People across the prairies are making the most of the cold weather.
People across the prairies are making the most of the cold weather.
It’s hard to say what is the more impressive feat — remotely landing a spacecraft on Mars, or a kid from Norfolk County landing a job at NASA. Christopher Heirwegh’s unlikely trajectory took him from a Simcoe Composite School physics class to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), where an instrument he helped design is scanning the surface of Mars for signs of ancient life. “It’s been a very exciting past couple of weeks, starting with the anticipation leading up to the landing, followed by the joy of knowing it made it successfully,” said Heirwegh, 39, a few days after watching the Mars rover Perseverance complete its 300 million-mile journey to the Red Planet on Feb. 18. As Perseverance floated down to the surface, Heirwegh was on the edge of his seat at his home in Pasadena, Calif. His wife, Meagan, and their six-year-old daughter, Harper, were by his side, with the rest of Heirwegh’s JPL team sharing in the suspense on a video call. “It hit me right at that moment before landing, around the parachute phase, that things are going to come in fast, and oh boy, if this doesn’t make it, where do we go from here?” Heirwegh said. “There was certainly some tension.” Perseverance’s thrusters soon kicked in to start its powered descent, and a sky crane took over to gently place the rover on Mars. While mission control filled with the cheers of relieved scientists, the Heirweghs tucked into celebratory shawarma and cake. Now that Perseverance is trundling around the Jezero crater, Heirwegh’s work has just begun. The physicist is keeping a close eye on PIXL, a high-tech X-ray machine that has been his sole professional focus since joining NASA in 2016. PIXL — the Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry — is one of two instruments mounted on the lander’s robotic arm that will help answer the mission’s central question — has there been life on Mars? About the size of a lunch box, PIXL’s job is to scan Martian rocks for trace elements that could point to the presence of ancient life, while taking what Heirwegh describes as “super close-up pictures of rock and soil textures” that could reveal microbial evidence smaller than a grain of salt. PIXL has an X-ray tube at its heart, similar to what dentists use when photographing teeth. The scanner shoots pinpoint-sized X-ray beams into the rock, a process not unlike how artwork investigators chemically analyze paintings to detect forgeries. “We’re looking at things that tell us what the rock is made of, where the rock might have come from, if it was exposed to water, and also if it might have potentially harboured very primitive forms of life at one time,” Heirwegh explained. PIXL is best at finding evidence of inorganic material — heavier elements like calcium, lead and strontium — while another instrument on the rover, called SHERLOC, looks for “the building blocks of life,” lighter organic molecules like carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Together, they search for “biosignatures” suggestive of fossilized bacteria that may have called a Martian ocean home billions of years ago. “Our two instruments can each produce two-dimensional elemental maps,” Heirwegh said, likening each pinpoint of data collected to the pixels on a television that combine to form a clear picture. “We’re hoping we can eventually overlay the two maps so we can really get a good idea of what the rock is all about.” Reaching for the stars The grandson of tobacco farmers who immigrated to Norfolk County from Belgium, Heirwegh grew up enthralled by the stars in the night sky and the vastness of space. He never missed an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation — “mostly just the Rodenberry years,” he clarified — and pored over images of the solar system captured by the Voyager probes. “I found that pretty fascinating, and that kind of led me to what I do now,” he said. Mike and Laurie Heirwegh have followed their son’s career with pride. “Some of the stuff is way above what we understand. Christopher always keeps it as simple as possible for us,” Mike said with a laugh. Mike, a retired pharmacist and business owner, said his “studious” and “reserved” son excelled in a science-heavy course load at Simcoe Composite School. “Whitney, our daughter, said he had this microscope he got at Christmas and would project images up in his room and explain what was on the slides to her and her sister Danielle,” added Laurie, who owns a gift shop in Simcoe. Four years studying undergraduate science at McMaster University in Hamilton led to a master’s in medical physics at Mac, where Heirwegh first tried his hand at X-ray technology. He further studied X-ray fluorescence and radiation science while doing his PhD and post-doctoral fellowship in applied physics at the University of Guelph, which involved analyzing data collected by the Opportunity and Curiosity Mars rovers. That piqued NASA’s interest, creating a rare opportunity for a Canadian to join the Jet Propulsion Lab. “There were not too many people who were doing that,” Mike Heirwegh said. “To get a job like he’s doing in NASA, you have to be uniquely different than any American.” The family left their house in Guelph to make a new life in America, with Meagan Heirwegh, herself an accomplished academic, putting her career on hold so her husband could follow his dream. “She was extremely supportive of taking this step,” Heirwegh said. “That’s been a really key part of it, and something that helped me to have the courage to make such a drastic move.” While navigating the immigration process, Heirwegh got to work calibrating PIXL years ahead of its launch on Perseverance. Past Mars rovers have used X-ray fluorescence spectrometers, but PIXL is the first with an X-ray tube, a technological milestone Heirwegh finds “quite rewarding.” In the months ahead, Heirwegh and his fellow scientists will analyze the trove of scientific data Perseverance will transmit across space to the Jet Propulsion Lab, while making sure their high-tech scanner stays properly calibrated. To keep himself calibrated in what can be a high-pressure job, Heirwegh exercises every morning, and he and Meagan solve a Mensa puzzle together over breakfast. “It’s a nice way to jump-start the physical and mental gears,” he said. Heirwegh could not have known what the future held when he decided to leave Canada and boldly go to NASA to reach for the stars. But his parents say their son was destined to work on the Mars project. “I think the term ‘perseverance’ is very much like Christopher,” Mike said. “He persevered to get to where he is.” J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine would be like a “boulder has been taken off my back,” says Dundas senior Edward Northey. “When you think of our age and you take a whole year out of our lives,” he said. “I know there is nothing you can do about it, but it’s tough on older people.” Hamilton resident Natasha Charles and her sister-in-law tried the city’s overloaded phone line almost 500 times over three days to register their moms for vaccination. Ancaster’s Sheila Burman describes never letting her cellphone out of her sight so she doesn’t miss the call from St. Joseph’s Healthcare offering her one of the coveted 250 appointments a day at the West 5th campus that have been slotted for seniors age 85 and over. Mobile clinics rotating around the city are expecting to add another 200 appointments a day by Wednesday. “I’d love to hear from them,” said 87-year-old Burman. “I gave them my cellphone so now wherever I go this is tagging along with me around the house.” It is estimated Hamilton has 11,000 seniors aged 85 and older and their demand for the vaccine has overwhelmed the city’s registration line three days straight since it opened Saturday. “I do want to apologize for the widespread frustration and dissatisfaction with our COVID-19 hotline,” Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s medical officer of health, said at a city briefing Monday. “We do appreciate just how much people want to ensure both they themselves and their loved ones are registered and I’m very sorry for the angst this has been causing.” Charles started calling Saturday to register her 88-year-old mom and 94-year-old mother-in-law, who both receive home care. She says it took until Monday afternoon — an estimated 480 calls between her and her sister-in-law. “I literally had my phone in my hand all day long,” said the 66-year-old, who called up to 30 times an hour in what she described as “a very frustrating experience.” Both moms are on the wait list for long-term care and have limited mobility. It’s important they get their vaccines as soon as possible because they have multiple personal support workers who provide in-home care, so it would protect both the workers and her moms, Charles said. Though Charles was relieved to have gotten through, she worried for seniors who didn’t have people to help them navigate the process. “There are many seniors who don’t have advocates for them,” she said. “That’s my frustration with the system.” The city would have had to completely overhaul its phone system to meet the kind of volume that has been coming in over the last three days, says Paul Johnson, director of the city’s Emergency Operations Centre. “We’re not a call centre,” he said. “I know the frustration is there and it’s not a great scenario. The other option was to simply wait until the province’s system comes online and we just weren’t prepared to do that either.” Ontario’s booking system won’t be ready until March 15 with vaccinations for those 80 and over expected to start the third week in March. “Even though it’s clunky and it’s a little frustrating for individuals, it’s still faster now doing this than waiting until March 15,” said Mayor Fred Eisenberger. “If we had vaccine and we weren’t prepared to get it into the arms of individuals as soon as possible then we’d be in a very untenable position quite frankly.” The phone line can handle up to 150 calls at once with 11 operators. As of Monday, they’d registered 1,000 seniors. Northey just missed the cut off at age 83. Waiting those extra weeks to become eligible is hard for the Dundas resident who lives alone and only has close contact with one friend. He was with that friend in Florida when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to come home almost one year ago, so they packed up and have barely gone out since. “My neighbours are great, they pick up stuff at the supermarket for me,” he says. “I don’t go out anywhere because of my age and the fact that I’m asthmatic puts me in fairly vulnerable situation. I’m pretty anxious.” He misses his two sons and two grandsons who only have occasional outdoor distanced visits. They are “out and about and I don’t see them because they don’t want to be the one that transfers COVID to me and I can understand that,” he says. The snowbird has found the Canadian winter “depressing” and dreams of travelling again. Burman thinks of the freedom getting the vaccine would bring. “I would love to just wander around the store again and feel comfortable doing that,” said Burman, who uses curbside pickup. “I have been on quite a few things on Zoom but I really miss personally seeing my friends,” she said. “We play bridge online. I would love to be able to sit inside with masks on and play together and just see them ... It is lonely.” She’s glad she’s had her dog for company but longs to spend time with her three children and six grandchildren. It’s why she called the registration line around 30 times over the weekend. She was already on the list because she’s visited a site connected to Hamilton Health Sciences or St. Joseph’s in the last six months — but she wanted to be sure they didn’t miss her. “I feel very relieved,” she said. “I was worried (about getting COVID) because I kept on thinking, ‘What would I do here by myself.’” To register for a vaccine, eligible age groups can call 905-974-9848, and select option 7. Joanna Frketich, The Hamilton Spectator / Maria Iqbal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Des intervenants du milieu culturel local, des citoyens et la société d’histoire régionale ont multiplié les sorties publiques depuis l’annonce de la Ville de Granby de mettre aux enchères une murale de St-Patrick signée Alfred Pellan. La mobilisation n’a cependant eu aucun effet sur la position du maire Pascal Bonin. Lors de la réunion mensuelle du conseil municipal, lundi soir, plusieurs questions ont été adressées au maire au sujet du sort réservé à la mosaïque datant de 1958. L’œuvre d’art ornant la façade du 142, rue Dufferin devait à l’origine être retirée dans le but d’être mise en valeur dans un autre lieu public en raison de la démolition de l’immeuble. Le conseil municipal a toutefois changé d’avis après avoir reçu un rapport d’expertise évaluant l’opération de retrait et de restauration à quelque 160 000 $. C’est la présence d’amiante dans les murs de cette ancienne école primaire accueillant la communauté irlandaise de Granby qui expliquerait le coût élevé de la démarche. Dans le camp de ceux qui se portent à la défense de l’œuvre, décrite comme un objet patrimonial, c’est l’absence de consultation du public qui fâche. «Nous proposons que, dans un premier temps, la murale d’Alfred Pellan soit retirée de la façade de l’édifice de la MRC et qu’elle soit entreposée en lieu sûr. Dans un deuxième temps, la Ville devrait mettre sur pied un comité regroupant des élu(e)s et des citoyen(ne)s qui détermineront ensemble la meilleure façon d’assurer la préservation de ce bien patrimonial», a suggéré le président du conseil d’administration de la Société d’histoire de la Haute-Yamaska (SHHY), Maxime Gilbert, dans une question écrite transmise au conseil en raison de la procédure imposée en temps de pandémie. Dans sa missive au conseil, M. Gilbert a souligné que «la précipitation serait bien mauvaise conseillère» et il a rappelé aux élus que la communauté regrette encore aujourd’hui la destruction d’autres éléments de valeur patrimoniale dans le passé. La semaine dernière, un autre groupe s’est manifesté, soit le comité «Ma ville, mon patrimoine» qui réunit des artisans du milieu culturel local. Ils ont interpellé les citoyens par l’entremise des réseaux sociaux en leur demandant d’écrire des courriels aux élus. Ils ont même préparé un modèle de lettre à personnaliser. «Sauver des édifices, des œuvres d’art et des sculptures, ce n’est pas juste pour les autres ailleurs au Québec. Nous pouvons ensemble demander à notre conseil municipal de revenir sur cette décision», peut-on lire dans la publication sur Facebook du comité. Face à cette réaction citoyenne, le maire de Granby, Pascal Bonin, a réagi en début de réunion du conseil avec l’intention de clore le débat. «Il y a des gens qui nous demandent d'enlever l'oeuvre et d'attendre ensuite voir ce qu'on va en faire. Ça fait partie intégrante de la problématique. C'est-à-dire qu'on ne peut pas enlever l'oeuvre à cause de l'amiante qui se trouve derrière dans l'édifice. Ce n'est pas possible de retirer l'oeuvre aussi simplement. Si ça avait été le cas, ça fait longtemps qu'on l'aurait fait», a-t-il répondu en insistant sur la qualité du rapport remis aux élus. «On peut se faire reprocher de ne pas avoir consulté, mais au final, c'est un dossier qui a été bien monté au conseil. Il n'y a rien de nouveau à part la divergence d'opinions», a-t-il poursuivi, en rejetant les attaques selon lesquelles Granby ne se soucie pas de son patrimoine. Le maire a rappelé qu’un projet de dix millions de dollars vient d’être réalisé pour préserver l’église Notre-Dame, la plus vieille église catholique de la municipalité. À la suite de la réponse du maire Bonin, le comité «Ma ville, mon patrimoine» a réagi sur sa page Facebook en reprochant au conseil municipal de faire «la sourde oreille aux citoyens». Les membres déplorent un manque d’ouverture aux «arguments valables» apportés par les citoyens. Ugo Giguère, Initiative de journalisme local, La Presse Canadienne
Texas on Tuesday became the biggest state to lift its mask rule, joining a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the U.S. to loosen COVID-19 restrictions despite pleas from health officials not to let down their guard yet. The state will also do away with limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who made the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock. The governors of Michigan and Louisiana likewise eased up on bars, restaurants and other businesses Tuesday, as did the mayor of San Francisco. “Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed." A year into the outbreak, politicians and ordinary Americans alike have grown tired of rules meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed over a half-million people in the United States. Some places are lifting infection control measures; in other places, people are ignoring them. Top health officials, including the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have responded by begging people repeatedly not to risk another deadly wave of contagion just when the nation is making progress in vaccinating people and victory over the pandemic is in sight. U.S. cases have plunged more than 70% over the past two months from an average of nearly 250,000 new infections a day, while average deaths per day have plummeted about 40% since mid-January. But the two curves have levelled off abruptly in the past several days and have even risen slightly, and the numbers are still running at alarmingly high levels, with an average of about 2,000 deaths and 68,000 cases per day. Health officials are increasingly worried about virus mutations. “We stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warned on Monday. Even so, many states are allowing restaurants to resume indoor dining, reopening movie theatres and expanding mass gatherings, while Americans are eager to socialize again. An Indianapolis-area bar was filled with maskless patrons over the weekend. In Southern California, people waited in lines that snaked through a parking lot on a recent weekday afternoon for the chance to shop and eat at Downtown Disney, part of the Disneyland. (The theme park's rides remain closed.) And Florida is getting ready to welcome students on spring break. “People want to stay safe, but at the same time, the fatigue has hit,” said Ryan Luke, who is organizing a weekend rally in Eagle, Idaho, to encourage people to patronize businesses that don’t require masks. "We just want to live a quasi-normal life.” Miichael Junge argued against a mask mandate when officials in the Missouri tourist town of Branson passed one and said he hasn’t enforced it in his Lost Boys Barber Company. He said he is sick of it. “I think the whole thing is a joke honestly,” he said. “They originally said that this was going to go for a month and they have pushed it out to indefinitely. ... It should have been done a long time ago.” In San Francisco, and upbeat Mayor London Breed announced that California gave the green light to indoor dining and the reopening of of movie theatres and gyms. Florida is getting ready for spring break travellers to flock to its sunny beaches. The state is considered to be in an “active outbreak,” along with Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and South Carolina, according to the data-tracking website CovidActNow. Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis made it clear during his annual State of the State speech Tuesday that he welcomes more visitors to Florida in his drive to keep the state’s economy thriving. Municipalities can impose their own mask rules and curfews, restrict beach access and place some limits on bars and restaurants, but some have virtually no such measures in place ahead of the season. Miami Beach will require masks both indoors and out and will restrict the number of people allowed on the beach as well as in bars and restaurants. “If you want to party without restrictions, then go somewhere else. Go to Vegas,” Miami Beach City Manager Raul Aguila said during a recent virtual meeting. “We will be taking a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour.” In Michigan, a group called All Business Is Essential has resisted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s virus policies, and many people are abandoning mask requirements and other measures, said group leader Erik Kiilunen. “At some point you’ve got to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘Do I want a zero-risk life?’” he said. “It’s become a farce, really. People have quit living for a year, at what price?” “I think everybody wants things to get back the way they were,” said Aubrey D. Jenkins, the fire chief in Columbia, South Carolina, whose department issues dozens of $100 citations every weekend to bar-goers who refuse to wear masks or keep their distance. “But we still have to be real cautious.” ___ Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahasee, Florida; Anila Yoganathan in Tucker, Georgia; John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar in Washington; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Paul J. Webber in Austin, Texas; Janie Har in San Francisco; and David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, contributed to this story. The Associated Press
OTTAWA — A House of Commons committee is unanimously urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to promise he won't call a federal election while the COVID-19 pandemic rages across Canada.In a report by the procedure and House affairs committee, even Liberal members supported a recommendation calling for a commitment that there will be no election during the pandemic, unless Trudeau's minority Liberal government is defeated on a confidence vote.The committee makes no similar call for opposition parties to promise not to trigger an election during the pandemic by voting non-confidence in the government.However, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has vowed his party won't vote to bring the government down as long as the country is in the grip of COVID-19.That should be enough to ensure the survival of the minority Liberal government for the foreseeable future, unless Trudeau decides to trigger an election himself.Trudeau has repeatedly insisted he has no interest in forcing an election but opposition parties remain suspicious."Unfortunately, the Liberal government has already indicated their desire to recklessly send Canadians to the polls at whatever time they deem to be the most advantageous for the prime minister," the Conservatives say in a supplementary report to the committee's report.Indeed, the Conservatives assert, without explanation, that Trudeau has already tried to orchestrate his government's defeat.They thank Liberal committee members for taking "a stand against the whims of the prime minister, who has been eagerly pressing towards an election for the last few months."At the same time, Conservatives have been pursuing a strategy that could give Trudeau justification for calling an election: They've been systematically blocking the government's legislative agenda, including repeatedly delaying a bill authorizing billions in pandemic-related aid.They have also blocked debate on a bill that would give Elections Canada special powers to conduct an election safely, if need be, during the pandemic.Bill C-19 is the government's response to chief electoral officer Stephane Perrault, who has said special measures are urgent given that a minority government is inherently unstable and could theoretically fall at any time. However, some opposition MPs view the legislation as proof that the Liberals are planning to trigger an election.In their own supplementary report, New Democrats argue that an election in the midst of the pandemic "has the potential to undermine the health of our democracy." They point to the current delay in Newfoundland and Labrador's election due to a COVID outbreak as an example of the "delays, confusion and unforeseen barriers in voting" that could undermine Canadians' confidence in the outcome of a federal election."This raises the spectre of a government whose political legitimacy is openly challenged," the NDP committee members say, adding that could lead to the kind of crisis that provoked a riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 by supporters of former president Donald Trump.The Capitol riot, sparked by Trump's unfounded claims that mail-in ballots were fraudulent, appears to have been on the minds of opposition committee members when it comes to other recommendations for how to safely conduct an election, if necessary, during the pandemic.Anticipating a massive increase in mail-in ballots, the chief electoral officer has, among other things, suggested that mail-in ballots received one day after the close of in-person polls should still be counted.The Conservatives say the procedure and House affairs committee should have rejected that proposal, arguing that "the election should end on Election Day and Canadians deserve to know the results without delay."Bloc Quebecois committee members, in their supplementary report, similarly argue that extending the deadline for receipt of mail-in ballots "would delay the election results, which would fuel voter suspicion and undermine confidence in the electoral system, which is obviously undesirable."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations, the province said Tuesday, but it remained unclear who those shots would go to. Health Minister Christine Elliott said Ontario plans to follow the advice of a national panel that's recommended against using the newly approved vaccine on people aged 65 and older. "Anyone over that age it’s recommended that they receive either the Pfizer or the Moderna vaccine," Elliott said. There are no concerns that the vaccine is unsafe for use, but the National Advisory Committee on Immunization said this week that the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are preferred for seniors due to "suggested superior efficacy.'' Elliott said the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot is still a "very versatile" vaccine because it doesn't have the same cold storage requirements as the other two. As a result, the newly approved shot might be used in correctional facilities, she said, although she did not provide further details. Canada is set to receive a half-million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine Wednesday, according to the federal procurement minister. Elliott said an updated vaccination plan that factors in expected Oxford-AstraZeneca supply will be shared soon but the province is first awaiting federal guidance about potentially extending the interval of time between first and second doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months. "There's a lot that is in the mix right now, but we expect that to be finalized very shortly and we will be making a public announcement of the plan very soon," Elliott said. British Columbia announced Monday that it was implementing the four-month interval for doses. Elliott said extending the time between doses would make a "considerable" difference in the vaccine rollout, but the government wants to make its decision based on scientific advice. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the lack of clarity on the government's vaccine distribution plan is troubling. "Why isn't the government being upfront, being clear, being transparent about what the plan is," she said. "I don't think the government is providing any of that information and Ontarians deserve to know." Ontario has so far focused on vaccinating the highest-priority groups, including long-term care residents and certain health-care workers. The province has said it aims to start vaccinating residents aged 80 and older starting the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some public health units, however, have moved ahead with vaccinations for the general population, starting with the 80 and older cohort. Those units are taking bookings for immunizations through their own web or phone systems as a provincial portal remains under development. In London, Ont., the city's top doctor said the health unit booked more than 5,000 appointments for seniors aged 80 and older within two hours of opening its booking system Tuesday morning. "Tremendous response from the 80+ crowd!" Dr. Chris Mackie wrote on Twitter, adding that the phone line was "overwhelmed" with 145,000 calls. In York Region, seniors lined up outside large vaccination sites for the second day in a row, many leaning on walkers or wheelchairs in the cold weather. Hamilton and Guelph reported long wait times amid high call volumes as vaccines were made available to older residents. The province, meanwhile, began testing its vaccine booking web portal in six public health units on Monday ahead of its full launch on March 15. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit said Tuesday that it was testing the portal with a small group of health-care workers already scheduled to be vaccinated. "We are evaluating the results of this pilot to help inform further development of the system before it opens up for the community," it said. Participants were contacted through their employer and the health unit said it's not yet making appointments for those in the 80 and older age cohort. Ontario reported 966 more COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and 11 more deaths from the virus. It has administered a total of 727,021 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine so far. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
Daniel Jean, 54, of Pont-Landry on the Acadian Peninsula has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Monique Gallien, whose body was discovered on a road in the area. Gallien, 49, from the Tracadie area, was found dead on Feb. 24 next to a vehicle on Chemin W. Gautreau. An autopsy revealed her death was homicide, RCMP said. RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Nick Arbour said Tuesday that Jean and Gallien "knew each other," but he would not elaborate on their relationship. Jean appeared in Tracadie provincial court on Monday and was ordered to undergo a five-day examination for his fitness to stand trial. He is to return to court on March 8. No other details about the homicide were available, and Arbour said these would have to come during the court process.
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria — Jihadis linked to the Islamic State group attacked the northeastern Nigerian town of Dikwa and humanitarian posts there, security officials said. The attack in Borno state that began late Monday night came about 48 hours after the governor of Borno state, Babagana Zulum, visited the community along with other officials, to distribute cash and food to displaced families there. The assailants arrived in trucks and motorcycles, surrounding residents and people staying at a camp for people who are displaced within Nigeria, residents said. The member representing Dikwa at the Borno state House of Assembly, Zakariya Dikwa, said they burned down the police station, the primary health centre and attacked humanitarian offices and left with their vehicles. “The attack was massive because the Boko Haram fighters went there with over 13 gun trucks — all of which had their bodies pasted with mud,” he said. The military later confirmed the fighters are with Boko Haram offshoot The Islamic State of West Africa Province, known as ISWAP. It said in a statement Tuesday that the military had routed the jihadis from Dikwa with heavy bombardment and firepower. The jihadis tried to invade the town after hearing of the food distribution. The U.N. co-ordinator of humanitarian affairs in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, also confirmed an attack on humanitarian facilities in Dikwa, saying several aid facilities were directly targeted, in a statement released by the UNOCHA office in Nigeria. “The attack started last night and, as information is still coming through, I am outraged to hear the premises of several aid agencies and a hospital were reportedly set ablaze or sustained damage,” he said. “I strongly condemn the attack and am deeply concerned about the safety and security of civilians in Dikwa, including internally displaced people inside and outside camps and thousands of people who had returned to the community to rebuild their lives after years in displacement.” The attack “will affect the support provided to nearly 100,000 people who are desperately in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic risks spreading in Borno State,” he said. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “the humanitarian hub was managed by the International Organization for Migration," the U.N. agency that provides services and advice concerning migration to governments and migrants, including internally displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers. ISWAP split from Boko Haram in 2016 and has become a threat in the region. Nigeria has been fighting the more than 10-year Boko Haram insurgency that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions. Haruna Umar, The Associated Press
On Wednesday, the verdict in Toronto’s van attack trial will be revealed. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Erica Vella reports.
TORONTO — Ontarians should be encouraged to see friends and relatives outdoors in the coming months, some health experts said Tuesday in stressing the need for realistic pandemic guidance following a winter of isolation. Now that most of the province has emerged from the stay-at-home order imposed in January, it's crucial to give residents safer options to socialize to help prevent another spike in COVID-19 infections, particularly in light of new, more contagious variants of the virus, some experts said. "It's really important now that we find realistic solutions for people, and what we know is that we by all means should avoid ... that people now congregate inside," said Dr. Peter Juni, an epidemiologist and director of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. "People are social animals. We need something to balance ourselves mentally, socially, and psychologically, and so we will need to find a good way forward." A simple message – that outdoor, distanced gatherings are safer, while any indoor gatherings with people from other households should be avoided – should help people make decisions based on common sense, he said. Juni said he felt the need to bring the issue to the science table after seeing photos of large crowds and lineups inside malls and big box stores over the weekend, which he said gave him "goosebumps." The group will discuss possible recommendations to the province regarding messaging related to gatherings over the next few weeks, he said. While being outdoors doesn't mean there is zero risk of infection, that risk becomes "minimal" if people also follow distancing and masking guidelines, he said. By comparison, congregating indoors is "playing with fire," he said. Dr. Nitin Mohan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University, said switching the messaging to promote outdoor activities makes sense from a harm reduction standpoint. "Folks have been indoors for quite some time. We know the mental health and other psychological issues that are going to be a result ... of our lockdown and quarantine measures," he said. "So if folks can get outdoors and it's safe to do so, I think it should be encouraged." There is a risk people may get used to seeing their loved ones when the weather is nice, and then break the rules when it's too cold or snowy to meet outdoors, Mohan said. "Are you comfortable saying, 'hey we probably can't see each other today, let's wait until it gets warmer,' or does it become sort of a lack of compliance where 'hey, we've already seen each other outside, it's no big deal to come inside for a quick cup of coffee,'" he said. "And that's where it becomes problematic." People also have to be reasonable in terms of the kinds of gatherings they're having, Mohan said, noting it won't be safe to have "500 people in a backyard barbecue." Timothy Sly, an epidemiologist and professor at Ryerson University, echoed that warning. "In very general terms, 'outdoors' presents a huge reduction in risk, all other factors being unchanged. BUT this is NOT the time for throwing the masks away and getting into yelling at sports arenas or close-up BBQ parties," he said in an email. "Those will be super-spreader events for sure, especially with the new variants." Most of Ontario has returned to the government's colour-coded system of pandemic restrictions after weeks under an order that required residents to stay home except for essential activities. The government still advises all residents to limit close contact to those in their household. Restrictions regarding gatherings vary between the colour-coded zones, with the more stringent grey or lockdown zone prohibiting indoor gatherings and allowing outdoor ones of up to 10 people with distancing measures in place. Regions in the green, or least restrictive, zone permit private gatherings of up to 10 people indoors and 25 outdoors, along with events of up to 50 people indoors and up to 100 outdoors, all with distancing measures in place. Three regions -- Toronto, Peel, and North Bay-Parry Sound -- remain under the stay-at-home order that's set to last until March 8. A spokeswoman for Health Minister Christine Elliott did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the possibility of updating the guidelines on outdoor gatherings. Health officials in Toronto, meanwhile, said their guidance on socializing remains the same. "Our advice at this time is still to try to maintain as much distance and to not interact with people with whom you don't live," the city's top public health doctor, Dr. Eileen de Villa, said earlier this week. "And if you have to be outside, to really keep your distance and to ensure that you're wearing your mask as much as possible." - with files from Denise Paglinawan This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
LINCOLN, Neb. — The Biden administration's plan to funnel more coronavirus aid into states with greater unemployment has irked governors with lower jobless rates, even though many have economies that weren't hit as hard by the pandemic. The $1.9 trillion relief bill working its way through Congress allocates extra money to larger, mostly Democratic-run states with higher unemployment rates, while rural Midwestern and Southern states that tend to have Republican governors and better jobless numbers would benefit less. “You're penalizing people who have done the right thing," said Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican whose state has reported the nation's lowest unemployment rate over the last several months. “That's not the way you want to approach any sort of government program.” Ricketts was one of 22 governors — 21 Republicans and one Democrat — who have criticized the change in the pandemic relief proposal. Under previous coronavirus packages signed by former President Donald Trump, aid was distributed by population. If the new funding formula is approved, states including California, New York and New Jersey would each see a boost of more than $2 billion, while Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio would all see aid reductions greater than $500 million. Georgia and Florida would see losses of more than $1.2 billion. Many of the Republican-led states have taken a more hands-off approach to the pandemic to try to keep businesses open, while Democratic states argued that tighter mandates were necessary to save lives and help their economies over the long term. The White House defended President Joe Biden's distribution plan, saying it targets money to areas where it will have the biggest impact. “President Biden's rescue plan is focused on quickly getting help to the people and communities that need it most,” said Michael Gwin, director of White House rapid response. Iowa State University economist David Swenson said the White House's approach makes some sense because the states with the highest unemployment rates are generally the ones that relied more on industries battered by the pandemic, such as tourism. “If proportionally more people are unemployed in Las Vegas and California and other places that are entertainment destinations, then it would make sense to send money to those places instead of Iowa and Nebraska,” Swenson said. Critics argued that many of the hardest-hit states had higher jobless rates even before the pandemic began. “Some states just have naturally lower unemployment rates,” said Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha. “That's one of the problems with doing it that way.” Goss said it might make more sense to distribute aid to states that saw the biggest increases in unemployment during the pandemic. But he cautioned that the unemployment rate is still an incomplete measure of any state's economy, because it doesn't count people who have stopped looking for work. Ohio Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said his state's jobless rate is likely unreliable because of massive unemployment fraud. He said Ohio has made multiple efforts to return people to work safely, but the new funding formula would cost his state about $800 million in federal aid. “Doing things that put people back to work actually are going to cost us relief dollars that the people who aren't back to work actually need,” Husted said Monday. “We don't feel that is a fair way to do this.” Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said the funding formula “punishes states that took a measured approach to the pandemic and entered the crisis with healthy state budgets and strong economies.” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican who vice chairs the National Governors Association, last month raised concerns about using unemployment when he and other governors met with Biden. “That’s really a disincentive for economic growth and people working,” Hutchinson told The Associated Press after the meeting. ___ Contributing are Associated Press reporters Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus, Ohio; Andrew DeMillo in Little Rock, Arkansas; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Josh Boak in Baltimore; and Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida. ___ Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte Grant Schulte, The Associated Press
Decisions about what constitutes "safe" indoor fitness activities will be left to gym owners and their clients, Alberta's health minister says. Under Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan, announced on Monday, gyms and fitness centres were allowed to reopen for "low-intensity" activities. Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Tuesday there was some confusion about which activities would be allowed and tried to clear that up. "If you operate a gym, you can be open," he said. "That is perfectly within the rules." Shandro said "low-intensity" activities are those that don't significantly raise a person's breathing rate, and said gyms and clients will be allowed to make such decisions for themselves. "We're relying on owners and clients to use judgment, to show good faith," Shandro said at a news conference. Alberta reported two more deaths and 257 news cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Hospitals were treating 261 patients for the illness, including 54 in ICU beds. The province identified another 35 cases of more-contagious variants of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours. Testing has now confirmed 484 cases of a variant first identified in the United Kingdom and eight of a variant first identified in South Africa. B.C. model successful Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said physical activity and fitness play an importance role in overall physical and mental health, which is why the province wanted to find ways to safely reopen gyms and fitness centres for "lower-risk" individual activities. She said the province believe operators are committed to providing safe environments to prevent COVID-19 spread. "We also heard from some stakeholders that the B.C. model that uses a differentiation between high- and low-intensity exercise had been successful in that province," she said. "We know that COVID-19 spreads in droplets, and when we are engaged in high-intensity activities, defined … as activities where our breathing rate gets faster, we know that we produce more droplets, and increase the risk of virus spread." WATCH | Health minister explains province's approach to indoor fitness restrictions B.C. took a similar approach, she said, and COVID-19 numbers there been relatively stable. "With this in mind, we looked for ways to open up facilities for Albertans that would allow for low-intensity activities in gyms, and we chose to implement an approach similar to B.C.," she said. "This empowers operators to tailor their programs for clients to calibrate their services to the activities that will improve fitness while minimizing COVID-19 risk." No caps on attendance Rather than using caps on attendance, such as those put in place for restaurants and retails shops, gyms will limit their capacity by using physical-distancing protocols that require a minimum of three metres between clients, Hinshaw said. "This approach still limits the capacity of facilities for safety, but is more flexible and responsive to the spacing of individual workout areas, rather than a specific number," she said. "I know that finding ways to stay active when gyms are closed can be more difficult in the cold winter months. Fortunately the days are getting warmer and longer, so that provides more opportunities for everyone to get outside for exercise and fresh air. Current health measures allow for outdoor physical activity in groups of up to 10, Hinshaw said, so long as people are at least two metres apart. Alberta Health Services will work closely with gyms and fitness centres to provide education and support, she said. "Penalties would only be used when there are intentional and repeated violations of safety rules." Relaunch moving ahead Alberta eased some public health restrictions on Monday, marking the beginning of Step 2 of the province's relaunch plan. Libraries are now allowed to reopen with 15 per cent of fire-code capacity, and fitness centres can resume low-intensity individual and group workouts for adults. Alberta implemented into Step 1 of its relaunch on Feb. 8, when restaurants and bars were permitted to reopen for indoor service.
There can be a feeling of information overload when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks in part to daily case counts, shifting alert levels and changing restrictions. Many might be familiar with 811, the province's healthline, and the COVID-19 online assessment form (which is your first stop if you think you require a test). But there are other phone numbers that can help with information and support, too. The Canadian Red Cross: 1-800-863-6582 They will help people who don't have a place to self-isolate, and will help people already in isolation who need essential items. Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668 It's available 24/7 and people can speak with a mental health clinician. Domestic violence hotline: 1-888-709-7090 It's available 24/7, and connects people with a trained professional who can provide information, connect them to the appropriate agencies, and more. Provincial help line: 1-855-753-2560 If you're feeling anxious or alone, a trained support worker can take your call, seven days a week, from 9 a.m. to midnight. First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness help line: 1-855-242-3310 It's available 24/7 and offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Counselling is available in English and French and on request in Cree, Ojibway and Inuktitut. N.L. government services Labour Standards Division:709-729-2742 If you are an employer or an employee with questions related to taking time off for reasons related to COVID-19, you can get answers by calling between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, or emailing email@example.com. Various government services: 1-833-771-0696 The provincial government is operating at a reduced capacity, and some in-person service is temporarily suspended. Some have moved online and can be found here. For those who want to call, the hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Federal benefits and subsidies The federal government has benefits that cover a variety of people: if you're a business owner affected by the pandemic, if you need to take time off to self-isolate, or to take care of loved ones. The criteria vary, so does the amount you might be eligible for. That information is available here. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — In all, Lionel Desmond spent five years seeking treatment for debilitating mental disorders that emerged after he served as an infantryman during a violent tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2007. In 2011, he was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression while still serving in the military. But it wasn't until 2016 — almost a year after he was discharged from the military — that he was also diagnosed with "mixed personality traits," an inquiry in Nova Scotia learned Tuesday. The provincial fatality inquiry is investigating why the former corporal bought a rifle on Jan. 3, 2017 and fatally shot his 31-year-old wife, Shanna, their 10-year-old daughter, Aaliyah, and his 52-year-old mother, Brenda, before killing himself in their rural Nova Scotia home. The inquiry has heard much evidence about Desmond's PTSD and depression, mental disorders that combined to cause poor sleep, vivid nightmares, anti-social behaviour, hyper-vigilance and flashbacks that forced him to relive gruesome firefights. But something new was introduced Tuesday by Dr. Robert Ouellette, a psychiatrist at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Montreal, where Desmond was assessed and received in-patient treatment between May 30 and Aug. 15, 2016. Ouellette said Desmond also suffered from so-called mixed personality traits, which mainly involved obsessive compulsive and paranoid behaviour. The psychiatrist said these traits, which were not full-blown disorders, complicated Desmond's treatment because they made him suspicious of other people's motives and unwilling to trust others. "He was not sure if we were working with him or against him," Ouellette testified. As well, Ouellette said these traits seemed to feed Desmond's mistrust and jealousy towards his wife. "They doubt everybody," he said, referring to Desmond's condition. "They will not confide in others because they feel they will turn against them." Ouellette said Desmond's anger and jealousy toward his wife wasn't caused by his PTSD, but the psychiatrist said the condition "might have exacerbated these traits of his personality." Ouellette stressed that the former corporal would have benefited from taking additional medications, something he agreed to do before he arrived at the hospital. But by June 16, 2016, Desmond told Ouellette he would not be taking more drugs. At one point, Desmond told the psychiatrist: "You're not going to take the demon out of me." Still, Ouellette said his patient had made progress in the initial stabilization program, when he reported better sleep patterns, more energy, increased socialization and virtually no depression. That's why Ouellette recommended Desmond for the residential phase of the treatment program, even though he felt his chances for success were only "50/50." In the end, Desmond refused to take new medications, and he left the treatment program before it was finished in August 2016, the inquiry has heard. "If he would have taken the right medications, he would have shown more progress in the residential program and later at home," Ouellette said. The prescribed medications and therapy at the hospital would have also helped Desmond control his outbursts, he said. "Anger was a major problem for him," he said. When asked if Desmond should have been able to access firearms, Ouellette said that would have been a bad idea, mainly because of his anger management challenges. Despite Desmond's lack of co-operation when it came to medications, Ouellette reported that his patient was highly motivated to attend the residential program because he was desperate to become a better father and husband. "There were a lot of problems with his wife," Ouellette said. "He made that the purpose of being with us .... He was always talking more about his marital life than his PTSD symptoms." Ouellette said Desmond's wife told hospital staff that her husband had never been physically violent toward her and their daughter, and she said she was not afraid of him. The psychiatrist said Shanna and Aaliyah Desmond had visited him in Montreal for four days, and there was every indication it was a successful encounter. Desmond left the hospital in August 2016. The inquiry has heard that Desmond received no therapeutic treatment for the next four months, even though Veterans Affairs Canada was in the process of getting him the help he needed. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. — By Michael MacDonald in Halifax The Canadian Press
LOS ANGELES — Jhene Aiko will take on hosting duties at the Grammy Awards premiere ceremony this month. The Recording Academy announced Tuesday that the Grammy-nominated singer will host the pre-show, where most trophies are awarded. It will be streamed live on the Grammy’s website ahead of the 63rd annual ceremony on March 14. The Grammys will be held in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. The pre-show will feature performances by rapper Burna Boy, singer Rufus Wainwright, jazz band Terri Lyne Carrington + Social Science, pianist Igor Levit, singer Poppy and Latin electropop musician Lido Pimienta. Aiko’s third studio album “Chilombo” is nominated for album of the year and best progressive R&B album. She’s also up for best R&B performance for her song “Lightning & Thunder,” featuring John Legend. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Last year's confluence of COVID-19 and Donald Trump exposed the urgent need to reinvent North America, experts across the continent agreed Tuesday as they explored how best to fortify its trilateral ties. The Washington-based Wilson Center convened a virtual gathering of 13 different academics, ambassadors and diplomats from all three countries to flesh out the idea of renewing the North American relationship. The prospect has been much discussed in recent days, thanks to a flurry of high-profile political meetings between American leaders and their Canadian or Mexican counterparts aimed at signalling U.S. President Joe Biden's post-Trump commitment to multilateral diplomacy. But there's a risk that the movement never rises beyond the level of well-crafted political rhetoric, said Alan Bersin, former chief diplomatic officer of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To work, he said, the endeavour will need buy-in at the grassroots level in all three countries, as well as from the business community. Trump "did create an impetus for business, for the first time, to recognize that they better defend the shared production platform that has arisen in the last 25 years in North America," Bersin said. "We can do it much better together than we can do it alone." That will be more easily said than done, he added — noting the fact that each of the three countries has a different name for the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaced NAFTA last year. Each country puts its own name first. "We've got to actually start to create an atmosphere and an understanding broadly that it's better for us to face the world together in the next generation than to concentrate on our separate paths." Perhaps the starkest illustration of the fragility of North American supply chains, even in the age of the USMCA, came last April when Trump ordered Minnesota-based 3M to stop exporting American-made N95 respirators outside the country. The company itself, which pushed back on humanitarian grounds, eventually defused the crisis by promising to meet demand in the U.S. by importing masks from its overseas facilities. Trump's protectionist instincts have lingered, however: the Biden administration has so far shown no interest in reversing the former president's insistence that U.S.-made vaccines be reserved for American arms. Canada needs to take stock now about how to inoculate itself from similar problems before the next pandemic hits, said Michael Grant, assistant deputy minister for the Americas with Global Affairs Canada. "We need to be prepared for something like this happening again," said Grant, calling for a "Fortress North America" approach that would prioritize supply lines within the continent itself. "There are some fragilities there that I think we need to work on." For 20 years, businesses and ordinary citizens alike have embraced the idea of North America as a single, unified region, said Bill Crosbie, formerly director general of the North America Bureau, which oversees Canadian embassies and consulates across the continent. Only at the political level have relations between the three seen ups and downs, he said. "The government, top-down side of things, it waxes and wanes, and it has waned over the past few years," Crosbie said. "But if we can bring back to the table ... the areas where we have joined up, where we've been successful — either as governments or as the private sector or as civil societies — we can build on those successes to demonstrate that this collaboration is delivering real benefits for people in all three countries. Tuesday's virtual conference kicked off the Wilson Center's "North America 2.0" project aimed at floating policy recommendations for a more unified trilateral relationship. But it also followed nearly a solid week of earnest bilateral conversations between high-level leaders in all three countries, beginning with Biden's virtual meeting Feb. 23 with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The centrepiece of that meeting — a "Road Map for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership" — detailed a "whole-of-government" effort to co-operate in a number of areas of mutual interest. Those included beating back COVID-19 and resurrecting the pandemic-battered North American economy, a united front against climate change, addressing income inequality and social injustice on both sides of the border and restoring global faith in multilateral institutions like the World Trade Organization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press
When student archivist Claire Hunter began painstakingly restoring old land grants from the 19th century, she had no idea the writing material wasn't paper. She thought she was dealing with standard paper documents, but a co-worker started caling the parchments "chew toys," and that's when Hunter realized what she was working on. "Back in the day for land grants, they'd actually stretch cattle and sheep and pigskin, it's actually skin from animals," said Hunter, who works at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. "You can see the follicles on the paper depending on if it's really, really dry … I never knew that it was stretched animal skin." Parchment paper, not to be confused with the wax paper–like product used in baking, has been used as writing material for over 2,000 years. Hunter said there are lots of regular paper land grants at the archives, but these specimens are affixed with stamps and seem "fancier" than the rest. "They're very official," said Hunter. "When you find out the material, it definitely seems more important as well, than compared to just using paper." She says there are some special steps archivists have to take when preserving these documents. "The material is kind of sticky," said Hunter. "So when you're mending it and flattening it, you have to be very careful because it can stick to each other because of this type of material. And you don't want to mend it in a way that will be irreversible because it is sticky." And for Hunter, a recent graduate from a fine arts program, the chance to work with the documents is a challenge. "To switch up and have to learn a new material is so exciting, and it is very interesting," she said. Hunter said parchment can be both easier and more difficult to preserve. "The material is definitely going to last longer because paper can easily be eaten away," said Hunter. "But the only thing too, with this being skin, bugs are attracted to it more … So if you don't house it properly, which we do here, it can be destroyed more easily."
For author Eden Robinson, saying goodbye to the "Trickster" trilogy feels like a "mutual breakup." For the past decade, Robinson says the supernatural book series had been occupying her mind from the moment she wakes up, to those last hazy thoughts while drifting off to sleep. As "Return of the Trickster" hit shelves Tuesday, Robinson, who is from the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, said the culmination of her coming-of-age tale about a young Indigenous man grappling with his magical family history has created a conscious void. "It's left a huge hole where I wake up and go, 'Oh, yeah, that's done.' And go to sleep and go, 'Oh, I don't really have a book yet.'" Normally, Robinson said she'd move on to her next writing project. But for now, the Kitamaat Village, B.C.-based writer feels like she could use a "breather" as she closes the book on "Trickster" amid the fallout from the cancellation of the TV adaptation of her series. "It's like a mutual breakup," said Robinson, 53. "You have to be alone by yourself." In January, CBC pulled the plug on the second season of the "Trickster" series, which premiered to positive buzz last fall, after a CBC News report questioned co-creator Michelle Latimer's claims of Indigenous identity. The public broadcaster said the decision to end "Trickster" was made in consultation with members of the creative team, including Robinson, who in a statement said seeing a young, Indigenous cast "soar'' was "one of the best parts of 2020'' for her. Ahead of the show's debut last October, Robinson told The Canadian Press she kept picturing the actors as their characters while writing "Return of the Trickster." Robinson said releasing the book with the knowledge that those visions won't be realized feels "surreal." She declined to comment further on the cancellation of the CBC series. But Robinson she's had her fill of the film and TV world for a while. "That was enough," she said. "I'm done." Robinson's preferred medium is the page. But in crafting the supernatural final showdown in "Return of the Trickster," the author said she sought to emulate the oral tradition of one-upmanship that shaped the trickster stories she was raised on. "When I'm listening to two storytellers battling back and forth, it's always thrilling," said Robinson. "I was hoping to have that same sense in the last book, that we've gone as far up as we can go." The final installment of the trilogy raises the stakes for protagonist Jared — who like his biological father, is a shape-shifting, dimension-trotting trickster — as he faces off against his ogress aunt and her pack of organ-gobbling coy wolves. Jared is joined in this battle by a motley crew of mythical beings, including a witch, a sasquatch and an octopus monster. Robinson said Jared's strength lies not only in his supernatural abilities, but the connections he's made throughout the series. She feels the same is true of her own success, which she said wouldn't be possible without the support of her community. "With the Haisla and Heiltsuk, you are an individual, but you're also thoroughly enmeshed in your community," said Robinson. "If you're given a big name, you have a lot of status, but you also have a lot of crushing responsibility." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
A paramedic in Newfoundland and Labrador has been diagnosed with COVID-19, CBC News has learned, and it's not yet clear whether that person was positive on the job. "They are currently doing well," said Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Gaudet could not confirm whether the paramedic made contact with members of the public while on the job, citing a continuing investigation by public health. He said it also wasn't clear where the paramedic caught the virus. Eastern Health has not responded to requests for more information. The case is the first among the province's 900 or so paramedics, he confirmed, despite close and prolonged contact with patients. It's an added stress on a system already burdened by the pandemic, Gaudet said. A number of his members are already in isolation due to an outbreak at St. Clare's Mercy Hospital, as well as various other potential exposures. "Those that are not isolating, they're having to pick up extra shifts, pick up the slack," he said. "That's creating an extra strain on them." Paramedics average about 10 calls in every 12-hour shift, said Gaudet. They're often required to enter homes, then sit with possibly contagious patients in the back of an ambulance while waiting for a spot at a hospital emergency department. They're "basically stuck there until a bed becomes available," he said. "We've had people waiting in there for hours." Rodney Gaudet, president of the Paramedic Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, confirmed a positive case among his members on Tuesday.(Katie Breen/CBC) Paramedics wear full protective equipment, which is removed before entering the front of the ambulance. At least one paramedic remains in close proximity to the patient until they're admitted to hospital, wearing gloves, a mask and face shield. Those long off-load delays further tax ambulance services, which have seen an uptick in calls in the last year, said Gaudet. "That creates quite a strain on our system. We are already understaffed … and now with this weighing us down further, it makes it harder on the practitioners," Gaudet said. Close to 100 per cent of paramedics in the St. John's metro area have been immunized, Gaudet said, but a "number" of his members are still waiting for the vaccine. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador