Across the country, Black voters and Civil Rights leaders say they see attempts of voter suppression, inequity and racism on Election Day as an indication on just how far we have to go in the push toward equality. (Nov. 3)
Across the country, Black voters and Civil Rights leaders say they see attempts of voter suppression, inequity and racism on Election Day as an indication on just how far we have to go in the push toward equality. (Nov. 3)
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Former President Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who championed European integration and helped modernise French society in the 1970s, has died at the age of 94 after contracting COVID-19. Giscard's foundation said he passed away in his family home in the Loir-et-Cher region of central France. Giscard was elected president in 1974 at the age of 48 to become France's youngest postwar leader.
In a year of dramatic personal and professional challenge, newly-elected Interim Liberal Leader Shirley Bond had seven days to assign critic portfolios and has seven more to prepare with her reconfigured opposition caucus for a shortened, but sure-to-be intense, winter legislative session. “In the legislature, it's a place of emotion and passion,” said Bond, elected interim Liberal leader by her 27 caucus colleagues on Nov. 23. “People work hard to deal with the issues at hand.” With 13 fewer Liberal MLAs and a handful of longer-serving members unseated in the Oct. 24 election, Bond had to move at lightspeed to assess the new mix of personalities and capacities, and match them with the best-fitting critic portfolios. “We may have a smaller number in caucus than we expected, but I'm very impressed with the skill sets,” said Bond, whose bench shrank to 28 members. “We will be using those skills in the legislature.” Critic files were announced Nov. 30. “Just as ministers will be getting up to speed, our critics will be preparing,” said Bond. “We intend to be vigorous in the legislature, to work hard, and ministers will be expected to know their files.” Cabinet posts are something Bond knows well. Besides serving as deputy premier, the six-term MLA for Prince George-Valemount has held major cabinet positions under successive Liberal governments, including Justice, Attorney General, Health, Jobs, Education, Transportation and Infrastructure. Prior to the election, she was opposition finance critic and chair of the all-party legislative Public Accounts Committee. “I've been engaged in public service for much of my life,” said Bond, who served on the local school board prior to entering provincial politics. But interim opposition leader breaks new ground. A couple days after the election, former BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson announced he would step down as soon as a new leader was chosen. A month later, he changed his mind, relaying his resignation via social media. “He did what he believed was in the best interest of the party, and that was to step aside,” said Bond, who became B.C.’s opposition leader two days later. “Bond is exactly the type of person and personality who can successfully lead the B.C. Liberals through their existential crisis in the run-up to the leadership contest,” wrote former Liberal strategist and now-political pundit Martyn Brown in an opinion piece for The Georgia Straight on Nov. 21. Bond was a highly respected and supportive team player who spoke her mind and had a deep grasp of her portfolio issues, Brown wrote. “Opposition leader Bond and I have worked together for 15 years, as adversaries admittedly,” said Premier John Horgan. “But we share a lot of commonalities. I have great respect for her and I like to think that it's mutual.” BC Greens Leader Sonia Furstenau has worked on files with Bond and other opposition members, a practice she hopes will continue under Bond’s leadership. “Her experience and her political capacity is immense,” said Furstenau. “She has a big job on her hands.” Priority one is becoming an effective and efficient opposition, said Bond. Second, is to work constructively with the party as they outline a process that will lead to a new permanent leader. “We are at a transition point,” Bond said. “The party needs to be renewed.” Liberals need to engage with supporters, members, and British Columbians at large, she said. “We need to first look back and ask what happened,” said Bond. “We need to be in listening mode.” A survey sent to members has elicited thousands of responses so far, and an independent analysis of the campaign will follow. Then the party needs to look forward, asking people what matters most to them, said Bond. “This is going to be transparent, it's going to be thorough, and at times, there are going to be some uncomfortable questions and discussions,” Bond said. “But that's absolutely essential if we're going to renew and rebuild the party.” As far as her own candidacy goes, Bond is unequivocal. “I have no aspirations or intention to consider permanent leadership.” Meanwhile, there’s the job at hand. The winter legislative session begins Dec. 7. A key priority for government will be passing COVID-19 relief legislation including Horgan's campaign promise of a one-time maximum $1,000 grant for eligible families or $500 for eligible individuals. The COVID-19 health crisis and related economic recovery concerns, and the opioid crisis are top of the opposition's agenda, said Bond. Rather than being overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, Bond seems energized, with a hint of bittersweet. Bill, her best friend and husband of 41 years, passed away in June. Bond deeply misses her mate and always will, she said, but the struggles of others have given her perspective. “We are surrounded by people who are facing difficult circumstances at the moment, some much more difficult than mine,” she said. “That helps me put my own loss in context and also gives me motivation and drive.” Legislators need to support families and individuals who are struggling in the pandemic, such as small business owners at risk of losing businesses, said Bond. “I need to do my part to help provide that support, raise those issues, fight on their behalf,” she said. Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanorFran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
As students in Nunavut’s COVID-19 hot spot of Arviat continue to learn from home, the territory’s education minister says his department hasn’t yet been able to deliver computers to students to help with remote learning. “We’re still dealing with the logistics of deploying to the affected communities,” said Education Minister David Joanasie on Monday about delivery of computers to students. Schools in communities other than Arviat are reopened to varying degrees today, following the end of a two-week lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Nunavut has 800 electronic devices — computers and tablets — for students to do homework on, Joanasie said. “I don’t have a breakdown of how many [students] will be able to have access [to computers and internet] as of Wednesday,” Joanasie said. The department “dropped the ball” on preparing teachers, parents and students to continue learning while schools on are shut down, said James Arreak, chairman of the Nunavut Coalition of District Education Authorities. The department ordered teachers to prepare learning packages for students in September in case schools had to close. But Arreak said there have been problems with teachers communicating to parents how to give lessons to their children at home. Right now teachers are trying to communicate through email, and not all parents have computers or access to the internet. Arreak also said instructions shouldn’t just be given in English, but in Inuktut. “It’s one thing to have learning resources prepared, but it should be done with a bit more practicality,” Arreak said. He asks why the department couldn’t use communication methods that people are familiar with and have access to, like local radio. The department is forcing teachers, parents and students to adapt to it, instead of the department adapting to local circumstances, Arreak said. The coalition’s role is to be partners with the department to help develop and deliver education. “At this point, the government is doing it all [on] their own,” he said. “It’s evident the department lost focus,” Arreak said. “Maybe they’re tired.” Most of Nunavut ends its COVID-19 lockdown on Wednesday, with the exception of Arviat, where the highest number of people are infected, and there are signs of community transmission. The community has 854 students. Public health restrictions there will be reassessed on Dec. 16. There are also people sick with COVID-19 in Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, but the virus is thought to be contained there, so schools have reopened. Elementary students are going to class three days a week, and high school students two days a week, as per Nunavut’s school reopening plan. “Remote learning doesn’t necessarily mean computer, computer, computer,” Joanasie said, in response to questions about why his department wasn’t more prepared for a community being locked down for an extended period of time. Teachers have been creative in getting learning packages to students during the lockdown, he said. For example, in Pangnirtung learning packages were dropped off and picked up at the post office, Joanasie said. In Whale Cove, the RCMP have been dropping off homework at students’ homes. But Arreak said what really matters is that teachers are coping, able to communicate to parents and students, and that their instructions are understood, so students can learn. He also said it’s key for teachers to be able to enter schools so they can prepare learning packages and use the internet to communicate with parents. On Wednesday, Nunavut chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson said he was fine with teachers in Arviat using their classrooms to prepare materials. But he didn’t know if the Department of Education or the local DEA was allowing it. The federal government has committed funding to Nunavut, some of which is to buy computers and to expand internet capacity. There are 1,500 more computers on the way to Nunavut, and the department plans to buy 2,192 more. The department also bought a licence for an online learning platform called Edsby, which isn’t yet available. In Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, where there are people with COVID-19 but no signs of community transmission, all students are doing a combination of remote and classroom learning. In the rest of the territory elementary students are back to class full time, and middle and high school students will go two to three days a week with staggered schedules. Nunatsiaq News asked to speak to a teacher or principal from Arviat, but the Education Department has yet to respond to the request. It also reached out to the Arviat DEA and has yet to hear back.Meagan Deuling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News
The director of a Yukon women's advocacy group says she's not surprised by a new survey that shows more than 60 per cent of the territory's residents reported being physically or sexually assaulted at least once after their mid-teens.Statistics Canada says more than half of women and men living in Canada's three northern territories reported being victims of at least one sexual or physical assault after the age of 15.Reports of sexual and physical assault were highest among women and men in Yukon, where 61 per cent of both genders said they were assaulted.There were fewer reports of assaults in the provinces, where 39 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men said they were also victims."So put relatively simply, it's an intersection between the fact that the Yukon is a very recently colonized space, not unlike the other territories, but colonization happened relatively recently compared to the rest of Canada," said Aja Mason with Yukon Status of Women Council (YSWC)."As a result, there's completely appropriate mistrust of and for governmental institutions, and policing institutions like the RCMP."So women, in particular Indigenous women, who have really recent memories and experiences of having their children taken away, not being believed, or being actively oppressed and experiencing massive systemic racism, all of those factors contribute to a sense of mistrust towards the organizations that people might otherwise feel safe to try to pursue justice through."Mason said 60 per cent of Yukon residents reporting assaults is huge. But as someone born and raised in the region, she's become desensitized to how prevalent assault is in the area."It's insane. It is essentially saying that rape culture is thriving in the Yukon. That's what it's basically translating to in my brain. "It's even more prevalent or even closer to the surface here than in other places."The survey was conducted in 2018 to find out more about gender-based violence in Canada.It also says that in Nunavut's largest communities, including Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, the average number of assaults against men and women was about the same as in all the territories — 52 per cent of women and 55 per cent of men.The number of reported assaults went down in smaller communities, where 30 per cent of men and women said they had been assaulted.The report highlights that women were three times more likely than men to be assaulted.A quarter of women living in the territories were also more likely to report facing certain health issues, using alcohol or drugs or having been homeless after an assault.LGBTQ women and women with physical or mental disabilities were also among the most vulnerable, as more than 60 per cent of them reported assaults.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.___This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press
Internal U.S. Census Bureau documents indicate that it will be unable to meet a year-end deadline for handing in data used for allocating congressional seats as it deals with irregularities found in the numbers-crunching phase of the count, according to a Wednesday letter from the chair of the U.S. House committee that oversees the bureau. The letter from Democratic U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross accuses Republican President Donald Trump's administration of “a dangerous pattern of obstruction" in withholding documents about state population totals required to reallocate seats in the House. Maloney wrote that the Commerce Department — which oversees the Census Bureau — missed a Nov. 24 deadline to give the documents to the committee. However, the committee has received internal bureau documents from an unnamed source that indicate that addressing the data anomalies “impacts overall end date by 20 days” and anticipates that the population count will not be complete until between Jan. 26 and Feb. 6, the letter said. Those dates are significant because they would come after the inauguration of President-Elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, likely leaving crucial decisions about the apportionment of congressional districts in the hands of a Democratic administration. Maloney threatened a subpoena if “a full and unredacted set” of the requested documents are not given to the committee by Dec. 9. The Commerce Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. “By blocking the production of the full set of documents requested by the Committee last month, the Trump Administration is preventing Congress from verifying the scope of these anomalies, their impact on the accuracy of the Census, and the time professionals at the Census Bureau need to fix them,” the letter said. “Your failure to co-operate with the Committee’s investigation appears to be part of a dangerous pattern of obstruction with the Census.” Missing the Dec. 31 deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers would be a blow to Trump’s unprecedented efforts to exclude people in the country illegally from being counted in the numbers used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets and how $1.5 trillion in federal spending is distributed. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau switched its deadline for wrapping up the once-a-decade head count of every U.S. resident from the end of July to the end of October. It also extended the deadline for turning in apportionment numbers from the end of December to the end of next April, giving bureau statisticians five months to crunch the numbers. However, in late July and early August, officials at the Commerce Department announced field operations would finish at the end of September and the apportionment numbers would stick to a congressionally-mandated deadline of Dec. 31. The Census Bureau already was facing a shortened schedule of two and a half months for processing the data collected during the 2020 census — about half the time originally planned. The bureau has not officially said what the anomalies were or publicly stated if there would be a new deadline for the apportionment numbers. In a Nov. 19 statement, Census Bureau Director Steve Dillingham said processing anomalies have occurred in past censuses and he was directing the bureau to use all resources available to resolve the issues as quickly as possible. One of the internal documents cited by Maloney is a Nov. 19 presentation for senior bureau officials that describes 13 anomalies that affect more than 900,000 census records. They include a problem related to duplicate non-response follow-up records in every state, a data error from the count of group quarters that affects more than 16,000 records, and a coding error affecting about 46,000 records in nine states. The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case about Trump’s move to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count. Federal courts in California, Maryland and New York have ruled that Trump’s plan violates the Constitution, which provides that “representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State.” A fourth court, in Washington, D.C., held this past week that a similar challenge to the administration plan was premature, an argument that also has been made to the high court Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press
Jasper Municipal Council had a lengthy discussion at their Dec. 1 regular meeting about the options for utility fees in Jasper in 2021, including whether they wanted to set a flat consumption rate or change tiered. Mayor Richard Ireland said utility fees had been discussed at five meetings and it was time to move ahead and council directed administration to prepare a bylaw that includes a flat consumption rate. The bylaw will generate about $750,000 of additional revenue, and will include a base rate related to meter size. The first reading of the utility fees bylaw is scheduled for Dec. 15. Administration was also directed to bring suggestions to council in the new year, for moving to a tiered consumption rate for 2022. Support for sidewalk seating A majority of businesses surveyed in Jasper want patio seating to continue in the upcoming season, Pattie Pavlov, general manager, Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce told council at their regular meeting on Dec. 1, and a decision is needed soon. There's room for fine-tuning the program that ran last summer. Suggestions from respondents included adding additional bike parking, closing Patricia Street access on the 600 block to all vehicle traffic as far as TGP, and having businesses who want to participate pay all associated costs. But the general consensus among council members was to get matters moving so businesses can prepare for next year's season. Ireland said the program was put in place this year "to give businesses the opportunity to survive”. “In fact, it was spectacularly successful,” he said. There was discussion about needing more consultation with groups including Tourism Jasper and Community Futures as well as Parks Canada. Ireland said there needs to be individual business representation as well and pointed out the program is not limited to restaurants. Overall, council approved of something similar to the pilot program that ran in 2020. A subsequent program has to be reviewed by the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) with Parks Canada. Council hopes okaying a similar program for 2021 will lead to quick approval from Parks Canada. They're scheduled to make a decision about extended seating and retail areas at their regular meeting on Dec. 15.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Another 12 people have died of COVID-19 in B.C. and 834 new cases have been confirmed, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Wednesday.There are now 8,941 active cases across the province, and the number of patients in hospital has risen to another new high of 337, including 79 in critical care.Henry acknowledged that many British Columbians are feeling worn down by the pandemic and feeling fatigued by months of restrictions on daily life."COVID-19 is taking a toll on all of us," she said. "I am asking you all to continue and do a little bit more."To date, there have been 34,728 confirmed cases of the disease in B.C., including 469 people who have died. A total of 10,201 people are currently in isolation because of contact with known cases of the virus.New sports banWednesday's update also includes a new ban on indoor adult team sports, including everything from basketball and hockey to cheerleading and combat sports. Children's sports are returning to Phase 2 guidelines, which means no contact, no travel and modified training.Henry said she knows some sports teams have ignored her order against travelling, and that ended with an old timers' hockey team in the Interior bringing back the virus from games in Alberta, resulting in dozens of cases in their local community.Henry declined to identify the community, but said the returned players infected family members and co-workers. She also said that the situation is not unique in B.C.'I'm asking you to stay home'Wednesday's update included two new community outbreaks — one at the Cove Shelter in Surrey and another at Millennium Pacific Greenhouses.There are also three new outbreaks in the health-care system, including two hospital outbreaks announced by Island Health on Tuesday. Currently, there are 54 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living and seven in hospitals.Though case numbers remain highest in B.C.'s Lower Mainland, the pandemic has caught up to the rest of the province. In the past three weeks, COVID-19 cases have stayed steady in Vancouver Coastal Health and doubled in Fraser Health — but they've gone up by nearly 500 per cent in the rest of B.C.As B.C.'s caseload continues to grow and hospitalizations creep ever higher, Henry said everyone needs to stay within their local communities when it comes to sports and recreational travel."I cannot order you not to get into a car or get onto a plane, but I'm asking you to stay home," she said.All community events and social gatherings involving anyone outside someone's immediate household remain banned as well.The current orders restricting social interactions, recreational activities and events are set to expire on Dec. 7. Henry said health officials will be reviewing them and looking at the evidence right up until the deadline to determine if they need to continue.Despite the grim news on the pandemic coming out of every daily briefing on COVID-19, Henry pointed to the U.K.'s approval of the Pfizer vaccine as a sign of hope."This is, of course, very exciting news for all of us … but it's going to be some time before we get there," she said.She added that while approved vaccines may arrive in Canada within weeks, in the meantime, B.C. continues to lose people to the disease every day and transmission is unchecked.Asked about whether the vaccine should be mandatory, particularly for those who work in the health-care system, Henry said Canada has never had mandatory vaccinations and that isn't going to change because of COVID-19.However, she said that anyone thinking of working in health who doesn't believe in vaccines or objects to immunizations should choose a different career.She was also asked about recent demonstrations by those who believe COVID-19 is a hoax and say she is hiding the truth. Henry said that those people represent a small minority in B.C., but it does make her angry to hear those things."This is very real. Ask anyone who has lost a loved one how real it is," she said.
During the course of the regular meeting on Monday the board of education for the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division received an update on the new Cree language Kindergarten program at John Diefenbaker Public School in Prince Albert that began this year. “The teacher and the staff and the administration there are doing just amazing work to be connecting with those young learners and just a great start to that program” director of education Robert Bratvold said. According to Bratvold there was some apprehension about starting the new program from parents about how it work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They have been encouraging and supportive. We have 15 kids in there who are coming on a regular basis and doing some good things,” Bratvold said. The success in the first year will lead to trying to prepare for eventual growth in the coming years. “We will do some planning around that about how will we grow this Cree language program and what will that look like. So that is one of those plans that is coming up shortly,” Bratvold said. New schools assigned to trustees in Saskatchewan Rivers Each year trustees in the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division are assigned clusters of schools, which they will work with for the school year. At the board of education’s regular meeting on Monday the assignments were finalized. Board chair Barry Hollick and administration worked on the assignments before they were brought forward to be finalized Monday. “That’s always exciting because you get a balance because it’s important to have representation from within the ward or subdivision the trustees are elected from. But it is also important to have a broad experience for trustees. When they come to this table they bring perspectives from whence they come but they are representative of the division as a whole. So there is some balance between rural and urban,” director of education Robert Bratvold said. The assigned trustees work closely with School Community Councils (SCCs) and trustees have built relationships with the schools. “Part of that is just the value that SCCs bring and the important role they can play and it’s different at every school but that’s a really important thing in our local governance structure,” he explained. Newly elected trustee Alan Nunn was assigned Meath Park Public School, Princess Margaret Public School and Queen Mary initially but trustee Jaimie Smith-Windsor and Nunn made a trade. Now Nunn will also be working with the SRPSD Distance Learning Centre. Smith-Windsor is now assigned Meath Park, Christopher Lake Public School, Riverside Public School and Spruce Home Public School. The remaining trustees kept their assigned clusters. Trustee Bill Gerow is assigned Big River Public School, Ecole Debden Public School and TD Michel Public School. Trustee Michelle Vickers is assigned Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI), Westview Public School and Wild Rose Public School. New trustee Cher Bloom is assigned Canwood Public School, Shellbrook Elementary Public High School and W.P. Sandin Public High School. Trustee Grant Gustafson has East Central Public School, Ecole Arthur Pechey Public School and Won Ska Public School. Hollick has been assigned Carlton Comprehensive Public High School, Osborne Public School and Vincent Massey Public School. Vice chair Darlene Rowden’s cluster include Birch Hills Public School, Red Wing Public School, St. Louis Public School and West Central Public School. Trustee Arne Lindberg’s cluster includes Arthur Pechey, Wesmor Public High School and W.J. Berezowsky Public High School. Trustee Bill Yeaman has John Diefenbaker Public School, King George Public School, Kinistino Public School and Winding Rivers Colony School. Each cluster is also assigned an alternate in case the trustee is unable to fulfill their duties. “The alternate trustee for those clusters do a lot of work and the trustees do a great job working together and helping each other,” Bratvold said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada's health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren't so sure.The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial."It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure," he said. "And there's a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society."The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the COVID virus could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there's a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset. Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19."If you're exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so (seven to 10 days) should be enough to tell whether you've got the virus," Tuite said. "But of course, that's assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection."The key to the CDC's new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that's in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early. A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won't still get sick.Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC's plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7."It's impossible to do that," he said. "It's either 14 days of proper isolation, or it's seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large."Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn't meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn't been followed. Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent."Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups," Sheppard said. "So if you don't do strict, single-person isolation, you don't actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group."Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period. A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can't afford to take a full two weeks off work."It really comes down to having the means to do it," she said. "Can you survive for two weeks if you're not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people? "We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn't change whether it's for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it's for longer periods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government says it will not meet a marquee pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lift all boil-water advisories in First Nations communities by March 2021.Indigenous Services Canada says at least 22 long-term water advisories in 10 First Nations communities will remain in place beyond that deadline, which was set following an ambitious 2015 Liberal election promise to lift them all within five years."What communities want is not an Ottawa-imposed deadline," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday during a news conference in Ottawa."It’s a long-term commitment to access to clean water."The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into efforts to upgrade water systems and carry out on-site training, with supply chains snarled and construction put off as some reserves opted to restrict travel, the department said at an earlier briefing."COVID has really changed everything," Miller said. “Because of COVID, many projects lost a full construction season."The complexity of projects, which can include infrastructure overhauls and depend on increasingly unreliable winter roads, contributed to the delay even before the pandemic, he said. Hiring and retaining qualified operators for water and wastewater treatment plants on remote sites has posed another challenge.Miller, who has held the Indigenous services portfolio since November 2019, sought to shield Trudeau from blame for the failed goal."Ultimately, I bear the responsibility for this, and I have the responsibility and the duty to get this done," he said, calling the continued lack of access to reliable drinking water "totally unacceptable."The department says 97 boil-water advisories have been lifted since 2016, while 59 remain in place — about three-quarters of them in Ontario — in 41 communities.In late October, about 250 residents of Neskantaga First Nation in northern Ontario, which has had a boil-water advisory in place for 25 years, were evacuated from their homes following the discovery of an oily sheen in its reservoir.Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said Wednesday he was frustrated but not surprised by Ottawa's shortfall."First Nations have good reason to be disappointed by the federal government’s announcement that after more than five years in office, it will miss its own target to provide safe drinking water to all Indigenous communities across Canada," he said in a statement."While there has been significant progress in recent years, it clearly is not enough."Miller acknowledged that initially, communities were not “sounded” out on whether the March 2021 target was reasonable.He said he hopes up to 20 more advisories will be lifted by year's end, but expects at least a dozen communities will still not have access to potable water by the spring."You come down to about 12 or a few more communities, some of whom have seen serious delays due to COVID — and they’re working hard to clear them — and others that have priorities that they want addressed before they lift their water advisories," he said, noting that communities make the call on whether to lift advisories, not Ottawa."I think we didn’t appreciate the state of decay of water systems when we came into power in 2015," he added, pointing to "decades of neglect."Opposition parties slammed the federal government for falling short of its goal."We weren't totally surprised by this, but at the same time, there's a pretty significant disappointment in it being actually acknowledged and outright spoken ... by the minister today," Conservative MP Gary Vidal, his party's critic for Indigenous services, said in an interview.In a separate statement, Vidal called for a more commercially driven approach that draws on the "brightest business minds and entrepreneurs" to get taps flowing safely.NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called the problem "disgusting" and "inexcusable.""Imagine Minister Miller going to his riding in Montreal: 'I apologize, but we missed our deadline to get you clean drinking water.' Would he ever think it was appropriate?" Singh asked at a news conference.“This is not a broken promise. This is a betrayal of trust, and it sends a message that Indigenous people don't matter."In its fall economic statement Monday, the Liberal government pledged to invest $1.5 billion this year to work toward lifting all long-term drinking water advisories in Indigenous communities, on top of $2.1 billion already committed since 2016.More than $1.65 billion of that has already flowed to 626 water and wastewater projects, including 348 that are now completed, according to Indigenous Services.The beefed-up funding reflects a long-term commitment, particularly to operations and maintenance, so that communities can continue to tap into clean water indefinitely, Miller said.Under current funding policies for operations and maintenance on reserves, Ottawa typically provides about 80 per cent of the cash while First Nations have to float the remaining 20 per cent.Miller said Indigenous Services is still hammering out a policy adjustment, "but my full expectation is that will move to 100 per cent."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.— with files from Maan AlhmidiChristopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Pat Daly was re-elected chairperson of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board at a meeting Tuesday evening, marking his 34th year as a Hamilton trustee. Daly has served on the HWCDSB since 1986 when he first filled the seat that his late father, Pat Daly Sr., left vacant after his sudden death the year prior. “I don’t know if I ever filled them — they were pretty big shoes. But I’ve always tried to do my best,” Daly previously said of his father. At a meeting Tuesday night, he addressed issues concerning leadership and equity in educational opportunity, indicating a focus on these issues as he enters his next term. “With the increased reality of virtual learning and the ever-increasing influence of technology, I believe we are living in an unprecedented time of challenge but equally, or more so, of opportunity to move forward with laser-like focus to create structures and allocate resources that most directly impact those areas that distinguish publicly funded Catholic schools,” he said. Daly has recommended a full review of the board’s leadership development program to ensure a continued recruitment and selection of “faith-filled visionary leaders,” as well as a re-imagining of administrative portfolios to “better align with current and future trends.” “As researchers have concluded, one of the goals of such restructuring would be to assist leaders to remain closer to the core of teaching and learning where they are most likely to make a difference to students,” he said. Daly was born and raised in Mount Hope. He attended Our Lady of the Assumption in Elfrida and later Bishop Ryan High School in Stoney Creek. “All of my years of school were in our system,” he told The Spectator in a 2014 profile. “I had outstanding principals, teachers and coaches right throughout.” Daly enrolled at McMaster University after graduation but only stayed a year, opting instead to return to his family’s construction company, where he stayed until the mid-1990s before taking over as the Catholic board’s chair. He has also served as president of the Ontario English Catholic Trustees’ Association. Jacob Lorinc, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Food blogger Rebecca Coleman has seen a sharp uptick in the number of restaurant businesses approaching her over the last month, and she says it’s all because of TikTok. “These restaurants that are reaching out to me, they have websites, they have Instagram, but very few of them have TikTok,” Coleman says. TikTok is still a new enough social media platform that businesses haven’t yet fully embraced it, she says, but influencers have. “And they’re taking full advantage of that,” says Coleman, who is an Instagram and TikTok food blogger and a full-time instructor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology, where she teaches social media marketing for business. The pandemic led to the shutdown of businesses as well as widespread layoffs affecting the food and beverage industry as a whole. According to a Restaurants Canada survey, Canada’s April food service sales were the lowest in more than two decades. However, when restaurants reopened for business, owners began to turn to influencers to help attract new customers both for in-house and takeout dining. “I think that the potential is limitless,” says Sophia Hu, a Vancouver digital creator who goes by the username sopheats on TikTok and Instagram and has more than 21,000 followers combined. “As more restaurants see the power, the impact and the reach of social media as a new way, new-age marketing, they're going to be using food bloggers and content creators all the time.” Hu says restaurants will favour influencer marketing over conventional methods because it’s more personable, engaging and authentic. “We are real people and we actually love food. We go to the restaurants and we try it. I engage (with) my audience like they're my friends. And I'm just sharing genuinely what I love,” she says. Content creator Ceci, who has around 10,000 followers on TikTok and Instagram and goes by the username purplechives, says restaurants in Vancouver have adapted well to this style of marketing. After the initial lockdown was lifted and restaurants shifted to a takeout program, she saw they needed help with promotion. Restaurants tried to lure influencers by sending them food packages to taste and review, she explains. “I think the ones that were able to cultivate a good relationship with influencers have been able to do quite well,” she says. In provinces like B.C., where restaurants remain open to in-house dining, restaurateurs have invited influencers and food bloggers to visit, which sends a message they are open for business and operating safely. Influencer marketing is also a relatively low-cost option for business owners with funding constraints. While many food bloggers don’t get paid for their promotions and reviews, they do get to taste the food for free and make content for their audience. For Coleman, who goes by the username findbex on TikTok, it is also an opportunity to build her brand. Promotional videos are an opportunity for content creators to raise awareness around issues and businesses they want to support, she says. To keep her reviews fair, Ceci is upfront with restaurants when they invite her in to talk about their food. “I'm going to write what I think about your food. If I don't like it, I just post about it,” she says. “But I do usually give them feedback, first, if it's really bad.” Although all three content creators began their journey on Instagram, their audiences are now shifting to TikTok. “There’s a place for everything on TikTok,” says Coleman, who has almost 40,000 followers on TikTok and around 4,300 on Instagram. What has made the platform so popular in the past few months? Both Coleman and Ceci attribute TikTok’s wider reach to its share feature. “If I'm on TikTok, and I see a video, and I like that, I can share that video to my Instagram Stories effortlessly,” Coleman says. The application allows users, including restaurants, to send videos across platforms such as Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, email, Snapchat and Messenger. It also allows them to save the video and react to it by making duets. Hu transitioned to TikTok when she realized she could repurpose content she had already secured for her Instagram and use it to engage in a different way. “It's fast and it's also casual,” she says, adding that unlike Instagram, TikTok does not require high-definition photos or footage. Priya Bhat / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverPriya Bhat, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
The future of health education is here, and it's at Seven Generations Education Institute (SGEI). SGEI campuses in Fort Frances, Kenora and Sioux Lookout are rolling out their brand-new Health Disciplines Simulation Labs in order to provide their students in various programs like nursing, paramedics and support worker with a top of the line and state of the art learning facility. The tools and technologies at their disposal will help to ensure each student hits the ground running when they get a job in their desired field, whether in a hospital or at the helm of an ambulance. In Fort Frances, the simulation lab takes up the entire back half of a classroom, purposely designed to simulate a real hospital setting with lifelike patients to get students comfortable with some of the things they will be doing on the job, according to SGEI Health Disciplines Coordinator Taylor Noble. “It's very unique and it's such a good learning experience for the students,” Noble said of the lab and tools within. “It helps because it gives [students] that ability to try to critically think and decide on the spot, in that moment, but also be in a stable controlled environment where they have that support from an instructor... but also prepares them for a real-life situation in the hospital.” The simulation lab contains three medical-grade hospital beds that each feature a Laerdal mannequin that is designed to be as life-like as possible. Each mannequin has several fully articulated joints and areas on the body that can be swapped out for different wounds or conditions. The lab also has an infant/child mannequin for modified procedures. The mannequins are so advanced that students will be able to check their pulse and blood pressure, listen to their heart and lungs for irregularities and administer mock medication through real syringes and IV needles. Taking things up another notch, the mannequins also have the ability to cough, wheeze and scream at the behest of an instructor who controls all of their functions via a tablet, ensuring the students can hone their skills in a safe but ultra-real environment. “We can monitor the carbon dioxide saturation, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure,” Noble explained. “We can actually connect fake blood concentrate in there, so they can actually inject the needles and get bloodflow back so they know they've hit the veins. Students are able to use the exact same equipment they would have access to in the hospital to practice.” In a room full of impressive and cutting edge tech, however, one item reigns above all. Tucked away in the far corner of the simulation lab is an unassuming white table that hides a staggering secret. The table, called the Anatomage Virtual Dissection Table, is like something out of Star Trek, a futuristic learning tool that turns anatomy lessons from the textbook into a 3D render right at their fingertips. Giving a demonstration, Noble showed how the table, functioning like a human-length iPad, can take a realistic image of a human body, with options to modify body type and gender, and strip off layers of skin, muscle, bone and more to display or highlight different parts of the body, like internal organs, the nervous system or more than 1,500 other systems the table is programmed for. It's a high definition look inside the human body and the level of detail that can be explored, along with some of the options for doing that exploring, might make it a tough sell for the squeamish. Staff at the school are still learning how to use all of the functions of the Anatomage, but even with their current understanding of what it can do, it gives SGEI students the opportunity to see and explore parts of the human body that wouldn't be possible outside of a morgue setting, a donated cadaver or other specialized education materials.“This provides more of that visualization aspect for the students” Noble said. “So for students who learn more visual, hands-on, they can come to this table and they can learn. They can cut, look at all the different organs. Anatomy and physiology is a huge concept, there's just so much content for them to have to learn, so for them to be able to learn not only the muscular-skeletal system but all the nerve pathways, lymphatic system, and so many students go throughout their schooling not actually being able to have that visualization piece, so they have this right at their fingertips to be able to utilize.” The Anatomage table is also fairly unique in the region, with only the SGEI's Kenora and Sioux Lookout campuses being the other two education facilities that have one in northwestern Ontario, according to Noble. Taken as a whole unit, the Health Disciplines Simulation Lab sets SGEI's health programs leaps and bounds apart from other health programs. The ability to practice in a hospital-like setting on “patients” who can give realistic feedback gives students a chance to get comfortable with their skills and knowledge in a safe place, long before ever setting foot in a professional medical building. “It allows Seven Generations Education Institute to enhance that learning experience and to give the most optimal experience, with all the equipment that we have, to make sure it's high functioning for students to be able to really learn,” Noble said. “And again, just to help them use this equipment to build that confidence, to feel comfortable, we tried to have the simulation lab really mimic the healthcare settings with the same types of equipment just to build that confidence and security for when they go into the clinical setting.” Currently SGEI has a cohort of seven students enrolled in its Bachelor of Science in Nursing program here at the Fort Frances campus, but the school will also begin taking applications from students for its Paramedic, Practical Nursing and Personal Support Worker programs “very soon,” according to Noble. Each of those programs are scheduled to begin in September 2021 and will also make use of the simulation lab to enhance their learning. For more information on Seven Generations Education Institute or any of the programs they offer, visit their website at www.7generations.org. Ken Kellar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
WASHINGTON — Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate on Wednesday, narrowing Republican control of the chamber and underscoring his state's shift from red to blue.Kelly, 56, defeated GOP Sen. Martha McSally in last month's election, making her one of only three incumbents to lose. By taking office, he has reduced the Republican edge in the chamber to 52-48.That will have scant impact on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's control over the chamber for the final month of this congressional session. But it sets the stage for two pivotal Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia.If Democrats win both, they will command the 50-50 chamber for the new Congress that begins in early January because Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign, and his slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he'll want to be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.In an interview, he praised the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a political maverick whose seat he now holds and whose grave he visited Tuesday at the U.S. Naval Academy in nearby Annapolis, Maryland.He also voiced support for a push by bipartisan congressional moderates to pass a COVID-19 relief bill before Congress adjourns for the year. “I think something should happen now,” he said.Kelly was sworn into office by Vice-President Mike Pence, and both men wore masks and bumped arms in congratulations when the oath was over. Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.Kelly's Arizona colleague, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, held the Bible on which he took his oath. In what may be a Senate first for such ceremonies, Sinema, known for dramatic fashion, wore a zebra-striped coat and had purple hair, or perhaps a wig.Kelly's Senate arrival marks a political milestone for Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since January 1953. That is when GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater took office, barely a decade before he became his party’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential candidate.In other evidence of Arizona's political shift, the state backed President-elect Joe Biden last month, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate carried it since 1996.McSally was appointed to her seat in 2019 to replace McCain. Her appointment lasted only until last month's special election was officially certified, which occurred this week. That cleared the way for Kelly to take office and fill the rest of McCain's six-year term, meaning Kelly will face reelection in 2022.Kelly was parachuting into a fractious lame-duck session in which lawmakers and President Donald Trump are so far deadlocked over whether to provide a pre-holiday COVID-19 relief package worth hundreds of billions of dollars. They’re also trying to address year-end budget work and a defence policy bill.In what was one of the country's most expensive Senate races, Kelly raised $89 million. That was second only to the $108 million collected by defeated South Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.Republican Cory Gardner of Colorado and Democrat Doug Jones of Alabama were the only other Senate incumbents defeated last month.The son of two police officers, Kelly is a retired astronaut who flew four space missions, including spending time aboard the International Space Station. He was also a Navy pilot who flew combat missions during Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.Giffords was grievously wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in which six people were killed and a dozen others hurt. She and Kelly became leading figures in unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to strengthen gun controls.“Great day, excellent day,” Giffords told reporters afterward.Kelly is the fourth astronaut to be elected to Congress. John Glenn was a Democratic senator from Ohio and Harrison Schmitt was a GOP senator from New Mexico. Republican Jack Swigert was elected to the House from Colorado, but died of cancer before taking office.___AP reporter Jonathan J. Cooper contributed from Phoenix, Arizona..Alan Fram, The Associated Press
BRUSSELS — The European Union is grasping the imminent arrival of the Biden administration as a key moment to reset relations with the United States after four years of trans-Atlantic acrimony. With a series of initiatives, the 27 nation bloc is seeking to rekindle the spirit of co-operation that has long defined global diplomacy. But the EU but also acknowledges that future relations will have to adapt to a multi-polar world where China is an ever bigger player. EU partners are seeking a change from Trump’s go-it-alone credo and back a multilateral approach to better deal with global crises. The EU has already invited President-elect Joe Biden to visit Brussels at the earliest opportunity next year.Raf Casert, The Associated Press
Chinese spacecraft lands on the moon to bring back lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s, the government announced. (Dec. 2)
As the Christmas season approaches churches Island-wide are organizing to celebrate and welcome as many as safely possible to communal worship. Reverend Bonnie Fraser, with Hillcrest United Church in Montague, said her church currently has a 50-person capacity. She hopes plans to allow a second cohort of 50 might be approved by the Chief Public Health Office. “Whatever happens we will just roll with it,” Rev Fraser said. She is considering offering two services on Christmas Eve if needed to accommodate more people. The service, or services, will be live-streamed as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. “Some plan to gather with family members to watch the service from home. This is a good option for people who are still hesitant to come out with the pandemic.” Rev Fraser said there is a bit of uncertainty about what could happen between now and Christmas. “We don’t know if it will all get shut down but we have been blessed on PEI so far.” No matter what unfolds, whether it involves a full church or not, “one thing we do know is there will be Christmas.” Norma Dingwell is an active member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague. They plan to hold a church service and welcome 50 people. They will also offer their fourth annual Christmas dinner, take-out style. Ms Dingwell said typically 70 to 80 people turn out for Christmas Eve service but that won’t happen this year. The service will also be live streamed. At St Mary’s Catholic Church in Montague, Father Raju Chebattina is also looking to offer additional services. His church can seat 150 people, according to their operational plan, but other years on Christmas Eve 180 to 200 people attending wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Despite limitations all three leaders are pleased restrictions have eased since Easter, when gathering limits were more strict. “We’re grateful things have improved since the lockdown when churches were closed,” Bishop Richard Grecco said. He is especially thankful people can get to church here (on PEI) considering some provinces are locking down again and implementing small gathering limits. While Bishop Grecco has seen improvement he recognizes that not everyone who wants to go to church has been able to. Funding has also improved since March and April but hasn’t completely returned to normal with fewer people in the pews and limits on fundraisers. “Funding is a concern but we’re getting by,” Bishop Grecco said. “We have to remember our people are up against it just like we are.” To get through tough situations like this, he said, at least churches and parishioners have each other. “Together, we’re going to get through this,” he said.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) has dismissed two cohorts of students because of confirmed COVID-19 cases at the two schools.In an email, WECDSB communications coordinator Stephen Fields said that the board dismissed one class of 23 students at St. Pius X Catholic Elementary School in Tecumseh, and another class of 10 at St. Anne Catholic High School in Lakeshore.According to the board's COVID-19 information page, each school has one active case of COVID-19, and both cases are students. Both schools remain open."We learned of these confirmed cases this morning and have notified the affected students that they are not to attend school tomorrow," the email reads."We have been working with the health unit by providing list of students and staff who may have been directly affected. The health unit is contacting any individuals, both students and staff, who may have been affected, and will give directions for them to follow."Earlier on Wednesday, the health unit declared an outbreak in a cohort of students at Corpus Christi Catholic Middle School.The board said it has sent a voice message to both school communities, and that if parents have not been contacted by the health unit, their children may continue to attend school."We want to assure parents that we are cooperating with the health unit and doing everything we can to make sure that we continue to provide safe and healthy learning environments for their children," the email said.