Katrina Long knows the pain of losing a loved one to opioids. Her 54-year-old mother, Josephine Mavis Isaac, died from a fentanyl overdose."I hold a lot of grief and guilt about my mom's passing," Long said, fighting off tears."I think I could have done more if I had done something differently."Long said her mother dealt with an alcohol addiction for years, but that escalated to harder drugs after her mom started dating a new man.Long said her mom broke her arm about three years ago and tried her boyfriend's prescription pain medication. She then became addicted to hydromorphone — an opioid used to treat severe pain — and eventually became an intravenous drug user.Long, who has two young kids, said things quickly went downhill after that, especially when the pandemic started.She said her mom ended up getting a total of $6,000 in COVID-19 financial assistance that she didn't qualify for and it basically went to drugs.She died from an overdose within three months.Hope instantly ripped awayLong said she deals with anxiety, which was magnified by her mom's addiction and overdose."I think the hardest thing, when you're dealing with somebody who is dealing with addiction, is that in the back of your mind you always have hope that they'll get better. So, when they pass, that hope is instantly ripped away," she said. Long said dealing with the aftermath has also taken a toll on her and her family."We weren't able to be with [mom] because of COVID, so I wanted to go to the hospital because she was being taken for an autopsy — but we weren't able to see her," she said.It ended up taking about two weeks until she could see her mom, because of pandemic restrictions."The biggest challenge, and what we were scared of, was that we weren't going to be able to say goodbye like we had wanted to," she said.Then there was the daunting task of planning an unexpected funeral during a pandemic, along with going through her mom's house — the place where she died.Long said she had help from her sisters and aunt, but there are many people who aren't as fortunate."We're really lucky that we have each other as a support system because without them it would be definitely really hard, she said.4 suspected overdose deaths in 1 dayFour men — all in their thirties — died from suspected drug overdoses in Regina on Monday.They were all found in different places at different times. Investigators don't think they're connected, police say, aside from fentanyl being believed to be involved in each case."My heart breaks for the families because I know what they're going to be going through," said Long."They're most likely going to feel that they were cheated on their goodbye to their loved ones." The names of the men have not been made public, but Long has a message to their families, along with every other family who has lost a loved one to an overdose."Stick close with your family, get help, go talk to somebody if you need to talk to somebody, because all of the emotions that are going to come up can be a lot for somebody to handle," she said."Don't be scared to ask for help and don't do everything by yourself. Reach out to the people [who] are offering to help because they're going to be your biggest supporters."Long also has advice for people with loved ones who are struggling with addiction."Reach out to them, try to help them, talk to them as much as you can," she said."It has to be the person who wants to make the change, but you can always make sure they know that you love them and just be as supportive as you can."Overdoses more than quadruple in 2020There have been 93 apparent drug overdose deaths in Regina this year — 16 of which happened in November — compared to 21 in all of 2019."I think the numbers obviously reflect that the province has a problem and that the resources that are available aren't enough," said Long.She said she wants to see more supervised consumption sites in the province. The only one is currently in Saskatoon, but it does not receive government funding.Long said she also wants to see a restructuring of provincial rehab facilities and detox programs.She said her mom went to detox and rehab on several occasions, but the treatment never stuck. Long said there was almost always a wait time to get her mom help."When an addict is ready for help, they need help now," she said."They don't need help in 48 hours, or a week, because by that time they most likely went back to using because detoxing is scary."She also wants more compassion not just from the government, but from the community as well."My mom wasn't just a statistic. She was a person and she had tons of people that loved her," she said, noting that a lot of people with addictions are struggling with mental illness or trauma."People just need to be more understanding of people's circumstances and addiction can happen to anybody. It could be your son or daughter, mom or dad, who are dealing with this and try to put yourself in the family's shoes."Province says it is 'taking action'In an emailed statement, the province said it's "taking action to address opioid-related overdoses and deaths."The budget announced in June includes about $1.55 million to establish a new crystal meth treatment facility in Estevan, although the centre may treat people for other addictions as well, according to the statement.The province is also spending more than $1.7 million to fund 28 new detox beds in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert, North Battleford and "other potential locations."More than $800,000 is going toward hiring addiction workers in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.The province has also implemented programs aimed at helping people with addictions, like Take Home Naloxone —which has already distributed more than 5,400 kits so far the year, the statement says — along with Rapid Access Addictions Medicine program, Mental Health and Addiction Services and HealthLine 811.
Many Nova Scotia businesses took a serious hit from the lack of tourists over the usually busy summer tourist season and now many are fearful locals are spending their dollars online with big retailers.Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said he hopes consumers see the benefits of contributing to the local economy as the holiday season unfolds."I think we should look on this as our opportunity to support our community by supporting local business, by not ordering everything online from you know who," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning on Wednesday.Communities throughout the province have launched campaigns encouraging shoppers to buy local. Savage pointed out that many local businesses offer online shopping as well, including restaurants that sell gift cards.Jordi Morgan, vice-president Atlantic at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the pandemic is taking a toll on businesses in Nova Scotia.He said sales at this time of year are critical for many businesses, which regard it as a turnaround point for their year-end figures. The federation has conducted surveys and found that many businesses are under stress. "People are really feeling it's wearing on them in a serious way," Morgan told CBC Radio's Mainstreet."So along with the economic repercussions and worries about consumer spending and debt and staffing, and all the other things that go along with running a business, there are mental health considerations."Morgan said he's glad the province didn't follow in the footsteps of other jurisdictions that allowed larger stores to stay open while smaller establishments had to close. He said he's hopeful the province provides greater clarity when decisions are made regarding restrictions on retail activity.Like Savage, he also wants consumers to look at local online options rather than heading for more established internet retailers. "I can't emphasize how critical it is to the success of our community and our province for people to look at these local enterprises as assets, and what they can do to support the assets," he said.With the city losing $900 million in tourism revenue in 2020, buying local is more vital than ever, said Ross Jefferson, CEO of Discover Halifax."When you do support local, we know that more of our money stays here in our community. It stays here in Atlantic Canada and it stays here in Nova Scotia," he said. In smaller communities like Yarmouth, the pandemic has spurred many businesses to explore new business models. Rick Allwright of the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce told CBC News that many businesses there have found opportunities in the current crisis. Some have taken their businesses online while others have begun offering delivery in order to survive."There's some, even though they're not ready to be fully online stores yet, they're taking orders over the phone or taking orders even through social media channels," said Allwright. His organization launched a Love Yarmouth campaign earlier this year and Allwright said the plan is to keep it going throughout the holiday season. People supporting the campaign are asked to spend $25 in their community that they would otherwise spend with a big online retailer. Allwright said 250 people have already taken the pledge and he hopes more will come on board. The campaign is aimed at all local businesses and not just smaller, independent ones. "Our campaign is really about spending money locally. If that happens to be with the big box chains in town ... that's not a problem," he said."They're still supporting our local economy. They're still employing local people."MORE TOP STORIES
In Libya's frontline city of Sirte, parts of which still lie in ruins, the commission set up to oversee warring rivals' recent ceasefire has put its name on a large downtown conference centre - an outward sign of its commitment to peace. The rivals in a civil war that has left thousands dead and the country in chaos have yet to withdraw troops from frontline positions, open a major coastal road linking Sirte to Misrata and rid their ranks of foreign mercenaries.
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Nova Scotia's central region, and with most of the new cases in the 18 to 35 age range, many are wondering about the role of universities in making sure students are following the Public Health guidelines.Two off-campus Dalhousie University students tested positive for the virus over the weekend and a house party on Edward Street with about 60 people took place Friday night. It was broken up by Halifax police and one $1,000 ticket was issued."I live in a university community and there are definitely more parties going on than that one," said Michelle Scully, a third-year Dalhousie student who lives off campus in Halifax.Scully said while she receives emails about Public Health guidelines from the school, at no point has Dalhousie told students there would be academic consequences for not following Public Health protocols."If people continue to have such large gatherings, I think they need to enforce further consequences," she said.Verity Turpin, Dalhousie's acting vice-provost of student affairs, said the university expects its students to "share that responsibility" for keeping the university and surrounding Halifax community safe and healthy, which includes avoiding large gatherings such as parties."In the case of any event off campus, I think it's important to recognize that at Dalhousie, we look at our students as independent adults," Turpin said. "They are responsible for following all of the laws in our province when they decide to come back and live as part of our community."Turpin said the school is in constant contact with students, such as sending out emails and notifications from the Dalhousie app about Public Health guidelines, as well as advisers and faculties speaking directly with students about the requirements.St. FX, Acadia address off-campus partiesOther universities in the province have made an effort to crack down on large student gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if those students are living off campus.Both Acadia University and St. Francis Xavier University required students to sign a code of conduct form, telling students they would face discipline or academic consequences for breaching health protocols. These universities both have in-person classes this semester.At Acadia, the university president, Wolfville's mayor and the student union president went door to door, visiting houses and speaking with students directly about following Public Health guidelines. Turpin said student ambassadors from Dalhousie did similar door-to-door visits in neighbourhoods surrounding campus.St. FX has also taken away practice and training privileges for student-athletes after a large off-campus party. St. FX said at the time students found to have violated the school's code of conduct could face suspensions. The university also did its own investigation into the event.A Saint Mary's University spokesperson said in a statement on Tuesday that "a SMU community member" tested positive for COVID-19.Cale Loney said in an email on Wednesday that the university has been sharing the health protocols with students and that "violation of those protocols can be subject to discipline under the university's code of student conduct."Dal's Faculty of Health takes more direct approachWhile Dalhousie as a whole has not made clear that there will be academic consequences for those who disregard the COVID safety measures, the Faculty of Health decided to do just that last month.Dean Dr. Brenda Merritt said students in her faculty, roughly 1,500 of which take part in on-campus learning this semester, were given an honour statement this semester.In it, students had to agree to stay up to date on and follow the current health requirements, and failing to do so "could result in dismissal or suspension on the grounds of professional unsuitability.""We felt strongly that this is part of our identity as health professionals and health researchers that we should be doing this," Merritt said."We did hear some feedback from students that they wanted something like this, they wanted their peers to be accountable, so to raise the feeling of safety on campus and in clinical placements."These students are also using an in-house COVID pre-screening app before they attend any face-to-face classes. Merritt said so far, these students seem to be following the rules."From what I'm hearing, they are really communicating well with each other about it and calling each other out on things," she said."They are taking this very seriously. They know that if we have an outbreak on campus, their programming stops."Merritt said there is a "rippling effect of a shutdown," which would mean pharmacists, nurses and other health students would not graduate on time, causing "a big strain" on the healthcare system.85 of November cases in ages 18 to 35A spokesperson for the province said that of the 118 cases reported in November as of Tuesday, 85 were people between the age of 18 and 35. The province could not offer a breakdown of how many of those cases are university students.Halifax Coun. Waye Mason has been calling for more fines to be given out to those involved with the Edward Street party — which he adds were "probably" Dalhousie students — and that the university needs to step up."Dalhousie has to take responsibility, both for helping to address the policing issues that happen in the neighbourhood around the university, and in going out and educating students when they are off campus about what the expectations are," he said."Unfortunately this year Dalhousie chose not to participate in funding Dal Patrol or going out with the police to knock on doors in the problem neighbourhoods. I think that's certainly something that the neighbours, and I, would like to see happen again."During Tuesday's news briefing, Premier Stephen McNeil said there will be stronger enforcement for illegal gatherings going forward, "including a $1,000 fine for every person who walks through the door.""All of the universities have been supportive and we will continue to work with them," he said. "It's a critical demographic that we will need to be vigilant on and keep on top of."MORE TOP STORIES
The Regina Fire Department responded to a fire at a vacant house near the Brandt Centre on Wednesday afternoon. The fire started just after three o'clock, and by the time fire crews arrived at the 1800 block of York Street, they say the house was already engulfed in flames.No one was injured in the blaze, but the building was significantly damaged. Currently, firefighters believe the fire started on the main floor, but investigators will be returning to the house today to determine the cause.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the federal government have thrown the Port of Sydney Development Corporation a lifeline.The port is facing a $600,000 deficit this year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the cruise ship season.CBRM council has voted to allow the port to use reserve funds created by the dredging of Sydney Harbour in 2012, but two councillors questioned whether the port administration has first done enough to cut costs and increase revenues."My problem ... is that to basically turn over all that money and it can just be gone if nothing else is achieved," District 10 Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger said during discussion of the port's finances at CBRM's inaugural council meeting on Tuesday.District 8 Coun. James Edwards said he supports the port, but he was the only councillor to vote against allowing access to the special reserve fund."There was some pertinent questions asked, but I think there was lots of opportunity for more explanation," he told reporters afterwards.The federal, provincial and municipal governments and Nova Scotia Power created a $38-million fund to dredge Sydney Harbour eight years ago to accommodate larger cargo, coal and cruise ships.There was some money left over after the project finished and the port has been allowed to use it for various purposes.Some of the money was supposed to be used to fix the shore-based navigational aids that were no longer aligned with the newly dredged channel, but eight years later, the Coast Guard has still not undertaken that work.The Coast Guard said in an email that the navigational aids in Sydney Harbour currently mark the channel safely and it will maintain them in future.The federal government had required the port to set aside $800,000 of the $1.1 million remaining in the reserve fund for navigational aid costs, but has since given its approval to use that money to cover this year's deficit.Port CEO Marlene Usher said cruise ships and passengers supply the majority of the port's revenues, but there have been none this year."Hopefully we will get some cruise [ships] next year, but at this point I'm not very optimistic," she said.Some staff have been laid off and others have taken a 20-per-cent pay cut or foregone raises.Usher said there is no fat left to cut, but the port needs to remain open to take delivery of gasoline, diesel and heating oil for all of Cape Breton."Fuel vessels come in every week and if we don't have the doors open and the lights on, that would be catastrophic for the island," she said.If not for the pandemic, the port's current finances would be at least as good as last year's, Usher said."You'll see when we present our audited financial statement at our AGM that we were $700,000 over budget, to the good, so we've been responsible and we'll get back there," she said.Cruise ship traffic is booked in Sydney up to 2026 and it will return eventually, she said, but in the meantime the board has to find new revenues to ease reliance on one industry.'Need to diversify'"We need to diversify that area," Usher said. "We need to make the port a part of downtown and downtown a part of the port."For example, extending the boardwalk would allow pedestrians easier access to shops on the dock that are normally open for cruise ships.Meanwhile, the port is losing revenue after announcing the opening of its second cruise ship berth earlier this year.Usher said there are vessels that would use the new dock, but there are unexpected difficulties with power at the facility.A new financial plan will be presented to council in the new year, she said.MORE TOP STORIES
Preliminary results of an Ontario study that involved tens of thousands of airplane passengers have delivered promising outcomes for point-of-entry COVID-19 testing, but it is not yet swaying officials in Newfoundland and Labrador, where a controversial ban on incoming travel remains in effect. The study, led by McMaster Health Labs — which bills its work as the largest study of of its kind — tested more than 16,000 international travellers on arrival at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The tests were taken from the beginning of September through to mid-November.The passengers agreed to three rounds of testing that they performed themselves, with a take-home kit: a nasal/cheek swab on Day 1, again on Day 7 and then on Day 14.On Tuesday, researchers released data looking at the tests performed for the study's first month, of which one per cent of travellers tested positive for COVID-19.Of that number, the majority — 70 per cent — were positive on the day they arrived. As well, 94.3 per cent of cases were positive by Day 7, with only 5.6 per cent testing positive by Day 14.One of the lead researchers said the preliminary findings show early testing on travellers works."I think it's mostly a good news story. It's not a perfect story, and it's certainly one where we're not the ones to set quarantine policy," said Dr. Marek Smieja, the scientific director of McMaster HealthLabs and a professor at McMaster University in Hamilton.Smieja said the final numbers of the study should provide more illumination, and expects those to be compiled and released by January.Study not enough: premierSmieja said researchers hope to figure out more precisely what the risk is of a traveller testing positive at the end of the full two-week quarantine period."What we can say right now is we think the risk is in that neighborhood of one in a thousand," said Smieja."Which in the Toronto area, when you have a certain amount of community spread, that may be a fairly low number. It may be for you in Newfoundland, that if you have very little spread, one in the 1,000 may or may not be acceptable."It doesn't appear to be acceptable to public health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador, who mostly poured cold water on the study results at a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday.Premier Andrew Furey emphasized that arrival tests can have a 30 per cent false negative result."The point of entry [test], we're concerned, may cause a false sense of security, and therefore cause extra disease spread, which wasn't really reflected in the McMaster study to date," Furey said.Two recent clusters of COVID-19 cases, in Grand Bank and Deer Lake, have been linked to rotational workers who travel to other provinces for employment, and who spread the virus on to family members on arrival home. But Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said that rules for all 20,000 or so rotational workers in the province weren't necessarily about to change due to those cases."We have to consider the number of people who have come back, and have not spread it to their family members. We have to remember that. And no system is going to be perfect, but as I've said before, we cannot create policy based on one of two specific examples, or one or two cases," she said."We have to look at the whole picture and decide where is the best use of our resources."Data meant to provide 'fulsome debate'Their comments come two days after the province tightened its rules around returning rotational workers. Workers are now eligible to be tested on Day 7, an increase from testing on Day 5, and if negative results come back, may end their self-isolation earlier than the 14 days required for most other travellers.Smieja did note there is a case to be made to keep the two-week rule firm in jurisdiction with mostly travel-related cases— a point Health Minister John Haggie and others have emphasized repeatedly in this province — although it requires everyone to follow the rules."I think if everybody perfectly complied with quarantine, if there were no downsides to that, that's a pretty useful way of managing this risk and has worked reasonably well around the world," he said.The McMaster study did test regardless of symptoms, and Smieja said having that day-of-arrival test can help protect others from exposure, whether it be family members or flagging fellow passengers early on."I think arrival testing tells us activity, and may tell us that we need to do a look back on who is on that flight," he said."Sometimes, it also tells us if that person is in quarantine, but let's say they're interacting with family members who didn't travel, well, we have to protect the family members. So it's useful in that way."The province does advise people in 14-day isolation not to interact with other members of their households.Newfoundland and Labrador's so-called travel ban prohibits free movement of incoming travellers, who must apply in advance for an exemption. Government officials say the ban, which has withstood a challenge at Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, is a key part of a strategy that has kept COVID-19 caseloads among the lowest in Canada.As of Friday morning, there were 25 active cases in the province. On Monday, Furey suspended N.L.'s participation in the Atlantic Bubble, which allowed residents of the four Atlantic provinces to move about the region. Smieja said the study, once complete and compiled, may be of use across Canada and elsewhere, with no imminent vaccine, cases continuing to rise, and more testing strategies required."I think it provides data, and then there will be, you know, provincial and federal political decisions in terms of how to best use that data. Could that frequent traveler be allowed out sooner, or is that an unnecessary risk? I think we're providing data for a fulsome debate of that," he said.The study was funded, in part, by Air Canada and the Greater Toronto Transit Authority — two entities with a vested interest in encouraging more air travel. Smieja said that financial help was needed to make the study happen, but crunching all the numbers and coming to conclusions is happening without their involvement. "We'll do all of these analyses independently. And all of these results are discussed, publicly discussed, with our public health colleagues, before being released to the public," he said.Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Premier John Horgan has revealed a new slate of cabinet ministers who will lead B.C. through the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the economic fallout. The cabinet includes some new faces at the helm of major portfolios like finance and education, while some NDP party stalwarts will remain in charge of ministries like health."The pandemic has turned the lives of British Columbians upside down," Horgan said in a news release after Thursday's swearing-in ceremony. "We have come a long way together, but we have much further to go. This skilled, diverse team is ready to continue our fight against COVID-19 and build an economic recovery that includes everyone."The NDP are returning to power this fall with an unprecedented majority for the party, holding 57 of 87 seats in the legislature. The new executive council is gender-balanced, with an equal number of men and women in cabinet positions, and includes 20 ministers and four ministers of state.Perhaps the least surprising news out of Thursday's cabinet announcement was that Adrian Dix will stay on as health minister, after helping guide B.C.'s pandemic response from the beginning. Mike Farnworth is still public safety minister and solicitor general, Bruce Ralston remains as energy minister, and George Heyman stays on as minister of the environment. Selina Robinson is the new finance ministerDavid Eby will remain as attorney general, but he will also take on a new portfolio as housing minister, which was formerly paired with municipal affairs under Selina Robinson's watch.Robinson has moved on from that role in the new government, taking on the high-profile finance posting, as the province struggles to keep an even fiscal keel during the turmoil caused by the pandemic. She steps in where Carole James left off before retiring from politics this year."I have tremendous trust in her capacity," Horgan told reporters after the new cabinet was sworn in.Although James is no longer serving in politics, the premier revealed she will continue to serve as a personal adviser to him for a fee of $1 a year."I offered her five bucks for a five-year contract; she said 'I'll take it a year at a time,'" Horgan joked.Ravi Kahlon will also join B.C.'s effort to rebuild from the pandemic as the new minister for jobs and innovation, with an additional responsibility for economic recovery folded into his portfolio."We have had a cross-government approach to recovery since the beginning, but Ravi will be the point person," Horgan said.Rob Fleming is out as education minister, heading up transportation and infrastructure instead. Newbie Jennifer Whiteside is his replacement in the education portfolio.Horgan denied that Fleming was shifted out of education in response to conflict over reopening schools during the pandemic."[I'm] very proud of the work he's done, but I wanted to move him on to other things," Horgan said.Meanwhile, Sheila Malcolmson is taking on the tricky portfolio of mental health and addictions, following Judy Darcy's exit from provincial politics. Malcolmson enters her new role as drug overdoses are killing five British Columbians every day.Some of the other new faces include former Tofino mayor Josie Osborne, who becomes the minister of municipal affairs, and Mitzi Dean as minister of children and family development.Full cabinet for the new NDP governmentPremier: John HorganAttorney General (and Minister Responsible For Housing): David Eby * Parliamentary Secretary - Anti-Racism Initiatives: Rachna SinghAdvanced Education and Skills Training: Anne Kang * Parliamentary Secretary - Skills Training: Andrew MercierAgriculture, Food and Fisheries: Lana Popham * Parliamentary Secretary - Fisheries and Aquaculture: Fin DonnellyCitizens' Services: Lisa BeareChildren and Family Development: Mitzi Dean * Minister of State for Child Care: Katrina ChenEducation: Jennifer WhitesideEnergy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (and Minister Responsible for The Consular Corps of British Columbia): Bruce RalstonEnvironment and Climate Change Strategy (and Minister Responsible for Translink): George Heyman * Parliamentary Secretary - Environment: Kelly GreeneFinance: Selina Robinson * Parliamentary Secretary - Gender Equity: Grace LoreForests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development: Katrine Conroy * Minister of State for Lands, Natural Resource Operations: Nathan Cullen * Parliamentary Secretary - Rural Development: Roly RussellHealth (and Minister Responsible for Francophone Affairs): Adrian Dix * Parliamentary Secretary - Seniors Services & Long Term Care: Mable ElmoreIndigenous Relations and Reconciliation: Murray RankinJobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation: Ravi Kahlon * Minister of State for Trade: George Chow * Parliamentary Secretary - Technology & Innovation: Brenda BaileyLabour: Harry Bains * Parliamentary Secretary - New Economy: Adam WalkerMental Health and Addictions: Sheila MalcolmsonMunicipal Affairs: Josie OsbornePublic Safety and Solicitor General: Mike Farnworth * Parliamentary Secretary - Emergency Preparedness: Jennifer RiceSocial Development and Poverty Reduction: Nicholas Simons * Parliamentary Secretary - Community Development & Non-Profits: Niki Sharma * Parliamentary Secretary - Accessibility: Dan CoulterTourism, Arts, Culture and Sport: Melanie Mark * Parliamentary Secretary - Arts and Film: Bob D'EithTransportation and Infrastructure: Rob Fleming * Minister of State for Infrastructure: Bowinn Ma
If the novel coronavirus was going to affect an industry in 2020, horse racing was a strong contender. Though it's a major money-maker in the province, generating $2.3 billion of Ontario's GDP, in the past it relied on people having a little extra money to spend, and coming together en masse on race day to place bets. At the beginning of the summer race season, things didn't look good, admits Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain, who is on the executive of the horse racing association.But once the Lakeshore Horse Racing Association was allowed to have 100 people in the grandstand in Leamington, wagering ended up being as strong as ever."Certainly we were pleased with the comeback that we had and we were able to end up having a very positive season," said Bain. According to Bain, on any given Sunday this summer, the average total wagered was around $24,000. Key to that was online betting. "This year we did do all the simulcast wagering and we got out to a vast market. So maybe next year, hand in hand we'll bet yet again higher than ever," said Mark Williams, president of the association.Williams said people from as far away as Nova Scotia were betting on races in Leamington.This year's season went from early August to the end of October. The association is asking Ontario Racing to add two more race dates next year, but Williams is not optimistic that will happen. Meanwhile, those who depend on the local horse racing industry for their livelihoods are betting on a good year next year. Waverly Livingston is a stable hand at Woodslee Farms where she takes care of race horses and horses who are retired. She says without the local industry she would lose her job."I would have a very hard time finding another job, and there are only so many other farms ... in the area that take people," said Livingston.She is one of three employed at the stables owned by Don and Anita Leschied. Leschied says he spends between $500 and $1,000 a week keeping his horses."One of my first part time young ladies is now a veterinary technician who stayed in Essex County," said Leschied. "We are the second or third largest agricultural industry of the entire agricultural component in the province of Ontario," said Leschied.Leschied adds that the horse racing industry in Essex County, Chatham-Kent and Lambton county employs 10,000 people. More than 45,000 Ontarians owe their permanent jobs to the horse racing and breeding industry, according to research paid for by Ontario Racing.
Chatham-Kent Public Health has released a graphic to show the far-reaching impacts of a COVID-19 outbreak at a local church that led to nearly 500 people isolating. According to the graphic, 21 people who tested positive for the disease attended a place of worship, which is the Word of Life Church in Blenheim. Chatham-Kent Public Health declared an outbreak at the church late last month.This set off a chain of events that ended with 40 people testing positive for COVID-19 in 24 separate households, three of whom were hospitalized. The virus' spread was not contained to any one industry or area, and affected everything from the church itself to group living settings to households to a blood donor clinic. "We are sharing information about this outbreak now to show how easily COVID-19 can spread, and how we all need to work together to stop it," Chatham-Kent Public Health said in a news release.The graphic was based on data collected in October.Laura Zettler, an epidemiologist with Chatham-Kent Public Health, says the unit wanted the visual to serve as a reminder to the public."Really this visual was meant to show that what all of us do really matters, and it's truly a community effort to contain COVID-19," she said."Everyone that's part of the visual were all doing regular, everyday things ... going to church, going to work and doing things to help others, going to school, spending time with their family and friends. So many people were potentially exposed just doing everyday activities," she added. "Nothing extravagant, no big gatherings, and in settings where precautionary measures are in place. This is how easy this spreads ... and why our collective efforts are so important right now."Effects go beyond infectedZettler said the unit felt it was important to emphasize that the effects of the outbreak were not limited to those who tested positive. Nearly 500 people had to self-isolate, including members of the church, 170 people attending school and 180 people who attended blood donor clinics."If we just look at the people who tested positive, that's really not looking at all the other lives that were impacted by this outbreak," Zettler said. In a video accompanying the graphic, Chatham-Kent medical officer of health Dr. David Colby echoed that thought."We were lucky, with a lot of effort, we were able to keep our numbers down to only 40 positives with this outbreak, but look at all this trouble for people," he said while motioning to the graphic. "This is not a blame game. Everybody who's referred to here is a victim, not a cause. But we all have a role to play."And for the Word of Life Church itself, the recovery process has only just started.In a Facebook message to CBC News, a representative from the church declined to do an interview, but said that the outbreak is over and that the church would like to move on.According to the church's Facebook page, it has reopened its soup kitchen and food bank this week. "Well soup kitchen opened today for the first time in several weeks, it felt so good to be back doing what we love to do and what we know God has called us to do," a Wednesday post reads. "That was our biggest concern during our shut down, our friends on the streets of Blenheim. I can't tell you how much we missed seeing each one, it's not about just handing out food, it goes much deeper than that."
Reaction from various sectors to Saskatchewan's newly announced COVID-19 restrictions ranges from disappointment to criticism of "half measures" to a grudging acknowledgment that something had to be done.The latest measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus, which were announced Wednesday and come into effect Friday, include suspending sports competitions, further limiting gatherings at restaurants and in places of worship, discouraging gatherings beyond immediate households and encouraging mask use for younger children.The new provincial rules suspend "all team/group sports, activities, games, competitions, recitals, practices, etc. … including amateur and recreational leagues for all groups."Kelly McClintock, general manager of the Saskatchewan Hockey Association, said the government advised athletics organizations in the province to re-examine their return-to-play guidelines starting last week, so the decision to suspend all games came as a surprise."We assumed that there would be some more restrictive guidelines put in place this week," he said. "We didn't assume that we'd be shut down completely.… It's disappointing."The new measures do say that athletes under the age of 18 can continue to practise, as long as they're masked, physically distanced, and in a group no larger than eight.McClintock says that will be difficult to actually do under the new regulations."Most teams are anywhere from 12 to 20 players … so I'm not sure how many people will actually take advantage of that from a team perspective," he said. Bob Reindl, executive director of Saskatchewan Athletics, said young track and field athletes will face similar challenges. "Right now in Saskatoon they only have an hour to practise anyways," he said. "So you can only have eight people, and it usually takes an hour for 30 kids to go through. It's going to be difficult."Despite those challenges, Reindl said suspending sports was simply the right thing to do. "It had to be done," he said. "There's no doubt about it. The numbers are high, the government had to do something, and we knew it was coming. Both Alberta and Manitoba already shut down sports in their provinces."Until team sports resume, McClintock is worried about how children will cope with one less outlet to keep fit and spend time with friends. There are over 20,000 minor hockey athletes alone in the province, he said."Kids need the activity from a mental health perspective and a physical health perspective," he said. "Now, that's going to be cut down, and that's the disappointing part." 'Have to be some education' on masks: daycareWednesday's new measures also extend mandatory, non-medical masking to all students, employees and visitors in schools and daycares. Children under three are exempt, but those between the ages of three and 12 should wear a mask if they are able to, the new rules say.Nancy Lautner, executive director of Tykes and Tots Early Learning Centre in Saskatoon, says the guideline threads the needle between keeping kids healthy and not setting a bar that would be impossible for them to meet. "I do appreciate that the province worded the masking policy for the young children the way they did, in terms of saying very young children should wear a mask if they are able to," she said."Some of our three to five year olds are certainly capable of wearing a mask and they won't have an issue with it, but some are not. So I appreciate that they've left that leniency." At Tykes and Tots, students in the before- and after-school programs have already been wearing masks, as have staff members.Now, it will be a matter of educating the younger children on how to mask up — but early childhood educators are experts on teaching hygiene to kids."There will certainly have to be some education that staff will have to do, in the same way that they educate about washing your hands and sneezing into your elbow and things like that," said Lautner. 'Each business is in limbo'Restaurants and licensed establishments such as bars and nightclubs will now have to limit their seating to four people per table, and will also have to maintain a record of all their guests.Shawn Moen, a co-founder of 9 Mile Legacy Brewing in Saskatoon, says the limited financial support in the face of increasing public health restrictions have posed a challenge to his business. "Traffic has slowed significantly," he wrote on Twitter. "We are allowed to stay open (and I'm grateful for the operational flexibility) but our customers are being told to stay home. The result has been a slowdown."And he says programs like the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS), which are intended to help businesses cover wages and rent, are insufficient."Many public-facing businesses won't have sufficient support from these programs, don't have experiences and products that are portable and will be faced with voluntarily closing due to lack of business or safety concerns," he said. If businesses are forced to shut down by a qualifying public health order, they qualify for additional support through CERS. But for now, in Saskatchewan, restaurants and bars are allowed to stay open. "Each business is in limbo right now [and] they are being asked to close pre-emptively and risk ineligibility for supports or stay open and keep bleeding financially," said Moen. Nurses union 'utterly disappointed'In a statement released on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses criticized the new COVID restrictions for not going far enough, saying its membership is "utterly disappointed" with "half measures."SUN says the limited measures, as opposed to a full "circuit-breaker" lockdown, are not enough to contain the virus and will lead to greater economic disruption and loss of life in the week ahead.
A private care home in Merritt, B.C., is accusing the Interior Health Authority of aggressively recruiting its health care workers by offering them higher wages and better benefits.Florentine Seniors Residence has lost three licensed practical nurses (LPN) and at least four registered care aides (RCA) to the health authority during the pandemic, according to president Frank Rizzardo."They are phoning our staff directly," he said. "It is not a matter of a response to an ad. It's a call to our employee."Interior Health denies recruiting directly from private care homes and says it uses a centralized hiring process where vacant positions are posted and advertised publicly. Rizzardo is adamant the health authority reached out to Florentine employees to offer jobs at an Interior Health-run care home in Merritt and took to social media this week calling for a stop to the practice."I had a staff meeting on Monday and at that staff meeting I was told that two of our newest RCAs were called by Interior Health and offered employment," he said in an interview with CBC News."We paid LPNs to relocate and then once they are here, they only work a short period of time before they are snapped up by [Interior Health]."Better pay and benefitsSlightly higher wages and better benefits are some of the things enticing his staff to leave for positions at Interior Health, Rizzardo said.Some nurses and care aides left in order to take advantage of the Temporary Pandemic Pay program which provided eligible front-line workers a lump-sum payment equal to about $4 an hour for 16 weeks, according to Rizzardo.Health care workers at private care facilities like Florentine did not qualify for the temporary pay raise.Florentine Seniors Residence is a 77-suite private care facility that offers assisted living and complex care in the southern Interior city.The staffing shortage is leading to burnout among his remaining workers, Rizzardo said.Rizzardo wrote letters to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown calling for an end to the recruiting practices, but he has not heard back from either of them, he said.Interior Health denies recruiting from private care homesInterior Health did not agree to an interview with CBC News but provided a written statement denying Rizzardo's claims."Employees are hired through a centralized hiring process. Vacant positions open to external applicants are posted and advertised publicly."Rizzardo said he's not surprised the health authority denied recruiting his staff and said he believes what his employees have told him about the recruitment calls.The Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Some gym and yoga studio owners in Newfoundland and Labrador have taken extra steps to keep people safe this week, knowing they could be among the first to close if the province moves back a level.Heather Murphy, owner of Islander Athletics, watched with approval Monday as Premier Andrew Furey withdrew the province from the Atlantic bubble.With cases on the rise in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, she decided to post a new rule for her gym in St. John's — anyone in contact with a person who has travelled within the Atlantic provinces is asked to stay away for two weeks."We've taken it an extra couple steps further and I know that's on us," Murphy said. "I've seen a lot of other studios doing the same kinds of things to really try and prevent a second closure from happening."Gyms and fitness studios were ordered closed in March, and remained shuttered for in-person sessions until late June.It was a devastating blow for many of the small gyms in the province, and Islander Athletics was no exception. They used the break to change locations, with hopes of reopening in a better place. What saved them was the family they'd built within their membership, she said.Murphy checked out all of Islander Athletics' equipment to the members and shifted to online classes. People went home with everything the gym owned. In exchange, she managed to keep much of the customer base throughout the downtime.Now, with small spikes in cases around the province, people like Heather Murphy are again watching the daily updates with anxious eyes.A pair of small towns are dealing with outbreaks, and as of Wednesday afternoon Newfoundland and Labrador had 25 active cases. The school district reopened an elementary school in Deer Lake on Wednesday, after a student tested positive earlier in the week.More than 30 kids in the child's class cohort tested negative.Moda Yoga owner Jill Holden said the actions business owners are taking to prevent the spread are not just about business — they're about doing the right thing."I think we all have a social responsibility to act from a place of kindness and compassion, but not just for ourselves," she said. "That's really what we're about in the yoga practice. We don't just act for ourselves, but for the greater good."Holden's studio has policies simliar to ones in place at Murphy's gym. They've tightened restrictions in recent days, after outbreaks in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick collapsed the Atlantic bubble.Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil announced Tuesday that all fitness and recreational facilities, libraries, museums and casinos would close for two weeks. Restaurants are open only for takeout.In Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Andrew Furey says he wants to avoid that tangle."We don't want to have to close our businesses here. We want to protect the freedoms we've come to enjoy, while in line with public health measures of course. We want to avoid a full lockdown that we are seeing across the country," he said at Wednesday's briefing."We want to ensure that the local economies can continue to operate as much as possible."Measures put in place by the provincial and federal governments helped small businesses like gyms and fitness centres survive the last lockdown.Holden said she'll oblige any restrictions put in place but she doesn't want to have to rely on those subsidies again."It was difficult and thankfully we got through it," she said. "Having to go through it for a longer period of time again, I'm not sure that's really viable in the long run because these subsidies we've been taking advantage of have been really helping, but I know that won't last forever."Newfoundland and Labrador recorded only one new case on Wednesday, and both Holden and Murphy hope the spread is slowing and a second lockdown isn't in the cards."It's hopeful," Murphy said. "I'm optimistic we'll be able to avoid it."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
BANGKOK — Thailand said Thursday it transferred three Iranians involved in a botched 2012 bomb plot back to Tehran, as Iran released an Australian academic who was imprisoned for more than two years on spying charges.While Thai officials declined to call it a swap and Iran referred to the men as “economic activists,” the arrangement freed academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert and saw the three men linked to a wider bomb plot targeting Israeli diplomats return home to a hero's welcome.The bombers wore Iranian flags draped over their shoulders, their faces largely obscured by black baseball caps and surgical masks. It was a sharp contrast to other prisoner exchanges Iran has trumpeted in the past, in which television anchors repeatedly said their names and broadcasters aired images of them reuniting with their families.The reason for Iran's refusal to name those freed remains unclear. However, Tehran has long denied being behind the bomb plot and likely hopes to leverage the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden to ease American sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump. Israeli officials declined to immediately comment on the release.In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was “thrilled and relieved” that Moore-Gilbert, 33, had been released but added that it would take time for her to process her “horrible” ordeal.“The tone of her voice was very uplifting, particularly given what she has been through,” Morrison told Australia’s Network Nine.Chatchom Akapin, Thailand’s deputy attorney general, told The Associated Press that Thai authorities had approved the transfer of the prisoners under an agreement with Iran.“These types of transfers aren’t unusual,” he said. “We transfer prisoners to other countries and at the same time receive Thais back under this type of agreement all the time.”A Thai Corrections Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as no approval had been granted to speak publicly on the issue with journalists, said only two of the Iranians were sent home Wednesday under the prison transfer agreement, while one received a pardon in September.Under transfer agreements, returnees are supposed to serve the remainder of their sentences in their home country. Thailand has such agreements with about three dozen countries. However, Iranian state television video of the men's arrival suggested that a return to prison seemed unlikely as officials showered them with flowers and offered shouted praise to God and the Prophet Muhammad.The plane that carried the men from Bangkok to Iran had a tail number linking it to an Australian private air carrier called Skytraders, which describes itself as a “principal provider of air services to government.” An employee at the company declined to comment when reached by the AP.The plane had flown twice this week from Bangkok to Tehran, and then on to Doha, Qatar, flight data obtained by the AP showed. Authorities declined to say where Moore-Gilbert was Thursday, though she thanked Australia’s government and diplomats in a statement for securing her release, as well as supporters who campaigned for her freedom.Despite her ordeal, Moore-Gilbert said she had “nothing but respect, love and admiration for the great nation of Iran and its warm-hearted, generous and brave people.”Asked about the swap, Australia's prime minister said he “wouldn’t go into those details, confirm them one way or the other.” However, Morrison said he could assure Australians there had been nothing done to prejudice their safety and no prisoners were released in Australia.Thai police discovered the three Iranians' plot in 2012 when an accidental explosion blew apart their rented Bangkok villa. At the time, Iran was suspected in two bombing attempts in India and the former Soviet republic of Georgia targeting Israeli diplomats amid heightened tensions over its nuclear program. Its own nuclear scientists, meanwhile, had been killed in attacks long suspected to have been carried out by Israel.Police say one of the Iranians, Saeid Moradi, threw a grenade at officers that bounced backed and exploded, shearing away his legs. Moradi was sentenced to life for attempting to murder a police officer. Another man, Mohammad Kharzei, received a 15-year sentence for possessing explosives. The sentence of the third man, Masoud Sedaghatzadeh, wasn't immediately known.Kharzei was the Iranian who was said to have been pardoned this past September, the Thai corrections official said.Their release along with Moore-Gilbert's represents another case in which Iran held a Westerner on widely criticized espionage charges. Activists and U.N. investigators believe Iran systematically leverages their imprisonment for money or influence in negotiations with the West. Tehran denies it, though there have been similar exchanges in the past.Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was picked up at the Tehran airport as she tried to leave the country after attending an academic conference in 2018. She was sent to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, convicted of spying and sentenced to 10 years. She vehemently denied the charges and maintained her innocence.Moore-Gilbert wrote in letters to Morrison that she had been imprisoned “to extort” the Australian government.Her detention had strained relations between Iran and the West at a time of already escalating tensions, which reached a fever pitch earlier this year following the American killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad and retaliatory Iranian strikes on a U.S. military base.International pressure had been building on Iran to release Moore-Gilbert. She had gone on repeated hunger strikes and her health had deteriorated during long stretches in solitary confinement. She also alleged Iran subjected her to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture.___Perry reported from Wellington, New Zealand. Associated Press writers Isabel DeBre and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.Tassanee Vejpongsa And Nick Perry, The Associated Press
The owner of an Etobicoke barbecue restaurant that has openly defied COVID-19 restrictions has been taken into custody.Adam Skelly, who faces nine non-criminal charges, including violating indoor dining rules, holding an illegal gathering and operating a business without a licence, was handcuffed outside Adamson Barbecue and put into a police cruiser around noon Thursday.A crowd gathered Thursday outside the restaurant in support of him, with supporters swarming officers and shouting at them to let him go.Watch as Adamson Barbecue owner Adam Skelly is arrested by police for violating indoor dining rules.In a series of tweets, police said a 33-year-old has been arrested for attempting to obstruct police, and a second man was arrested for assaulting a police officer.The restaurant had its locks changed overnight to prevent the establishment from opening, a Toronto city official said Thursday.Skelly has been a vocal critic of COVID-19 lockdown measures implemented in Toronto and Peel Region this week, including a prohibition on indoor dining for at least 28 days.Over the past two days, the restaurant has been the scene of anti-mask demonstrations.Skelly posted on his Instagram account that he had intended to open the restaurant for indoor dining today. Brad Ross, spokesperson for the City of Toronto, said early this morning that the locks had been changed overnight.Skelly arrived at the location on Queen Elizabeth Boulevard shortly before 8 a.m. He entered the building through a backdoor.Ross later clarified that Skelly was allowed to go into the building to retrieve personal belongings from an area that does not have access to the restaurant itself."The order to change the locks and prohibit entry currently applies only to the restaurant (eating and food prep area of the building)," Ross wrote in a tweet. At a news conference yesterday, Toronto Police Superintendant Dom Sinopoli said the force is prepared to take further enforcement action if Skelly and his staff try to welcome patrons inside again. "We are in a position to stop him if he opens tomorrow or the next day. The strategy will change from day to day depending on what we are faced with," Sinopoli said.
Glen Quann, a 60-year-old London man, is dead following a collision on Highway 401 earlier this week, the Ontario Provincial Police said in a news release. The crash, which occurred around 11 a.m. Monday, took place after Quann's vehicle and another collided in the eastbound lanes of Highway 401, east of County Road 42. The passenger in Quann's vehicle was brought to hospital with life-threatening injuries. The driver and passenger of the other vehicle were not injured. At the time, police closed the eastbound lanes of Highway 401 at County Road 42 for several hours to complete an investigation. An investigation is still ongoing and police ask that anyone with information to contact the Ontario Provincial Police at 1-888-310-1122 or the Chatham-Kent detachment at (519) 352-1122. More from CBC Windsor
Some small businesses in rural P.E.I. are feeling the local love this year, thanks in part to a social media group called Support Local P.E.I.Cathy Donnelly started the group in April 2020 after someone asked her for a list of P.E.I.-owned and -operated businesses. She said that before she even finished creating the list, more than 200 people were wanting a copy, so she decided to create a Facebook group instead."I was always a supporter of local businesses, but with the [COVID] shut down it really struck me that, as businesses were being forced to shut their doors, many businesses were at risk of being shut down permanently," Donnelly wrote."People look to local businesses to support their sports teams, to donate to fundraisers, etc. Now, they needed our help."Donnelly said the page also helps show Islanders don't need to leave P.E.I. to get what they need."Farmers to supply meats, vegetables and of course potatoes, Island artisans for unique one-of-a-kind gifts, clothing stores, print shops, computer repair, accounting services, restaurants, bake shops and more," Donnelly wrote.'It's been dramatic'Margaret McEachern, who owns Knit Pickers in Mayfield, P.E.I., was one of the first businesses to join the Support Local P.E.I. group.She said the number of locals coming to her shop has grown since she started posting in the group."It's been dramatic, for me, most of my social media followers were from away and all over the world, but not too much locally," McEachern said. "When COVID hit, and the support local group opened up right about that time, as more and more people were joining, what I was finding is more and more people, local people, were connecting with me through social media, were interested in events." McEachern said those local connections mattered, as she faced a summer with limited tourist traffic on the Island, usually the mainstay of her business. "About 90 per cent would have been visitors, perhaps 10 per cent local and that certainly has shifted," McEachern said."Even in terms of the customers that I'm doing for Christmas now, it's almost all local. So that's really cool. People are really engaged and really supportive of the whole support local idea." Not just retailMcEachern said the group applies beyond just retailers. "It's also involving catering, for instance The Yellow House over in North Rustico caters events, and if you're having an event, hire a local musician," McEachern said."Support the local farmers or me. I'm also supporting local shepherds because the wool is local."McEachern said the group has also helped her build connections with other small businesses on P.E.I., and she has even started "knit nights" that bring locals into the shop. "The drop in income from visitors this summer, of course, is dramatic, but the support from locals has enabled me to stay open and to carry on," McEachern said."So without that, without the support of the local people, it would be a real challenge." 'Still surprised'Brenda Doiron is also feeling grateful for the support of the Support Local P.E.I. group.She opened The Makers Place in 2019, next to her home in Rusticoville, P.E.I., featuring the work of 25 artisans, including products she and her husband make."My first year I had no idea what to expect, but the majority of my customers were visitors, with some locals mixed in," Doiron said. "But this year, the local support was fantastic. A really conscious effort to support local."Doiron said her business is actually up this year, compared to last. "Crazily enough, better, being as 2019 was my first year, so the word wasn't out," Doiron said. "Then, with the real drive to support local this year made a huge difference. I am still surprised, every time I open the door, at the amount of people that are out looking for handmade, Island-made goods." 'Beautiful surprise'Last year, Doiron closed the shop at Thanksgiving, but is staying open weekends until Christmas this year, thanks to the increased local support."It's at peak now, it's the Christmas season," Doiron said. "But I do think it will continue, to some degree, because there's been a lot of great discoveries on the Island this year."Doiron said she wasn't sure what to expect of 2020."I was very unsure of even opening, because it was early COVID times, certainly not where I am now with people coming in and enjoying the shop as much as they are," Doiron said. "So it's just been a really beautiful surprise. I so appreciate it all."More from CBC P.E.I.
Although the Italian government says it won't make a COVID-19 vaccine compulsory - there is growing hesitation among Italians over its safety.View on euronews
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says enforcement officers are going back to St. Marys Bay in southwestern Nova Scotia where they seized hundreds of lobster traps on the weekend in an area used by Mi'kmaw fishermen.Todd Somerville, DFO's director of conservation and protection for the Maritimes, said 500 traps were seized for a variety of violations."Untagged gear, improperly configured gear, gear that hadn't been tended in a while. There was gear where dead lobsters were found. Over 6,000 lobsters, live lobsters, were returned to the waters as well," Somerville told CBC News."When we seize the gear, it's for a good reason."DFO said the hundreds of traps it seized were in a very small area of St. Marys Bay and there's more gear in the water it did not get to this week because of bad weather.Somerville said the operation will continue."The officers are eager to get back out there and make sure more work can get done," he said.Sipekne'katik traps seized, says chiefDFO did not seize every trap they checked.The vast majority they returned to the water had a Mi'kmaw communal food, social and ceremonial tag. They are regulated by DFO and band members get three traps.Some of the seized traps — it's not clear how many — belonged to the Sipekne'katik band's rights-based moderate livelihood fishery.Chief Mike Sack said many of the traps that were seized belong to his community. "Not all of them, of course, but the ones that were there and they're part of our livelihood fishery. We're in a process of getting those traps back," he said.Area closed to commercial fishingThe band's moderate livelihood fishery was launched this fall. It has not been authorized or approved by DFO. The area is currently closed to commercial fishing, which is scheduled to open next Monday.Sack said he's waiting to see evidence of improper practices tied to the moderate livelihood fishery."I don't think it will be the case. We're keeping a close eye on our people and making sure that they comply with our rules and regulations, which are close to DFO," Sack said.In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the treaty right of Mi'kmaq to fish for a moderate living regulated by DFO. The rules have never been defined.In September, Sipekne'katik said it would no longer wait and launched the self-regulated fishery in St. Marys Bay.It's a small-scale operation, with around 10 band members allotted 50 trap tags each.Sack said replacement moderate livelihood tags were issued to band members Wednesday."It's like they're trying to clear the way for the commercial industry days before the season starts. And that doesn't sit well with us," Sack told CBC News. "We're not going anywhere. We'll be back later today. We'll be fishing and we'll keep fishing until the lobsters move out of that area."Seizure justifies concerns, says commercial repColin Sproul, a spokesperson for commercial fishermen, welcomed the DFO operation.He said it confirms their long-held concerns about out-of-season fishing in St. Marys Bay by the Sipekne'katik band."We're really pleased to see the minister finally take action and we feel really vindicated, given that the enforcement actions showed so many violations of basic fishery conservation law,' Sproul said."But we're really disappointed that the minister chose to wait so long to take the action because it's allowed so many relationships to be fractured in our communities. And it's also taken away any fair chance to make a living for my members in St. Marys Bay this fall."Sproul blames out-of-season fishing for lower commercial catches in St. Marys Bay — a claim DFO denies.DFO: 'Our officers have been very active'Since 2017, commercial fishermen have complained about lobster fishing by the band in summer when the season is closed.In August, a judge convicted a lobster pound owner in the area of illegally selling lobster supplied and harvested under communal food, social and ceremonial licences by members of Sipekne'katik First Nation.The Crown called it a "black market" operation that threatened conservation.Somerville said that case and others — including the big trap seizure — shows DFO is acting to protect the stock."I would suggest our officers have been very active over the last few seasons on this matter," he said. "There's been a lot of effort placed into this and not all of our activities are visible. A lot of the investigative work isn't obvious or overt to the public."MORE TOP STORIES
A report produced by the N.W.T.'s department of industry, tourism and investment offers a peek into the dramatic negative impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked on the territory's tourism industry.Released earlier this month, "Tourism in the NWT: A Year in Review: 2019-2020" examines the tourism industry's performance from April 2019 through March 2020. The study uses data from several sources, including airport exit surveys, parks permitting reports, and visitor exit surveys.While the territory only saw a modest drop in visitors over that period — about two per cent — the monthly statistics for March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic and the territory closed its borders to non-essential travel, illustrate a dramatic drop.Airport passengers across the territory fell precipitously compared to March 2019. At the Yellowknife airport, the territory's largest, 14,174 passengers transited through the airport in March 2020, a 53.3 per cent drop from the year before.The decline was even greater in regional airport hubs: both Fort Smith and Hay River saw passenger volumes fall by more than 70 per cent, and in Fort Simpson, just six passengers were reported during the month, representing a drop of 99.5 per cent.The report also tracks hotel occupancy in Yellowknife, where in March 2020, occupancy fell to 48.4 per cent, a drop of more than 36 per cent from the previous year. In February, one month before the global pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization, occupancy sat at more than 82 per cent.Food and beverage spending in the territory during the month of March also fell by more than 32 per cent compared to the year prior.While the numbers only capture the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic on the territory's tourism industry, they largely correlate with concerns raised by tourism operators in the territory, many of whom have said they have had to alter or close their businesses during the pandemic.In April, Northwest Territories Tourism CEO Cathy Bolstad told CBC that they had already estimated an $18 million hit to the territory's tourism industry due to the pandemic.In response, the territorial and federal governments have offered some tourism related supports to businesses, in addition to more general COVID-19 relief funding available to small businesses.Territorial operators pivoted to "staycations" to residents during the summer months to cope with border restrictions, but still saw hundreds of job losses across the industry.