A swath of sneaky snow across the GTA Sunday morning as a low passes to the south.
A swath of sneaky snow across the GTA Sunday morning as a low passes to the south.
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
MONTPELIER, Vt. -- An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Vermont state prison in Newport has grown to 100 inmates and eight staff members, making it the largest outbreak at a Vermont correctional facility since the start of the pandemic, the commissioner of the Department of Corrections said. “It’s all hands on deck for our response,” Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the prison is being treated as though it were a hospital. Officials are co-ordinating with the department’s medical contractor, regional hospitals, the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health to ensure the well-being of the staff and inmates, he said. The Vermont outbreak began after one staff member and 21 inmates tested positive for the virus on Feb. 23. The most recent cases were detected in testing conducted March 1. The ACLU of Vermont is calling for the the state to reduce the number of people in prison and to prioritize vaccinations for incarcerated Vermonters. The prison has been on full lockdown since the first positive result Feb. 25. All other state prisons are on modified lockdown. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: — CDC chief: Wear masks, follow federal guidelines — Biden stands by timeline of vaccines for all US adults by May — Drug maker says India vaccine is 81% effective — European countries seek vaccine ‘overdrive’ to catch up — Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: OKLAHOMA CITY -- The number of Oklahoma deaths due to the illness caused by the coronavirus jumped by about 2,500 Wednesday as the state health department began using the count reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control. The Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 7,035 deaths using the CDC’s number that is based on death certificates. The health department on Tuesday had reported 4,534 COVID deaths. There were 747 new virus cases for a total of 425,746 since the pandemic began, the department reported. On Tuesday, the Oklahoma City Council extended the city’s mask ordinance until April 30, after hearing that the city could achieve herd immunity by June, an estimated 80% rate of vaccination in the population. Council member David Greenwell said the mandate could be extended, if needed. “We’ve been very flexible to have these extensions occur roughly every six weeks, just to take into account developments in terms of new information” about the virus, Greenwell said. ___ HARTFORD, Conn. -- More than 200 inmates at the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, have declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19, including numerous medically vulnerable prisoners who have been seeking release to home confinement due to concerns about the coronavirus, according to federal officials. Federal prosecutors disclosed in a new court document filed Tuesday that nearly 550 of the approximately 800 inmates at the prison complex have been offered a COVID-19 vaccine and 336 have received at least the first of two doses. Another 212 inmates declined. Some inmates may be worried or confused about the safety of the vaccines, or do not trust them, said Ariadne Ellsworth, a Yale Law School student and member of the legal team representing Danbury inmates who filed a class-action lawsuit accusing federal officials of not doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus. “Our understanding is that, as more information has become available and individuals have had more opportunities to educate themselves about the vaccine, a number of class members who initially declined the vaccine have since informed the facility that they are now willing to take it,” Ellsworth said. The Connecticut U.S. attorney’s office filed the new document as part of the class-action lawsuit, which was settled last July. The federal Bureau of Prisons agreed to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and are at higher risk of developing serious COVID-19 complication and release them to home confinement. Prison officials say inmates who decline vaccinations without a documented medical reason will not be given further consideration for home confinement. Officials say they are continuing to consider home confinement for inmates who accept vaccinations, up until the time they are fully inoculated, usually two weeks after receiving the second dose. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration will partner with health insurance companies to help vulnerable older people get vaccinated for COVID-19. White House coronavirus special adviser Andy Slavitt announced Wednesday the goal is to get 2 million of the most at-risk seniors vaccinated soon. Many older people live in relative isolation and some lack the internet access to make vaccination appointments. Insurance companies have ties to Medicare recipients through businesses that range from Medicare Advantage private plans, to prescription drug coverage, to Medigap plans that seniors purchase for expenses that traditional Medicare doesn’t cover. Slavitt says insurers will use their networks to contact seniors with information about COVID-19 vaccines, answer questions, find and schedule appointments for first and second doses and co-ordinate transportation. The focus will be on reaching people in medically underserved areas. The two major industry trade groups, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the BlueCross BlueShield Association, separately announced their member companies will take part in the pilot program, which is being called Vaccine Community Connectors. ___ WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is warning against virus fatigue and encouraging Americans to continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing despite many states easing restrictions. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the nation is “at a critical nexus in the pandemic,” and the next two months are “pivotal” in determining the remaining course of the pandemic. While vaccinations are set to rapidly ramp up, Walensky warned deaths and new infections have plateaued at a “troubling” level after falling off their January highs. She says: “Fatigue is winning and the exact measures we have taken to stop the pandemic are now too often being flagrantly ignored.” Walensky says the CDC has been clear in opposing states’ moves to lift restrictions and encouraged Americans to follow federal guidelines. ___ LA PAZ, Bolivia — Authorities say they have arrested eight people in connection with the death of seven students who fell to their deaths from a fourth-floor university balcony during a crowded meeting held in defiance of Bolivia’s pandemic restrictions. The dead, all first-year students at the Public University of El Alto, fell about 56 feet when a balcony railing gave way during a meeting for candidates for Sunday’s local elections in Bolivia. A seventh student died on Wednesday, according to doctors. Gov. Félix Patzi declared three days of mourning and prosecutor Marco Antonio Cossío said eight people had been arrested, some for violating the ban on public meetings during the pandemic. ___ NEW DELHI, India — The interim analysis of results from an Indian vaccine maker’s late stage trials shows its COVID-19 vaccine to be about 81% effective in preventing illness from the coronavirus. The Bharat Biotech vaccine was controversially approved by India in January without waiting for trials to confirm that the vaccine was effective. Since then 1.3 million of doses of the vaccine have been administered to people in India. The interim results are based on 43 trial participants who were infected by the virus. Of these, 36 hadn’t received the vaccine, the company says. A second analysis will be conducted for 87 cases, and a final analysis 130 cases. Health care workers have been reticent to take the shots and health experts are concerned the regulatory shortcut has amplified vaccine hesitancy. Bharat Biotech has already signed an agreement with Brazil to supply 20 million doses of the vaccine by September. ___ COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio’s mask mandate will continue until a “critical mass” has been reached of people who have received the coronavirus vaccine, a spokesperson for Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said. Despite announcements that mask orders in Texas and other states are being lifted, DeWine believes it’s important to continue mask wearing and social distancing until that critical mass of vaccinations is met, DeWine press secretary Dan Tierney said Wednesday. DeWine issued the state’s mask mandate in July. While people who have been vaccinated have “great immunity” against severe forms of the coronavirus, including protection from being hospitalized or dying, they could still get the virus in a weakened form, Tierney said. That means they could transmit the virus to people at risk of serious complications, he said. “We need to wear the mask to protect ourselves and others from the virus spreading until we get that critical mass where the vaccine is doing that for us,” Tierney said. ___ MIAMI — Florida began vaccinating residents under 65 at medical offices and pharmacies Wednesday if their doctor attests they have a high-risk medical condition. Previously, only hospitals could administer such shots. It is up to the doctor to decide what qualifies as “high risk.” For the general population, Florida limits vaccines to residents 65 and older; teachers, police officers and firefighters who are 50 and older; and frontline medical providers of any age. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he expects to lower the age from 65 soon. ___ DETROIT — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expanding vaccinations to any resident factory worker, no matter their age or where they work. Non-Detroit residents can also get a shot if they work in manufacturing in the city. “We’ve had some illness in our plants and deaths. This is incredibly important. ... It’s going to give them some peace of mind,” said Cindy Estrada, a vice-president at the United Auto Workers, who bared her arm for a shot at the news conference. More than 2.3 million vaccine doses have been administered so far in Michigan, mostly in the Detroit area, according to the state health department. ___ BERLIN — Germany is extending strict checks on its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol province by another two weeks until March 17. The checks were introduced on Feb. 14, initially for a 10-day period, in a bid to reduce the spread of possibly more contagious coronavirus variants that have taken hold in those areas. Germany is limiting entry to its own citizens and residents, truck drivers, health workers and cross-border commuters working in “systemically relevant sectors.” All must show a negative coronavirus test. Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter says an extension is necessary because of a “worsened infection situation” in the Czech Republic and the situation in Tyrol. He says Germany is “in intensive talks, in particular with Austria, to find solutions.” ___ PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is negotiating with Germany and other European countries to treat its COVID-19 patients as hospitals fill up. Interior Minister Jan Hamacek says 19 beds are ready for the Czech patients in neighbouring Germany, which has offered to treat dozens. He says Switzerland has offered another 20 beds in its hospitals, including taking care of the transportation. Talks are also under way with Poland that could provide some 200 beds. The Czech Republic is one of the hardest hit European Union countries. New confirmed cases reached 16,642 on Tuesday, the fourth highest since the start of the pandemic. There’s a record of more than 8,000 COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization. Some hospitals in western Czech Republic near the German border and in the central Pardubice region cannot take more patients. The nation of 10.7 million had almost 1.3 million confirmed cases with almost 21,000 deaths. ___ WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s biotechnology company Mabion S.A. says it signed a framework agreement with the U.S. vaccine development company Novavax. It would produce an active component, an antigen, of the U.S. firm’s anti-COVID-19 vaccine. The agreement provides for a transfer of technology to Mabion, which is to make a technical series of the antigen. If the tests prove successful and Novavax vaccine gets approval from European, the companies will discuss co-operation on large-scale production, also for Europe’s needs. Poland’s state Development Fund is to support the trial stage with up to 40 million zlotys ($10.6 million.) Amid a sharp rise in new infections, Poland is seeking to increase its purchases of COVID-19 vaccines. Poland’s President Andrzej Duda spoke this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the possibility of buying the Chinese vaccine. ___ PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegrin government says China has donated 30,000 Sinopharm vaccines to the small Balkan country. A statement says the shipment arrived on Wednesday “illustrating friendly relations and great solidarity between our two countries.” Montenegro has previously acquired 5,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines and Serbia has donated 2,000 of the same shots. The small Balkan country of 620,000 people has reported more than 1,000 virus-related deaths and hundreds of new cases daily. Health authorities have appealed on the citizens to join the vaccination effort in large numbers. Balkan countries have been turning to Russia and China for vaccines while still waiting to receive some through the international COVAX program. It's designed to make sure less wealthy countries are not left behind in inoculation. ___ TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says he is considering extending an ongoing state of emergency for the Tokyo region for about two weeks, amid concerns that infections have not slowed enough and are continuing to strain health systems in the region. Suga had declared a month-long state of emergency in Jan. 7 for Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, then extended the measure through to March 7. The measure issued for up to 10 other urban prefectures later in January was lifted last week, underscoring the government’s eagerness to allow businesses to return to normal as soon as possible. “Our anti-infection measures are at a very important phase,” Suga told reporters Wednesday. “In order to protect the people’s lives and health, I think we need to extend (the state of emergency) for about two weeks.” His comment comes after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and heads of the neighbouring prefectures raised concerns that infections have not slowed enough and lifting restrictive measures this weekend could trigger a quick rebound of infections. Daily new cases in Tokyo have significantly decreased after they peaked at around 2,000 in early January, but the slide has slowed recently. Tokyo on Wednesday reported 316 new cases, up from 232 the day before, for a prefectural total of 112,345. Nationwide, Japan has more than 434,000 cases and about 8,000 deaths as of Tuesday, the health ministry said. Suga said medical systems in the region are still burdened with COVID-19 patients and that more hospital beds need to be freed up. ___ STOCKHOLM — A top health official in the Swedish capital says a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit Stockholm after a drop in cases after the New Year. Cases in the capital have been rising sharply for the past three weeks. “We do not want to see a development where the need for health care increases sharply,” said Johan Bratt, the capital city’s health director. The last week of February saw 6,336 new cases, almost double the 3,225 new cases recorded three weeks earlier. Officials in neighbouring Norway said restaurants and gyms in some areas would be closed after pockets of virus outbreaks in the capital Oslo and elsewhere. The move comes after more cases of the virus mutations have been reported in Norway. The changes apply as of Wednesday. The Associated Press
Wall Street slumped on Thursday and global stock markets declined after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell repeated his pledge to keep credit flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes. Benchmarket U.S. Treasury yields rose toward last week's highs as Powell spoke, and the dollar hit a three-month high. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out and the government fiscal taps open "there is good reason to think we will make more progress soon" toward the Fed's goals of maximum employment and 2% sustained inflation, Powell told a Wall Street Journal forum.
Pembroke -- A respected member of the Upper Ottawa Valley legal, business and agricultural community, Del O’Brien, was recognized by Renfrew County Council at its February 25 meeting for his coming induction into the Ontario Agricultural Wall of Fame. He was introduced via ZOOM by Donna Campbell, secretary-treasurer of the Renfrew County Federation of Agriculture, one of the bodies which supported the nomination for the honour. Ms. Campbell noted some of the highlights of Mr. O’Brien’s career during which legal, agricultural and business interests, local as well as provincial, continued to intersect. The nomination highlighted his agricultural involvement and specifically his years of work with the Ontario Drainage Tribunal, a body which adjudicates disputes under the Ontario Drainage Act with regard to the impact of water management on farmland use. “In 1975 he was asked to establish and chair the Ontario Drainage Tribunal,” said Ms. Campbell. “As such he had a major influence on the evolution of tile drainage law in the province. In 1984 he was appointed founding chair of the Ontario Agricultural Council. And in 1994 he was appointed the official Drainage Referee for Ontario, a position he held until 2006. Now retired, he continues to operate a 500-acre organic farm along the Ottawa River with his sons.” Mr. O’Brien thanked Mrs. Campbell for her introduction, and county council for the honour and for the opportunity to speak to them. He said he would take the opportunity to leave them with a message. He told the meeting the challenges of coping with the COVID-19 virus bring with them two revolutionary opportunities for Renfrew County. “If we follow the news, we see that city living has become almost untenable,” he said. “People want to flee to the country. Renfrew County is a green area which is very inviting and has a lot to offer. “The second is the IT revolution. The internet has made it possible to work from any home. Renfrew County has severances along every road where the municipality doesn’t have to spend a nickel for services. The road, hydro, and telephone are already there, and in most cases there’s good internet. People can have a large lot with a drilled well and a septic tank. It’s green, green, green! Why do business in the city when it can be done in any home, anywhere in the country?” He said every municipality could use more children in schools and rinks, and more people in the churches. “The county’s structure was originally set up for one family on every 100 acres,” he said. “Thousands of people could be attracted to the Valley by making building lots readily available. Every real estate agent and developer can tell you the demand for lots and houses is outrageous. We’ve got to accommodate that demand and do it quickly, and not by subdivisions which take years to get in place and cost a great deal of money.” He added residential development along existing roads is completely compatible with farming today. “It’s mainly cash crops that are being produced now,” he said. “Due to Mad Cow Disease, beef operations are almost non-existent. And dairy operations are in confined housing 24/7. Planning policies are outmoded and haven’t recognized the revolutionary changes in farming. They must be brought up to date and modernized so that severances move quickly because they are needed immediately. You, the leaders of county council, can be the engine of that change. You’re in charge and you have to seize the opportunity.” Warden Debbie Robinson thanked Mr. O’Brien for his input. “You did not disappoint,” she said. “Your message is extremely timely as we’ll be discussing our Official Plan later today. It was excellent and it was heard.” She congratulated him and displayed a certificate of recognition which she plans to present to him in person when COVID-19 regulations permit. “I can assure you that, if we were doing this today in person in council chambers you would receive a standing ovation with thunderous applause,” she said. Marie Zettler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi’s largest city is still struggling with water problems more than two weeks after winter storms and freezing weather ravaged the system in Jackson, knocking out water for drinking and making it impossible for many to even flush their toilets. Residents in the city of 160,000 are still being warned to boil any water that does come out of the faucets. “I pray it comes back on,” Jackson resident Nita Smith said. “I’m not sure how much more of this we can take.” Smith has had no water at home for nearly three weeks. Smith is concerned about her mother who has diabetes. Her mother and most of the other older people on her street don’t drive, so Smith has been helping them get water to clean themselves and flush their toilets. A key focus of city crews is filling the system's water tanks to an optimal level. But, public works director Charles Williams said Wednesday that fish, tree limbs and other debris have clogged screens where water moves from a reservoir into a treatment plant. That caused pressure to drop for the entire water system. “Today was not a good day for us,” Williams said. He said about a fourth of Jackson's customers remained without running water. That is more than 10,000 connections, with most serving multiple people. City officials on Wednesday continued distributing water for flushing toilets at several pick-up points. But they're giving no specific timeline for resolving problems. Workers continue to fix dozens of water main breaks and leaks. The crisis has taken a toll on businesses. Jeff Good is co-owner of three Jackson restaurants, and two of them remained closed Wednesday. In a Facebook update, Good said the businesses have insurance, but he’s concerned about his employees. “We will not be financially ruined,” Good wrote. “The spirits of our team members are my biggest concern. A true malaise and depression is setting in." Mississippi's capital city is not alone in water problems. More than two weeks have passed since the cold wave shut down the main power grid in Texas, leaving millions in freezing homes, causing about 50 deaths and disabling thousands of public water systems serving those millions. Four public water systems in Texas remained out of commission Wednesday, affecting 456 customers, and 225 systems still have 135,299 customers boiling their tap water, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Also, 208 of the state’s 254 counties are still reporting public water system issues. Bonnie Bishop, 68, and her husband, Mike, 63, have been without water at their Jackson home for 14 days. Both have health problems. She's recovering after months in the hospital with the coronavirus. She's home but still in therapy to learn how to walk again and deals with neuropathy in her hands and feet. She has not been able to soak her feet in warm water, something that usually provides relief for the neuropathy, or to help her husband gather water to boil for cooking for cleaning. Mike Bishop just had elbow surgery. The first week the couple was without water, he still had staples in his arm and was hauling 5-gallon containers from his truck, his wife said. Bonnie Bishop said she told him not to strain himself, but he wouldn’t listen. They feel they have no choice. On Monday, the couple drove 25 miles (40 kilometres) to Mike’s mother’s house to do laundry. Jackson's water system has not been able to provide a sustainable flow of water throughout the city since the mid-February storms, city officials say. The system “basically crashed like a computer and now we’re trying to rebuild it,” Williams said at a recent briefing. The city's water mains are more than a century old, and its infrastructure needs went unaddressed for decades, Democratic Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has said. “We more than likely have more than a $2 billion issue with our infrastructure,” he said. Jackson voters in 2014 approved a 1-cent local sales tax to pay for improvements to roads and water and sewer systems. On Tuesday, the city council voted to seek legislative approval for another election to double that local tax to 2 cents a dollar. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves would have to agree to letting Jackson have the tax election. “I do think it’s really important that the city of Jackson start collecting their water bill payments before they start going and asking everyone else to pony up more money,” Reeves said Tuesday. Jackson has had problems for years with its water billing system and with the quality of water. Melanie Deaver Hanlin, who was without water for 14 days, has been flushing toilets with pool water and showering at friends’ homes. She said Jackson’s water system “needs to be fixed, not patched.” “That’s the issue now — poor maintenance for far too long," Hanlin said. "And Jackson residents are paying the price.” ___ Associated Press writer Terry Wallace contributed from Dallas. Martin reported from Marietta, Georgia. Jeff Martin, Leah Willingham And Emily Wagster Pettus, The Associated Press
Calgary police say a person has died in a shooting with officers. A news release says police received a complaint Wednesday afternoon about a person with a gun at the Nuvo Hotel in the Beltline area. The agency says there was a confrontation with that person and there was a shooting. No officers were injured, and no other details about the shooting were provided. Roads in the area were to be closed for some time. The province's police watchdog, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, is investigating. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Wednesday the change will see nearly 40,000 more people vaccinated with a single dose by the end of March. "Real-world evidence is now emerging and shows that the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine offers protection for a longer duration," Fitzgerald said. "It will ... help to prevent symptomatic disease, hospitalization and deaths during this most crucial time of higher disease prevalence and limited vaccine supply." Fitzgerald's announcement preceded an updated recommendation issued late Wednesday by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which said the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine could be given up to four months after the first to maximize the number of people benefiting from a first dose. British Columbia had raised eyebrows Monday when provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced her province would delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines by up to four months. The previous guidance from the advisory committee said there should be no more than six weeks between doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and no more than 12 weeks between doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Newfoundland and Labrador is still reeling from a COVID-19 outbreak that spread rapidly through the St. John's metro area in mid-February. The outbreak prompted officials to cancel all in-person voting in the provincial election, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 13, and impose provincewide lockdown measures. Fitzgerald announced three new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and said all were connected to previously identified infections. "We've had several days in a row with only epidemiologically linked cases, and that means that our new cases are linked to previous cases," she said. "This is good news really and indicates that we are heading in the right direction." There are 149 reported active COVID-19 infections in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 147 of those are in the eastern health region, which includes St. John's. Officials said nine people are in hospital due to the disease, including three in intensive care. Fitzgerald said public health is expecting about 7,000 doses of the newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine next week. "We intend to start administering as soon as they arrive," she said, adding that the priority group for the vaccine had not yet been determined, given that officials are recommending it for people under 65. Those in older age groups will continue to be prioritized for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech shots, Fitzgerald said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
You've got to love a movie that credits its dogs before it does its executive producers. “The Truffle Hunters," Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s exquisitely charming documentary about old Italian men who scavenge truffles and the dogs they're bound to, lists the canines with the appropriate respect in the end credits. Birba. Biri. Charlie. Fiona. Nina. Titina. Yari. These are some of the stars of “Truffle Hunters," a profoundly lovely movie that delights in the noble scavengers of a dog-eat-dog world. “The Truffle Hunters,” which is shortlisted for best documentary at the Academy Awards and which Sony Pictures Classics will release in theatres Friday, is set in the northern Italy forests of Piedmont. Dweck and Kershaw, both cinematographers, film the truffle hunters — aging, sweet men practicing an ancient and secretive tradition — in painterly, pointillistic tableaux as they walk through autumnal forests, foraging with their dogs. They seep into the landscape. The film, scored by composer Ed Cortes with retro Italian pop mixed in, conjures an otherworldly enchantment. In between backwoods trips where their dogs smell their way to the high-priced delicacies, the hunters live humbly in old country homes. Our main characters are never explicitly introduced, but we're drawn intimately into their world, as if we just passed through a magical portal. Aurelio, 84, dines with his companion, Birba, sitting on the table. Carlo, 88, never seems to stop smiling, especially when he manages to get past his wife (who sternly believes him too old to truffle hunt at night) and slip into the woods with his dog, Titina. The younger, long-haired Sergio, a kindly but passionate soul, bathes with his pups — Pepe and Fiona — in a pink-tiled tub. This, surely, is a gentle realm every bit as bewitching as Narnia. But the hunters' earthy endeavour isn't as simple as it seems. Their way of life is a dying one. The rare white Alba truffle is increasingly hard to find because of effects on the soil connected to climate change. The hunters are often pressed for their secrets. “If tomorrow something happens, your wisdom would be lost," one man urges Aurelio. So sought-after are the truffles that their dogs are perpetually at risk of being poisoned by competitors. Sergio, terrified of losing his, pounds on his drums for catharsis. Another hunter, intent on putting something down, hammers furiously at his typewriter. “Dogs are innocent,” he writes. The sense that the hunters — who are really in it for the dogs more than money or anything else — are, like their four-legged friends, innocents in a corrupt world only expands when the filmmakers follow the truffle food chain. Haggling over prices by headlight, the hunters seem always lowballed by a well-dressed buyer. Higher up, still, are the Michelin-starred restaurants and auction houses that feast on the hunters' finds. This commercial world, miles removed from the muddy forests of Piedmont, is seen in “The Truffle Hunters” like an antiseptic, colorless modern life that has lost the taste of the simple and eternal. Wonder and whimsy is back in the forest. “The Truffle Hunters” — surely among the greatest dog movies — even wryly occasionally shifts to a dog’s point of view. We see — via dog cam — like one of the hunters’ dogs when he's let out of the car and runs down a path, panting. Just as last year’s beekeeping beauty “Honeyland,” “The Truffle Hunters” is a richly allegorical documentary of a vanishing agricultural pastime. The truffles, weighed and sniffed at market, are delicacies. But the finer things rhapsodized here are not expensive rarities. What's worth savoring is natural splendor, the charms of tradition, and, above all, a good dog. Those things aren't delicacies, but they're fragile just the same. “The Truffle Hunters,” a Sony Pictures Classics release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for some language. Running time: 84 minutes. Four stars out of four. ___ Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP Jake Coyle, The Associated Press
EDMONTON — Alberta is following guidance from a national vaccine advisory panel and increasing the time between COVID-19 doses. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health, says the greater lag time will allow more Albertans to be effectively vaccinated sooner. She said the plan is for Alberta to match British Columbia, which announced Monday it will follow the four-month window and get a first dose to everyone who wants one by July. “This change will significantly increase how quickly we can offer Albertans the protection of their first dose,” Hinshaw said Wednesday. “We can all take heart that by getting more first doses to Albertans more quickly, the change I am announcing today brings the light at the end of the tunnel nearer.” Earlier Wednesday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended first and second doses can be to up to four months apart if supplies are limited. The decision was made based on emerging studies in places including Quebec, the United Kingdom and Israel that show even one dose of vaccine can be about 70 to 80 per cent effective. When vaccines were first available late last year, manufacturers Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna recommended two shots spaced three to six weeks apart. Alberta is now into its second round of priority vaccinations. The 29,000 highest-risk Albertans, those in long-term care and designated supportive living facilities, have been vaccinated twice. Seniors over 75 and First Nations people 65 and older are among those now allowed to book their shots. Hinshaw said second dose appointments will go ahead for those who have already booked them, and those who want to book a second shot within the previous six-week window will be able to up to March 10. Starting then, those who book a first vaccine dose will have the second one delayed by as much as four months. Newfoundland and Labrador also announced an extension to four months. Manitoba has said it will bring in a delay. Ontario said it was weighing a similar move and seeking advice from the federal government. The change comes as more vaccine doses are on the way. Along with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the federal government has approved a third vaccine from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Hinshaw said Alberta expects to soon receive shipments of that vaccine as early as next week. Alberta has so far administered 255,000 vaccinations, with 89,000 people getting the full two doses. Hinshaw reported 402 new cases Wednesday. There were 251 people in hospital, 48 of whom were in intensive care. Twelve more people died, bringing that total in the province to 1,902. Case numbers and hospitalizations are a small fraction of what they were at the height of the second wave of COVID-19 in December. The economy remains under public-health restrictions, which include no indoor gatherings and limited capacities for retailers and restaurants. Premier Jason Kenney announced earlier this week a delay in loosening some rules, given unknowns, such as variant strains of the virus. The strains can spread much faster than the original one, with the potential to quickly overwhelm the health system. Alberta has detected 500 variant cases, and Hinshaw announced Wednesday the first variant case at a continuing-care home. Churchill Manor, in Edmonton, has 27 staff and residents who have tested positive, with 19 of them positive for the variant. “Local public-health teams and the operator are taking this outbreak extremely seriously and (are) working closely together to limit spread and protect everyone involved,” said Hinshaw. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021 Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Ontario’s education minister is facing criticism for the relatively small number of students and teachers tested for COVID-19 in schools. But Stephen Lecce is defending the government’s plan, saying that testing simply can’t be forced on those who don’t want it. Travis Dhanraj reports.
One person is dead after being shot by police officers near a hotel in Calgary's Beltline district. According to a police release, officers were called to the Nuvo Hotel shortly after 4 p.m. on Wednesday for a complaint of a person with a gun. Police said that a "confrontation occurred" between officers and the individual. That confrontation allegedly led to the officer-involved shooting. The person died as a result of the confrontation. No officers were injured. Officers stand near the open trunk of a police vehicle near the scene of the Nuvo Hotel, where one person was shot by police on Wednesday.(Meghan Grant/CBC) The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has been directed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the shooting. The Nuvo Hotel is located at 827 12th Ave. S.W. No further information was immediately available.
One day after a Medicine Hat, Alta., man received a letter that demanded $1 million and included a vow that somebody would be murdered to prove the seriousness of the threat, a random victim was fatally stabbed in the city, a jury heard Wednesday. The bizarre details were revealed at the murder and extortion trial of Robert Hoefman, in Alberta's Court of Queen's Bench in Medicine Hat. Hoefman, also of Medicine Hat, is charged with the extortion of a man who was threatened on Oct. 10, 2017 to pay $1 million or watch as friends, family and strangers were murdered. The next day, the body of James Satre was discovered in an alley for which Hoefman faces a first-degree murder charge. The Crown's theory is that murder was an intimidation tactic to scare the extortion victim into giving up the money. 'We've been watching you' "We've been watching you and [your wife] and everyone else close to you for weeks," said the first threatening letter, which the Crown had the alleged extortion victim read out in court Wednesday. The extortion victim's identity is protected by a publication ban. "We are ready to kill any one of them, so my advice to you is do as you are told or my guys will go in for the kill. And that is one thing they love to do." The first letter arrived at the alleged extortion victim's business on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Monday, 2017. It was taped to the front door with the words "personal and confidential" on the front. The receptionist placed it on his desk and the man opened it when he arrived to work. 'Here is the game' "Here is the game and if you play without cheating then you will win because you will have saved a lot of lives," the letter said. "On the other hand, cheat and we promise that you, [your wife] and a lot of other innocent people close to you, or perhaps you do not even know them, will die." The letter told the man to be smart, not brave. "Perhaps you would like an example of what we are capable of doing should you even be thinking of choosing the wrong option," it said. Listen to the radio for news of murder: letter The letter instructed the man to put a red piece of paper on the door of his workplace all day on Day 1. "On Day 2 we will show you exactly what we can do," it promised. "We could leave a small body part like a finger, or an ear or a tongue but we do not want to freak out your assistants, so just hearing that an individual was brutally murdered on the radio should be enough. "Better get at it for we have no communication for any excuse you may have." James Satre fatally stabbed The man testified he immediately called police and alerted his staff and family. He said he taped a piece of red paper to the door and set up security cameras outside his workplace which ultimately captured someone leaving a second letter taped to the front door of the business again that night. In the morning, the man once again called police who then told him to get out of town. On Oct. 11, 2017, one day after the man was told in the letter to listen to the radio for news of a murder, James Satre's body was found in a Medicine Hat laneway. He had died from a stab wound to the chest. Satre's obituary described him as a Red Seal chef who was a "gentle soul" with a passion for the outdoors, photography and reading. GPS tracker placed in money bag In his opening statement to jurors, prosecutor Conor Doyle explained that after the first letter was delivered, police planned their response which included packing a duffel bag to look like it was stuffed with $1 million, the way the letter demanded, but with a GPS tracker inside. Snipers and trail cameras monitored the bag's location and movement and captured images of a man picking up and travelling with the duffel. Follow-up letter sent to news agency There were further letters in the days that followed including one sent to a Medicine Hat news agency that claimed responsibility for the death and blamed the extortion victim and police for not following the exact demands. Doyle told jurors they will hear evidence gathered following a search warrant executed on Hoefman's home where he lived with his wife. Police seized a laptop, USB memory sticks and a paper shredder. On the electronics, police found copies of letters similar to the ones sent to the extortion victim, said Doyle. In her cross-examination of the alleged extortion victim, defence lawyer Heather Ferg focused her questions on the relationship between the man and a former business partner. Both that witness and another — an office assistant — testified that when the letter first arrived, they each suspected the former business partner was behind the threatening mail and attempted extortion. Ferg hammered on the dynamics between the two men with the witness agreeing the relationship had very much soured. The former partner owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the letter recipient and the two were embroiled in court proceedings to the point that a writ of enforcement had been issued following arbitration and a receiver appointed through the courts. Court of Queen's Bench Justice Dallas Miller is presiding over the seven-week jury trial. Doyle and Ramona Robbins are prosecuting the case with defence lawyers Ferg and Ian McKay representing Hoefman.
MONTREAL — Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Wednesday he is maintaining restrictions in the Montreal area because public health authorities fear a novel coronavirus variant will soon cause rising case numbers and hospitalizations in the region. But for residents of Quebec City and several other parts of the province, starting March 8 they will be able to eat in restaurants and go to gyms, Legault told reporters. The capital area and four other regions will move to the lower, "orange" pandemic-alert level, he said, adding that the nighttime curfew in those areas will be pushed back from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Greater Montreal and the neighbouring Laurentians and Lanaudiere regions will not see any change, as residents will continue to be forbidden from leaving their homes after 8 p.m. Legault said public health officials told him "in the next weeks there will be an increase in cases and hospitalizations" due to the B.1.1.7. variant first identified in the United Kingdom. "We can't in that situation change the (pandemic-alert level)," Legault said of Montreal. Health officials reported 729 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday and 19 more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus, including two that occurred in the previous 24 hours. Officials said hospitalizations dropped by 10, to 618, while the number of people in intensive care dropped by one, to 120. Legault said cases have "stabilized" in the Montreal area, which he said was a sign that the U.K. variant could cause infections and COVID-19-related hospitalizations to rise. Earlier Wednesday, Montreal's public health director said she expects the U.K. mutation to become the predominant form of the virus spreading in the city. "We know it's going to happen," Dr. Mylene Drouin told reporters. She said 15 per cent of new cases in the city are linked to variants, up from 12 per cent last week. There are 43 outbreaks in schools linked to mutations, Drouin said, adding that most of those outbreaks are small. School-age children and their parents account for the majority of all new cases in the city, she said. While the number of new cases reported daily in the city remains stable, the spread of variants could change that. "We may be seeing a third wave in front of us," Drouin said. Meanwhile, Quebec's statistics agency said Wednesday that life expectancy in Quebec dropped in 2020 due to an increase in deaths linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. For men in Quebec, average life expectancy dropped by five months, to 80.6 years, and dropped by eight months for women, to 84 years, the Institut de la statistique du Quebec reported. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of deaths reported in Quebec rose by 10 per cent — or 6,750 fatalities; there were 74,550 deaths reported in the province in 2020. That's compared to an average rise in deaths of 2 per cent a year between 2010 and 2019 — due to population growth and an aging population The agency says that during the same 10-year period, life expectancy rose by an average of 2.3 months a year for men and 1.5 months a year for women. Health officials said 16,117 doses of vaccine were administered Tuesday, for a total of 472,710. Quebec has 7,336 active reported infections and has reported a total of 289,670 COVID-19 cases and 10,426 deaths linked to the virus. Legault said Wednesday that health officials would wait up to four months before administering a second dose of vaccine, up from the current 90-day interval. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
By the end of March, Indigenous Services Canada should have received a letter from Sawridge affiliate members (SAM) requesting a new band be created for them. They “would like to split away” from the Sawridge Indian Band (SIB). Ceno Loyie-Clark, who is leading the charge, says SAM have never been allowed full membership in SIB. “I’ve been standing on the gate for 30 years,” said Loyie-Clark. “There’s 475 of us on the edge. None of us have ever lived there.” Loyie-Clark, like the others, are registered Indians affiliated with the Sawridge First Nation located in northern Alberta, but they are not included on SIB’s membership list. SIB has about 45 members. Membership in SIB became an issue back in 1985 when Bill C-31 was passed. That bill amended the Indian Act to, among other things, allow the status of Indian women, and that of their children, to be reinstated after it was lost when marrying non-Indian men. At that time, then-chief Walter Twinn had built a band-owned business empire as a result of oil and gas discovered on Sawridge land. Two trust funds were created to control the band’s income and two days before Bill C-31 was passed, Twinn locked the band’s assets in those trust funds. Court documents in 2019 estimated those funds to be in excess of $140 million. In numerous court cases since 1985, Twinn and SIB argued they were not opposed to the women and their children regaining Indian status, but that they would not be told by the government who was a member of their band. To that end, SIB used Sect. 10 of the Indian Act, which states “a band may assume control of its own membership if it establishes membership rules…” to create its membership list. It’s the same argument SIB has used to exclude people who received Indian status under Bill S-3. That amendment to the Indian Act addressed the inequities of how Indian status is passed on, or not passed on, to cousins in the same family or to children born out of wedlock to Indian women. With SIB determining its own membership criteria, Loyie-Clark says his hand was forced. Despite his mother being a first cousin to Walter Twinn, Loyie-Clark is still not a full member of the band. Although he admits, he was “never that stupid” to try and get his band membership. To become a member is a lengthy, impossible process, he says, which involves “knowing who lived in your home when you were a baby,” and includes other detailed information like employment, medical and legal histories. “The government allowed (SIB) to set up the racist band application process that goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the government has allowed this to go on for 35 years,” he said. Since SIB won’t accept the affiliate members as full members, Loyie-Clark says more than 70 SAMs will be asking ISC to utilize Sect. 17 of the Indian Act, which allows the minister to constitute new bands “from existing Band Lists, or from the Indian Register, if requested to do so by persons proposing to form the new bands.” “The minister may let us have some of the land (on Sawridge First Nation) because there’s two chunks of land that nobody’s living on, but we’re never going to get any of the money,” said Loyie-Clark. “We’re not going to ask for any of the money or for land. There’s enough land in northern Alberta.” It’s Loyie-Clark’s intention to implement an Indigenous lease transformation program that he designed “for me and my cousins” that makes use of depleted oilfield leases. Loyie-Clark says the timing is right for such a venture. Last year the federal government committed $1.7 billion to Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan for orphan well clean up and site reclamation. As far as Loyie-Clark is concerned, these sites don’t belong to any existing band as part of any traditional territory. However, Sect. 17 of the Indian Act states, “Where … a new band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the Minister determines shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band.” “They would have to carve out space for themselves within the confines of that piece of land. That’s the only jurisdiction the federal minister has. Otherwise the province of Alberta has jurisdiction over the land outside the reserve,” said Rob Louie, who at the request of Loyie-Clark is supporting SAM’s endeavours. Louie is president of Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC), a newly created organization that offers its services free of charge to band members who have concerns about alleged unethical behaviour of leadership. “The affiliate members do not need legal representation to form their own band as this is a political matter that will be resolved in the political arena,” said Louie. However, BMAAAC is supporting SAM’s efforts with legal research and Louie will be setting up Zoom calls for tripartite negotiations between SAM, the federal government, and SIB. “We are throwing our full support behind those 400-plus affiliate Sawridge members so that they, too, may form their own band and become masters in their own house. Currently, they are living in a two-tier membership system: have and have-not. And the 400-plus affiliate members of Sawridge have not seen any benefit, whereas 42 regular members have,” said Louie. Should SAM be successful in forming its own band, benefits will include core funding from Indigenous Services Canada and eligibility for grants other First Nations have access to, including money for coronavirus pandemic measures, says Louie. The best case scenario would see negotiations taking one to two years, he adds. “Because we’re not dealing with a lot of people and because the terms and conditions of the new band aren’t that onerous—basically they’re just saying we want a clean break—there’ll just be an issue about the amount of land, the quantity of the property of reserve land that would form under the new band,” said Louie. The process will only be completed once a vote is held and the majority agrees to the separation terms. That is not something current Sawridge Chief Roland Twinn anticipates happening, “because you have to give up a part of your reserve.” “I don’t know what the Indian Act says about (the vote) because there is clearly a difference between membership and affiliation and when it comes to referendums it’s the membership not the affiliation that votes on referendums, as I understand it,” said Twinn. Twinn says membership sits at around 45 and “it’s been a couple of years” since a member was accepted. In information on the five steps of forming a band, as outlined on the ISC website, it is noted “most new bands have come into being from a band division. Some have involved both status and non-status Indians, following the general rule that registered members are the majority.” Twinn told Windspeaker.com that he was unaware of SAM’s intention to approach ISC to create a new band. Louie says Twinn has not yet been officially notified. However, Loyie-Clark says he has been talking “unofficially” about his plan to people living on reserve “because they’re all my cousins.” Loyie-Clark says he is initiating this action now as a form of reconciliation and “repairing the relationship.” It’s something he would like to see be done “pleasantly.” “It’s terribly unjust what’s going on…so let’s do this peacefully. Otherwise we’re going to be fighting… At the end we may end up with absolutely nothing and we don’ have a (First Nation) …. This is supposed to be for the future generations not just us,” said Loyie-Clark. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Toronto's top doctor is asking the province to lift a stay-at-home order and move the city to the strictest "grey" category of Ontario's pandemic restrictions system next week. The stay-at-home order that was imposed in January, with other measures that include the closure of non-essential retail, is set to expire Monday. Dr. Eileen De Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said Wednesday that lifting the order is reasonable but precautions still must be taken. "While there are evident reasons for a change in status, there remain reasons or risks that underscore how moving back into grey status is and will be a delicate balance," she said.Moving to the grey category, which allows retailers to open at 25 per cent capacity, is better than placing the city in the second-strictest red category, which allows indoor restaurant dining and personal care services, she said.Toronto Mayor John Tory said he believes moving to the grey category is the right approach."The cautious transition is the right way to go, all things considered," he said.Tory said he hopes the approach will help ensure the city will not have to undergo another shutdown. De Villa also issued a new order for workplaces, requiring businesses to ensure mask use at all times during an outbreak, should the city be moved to the grey category.The order also requires businesses to keep a record of everyone entering the workplace during an outbreak.Tory said the city has reached out to the Ministry of Labour to help support the move with increased workplace inspections over the coming days.Meanwhile, the top doctor of neighbouring Peel Region, which is also under a stay-at-home order, recommended his area move to the grey-lockdown zone as well. The move would preserve the progress made in the fight against the virus, said Dr. Lawrence Loh.Toronto reported 290 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, while Peel Region reported 164.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Denise Paglinawan, The Canadian Press
MERIDEN, Conn. — Jill Biden, the teacher in the White House, along with new Education Secretary Miguel Cardona went back to school Wednesday in a public push to show districts that have yet to transition back to in-person learning that it can be done safely during the pandemic. “Teachers want to be back," the first lady said after she and Cardona spent about an hour visiting classrooms and other areas at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Connecticut. “We want to be back. I’m a teacher. I am teaching virtually.” Biden is a veteran community college English professor who is now teaching remotely from the White House. She said her students recently told her they can’t wait to be back in the classroom. “But we just know we have to get back safely,” she said. The trip was the first order of business for Cardona, Connecticut's former education commissioner, who was sworn into his new Cabinet job only the day before. Biden and Cardona also visited a Pennsylvania middle school on Wednesday. They were joined by the heads of two big teachers unions during the trip, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers in Connecticut and Becky Pringle of the National Education Association in Pennsylvania. The visits came as the clock ticks down on President Joe Biden’s promise to have most K-8 schools open for classroom instruction by the end of his first 100 days in office, or the end April. To help nudge that along, Biden said Tuesday he is pushing states to administer at least one coronavirus vaccination to every teacher, school employee and child-care worker by the end of March. The issue of vaccinating teachers became a flashpoint in school districts around the country as many teachers held the line and refused to return to their classrooms unless they were given the shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not include vaccinating teachers in its guidelines for schools to consider when reopening after months of teaching students remotely over computers. “We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible,” Cardona said. He said the president’s directive that teachers and school staff be vaccinated quickly will be “my top priority.” Later Wednesday, Biden and Cardona visited Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pennsylvania, where parents told them they appreciated that the school district had sought their opinion about reopening. After shutting down in March 2020, the school with several hundred students in grades six through eight began welcoming them in-person, on a voluntary basis, starting in early September. “I love that you have this holistic approach,” Biden said. She and Cardona also visited a robotics class at the middle school and a class for students who need or want a little extra push. Supporters of former President Donald Trump waved flags bearing his name and held their thumbs upside down as Biden‘s motorcade rolled away from the school. Abortion protesters held signs that said “Protect Every Child” and “Abortion is not health care.” During the elementary school visit in Connecticut, Biden and Cardona saw kids seated some distance apart at individual desks, each one wearing a mask. See-through plastic partitions separated groups of four students who sat at half-moon-shaped tables. Hand sanitizer dispensers were available in the hallways. “I love that,” Biden said after a teacher pointed out the partitions. The teacher also said her youngsters had “no issues” wearing the masks. The school reopened in late August, Cardona said, and “it was done in a way that protected the students and their families.” The first lady and Cardona also visited a “sensory room” complete with colorful climbing walls, zip lines, monkey bars, stability balls and a mat, where special needs students can collect their emotions. Biden asked the teacher in the sensory room whether she had seen anxiety in children increasing because of the pandemic. The teacher said she had. Biden and Cardona later listened as another teacher described her transition back to in-person learning. The school visit also served as a homecoming for Cardona, who is from Meriden and was so warmly praised that Biden referred to the welcome as a “love fest.” His parents were among those on hand in the school lobby for the remarks. “Now our nation is going to have that love for you,” she said. “Educators’ favourite three words are not ‘I love you'," she joked. “It’s going to be Education Secretary Cardona.” Darlene Superville, The Associated Press
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter Several different noteworthy items were on the agenda at last Tuesday's St. Marys Town Council meeting. First on the agenda was a discussion with Doug LaPointe, Supervisor of Recreation Services, about a lighting upgrade at the Pyramid Recreation Center. The upgrades focus on changing fluorescent or incandescent lights to LED lights. Several lighting upgrades were made in Town facilities, including the PRC, last year as part of the approved annual Energy Efficiency Upgrades budget. Lights in the arena dressing room hallway and lobby area were replaced before the budget was fully allocated. LaPointe proposed continuing the work that began in 2020 and replace more lights in the PRC through the approved 2021 Energy Efficiency Upgrades budget. There are approximately 200 more fixtures to be replaced at a cost of around $23,000, which is just under half of the 2021 Energy Efficiency Upgrades $50,000 budget. However, an energy reduction rebate totaling $6,000 would bring the net cost of the project down to approximately $17,000. Douglas Electric did the work in 2020 at the PRC and they would be contracted again for the 2021 work given their familiarity with what has already been done. This was unanimously approved by the Council. Town Treasurer Andre Morin then spoke with the Council members regarding a proposed agreement with the Province of Ontario for enhanced cleaning measures for the St. Marys and Area Mobility Bus. According to Morin, the Town is eligible for up to $12,223, of which Town staff expects to use almost all. The proposal was brought to Council to get approval to execute a transfer payment agreement with the Province as part of obtaining the funding, which was approved unanimously. Next on the agenda was a correspondence from the Township of Baldwin requesting that the Province reconsider closing the Ontario Fire College. Fire Chief Andy Anderson joined the meeting for his monthly emergency services report and spoke on this letter. The Ontario Fire College has been active since 1949 before its permanent closure was announced earlier this year. There are 20 regional training hubs around Ontario, including one in Oxford County, which Chief Anderson said is where local firefighters are sent. Anderson also said that while St. Marys firefighters may be sent to a regional hub for locational convenience, it is inconceivable that any Province wouldn't have a main Fire College. A resolution was unanimously approved by Council to support the Township of Baldwin's correspondence pushing the Province to reconsider the Fire College's closure. The last big subject discussed involved Jed Kelly from Public Works, who delivered a report on downtown street patios and sidewalk displays. Essentially, allowing the utilization of sidewalks and parking spaces for patios or displays increases restaurants and retail areas, and increases adherence to physical distancing measures. Additionally, such a program could help the Town's tourism sector long-term if local cafes and eateries had outdoor patios. Town staff recommended that the Council delegate the authority to Public Works to review and approve applications for street patios and that staff bring forward a policy for permitting downtown street patios and sidewalk displays. This was approved unanimously by the Council. Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Le gouvernement du Québec a annoncé que cinq nouvelles régions passeront en zone orange à compter du lundi 8 mars, ce qui n'inclut toutefois pas la région de Laval. Les territoires visés sont la Capitale-Nationale, Chaudière-Appalaches, la Mauricie, l'Estrie et le Centre-du-Québec. François Legault a justifié la décision de conserver certaines régions en zone rouge en raison de la possibilité de voir une hausse des cas et hospitalisations dans la grande région métropolitaine au cours des prochaines semaines. Cette augmentation pourrait notamment être causée par la présence de plus en plus importante du variant du Royaume-Uni. «On se retrouve dans une course contre la montre qui oppose les effets de la relâche et les variants à l'opération de vaccination de masse, a précisé le premier ministre. [...] On laisse certaines régions en zone rouge, car ils n'ont pas de marge de manœuvre dans leurs hôpitaux.» Les territoires qui se retrouveront désormais en zone orange bénéficieront notamment de la réouverture des gyms et restaurants. Les élèves du primaire n'auront également pas à porter le masque en classe avant la cinquième année. Par ailleurs, le gouvernement provincial prévoit recevoir près de 800 000 doses de vaccin au cours du prochain mois. François Legault a aussi annoncé un déconfinement progressif du milieu sportif, et ce, même en zone rouge. La santé publique a offert son accord pour recommencer le sport parascolaire à partir du 15 mars. Cela inclut aussi les sorties publiques pour les groupes scolaires. La plus grande facilité à contrôler la pratique sportive dans le cadre scolaire justifie cette décision. Notons qu'un plan complet du déconfinement sportif sera rendu publique la semaine prochaine. Avec un bilan de 24 861 personnes testées positives à la COVID-19, Laval a connu une hausse de 80 cas en 24 heures. Le total de décès demeure stable à 869 depuis le début de la pandémie. Le CISSS de Laval cumule également 23 296 guérisons, ce qui signifie qu’il y a désormais 696 cas actifs (-27) confirmés sur le territoire lavallois. Parmi les personnes touchées, 27 sont hospitalisées, dont 9 aux soins intensifs. 15 employés de l’organisation de santé sont toujours absents du travail en raison de la COVID-19. Quatre résidence privée pour aînés (RPA) de Laval sont présentement touchées par la COVID-19. Voici la liste complète de celles-ci : Au Québec, le bilan est maintenant de 289 670 cas et 10 426 décès. Au total, 618 personnes sont toujours hospitalisées, dont 120 aux soins intensifs. Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
Northern Ontario is on high alert amid a rise in COVID-19 cases that has hit the homeless community in the Thunder Bay area particularly hard. The health unit covering the northern city returned to a lockdown this week after reporting more COVID-19 cases last month than in all of 2020. Since then, other health units and community leaders have expressed concern at virus trends within their areas and encouraged vigilance among residents to keep spread at a minimum. The Northwestern Health Unit, which covers the city of Kenora and other areas, said earlier this week that it was closely watching the situation in Thunder Bay. It also asked people to avoid travel to that city and reduce contact with others for two weeks after returning home if they do. The health unit said it is meeting with regional partners this week to discuss new measures to prevent the virus from spreading among the homeless population. COVID-19 outbreaks among the homeless population and at a correctional facility have put pressure on an isolation centre in Thunder Bay that offers space for people who have been exposed to or infected with COVID-19. Nancy Black of St. Joseph's Care Group, which operates the centre, said demand for beds has recently skyrocketed. She said the centre was operating with between 15 and 20 beds over the last 11 months, but in the last five weeks it has been operating at close to 100 beds. She said some of the people who have used the centre recently include those released from local jails dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks and the homeless. She said more staff were redeployed from within the care group and other local agencies to keep the centre running. The shelter has asked the federal government for funding to meet the demand, which is expected to persist for weeks or months. Black said fatigue is setting in after a year of the pandemic, but the health-care community is pulling together to meet local needs. "It's challenging for everyone," she said. "Isolation is not a fun thing to do. Nobody likes to be alone, and it's hard on people to be separated from people that they love and their friends and family for a period of time." Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler is also pushing for more support going to isolation spaces and shelters. He said many of the people impacted by the current community outbreak in Thunder Bay are members of the 49 First Nations communities his organization represents. He said that's leading to spread between people in those communities.. There were 389 active COVID-19 cases in Thunder Bay as of Wednesday, and Fiddler said that based on conversations with other chiefs, he estimates that First Nations people from NAN communities make up a large percentage of the cases. Fiddler is also calling for a lockdown for the entire northwestern Ontario region -- not just Thunder Bay. "We need to take those drastic measures," Fiddler said in a phone interview. "This fire is becoming bigger and bigger, and if nothing drastic changes, it's going to become a roaring fire soon. And I'm not hearing any sirens." Public health officials elsewhere in northern Ontario have also sounded the alarm. The top doctor in the Sudbury area said Tuesday that public health measures may need to increase following a record-setting day of cases. The health unit said there are currently outbreaks in institutional and care settings, and nearly 30 confirmed cases of new COVID-19 variants believed to be more infectious. “We all need to heed the alarm that this news is sounding,” Dr. Penny Sutcliffe said in a Tuesday statement. "With this surge in cases, our community is also experiencing outbreaks in schools and in settings where people are vulnerable. Sutcliffe said it is "mission-critical" for all residents to take caution and protect each other as the region's vaccine rollout picks up speed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
As First Nations across the country begin to adopt their own child and family welfare laws, they are being reminded about liability issues and adopting statutory immunity. “It’s very much a policy or political issue for Indigenous governing bodies as to whether or not they want to follow what most provinces have done in including a statutory immunity … (which) obviously does limit recovery for children who may have suffered damages. It’s a question that may not be palatable to include in laws, but it’s there in the laws that the provinces have applied,” said Eileen Vanderburgh, lawyer with Alexander Holburn Beaudin and Lang LLP. In the case of child services, statutory immunity would require a child who is suing for damages to establish that the acts or omissions were done in bad faith, which is a higher standard than claiming a duty was not performed, said Vanderburgh. Vanderburgh spoke March 2 at the third of five virtual gatherings hosted by the Assembly of First Nations on Child and Family Services and Self-Determination. Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, came into force Jan. 1, 2020. It allows Indigenous groups to design and deliver child and family welfare services in the manner that best suits their needs. Indigenous groups would be taking over delivery of these services from the provinces. Vanderburgh addressed liability considerations for transitioning to First Nations jurisdiction over child and family services, pointing out that Indigenous governing bodies could be sued in Canadian courts for damages suffered by children whose care they have taken over. It was a sobering reminder of what could go wrong. “This is a complex area of law that is being applied to a complex web of relationships and there’s a number of legal principles guiding (this),” she said. She pointed out that claims of negligence in performance of duties were common and that these fell into two categories, direct and vicarious. “Vicarious liability can apply even if the authority itself hasn’t done anything wrong but somebody who they employed or contracted with to supply services has, and the law recognizes a vicarious liability in that relationship,” said Vanderburgh. She also noted that the Indigenous governing body could be held liable in the performance of duties that they delegated to another agency. However, the courts do make distinctions between foster homes and institutions. Vanderburgh highlighted the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2003 decision in KLB v. British Columbia, where “the relationship between governing bodies and foster parents is not sufficiently close to impose vicarious liability on governing bodies for abuse committed by foster parents.” Foster parents were described by the court as “independent contractors.” When it came to institutions, the court made the distinction that care was provided by employees and it was the employees who abused or neglected the children and “that was the distinction why vicarious liability would be imposed on the institution for the institutional care, but not on the province where the care was in a foster home,” said Vanderburgh. She added, however, that there were exceptions to the rule and there were cases where the province was held directly liable for abuse that took place in the foster home because the province failed to properly investigate a foster home, to supervise regularly or to investigate complaints made by the child. Vanderburgh also said that the Indigenous governing body could be held financially accountable in a case of joint and several liability even if they are not vicariously liable. Where a number of defendants are liable for damage caused to a child and not all defendants can pay, the court would order the defendant “with the deep pockets” to make compensation. That defendant is most likely the governing body. In turn, the governing body can collect from the other defendants. Vanderburg also pointed out that various sections of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families Act underscored that the best interests of the child were the primary consideration of the Indigenous governing body and not the child’s parents or family when it came to decisions made or actions taken to apprehend the child. “This is consistent with the case law that has developed in child welfare,” she said. The act sets out the minimum national standards of care for the child, but Indigenous governing bodies can adopt other measures in their laws and these form the basis for standard care. Development of clear and operational policies and protocols, as well as limiting liability through laws passed by the governing bodies help to manage the risks, as does hiring and training of employees, and providing supervision and support to caregivers. “Really the gold standard is get insurance…That’s the best risk management tool,” said Vanderburg. She also suggested that Indigenous governing bodies consult with the provinces to see what policies they have in place. “It will outline the scope of what certainly the province considered needed to be covered by policy and tailor that. It will become more than what we want but we can tailor it to the issues that you see or what you want to address in your own policies,” said Vanderburg. She also suggested that First Nations think hard about whether they wanted to create an internal judiciary system or use a dispute resolution system to address the issues that will arise from child and family welfare services. “They could be complicated claims and whether or not you want to take on that additional burden and if so how do you manage that in the legislation because it affects people’s rights who are affected by the decisions made by the governing body on these issues. That I think is a trickier sort of policy, political question as to whether or not that’s what you want to do,” said Vanderburg. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com