Lundberg says he signed the contract on Wednesday, and the book will likely be out by the end of next year. A wealth of material Now the real hard part begins — sifting through hundreds and hundreds of photos and other posts to figure out what to include in the book, and how to organize it all. The Facebook group is a veritable trove of historic photos and stories about the Yukon of yesteryear. Some postings are things that Lundberg himself has found or had given to him, but many more have been shared by other group members. A typical post on the Yukon History & Abandoned Places Facebook group. It's become an online go-to for many people curious about something they've found or dug out of storage. Posts can generate plenty of discussion, and sometimes mysteries are solved when other group members recognize an unidentified person, place, or time. Lundberg started the page just seven years ago, "because there was really no place to talk about Yukon history in general," he said. "At that point, there was a Dawson history group and maybe that was it, actually. So I started a Yukon-wide one." He says it "staggered along" for a few years with a few hundred members. He recalls thinking how great it would be to one day reach 1,500 members. "And now we have 15,400 members. And yeah, it's just an amazing place for gathering photographs and stories. It's just a really vibrant community now." Lundberg will be sifting through hundreds and hundreds of fascinating photos and other posts to figure out what to include in the book, and how to organize it all. Lundberg says the enthusiasm of group members is part of what attracted publisher MacIntyre Purcell to the project. Many of the online group members are Yukoners, of course, but Lundberg says there are followers from all over the place. "A lot of that comes down to the fact that people say that you can leave the Yukon, but the Yukon never leaves you," he said. "And we get so many comments by people who have left the territory and are looking to grab at little memories from the Yukon. And those photographs trigger exactly that." Lundberg says many of the page's fans are Yukoners, while others have some nostalgic connection to the territory. 'You can leave the Yukon, but the Yukon never leaves you,' Lundberg says. One thing the book won't be, Lundberg says, is another celebration of the Klondike Gold Rush or the building of the Alaska Highway during the Second World War. Those events have been the twin pillars of so much Yukon popular history over the years, and Lundberg wants to shine a light on some lesser-known times, places and events in the territory's past. The Gold Rush "won't be getting a whole lot of attention," nor will the building of the highway. "I have 117 books about the Alaska Highway in my own collection. So, you know, I think that's been well-covered," he said.
Protesters gathered in Tbilisi, Georgia over the arrest earlier in the week of opposition leader Nika Melia.View on euronews
The City of Brampton’s independent internal audit mandate stresses the philosophy of improving operations within the City, emphasizing the highest level of due diligence and autonomy is applied when looking into the way public funds are used, free from any outside influence. However, shortly after CAO David Barrick arrived at City Hall following his firing from a Niagara conservation agency for mismanagement and a scathing Ontario ombudsman investigation report that implicated him in a fraudulent hiring process, the City’s top bureaucrat fired the head of internal audit, then moved the role from its independent reporting line to council and placed it under his authority. At least one councillor has expressed concern over Barrick’s takeover of another accountability mechanism. The mandate of internal audit was also quietly changed, removing its independence, the hallmark feature of any municipal audit department function. The structure no longer follows the recommended independent structure outlined by the association that represents municipal auditors. In September, following Barrick’s hiring in late 2019 and the immediate termination of former director of internal audit, Foruzan Velji, council approved a new audit charter that was quietly amended by staff to reflect the stark departure from the independence under the previous charter, approved in 2017. There are now concerns that Barrick is blocking audit and investigation work that would reveal disturbing behaviour directed by the CAO. Mayor Patrick Brown oversaw the process to hire Barrick, who has close ties to Brown through Conservative political circles. Despite all the evidence and years of reporting, Brown has denied that Barrick was implicated in the Niagara hiring scandal, even though the provincial ombudsman investigation, titled “Inside Job”, details his disturbing conduct. Sunny Kalkat had been hired by Barrick to take over the internal audit department after Velji departed days after the new CAO’s arrival. But two weeks ago, the public learned that Kalkat was suddenly no longer the head of internal audit, raising many questions about who is providing crucial oversight and whether the CAO is once again stripping away transparency and accountability inside CIty Hall. Last month, councillors expressed their frustration during a public meeting after Barrick had illegally removed the independent freedom of information function from the City clerk’s office (the accountability role reported directly to council) and quietly moved it under his authority, which was a violation of the bylaw outlining the function and the provincial legislation which states the municipal freedom of information role has to report either to council or someone appointed by council. Barrick was never given that role. Council voted to put the function back under the clerk’s office, reporting directly to elected members, not the CAO. While councillors expressed their frustration and concern during the public meeting over Barrick’s behaviour, Brown remained quiet. Now, questions are mounting about how Barrick has handled City Hall’s primary oversight mechanism, through the internal audit department. The CAO had the Charter that governs the audit function altered shortly after his arrival. The document now details a new reporting structure, stating audit reports will be shared with divisional heads or commissioners of a department, along with the CAO, before being presented to the council-led audit committee. “The CAO will be advised prior to Internal Audit sharing internal audit reports and/or related information with the Audit Committee.” These new guidelines created by staff, not council, run contrary to accepted best practices for municipal internal audit departments, which are supposed to be completely independent from the bureaucratic staff auditors are required to hold accountable. The Institute of Internal Auditors, which Ontario’s municipal auditors use for guidance, states, “The internal audit charter is a formal document that defines the internal audit activity's purpose, authority, and responsibility. The internal audit charter establishes the internal audit activity's position within the organization, including the nature of the chief audit executive’s functional reporting relationship with the board (council); authorizes access to records, personnel, and physical properties relevant to the performance of engagements; and defines the scope of internal audit activities. Final approval of the internal audit charter resides with the board (council).” Independence is the key to the function. “The chief audit executive must report to a level within the organization that allows the internal audit activity to fulfill its responsibilities,” the institute states. “The chief audit executive must confirm to the board (council), at least annually, the organizational independence of the internal audit activity.” Functional and administrative practices under the 2020 Internal Audit Charter are now under Barrick’s authority, after he moved all reporting lines out from under council and the audit committee. Before Barrick had the Charter altered, the prior version stated: “The Chief Audit Executive will report functionally to the Audit Committee and administratively to the CAO.” The organizational chart was changed and shows how internal audit is now under the CAO, whereas the previous chart had it under the council audit committee. The current Charter no longer follows the guidelines set out by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) which was previously used by the City of Brampton to establish its internal audit standards. In a report presenting the 2020 Charter, the importance of the IIA is acknowledged, and the guidelines the 2017 Charter was modeled after are included, but the final version of the current Charter does not include the suggested reporting structure. “Ideally [the charter] establishes reporting lines for the chief audit executive (CAE) that support that independence by reporting functionally to the governing body (or those charged with governance) and administratively to executive management,” the City audit report states, using guidelines from the IIA. This was an issue Councillor Jeff Bowman raised at the September 8 audit committee meeting when the item was first discussed. He said the auditor’s reports should come to council alone. “I have a major problem with that. That is not transparent… there's no way that should be happening.” Citizen member Iqbal Ali echoed Bowman’s concerns, questioning how the new reporting structure would guarantee the auditor could report to council without any fear of reprimand if a report casts staff in a negative light. Barrick said the new charter responds to what council asked staff to do: ensure it reflects the bylaws and legislation of the City. He did not explain what specific bylaws or legislation the charter lines up with. And he did not explain why he changed the Charter to remove the functional oversight of internal audit from council to himself, an obvious contradiction of the stated need for independence. All the investigation work internal audit does, to ensure staff are not abusing public trust, finances or their responsibilities, involves staff who report to Barrick. He oversees them and now also oversees the accountability mechanism meant to hold himself and other bureaucrats in check. Reporting directly to council would be a function of an auditor general, which the previous term of council decided against, he told audit committee. “With the director of internal audit function, they have to report somewhere and in this case, it's the CAO.” This is a direct contradiction of the guidelines for internal audit, and the Charter in place before Barrick’s arrival. Since stepping foot inside City Hall he has stripped away council’s mandated oversight role, on behalf of the public, in an alarming violation of bylaws and provincial legislation. When audits are presented to council, questions about any problems uncovered have to be answered by the staff responsible for any problems. Barrick said it’s difficult to answer these questions when the “operational awareness” is absent and staff don’t know what the issue at hand is. It’s unclear what he meant, as staff are always fully aware of their own behaviour and practices. Barrick claimed the director of internal audit reported to the CAO before he took the City’s top job in October 2019. “This is not new.” His claims are inaccurate. Barrick’s claims do not match up with the previous charter or the City’s organizational chart outlining the departmental structure. Currently, the internal audit department is listed under Barrick, where he claims it always has been. The City’s organizational chart from June 2020, and for the months prior, show the department stood on its own, with a reporting line to the council internal audit committee. When The Pointer asked the City about the changed structure, a spokesperson said the question was “not factual.” When images of the website were provided as evidence of the change to the audit reporting structure, the City did not respond. The Pointer tried numerous times to get clarification but no response was provided ahead of publication. The new Charter was created under Sunny Kalkat, the former director of internal audit. According to sources who spoke with The Pointer, Kalkat was let go from her position days before her contract was set to expire, recently. At this time, Richard Gervais, senior advisor for IT audit, is filling the position on an interim basis. A City spokesperson told The Pointer they can’t speak to the employment status of any City employees. Under the 2020 charter, the CAO is listed as being responsible for the “appointment, dismissal and remuneration of the Director of Internal Audit,” a task that typically is supposed to be overseen by council. Under the Charter approved in 2017, Council was given authority to "Approve decisions regarding the appointment and removal of the Chief Audit Executive"; and approval of "decisions relating to the remuneration of the Chief Audit Executive." It stated that, under the IIA guidelines: "The Chief Audit Executive will have unrestricted access to, and communicate and interact directly with, the audit committee, including private meetings without management present." Barrick has removed this independence, effectively cancelling the audit department's key accountability and oversight function. The IIA states council must ensure: "The internal audit activity must be free from interference in determining the scope of internal auditing, performing work, and communicating results. The chief audit executive must disclose such interference to the board (council) and discuss the implications." According to an internal email obtained by The Pointer, Barrick advised Council of the decision to release Kalkat on February 19. “In consultation with the chair and vice chair of audit committee, it is the most responsible course of action to fill such a position once City Council has deliberated and made a decision on the forthcoming report,” the email read. It goes on to say Kalkat’s contract with the City was fulfilled and it wasn’t extended because of council’s decision to explore “options for an auditor general model.” It’s unclear why Barrick thought the council request to explore another layer of oversight was grounds to not rehire the existing head of internal audit. Sources told The Pointer Kalkat did not serve the full duration of her contract. The idea of an auditor general function was initially introduced at the January 27 City Council meeting. Following allegations of widespread fraud under his watch, Brown asked staff to look at the possibility of creating a municipal ombudsman office. A municipal ombudsman would allow complaints to be filed against any staff members for a possible investigation. Councillors pointed out that an auditor general does not need complaints to investigate staff, and focuses their investigation on issues they deem important. Kalkat is the second internal auditor to vacate her position since Barrick was hired. Former director Foruzan Velji was let go in October 2019, a week after Barrick started, according to sources. Kalkat’s position was left vacant mere days before the Tuesday audit committee meeting last week, the first of four meetings that happen throughout the year. Her name was listed as the lead in three of the four reports that were part of the committee agenda. In the obtained internal email, Barrick states filling the position on an interim basis “is the most responsible course of action” until council decides on the position it wants to take. Kalkat’s vacancy comes as the corporate fraud prevention hotline has seen a dramatic rise in complaints. This function allows employees to anonymously make complaints regarding fraudulent activities in City Hall. Since the committee’s last meeting on November 24, the hotline received 29 complaints, the most reported since Kalkat was hired a year ago, making up a third of the 77 total complaints since the service was launched in 2016. Barrick acknowledged there are gaps in the types of complaints that are allowed to be investigated and said the corporate policy team is looking into the issue and examining how to best direct complaints. Some of the complaint reports have been “closed” but details were not provided during the discussion as to what each investigation uncovered or who was investigated. The Pointer will be following up on the reports that were closed without providing details during the public meeting. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @nida_zafar Tel: 416 890-7643 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Nida Zafar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
(Submitted by Jane Ekong/ Submitted by Juliet Bushi/ Submitted by Michael Ifeanyi - image credit) Over the course of Black History Month, we are hoping to learn more about the rich dynamics of the Black experience in Regina through the stories of people from different backgrounds and professions. Read other pieces in the series: Dr. Jane Ekong says that when she arrived in Regina 38 years ago, there were so few Black residents, "we were kind of a novelty." The retired psychologist, who is originally from Nigeria, said many of the Black people in Regina were professionals: physicians, business owners, football players and others. These Black professionals made a mark on the community. This includes Ekong, who served as a trustee on the Regina Public Schools board, co-founded the Saskatchewan African Canadian Heritage Museum and currently runs a charity called Amakon Women Empowerment Non-Profit Corp., which caters to women and children. Despite this, she and fellow members of Regina's burgeoning Black community encountered racism in the workplace and in their day-to-day lives. "I heard from some people that they had problems getting a place because people did not want to rent to them," Ekong said. Dr. Jane Ekong receives a plaque of service from the Regina Public School Board. Nearly four decades later, the Black population in Saskatchewan's capital city is still small, but is growing. Black people made up three per cent of Regina's population in the 2016 census and a larger portion of the professional sphere. Ekong said she is happy to see a lot more people of colour in Regina in recent years, but that discriminatory practices still exist in workspaces throughout the city. Racism in the workplace Obianuju Juliet Bushi can attest to the continued existence of discrimination in the workplace. Bushi moved to Regina in 2007 from Grande Prairie, Alta., after transferring to the University of Regina to continue her studies. She found her career in education after discovering she would not be able to practise medicine as an international student because, at the time, she needed to be a citizen or permanent resident to do so. She's now a sessional lecturer at the First Nations University of Canada and a board trustee at the Regina Catholic School Division. Prior to finding her passion for teaching and a job that she thoroughly enjoys at the university, Bushi had many experiences in other places that she describes as "horrible." The one that left her the most hurt came at a Crown corporation. She remembers what she described as incessant discrimination starting after her manager transferred her to a different department and she was offered a position that she was overqualified for. She had previously been in a temporary position, which was coming to an end. If she didn't get another internal position, she'd be out, so she took the offer despite it only requiring a diploma when she had her Master's degree. She said it was "the worst idea." Juliet Bushi has found her passion with teaching and a job that she thoroughly enjoys at First Nations University. Bushi remembers being frustrated by her manager, who she said micromanaged her and once called her "a slow learner." She said her colleagues also gave her a tough time. "My coworkers would have meetings and not include me and whenever I asked my manager about it, she would say, 'You're new so it's easier not to include you.' There was no training provided for me. I was asked to job shadow two of my coworkers leaving the department and they were very bitter about it," she said. Bushi recalls an incident when she turned around to find one of her colleagues making faces at her while she was asking questions. "I remember thinking 'Oh my God, I need help,'" she said. Bushi ended up leaving the position after her manager reviews prevented her contract from being renewed. Building a positive community Michael Ifeanyi and his colleagues grabbing a meal together. Michael Ifeanyi has had a very different experience with a Saskatchewan Crown corporation. He joined SaskPower in 2018 as a customer service representative and within nine months he was promoted to the position of project resource planner. Ifeanyi, the only person of colour on his team of six, said he has yet to have a racist encounter in the office in the three years since. "My team was welcoming and over the years we've got to know each other very well," he said. Ifeanyi credits team bonding exercises with helping him come out of his shell and do his best work. For him, sharing and hearing personal experiences from teammates has built a community and a safe place at work. Making lemonade out of lemons Jane Ekong serving a pancake breakfast to students at Jack MacKenzie School. Ekong has made a habit of addressing racist comments and calling out racist behaviour when it occurs, but also refusing to dwell on them or let them distract her. "Whenever I face discrimination, I speak to it and move on," she said. "If I let it fester in my mind and spirit, it does me no good. It will make me become like the person who perpetrated that against me." She also seeks opportunities to educate people and make them realize that "we are all human and we all hurt the same." Her advice to young professionals in the city who are facing racism is they should not bottle up the anger and they should make themselves indispensable wherever they are found. "If you are good at what you do, even though people may not like your face and they may not like your accent or your colour, when they need something in your area of expertise they are more likely to swallow their pride and come to you." For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.