Canadians are taking advantage of the abundance of snow, building amazing sled tracks this winter.
Canadians are taking advantage of the abundance of snow, building amazing sled tracks this winter.
The Burmese-Canadian community is calling on the federal government to provide more material support to anti-military protesters after a week that saw some of the deadliest clashes between police and demonstrators in Myanmar since the military coup in that country. The Burmese Canadian Action Network (BCAN) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau this week, just one day after police killed 18 people and wounded 30, according to the United Nations. "We, Burmese Canadians across Canada, are calling on the Government of Canada to provide tangible support for Burmese people struggling for freedom and democracy," the letter reads. The crisis began after Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide re-election as state counsellor of Myanmar — a position equivalent to a prime minister -- on Nov. 8 last year. The military questioned the results, accusing the winning party of fraud, before seizing power and placing Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government under arrest on Feb. 1. Since then, dozens of protesters have died -- 34 on Wednesday alone -- at the hands of police and more than 1,000 civilians and elected officials have been arrested. Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas in San Chaung township in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, Mar. 5, 2021. Demonstrators defy growing violence by security forces and stage more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.(The Associated Press) From pot-banging to protesters taking to the streets clad in hard-hats and goggles to protect themselves from assaults by police, the demonstrations are happening daily, in spite of bans on political protests and on social media. The letter to Trudeau and Garneau says Canada should take further action, including helping people who are now struggling with food scarcity. The civil unrest has caused major shutdowns in the country and interrupted the people's daily lives, especially those who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). BCAN appealed to Canada to send food and material support via UN agencies and civil society organizations. "We encourage you to find ways to provide such essential assistance urgently," its letter reads. The letter also calls on Canada to officially recognize the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Htaw (CRPH). The CRPH, which was created soon after the coup with the support of 400 elected MPs, combines the Lower and Upper Houses of Myanmar's parliament. Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on March 4, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images) According to Tin Maung Htoo, spokesperson for the BCAN, the CRPH is currently working underground in defiance of the police and supporting the demonstrators under the radar, by releasing information and making announcements to the public. "We are quite encouraged by the [Canadian] government's stand and this stand and actions from the government is very encouraging for people on the ground in Burma, especially," he said, referring to a move by Canada and Britain to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar. The two countries made the move under the Special Economic Measures Act on Feb 18 after police violence escalated against demonstrators. We don't want to go back 20, 30 years -- back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can. - Tin Maung Htoo Maung Htoo was a student when he fled Myanmar during in 1988 after organizing protests against the military dictatorship. "More than 3,000 people, mostly students, were killed in the streets," Maung Htoo recalled. "There was no freedom of expression, association, student unions were banned." The regime lasted over 20 years, finally ending when Myanmar achieved partial democracy in 2010. Tin Maung Htoo, with the Burmese Canadian Action Network, says the people of Myanmar 'are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country.'(Submitted by Tin Maung Htoo) Two years before the country opened itself to the world, the military wrote a new constitution, which allowed it to keep some of its former powers, including 25 per cent of seats in parliament and control of the defence, border affairs and home ministries. When the military moved to take power in February, General Min Aung Hlaing announced the removal of 24 democratically elected ministers, naming 11 replacements.. Maung Htoo said he believes the coup is an act of desperation. He said the the military was gradually losing not only political control under Suu Kyi's leadership but also economic power, since big business organizations are military-backed and military-owned. "People are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country." Maung Htoo said. "We don't want to go back 20, 30 years ... back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can."
A Strathmore resident who came to Canada as a refugee from Syria has opened a new barbershop in the downtown core. Sam Al-Mubaied, together with business partner Ahmad Asheti, have opened the Strathmore Barbershop, located in the Strathmore Centre. A grand opening celebration was held on March 1, attended by Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Councillors Bob Sobol and Denise Peterson, along with other members of the community. The opening culminates Al-Mubaied’s relocation to Canada with his wife and family from Damascus, Syria in 2016 because of the Syrian civil war. “We weren’t safe there, especially the kids, so we had to leave,” he said. The Hope Community Covenant Church, along with five sponsors, helped Al-Mubaied and his family settle in Strathmore. Since then, Al-Mubaied and his family have adjusted to life here. “I love Strathmore – I feel like it’s my own town and my own community,” he said. “We’re so happy to be safe here.” The business has been ready to open for a few months, but was delayed by COVID-19 public health measures. So, Al-Mubaied took a “wait and see” approach to opening while many businesses were closed. But with personal and wellness businesses services open again (by appointment), Al-Mubaied decided the time was right to launch the new business venture. Like other barbers and hairdressers in town, Al-Mubaied will be working within the confines of COVID-19 protocols. “We’re working under the government’s rules,” he said. Al-Mubaied has been cutting hair for over 10 years and does not think his approach to the craft will be much different than in Syria. “Hair is hair, but every year, there are new styles,” he said. “I’m so excited to start serving the people of Strathmore.” At the reopening, Fule said that having businesses downtown, such as the Strathmore Barbershop, being successful is important to Strathmore’s downtown revitalization. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A local family with deep ties to the Rockyford area is being honoured for best representing the values of the family farm within their rural community. Gordon and Darlene Koester and family, with Koester Cattle Co. Inc., was a recipient of the BMO Farm Family Award, presented by the Calgary Stampede and BMO Bank of Montreal. This awards program was created to promote a renewed urban-rural relationship and to recognize outstanding southern Alberta farm families who best typify the value of the family farmer to society. The Koester’s local ties started in 1928, when the family moved from Iowa to Rockyford. Joe, one of nine children, and his wife, Tillie, purchased their own farmstead in 1950, raising eight children. Their son Gordon and his wife Darlene took over the family farm and raised four children. Sons Matthew and Adam became an integral part of the family farm operation, but in 2015, they decided to pursue their off-farm careers on a full-time basis. Bradie, one of the couple’s two daughters, and her husband, Dan, then jumped at the opportunity to come home and farm, and are now at the helm of the operation. The family winning the award was a surprise, said Gordon, in an interview. “I was taken back by the nomination, thinking there’s a lot of deserving people out there,’ he said. “I was humbled to be chosen, that’s for sure.” The Koesters have been an integral part of their community. Gordon is the past president of the Rockyford Lions Club and past chairman of the Rockyford Agricultural Society, Hall Board, Curling Club, Parish Council, Knights of Columbus and Minor Hockey, and is also a 25- year member of the Seed Growers Association. Darlene helped establish ringette in the Rockyford Community 30 years ago, and was a coach and manager throughout the years while her daughters played. She was also the Rockyford Rodeo secretary for 25 years in addition to driving a school bus for three decades. Dan and Bradie belong to the Rockyford Minor Hockey and Ringette Association as coaches and board members, in addition to Rockyford’s Ag Society, Lions Club, Rodeo Committee, Parish Council and Knights of Columbus. They also coach their girls’ fastball teams as well as play ringette and hockey on adult teams. Dan belongs to the Strathmore Seed Cleaning Plant and is entering his second year as chairman. Being established for multiple generations has helped the Koesters make such an impact in their community, said Gordon. “My father and mother taught us to be part of the community and make sure things work,” he said. “We’re a small enough community that everybody can take a turn.” Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A motion to share costs on a road project with the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert to upgrade a part of 48th Street East was defeated during Prince Albert City Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Surface Works Manager Marcel Gareau recommended that the proposal be moved to future budget deliberations after Marquis Road is upgraded between Central Avenue and 4th Avenue East. The focus on Marquis Road upgrades was a contentious issue with council in making their decision. In his report to council, Gareau emphasized that upgrading that section of road was listed as a high priority in the 2017 Transportation Master Plan. The two options were to include the 48th Street upgrade in the 2022 budget or decline it. Mayor Greg Dionne made the motion to decline the proposal. “I’m still confused. We have a request from the RM, so I expect administration to come back with a report denying the request for cost sharing because there is no positive benefit for us,” Dionne said during the meeting. “I don’t want to talk about Marquis Road. I am here today to talk about 48th Street. We have a request, I read it, from the RM about cost sharing. (Administration) has just told us there is no benefit, so the recommendation should be that we notify the RM (that) at this point we are not prepared to cost share (for) the road.” Dionne said that the discussion was over after Gareau explained that no benefit for the city existed at this time. “We are not twinning Marquis from Central to Fourth I don’t know why the department keeps bringing that up. So I am here to deal with 48th Street and I just heard from him now that there is no benefit so the request from the RM be denied at this time,” Dionne said. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick disagreed with Dionne on the substance of the upgrade on Marquis but agreed on the denial of the proposal. He explained that the project on Marquis should be undertaken at a latr date. “I don’t see any advantage in spending money on that particular upgrade when we have Elevator Road, which is in the RM, that I see is a primary grid and then we have Marquis Road which also goes east west,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards also did not support the original motion because it was tied to Marquis Road. He understood the idea but did not see a reason to link the two. “I do have some concerns about upgrading 48th and spending money on it and I think that it can be addressed today,” Edwards said. Edwards asked what the purpose of upgrading 48th Street East would be at this time. “From the administration point of view there is no reason to upgrade 48th street at this time because we already have the infrastructure to handle the traffic volume,” Gareau said. In the report it explained that the upgrade to four lanes of that section of Marquis Road was unfunded in the 2021 budget and remains a priority for administration. The report states that upgrading 48th Street for use by heavy trucks as an alternate route does not solve the main issue of the bottleneck on Marquis Road. Marquis Road needs to be upgraded to support growth in the West Hill, Crescent Acres and the new recreation centre project, administration said. According to the report, the pavement condition on Marquis Road at that section in currently poor. The RM has hired a consultant who recommended that the street be built to primary grid heavy haul standards and that the right-of-way be widened. The report explained that the city of Prince Albert has no plans to expand into the area. The main developments are in the West Hill and Crescent Heights and expected to continue for at least 20 years. RM of Prince Albert Reeve Eric Schmalz was disappointed, but respected council’s decision. “The city has some budgetary commitments that they need to meet before they can pursue partnership with the RM apparently, so we respect that and we look forward to discussing it with them in the future,” Schmalz said. “We are still in a relationship. They are our partners in the region and we need to focus on the entire relationship, not just on one particular aspect. I think that we can still move forward beyond this.” Schmalz said the RM has other projects to focus on, like the construction of a new shop and office, and the building of other roads. The total cost of the project is estimated at $371,000. It would have been split to $185,500 each for the RM and city under the proposal. The proposal would have seen RM equipment and labour used during construction. The idea dates back to Nov. 5, 2019, when the RM sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office requesting joint funding for the upgrade. In March, 2020 the proposal was declined and sent to 2021 budget deliberations. The RM sent a letter updating the proposal to city council. In December 2020, executive committee moved that the report from administration be prepared by Public Works. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Golden Hill School Division (GHSD) held a board meeting on Feb. 23, focusing on a range of topics, including setting next year’s budget, this year’s election, enrolment trends and changes to its transportation program. Budget development The government of Alberta released its 2021 budget on Feb. 25, which will shape GHSD’s budget next year. According to the province, funding for kindergarten to Grade 12 is being maintained, despite lower-than-expected enrolment. However, GHSD will review the specifics of the budget in developing its own budget for next year, through a multistep process. At this time of year, the board is focused on its overarching budgeting principles, explained superintendent Bevan Daverne. “One of those principles is that we live within our means and make (GHSD’s budget) work within the funding we receive,” he said. While GHSD may access reserve funding for its budget, it is not permitted to run an overall deficit. Another principle is ensuring GHSD’s priorities continue to align with its overall education plan. “We’ll continue to focus on those things that matter most for learning,” said Daverne. Once the budget is released, the province’s minister of education calls all the division chairs across Alberta to communicate the highlights of the budget, explained Laurie Huntley, GHSD board chair. The board will later receive the budget in its entirety for review. “That’s when the rubber hits the road and our people start crunching the numbers and comparing things from last year to this year,” she said. The board will review the specifics of the provincial budget and its impact during the next meeting in March, added Daverne. Election 2021 This year, a provincial school board of trustee election will be held on Oct. 18. Trustees are responsible for setting school division goals and priorities, developing a budget and policies, ensuring communication with residents, advocating for the division and evaluating the superintendent. GHSD has six trustees, each representing a different ward. One of the changes to this year’s election was the nomination period, which started on Jan. 1, earlier than previous years. During the Feb. 23 meeting, the board passed an updated bylaw outlining the identification requirements of nominees. The current trustees on the board have been “outstanding,” said Daverne. “They think about what’s best for students as a whole, they are very good listeners and they are very considerate in the decisions they make.” Advocacy is a key part of trustee’s work, including advocating for changes to funding, regulations and rules with provincial decisions makers, he added. Huntley (Ward 5, Carseland and Wheatland Crossing), Rob Pirie (Ward 4, Strathmore) and Jennifer Mertz (Ward 4, Strathmore) are all seeking reelection. Enrolment changes During the Feb. 23 meeting, GHSD’s headcount was shown to have increased from December 2020 to January 2021 by 135 students. This trend was driven by increases in its online learning programs, including 127 added to its Golden Hills Learning Academy and 26 to its NorthStar Academy. The jump was due to the pandemic, said Huntley. “We think you can sum up the reason in five letters: C-O-V-I-D,” she said. But this increase is not due to children in the division moving from learning at school to learning at home, she explained. Instead, these programs are offered to students throughout Alberta, so the increases are due to students from other jurisdictions entering the program. From the start of last year, these programs have doubled in size, noted Daverne. To meet this new demand, GHSD has had to make some quick adjustments, such as hiring more teachers. But within the division, the opposite trend is being seen, where students are moving back into schools from at-home learning. “Our families have been really happy to be able to get back to face-to-face classroom learning,” said Daverne. Transportation monitoring report GHSD’s yearly transportation monitoring report was also discussed during the Feb. 23 meeting, focusing on GHSD’s school bus program. A new operating training program has been implemented, called mandatory entry-level training (MELT), established in March 2019 as a provincial requirement for large vehicle operators. The training requires set hourly training requirements for drivers (53.5 hours total), including increased requirements for classroom, in-yard and on-road training. Existing GHSD policies already required 62 hours of training, with some of the training performed over a year. But the change with MELT is the training is required up front. This is not necessarily an improvement, because drivers require regular supervision, ride alongs and support to develop, said Daverne. “We’re going to help you continue becoming a better driver, and we’re going to continue to supervise over time,” he said. GHSD is also pursuing several initiatives for its transportation program, including ongoing efforts to implement online attendance tracking systems, new cleaning protocols and adding live cameras to the buses. “We’re looking at ways to monitor students’ attendance on a bus automatically – where they get on and where they get off,” he said. Each of GHSD’s buses has GPS tracking, which will be considered in a review of the department’s inclement weather policy. The buses also each have WiFi for students, providing a filtered internet from which they can access their Google Classroom. “School bus transportation is very different today than it once was,” said Daverne. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia's vote last year to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and add it to the Constitution. Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment's adoption, citing an opinion from the Department of Justice under the Trump administration. constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38, but Congress enacted a ratification deadline for the ERA that passed decades ago. In a ruling Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Nevada, Illinois and Virginia's motives were “laudable” but that they came too late because the U.S. Congress set deadlines for ratifying the ERA long ago. Contreras also said the Archivist's publication and certification of an amendment are “formalities with no legal effect” so the archivist's failure to do that doesn't cause harm and there's no standing for the states to sue. In their lawsuit, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that the deadline, which was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982, was not binding. Herring said in a statement after the judge's ruling that he is not giving up the fight and is considering an appeal, hopeful of backing from Democrat Joe Biden's administration and Congress. “While I do not believe that the arbitrary deadline Congress imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment is binding in any way, I welcome any support from both the Biden Administration and Congress in ensuring that this amendment is recognized as part of the Constitution once and for all," he said. The U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the archivist of the United States David Ferriero, declined to comment. An emailed message seeking comment from the press office of the National Archives and Records Administration was not immediately returned. In a January 2020 opinion, the Justice Department said it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline set by Congress decades earlier. Ford in Nevada said in a statement Friday that women have always been endowed with equal rights but it's past time for the country to recognize that. “Unfortunately, today’s decision requires women to continue waiting. Though I’m disheartened by this decision, all women can rest assured that, regardless of this court’s decision, my fight for your equal rights does not end today, tomorrow, or any day," he said. The ERA states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters contend the amendment would offer stronger protections in sex discrimination cases and give Congress firmer ground to pass anti-discrimination laws, among other protections. Opponents of the measure warn it could be used to erase protections such as workplace accommodations during pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists worry that the amendment could be used by supporters of abortions rights to eliminate abortions restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women. Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press
Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. residents are hunkering down at home as they face a blizzard, but thankfully, their internet has been restored. "This the longest [internet outage] it's been," said Ulukhaktok Mayor Joshua Oliktoak. "I guess it was getting hard for some people, so I'm very thankful that it was resolved so people are able to get what they need before they have to stay in … everything is shut-down except for the stores." The internet was in and out for nearly eight days before Northwestel fixed the issue Thursday evening, the company confirmed. It said a "technical issue" had caused "internet network congestion" in the community. Residents had been trying to alert the company to the internet problem, but, said a Northwestel spokesperson, during the outage period "data was still flowing in and out of the community and we did not fully realize the impact it was having on customers." The internet outage was so widespread that it even affected residents' ability to pay for groceries and gas. Oliktoak said Friday afternoon that the internet returning meant community members could pick up groceries and supplies before the blizzard got too bad. "We are fortunate it got fixed before the weekend," said Oliktoak. "Right now it's real bad. Some people can't see across the road."
The post, sent from Dorsey's account in March of 2006, received offers on Friday that went as high as $88,888.88 within minutes of the Twitter co-founder tweeting a link to the listing on 'Valuables by Cent' - a tweets marketplace. Old offers for the tweet suggest that it was put for sale in December, but the listing gained more attention after Dorsey's tweet on Friday.
Trustees in the River East Transcona School Division have approved a $201.8-million budget for the upcoming school year that takes into account the impact COVID-19 has had on student well-being. The budget has few changes in store for 2021-22, aside from a modest increase of 5.1 new full-time equivalent resource teacher and clinician positions. “This health crisis has thrown everything upside down, and we know come the fall, there are going to be a lot of children, a lot of families, who are going to require a lot more support from education — academically, and for their mental health and well-being,” said Jerry Sodomlak, chairman of the board. The province has allocated $98.9 million in operating funding, the equivalent of a 0.6 per cent increase, for the Winnipeg-based division next year. Divisions have been directed to freeze property education taxes, with the province instead offering one-time grants the equivalent of a two per cent hike; in River East Transcona, that means a resident with an average home valued at $287,500 will see an approximately $27 decrease on their tax bill. Sodomlak said revenues don’t keep pace with inflation and growing enrolment costs, and could result in larger class sizes next year. “The government has dropped the ball… but I believe that we have an extremely capable and strong senior administration team in our division and teaching staff who will be able to continue our programming,” he said Wednesday, adding the division has strong inclusion supports, unique bilingual programs and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) offerings. Trustee Brianne Goertzen, chairwoman of the finance committee, echoed those sentiments Wednesday: “We’re looking at trying to maintain a status quo.” Not unlike other boards, staffing and benefit costs in the River East Transcona account for nearly 90 per cent of its total budget. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Calgary police are seeking assistance from the public after a 13-year-old was confronted by a man who attempted to force her into a van. According to a release, the girl was walking home from a school bus stop northbound along Saddlebrook Drive N.E. at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Friday when she was approached by a vehicle. Police said the driver asked the girl for directions, allegedly with his pants and underwear around his ankles so as to expose himself. The girl began to leave, police said, declining to speak with the man. Police said the man then proceeded to pull his pants up and exit the van, approaching her from behind, before opening the van's sliding door and trying to shove the girl in. Police said the girl kicked the man and ran. The man followed her in the van until she arrived at home. The van is described as potentially being a medium grey Honda or Toyota older model minivan. Police described the man as being mid-to-late 30s with a heavy build. He was wearing a green long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans and a blue toque, police said. No CCTV images of the vehicle have been located at this time, and police have been patrolling the area since early in the afternoon. Police are asking anyone with information or with CCTV footage to get in contact. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 403-266-1234, or contact Crime Stoppers anonymously.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for a second full term in 2022, continuing their yearslong alliance in a move to strengthen ties with the early-voting state that Trump won twice. In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump commended McMaster's efforts on behalf of the military, veterans and law enforcement, saying the Republican “has my Complete and Total Endorsement as he runs for re-election!” The endorsement, along with other recent moves, continues to signal Trump's desire to maintain ties with South Carolina, home of the first presidential primary votes in the South. Earlier this week, Trump formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in his own 2022 reelect bid, also complimenting Scott’s work on behalf of the military, law enforcement and veterans. Last month, Trump gave backing to Drew McKissick for a third term as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, signalling a desire to wade not only into state-level politics but also to play a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency and where his support remains steady. But the former president’s relationship with McMaster goes deeper, predating either man’s administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump’s presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so. That summer, McMaster was one of two speakers to formally nominate Trump at the Republican National Convention. The move helped boost Trump to a double-digit victory in South Carolina’s early primary. It also surprised many allies and friends of McMaster, a longtime member of South Carolina’s establishment GOP circles. But McMaster’s wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor’s office, a post he had long sought. In 2018, as McMaster sought his first full term in office, Trump campaigned for his ally roughly 12 hours before polls opened in a GOP runoff race, which McMaster ultimately won. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
Frances Wesley said a sense of relief could be felt in the room at the first vaccine clinic held for off-reserve First Nations members living in Thunder Bay. The smell of sage burning from the smudge bowl used to bless the Pfizer COVID-19 doses and the nurses administering them also filled the room with reassurance as a lineup formed outside of people scheduled to get their first shot. Ms. Wesley, the executive director of the Matawa Health Co-op, an organization that serves nine First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, said close to 200 doses were administered to its off-reserve members in a clinic that first opened this week. She said the Matawa group prioritized vulnerable people including those older than 60, the homeless or precariously housed and those with mental-health illnesses. Thunder Bay moved back into the province’s grey lockdown zone last week as it continues to struggle to get a handle on the virus, which has spread significantly among the city’s homeless and precariously housed, many of whom are Indigenous and First Nations. Chief Chris Moonias from Neskantaga, one of the Matawa First Nations, declared a state of emergency last month after an outbreak infected 12 members living in the city. Chief Moonias said most of those cases have been resolved, however one of his nephews remains in the ICU. According to a 2018 community report, close to 500 people are in homeless situations, such as couch surfing or accessing emergency shelters in Thunder Bay. Ms. Wesley said the doses for Matawa’s clinics are being provided by the Thunder Bay health unit based on how many people register. She said Matawa was able to move quickly because it has extensive health care resources, including nurses and physicians on staff. She said Matawa worked with health directors from each of their communities to get a list of those living in the city for registration. There are about 4,000 members from the nine Matawa First Nations who live in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Wesley. “Some people will say no,” she said. “Others are so excited they can hardly wait.” She said they’ve already been approached by other First Nations and groups about holding clinics for their off-reserve members and communities accessible by road. Remote Indigenous communities were given immediate priority because of their isolation and inadequate access to health care. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing 49 mostly remote First Nations, said more than 9,000 members living in remote communities have been vaccinated so far as Operation Remote Immunity nears completion. Meanwhile, public-health units and regional health authorities are leading the rollout in urban Indigenous and road-access communities. Nishnawbe Aski Nation noted there’s a sense of urgency for those close to hot spots such as Thunder Bay as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the city continue to put lives at risk. Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is a member of the provincial vaccine task force and says the goal is to vaccinate all First Nations in Ontario by April 30. She said clinics to vaccinate people 55 years and older have already begun in some urban locations such as Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it’s already vaccinating the homeless population in the city with partners at different clinics and that many road-access communities in the district have received their first doses. The health unit said it is still in the planning stages with Indigenous organizations for vaccinating off-reserve members in the district. Ontario announced Friday its plans to move to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan based on age and risk, focusing on ages. Indigenous communities and people were identified as a priority group at the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout because of higher rates of poorer health outcomes and higher risk of COVID-19 infections and transmission. Thunder Bay wasn’t listed as a COVID-19 hot spot region slated to get additional doses in the province’s transitional plan. Dr. Dirk Huyer said it was based on historical, not current, data of hot spots such as Peel and Toronto. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
VANCOUVER — A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has reserved his decision on a request from three churches to throw out provincial health orders that prevent them from holding in-person services. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson said Friday he doesn't want to delay unnecessarily and he appreciates the urgency of the matter from the petitioners' point of view, but he must give the case careful thought. "You've presented me with very difficult issues to resolve and I will take the time necessary to try and resolve those issues fairly." Hinkson gave no date on when he would release his decision. Jacqueline Hughes, a lawyer for B.C.'s attorney general, told the court the orders by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry do not single out or ban all in-person religious services and Henry has invited exemption requests. The petitioners include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack. Hughes said the churches are now permitted to hold in-person services of up to 25 people, outdoors and with safety measures in place, through a "variance" to Henry's orders granted late last month. Individual worship and drive-in events are also permitted under the orders, subject to conditions, she said, while weddings, funerals and baptisms may include no more than 10 guests. Henry has the statutory powers during an emergency to issue orders she reasonably believes are necessary to prevent and mitigate further harm from a health hazard, including restricting entry to a place, said Hughes. The province's top doctor has made efforts to consult faith leaders while weighing their charter rights against data about COVID-19 cases in B.C. and explaining her reasoning in public briefings and in writing, she said. Paul Jaffe, legal counsel for the petitioners, has argued Henry's orders reflect a value judgment. On Friday, he said his clients have been subjected to discriminatory treatment compared with other groups. Orthodox Jewish synagogues were granted variances to hold indoor services on the Sabbath around the time Henry and the attorney general sought an injunction to stop his clients from worshipping in person, Jaffe said. Hinkson dismissed the province's injunction application last month, saying the provincial health officer has means under the Public Health Act to enforce the rules without a court order. Jaffe told the court on Friday there has been no change in the degree to which Henry's orders arbitrarily infringe on his clients' charter right to freedom of religion from the time they were made last November to now. "All the Crown has been able to show you are the opinions of Dr. Henry," he said. "But opinions aren't evidence. You need cogent, persuasive evidence to justify those opinions and there simply isn't any." He told the court earlier this week that his clients have adopted safety measures similar to those approved by the provincial health officer in places that remain open. Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the public health orders. Hughes told the court on Friday "there's no absolute rule that constitutionally protected interests must be preferred to those that are just pressing and substantial" in matters such as the petition at hand. The only requirements, she said, are that any balance struck is reasonable, that "sincere religious practice" is accommodated where possible, and that religious and non-religious beliefs are treated neutrally. "We say Dr. Henry understood these requirements and applied them to best of her ability," Hughes told Hinkson. Henry's mandate to protect public health is a balancing exercise, she said, and "charter rights do not trump the public health mandate that she has and is continuing to exercise over the course of this pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The Town of Strathmore and Siksika Nation are continuing their efforts for shared understanding and collaboration among residents of the two communities to combat racism. Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Siksika Nation Councillor Rueben Breaker provided an update of the work the two communities are leading together, via a Facebook Live address on Feb. 25. Representatives from each community started working together in 2019 to ensure First Nations people visiting and living in Strathmore have positive experiences in town, said Fule. “It’s all about creating a safer and more welcoming community,” he said. This is being done because First Nations people have experienced racism in Strathmore. “I’ve heard some quite serious and harrowing stories from people, as far as things yelled at people (and) comments made to them,” said Fule, adding the problem needs to be addressed. “We have to be willing to own it and admit that there could be a problem. This should not be happening in our community.” The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined these efforts, but now the initiative is being restarted. “Now we’re back at the table and we’re going to go hard at this, because racism is not going away,” said Breaker. The group is generating ideas to present to Golden Hills School Division (GHSD) and Christ the Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools to make the education lives and experiences of Siksika students “more smooth and more meaningful,” said Fule. Another focus of the initiative is policing. This follows Strathmore RCMP together with representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation signing a shared letter of understanding in October 2020 to develop more trust between them. “It was perfect timing, because it’s no secret that the topic of systemic racism within the RCMP is prevalent all over Canada,” said Breaker. “We want to make sure that even at the law enforcement level, that our people are treated fairly and just have that basic understanding.” Also being considered is how to improve affordable housing, social services and employment for First Nations people in town, said Fule. But these efforts are not focused on Strathmore alone, said Breaker. Strathmore and area sports teams visiting Siksika Nation to play should be welcomed there too, he said. To reach some of these goals, representatives from Strathmore and Siksika Nation are considering forming a formal anti-racism committee. To support this, town administration is looking to create terms of reference to follow, said Fule. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Pope Francis is on a historic visit to Iraq despite the global pandemic. After a year of laying low in Vatican City, he's resumed his travels with a message of unity for a country ravaged by religious violence.
Over the February break there was an important symbol put in place at St. Francis School in Prince Albert. Maintenance from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division placed a handcrafted cross in the school's gymnasium. The cross was crafted by St. Francis Principal Richard Rapin's brother. It was the last stage of a large renovation beginning in 2019 when a flood swept through the school. “In the middle of the summer, we knew we needed a cross at that particular time to finish off our gym because it is the largest gathering place in our school,” Richard said. The other parts of the renovation included painting and new flooring. The gymnasium is currently in use as the place for physical education classes. The gymnasium serves as much more than just a place for sports. It acts as a gathering place for important events at the school including events such as liturgies, Grade 8 farewells and other milestones. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is not possible but when the pandemic is over, staff and students will once again gather in the space to celebrate together. “So we wanted a special cross for our gym and I approached my brother Phil who has made a number of them in Saskatoon and I asked him if he would be willing to build a cross for our gym and he said absolutely,” Richard said. “He phoned me a couple weeks later and I drove up to Saskatoon. I picked it up and our school division maintenance department mounted it on the wall. It sits there today and will be a permanent symbol in our school for decades to come.” He explained that there is a cross in every room in the school and this large cross suits the size of the gymnasium. This particular cross is nearly six feet tall and placed in a place of prominence next to both the stage and a Prayer of St. Francis, the Patron Saint of the school. “It really is a symbol that grabs every person's eye when they walk into the gymnasium,” he said. Phil Rapin has constructed a number of crosses located across Saskatoon where he is also employed as a teacher in the Catholic School system. Richard mused that when he enters buildings in Saskatoon he often wonders if his brother crafted the cross. The brothers are both originally from Prince Albert. Richard explained that once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, there will be a celebration of the cross overlooked by the Parish Priest for St. Francis. Richard explained that his brother did not craft and donate the cross for any type of recognition. “A cross is a tremendously important symbol in our Catholic faith, there is no getting around that and to have a cross in our school that is so visible is such a powerful symbol in our building,” Richard said. The cross was crafted by Phil from wood and steel with a design that he found on the Internet. He describes himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. He explained that he took the design and used a computer-driven steel cutting machine and cut the shape. The size of the design was too large for the machine and had to be done in two steps and welded together based on the original. He then polished the piece, cleaned it up, laminated a large piece of wood and traced and cut the wood. Phil explained that when he saw the design he was immediately struck by the beauty of it. The original intent was to have a cross that was lit from the back, similar to another one that he has constructed. Phil explained that the design represents more of a risen Jesus Christ as opposed to the crucified Jesus Christ. “It's just a different interpretation or look,” Phil said. The cross was donated so as to not create extra paperwork and because it promoted what the Catholic faith stands for. The piece is about itself rather, than who constructed it. Director of education Lorel Trumier detailed the cross to the regular board of education meeting on Monday and was proud to have it in a school in the division. “To get a cross made with that size and with that level of craftsmanship and carpentry it's really a gift to our Catholic education community at St. Francis,” Trumier said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
A newly formed organization is encouraging Black people in Western and Northern Canada to run for office and get more involved in electoral politics. Throughout March, Black Voters Matter Canada will be hosting an event series offering opportunities for potential Black candidates to network, ask questions and learn about the process of running a campaign. The series will feature national chair of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada Tunde Obasan, NDP member of Parliament Matthew Green, Ontario representative to the Green Party of Canada Federal Council Adrian Currie and Liberal member of Parliament Greg Fergus. Juliet Bushi, a co-founder and organizer of Black Voters Matter Canada, hopes this event series will help lower some of the barriers to Black candidates running for office. Last year, Bushi herself ran a successful campaign for Regina Catholic School Division trustee, becoming the first Black woman elected to the role. She believes Saskatchewan politics would benefit from more Black candidates participating at every level. "Given that our population in Saskatchewan is increasing, we need better representation and equal voices at the table, especially given the current pandemic as well as the unending social inequalities that continue to plague our society," she said. For Petros Kusmu, also a Black Voters Matter co-founder and organizer, these conversations are particularly important right now, when there are murmurs of a possible snap federal election in the spring. Petros Kusmu is a co-founder and organizer of Black Voters Matter Canada.(Petros Kusmu) "We know, historically, [a snap election] doesn't bode well for parties having more diverse candidates," he said. "We have to work with parties to help them scout some of the best-qualified Black candidates in the West and in the North. "But we also have to engage with our communities and really start telling them … 'Hey, you're a pretty amazing person. You do a lot of great work in the community, You're a smart small-business owner. You're a brilliant teacher. You are the type of person that we think should be considering running for office.'" In the 2019 federal election, there were no Black candidates in Saskatoon or Regina. In fact, the Black Voters Matter Canada event series does not feature any speakers from Saskatchewan because, according to Kusmu, "we don't have any of our own that we can claim here." He says it's not just a matter of convincing more Black people to run — parties decide how much to support the candidates who do put their names forward. "I think the challenge you often see is that you'll get a lot of diverse candidates who are then placed in areas, or encouraged to run in areas, where there isn't a shot of winning," he said. Political engagement discouraged While Black Voters Matter Canada is focused on all forms of civic engagement, not just supporting Black candidates for office, Bushi says a lack of meaningful representation on campaigns and in office can do a lot to reduce participation and erode confidence from marginalized communities. "Oftentimes, politics — and especially campaign slogans — become redundant and quite boring for a lot of marginalized people, because it's the same thing over and over again," she said. "And once that election is done, they're gone with their promises. So people are discouraged to actually get interested and active and engaged in politics." Kusmu believes all Canadians would benefit from having more diverse political representation, and that Western Canada is particularly ready to see more Black people run for office and win seats. He points to Leslyn Lewis, who recently ran for the federal Conservative Party leadership, as an example. "She was so popular out in the Prairies and in Western Canada — which was a surprise, because she's from Ontario — that the Saskatchewan Conservatives threw their support behind her. "And there are so many more Dr. Leslyn Lewises and future potential Barack Obamas that are hidden gems here in the West and North." Kusmu hopes Black Voters Matter Canada will help cultivate "a larger growing garden of amazing Black leaders for Canadians to have the pleasure of picking from" as more Black candidates get the resources, information and support they need to throw their hat into the ring. "For Black folks who are thinking about running, I want to remind them that no one Black candidate is coming to save us," he said. "We are the ones we have been waiting for, in terms of who is going to be in office to help change things. It's not going to be the silver bullet, but it's going to be part of this transformation of having a more just and more equitable Canada at the end of the day."
The Southeast Asian country has been plunged in turmoil since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, with daily protests and strikes that have choked business and paralysed administration. Sporadic protests were staged across Myanmar on Saturday and local media reported that police fired tear gas shells and stun grenades to break up a protest in the Sanchaung district of Yangon, the country's biggest city.
A tree disease caused by a fungus has been identified in Wheatland County and, if left unchecked, may result in the stunting or death of trees. Black knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a disease affecting certain fruit trees (in the genus Prunus), including cherries and plums. The stems of affected trees show a blackish growth or swelling. On Feb. 17, Wheatland County announced its maintenance crews identified black knot in some of its communities. The county’s hamlet operations foreman said black knot was seen a few years ago, and while it does not seem widespread, residents should be aware of it and how to deal with it, wrote Mackenzie Maier, the county’s communication specialist, in an email. While the disease is considered common and widespread in Alberta, if it is left to progress, it can disfigure and reduce the growth of branches, sometimes leading to the death of the tree. It also stresses the infected tree, leaving it more prone to infection from other pathogens. The county cut the infected portions out of the trees areas it maintains. However, diseased branches were identified on private properties, so the county is asking landowners to assess their properties for its presence and remove any infected materials. To control black knot, all knot-bearing branches should be pruned out in late fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant and knots visible. Infected branches should be removed six to eight inches below the knot. To avoid spreading the spores of the fungus, shears should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Diseased wood should be either burned or removed from the site, as they may release spores for up to four months after removal. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 85,376 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,253,514 doses given. Nationwide, 561,238 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,946.061 per 100,000. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 85.94 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 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 19,975 new vaccinations administered for a total of 510,479 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.659 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 35,886 new vaccinations administered for a total of 820,714 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 55.872 per 1,000. In the province, 1.83 per cent (269,063) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,358 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,937 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 61.682 per 1,000. In the province, 2.17 per cent (29,847) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,789 new vaccinations administered for a total of 86,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.679 per 1,000. In the province, 2.37 per cent (27,945) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 116.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 9,488 new vaccinations administered for a total of 275,719 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.634 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,486) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 100.3 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,357 new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,279 new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,437 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 465.769 per 1,000. In the territory, 17.00 per cent (7,093) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 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. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press