The federal government is eyeing a comprehensive North American energy strategy as workers reel from cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline. The project's presidential permit was rescinded by U.S. President Joe Biden on his first day in office, prompting outrage from Alberta's provincial government. TC Energy, the proponent, had pre-emptively ceased construction of the project. "I was the minister of natural resources when the Obama administration cancelled Keystone XL. So for me, it's Round 2 of deep disappointment," Minister Jim Carr, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's representative for the Prairies, said Monday. "We have to look forward, however, to a continental energy strategy." That North American energy strategy is enticing to Alberta's premier as well, with Jason Kenney suggesting to the prime minister that they approach Washington together to pitch a collaborative approach to North American energy and climate policy. "Canada and the U.S. share a highly integrated energy system, including criss-crossing infrastructure such as pipelines and electricity transmission systems. Our energy and climate goals must be viewed in the context of that integrated system," Kenney wrote. The premier has called the Keystone cancellation an "insult" and a "gut-punch," repeatedly pressing for retaliation against the U.S. and suggesting economic and trade sanctions if the administration is unwilling to engage in conversations about the future of the pipeline. Last year, Kenney invested $1.5 billion in Keystone XL, arguing it would never be completed without the infusion. The pipeline, first announced in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude a day from the oilsands in Alberta to Nebraska. The Biden administration has made no indication it intends to consider reinstating the permit. TC Energy has already laid off 1,000 workers in Alberta. A continental energy partnership has been an elusive goal for more than 15 years, with multiple trilateral meetings ending with consensus but often without measurable outcomes. It's been five years since Carr, then the minister of natural resources, hosted his American and Mexican counterparts to discuss the potential of such a partnership. They agreed to collaborate on things like energy technologies, energy efficiency, carbon capture and emissions reduction. While they signed a document stating these shared goals, synergy between the three countries has been slow to develop. In December 2014, a similar meeting ended with a to-do list to move forward on a continental energy strategy, including mapping energy infrastructure and sharing data. That data website hasn't been updated since 2017. In that meeting, then-natural resources minister Greg Rickford was making the pitch to the Obama administration for why Keystone XL should be permitted to live. It was cancelled — for the first time — less than a year later. "We've gone through a period over the last number of years where relations around energy have kind of died a slow death and become more and more narrowly focused around individual projects," said Monica Gattinger, director of the Institute for Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. "There's tremendous potential between Canada and the United States to collaborate around energy and environmental objectives in the long term." Gattinger said changes in the United States around hydrocarbon and shale have diminished the country's motivation for a broader energy approach. With the national governments in Canada and the U.S. now more closely aligned on climate priorities, she added there's the potential for a breakthrough. "Both countries have vast potential across a whole host of energy resources," she said. "Those are the conversations that we have not been having in North America for a number of years now. And there is a real opportunity to do so at this time." Carr is optimistic, too. "We're hardly starting from scratch, and there will be alignment," he said, alluding to his hope for co-operation between the U.S. and Canada, but also with the Prairie provinces. "There is an awful lot of work to be done and an awful lot of potential."
Genomic sequencing will be key in determining the prevalence of new, more transmissible variants of COVID-19 in Canada, experts say, but the process is too laborious and time-consuming to run on every positive swab. While that means we likely can't know the exact number of cases stemming from the "variants of concern," first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, experts say genomic sequencing can unlock useful information about where and how quickly spread may be happening.The Canadian Press spoke with microbiologists and laboratory science specialists to answer popular questions about the new variants, and what we're doing to detect them.HOW IS GENOMIC SEQUENCING DONE?Positive samples, typically taken from travel-related cases or those that were otherwise flagged for sequencing, are sent to a specific lab which has the equipment required to get a closer look at the virus's genetic code. From there, a specially-trained scientist looks for mutations and changes from the main SARS-CoV-2 virus, going through the code line by line. The process, which can take anywhere from a couple days to a full week, is tedious, expensive and requires a level of scientific equipment and knowledge only accessible in a handful of labs across the country, says Dr. Tony Mazzulli, a medical microbiologist at Public Health Ontario Laboratory."You need the supplies, the reagents, and you need people with the expertise who can a) do it and b) interpret the results once the test is finished," said Mazzulli, who's also the microbiologist-in-chief of the Mount Sinai Hospital. "It's not just like a diagnostic test that is either a yes or no."HOW OFTEN ARE WE DOING IT?Ontario, which had 34 total known cases of the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. as of Monday, is undergoing a point-prevalence study in which all positive test results in the province from a single day — Jan. 20 — are being analyzed through genomic sequencing. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario has analyzed 9,000 samples for the new variants and hopes to look at 1,500 every week going forward.Public Health Ontario also says it is introducing screening tests that can look for a mutation that's found in the three concerning variants. Dr. Vanessa Allen, the chief of microbiology at the Public Health Ontario Lab, said in a press conference Monday the new tests will help identify "high-risk samples," that will then be sent to labs for sequencing. Mazzulli says some of Canada's standard PCR tests can also pick up a hint — known as the S-gene dropout — that the sample should be sequenced. PCR tests give us a yes or no answer as to whether a person is infected, but they also look for specific genes in the virus, Mazzulli explained. If the S gene, which has the mutation, is missing from the diagnostic, that's an indication the sample should be sent in for further sequencing.Mazzulli also says Ontario is building capacity and developing further criteria for samples that should be sequenced, including those from outbreaks where a group of cases are associated with each other.In B.C., where according to data released Monday there have been three confirmed cases South Africa variant and six cases of the U.K. variant, top doctor Bonnie Henry said the province is working on strategies to see where it can target genomic sequencing to better understand changes and variants circulating in the community. About 9,500 quality sequences have been performed in the province since February, which amounts to sampling approximately 15 per cent of cases, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control. WHY CAN'T WE SEQUENCE EVERY POSITIVE COVID TEST WE GET?Joel Rivero, field application system specialist who helps set up molecular and immunodiagnostic tests at labs across Canada, says that boils down to capacity and lab resources.While sequencing every sample is ideal to get a full picture, Rivero says that probably wouldn't get you the best "return on investment."Since most variant cases are still travel-related, it's best to concentrate efforts there, he says, in hopes of catching those quickly to limit spread."We want to make sure there's a fine balance between your resource management and what makes the most sense to help identify and protect public health."Rivero adds that the COVID treatment plan and contact tracing efforts remain the same whether the patient has "a variant strain or the quote-unquote regular strain.""Everyone will still have to isolate whether they have the variant or not," he said.WILL CURRENT VACCINES WORK AGAINST NEW VARIANTS?Dr. Samira Mubareka, a microbiologist and clinical scientist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, says part of the importance of genome sequencing is in understanding which mutations are showing up and figuring out what they do.And that can have potential implications on vaccines and other treatments.Mubareka and other experts say they're hopeful current vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna will still work against the variant strains — at least to some extent."It's really unlikely to go from 95 per cent effectiveness of a vaccine to zero," she said, adding however that there may be some reduction of effectiveness against the variants."But from what I understand from preliminary data, it's still anticipated to be above what would be protective at this stage."Mubareka says the emergence of the new variants means vaccines currently being developed will need to be tested against the latest strains rather than older versions to properly measure efficacy. Some of our established vaccines could need updates down the line. Moderna announced Monday it was planning to test booster vaccines aimed at the B.1.351 variant first found in South Africa, noting the current formula had a six-fold reduction in the effectiveness of its neutralizing antibodies. Despite the reduction, the company says those levels are still believed to offer protection. The nature of mRNA technology, which Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna both use in their vaccines, is that an updated shot with a new target could theoretically be made quickly, if needed.However, Mubareka says any new vaccine would presumably need to go through a review process and trials to determine safety and efficacy. So updated inoculations won't be popping up overnight. WHAT DO THE NEW VARIANTS MEAN FROM A PUBLIC HEALTH STANDPOINT?As of right now, public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of our current dominant strain — physical distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing — will work to fend off these variants. Travel takes on greater significance with the more transmissible versions of the virus, however, with some experts calling for further restrictions and more strict enforcement of the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone coming into the country.COVID projections from Caroline Colijn, a mathematician and epidemiologist with Simon Fraser University, show a potentially grim picture for the next few months, with a skyrocketing spring wave fuelled by community spread of more contagious variants.But if the variants aren't yet firmly established here, we have time to prevent that flagrant spread, she says."If we can push that peak out to September, we may be able to avert it if most of us are vaccinated by then."Mubareka cautions, however, that new variants will continue to arise as long as the virus is spreading. So limiting contacts and abiding by other public health measures is important in making sure we don't get a series of strains that could slip past our mitigation strategies."We play an important part in preventing the likelihood that we will become a vector for one of these variants," she said. "Every time one of these viruses passes through a host, it provides an opportunity not just for spread, but also for adaptation."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
In the first days and weeks, as panic seemed to take over Alexandre Verville's body in the fall of 2019, he thought something must be wrong with his heart. "I had tightness in my chest. I had these huge tensions and tremors," Verville, 28, said earlier this month. He consulted a general practitioner at one of the province's no-appointment clinics, but all the tests came back clear. He and the doctor concluded anxiety and the panic attacks he'd had in his early twenties might have returned. But as Verville's journey through Quebec's health care system dragged on, the symptoms worsened, settling into what he describes as a months-long panic attack that left him bedridden for most of the pandemic. The Quebec government has boasted that the number of people waiting for mental health services went down from 28,000 in 2019 to 16,000 in the early summer of 2020. But those numbers rose again to nearly 19,000 last November as levels of distress in the population continue to spike. Experts fear the pandemic's effects are exacerbating the already significant barriers to accessing mental health services in Quebec. And though Verville's ordeal began a few months before the coronavirus was detected in Quebec, they say the hardships he faced reflect problems that have plagued the province's mental health care system for decades. "It really is a neglected sector, always has been, and it's probably been made worse by the pandemic we're experiencing," said François Champagne, a Université de Montréal professor whose research focuses on health-care system performance. For Verville, what started as a two-week medical leave from his job as a motion graphics designer became a seven-month nightmare that wreaked havoc on his mind and body. "The fact that I had to wait all that time just made things worse," Verville said. "I don't think I would have lost all those months of my life if I'd had access to the services I got, sooner." He visited two emergency rooms only to be turned away and ended up waiting nearly six months to see a psychiatrist who could work on his case. Marie-Josée Fleury, a McGill University professor and researcher at the Douglas Research Centre, says data on emergency room visits says data on emergency room visits provide a kind of barometer for how well the health care system is serving people. Several studies she conducted concluded Quebecers with mental health issues are more likely to visit the emergency room than the rest of the population and at more frequent rates for all kinds of issues, indicating they aren't receiving the care they need. Fleury also analyzed the latest figures on wait times for the province's one-stop program for mental health services, the Guichet d'accès en santé mentale adulte, which showed an average delay of three months to get a follow-up and five more to receive any kind of service, meaning it takes an average of eight months for most to get care. The government targets for both timelines, respectively, are of seven and 30 days. "That's enormous," Fleury said. "If I have a mental health issue and have to wait more than five months, a lot can happen in that time." A poll released in October by a group of Quebec public sector psychologists — the Coalition des psychologues du réseau public québécois — found its members' clients had waited between six and 24 months before getting psychotherapy. "It's very sad because anybody waiting more than necessary could be detrimental, could be fatal," said Connie Scuccimarri, a government psychologist working with youth and their families who is also a spokesperson for the Coalition. The group has been decrying those wait times and the lack of access more generally, saying there would be more services available if public-sector psychologists weren't leaving for better salaries in the private sector. In an interview with CBC News host Debra Arbec, Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant acknowledged that wait times have been a problem for years. He defended the Legault government's decision to offer $100 per hour to private sector psychologists — more than the $60 rate public sector psychologists are paid — saying the private sector psychologists have to pay office fees. Carmant said the government is working to open up the list of professionals who can provide psychotherapy in the public sector to include, for instance, nurses and psycho-educators. 'You start losing hope each time you're turned away' Verville's first emergency room visit was to the Douglas Mental Health University Institute last winter, after his family doctor prescribed a too-high dose of Ativan. He waited six hours only to be told he didn't live in the right part of town. His second visit was to the psychiatric emergency room of Notre-Dame Hospital. After waiting hours again, he was told by a doctor that his case wasn't urgent enough. "You just start losing hope each time you're turned away," Verville said. Eventually, he learned about the Guichet and signed up at his local CLSC. But weeks turned into months. The group therapy he was referred to by the clinic's social worker closed due to pandemic restrictions. He waited for an appointment with a psychologist or psychiatris, and the panic stayed. The heart palpitations continued and clouded his days. Fear seemed to solidify in his back and he joined a McGill University study looking into the link between anxiety and chronic pain. He poured his savings into the various promises of the private sector: chiropractors, acupuncturists, osteopaths, a couple of psychologists with whom he lacked chemistry. In bed, he would peer at his laptop screen for hours searching the web for solutions. "At some point in the day, I would just get exhausted enough to fall asleep, then the vicious cycle started over [when I woke up]," Verville said. A 30 per cent increase in calls The Health Ministry says it can't provide wait-time numbers because they differ per region, but Fleury says she doubts they would have changed much in the past year, if they haven't gotten worse. She says the waitlist numbers the government has provided media are unlikely to paint an accurate picture of access to services. People could drop off the waitlist for all kinds of reasons. Martin Énault, who heads the board of directors of Relief, a non-profit organization that helps people with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder, says about 30 per cent more people are seeking help. Énault says many of those people are referred to Relief through the government. "That new influx of people on top of a system that was already struggling to meet with the existing demand is making it almost impossible [for the government] to provide help to people," Énault said. Maylee Keo, who is also 28, reached out to her CLSC earlier this month, after she found her feelings of distress and anxiety had gotten worse and more frequent during the pandemic. "It just felt really generic," Keo said of the call she received from a social worker following up. "It felt like, "Oh, well, you might not get the help now…. It's just waiting in complete uncertainty, while being distressed." The worker sent her a list of community organizations, including Relief, to call in the meantime. Picking up the pieces Finally, in the early days of the pandemic, a call came offering Verville an appointment with a psychiatrist at Notre-Dame Hospital. Together, they found a medication and dosage that suited him and about a month and a half later, he was starting to feel well enough to return to work part-time in the spring. He's been seeing a resident psychiatrist at the hospital every few months since and a psychologist she referred him to through the public system. "I feel better but I'm not 100 per cent," Verville said, adding he's thankful for the services, but that he wanted to share his story to highlight how difficult they are to get. It's hard for him not to think about the things he lost — the seemingly everyday-ness that makes up a happy life: a promotion at work, concerts he had tickets to that fall, a cottage weekend with friends, savings he'd built up to buy a house. "You just feel so alone," he said. "I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I went through." This story is part of a special CBC Quebec project Out of the Dark: Real Talk on Mental Health. If you are having a hard time coping, here are some resources that could help. If you are in crisis or know someone who is, here is where to get help: In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
VANCOUVER — There's a race between COVID-19 and the rollout of vaccine as researchers and health officials in B.C. warn of two faster-spreading variants. The number of variant cases may start low, but increased transmission could only be a few weeks away, just as delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is delayed, said Caroline Colijn, the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Infection, Evolution and Public Health at Simon Fraser University. Colijn's lab released modelling data this week showing public health rules in several provinces, including B.C., would not be sufficient to prevent exponential growth in cases starting around March if a COVID-19 variant with a 40 per cent higher transmission rate became established. "By established I mean some cluster doesn't get stopped and takes off and we don't notice or we don't act and we are unable to stop those chains of transmission and so they take off the way the current COVID has," she said. Colijn added she would expect public health officials to enact further restrictions before such exponential growth in variant cases. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told a news briefing this week that B.C. has detected three cases of a variant found in South Africa and none were linked to each other or to travel, pointing to community spread. By completing whole genome sequencing, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control has also recorded six travel-related cases of the COVID-19 variant first found in the United Kingdom, which appears significantly more transmissible than earlier strains of the new coronavirus. B.C. is sequencing about 15 per cent of samples that test positive for COVID-19 in the province, said Natalie Prystajecky, head of the environmental microbiology program at the centre's public health lab. Sequencing is more labour-intensive than diagnostic testing, she said, so it can take up to two weeks to produce data from a given sample. B.C. has sequenced about 11,000 COVID-positive samples since last February and generated quality data from about 9,500 of them, she said. The average rate of sequencing across Canada is between five and 10 per cent, said Prystajecky, a member of the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network that received funding last spring to sequence 150,000 samples. In addition to targeting samples from travellers and youth, she said, B.C. is prioritizing more general, "background" sampling to understand if public health officials are missing anything, such as transmission of new variants. "We're ramping up," she said. "We did 750 genomes last week and we're aiming to continue to increase the amount of sequencing we're doing." Prystajecky said her lab is also planning to do a "point prevalence study" to screen a high number of samples at a given point in time. B.C. is taking a smart approach to sequencing by targeting travel-related cases, said Colijn, but at the rate sequencing data becomes available, "there could be 10 or 50 or 100 cases of whatever we detect at the time." Colijn believes B.C. should consider Atlantic Canada's approach and create a so-called "Pacific bubble" that would require travellers from other provinces to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in B.C. Data from Pfizer and Moderna — the pharmaceutical companies behind the two COVID-19 vaccines approved in Canada — show their products still protect people against the U.K. and South African variants, said Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University. "What this means is people really need to hunker down until this vaccine gets out into the population further," she said in an interview this week. "We really are in a race between the vaccine and the virus right now." Basic measures including physical distancing and avoiding non-essential travel are still effective in preventing new variants from spreading, she said. B.C. reported 4,260 active cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday out of more than 65,000 confirmed cases since the pandemic began. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
Evotec rose sharply on Tuesday amid market speculation that Melvin Capital Management was unwinding its positions in the German drugmaker after some of its investments turned sour. Evotec's shares jumped 10% at one point on Tuesday with three traders saying the move was likely linked to Melvin Capital closing out its shorts following losses on GameStop and other investments. Battery maker Varta surged for a similar reason, a German-based trader said, while shares in Polish videogame firm CD Projekt also saw strong demand.
WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the lingering potential for violence from people motivated by antigovernment sentiment after President Joe Biden's election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks. The department did not cite any specific plots, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular event or date, such as July 4. But this particular bulletin, issued through the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology, and suggests it regards violence like the kind that overwhelmed the Capitol as akin to terrorism. The bulletin is an indication that national security officials see a connective thread between different episodes of violence in the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, including over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. The document singles out crimes motivated by racial or ethnic hatred, such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in El Paso, Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terror groups. A DHS statement that accompanied the bulletin noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.” “Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said. The alert comes at a tense time following the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump seeking to overturn the presidential election. Authorities are concerned that extremists may attack other symbols of government or people whose political views they oppose. “The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat and chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.” The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate. Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues. Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said in a conference call with reporters. Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers. The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations. Ben Fox And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — Newly released documents show federal officials have been aware since the fall that some new parents might be receiving a smaller amount of money than they would have if not for a change in the way COVID-19 pandemic benefits are delivered to Canadians. That is due to a shift in late September, when the employment insurance system kicked back into gear and three new benefits rolled out to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that was supporting Canadians who had lost income since the spring. On Sept. 27, eligible recipients started moving on to the decades-old EI system where the minimum weekly payment was set at $500 in line with the three "recovery" benefits. Prior to that date, benefits were calculated based on earnings, meaning any new parent that started their EI claim before the change could receive less than $500 a week. The documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act note the policy created inequities, and point to a similar effect for parents who will start claims after Sept. 25 this year, when the temporary rules are set to expire. Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough's office says the government will make any necessary changes so new parents don't face "additional barriers accessing maternity or parental benefits as a result of COVID-19." Changes to the EI program can take anywhere between three and 18 months to come into force, and they generally take effect on a particular date. Claims made before that date are often ineligible unless the change is simple and very specific to avoid what the document describes as the need to review claims that began "as much as 100 weeks in the past." But the undated memo outlines multiple, rapid changes and revisions to parental benefit rules in the wake of the CERB. When partial or retroactive changes were made, more problems seem to have cropped up. There were issues with how the system handled soon-to-be-mothers applying for emergency aid, which denied them CERB payments until changes to the system could be made and back payments processed. As well, other new parents, or those waiting the birth of their child, were put directly on EI benefits if they had enough hours to qualify, while those that didn't were put on the CERB until the government came up with a fix. That fix meant a one-time reduction in the number of hours needed to qualify for benefits to address concerns that some parents would lose out on benefits because they lost work hours through no fault of their own. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 35 per cent of new mothers outside of Quebec, which has its own system, didn't qualify for federal benefits. The pandemic has shone a light on the long-standing issue around the hours requirement, said Brock University's Andrea Doucet, an expert on parental-leave programs. "This was made even worse as women lost jobs and reduced (their) hours," Doucet said. "The reduction in insurable hours was presented as temporary, but will it lead to more inclusive policies that enable more parents to make claims?" Kate Bezanson, an expert on family and labour market policy, said the document points a need for a rethink of the parental leave program, noting that leave policies work hand-in-hand with child care and employment efforts. The Liberals have said they want to create a national child-care system, part of a plan to help more mothers enter the labour market. "We want people to have babies, and take care of those babies happily, and also have jobs to return to and be able to do that seamlessly," said Bezanson, associate dean of social sciences at Brock University. "This is one of those moments where if we're looking holistically and we're looking globally at our policy portfolios, let's put them together and get them to talk to each other and make the changes that have been long overdue." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — United Nations human rights experts are alarmed by what they see as a growing trend to enact legislation allowing medical assistance in dying for people suffering from non-terminal, disabling conditions. Three experts, including the UN's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, say such legislation tends to be based on "ableist" assumptions about the quality and worth of the life of a person with a disability. In a statement issued earlier this week, the experts do not specifically mention Canada's proposed legislation, which would expand assisted dying to people who are suffering intolerably but are not approaching the natural end of their lives. But the arguments they make echo those advanced by Canadian disability rights advocates, who are vehemently opposed to Bill C-7. The bill has been passed by the House of Commons and is currently before the Senate. It is intended to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that struck down a provision in the current law that allows assisted dying only for those whose natural death is reasonably foreseeable. The near-death restriction was challenged by Nicole Gladu and Jean Truchon, both of whom suffered from degenerative, disabling conditions but were not at the end of their lives. Justice Christine Baudouin agreed with them that the restriction violated their charter rights to equal treatment under the law and to life, liberty and security of the person. However, the UN experts argue that extending assisted dying to people with non-terminal conditions contravenes Article 10 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, "which requires states to ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others." "When life-ending interventions are normalized for people who are not terminally ill or suffering at the end of their lives, such legislative provisions tend to rest on — or draw strength from — ableist assumptions about the inherent 'quality of life' or 'worth' of the life of a person with a disability," they say in a statement issued Monday by the UN Human Rights Council. "Disability is not a burden or a deficit of the person. It is a universal aspect of the human condition," they add. "Under no circumstance should the law provide that it could be a well-reasoned decision for a person with a disabling condition who is not dying to terminate their life with the support of the state." The experts who issued the statement are Gerard Quinn, the UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities; Olivier De Schutter, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights; and Claudia Mahler, who was described as "an independent expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons." They argue that everyone accepts there can be no justification for assisting "any other protected group — be it a racial minority, gender or sexual minorities — to end their lives because they are experiencing suffering on account of their status." And they say it should be no different for people with disabilities. "Disability should never be a ground or justification to end someone's life directly or indirectly." Even when assisted dying is restricted to people near the end of life, they argue people with disabilities, the elderly and especially elderly people with disabilities "may feel subtly pressured to end their lives prematurely" due to societal attitudes and a lack of support services. Those living in poverty may decide to seek an assisted death "as a gesture of despair," not as a real choice, they say. The government has until Feb. 26 — after being granted three extensions — to bring the law into compliance with Baudouin's ruling. The Senate's legal and constitutional affairs committee, which has already conducted a pre-study of Bill C-7, is to resume its study and consider possible amendments during three, daylong meetings, starting Monday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 27, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
For Debi Drennan, the film business is a family affair. The Toronto-based makeup artist has been working in the industry before the days of The Littlest Hobo. Her sons, Christian and Tyler, followed her into the business, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they're all as busy as ever. Christian, a key grip, just wrapped The Man from Toronto starring Kevin Hart. Key rigger Tyler recently jumped from working on Netflix's Sex and Lies and is now on Station Eleven. Drennan herself was one of the first to return to work after Ontario's first coronavirus lockdown, as part of CBC's Murdoch Mysteries. She says that with all of the precautions in place, she wasn't worried about safety. "We're not allowed on the property until we have a correct temperature and we've done a screening. We all had apps on our phone, and we would have to answer those apps every morning." With surging coronavirus rates shutting down production in parts of California, Canadian crews such as the ones the Drennans worked on are competing with an influx of American productions. In both British Columbia and Ontario, the industry isn't just busy — it's booming. Switching face shields for safety glasses Virus or not, Drennan and her colleagues in the makeup trailer still had to make the cast look picture perfect. For starters, she procured a high-end UV sterilization machine to prevent cross-contamination. But applying makeup while wearing masks and face shields turned out to be a challenge. The solution was safety glasses with prescription lenses, which became standard on set. As both the face of and a director on the 14th season of Murdoch Mysteries, Yannick Bisson says he was all too cognizant of the risks. "There was pressure, we were going to be one of the first shows out of the gate," he said. "So the potential for failure was there." Drennan says the cast and crew quickly became accustomed to the new rhythms of work, but what she didn't anticipate was how worn out she would become. "It's exhausting.... I just felt like halfway through the day, they couldn't call lunch fast enough. I just needed to get in my car, pull my mask off, take my goggles off and just sit." Headaches were common, and Drennan says she thinks dehydration may have played a role: Taking off all the layers of personal protective equipment for a sip of water or a snack was such an ordeal that the temptation was just to tough it out. Pandemic keeps productions on edge Jason Jallet, a producer from Sudbury, Ont., completed two independent films during the fall and ran into trouble getting makeup and hair trailers, which had already been reserved for foreign productions. "They are all on a lot somewhere held until somebody needed them, so they were being paid for and unused." Jallet says he was forced to send drivers to Quebec from Sudbury for trailers, costing more time and money. He estimates COVID-19 precautions ate up about five per cent of his already precious budget. On-screen, life on the CBC sitcom Kim's Convenience looks the same as it did before the pandemic. But behind the scenes, the fifth season was shot under COVID-19 measures that were so strict, even Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays Appa, struggled to adjust. "I remember really wanting to push back at the absurdity of having to wear a mask because I knew I didn't have COVID and then realizing that I was making life hell for our COVID protocol officer." Eventually, Lee says, he decided to lean in and embrace the rules. Jean Yoon, who plays his on-screen wife, Umma, says she missed the faces of the crew. "Being in the same building with so many people we've worked with for all these years and not be able to see them." The strain of adapting to the regime of rules was so onerous that Jallet created a new position — a COVID-19 mental health officer — to give his crew someone to vent to. Jallet completed two films in northern Ontario last fall, Boathouse and Delia's Gone, starring Marisa Tomei and Canadian actor Stephan James. Jallet was also dealing with his own anxiety due to the lack of insurance for COVID-19 outbreaks. While the federal government eventually created a program to act as a backstop for Canadian productions, it wasn't available in time for Jallet, leaving him on the hook for any potential outbreak. "Every time the phone rang, I was like, 'Is there a COVID incident? Is somebody sick? Are we going to have to shut down?'" A surge in demand for studio space While the rush for resources has taxed Canadian productions, it's been a boon for companies offering studio space. Near Toronto's Pearson International Airport, the sound of jets overhead has been replaced by a fleet of film trucks supporting the newest location for TriBro Studios. What was once an airport hangar is now a soundstage, home to an upcoming Paramount production. TriBro president Peter Apostolopoulos says it can't build studio space fast enough. "The phone hasn't stopped ringing. There's a tremendous amount of calls coming in for studio space. That's why we expanded to the airport facilities. We needed more space." In Vancouver, independent producer Mark Miller says he is also seeing a scramble for space, with old warehouses being transformed into soundstages. The producer, who's worked with Great Pacific Media and Thunderbird Entertainment, is bullish on the future. "We're preparing for a big boom — actually, we think that once the pandemic comes to an end, there's a lot of pent-up demand for new content." At the same time, Miller says he's worried who will buy his shows. Aggressive tax credits and the low dollar continue to make Canada an attractive location to serve American shows, such as Star Trek: Discovery or Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. But Miller says the pandemic is changing the broadcasting landscape here at home. "COVID-19 has been very hard on our broadcasters. I know it's been hard on the CBC. I know it's been hard at CTV," he says. "Global advertising revenues are down throughout traditional television, which up until eight years ago was 100 per cent of my business." While COVID-19 has changed how stories are being captured, Yannick Bisson of Murdoch Mysteries says one thing remains the same: "The need for something to watch, the need for content. We want to watch our voices on our screen." In Ontario alone, there are an estimated 30,000 full-time jobs connected to the film and television sector. But as the pandemic stretches on, choosing whether to work or wait has producer Jason Jallet facing some tough choices. "Do we go come up here to northern Ontario to make films? So if I'm bringing actors up from Toronto on a weekly basis to be on screen, am I putting my community here in northern Ontario at risk?"
A slugfest between Wall Street and Main Street took an unexpected turn late on Wednesday after moderators of a stock trading forum that has helped fuel massive rallies in the shares of GameStop temporarily closed its doors. Shares of GameStop, AMC Entertainment, Koss Corp and BlackBerry all dropped at least 20% moments after the shuttering of the forum, highlighting the role it has played in fueling stock rallies that many say have been driven primarily by retail investors.
PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party's elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely. Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump's role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump's incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable. After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signalled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial. Trump's conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters. “The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.” The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement. At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favour of impeachment. After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions. On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.” Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership. Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump's false charges that Georgia's elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running. Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting. Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view. “We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress. Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia. “POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.” Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial. “We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller. Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection. “The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumours that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said. The calls were first reported by Politico. But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low. “I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial. Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him. “I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.” Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before. In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain. At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC. In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.” Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back. “His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote. ___ Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington contributed to this report. Steve Peoples And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
The Himalayan nation of Nepal launched its largest immunisation campaign on Wednesday with its first coronavirus vaccinations for medical workers, following a gift of one million doses from giant neighbour India. Wearing a traditional black peaked cap and sleeveless red vest, a doctor at a teaching hospital in the capital, Kathmandu, became the first recipient of a dose taken from a bed of ice in a cubical blue cooler and injected by masked and gowned staff. "We have a new weapon now and I hope we will be able to defeat the coronavirus soon," said Dinesh Kafle, 50, after he was applauded by those queuing for their turn while he sat in a white-walled room before a poster advertising the campaign.
Work continues in an effort to protect the province's last coastal wilderness — the Hog Island Sandhills — though the process has been slowed down due to COVID-19, Parks Canada says. The initiative was originally brought forward by the Mi'kmaq of P.E.I., as well as the province. In 2019, Parks Canada began a feasibility assessment with the aim of turning the area into a national park reserve, separate and distinct from the existing Prince Edward Island National Park. It would be given the Mi'kmaq name Pitaweikek. Shanna MacDonald, senior negotiator for protected areas establishment for Parks Canada, said plans are moving slowly because part of the process includes significant community and public engagement. "Given that there has been a lockdown and … wanting to follow public health rules and regulations and practise social distancing and all of those other things, a lot of the types of community engagement that we would normally do, like open houses, one-on-one meetings with key stakeholders, has had to be put on hold." MacDonald is hopeful community engagement will take place this spring. She said until that happens, it's hard to predict when Hog Island could become a national park reserve. Treasured place According to the Canada National Park Act, park reserves are established for the same purpose as national parks — to preserve the land for the benefit and enjoyment of Canadians — but in areas "subject to a claim in respect of Aboriginal rights that has been accepted for negotiation by the government of Canada." MacDonald said Hog Island is a treasured place among Indigenous people. "It was a place where the community could always go in times of scarcity because of the rich waters in Malpeque Bay and the ability to collect plants and fish in the waters offshore," she said. "It's a fascinating piece of geology as well because of igneous outcropping in the area which makes the environment around Hog Island significantly different than the onshore land." More from CBC P.E.I.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4.m. ET on Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 28,505 new vaccinations administered for a total of 868,454 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,291.479 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 77.37 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,207 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 7,117 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 44.866 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 3,102 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,622 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 11.909 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 40.28 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 3,821 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 14,257 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 18.277 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 65.78 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 4,164 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 26.281 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 94.45 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 9,707 new vaccinations administered for a total of 295,817 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 20.139 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 71.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,618 new vaccinations administered for a total of 31,369 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.781 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 56.37 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 727 new vaccinations administered for a total of 34,080 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.902 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 104.1 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 361 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,814 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.674 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 81.33 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 2,509 new vaccinations administered for a total of 122,359 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 23.844 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 84.65 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 445 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,397 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 105.365 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 30.53 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting 7,578 new vaccinations administered for a total of 9,471 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 209.912 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 65.77 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 265 new vaccinations administered for a total of 4,723 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 121.959 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 39.36 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published January 27, 2021. The Canadian Press
Quantum Genetix, a laboratory licensed to perform COVID-19 testing in Saskatchewan for profit, has expanded its licence to include anyone in the province who is asymptomatic and wishes to be tested. The Saskatoon lab started processing samples at the beginning of December. At that time the company was only doing travel- and business-related testing in Saskatchewan. Testing kits are $150 and results are emailed to clients within 48 hours. For same-day rush service, testing kits are $250. Quantum Genetix has been very busy since December, according to Heather Deobald, the lab's general manager. The lab has served more than 100 businesses and more than 1,000 travelers so far. "We requested to have our licence expanded because from the start we've been getting requests from Saskatchewan residents who didn't fall under the business or travel related scope that we were given our licence through." Individuals and businesses can order testing kits by mail from Quantum Genetix. Kits contain self-administered nasal and oral swabs, and detailed instructions on how to use them. "Before we were able to do the testing, people were struggling sometimes with having turnaround times that they could utilize and still be able to go out and do their work or whatever they needed the test for," said Deobald. "So I think people are just relieved that they had another option." Deobold says there are many reasons Sask. residents are willing to pay for a quick test. "People waiting for surgery, people who have compassion permission to go into a care facility, families with immunocompromised family members. Single family members who are having another family member come into their home. Or two single people wanting to get together," said Deobald. After receiving the kit, clients can either courier their specimen to the Saskatoon laboratory or drop it off on-location at a kiosk there. Deobald said Quantum Genetix is working on making the process easier for anyone in the province, including those in the north. "We're actually right now working with another private business in Saskatchewan who will help us to expand into all areas of the province," she said. "We should have the news on that and more information on that hopefully next week."
Most countries in Europe now require people to wear facemasks on public transport and in shops. In Germany, new rules allow only medical masks to be worn on public transport and supermarkets. Euronews has visited one small factory in the German capital that is ramping up its production.View on euronews
A motion to prohibit fossil fuel producers and sellers from sponsoring city events or advertising on city property has been withdrawn unanimously at Regina's city council. At the executive committee meeting a week ago, councillors voted 7-4 in favour of a motion that would prevent fossil fuel companies from sponsoring city events, advertising or buying naming rights for city buildings. City administration said in a report that these sponsorships are expected to produce between $100,000 to $250,000 in net revenue annually for the city. Coun. Dan LeBlanc says he proposed the motion because the city has a policy to be energy sustainable by 2050, and it's up to the current council to help reach that goal. "I heard from a lot of people in the last week, and most of those I heard from support sustainability and understand that we need to get moving on it," LeBlanc said. "Despite support, I don't think this is one to push on. We don't have enough support at this point. I think taking a step back, let us cast a wider net for sustainability." Ward 4 Coun. Lori Bresciani, who had voted against the ban, says council reversing the decision was admirable and she thanked the councillors who did. "It's listening to your residents," Bresciani said. "And I will speak for all of the councillors that are here that have done that and vocally said that, 'You know what? We made a mistake. We heard you loud and clear,' and that is the job of a councillor." A total of 20 delegations, including the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and Canadian Labour Congress. Krystal Lewis, one of two delegations who spoke in favour of the amendment, says climate change is an important issue with voters. "Young people want movement on this and they are less afraid than us to talk about it," said Lewis, a member of the Regina Public Interest Research Group that advocates for climate change action. "I hope that we can be a lot more courageous in our thinking and not be afraid despite some backlash or negative feedback, we still need to move forward with these conversations. "We owe it not just to ourselves, but all of these young folks and leaders of tomorrow who will be dealing with the consequences of our decisions today." Twenty of the 21 delegations spoke against the amendment, including John Hopkins, CEO of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. Hopkins requested the council defeat the amendment. "The Saskatchewan energy sector is vital to our province. It is one of our big economic factors employing thousands of unionized workers as well as businesses," Hopkins said. "These employees are family, friends and neighbours." Hopkins says energy companies are using unique and innovative ways to reduce emissions and their carbon footprints. The fossil fuel producer and seller change wasn't the only amendment to the policy. Executive committee had also approved prohibiting political candidates or parties from sponsoring city events. On Wednesday, council voted unanimously to allow political parties or candidates to advertise or sponsor events as long as they indicated who it was paid by. Report on ew process for approving downtown parking lots postponed 'City council was set to discuss a report showing that 46.7 per cent of Regina's private land downtown is currently either surface parking or structured parkades. However it was pushed to the next meeting due to time constraints. If approved, the report would create a new process for approving new downtown lots and decommissioning lots when the allotted time ran out. The report was commissioned by the previous city council in August. It had asked city administration to look into amending the official Design Regina community plan to accommodate temporary surface parking lots. City administration looked into allowing lots for three to five years, researched how other cities consider downtown surface lots and consulted with the Regina and Downtown Business Improvement District, downtown property owners and developers. Administration also looked into how to decommission a temporary parking lot. Regina city councils have previously approved three temporary parking lots. The report shows none of them went on to be developed as expected. One such site is at 1755 Hamilton Street. It was approved as a three-year temporary parking lot in 2012, but was supposed to be developed afterward. It remains a vacant lot. A second is at 1840 Lorne Street. In 2015, it was approved for a three-year term. In 2019, another three-year term was approved. It is still a parking lot. "There is a risk that allowing surface parking lots, even on a temporary basis, would cause several demolitions downtown if left uncontrolled," city administration said in the report. Administration is recommending limiting future temporary surface parking lots and creating an underutilized land improvement strategy to redevelop existing sites.
BERLIN — A German woman has been charged with preparing a far-right attack and other crimes on allegations she was in the process of building a bomb to target Muslims and local politicians in Bavaria, Munich prosecutors said Wednesday. Susanne G., whose last name wasn't given in line with privacy laws, also faces charges of making threats and violations of weapons laws, among other things. She has been in custody since her arrest. Prosecutors allege that the woman started planning a firebombing attack no later than May 2020, motivated by her xenophobic and extreme-right views. She is alleged to have downloaded information on bomb building online and have gathered materials for the construction, including gasoline, fireworks and fuses, by the time of her arrest in September. Between December 2019 and March 2020 the suspect is alleged to have sent six anonymous letters, five including a live bullet, with death threats to a local politician in the Nuremberg area, a Muslim community association, and an asylum seeker aid organization. During the summer of 2020, she started focusing on local police officers and a different local politician than the one threatened by letter as other possible targets, and began scouting their homes and cars. The Associated Press
In mid-January, an unsettling report from Norway suggested 23 frail, elderly patients had all died after receiving a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The finding made headlines around the world. Meanwhile, here in Canada, there have been instances of coronavirus infections and deaths in the midst of initial vaccination efforts targeting residents of long-term care. A home in Saskatoon where the vast majority of residents had received their first vaccine dose later reported seven cases of COVID-19. And a facility in Barrie, Ont., is in the grips of a facility-wide outbreak that has caused dozens of deaths due to a fast-spreading virus variant — even as public health officials raced to fully vaccinate all the residents while the outbreak progressed. But in all these instances of seniors falling ill or dying after receiving at least one dose, dire-sounding headlines don't tell the whole story, experts say. "Just because somebody died after receiving the COVID vaccine does not mean the COVID vaccine caused the death," said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a researcher focused on vaccine safety who is also a professor at Dalhousie University's department of pediatrics in Halifax. In the case of outbreaks in long-term care homes, it's important to remember that while one dose offers some level of protection, it's not the full amount that results from the two-dose regimen for either of the vaccines currently approved in Canada, said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. That means even if residents get partially vaccinated, it might not be enough to protect them if the virus is spreading where they live. "There might have been a high level of COVID circulating, and they didn't have enough protection within days of their very first dose to confer immunity at that point," he said. Canadian physicians also stress COVID-19 vaccines are proving overwhelmingly safe and protective for the majority of elderly recipients — a population that's at the highest risk of dying from the illness. "We are now hoping that as soon as we get people vaccinated, especially in these care settings, that we're really going to see the burden of disease — and the resulting burden of death — stopped," Sinha said. No unexpected death increase, WHO concludes In Norway, the deaths of those 23 elderly vaccine recipients happened during the course of more than 20,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses being administered over several weeks — not all in one go — and in a country where around 400 deaths normally occur among care home residents on a weekly basis. Following a review of the deaths, which later totalled more than 30, the World Health Organization concluded there was actually no "unexpected" increase in deaths of frail, elderly individuals or any unusual adverse events following the vaccinations. WATCH | Dr. Samir Sinha on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for seniors: In fact, the vaccine did not play a "contributory role" in the fatalities at all, the panel found. It's a finding that comes as tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses are being administered in countries around the world, including to millions of seniors, with the clear protective benefits against severe infections so far outweighing minor risks such as allergic reactions in rare instances. "We're just not seeing the data showing that the vaccine is hastening anybody's death," Sinha said. However, an earlier investigation from the Norwegian Medicines Agency, Norway's national medical regulatory authority, did note that common adverse reactions of mRNA-based vaccines, such as fever, nausea and diarrhea, may have contributed to some of those deadly outcomes in the Norweigian patients. Canadian physicians do agree immune system responses to a vaccine could indeed prove dire, but only for the most frail of elderly individuals who are already approaching their death based on their age and pre-existing health issues. That could mean someone immobile, largely bed-bound and in the end stages of dementia, explained geriatrician Dr. Janet McElhaney, the scientific director of the Health Sciences North Research Institute and a professor at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine in Sudbury, Ont. "Those are not the people that we want to be vaccinating, as they are unlikely to tolerate that." For someone severely frail and dehydrated, even a short bout of diarrhea can be dangerous to their health, she said. WATCH | Why there's new urgency for vaccinations in long-term care homes: At the same time, it's a delicate balancing act, since those frail seniors could even more easily die from COVID-19, said Tara Moriarty, an associate professor at the University of Toronto and co-founder of COVID-19 Resources Canada. "This is something that decision-makers would weigh very, very carefully with the physician or the care provider," she said. But both McElhaney and Moriarty stressed those individuals are among a small minority of long-term care residents. COVID-19 disproportionately deadly for seniors For the vast majority of Canadian seniors, including those living in long-term care or in the community, medical experts maintain the protective benefits of COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh any minimal risks. Across Canada, nearly 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, the vast majority of whom were over the age of 60 — including 70 per cent aged 80 and older. That's why long-term care residents are near the front of the line as public health officials ramp up vaccination efforts, as both their age and congregate living conditions put them at higher risk. Health complications from COVID-19 a concern for seniors But as reports of deaths post-vaccine keep causing confusion among some seniors, Moriarty is now among those concerned it might prompt vaccine hesitancy among the very population who would benefit most. "There have been no deaths that have actually been associated with these vaccines whereas there are a lot of deaths among people who are diagnosed with COVID," she said. And as McElhaney points out, death isn't the only concern with COVID-19. Even if a senior survives the illness, they run the risk of serious complications, be it lingering health issues or life-changing impacts from a stay in intensive care. "The most compelling reason for older people to get vaccinated is to prevent a loss of independence, their abilities," she said. "So, it's a quality of life decision." According to MacDonald, wary Canadian seniors need to understand where the highest risk exists — and that's definitely from falling ill with COVID-19, not getting vaccinated against it. "So, which door do you want to go through?" she said. "The door that has a probability of you not getting COVID, and saving your life, however long that may be? Or do you want to go through the COVID door?"
The Charlottetown Islanders say they will play by the COVID-19 rules when their season resumes in Cape Breton on Friday. The Charlottetown Driving Park is the only open harness racing track in Canada right now, and it was first to open in the spring, and that created a surge in revenues in 2020. The final numbers are in, and they show what many observers already suspected — 2020 was the worst year on record for the Charlottetown Airport in the last 45 years. The pandemic has slowed down the process of turning Hog Island, along P.E.I.'s North Shore, into a national park reserve. Provincial qualifiers for the Scotties and the Brier are short on competitors, and Curl P.E.I. says it is because of the self-isolation requirements. A trauma and orthopedic surgeon has been splitting his time between work in three New Brunswick hospitals and his home and family in P.E.I. And he's got dozens of COVID-19 test results to show for it. UPEI's writer-in-residence will not actually be in residence this year. A 24-year-old P.E.I. woman from the Summerside area has been fined for not following the province's COVID-19 self-isolation rules. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases reported on P.E.I. remains 110, with six still active. There have been no deaths or hospitalizations. New Brunswick reported 14 new cases Wednesday. Nova Scotia had four new cases, with 12 active. Also in the news Further resources Reminder about symptoms The symptoms of COVID-19 can include: Fever. Cough or worsening of a previous cough. Possible loss of taste and/or smell. Sore throat. New or worsening fatigue. Headache. Shortness of breath. Runny nose. More from CBC P.E.I.