A cathedral cat with a taste for fame has made a nuisance of himself once again – this time by tucking into a plate of pancakes during morning prayer.
A cathedral cat with a taste for fame has made a nuisance of himself once again – this time by tucking into a plate of pancakes during morning prayer.
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. There are 852,269 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 852,269 confirmed cases (30,677 active, 799,830 resolved, 21,762 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,760 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 80.72 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,693 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,956. There were 40 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 367 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 52. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 57.26 per 100,000 people. There have been 23,880,652 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 955 confirmed cases (375 active, 576 resolved, four deaths). There were 15 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 71.82 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 244 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 35. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 0.77 per 100,000 people. There have been 183,360 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 115 confirmed cases (one active, 114 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 0.63 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of one new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 99,303 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,613 confirmed cases (20 active, 1,528 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 2.04 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 16 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 316,029 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,424 confirmed cases (76 active, 1,322 resolved, 26 deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 9.73 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.33 per 100,000 people. There have been 232,291 tests completed. _ Quebec: 283,666 confirmed cases (7,880 active, 265,456 resolved, 10,330 deaths). There were 739 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 91.9 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,479 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 783. There were 13 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 86 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 120.47 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,127,867 tests completed. _ Ontario: 295,119 confirmed cases (10,296 active, 277,939 resolved, 6,884 deaths). There were 975 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 69.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,383 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,055. There were 12 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 165 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 24. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 46.72 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,578,867 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 31,551 confirmed cases (1,212 active, 29,453 resolved, 886 deaths). There were 76 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 87.87 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 620 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 89. There were zero new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 64.24 per 100,000 people. There have been 521,439 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 27,923 confirmed cases (1,530 active, 26,017 resolved, 376 deaths). There were 126 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 129.81 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,094 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 156. There were four new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 19 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.23 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 31.9 per 100,000 people. There have been 560,268 tests completed. _ Alberta: 131,603 confirmed cases (4,516 active, 125,234 resolved, 1,853 deaths). There were 267 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 102.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,265 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 324. There were 10 new reported deaths Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 62 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is nine. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.2 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 41.91 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,353,608 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 77,822 confirmed cases (4,733 active, 71,753 resolved, 1,336 deaths). There were 559 new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 91.94 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,539 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 506. There was one new reported death Tuesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 22 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is three. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.06 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 25.95 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,876,985 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,071 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (five active, 37 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 11.07 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of four new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,026 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 351 confirmed cases (33 active, 317 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Tuesday. The rate of active cases is 83.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 28 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,462 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Submitted by Noah Gibbs, Matthew Parker and Jacob Long - image credit) It's been a challenging enough season for youth hockey players, given cancelled games and restrictions around how they can practise and gather. But for some Fredericton Caps U18 AAA hockey players from the Edmundston area, the season has been more challenging. They've had to be away from friends and family living in what has been a part of the province hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. With no U18 AAA hockey teams in the Edmundston area, a handful of players from that region are playing for the Fredericton Caps to further their hockey careers. Living with billet families and going to school in the capital city since last September, the boys were able to play eight games and return home to see their families before a spike in cases shortly after the holidays moved New Brunswick into more restrictive phases of the province's COVID-19 recovery plan. For Jacob Long, who plays defence for the Caps, January and February have been difficult months, with his attention split between hockey and concern for his friends and family in his hometown. Zone 4 was the location of a large outbreak that pushed the region into the province's most severe lockdown phase for two weeks, resulting in the closure of schools and non-essential businesses. "I was getting a bit worried [about the outbreak]. I know a couple of people who had [COVID-19] so it was not fun hearing that," he said. Long said he was also concerned about the well-being of his uncle, who's the owner of Manoir Bellevue, the care home that found itself battling a month-long outbreak among its staff and residents, with COVID-19 linked to the death of six residents. 'It can be tough sometimes' Matthew Parker hasn't seen his family in person since Christmas. The 16-year-old Fredericton Caps player hasn't been able to go home in almost two months. "It can be tough sometimes, and you miss seeing them and everything," Parker said. It's also tough on Gary Parker, his father, who would normally make the drive at least once a week to see his son play. "It's very different, very difficult," Parker said. "You want to be beside your son as much as possible in any such situation, but we're actually lucky that he's still having fun and enjoying himself and working hard." Gary Parker, left, would normally travel every weekend from Edmundston to see his son, Matthew Parker, play in games. This season, he hasn't been able to do that due to COVID-19 restrictions. Matthew Parker said he feels lucky to be able to practice and train, despite competitive games being suspended while the entire province remains in the orange recovery phase. "It's pretty great, I think. And we're ready — like any time that the season starts again, we'll be ready," he said. Still optimistic about future prospects Noah Gibbs, like the rest of his teammates, has been practising four days a week, on top of hitting the gym in order to stay in shape. And he's hopeful the unusual season won't have a long-term impact on his hockey career. "Because everyone is living the same thing as us... I'm not really concerned," Gibbs said. "[They've done a] really good job to make sure we stayed in shape. And we're ready to play some more games and develop ourselves too, so I'm confident," he said, adding he's already been drafted to play next year for the Québec Remparts, of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Noah Gibbs, a player with the Fredericton Caps U18 AAA hockey team, said he isn't worried about the unusual season holding him back in his chances at advancing in the sport. Parker said he's also keeping a positive attitude, and remains optimistic he'll come out at the end of the season with good prospects for next year. "I'm not worried much, honestly. I tell myself that everything happens for a reason and I just go with the flow," he said. "And I have a couple of options for next year, so that's always good." Supports there if needed Eric Bissonnette, the team's head coach, has been keeping a close eye on players who've found themselves playing away from their hometown this season. "I know from our organization, we've put a major, major effort to make sure that they knew they have a support system with them," Bissonnette said. "Sometimes you only find out things after the fact, but we've tried to have an open line of communication and they look like they've coped with it very well." Overall, Bissonnette said he's been impressed with how well the players have handled all the time away from family and not being able to play games this season. "Coming to the rink they've been the very best, always bringing a positive attitude. So I like to think that they've done extremely well."
TORONTO — Advocates say migrant and undocumented workers should have access to COVID-19 vaccines.The Migrant Rights Network is calling on all levels of governments to guarantee that access.The group is expected to make the call in a news conference today along with doctors and labour leaders .They say they are concerned that thousands of migrant and undocumented workers will not get the vaccine because of their immigration status.The group says government vaccination plans do not include measures that would guarantee safe access to the shot for the workers.The Ontario government has not said if temporary foreign workers employed on the province's farms would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agreed to work toward achieving net zero emissions by 2050. "We're launching a high-level, climate-ambition ministerial and to align our policies and our goals to achieve net zero emissions by 2050," Biden said in a speech following a bilateral meeting with the Canadian leader. U.S. Special Climate Change Envoy John Kerry and his Canadian counterpart, Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, will host the ministerial.
TORONTO — The National Film Board of Canada is creating two key positions and improving hiring practices as part of new measures it says are aimed at eliminating injustice and systemic racism not just in Canadian society, but also within the institution. The diversity, equity and inclusion changes come amid a racial reckoning that has many in Canada's screen industry calling for an increase in funding and representation for creators from Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour communities. The announcement also comes just over two months after the film board released its strategic plan for 2020-2023, which was delayed from July 2019 as the NFB further consulted with stakeholders who were concerned about the institution's spending priorities. The new initiatives include the creation of a director of diversity, equity and inclusion position, to be filled by a candidate from an underrepresented community. The senior role will oversee equity and anti-racist practices, and will be a member of the NFB’s executive committee. The NFB is also establishing a new director of Indigenous relations and community engagement position, which will involve forging closer ties with communities. That role will be filled by an Indigenous candidate and help improve Indigenous representation among film board employees, and advise on issues related to production and distribution of NFB works. "One of the reasons I feel it's so important to have those two people embedded with us in everything is that we are a white, white, white management committee," Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and NFB chairperson, said in an interview. Having a director of Indigenous relations and community engagement working closely with the top brass will also be greatly beneficial in situations like what the NFB is facing with the documentary "Inconvenient Indian," he said. The NFB co-production is on hold for distribution after a CBC News report questioned director Michelle Latimer's claims of Indigenous identity. Joli-Coeur said the NFB and producers are still "assessing all the different possibilities" for the film, noting "it's a very complicated situation" their Indigenous Advisory Committee is providing guidance on. "That's an illustration of why we need change, why we need more Indigenous colleagues, and why we need also a champion of Indigenous (projects) to help us to navigate in those very turbulent waters." The NFB says the new measures were designed with the input of many internal and external partners, and are in addition to the government agency's Indigenous Action Plan, now in its third year, as well as its plan for gender parity. The two new positions will work closely together, report directly to Joli-Coeur, and work with other decision-makers at the organization on a daily basis. They'll "have an important influence on anything" the NFB does, from the way it thinks to how it approaches things and finds solutions, he said. "They will also be our eyes on the floor, because I'm expecting that they will be deeply connected with all of our employees. Anything that we don't see that is kind of hidden or not on the spotlight that we're missing, will be brought to our attention." Other new measures announced Wednesday include a pledge to make the NFB staff "fully reflect Canadian society" by March 31, 2023. Figures based on voluntary declaration from the NFB's fiscal year 2019-2020 show that out of 365 full-time permanent employees, the NFB staff base includes: 211 women, 52 visible minorities, three Indigenous employees, and eight people with disabilities. The organization says it wants to ensure its slate of directors and producers always includes individuals from underrepresented communities. And it pledges that at least half of all new hires will be drawn from people in those groups — Indigenous, Black, racialized, and LGBTQ2+, and people with disabilities. "It's a transformation of the organization," said Joli-Coeur. "We want to set up goals that, within the next two years, will have an important impact on the fabric of our employees and how we work with creators and how we fulfill our mandate." Joli-Coeur's second and final term as commissioner is done at the end of November 2022. He said he's "preparing the ground" for his successors with specific target dates to help ensure goals are met and the NFB makes significant and lasting changes. "When I leave the organization, I want see already that change happening, and that's something that is achievable," he said, "and after that the ambition should be that we exceed that representation." Other new commitments include prioritizing recruitment of individuals (two out of three people) from the aforementioned underrepresented communities for all other management positions as the positions open, "until the NFB accurately reflects the composition of Canada's population." The film board also vows to ensure its programming equitably includes the voices of creators from those underrepresented communities, and that those groups are represented within the NFB's Creation and Innovation committees. To help find a wide range of people and companies of diverse backgrounds for contract work, the NFB plans to establish "a respectful, clear, convenient and transparent method of data collection." The NFB also pledges to: - Continue to highlight creators and promote works from diverse communities in the NFB's distribution and marketing activities, focusing on themes of social justice, equality, intersectionality, and immigration. - Put described video and subtitles on each new film. - Work with organizations representing equity-seeking groups to develop greater sensitivity and openness. - Create annual action plans with measurable targets for matters of diversity, equity and inclusion at the NFB. - Issue independent quarterly reports to the NFB’s executive committee and its board of trustees on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, unconscious bias and systemic racism at the NFB. - Also issue annual reports on these issues and the progress made. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
Filming a polar bear just inches from its nose, close enough to see its breath fog up the lens, was a career highlight for Jeff Thrasher. The CBC producer is part of the team behind Arctic Vets, a new show that follows the day-to-day operations at Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg. "It was breathing warm air onto the lens. I was thinking, 'Wow, there's nothing between me and this polar bear,"' Thrasher said, who filmed the shot using a GoPro camera up in Churchill, Man. The show is also the first time cameras have been allowed in the Winnipeg facility, which houses Arctic animals like seals, polar bears and muskox. "I've filmed many, many things in my career and that's right up there," Thrasher said. There are 10 half-hour episodes in the new series that features expeditions to Manitoba's subarctic, emergency animal rescues and daily life at the conservancy. The first episode follows veterinarian Chris Enright to Churchill just as polar bears are starting to migrate up the coast of Hudson Bay. When a bear wanders too close to town, Enright works with the local Polar Bear Alert Team to catch it and lift it by helicopter to a safe distance away. In the same episode, back in Winnipeg, the team trims the hooves of resident 800-pound muskox, Chloe. Although being around Arctic animals is part of Enright's daily life, he hopes the show will help bring southern Canadians a little closer to the North. "This is our norm. But it's not the norm for a lot of people, so the show is a good opportunity to tell these stories," he said. "We have herds of caribou that rival migrating animals on the Serengeti, but people in the South don't necessarily know about that. And that's really unfortunate, because there's some incredible wildlife in the North." Enright also hopes the show will urge Canadians to think about protecting the country's Arctic ecosystems, which face the critical threat of climate change. "There's a lot of concern with the effects of climate change and over the next 50, 100 years what's going to happen. As southerners, there are things we can do to protect and conserve those ecosystems," he said. The COVID-19 pandemic also hit in the middle of filming, which Enright said prevented the team from travelling into Nunavut. Jackie Enberg, an animal care supervisor and Heather Penner, an animal care professional, are also featured in the show for their work with polar bears. "It's not just animal care or vet care, or conservation and research. It's all of it. We all have a great passion to educate and share and help inspire other people to make a difference, whether it's to make changes in your lives or just talk about," Penner said. Enberg said the bears featured in the show were rescued when they were a few years old. "They're here because they could not survive in the wild," Enberg said. "We just ultimately hope people will fall in love with polar bears as much as we have," Penner said. Arctic Vets airs Friday. Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on CBC and CBC Gem. By Emma Tranter in Iqaluit, Nunavut This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. --- This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 48,362 new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,602,365 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 4,227.957 per 100,000. There were 152,100 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,003,810 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 79.97 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 1,771 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 16,458 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 31.431 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 24,460 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 67.29 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,020 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 11,630 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.316 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 13,045 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 8.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 89.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 4,826 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 27,966 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.657 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 47,280 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 59.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 5,135 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 26,317 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 33.738 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 35,015 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 75.16 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 12,084 new vaccinations administered for a total of 365,978 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 42.771 per 1,000. There were 107,640 new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 509,325 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 71.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 16,252 new vaccinations administered for a total of 585,707 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.874 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 683,255 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 85.72 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,605 new vaccinations administered for a total of 63,970 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 46.456 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 84,810 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 75.43 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 612 new vaccinations administered for a total of 62,342 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 52.87 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 59,395 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 105 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 7,216 new vaccinations administered for a total of 180,755 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.062 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 205,875 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.7 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 87.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 5,628 new vaccinations administered for a total of 224,354 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.72 per 1,000. There were 44,460 new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 287,950 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.6 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 77.91 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,250 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,423 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 321.655 per 1,000. 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 71.02 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting 2,297 new vaccinations administered for a total of 16,454 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 364.68 per 1,000. 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 86.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 34 new vaccinations administered for a total of 7,011 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 181.041 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 15,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 40 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 45.53 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 Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
STONY PLAIN, Alta. — A pastor of an Edmonton-area church that has been allegedly holding Sunday services in violation of COVID-19 rules is to appear in court today. James Coates with GraceLife Church in Spruce Grove was arrested last week. RCMP have said he was remanded in custody after refusing to agree to bail conditions. The church has been holding services that officials say break public health regulations on attendance, masking and distancing. Police fined the church $1,200 in December and a closure order was issued in January. Coates was twice charged in February with violating the Public Health Act and violating a promise to abide by rules of his release, which is a Criminal Code offence. Coates has addressed the province's health restrictions in his sermons, telling worshippers that governments exist as instruments of God and there should be unfettered freedom of worship. An associate pastor of the church, Jacob Spenst, conducted last Sunday's service and told the congregation that messages of support have been pouring in for the jailed pastor. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Vahid Salemi/The Associated Press - image credit) The rulings of a court in a rural corner of northeastern Iran have brought together a Who's Who of Canada's legal profession to denounce the mistreatment of members of a religious minority who are being driven from their homes. One former prime minister — Brian Mulroney — three former attorneys-general (including Jody Wilson-Raybould and Irwin Cotler) and four former Supreme Court justices are among those who signed their names to a letter calling for justice for the Baha'i residents of the village of Ivel, where 27 families were recently evicted from their homes. The letter was also signed by several former provincial Supreme Court and appeals court judges and professors of law. Cotler said it was the "punitive and predatory" nature of Iranian court rulings against the Baha'i that struck a chord with Canada's jurists, along with the judges' use of openly discriminatory arguments. The Iranian courts' claim that they were following Islamic law in confiscating property from non-believers has been rejected by many Muslim groups outside Iran, including the Canadian Council of Imams. "I think that what was so outrageous here was the judicial complicity, brazenly acknowledging that they were engaged in this persecution based solely on what they called 'the perverse sect of Bahaism,' which is known to all the signatories to be a peaceful religious minority," said Cotler. "I might add that in this legal process, the Baha'is' counsel were not allowed to see any evidence against them, not allowed to adduce any evidence, not permitted to make any representations. In other words, [the ruling was] not only an abandonment of due process, [it] adds to the entire shocking legal and judicial complicity in this." Crimes of faith Cotler said Ivel's Baha'is have suffered years of official persecution. "There've been a series of home raids, assaults, confiscations, arrests, imprisonment," he said. "In 2020 we saw an alarming new chapter — two courts sanctioning the confiscation of their property based on religious belief." The confiscation was carried out by members of a state-affiliated organization called Execution of Imam Khomeini's Order (EIKO) that answers directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The U.S. Treasury Department accuses EIKO of controlling "large swaths of the Iranian economy, including assets expropriated from political dissidents and religious minorities, to the benefit of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior Iranian government officials." The Canadian letter is addressed to Iran's chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, who is in charge of Iran's investigation into the destruction of Flight PS752 with 176 people on board. Raisi is often touted as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corp fired two surface-to-air missiles at Flight PS752 killing all 176 people onboard on Jan, 8, 2020. Iran's Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi is in charge of Iran's investigation of the aircraft's destruction. A history of persecution "The Baha'is have been persecuted since the inception of their faith in Iran in the 19th century," said Winnipeg Baha'i Payam Towfigh. He said that persecution caused him to leave Iran for Canada, while his parents already had been exiled internally in the country because of local hostilities. "Right after they got married in the 1940s, they moved to a village close to Ivel named Damghan, which had a number of Baha'is there," he said. But local mullahs incited the village's Muslim population against the "heretics" living among them, he said. "A few of the Baha'i were murdered. My father ended up in jail because of the Baha'i belief that he had," he said. "After a year or two they had to leave at night because some of their neighbours told them there were rumours they were going to come and burn their house down. So they had to leave town in the night." Since the Islamic Revolution, said Towfigh, the persecution has become national and organized. "It's no longer just local religious leaders inciting the population against the Baha'i," he said. "Now it's systematic and it's the leader of the country." He said the estimated 300,000 Baha'is across Iran have watched their situation grow worse. "Over the last couple of years, Baha'is have lost their shops, their stores, they've been kicked out of their homes," he said. "Government agents feel very comfortable coming to their homes at night and just taking them away to jail. "What really we are worried about is that this is a test case that could now be replicated and copied around Iran." Change of heart unlikely While Cotler said he believes the letter to Iran from some of the best-known legal minds in Canada "is unprecedented," he's "not sure that Chief Justice Raisi will pay attention." With little hope of a change of heart by the Islamic Republic regime, Cotler said the letter-writers intend to pursue their case in international courts and to call on the Canadian government to use Magnitisky sanctions to punish those who have benefited from the expropriations. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau has tweeted about the evictions, but the Trudeau government — which doesn't have diplomatic relations with Iran — has taken no substantive actions. Canada has used Magnitsky sanctions against Russia, Venezuela, South Sudan and Myanmar, but no Iranian official has been subjected to the measure. The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, has sanctioned Raisi as an individual. Towfigh said he has no illusions about the letter changing hearts and minds within the regime. "I am certain that they will dismiss it," he said. "From what I've seen in the past, that will be the posture they will have." But he said it's still a worthwhile effort, for two reasons. "The more important one is the effect on the Baha'i who are in Iran right now, when they see and hear that they are not forgotten," he said. "Because the authorities — not only in Iran but under all of these despotic governments — want to remind oppressed individuals that everyone has forgotten about you, you may as well give up, change your religion. So this brings hope and reminds people that the world has not forgotten about them. "Secondly, Iran may dismiss this but they are still mindful of their image in the world. Prominent people bringing this up in the United Nations — I personally believe it does have an effect on their behaviour."
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) COVID-19 levels are declining from the devastating peaks of the second wave across much of Canada, but experts say the threat of more contagious coronavirus variants threatens to jeopardize our ability to prevent a third wave. Canada has close to 850 confirmed cases of the variants first identified in the U.K., South Africa and Brazil, with at least six provinces now reporting community transmission — meaning there's probably a lot more spreading beneath the surface than we know. But as variant cases increase, overall COVID-19 numbers have dropped steadily in Canada, with just over 31,000 active cases across the country, and an average of about 2,900 new cases and 54 deaths daily. "Overall, we're still doing well," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said during a news conference on Tuesday. "But things could change rapidly." So, is Canada destined for a third wave? Or will we be able to adequately respond to the threat of variants spreading across the country to avoid one altogether? Parts of the country that have seen notable declines in cases have recently moved to reopen non-essential businesses and lift lockdowns in the face of fast-spreading variants, despite public health officials cautioning against doing so. WATCH | Federal modelling warns COVID-19 cases will rise with variants: Is a 3rd wave in Canada inevitable? Much like the first and second waves of the pandemic in Canada, the situation varies greatly across the country for a number of different reasons — ranging from geographic and demographic to political. But even provinces and territories that have had fewer COVID-19 cases are still at high risk of devastating outbreaks, overwhelmed health-care systems and severe outcomes for vulnerable populations if variants spread rapidly. Tam said Newfoundland and Labrador is a cautionary tale for the rest of Canada, where an outbreak of the variant first identified in the U.K., also known as B117, led to a spike in new cases in the community during a time when public health measures were "less stringent." "Provincial health authorities knew something was different when cases escalated over a matter of days, even before laboratory evidence confirmed the presence of the B117 variant," she said. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, said variants have made it hard for anyone to predict the likelihood of a bad third wave of the pandemic in Canada with any degree of confidence. "When you factor in variants of concern and you factor in not enough immunity in the population to protect ourselves, it's clear that a third wave is certainly a possibility," he said. "But I wouldn't say it's an inevitability." Storm clouds are pictured above a shipping vessel moored in English Bay in Vancouver on Jan. 25. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease physician and scientist with Toronto General Hospital, says a third wave of the pandemic is possible but not inevitable. Bogoch said the likelihood of a third wave depends on how Canadians respond to the loosening of restrictions and the increase in opportunities to mingle together and get into situations where the virus can more easily be transmitted. "It also completely depends on how the provincial governments and the public health authorities choose to reopen their provinces and their ability to rapidly react to a rise in cases," said Bogoch, a member of Ontario's COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force. "It doesn't mean you have to stay locked down until everyone is vaccinated. It just means that as places reopen, they have to be extremely careful, proceed very slowly and be able to rapidly pivot if there's any indication that there are cases plateauing or rising." What is the likelihood of a 3rd wave in Canada? Raywat Deonandan, a global health epidemiologist and an associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says that based on what we know right now, a third wave is "mathematically inevitable" in Canada because of three key factors. The first is we know what third waves typically look like from previous pandemics, such as the 1918 Spanish Flu, which saw a brutal third wave during the winter and spring of 1919 — around the same point of the pandemic we're in now. Deonandan said societal behaviour is another factor that could lead to a more severe third wave if variants drive outbreaks as restrictions lift and Canadians don't strictly adhere to public health guidelines. And the third factor is variants, which Deonandan said could be the driving "mechanism" for a devastating third wave in Canada given the extent to which they've already spread in recent weeks. But he said the likelihood of a bad third wave could change with two major caveats. "The first is: It is avoidable with sufficient public health response and precautionary action, but our history shows us that most governments are unwilling to do the hard public health response, and most populations are unwilling to tolerate that level of action," he said. "The second caveat is of course vaccination." The good news is that vaccines have not only been shown to be effective in the real world in reducing severe outcomes from COVID-19 but also in potentially curbing virus transmission. A nurse prepares doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto on Dec. 22. Experts say we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over. But the catch is we may not be able to vaccinate enough of the population fast enough in Canada to adequately slow the spread of variants in time before they take over. "It's a race against time. We want to get the vaccines out there now, before variants get in," said Dr. Anna Banerji, a physician and infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "I really believe that we can get on top of this if we get people vaccinated and then make modifications to the vaccines as we need to." Banerji said even if Canada has a third wave, it likely won't be as bad as previous waves because she feels Canadians have learned tough lessons in the pandemic — such as in December, when people gathered over the holidays and cases skyrocketed. WATCH | How vaccines can keep up with coronavirus variants: "People see that our individual actions have an impact on the outcome, and so I think while people may feel disempowered, they're realizing that their behaviour really does count," she said. "Once we get the vaccines out, things will change and we'll start opening things up. So I'm still optimistic for the future, even if there's a lot of fear out there." How bad could a 3rd wave be in Canada? Deonandan said that while Canada may not be able to completely "vaccinate our way out of a third wave," it could look completely different than waves we've seen in the past. "What might happen is that our third wave is very high in cases but not as high in deaths, because we have done a pretty good job in vaccinating our long-term care centres if nothing else, and that's where a large proportion of our deaths come from," he said. "But hospitalizations might be a different matter." Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Mississauga, Ont., said once those at highest risk are vaccinated, including seniors living in the community and in long-term care, hospitalizations will likely decrease. "But people are going to worry if we open up, we're just going to get tons of cases," he said. "Yes — but they're not going to be severe." Chakrabarti said if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or "wavelet," the health-care system might be able to "absorb" the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves and avoid becoming completely overwhelmed. A nurse tends to a patient suspected of having COVID-19 in the ICU of a Toronto hospital in May. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says if Canada sees a smaller third wave, or 'wavelet,' the health-care system might be able to 'absorb' the impact of COVID-19 better than previous waves. South Africa recently saw a notable decline in COVID-19 cases despite the variant first identified there driving a spike in transmission, which could bode well for other countries hoping to control that variant from spreading. But experts caution that a decline in cases could be short lived, as evidenced by countries hit hard by B117, such as Portugal, Spain, Ireland and the U.K., that later saw an even greater spike in cases driven by the variant. If Canada is hit by a third wave, Bogoch said it's likely that community-dwelling seniors and racialized communities will be disproportionately harmed. "We know how to prevent this from happening. We have the tools that work, we know how to do this, we can prevent a third wave," he said. "There's no reason to have a third wave. There's no reason to have another lockdown. This is not related to the virus, and we have enough information about how this virus is transmitted. This is truly based on policy." Deonandan said while he agrees that a third wave could be prevented, he's all but convinced Canada is destined to face one because of a lack of political will from parts of the country that are already pushing to reopen. "It's highly likely. I think we could do heroic things to avoid it, but we won't," he said. "But what is uncertain is what the hospitalization and death toll of a third wave will be — it might not be as severe."
TORONTO — CTV says it made an "error" by placing an "offensive image" of actress Delta Burke in blackface among its TV program highlights for Black History Month. A spokesman for the broadcaster says the blackface picture, taken from an episode of 1980s hit "Designing Women," is one that "should not have been used in any context." CTV has since removed the blackface image as well as the full episode of "Designing Women." The photo was part of a rotation of images in the CTV Throwback section of its mobile app that directed viewers to popular Black-led sitcoms on the streaming service from decades past, including "The Jeffersons," "Good Times" and "Sanford and Son." Sandwiched between those images was a still photo from "Designing Women," which featured the blackface-wearing Burke alongside her Black co-star Meshach Taylor. It was taken from a 1989 episode titled "The Rowdy Girls," which revolves around the sitcom's stars being booked to perform at a talent show as Motown legends the Supremes. The group debates whether to play their parts in blackface and ultimately concludes it's not the best decision. However, Burke's character doesn't get the message and shows up with her face painted anyway to sing alongside her friends. "Designing Women," set in Georgia, often grappled with the rapidly changing social issues of the U.S. South, such as race and sexuality, in a way that would be considered outdated by today's standards. The episode has been in circulation for decades and is still available on Disney-owned streaming platform Hulu in the United States. However, when CTV representatives were asked by The Canadian Press about the decision to feature a blackface photograph among a selection of Black sitcoms, CTV pulled the full episode of "Designing Women." The company later took down the blackface image as well. "This was an error, it’s an offensive image that should not have been used in any context," said Marc Choma, director of communications at Bell, in a written statement. CTV said in a separate statement that it is reviewing the entire catalogue of programming on CTV Throwback to "identify and remove any offensive content." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
GLASGOW, Scotland — Neil Lennon resigned as manager of Scottish club Celtic on Wednesday with the team a distant second behind Glasgow rival Rangers. Celtic was in pursuit of a 10th consecutive league title but is 18 points behind Rangers in a turbulent season punctuated by a 1-0 loss to struggling Ross County on Sunday. "We have experienced a difficult season due to so many factors and, of course, it is very frustrating and disappointing that we have not been able to hit the same heights as we did previously," Lennon said in a statement. “I have worked as hard as ever to try and turn things around, but unfortunately we have not managed to get the kind of run going that we have needed.” Lennon began his second stint as Celtic manager in February 2019 after Brendan Rodgers left to take over at Leicester and led the team to two league titles. Assistant coach John Kennedy was named to take over on an interim basis. “I would like to pay tribute to Neil for all he has done for the club in his second spell, delivering our eighth and ninth successive league titles, the quadruple treble and winning the last five available domestic trophies,” Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell said. “Neil has always been and will always be a true Celtic man and someone I will always hold in the highest regard.” Lawwell said it is a “sad day” to see Lennon leave. “Neil is a man of quality and decency," he said, "he is someone who will always be part of the fabric of Celtic and someone who will always be welcomed at Celtic Park.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
(Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press - image credit) When Iain Rankin was sworn in on Tuesday as Nova Scotia's new premier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became something very few prime ministers become, something none of his predecessors became at such a young age — the person with the most experience at the table. With the retirement of former Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil, Trudeau is now the senior figure in the federation. No provincial or territorial premier has been in government as long as Trudeau has been prime minister, even though he started in the job little more than five years ago. That makes Trudeau just the sixth prime minister ever to become the longest-serving sitting government leader in the country. It also puts him in a club with some accomplished members: the other PMs who hit that longevity mark before leaving office were John A. Macdonald, Wilfrid Laurier, Mackenzie King, Pierre Trudeau and Stephen Harper. Unlike those five, however, Trudeau hasn't had to wait very long to become the last person standing. No other prime minister (with the exception of Macdonald, who by default was the senior figure nearly from the start) has served for less time than Trudeau before becoming the most seasoned leader in the country. Trudeau has been in office for just 5.3 years. Harper — who previously had been the prime minister who had the shortest wait to seniority — was starting his seventh year in office when he became the longest-serving leader in the federation in 2013. Trudeau's father had to wait over a decade. Pierre Trudeau was also nearly 60 when he took over the mantle of Canada's senior political figure, while both King and Laurier were over 60 when they reached the milestone. Justin Trudeau is just a little over 49 years old — a few years younger than both Harper and Macdonald when they achieved seniority. Since 1867, the average age of the senior figure around the first ministers' table has been around 55 years old, making Trudeau one of the younger oldest-hands in Canadian political history. Even in the current context, it might seem a bit odd that Trudeau's longevity is greater than that of his provincial colleagues. Only Rankin (37), Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey (45) and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe (47) are younger than Trudeau. Few premiers have reached seniority faster than Trudeau In fact, for most of Canada's history the longest-serving sitting government leader has come from a provincial capital rather than Ottawa. That makes Trudeau's quick rise to seniority even more of an oddity. Only two provincial premiers have served for less time than Trudeau before becoming the most experienced leader — and the last one served nearly a century ago. Former British Columbia premier John Oliver waited just 4.9 years before becoming the senior figure in the federation in 1923, while New Brunswick premier George E. King did it in just under three years in 1875. On average, premiers and prime ministers have had to wait about nine years to achieve senior status — enough time to cover at least two governing mandates. Trudeau is only a third of the way through his second term in office. Former Quebec premier Robert Bourassa had to wait the longest before getting to the head of the table. He became the senior figure in 1990, about 20 years after his first election win in 1970. Of the 43 people who have held senior status since Confederation, only eight premiers were younger than Trudeau when they reached the top of the mountain. They include New Brunswick's Frank McKenna and Richard Hatfield and Alberta's Ernest Manning. Seniority is fleeting On average, Canada's "senior statesman" (and it has only ever been a man) has held the title for just 3.7 years. Trudeau will have to hold on to his job until November 2023 to pass Harper and avoid becoming the prime minister who has been the senior figure for the least amount of time. Macdonald, of course, holds the record — nearly 19 years spread over two non-consecutive periods in office. No provincial premier has broken that record, though Manning came the closest. He was the senior political figure for nearly 15 years between 1954 and 1968. Manning was also the last figure to hold the title for more than seven uninterrupted years. Why? The past few decades have seen a lot of turnover among premiers and prime ministers. The last person to be the longest-serving governing leader for more than three years was Alberta's Ralph Klein, who stepped down as premier in 2006. Iain Rankin was sworn in as Nova Scotia premier on Tuesday, replacing Stephen McNeil, who previously had been the longest-serving sitting premier in Canada. Trudeau is the 12th person to hold the senior status title since Klein retired from politics. Compare that to the relative stability in federal and provincial leadership between 1927 and 1968, when only four leaders sat as senior figures: Quebec's Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, Nova Scotia's Angus L. Macdonald, King and Manning. Trudeau has seen his fair share of turnover during his relatively short time in office. Rankin is the 27th provincial or territorial premier Trudeau will get to know. That might sound like a lot — but King, Macdonald, Harper and Jean Chrétien each saw at least 40 premiers and territorial leaders come and go. Trudeau might still have to make it through another election or two to get into that company.
Which would you prefer? In Serbia, people can select any of four jabs: the one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, China’s Sinopharm, Russia’s Sputnik V and Oxford-Astrazeneca's.View on euronews
A German court sentenced a former member of President Bashar al-Assad's security services to 4-1/2 years in prison on Wednesday for abetting the torture of civilians, the first such verdict for crimes against humanity in the 10-year-old Syrian civil war. The higher regional court in the western city of Koblenz said Eyad A. had arrested at least 30 anti-government protesters at the start of the conflict in 2011 and sent them to an intelligence facility where he knew detainees were tortured. The verdict gives hope to the 800,000 Syrians in Germany who say they were tortured in government facilities after attempts to establish an international tribunal for Syria failed.
The largest outflow on record for Cathie Wood's ARK fund was not enough to stop the firm from increasing its bet on Tesla Inc after the electric carmaker's stock closed below $700 for the first time this year on Tuesday. Wood, whose $26.6 billion ARK Innovation exchange-traded fund (ETF) was the top-performing actively managed U.S. equity fund tracked by Morningstar last year, bought $171 million of Tesla shares, pushing its weight to about 10% of the fund. The sell-off triggered heavy trading, with $5 billion of ARK Innovation shares changing hands on Tuesday - more than double the previous session's volume.
Deutsche Bank and Mastercard said on Wednesday they would deepen their collaboration as the German lender aims for a greater share of the payments business. The partnership will seek to jointly develop digital payment solutions for companies, they said. McKinsey and Capgemini are projecting growth in digital payments revenues and transactions, and Deutsche Bank hopes that the segment will provide it with additional income as it further cuts costs.
TORONTO — A civil liberties lawyer says a decision by the City of Toronto to bill a restaurant owner nearly $200,000 to cover the cost of enforcing lockdown regulations raises concerns about people's constitutionally protected right to protest. Adam Skelly, the owner of Adamson Barbecue, opened his restaurant for indoor dining in November in violation of COVID-19 public health regulations, drawing dozens of anti-lockdown protesters. On the weekend, Skelly posted on social media that he had received an invoice from the city for $187,030.56, with the cost of the police response accounting for $165,188.73 of the total. Cara Zwibel, the director of the fundamental freedoms program with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the idea that individuals should have to pay for the opportunity to exercise their freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly is concerning. There are significant costs to policing a wide variety of matters, she said, but criminals don't pay the policing costs associated with those crimes. "There is a concern that the city is not treating this as part of their normal operations," Zwibel said. "But this is what police do, they enforce the law and keep the peace, that's the cost of doing business as a municipality." A spokesman for the city said businesses that have violated the law and have been ordered to close have remained closed, making Adamson Barbecue an exception. "There was a significant amount of time that the police and city incurred in dealing with this issue in terms of his opening the establishment and our need to close it under public health orders," Brad Ross said in an interview. The invoice was sent to Skelly in December but has not yet been paid, he said, adding that the city is considering launching a civil suit to recoup the money. Ross said this is the first time the city sends an invoice to someone during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, he said a business or resident was billed for not clearing a sidewalk of snow, leaving the city to do the work - but those cases were not common. Zwibel said there is already a system in place to deal with people who break the law: the justice system. The "pay-to-protest" issue has come up in the past, she said, especially on university campuses. If a topic of a planned protest is a hot-button issue and the event is expected to attract a large crowd, universities have tried to have organizers pay for security. "The universities will sometimes say 'well, there's going to be a big reaction to that and so we're going to need security, and so you're going to have to pay for it," Zwibel said. "I would say it's not appropriate to have to pay to exercise your constitutionally protected right to protest." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
(Adam Walsh/CBC - image credit) Josh Smee is the CEO of Food First NL, a non-profit organization that operates the Community Food Helpline in partnership with the Jimmy Pratt Foundation. With the shift back to pandemic lockdown, Newfoundland and Labrador's Community Food Helpline is experiencing a surge in call from people in need of emergency food aid but face barriers to getting it. Alison Bennett, who staffs the line, says the past couple of weeks there have been a lot of first-time callers, many of whom are calling because of issues specific to the lockdown. "We've actually been getting a lot of calls from single parents in the metro area who had relied on breakfast programs or lunch programs and now have to find two other meals a day to feed their kids," said Bennett. Before the lockdown, a big day for the line was 10 calls, said Bennett, but in recent weeks there have been days when the line has received 100 calls from a range of people needing help. "I get people under the age of 18, I get young families, I get single parents, I get seniors or people who were doing really well in life and then COVID struck and now they're just needing that little bit of extra help," said Bennett. The Community Food Helpline started in May as a way to better connect the province's food banks and programs with people in need of emergency food aid. The line is operated by the non-profit Food First NL in partnership with the Jimmy Pratt Foundation. It also provides direct help in the form of hampers, grocery cards and arranging delivery of food aid. Alison Bennett is a program assistant with Food First NL and works on the Community Food Helpline. This winter, about 60 percent of calls to the line have requested a delivery of some form, whether that's a gift card, hamper or hot meal, said Bennett. "Anxiety is high due to COVID and the variant. People are nervous to leave their homes and delivery is a necessity." The current call volume means the line is operating on a voicemail-only system. People are being contacted based on time passed and urgency, with responses taking three or four business days, and Food First NL is hiring another person to staff the line because of the high rates of calls. Echoes of the spring At the start of the pandemic some food banks had to close their doors as the volunteer base of mainly elderly people largely vanished over health concerns. But with lower case numbers, more understanding of COVID-19 and the use of personal protective equipment, food banks reopened and found pandemic-friendly ways to operate. Food First NL CEO Josh Smee says the onset of the new virus variant is reminiscent of last March. "I think there's definitely some similarities. So we have heard from a couple of programs that have had to close, either because they're short on people or because they have someone in their network of employees and volunteers who might be self-isolating," said Smee. His says that services seem to be holding on but there is some risk to the system right now. Susan Halley is the chair of Emmaus House, a food bank in downtown St. John's. The downtown St. John's food bank Emmaus House is a case in point. In a recent CBC interview, chair Susan Halley said there was a scramble to make sure volunteers were in place when the province shifted to Alert Level 5, because some volunteers didn't feel comfortable leaving their home bubbles to work at the food bank. Halley said the plan is to assess operations weekly. "If we can't stay open five days a week, we can actually reduce it to maybe less days and even for a longer period open for the public," she said. "We still want to be open." Smee said anyone who wants to contact the Community Food Helpline should call 211 and indicate they need food help support, or call 709-703-4544 directly. People can also reach the line by calling 811, the provincial health line, but wait times on the line have been longer on the line with an increase of people booking COVID-19 testing appointments. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
BANGKOK — Regional diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar's political crisis gathered pace Wednesday, while protests continued in Yangon and other cities calling for the country's coupmakers to stand down and Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government to be returned to power. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited the Thai capital, Bangkok, as part of her efforts to co-ordinate a regional response to the crisis triggered by Myanmar's Feb. 1 military coup. Also making the trip to neighbouring Thailand was the foreign minister appointed by Myanmar's new military government, retired army colonel Wunna Maung Lwin, said a Thai government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to release the information. Another Thai official said Wunna Maung Lwin met with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai as well as Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, himself a former army chief who first took power in a military coup. That official also spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information. There was no immediate word whether Marsudi also met the Myanmar diplomat. Indonesia and fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are seeking to promote some concessions by Myanmar's military that could ease tensions before there is more violence. The regional grouping, to which Thailand and Myanmar also belong, believes dialogue with the generals is a more effective method of achieving concessions than more confrontational methods, such as sanctions, often advocated by Western nations. Opposition to the coup within Myanmar continued Wednesday, with a tense standoff taking place in the country's second-biggest city, Mandalay, where police holding riot shields and cradling rifles blocked the path of about 3,000 teachers and students. After about two hours, during which demonstrators played protest songs and listened to speeches condemning the coup, the crowd moved away. On Saturday, police and soldiers shot dead two people in Mandalay as they broke up a strike by dock workers. Earlier the same week they had violently dispersed a rally in front of a state bank branch, with batons and slingshots. Also Wednesday, about 150 people from a Christian group gathered in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, to call for restoration of democracy and the release of Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders held since the coup. International pressure against the takeover also continues, with more than 130 civil society groups issuing an open letter to United Nations Security Council calling for a global arms embargo on Myanmar. The letter released Wednesday cited concerns about Myanmar’s citizens being deprived of a democratically elected government and ongoing violations of human rights by a military with a history of major abuses. “Any sale or transfer of military-related equipment to Myanmar could provide the means to further repress the people of Myanmar in violation of international humanitarian and human rights law,” the letter said. In addition to a sweeping arms embargo, the letter said any Security Council measures should make sure there is “robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.” There have been past arms embargoes on Myanmar during periods of military rule but not on a global basis. China and Russia, both members of the security council, are among the top arms suppliers to Myanmar, and would almost certainly veto any effort by the U.N. at a co-ordinated arms embargo. How effective the regional efforts at resolving Myanmar's crisis could be remains unclear. If Indonesia's Marsudi met in Thailand with her Myanmar counterpart it would have allowed them to talk face-to-face while sidestepping possible controversy stemming from a visit to Myanmar by Marsudi. Critics of the coup, especially in Myanmar, charge that such a visit would be tantamount to recognizing the military regime as legitimate and its takeover as legal. There had been news reports that such a visit was imminent. Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Wednesday that Marsudi left open an option to visit the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw, but had put off any plan for the time being. A statement from his office said that taking in account current developments and following consultations with other ASEAN countries, “this is not the ideal time to conduct a visit to Myanmar.” Demonstrations were held outside Indonesian embassies in Yangon and Bangkok on Tuesday in response to a news report that Jakarta was proposing to fellow ASEAN members that they offer qualified support for the junta’s plan for a new election next year. Faizasyah denied the report. Tassanee Vejpongsa, The Associated Press