The entertainment and sports industry said goodbye to some of its most talented in 2020. Global’s Sharmeen Somani takes a look back at some of the celebrities we lost this year.
The entertainment and sports industry said goodbye to some of its most talented in 2020. Global’s Sharmeen Somani takes a look back at some of the celebrities we lost this year.
WASHINGTON — The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken as America’s top diplomat, tasked with carrying out President Joe Biden’s commitment to reverse the Trump administration’s “America First” doctrine that weakened international alliances. Senators voted 78-22 to approve Blinken, a longtime Biden confidant, as the nation’s 71st secretary of state, succeeding Mike Pompeo. The position is the most senior Cabinet position, with the secretary fourth in the line of presidential succession. Blinken, 58, served as deputy secretary of state and deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration. He has pledged to be a leading force in the administration’s bid to reframe the U.S. relationship with the rest of the world after four years in which President Donald Trump questioned longtime alliances. He is expected to start work on Wednesday after being sworn in, according to State Department officials. “American leadership still matters,” Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his Jan. 19 confirmation hearing. “The reality is, the world simply does not organize itself. When we’re not engaged, when we’re not leading, then one of two things is likely to happen. Either some other country tries to take our place, but not in a way that’s likely to advance our interests and values, or maybe just as bad, no one does and then you have chaos.” Blinken vowed that the Biden administration would approach the world with both humility and confidence, saying “we have a great deal of work to do at home to enhance our standing abroad.” Despite promising renewed American leadership and an emphasis on shoring up strained ties with allies in Europe and Asia, Blinken told lawmakers that he agreed with many of Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. He backed the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations between Israel and several Arab states, and a tough stance on China over human rights and its assertiveness in the South China Sea. He did, however, signal that the Biden administration is interested in bringing Iran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew in 2018. Trump's secretaries of state nominees met with significant opposition from Democrats. Trump’s first nominee for the job, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, was approved by a 56 to 43 vote and served only 13 months before Trump fired him in tweet. His successor, Pompeo, was confirmed in a 57-42 vote. Opposition to Blinken centred on Iran policy and concerns among conservatives that he will abandon Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Blinken inherits a deeply demoralized and depleted career workforce at the State Department. Neither Tillerson nor Pompeo offered strong resistance to the Trump administration’s attempts to gut the agency, which were thwarted only by congressional intervention. Although the department escaped proposed cuts of more than 30% of its budget for three consecutive years, it has seen a significant number of departures from its senior and rising mid-level ranks, Many diplomats opted to retire or leave the foreign service given limited prospects for advancement under an administration that they believed didn't value their expertise. A graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School and a longtime Democratic foreign policy presence, Blinken has aligned himself with numerous former senior national security officials who have called for a major reinvestment in American diplomacy and renewed emphasis on global engagement. Blinken served on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration before becoming staff director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when Biden was chair of the panel. In the early years of the Obama administration, Blinken returned to the NSC and was then-Vice-President Biden’s national security adviser before he moved to the State Department to serve as deputy to Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now serving as special envoy for climate change. Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
The arrival of COVID vaccines have stirred excitement and optimism for a swift end to the global pandemic, with some seeing the shot as a "free pass" to soon gather and socialize as they did pre-2020.Not so fast, experts say.Canada's first phase of vaccine rollout — targeting front-line health-care workers, long-term care residents and staff, and some Indigenous populations — began last month and is expected to stretch into March before the inoculation process is opened to a broader population this spring.While experts agree the end of the pandemic is in sight, they say it will take time to determine what level of protection the new vaccines actually provide — and whether they prevent us from spreading the virus.Experts expect mask mandates, limits on gatherings, and physical distancing measures to continue even as more of us get vaccinated, at least through part of 2021."Until we get to a level of herd immunity where we have around 70 per cent of our population vaccinated worldwide, there's going to be that question of transmission," said Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba. "And that's certainly a concern for us."Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two vaccines currently approved for use in Canada, were shown in clinical trials to have a 95 per cent efficacy in preventing severe infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. And while Moderna has some evidence suggesting it also decreases transmission, more data is needed.Some vaccines, like the one for HPV, offer complete protection from infection and transmission, while others like the flu shot primarily work against acquiring the virus and lessening the severity of symptoms. Kindrachuk says part of the reason for that is the way our immune systems respond to different vaccines.The COVID vaccine seems to effectively produce neutralizing antibodies, he says, "but not necessarily enough to stop the virus from potentially getting into some of our cells."Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease physician in Mississauga, Ont., says answers to the transmission question will only come as "large swathes of the population" start getting vaccinated worldwide.We may see that the inoculations do decrease transmission, he says, and restrictions could be lifted earlier than experts expect."But as it stands in January 2021, when you get vaccinated you'll want to still act like you were doing before: physical distancing, keeping contacts low, masking indoors," Chakrabarti said. "As the pandemic starts to ease up, things will change."Being able to still transmit the virus becomes less of a problem as more and more people are vaccinated, experts say.But Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor of infectious diseases at UBC, doesn't expect SARS-CoV-2 to ever be eradicated. If 30 per cent of the population isn't immunized, the virus will continue to circulate through them, he says. So effective treatment for COVID-19 will be needed to deal with lingering cases."Viruses don't have brains but they're not stupid," he said. "They will continue to find hosts."Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease expert with the University of Toronto, says COVID-19's potential staying power will have less of an impact once pressure is relieved on the health-care system. And that will be achieved by vaccinating high-risk populations early in the rollout.The first indication that vaccines are working will be a reduction in deaths as long-term care and other high-risk groups are immunized, he says, while case counts will be the last to decrease. That means infection prevention controls will need to be followed while community transmission is still happening."Eventually you'll start to see a reduction in cases as these vaccine programs roll up, and then we'll start to see public health measures slowly lifted as the year progresses, post-April," he said. "We'll probably see a gradual shift allowing larger outdoor gatherings, then indoor gatherings, and eventually lifting of mask mandates." An exact timeline for reaching that level is hard to predict, however.While a highly effective vaccine will allow us to reach herd immunity quicker, Bogoch says a 95 per cent efficacy in a clinical trial might not actually translate that successfully in the real world.Since efficacy was based on a two-dose regime, Bogoch expects that number to drop if people don't return for a second shot. It's also still unknown how effective the vaccine is for segments of the population excluded from clinical trials.So visiting a grandparent or other high-risk individual in the next couple months will be risky, Bogoch says, even if they've been vaccinated."The effectiveness is probably going to be lower (than the trials showed)," he said. "And we'll need to see how this plays out in real time to help drive our behaviours."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2020. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Few things have lifted Rojhan Paydar’s spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic quite like a Netflix watch party.Isolated inside her home, the Toronto resident is too often short on social opportunities and long on streaming options. So like many people, she’s recreated the experience of watching Netflix with friends through an unofficial web browser application called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party.It’s been an opportunity for Paydar to gather with pals on a virtual couch while they gasp over the twists of true crime series, “Unsolved Mysteries." Even more often, she's used the app with her boyfriend for date nights watching the dysfunction unfold on “Tiger King" and other bingeable series.“Sometimes we’d eat dinner and set up our webcams to see each other,” she said.“Knowing he was there and we were doing something in real-time — it felt really good and made me less lonely."Not long ago, viewing party technology was a tool reserved for unique situations: a long-distance couple or fans of a niche TV series searching for like-minded people.But a year into the pandemic, weekly rituals have evolved, and online watch parties have proven many of us are desperate for some semblance of connection.As the winter months stretch on, and strict stay-at-home orders grip large parts of the country, observers say the watch party, and apps that help make it happen, are due for a second wave of popularity.“I think we may have seen a cultural shift,” suggested Daniel Keyes, associate professor of cultural studies at the University of British Columbia.“The pandemic and the fact we had to self-isolate totally accelerated it. It made it more mainstream.”For younger generations raised on YouTube and Twitch, watch parties are already part of the zeitgeist. Everyone else, including streaming giants themselves, seem to be playing cultural catchup.Last year, as the pandemic wore on, Amazon Prime Video introduced group chat elements into the laptop version of its platform. Disney Plus took a more restrained approach with a feature that allows up to seven people to sync their screens, but only communicate through emojis.Other streamers, such as Netflix and Crave, have so far chosen not to launch social elements on their platforms. That move could be strategic as the companies observe a sea change in how some viewers consume television, suggested Carmi Levy, director at technology advisory firm Info-Tech Research Group."It's almost as if the snow globe has been shaken and companies like Netflix are waiting for everything to settle down before they decide where to place their bets," he said."Social TV is a thing and it isn't going anywhere. It's very much like remote work: considered the exception before the pandemic, but now the rule."Levy said the entertainment industry couldn't have predicted how quickly the change took hold with casual viewers. For years, upstart tech companies launched second-screen watch party innovations, and most of them failed miserably.That's left the door open for the latest generation of alternatives to capitalize on filling the void, among them TwoStream, a paid monthly watch party option, and Syncplay, which is free.One of the most ambitious newcomers is Scener, a venture-funded operation out of Seattle that currently supports the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus, Vimeo and horror platform Shudder. In a few clicks, viewers can react to a show through their webcam or type out thoughts on their keyboard.Co-founder Joe Braidwood said replicating the in-person experience, in particular, “the laughter, the screams and the horror,” was a goal of his company long before the pandemic. But it wasn’t always easy getting others to see the value.“Two years ago I would talk to investors about social TV and they would laugh at me,” he recalled over a Zoom chat.“They told me, ‘People don't want social experiences when they're watching television.’ But all you need to do is look on Twitter.”Even before the pandemic, he said, people were engaging over social media platforms about their favourite shows. Now, since everyone's holed up in their homes, Scener's growth has been exponential. Cumulative weekly minutes of programming watched grew nearly 42,000 per cent from March 2020 to January 2021 (57,785 minutes versus 24.2 million minutes), according to data provided by the company.“People who haven't hung out with their best friend while watching ‘The Flight Attendant’ or shared a family Christmas while watching an old classic movie on Scener, they just don't know what this feels like,” he added.“There's this real texture to it... it's warm engagement with people that you care about.”Hoovie, a Vancouver-based virtual watch party service, aims to bridge the gap between art house cinema outings and the comfort of a living room chat.Hosts can dive into the company’s independent film catalogue and book ticketed showings for small groups, typically in the range of 10 to 20 people. After the movie, they’re encouraged to engage in a webcam conversation on the platform that’s inspired by the film’s themes.Co-founder Fiona Rayher describes Hoovie as a platform meant to evoke those experiences outside the cinema where groups of people – sometimes strangers – would passionately discuss what they’d just watched and maybe head to a nearby restaurant for drinks."You’d meet new people and you’d stay connected," she said. "It was all serendipitous."Hoovie plans to debut a "book club for movies" early this year that'll build on connecting movie fans. Every month, subscribers will gather for online screenings that include a post-film conversation with members, filmmakers and critics. Each film will be rounded out with a wine pairing sent by mail.Selling nostalgia for the pre-pandemic days may sound appealing in lockdown, but the question remains on how attractive watch parties will be once a COVID-19 vaccine is widely available.It's a question Paydar said she thinks about often as she logs onto a watch party for another episode of "Unsolved Mysteries.""Whenever someone asks, 'If COVID ended right now, where would you go?' the first thing I say is, 'I'd like to go to a movie theatre,'" she said."There's something about being in a physical theatre and going with a group of friends...Those end-of-the-night goodbyes, getting late-night eats with my friends.. (we're) creating memories I get to hold on to forever," she said."I don't think that can be replaced."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
Le conseil des maires de la MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord, réuni en séance ordinaire le 19 janvier, a présenté un projet de règlement permettant la création d’un fonds de roulement de 200 000 $ qui servira d’outil de financement pour des acquisitions ou immobilisations futures. À ce jour, la MRC ne possède aucun fonds de roulement et l’article 1094 du Code municipal du Québec lui permet de s’en constituer un d’un montant maximal de 2 200 000 $, soit une somme n’excédant pas 20 % des crédits prévus au budget de l’exercice courant. Les fonds nécessaires seront puisés à même le surplus accumulé du 31 décembre 2019, selon le rapport financier adopté en mai dernier. « À cette fin, le conseil peut, par résolution, emprunter à ce fonds des montants dont il peut avoir besoin et qui ne dépassent pas 200 000 $ sur une période n’excédant pas 10 ans », est-il expliqué dans le projet de règlement. Pour pourvoir aux dépenses engagées relativement aux intérêts et au remboursement en capital des échéances annuelles de l’emprunt, le règlement prévoit prélever annuellement, à même le surplus accumulé de la MRC, les sommes requises pour maintenir ou ajuster la valeur du fonds de roulement en vigueur chaque année dans les prévisions budgétaires de la MRC. L’entrée en vigueur de ce nouveau fonds de roulement se tiendra après l’adoption du règlement à la prochaine réunion publique du conseil des maires. PSPS Dans le cadre de la Politique de soutien aux projets structurants (PSPS), la MRC de la Haute-Côte-Nord a accordé une aide financière à deux projets. Tout d’abord, comme la Ville de Forestville a dû modifier son projet Modernisation des infrastructures aéroportuaires, la MRC a accepté de lui verser les fonds prévus de 20 000 $. « Le projet rencontre toujours les critères d’admissibilité de la PSPS et le comité consultatif a analysé la modification apportée au projet et il est toujours favorable à l’octroi de financement », indique la résolution adoptée par le conseil des maires. Quant au deuxième projet accepté, il s’agit de l’aménagement de la cour de l’école Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur. La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord participera au projet pour un montant de 50 000 $. PDZA La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord s’est lancée en 2020 dans l’élaboration d’un plan de développement de la zone agricole (PDZA). Pour ce faire, elle doit former des comités directeur et consultatif composés d’intervenants du secteur agricole et agroalimentaire. « L’accompagnement d’expertises et l’appui des autorités compétentes sont essentiels pour l’accomplissement de ce mandat », a mentionné le directeur général Paul Langlois, lors de la séance du conseil des maires tenue le 19 janvier. Participation au PMVI La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord est admissible au Programme de mise en valeur intégrée (PMVI) en raison de la réalisation par Hydro-Québec du projet de ligne à 735 kV Micoua-Saguenay sur son territoire. Une somme de 1 906 921 $ lui a donc été allouée dans le cadre de ce programme. Par résolution, elle s’est engagée à utiliser cette somme pour réaliser, via un fonds de développement régional, des initiatives qui relèvent de l’un des domaines d’activité admissibles et respectent les conditions générales de réalisation du PMVI. Système de ventilation Le conseil des maires a accepté de lancer un appel d’offres sur invitation pour effectuer le nettoyage et la désinfection du système de ventilation de son centre administratif situé aux Escoumins. « Le bâtiment a été construit en 2003 et le nettoyage et la désinfection du système de ventilation n’ont pas été effectués depuis ce temps », a déclaré Paul Langlois. Dons et commandites Depuis 2015, la MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord octroie des aides financières aux organismes de son territoire via sa Politique sur les dons et commandites. Cette année, deux appels de projets seront lancés comparativement à un seul habituellement. Le premier appel, qui a pris fin le 30 novembre, a permis de remettre 5 000 $ sur un budget total de 9 750 $. Action-Chômage Côte-Nord reçoit 1 000 $ tout comme Centraide Haute-Côte-Nord Manicouagan, l’Organisme des bassins versants de la Haute-Côte-Nord (J’adopte un cours d’eau), la municipalité des Escoumins (175e anniversaire) et la municipalité de Sacré-Cœur (Fjord en fête). Les promoteurs qui devront reporter leur événement en raison de la pandémie pourront conserver l’aide financière octroyée. Toutefois, ceux qui seront contraints d’annuler complètement le projet devront rembourser le montant reçu par la MRC. Fusion de Desjardins Tel qu’annoncé par l’Assemblée des MRC de la Côte-Nord le 18 janvier, le conseil des maires de la MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord a entériné son opposition à la fusion de Desjardins Entreprises Côte-Nord avec Desjardins Entreprises Saguenay. « La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord appuie la démarche initiée par la MRC de la Minganie, et s’oppose à cette fusion ainsi qu’à ce transfert d’expertise financière, et dénonce les effets et pertes qu’elle engendrera pour l’ensemble de la Côte-Nord », dévoile la résolution.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
When drug companies like Pfizer and Moderna learned to successfully incorporate messenger RNA technology into a COVID-19 vaccine, experts say they likely opened the door to a significant shift in the future of immunization.The milestone in vaccine development was met with enthusiasm from most, but the seemingly swift pace and novel approach is causing hesitancy in others. Experts say the new technique shouldn't dissuade people from getting the vaccine. While the mRNA method is new to inoculations, the actual technology has been around for decades. The difference now, they say, is scientists have ironed out the kinks to make a useful product."It sounds fancy, mRNA, but there's nothing outlandish about it," said Dr. Earl Brown, a virology and microbiology specialist with the University of Ottawa. "This is the way our cells operate — we live by mRNA."Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna were the first inoculations approved for humans to use mRNA, which provides our cells with instructions to make proteins. In the case of COVID vaccines, the injected material shows cells how to make a harmless piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which then teaches our immune system to recognize the virus and fight off a future infection.Scientists made the vaccine by programming genetic material from the spike protein into mRNA, a process that theoretically could work for other viruses."As long as you know how to create those instructions — that genetic code you need to convince your body to create that target — you can design an mRNA vaccine against any antigen," said Nicole Basta, an associate professor of epidemiology at McGill."But the question is whether it will be effective, and whether it will be safe."The development of future mRNA vaccines might be quick, Basta says, but they would need to go through the usual evaluation process and clinical trials to ensure safety and efficacy. So vaccines for other viruses won't be popping up overnight.Still, Basta adds, there's potential for using mRNA to either improve upon existing vaccines or to develop new ones against other pathogens.Dr. Scott Halperin, a professor at Dalhousie University and the director of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, sees mRNA vaccines as "evolutionary rather than revolutionary."Part of the reason COVID vaccines came together so quickly was the technology had been developing for years, Halperin said. The global pandemic offered scientists a pressing opportunity — and unprecedented funding and collaboration — to try again for a viable injection.Previous research had been done on creating mRNA vaccines against Zika and other viruses, Halperin added, and there were earlier efforts focused on cancer treatments. Coronavirus-specific research was further sped up by spike protein analysis from SARS and MERS.While the mRNA technology itself is impressive, Halperin says improvements need to be made to create a more temperature-stable product before these types of vaccines and treatments "truly take over.""The logistics of delivering mRNA vaccines right now, we wouldn't want to have to do that for every vaccine we produce," he said, referencing the ultra-cold storage temperature that's currently needed. "But I do think it's an important milestone."Scientists are expected to continue advancing the technology, just as they did recently in solving two confounding problems with mRNA — its fragility and instability.Brown says fragility was resolved by packaging the mRNA in a fat coating, giving it something to help bind onto cells so it wouldn't disintegrate upon injection. The instability was conquered by modifying the uracil component of RNA, one of the four units of its genetic code."The technology application is new, but the science is mature," Brown said. "We've just reached the point at which we can apply it." Traditional vaccines typically contain a killed or weakened virus, Brown said. Those methods are still being used in COVID vaccine development, including by AstraZeneca-Oxford, whose product has not yet been approved in Canada.A benefit to using mRNA is the speed at which a vaccine can be developed or updated once scientists know what to target, Brown says. While experts believe current vaccines will work against recent variants of the COVID virus — including one originating in the U.K. that's more transmissible — Brown says mRNA's adaptability could theoretically come in handy if new strains emerged that necessitated an update. "In six weeks they could produce something," he said. "It would still have to go through Phase 3 trials, but it does give you more flexibility and a big leg up."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Be careful what you wish for, they say. Community volunteer Robbie Jones is celebrating his 57th birthday today as a Town of Mattawa council member. Jones, who was the first runner-up in the 2018 municipal election, fills the seat left open after deputy mayor Corey Lacelle resigned at the end of November 2020. See: 10-year veteran resigning from Mattawa council Mayor Dean Backer said appointing the next in line candidate is the "fairest and most logical" way to fill the seat and council is getting a “great guy” who has volunteered for many years with minor hockey and a number of other initiatives. “It’s prudent we get Robbie on board as soon as possible,” Backer said, noting there is a lot of work ahead for council this year. Jones garnered 285 votes in the last election, 31 more than the next person on the ballot, Bernie MacDonald, and 58 votes behind Councillor Laura Ross, who earned the last of six seats with 343 votes. “I’m happy to get the opportunity to work with my fellow councillors and looking forward to see what we can accomplish,” Jones said Tuesday morning. Other than five years in the 1990s working out west, Jones has been a resident of Mattawa for his entire life. He worked in the rail road business for 30 years before changing careers to drive a logging truck to be closer to his family. He and his wife Lise have one son, Casey, 14, who runs his own landscaping business. The inaugural meeting for Jones will be Feb. 8 or earlier if a special meeting is called before then. Dave Dale is a Local Journalism Reporter with BayToday.ca. LJI is funded by the Government of Canada. Dave Dale, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, BayToday.ca
Canada will seek exemptions to a U.S. effort to ensure federal agencies buy American-produced goods, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, as business groups expressed concern about the potential impact. U.S. President Joe Biden vowed on Monday to leverage Washington's purchasing power to strengthen domestic manufacturing by clamping down on foreign suppliers. Asked whether he would seek exemptions to the "Buy American" program when it is unveiled, Trudeau told reporters: "We will continue to be effective in advocating for Canada's interests with this new administration."
That "smile" is totally contagious. How cute is this dog?!
MADRID — Lionel Messi is back in the Barcelona squad that will face second-division club Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday. Messi has not played in the Copa del Rey this season but coach Ronald Koeman is expected to use him in the round-of-16 game after missing two matches because of a suspension. Messi had been rested before that because of an unspecified minor fitness problem. “He's fresh and isn't feeling any ailments,” Koeman said Tuesday. “To win things we need Messi to be in good shape and playing at the level that he can play. He is excited to play. He is the kind of player who wants to play in every match. We will look at our opponent and tomorrow we will know exactly who will be in the starting 11.” Messi received a two-match suspension for hitting an opponent away from the ball late in the team’s 3-2 loss to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final on Jan. 17. He did not play against Cornellà in the round of 32 of the Copa del Rey last week, nor against Elche in the Spanish league on Sunday. Barcelona won both matches 2-0. The Catalan club trails Spanish league leader Atlético Madrid by 10 points and is three points behind second-place Real Madrid entering the second half of the season. Atlético has a game in hand. Barcelona has played well this year despite the loss to Athletic in the Spanish Super Cup. It has won four straight league matches, all away from home. The Catalan club is unbeaten in nine consecutive league games. Rayo is coming off a loss to Mallorca but previously had won six in a row in all competitions. It sits fourth in the second-division standings, in good position to earn promotion. Barcelona defender Sergiño Dest will not play Wednesday because of a “thigh discomfort,” the club said. The Copa del Rey's round of 16 is still played in one-game matchups. “The Copa is a shorter tournament, with fewer games, and we play to win it," Koeman said. “I want to see my team with this winning mentality, just like it showed until now.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports ___ Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press
Shortly after the first state of emergency was declared by the Ontario government last March 17, municipal bylaw officers across the province were given power by the province to enforce pandemic emergency orders after “stretched” policing agencies requested assistance. Despite having the option to issue tickets under the Provincial Offences Act for violations of provincial emergency orders, municipal and regional bylaw enforcement officers focused on education rather than enforcement. But that tone has changed after the province handed down additional powers to police and bylaw officers alike to enforce a recent provincial stay-at-home order which came into effect on Jan. 14. Niagara This Week reached out to municipalities, Niagara Region and Niagara Regional Police to find out what enforcement action has been like since the start of the pandemic. Niagara-on-the-Lake has relied the most on enforcement out of the Niagara municipalities approached for data, having issued 66 tickets between March and December of last year, according to a Jan. 5 report to council. Niagara Falls has issued 28 tickets since May; Fort Erie has issued 13 since the initial orders; and St. Catharines has issued two tickets between March last year and Jan. 21. Port Colborne and Lincoln have not issued a single ticket since the beginning of the pandemic. The City of Welland did not provide information for earlier than Jan. 14. City bylaw manager, Ali Kahn, said in an email that no tickets have been issued since the province’s stay-at-home order took effect. Across the peninsula, the region has taken the most enforcement action in the shortest amount of time, according to data provided by communications consultant Andrew Korchok. Between Sept. 18, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021, region staff have issued 134 tickets. Niagara Regional Police Service has issued 75 tickets between April 5, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2021 — with 14 having been issued since Jan. 13. The “severity” of enforcement action can vary, depending on what charge is laid under the Provincial Offences Act. A Part One offence can be a set fine settled out of court, while a Part Three offence requires a person to attend court where a conviction and penalty can be imposed. According to solicitor general spokesperson, Brent Ross, Part One fines for individuals range between $750 for “fail to comply with an order,” and $1,000 for an offence such as “obstruct any person exercising a power in accordance with an order.” But Part Three offences carry a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison. Corporations and their officers face harsher limits. Ross said an imposed fine could be as high as $10 million, if convicted. Those wanting to put on a party or host an event over gathering limits may also face more stringent penalties, Ross said. “On conviction, this offence carries a $10,000 minimum fine.” Niagara This Week also inquired about the amount of warnings given and complaints received, but data is tracked and reported in vastly differently ways across the region. Some municipalities group together the amount of inquiries and complaints, while others don't track certain data, like complaints or warnings, making it difficult to discern exactly how many warnings are given versus tickets, for example. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Jan. 5 report shows 2,611 inquiries and complaints were received between March and December last year, with a total of 1,475 educational outcomes. Niagara Falls also reported a high number of complaints, at 2,946, but the data also includes “information.” There were 2,142 times where a business or the public were educated. The City of St. Catharines was unable to provide the amount of warnings given, but said 436 complaints had been received. Niagara Regional Police could not provide the number of complaints received, but said they've given 67 warnings. In Fort Erie, “in excess of 200 warnings” have been given, according to enforcement co-ordinator, Paul Chodoba. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
Organizers of a food bank for Black Edmontonians say there will be many families left behind if the service ends in March. Each week, dozens of families of African and Caribbean descent ranging from two to 10 members collect hampers packed with culturally relevant food. Despite demand, organizers had to cap the program at 90 families so staff and volunteers could keep up with collection, packing and distribution. The service was launched in May thanks to the collaboration of multiple Black-led Alberta organizations under the banner of African Diaspora COVID-19 Relief. But the funding and food from donors such as the Edmonton Community Foundation, Islamic Relief Canada, The Ghana Friendship Society and Loblaws, as well as personal donations, will soon run out. "It is a need that needs to be filled," said Emmanuel Onah, youth program manager at the Africa Centre, where the program is coordinated, clients pick up hampers and donations are being accepted. "It's a gaping hole in all of the resources that are currently available." The Liberia Friendship Society of Canada, the Jamaica Association of Northern Alberta and the Black Students Association University of Alberta are also among more than a dozen groups involved that will meet Sunday to determine next steps. Nii Koney, executive director of the Nile Valley Foundation, who rallied the coalition to action, said the program emerged from weekly meetings among Black organizations looking for ways to best respond to the pandemic. Initially they were surprised by all the middle-class community members who needed help. "People are bringing nice cars, they will come and park in the front, they will come with their wife and husband, they will sometimes come, the whole family," Koney said. "So now I know that if we didn't provide these services, it would be a great disservice to the community." Onah said a large part of the appeal comes from offering culturally relevant food tailor-made for each family whether it's injera, an Ethiopian fermented flatbread, or turtle beans, popular in the Caribbean. "The peace of mind you get when you're eating something that you're familiar with or you grew up with and is inline with your culture and your background — that all contributes to overall wellness. That all contributes to mental wellness, especially in the time where we're in a pandemic," said Onah. The initiative also supports local businesses largely by sourcing food from community stores on 118th Avenue and Stony Plain Road.
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TBILISI, Georgia — Europe's top human rights court on Thursday found Russia responsible for a swath of violations in Georgia's breakaway regions after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war. Georgia hailed the verdict by the European Court of Human Rights as a major victory. President Salome Zurabishvili described the ruling as “historic,” noting that Georgia was “recognized as a victim of this war and it is a great achievement for our country, our society, our history and our future." Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia also described the verdict as a landmark move, saying that “the case against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights has ended with Georgia’s victory.” The August 2008 war erupted amid rising tensions over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia, much of which was under control of Russia-backed separatists. Georgia said it launched an artillery barrage on the regional capital after Russian combat troops entered the region and shelled Georgian villages, but Russia claimed the troops entered only in response to the artillery. After the war, Moscow set up military bases in South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian province, Abkhazia, and recognized them as independent states, while most of the world has continued to consider them part of Georgia. In its case against Russia, Georgia accused it of violating the European Convention on Human Rights both during and after the war, but the ECHR only accepted the Georgian complaints related to the period after the fighting. The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Russia exercised effective control over Georgia's separatist regions after the hostilities and was responsible for ill-treatment and acts of torture against Georgian prisoners of war, arbitrary detentions of Georgians and "inhuman and degrading treatment” of 160 detained Georgian civilians, who were held in crowded confinement for more than two weeks in August 2008. It also held Russia responsible for preventing forcibly displaced ethnic Georgians from returning to the separatist regions after the conflict. The court ordered Moscow to conduct a probe into human rights violations during the hostilities and in their aftermath. Georgia’s Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani hailed the ECHR’s ruling as “an unprecedented international victory of the Georgian state." Russia's Justice Ministry voiced disagreement with some of the court's conclusions blaming Russia for the incidents in South Ossetia and Abkhazia "despite the fact that the Russian troops' direct involvement in them was never proven." At the same time, the ministry emphasized the ECHR's decision that the Georgian complaints related to the period of fighting were inadmissible. ___ Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Sophiko Megrelidze, The Associated Press
Studies have suggested previous COVID-19 infections may result in promising levels of immunity to the virus, leading to questions of whether those who've already recovered from the disease still need a vaccine. And is there urgency to inoculate them, or can they move to the back of the vaccination line? Experts say a vaccine will likely offer the safest bet for longer-term protection, meaning those with previous infections should still get them. And prior COVID illness shouldn't determine someone's place in the queue. The exact level of immunity acquired from a natural infection is yet to be fully determined, says Dr. Andre Veillette, a professor of medicine at McGill who's also on Canada's COVID-19 vaccine task force. It may be that protection begins to wane quicker in some people, or that those with previous mild infections aren't as protected as someone who had more severe symptoms, he says. Still others may think they've had a COVID-19 infection but can't be sure if they didn't get tested at the time. "I would say the simple rule would be that we vaccinate people who've had prior infections, just like everybody else," Veillette said. "If you had the infection, yes, you may have some protection, but it may not last a long time, and it may not be as good as the vaccine." Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials in protecting against severe disease. But there are still questions around whether the vaccines can actually prevent someone from catching the virus and spreading it to others. While Moderna has some data that their product may protect against acquiring the virus, it's still unclear. Antibodies from natural infections suggest the same — that they may protect us from getting really sick again, but not from getting the virus a second time. While there have been some cases of reinfection around the world, immunology expert Steven Kerfoot says the fact we're not seeing more of those suggests the immune response from initial COVID-19 infections is probably "pretty strong." Kerfoot, an associate professor at Western University, says vaccines are designed in a way that should produce an immune response "at least as good or better" than what we get after a natural infection. "So it may help fill in holes where people may not have developed an immune response effectively to the virus," Kerfoot said. "If anything, the vaccine could as act as its own booster that would improve your immunity." While some studies have suggested antibodies may disappear relatively quickly after COVID-19 infections, others have found a more lingering immune response. An American study published this month showed antibodies present for at least eight months, and possibly longer. Even studies suggesting an early drop-off of antibody levels aren't concerning, Kerfoot says. Infections trigger the body to produce other immune cells and memory cells that reduce slowly over years and help fight off future invasions from the same virus. If the immune response in those with past COVID infection is expected to be lengthy, could there be justification to defer their inoculations, especially if vaccine supply is low? It will be up to provinces to decide priority in each stage of their rollouts, but Jason Kindrachuk, a virologist with the University of Manitoba, says that will be a tricky decision. "I don't think we can use prior infection as an indicator of priority, because we just don't know what that person's immune response actually is," Kindrachuk said. "We don't know what long-term immunity looks like in those folks. "The recommendations are going to be that everybody gets vaccinated because that way we know — across vulnerable groups and all ages and different demographics — they'll all get a robust immune response." Veillette adds that many people with previous COVID cases were also in higher-risk settings — either because of their jobs or living environments — that would theoretically put them at risk for reinfection. And if they were to get the virus again but not show symptoms, they could still pass it on to other people. "There's probably a whole spectrum of situations there, and when there's so many variables it's better to have a simple rule," he said. "So I think that's another reason to vaccinate previously infected people." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 18, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Uplifting music, engaging speakers and eye-catching posters. This year's African Heritage Month celebration was launched online today. Premier Stephen McNeil, Lt.-Gov. Arthur J. LeBlanc, and African Nova Scotian Affairs Minister Tony Ince spoke at the event. "I encourage all Nova Scotians to listen, learn, share and act as we celebrate African Nova Scotian heritage month," said McNeil, officiating the launch of the event. The provincial theme, Black History Matters: Listen, Learn, Share and Act, calls on all Nova Scotians to make a better society by recognizing the long-standing history and legacy of African Nova Scotians, and by acknowledging racialized issues and adversity for people of African descent. Led by Halifax Mayor Mike Savage, mayors from 18 municipalities in the province acknowledged the launching of the heritage month during the virutal event, marking the first joint municipal proclamation. The kickoff event also featured local musicians: Zamani Benard-Millar and Amariah Bernard Washington. The artists performed O' Canada in the beginning and later a song named Outside, together with Nzingha Bernard-Millar. Ince unveiled the poster at Government House, together with LeBlanc and his wife Patsy. "For this year's theme and poster design, we wanted to highlight key important accomplishments, successes and milestones by African Nova Scotians. We also felt it was important to incorporate elements of the Black Lives Matter social movement which has been a significant influence in advocating for racial justice and diversity," said Russell Grosse, the executive director of the Black Cultural Centre and organizational lead of the African Heritage Month Information Network. Over 70 per cent of African Nova Scotians have roots in the province going back three generations or more, and 2.4 per cent of Nova Scotians identify as African Nova Scotian. Some the highlights of this year's events include an online sing-along, a skating party in Guysborough, and a panel discussion on fitting African-centred perspectives into social work practice. Details of the events throughout the month can be found here. Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
OTTAWA — A man accused of ramming through a gate at Rideau Hall while heavily armed is slated to enter a plea in Ontario court Feb. 5.Corey Hurren, a Manitoba military reservist and sausage-maker, faces 21 weapons charges and one of threatening Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.Hurren allegedly drove a truck onto the grounds of the official residence July 2 and set out on foot toward the house where the prime minister lives.Hurren is accused of uttering a threat to "cause death or bodily harm" to Trudeau, who was not home at the time.He was allegedly armed with several guns, including one with an illegal magazine.Hurren made a brief court appearance Tuesday as a judge and lawyers worked out a date for the plea.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
If Nick Legault could play disc golf everyday, he would. He gets his fix throwing his shiny discs at large five-gallon buckets, hanging off trees on the temporary nine-hole course at Langholm Park in St. Albert. A UDisc app showed the course, set up in June, was popular with players last summer. "We had over 500 recorded rounds," said Legault, who monitored usage via the app. "We know that not everyone's recording their rounds so that number's greater, so it worked out to be about three to four rounds per day," said Legault. He says the St. Albert Disc golf Facebook page now sits at over 100 members. In December Legault made a presentation to St. Albert councillors on the popularity of the sport and the need for a permanent location. Legault says the mature trees in Langholm Park and the size of the park make it an ideal spot. "After a successful summer of being able to measure how many people have used the course through the UDisc app, we wanted to present that report back to city council because their request was to help us understand the need, so we hope we demonstrated that," Legault said. The popularity of the sport is growing in surrounding communities too, with established courses in Beaumont, Spruce Grove, Wetaskiwin, Strathcona County, and several in Edmonton. 'Hole in one' The course in Edmonton's Rundle Park is busy 365 days a year. "It doesn't matter if it's warm, cold, rainy, sunny, just it's fresh air and friends, and trying to get a hole in one, " said Michael Elliot who was getting in a round with two friends last week. The rules are simple. Players throw discs at a target several hundred yards away. There are no fees, golf carts or wait times. Disc golf uses weighted discs. Some players carry more than 20 in their bags which can be worth as much as $500. Beginners, however, can find discs for as little as $12. "I actually had never heard about it before," said Kenny Cardinal, who's new to the sport. "The scene at Rundle Park is getting really big. I met these guys here this year and they're kind of showing me the ropes." The Hills at Charlesworth in southeast Edmonton is one city's newest courses. 'Don't have to pay for fees' Each hole has a concrete launching area, much like a tee box, with the rolling hills and trees providing an added challenge to golfers. With the pandemic, Eric Hanson was looking for something that wouldn't break AHS protocols. "This is different. It's just more casual; there's no tee times; there's no booking; I don't have to pay for fees," said Hanson who picked up his first set of discs last summer. "It allows us to be six feet apart and be with your friends outside safely, so that's good," he said. Morgan Chase is also a beginner. "I just started with two discs," he said. "They're like golf clubs, they do different things some turn, some dive so I've just been collecting discs and having fun out here." Others have taken their passion for the game one step further. Aaron Biblow moved into the neighbourhood two blocks away from The Hills last summer, saying the disc golf course was a huge selling point. "I figured that it was an outdoor sport I could get into and then just living nearby, I'll just run out on my break and throw a quick round and head home," Biblow said. Legault has also played at The Hills at Charlesworth course and says Langholm Park, if made permanent, would have a similar feel. "We're hoping we can get through the public engagement and park assessment over the winter and then hopefully get some baskets in for the summer so that people can come and try it out with a real target.
While two-thirds of Canadians believe the new U.S. president's cancellation of a key permit for the Keystone XL pipeline expansion is bad for Alberta, most outside that province and Saskatchewan believe it's time to accept the decision and move on, a new poll suggests. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has called President Joe Biden's decision to effectively kill the $8 billion US project an insult from the United States to its biggest trading partner and wants Ottawa to slap sanctions against the U.S. However, according to a poll released Tuesday by the Angus Reid Institute, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must balance support for Alberta's economy against national public sentiment that is deeply divided along regional lines. The institute says its latest polling data found that 65 per cent of Canadians say Biden's decision is a "bad thing" for Alberta. At the same time, the majority of respondents in B.C., Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada feel it is time to accept the decision and focus instead on other issues affecting the Canada-U.S. relationship. "Despite majorities in each province recognizing the negative consequences the cancellation has for Alberta, and to a lesser extent, Canada as whole, the will to push back and try to reverse this decision is more milquetoast," said the institute's report. The poll found that three out of five Canadians are inclined to accept the pipeline's cancellation. In Quebec, 74 per cent of respondents are of that view. However, on the Prairies, a strong majority — 72 per cent in Alberta, and 67 per cent in Saskatchewan — would like to see the Biden White House undo the cancellation. People in Manitoba are split on the issue. Institute president Shachi Kurl says people in the rest of Canada feel there are other, more pressing issues. "And it's important to note this is not the issue that Canadians want to put first and foremost in terms of how they frame the next four years of Canada-U.S. relations," she said. The polling data also suggests that the Keystone XL issue is viewed through a different lens depending on where in the country respondents are from. Among Albertans, the poll found that 73 per cent see it more as an issue of jobs and the economy, while 27 per cent believe it should be seen as an issue related to climate change and the environment. In Quebec, 63 per cent view the issue more through the lens of the environment and climate change, versus 37 per cent that see it as a jobs and economy issue, the poll suggests. Political party allegiances also seemed to affect how respondents view the issue. "Given the strong support the federal Conservatives have in Alberta and Saskatchewan, it is unsurprising that four in five past Conservative voters would apply pressure to reauthorize Keystone XL. Roughly the same proportion of Liberal, NDP and Bloc Québécois supporters say the opposite," the report said. The view that the cancellation of Keystone XL will hurt Alberta's economy is highest among past Conservative Party of Canada voters, at 87 per cent, a concentration of whom are from Alberta, the poll suggests. By contrast, among past NDP voters, 52 per cent are of that view. The 1,897-kilometre pipeline, first proposed in 2005, would have carried 830,000 barrels of oilsands crude from Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, where it would then connect with the original Keystone that runs to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. Emergency Keystone XL debate in Commons The House of Commons held an emergency debate Monday night regarding the scuttling of the pipeline project. Seamus O'Regan, Canada's natural resources minister, argued that while the loss of Keystone XL is a disappointment, the new U.S. administration represents an opportunity to work together with a government aligned with Canada's priorities on clean energy. Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole accused the government of not doing enough to advocate for the project that was creating thousands of good-paying jobs. "Canada has been dealt a serious blow…. These are Canadians, thousands of them, being totally forgotten and left behind by this government," he said. The Angus Reid Institute conducted its online survey from Jan. 20 to 24 among a representative randomized sample of 1,559 Canadian adults who are members of Angus Reid Forum. The institute says that for comparison purposes only, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is larger for subsamples by province in the methodology statement.
There’s a small shop that sells healthy lotions, potions and pills on Mill Street. Tucked inside, behind the till and a thick sheet of Plexiglas, sits Essa Mayor Sandie Macdonald. She talks fast and has handy notes about the pandemic and how it will cost each household worth $500,000 another $6.87 per month ($82.64 annually) on their municipal taxes this year. Feeling the pinch of a $680,000 shortfall, Macdonald said staff and council had little choice but to approve a three per cent tax increase on the 2021 budget. “When you take a budget and start off that far behind, it is a challenge,” Macdonald said, from her Naturally For You shop, where she’s down two staff members due to the pandemic. “We tried to take a proactive approach to control our budget expenditures.” Macdonald says the shortfall consists of three things: $180,000 due to lost parks and recreation revenue from lack of rentals; another $250,000 in lost revenue in the planning and economic development office due to shortfalls blamed largely on COVID-19; and another $180,000 lost on bank interest on the town’s investment savings, when interest rates dropped from around seven per cent to a much lower rate. In the 2021 budget, cuts were made to the library’s renovations and staff’s hours, as well as the spraying of calcium only once during the summer to keep dust down on work sites. Simcoe County and neighbouring Springwater Township have announced zero increases on their 2021 budgets. Essa Township — where Statistics Canada says the average household income is $87,543 — will hardly feel the pinch. Yet with the costs of heat, hydro and insurance increasing for not just homes, but the township as well, Macdonald said this isn’t the time to take on loans to cover the cost of the shortfall and possibly rob from next year’s budget. “It’s a needs not wants budget,” agreed Essa CAO Colleen Healey-Dowdall. Cheryl Browne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Plusieurs pays ont pris l’engagement de réduire leurs émissions de gaz à effet de serre à zéro d’ici le milieu du siècle. Mais de nouvelles recherches montrent que ce n’est pas suffisant.