As the second COVID-19 wave sweeps through, Jeff Semple returns to Toronto's Humber River Hospital, where advances in care are increasing the odds of survival, and frontline healthcare workers are being pushed to the breaking point.
As the second COVID-19 wave sweeps through, Jeff Semple returns to Toronto's Humber River Hospital, where advances in care are increasing the odds of survival, and frontline healthcare workers are being pushed to the breaking point.
In announcing a planned phone call on Friday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the White House's intended message was clear: Traditional allies are back in favour while despots, dictators and the killers of dissenters are on the outs. The way press secretary Jen Psaki announced the scheduled call with Trudeau was revealing, as it came in response to a question that had nothing at all to do with Canada's prime minister. She was asked about Vladimir Putin. Specifically, she was asked when Biden would speak with the Russian leader. Psaki replied that it wasn't an immediate priority. "[Biden's] first foreign leader call will be on Friday with Prime Minister Trudeau," she said. "I would expect his early calls will be with partners and allies. He feels it's important to rebuild those relationships." U.S. plans to investigate Russia Psaki elaborated on Putin in a separate news conference where she described Russia as "reckless" and "adversarial." She said Biden has tasked the intelligence community with reporting on a variety of alleged Russian transgressions: cyberattacks on U.S. companies, interference in U.S. politics, the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and Russian-paid bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Yet the goal of rebalancing relationships away from rivals toward like-minded countries has been tested already. Some Canadians, notably Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, want trade retaliation against the U.S. following the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline on Day 1 of the new administration. The decision undermines Canada's No. 1 export to the United States: oil. WATCH | The National's report on Keystone XL: Biden's foreign policy ambitions will keep being tested as international relationships undergo unwieldy twists on any given issue due to practical and political considerations. Here is what we already know about the Biden administration's approach to other countries after its first couple of days in office. The moves so far The administration will release a report on suspected Saudi government involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, an issue the last administration showed little interest in pursuing. It is also threatening to cancel support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. It is willing to consider new NATO expansion on Russia's doorstep, into Georgia, and in fact is staunchly supportive of the international military alliance. And Biden has rejoined previous alliances the U.S. was either scheduled to exit (the World Health Organization) or had already left (the Paris climate accord). These activities are intended to signal a dramatic change in foreign policy from Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, who frequently bashed the leaders of democracies and international institutions while simultaneously cultivating friendly relationships with non-democratic leaders in the Middle East, Russia and North Korea. There will be contradictions in Biden's approach — as there were in Trump's. For example, while Trump often had kind words for dictators, he also sanctioned their countries on occasion, including Russia and China. Also, don't count on an ambitious foreign policy from Biden. Early on, the new administration will be busy juggling domestic crises, said Edward Alden, an expert on Canada-U.S. relations. "I think we are going to see an approach to alliances that looks a lot like [Barack] Obama's — engaged, respectful, but not overly ambitious," said Alden, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. "The United States has enormous problems at home, and those are going to take priority for some time." Alden said he does expect some new international initiatives, such as more active co-operation on global vaccine distribution. Biden wants changes on Canada-U.S. pandemic travel On COVID-19, Biden also wants to immediately connect with Canada and Mexico to establish new rules within 14 days for pandemic-related travel safety measures. Alden also expects an attempt to rework and revive the international nuclear deal with Iran, and establish greater co-ordination with other countries in confronting China. For example, Biden has proposed a summit of democracies where countries can share ideas for countering autocracies. Biden's nominee for secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told his confirmation hearing this week that the last administration had a point in reorienting policy toward Beijing. "President Trump was right in taking a tougher approach to China," Blinken said. "The basic principle was the right one, and I think that's actually helpful to our foreign policy." He got into a testy exchange at that hearing with Sen. Rand Paul, a libertarian-minded Republican who favours a hands-off approach on foreign affairs. When Blinken said he was open to expanding NATO membership to Russia's neighbour Georgia, Paul called that a recipe for war with Russia. Blinken argued the opposite is true. After years of Russian incursions in non-NATO Georgia and Ukraine, recent evidence suggests Russia is most belligerent with countries outside NATO's shield, he said. Keystone XL: The early irritant Biden and Trudeau are expected to discuss new travel measures to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would run south from Alberta to Nebraska. So far, Trudeau has shown little desire to escalate the pipeline issue. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, on the other hand, has demanded retaliatory action, and some trade experts say potential legal avenues do exist. WATCH | Kenny on the fate of Keystone XL: But they're skeptical they will achieve much. Eric Miller of the Rideau Potomac Strategy Group, a cross-border consulting firm specializing in trade and government affairs, said the best that pipeline-backers can hope for is to sue the U.S. government for financial compensation for the cancelled project. He said the Alberta government and the project's developer, TC Energy, can try suing under the investor-state dispute chapter in the old NAFTA, which will remain in effect for two more years for existing investments. "[But] nothing is going to force the Biden administration to deliver the permit," Miller said. "One has to be clear that there is no world in which Joe Biden [retreats on this]." Canada-U.S. trade lawyer Dan Ujczo said he doubts complaints from Canada will make a difference. He said the most politically effective argument for the pipeline would come from Americans — from the companies and unions that would have serviced the project. The Ohio-based lawyer said challenges under U.S. laws, such as the Administrative Procedures Act, could potentially work, but he cautioned: "They're high hurdles."
Amazon Senior Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney, who announced the plan in a news conference with Washington Governor Jay Inslee, said a company executive will be working with Washington State's Vaccine Command Center. The clinic will be hosted in partnership with Virginia Mason Franciscan Health.
Citing “long-standing and glaring systemic issues,” in Brampton’s bail court, a judge has stayed a string of serious criminal charges, including 10 gambling and 53 illicit gaming counts, against two men who waited 12 days for a bail hearing. In a damning ruling released last week, Superior Court Justice David Harris said he reviewed more than two dozen cases and found “pervasive” bail delays had occurred with “alarming frequency” in violation of accused persons’ charter right to a bail hearing in a reasonable amount of time — typically within 24 hours or three days for more complex hearings requiring a special bail hearing. “It is most regrettable that it has come to this,” Harris wrote. “Sadly, the long-standing nature of this problem and the profoundly detrimental effect on countless others not before the court, coupled with the virtually inevitable perpetuation of delays into the future, requires a stay.” In his ruling, Harris slammed a culture of indifference and complacency. “The alarm bell has been sounding for decades now. But at least in Brampton, no progress seems to have been made. A blind eye has often been turned to the delays. Maybe it is hoped the problem will go away on its own,” he wrote. Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Brian Gray declined to comment on the judge’s findings, saying “as this matter is within the appeal period, it would be inappropriate to comment.” In his ruling, Harris cited a memo written by a Peel Crown attorney acknowledging significant and persistent systemic problems in scheduling special bail hearings in Brampton. “The specific concern of the Peel Crown Attorneys’ office is the delay in scheduling these hearings beyond the three-day remand allowed in the Criminal Code without the explicit consent of the defence,” wrote Crown Darilynn Allison. “However, because of the volume and resourcing issues, this is precisely what is taking place on a near-daily basis in the bail courts.” The case at the centre of Harris’s ruling involved Raffaele Simonelli and Michael Simonelli, cousins who were arrested on Dec. 12, 2019, along with two dozen others after a two-year police investigation known as Project Hobart. The Simonellis had been facing a slew of charges related to allegedly operating an illegal gaming house in Mississauga as part of a criminal organization — charges Harris called particularly serious due to the aggravating factor of their alleged links to organized crime. According to transcripts presented to Harris by defence lawyer Sonya Shikhman, 26 Brampton special bail hearings conducted in 2019 had delays ranging from five days at the low end to 35 days at the high end. The average delay was approximately 13 days; none was conducted within three days, Harris wrote. In the Simonellis’ case, lawyers for both men were ready to proceed with special bail hearings on Dec. 13, 2019, the day after their arrest, but the Crown, emphasizing the complexity and seriousness of the matter, asked for it to be adjourned until Jan. 3, 2020. The police had “ample time to prepare the paperwork necessary for the Crown and defence to conduct a bail hearing” and to alert the court more resources would be needed that day. But instead of an executive summary focused on three grounds for bail, the police provided a 95-page synopsis that was of “little real assistance in the conduct of a bail hearing,” Harris wrote. The justice of the peace agreed to the three-week adjournment sought by the Crown, citing a variety of factors including lack of courtroom availability “I can’t speak to the issue of resources other than they do not exist,” the justice of the peace said, in response to an outcry by numerous defence lawyers in court that day. Harris called the three-week delay over the holidays “egregious.” As a result of an application filed by Shikhman, the bail hearing was held 12 days later, on Dec. 24, 2019. Ultimately, both men were released on bail, with strict house arrest conditions. Shikhman told the Star that although Brampton stands out for the frequency and length of delays, it is a systemic problem seen provincewide. “The system needs a remember that if you let things fall through the cracks and don’t keep up with the growing population and the amount of resources required, then you’re violating constitutional rights of a systemic nature,” Shikhman said. Last May, the Ontario Court of Justice issued new directives to speed up special bail hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic, which began after the Simonellis’ hearing. However, Harris wrote, no evidence was provided by the Crown to show these measures have had any effect on reducing delays. “Whether the problem is scarcity of resources, inefficient use of available resources or both in combination, the evidence adduced shows that nothing significant has been done to address the situation besides Ms. Allison’s memo and the practice directions,” Harris wrote. “These efforts have failed to wrestle with the root of the problem or lead to meaningful change.” Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
Thursday's Games NHL Montreal 7 Vancouver 3 Winnipeg 4 Ottawa 1 N.Y. Islanders 4 New Jersey 1 Tampa Bay 3 Columbus 2 (OT) Boston 5 Philadelphia 4 (SO) Los Angeles 4 Colorado 2 Florida at Carolina -- postponed --- NBA L.A. Lakers 113 Milwaukee 106 New York 119 Golden State 104 Utah 129 New Orleans 118 --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published January 21, 2021. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — Shanghai has imposed lockdowns on two of China's best-known hospitals after they were linked to new coronavirus cases. Outpatient services have been suspended and Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center and Renji Hospital affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, have been cordoned off, along with some surrounding residential communities. After months of quelling small clusters with mass testing, isolation and social distancing, China has seen outbreaks grow this winter, mainly in its frigid north. The National Health Commission on Friday announced 103 new cases had been detected over the past 24 hours. Lockdowns have also been imposed in parts of Beijing and other cities following outbreaks, schools are letting out early and citizens have been told to stay home for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. China hopes to vaccinate 50 million people against the virus by the middle of February. Shanghai had six of the cases reported Friday. The two hospitals were put under lockdown after suspected cases were found at them on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s not immediately clear if any additional cases were linked to the hospitals. Heilongjiang province in the far north reported 47 new cases, followed by Jilin just to the south with 19 and Hebei province just outside Beijing with 18. Beijing itself recorded three new cases. Chinese hospitals are currently treating 1,674 patients for COVID-19, of which 80 are in serious condition, while another 929 are under observation for testing positive without displaying any symptoms. In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region, — South Korea has reported its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in two months as officials express cautious hope that the country is beginning to wiggle out from its worst surge of the pandemic. The 346 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Friday brought the national caseload to 74,262, including 1,328 deaths. The agency said 240 of the new infections were from the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 51 million people, which was hit hardest during a weekslong surge in transmissions that began in mid-November. Health authorities have clamped down on private social gatherings since late December, including fining restaurants that accepted large groups of diners. After a Christmas Day high of 1,241, daily new infections have slowed to around 400 to 600 in recent weeks, and officials eased some of the social distancing rules. The Associated Press
President Joe Biden is hiring a group of national security veterans with deep cyber expertise, drawing praise from former defense officials and investigators as the U.S. government works to recover from one of the biggest hacks of its agencies attributed to Russian spies. "It is great to see the priority that the new administration is giving to cyber," said Suzanne Spaulding, director of the Defending Democratic Institutions project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Cybersecurity was demoted as a policy field under the Trump administration.
Amazon won't be forced to immediately restore web service to Parler after a federal judge ruled Thursday against a plea to reinstate the fast-growing social media app, which is favoured by followers of former President Donald Trump. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said she wasn't dismissing Parler's “substantive underlying claims” against Amazon, but said it had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction forcing it back online. Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service on Jan. 11. In court filings, it said the suspension was a “last resort" to block Parler from harbouring violent plans to disrupt the presidential transition. The Seattle tech giant said Parler had shown an “unwillingness and inability” to remove a slew of dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others. The social media app, a magnet for the far right, sued to get back online, arguing that Amazon Web Services had breached its contract and abused its market power. It said Trump was likely on the brink of joining the platform, following a wave of his followers who flocked to the app after Twitter and Facebook expelled Trump after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. Rothstein said she rejected “any suggestion that the public interest favours requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.” She also faulted Parler for providing ”only faint and factually inaccurate speculation” about Amazon and Twitter colluding with one another to shut Parler down. Parler said Thursday it was disappointed by the ruling but remains confident it will “ultimately prevail in the main case,” which it says will have “broad implications for our pluralistic society.” Amazon said it welcomed the ruling and emphasized that “this was not a case about free speech,” a point also underscored by the judge. Parler CEO John Matze had asserted in a court filing that Parler’s abrupt shutdown was motivated at least partly by “a desire to deny President Trump a platform on any large social-media service.” Matze said Trump had contemplated joining the network as early as October under a pseudonym. The Trump administration last week declined to comment on whether he had planned to join. Amazon denied its move to pull the plug on Parler had anything to do with political animus. It claimed that Parler had breached its business agreement “by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down.” Parler was formed in May 2018, according to Nevada business records, with what co-founder Rebekah Mercer, a prominent Trump backer and conservative donor, later described as the goal of creating “a neutral platform for free speech” away from “the tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.” Amazon said the company signed up for its cloud computing services about a month later, thereby agreeing to its rules against dangerous content. Matze told the court that Parler has “no tolerance for inciting violence or lawbreaking” and has relied on volunteer “jurors” to flag problem posts and vote on whether they should be removed. More recently, he said the company informed Amazon it would soon begin using artificial intelligence to automatically pre-screen posts for inappropriate content, as bigger social media companies do. Amazon last week revealed a trove of incendiary and violent posts that it had reported to Parler over the past several weeks. They included explicit calls to harm high-profile political and business leaders and broader groups of people, such as schoolteachers and Black Lives Matter activists. Google and Apple were the first tech giants to take action against Parler in the days after the deadly Capitol riot. Both companies temporarily banned the smartphone app from their app stores. But people who had already downloaded the Parler app were still able to use it until Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the website. Parler has kept its website online by maintaining its internet registration through Epik, a U.S. company owned by libertarian businessman Rob Monster. Epik has previously hosted 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Parler is currently hosted by DDoS-Guard, a company whose owners are based in Russia, public records show. DDoS-Guard did not respond to emails seeking comment on its business with Parler or on published reports that its customers have included Russian government agencies. Parler said Thursday it is still working to revive its platform. Although its website is back, it hasn’t restored its app or social network. Matze has said it will be difficult to restore service because the site had been so dependent on Amazon engineering, and Amazon’s action has turned off other potential vendors. The case has offered a rare window into Amazon’s influence over the workings of the internet. Parler argued in its lawsuit that Amazon violated antitrust laws by colluding with Twitter, which also uses some Amazon cloud computing services, to quash the upstart social media app. Rothstein, who was appointed to the Seattle-based court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, said Parler presented “dwindlingly slight” evidence of antitrust violations and no evidence that Amazon and Twitter “acted together intentionally — or even at all — in restraint of trade.” ___ AP Technology Writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Boston. Matt O'Brien, The Associated Press
An additional $50 million in provincial funding is being earmarked for K-12 school capital projects, ranging from roof replacements to ventilation system upgrades, Manitoba’s education minister announced Thursday. Combined with a prior 2020 budget commitment of $160 million, the sum will both help facilities get much-needed upgrades and bring the province closer to its goal of opening 20 new schools in 10 years, Education Minister Cliff Cullen told reporters. “We must continue Manitoba’s ongoing investment in school infrastructure for the longevity of our schools and to improve accessibility for all students,” he said during a news conference. Cullen said investments will be made into multi-year projects already underway, purchasing future school sites, upgrading mechanical systems in schools, structural projects, and building new portable classrooms across Manitoba. Of the $210 million in total funding for infrastructure projects, $76 million has been allocated for existing projects and $61 million for new schools. Six new schools have opened, two are going to tender in the spring, and design will start on four projects during the 2021-22 school year, Cullen said. New schools are expected to be built in the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine and the Brandon, Louis Riel, River East Transcona, Seven Oaks, and Pembina Trails school divisions in the coming years. The province plans to spend $64 million on 84 renewal projects. That sum is broken down into: $10 million for access projects, such as elevator and wheelchair lift installations; $21 million for mechanical system upgrades for infrastructure, such as boilers and ventilation systems; $16 million for roof replacements; and $16 million to fix structural problems with aging foundations, walls and historic entrance stonework. The remaining $8 million is for building portable classrooms that can be moved wherever needed. Following the announcement, NDP education critic Nello Altomare called on the province to make “a real” investment in schools. “Now more than ever, kids deserve a quality education system that helps them succeed despite the pandemic. The Pallister government can continue to make promises, but the reality is they would rather underspend than help kids,” Altomare, MLA for Transcona, said in a statement. Last year, for the third year in a row, public schools received a $6.6-million boost in funding, totalling $1.33 billion — an approximately 0.5 per cent increase. Critics voiced concerns about the operating funding allocations — which are typically announced in late January — not keeping up with inflation and the province hamstringing divisions by capping education property tax increases to a maximum of two per cent. Also on the education file, Manitoba Education confirmed Thursday it is calling off spring senior provincial exams for the second year in a row. The province previously cancelled Grade 12 winter exams, citing learning disruptions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re still expecting that teachers will be evaluating Grade 12 students, whether that be some form of exam or testing,” Cullen said, adding the decision was made to ease the burden on students and teachers this year. The minister added Manitobans can expect an announcement on the teacher COVID-19 rapid-testing pilot in the coming days. Sixty rapid tests had been completed, as of Thursday afternoon. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
The “Shop Local” movement is in full swing as we endure a second lockdown, but there’s another movement one resident says we should take to heart as well: grow local – at least when it comes to eggs. That was the message delivered to Council last week by local resident Darryl Moore. Mr. Moore, a long-time proponent of a being able to keep backyard hens in Aurora, said going down this road and adopting the necessary bylaws to make it happen could pave the way not only for home-raised food in the form of eggs, but also pets, companionship, and even educational opportunities. “These are small things, but they’re important,” said Mr. Moore. “I know I have autistic children and animals are a very good thing for them, and chickens work very well that way. As well, people are learning where their food comes from.” This is not the first time Council has considered a backyard hen program, but previous efforts have fallen on the issues of odour, noise, and potentially attracting predators into neighbourhoods. Mr. Moore tackled these issues point by point, contending that backyard hens have no greater impact than dogs, cats or other conventional pets when it comes to odour and any scents are easily mitigated. As for noise, roosters would be the main culprits and would fall outside of any backyard hen program. But the issue of predators, however, was less clear cut. “It depends on where you live,” said Mr. Moore. “Where I live on Victoria Street, wolves and coyotes are not a big issue. Next to a ravine, they might be. It is easy enough to fortify the coops so it is not a big issue and you fortify them as much as you need depending on the types of predators you can expect. Chickens are on the bottom of the food chain, so animals are going to want to eat them, but it is easy enough to take care of.” The impact of backyard hens on property values, he admitted, was harder to evaluate but research and conversations with realtors, he contended, indicate it is minimal. “The main issue is people’s perceptions,” he said. “Property value is a perception. It isn’t really there because there isn’t an issue – people often don’t notice the chickens. Everyone has the right to enjoy their property to the best they can and that is probably the thing that comes up: they don’t want the nuisance of a chicken next door. There’s a lot of interest in this Town for backyard hens and I am really hoping that given the experience other municipalities have had, including ones right next door, that we can move quickly and implement based on knowledge and come up with some pilot project to get started and then move from there.” If Aurora adopted a backyard hen program, they wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel. Similar programs have been piloted in the City of Toronto while the Town of Newmarket has incorporated provisions into their bylaws whereby all one has to do is apply for a permit with the Town, with some restrictions tied to yard size. Mr. Moore’s pitch received a mixed reception from Council. One lawmaker to signal their tentative support was Councillor Rachel Gilliland, who questioned the best method of getting a pilot project up and running. While the earliest a motion to do can be brought forward is February, she said there is much to consider. “It seems there is an appetite and other municipalities have taken that step,” she said. “Maybe there is some room to foster this idea and something we can implement here.” Less enthusiastic, however, was Councillor Harold Kim, who said he would not be able to support the idea “at this time.” “It is not because I don’t necessarily agree with your project, because it is certainly a noteworthy one…but this reminds me of when a couple of members of Council, including the then-mayor introduced the transparent garbage bags [initiative]. It was a very worthy project to move forward with, but do we have acceptance from the general community and the public? They have also inherited an intrinsic right to enjoy their property. Even though everything you say might be scientifically correct, it is about convincing everyone around you and that is a big problem and the challenge for me. I think it is just a matter of time. “It is about convincing our fellow neighbours and our community members to adopt it. It is not necessarily an overcoming [of] the fears of coyotes or salmonella…even though we have all the facts on the presentation. It is about convincing the general public. For those reasons, it is going to be challenging for me to sponsor it.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
The B.C. government is facing criticism for not making public a report into the effect of the pandemic on long-term care homes and failing to the tell the public that it was commissioned at all. Several organizations have confirmed they provided information in the summer of 2020 to consulting firm Ernst and Young, which was hired by the provincial government to look into how COVID-19 outbreaks were handled and how the virus was able to spread at different facilities. They now wonder why the Ministry of Health has not made the independent report public as B.C. deals with the second wave of COVID-19 infections. The Hospital Employees Union and B.C. Care Providers Association, which represents care home operators, said they also talked to Ernst and Young for the report. SafeCareBC, an industry funded, non-profit association which advocates for injury-free working conditions in the sector, also gave feedback. "We were approached back in July," said SafeCareBC CEO Jennifer Lyle. Lyle said the organization described challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment or PPE, staffing shortages and burnout, the province's single-site order for long-term care workers, the impact of the pandemic on mental health and visitation restrictions. "We also engaged with our members to help solicit their experiences and feedback from what they've experienced going through the first wave of the pandemic." The existence of the Ernst and Young report is causing confusion because B.C.'s seniors' advocate said last week that her office, too, is reviewing care homes. That report is expected to include facilities that experienced major, fatal outbreaks such as Little Mountain Place in Vancouver, Tabor Village in Abbotsford, Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver and Langley Lodge. B.C. Liberals urge report's release The B.C. liberals are pushing for the independent report to be released as soon as possible and question why the recommendations weren't made public after the research was conducted last summer. Interim B.C. Liberal Leader Shirley Bond is calling for transparency regarding the report. "The little that we, and the public at large, do know about this report leaves us with plenty of questions and — out of respect to the hundreds of B.C. families that have been struck by tragedy as a result of outbreaks in long-term care homes — we expect the government to provide answers and release the report," said Bond. The Ministry of Health told another news outlet it is set to release the findings next week. It did not respond to CBC News by deadline.
A Seismic shift occurred Wednesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden took the oath of office and stood before the American people, and the world, and vowed the climate crisis was among his top priorities for the nation. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear,” Biden said in his inaugural address. “We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again. Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s. We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.” After four years of slashed environmental regulations, inaction on climate change and the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement under former president Donald Trump, the gap between the two approaches to the existential threat is enormous. “It represents a tectonic shift globally, in terms of how we decide, as humanity, to respond to climate change. And I think one of the most significant parts of this is that the American government has now realigned itself with science,” said Ian Mauro, executive director of the University of Winnipeg-based Prairie Climate Centre. That move towards embracing science and fact-based approaches applies not just to climate change but also the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “And so, as a foundation for moving forward, we will be using evidence. And evidence indicates that this is a problem that requires absolutely enormous amounts of effort, strategy and resources devoted to solving the issue of climate change.” Mauro points out this shift effectively means, overnight, the U.S. has leapfrogged Canada in terms of climate goals and progressive rhetoric. On his first day as president, Biden took two notable actions in the climate file: the U.S. rejoined the Paris Agreement and revoked permits for the Keystone XL pipeline. Keystone XL was intended to move 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day from the oilsands in northern Alberta to Nebraska, where it would connect to a previously-built pipeline and carry oil to the Gulf Coast. Jane McDonald, executive vice-president for Winnipeg-based International Institute for Sustainable Development, previously served as a policy adviser to Liberal MP Catherine McKenna, when McKenna was Canada’s minister of environment and climate change. From McDonald’s perspective, a lot of media attention has been focused on the loss of the pipeline and potential drawbacks of the Biden presidency on the Canadian economy. What she hopes to see more of moving forward is a recognition of how much this could instead benefit Canada’s green economy. “Biden’s platform talked about a shared strategy around the shift to electric vehicles, about increasing cross-border electricity — which is definitely in Canada’s interest. He talks about environmental spending, that means a much bigger market for Canada’s clean-tech companies. So there are a lot of places here that we can engage, and where there are market opportunities to get moving on with our largest trading partner,” McDonald said. Despite the fact Canada has moved forward on the climate file in the last four years, meaningful progress is difficult when your largest trading partner isn’t at the table, she added. Manitoba Minister of Conservation and Climate Sarah Guillemard echoed McDonald’s focus on the opportunities created under the new U.S. administration. “I look forward to working toward common objectives in our efforts to address climate change, as well as creating opportunities for economic growth in green technologies,” she said Wednesday in a statement to the Free Press. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci is back. In truth, the nation’s leading infectious-diseases expert never really went away. But after enduring nearly a year of darts and undermining comments from former President Donald Trump, Fauci now speaks with the authority of the White House again. He called it “liberating” Thursday to be backed by a science-friendly administration that has embraced his recommendations to battle COVID-19. “One of the new things in this administration is, If you don’t know the answer, don’t guess,” Fauci said in one pointed observation during a White House briefing. “Just say you don’t know the answer.” Fauci’s highly visible schedule on Thursday, the first full day of President Joe Biden’s term, underscored the new administration's confidence in the doctor but also the urgency of the moment. His day began with a 4 a.m. virtual meeting with officials of the World Health Organization, which is based in Switzerland, and stretched past a 4 p.m. appearance at the lectern in the White House briefing room. The breakneck pace showcased the urgent need to combat a pandemic that has killed more than 400,000 Americans and reached its deadliest phase just as the new president comes to office. Fauci made clear that he believed the new administration would not trade in the mixed messages that so often came from the Trump White House, where scientific fact was often obscured by the president’s political agenda. “The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know and what the science is ... it is something of a liberating feeling,” Fauci told reporters. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had invited Fauci to take the podium first at her daily briefing. While choosing his words carefully, Fauci acknowledged that it had been difficult at times to work for Trump, who repeatedly played down the severity of the pandemic, refused to consistently promote mask-wearing and often touted unproven scientific remedies, including a malaria drug and even injecting disinfectant. “It was very clear that there were things that were said, be it regarding things like hydroxychloroquine and other things, that really was uncomfortable because they were not based in scientific fact,” Fauci said. He added that he took “no pleasure” in having to contradict the president, a move that often drew Trump’s wrath. Biden, during his presidential campaign, pledged to making Fauci his chief medical adviser when he took office, and the 80-year-old scientist was immediately in motion. Fauci was up well before dawn Thursday for the virtual meeting with WHO, which Biden had rejoined the previous day after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the group out of anger over how it dealt with China in the early days of the pandemic. Fauci told the group that the United States would join its effort to deliver coronavirus vaccines to poor countries. In the afternoon, the doctor stood alongside Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris in the White House as they unveiled a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the virus, which is killing more than 4,000 Americans a day, as well as bolstering the nation’s sluggish vaccine distribution program. Fauci had chatted amiably with reporters while awaiting the tardy new president. He acknowledged it was a long day and said that while he’d prefer to go for a run, he planned to powerwalk a few miles Thursday evening. It was all a stark contrast after being kept on a tight leash by the Trump administration. Their West Wing press shop had tightly controlled Fauci’s media appearances — and blocked most of them. The doctor went from being a constant presence in the briefing room during the first weeks of the pandemic to largely being banished as Trump grew jealous of the doctor's positive press and resentful of Fauci's willingness to contradict him. Moreover, Trump frequently undermined Fauci’s credibility, falsely insisting that the pandemic was nearly over. The president regularly referenced Fauci's early skepticism about the effectiveness of masks for ordinary Americans, a position that Fauci quickly abandoned in the face of more evidence. And he even made fun of Fauci's first pitch at a Washington Nationals game. The president's attacks on Fauci — and his dismissiveness of the science — handicapped medical professionals trying to get Americans to take the virus seriously. “There was clear political influence on the message of the pandemic. It became political to say that the pandemic was devastating our community because it was interpreted as a judgement on Trump,” said Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-diseases physician and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine. “It actively created enemies of the public health folks in a segment of the population.” Having Fauci return to a central role, Bhadelia said, is a sign “that science was being repressed and now back.” As his handling of the pandemic became the defining issue in the 2020 campaign, Trump insisted on portraying the virus as a thing of the past. He also mercilessly attacked Fauci, retweeting messages that called for the doctor’s dismissal and reveled in “Fire Fauci!” chants at some of his rallies. Trump sidelined Fauci but dared not dismiss him, after aides convinced him of the move’s political danger. But Fauci, who has now served under seven presidents, persevered, telling friends that he would keep his head down and aim to outlast Trump and the obfuscations of his administration. “Clarity of message is the most important thing the government can be doing right now; the single biggest disservice Trump did was constantly telling people that pandemic was about to be over,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, who has known Fauci for more than 20 years. In his return to the briefing room, Fauci joked with reporters, seemingly far more relaxed than at any point last year. And as he stepped off the stage, Psaki said she'd soon have him back. ___ Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press
Surrounded by snow and ice — with sleet starting to fall — Ellen Lamont had all the teaching tools she could ever want to explain the states of matter to her elementary students this week. “What happens to our masks when we breathe outside?” Lamont asked her Grade 4/5 immersion students, each one seated in a homemade snow seat in their outdoor classroom, during a natural sciences lesson taught in French. She told them what they first exhale is a gas that condenses on their face coverings, and if they are outside long enough in the cold, that liquid may freeze and turn into a solid. Lamont could never have predicted she would be using personal protective equipment to conduct a lesson, nor she would ever be teaching in what her students have come to affectionately call “snow class” (classe de neige). The first-year teacher said she has taken all the pivots required during the COVID-19 pandemic in stride — and that’s how Laura Secord School’s snow class came to be. On Rupert DePape’s first day back after the holiday break, the fifth grader said he came across a sign posted near the designated school door for his class. The 10-year-old followed Lamont’s written instructions, and instead of entering the Wolseley area school as usual, built himself a snow chair. “We’re stuck in our seat, and have to stay far apart, and can’t really talk much (this year). Outside, it’s a lot more flexible with all the things you can do,” said Rupert, whose favourite subjects are history and math; the latter of which is taught outside, unless the wind chill makes the temperature feel -28 C or colder. While noting snow class can get “a bit chilly,” he said it’s superior to in-class learning, because all of the students can learn together and move freely. Lamont and David Seburn, an educational assistant, have been overseeing a duplex classroom, with Grade 4s in one room and Grade 5s in another, since Manitoba schools entered a restricted level (code orange) on the province’s pandemic response system. “I thought to myself, ‘It would be so nice — if just for this morning, we could all be outside so I could deliver this material once, altogether,’” Lamont said, recalling the moment she first decided to hold class outdoors Jan. 4. Engagement levels immediately spiked and students were more focused when they returned to their indoor classrooms to do pen-and-paper activities, she said. The success of an initial outdoor period has led to daily snow class lessons, which involve physical activity and the use of natural manipulatives, such as tree branches and ice cubes. Community members have donated Christmas trees, food colouring and a tree stump to decorate the space. The students also went on a nature walk to find items to make ice art with to spruce up the space. “To immerse children in nature and to create a love and reverence of nature is very important for this generation so we have kids that care about the environment and will protect it as they grow older,” said Seburn, an educational assistant and forest school practitioner-in-training who is currently enrolled in a course at the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada. It’s not only easier to engage students outdoors, he said, but also safer, at present. Lauren Phillips said she is incredibly appreciative of how her children’s teachers, at both Laura Secord and River Heights School, have put emphasis on the importance of fresh air this year, in recognition COVID-19 can be transmitted through aerosols. “There’s this notion of schools being safe, but schools aren’t safe if the behaviours aren’t safe,” Phillips said. While her seventh grader’s teacher keeps the windows open during the school day, she said her son is ecstatic about snow class with Lamont. “Most people say school sucks, but I don’t really get why,” said Callie Neek, a fourth grader in the class. The nine-year-old said she would much rather be in school than at home, so she can see her friends and learn outside. As long as students are getting something out of it, Lamont said snow class will continue throughout the school year. “They’ve been so adaptive, so flexible, so willing to happily go along with whatever we’re doing and show up and try their best,” the Winnipeg teacher said. “They have really truly amazed me.” One of her students has suggested the class collect more stumps, so they can continue to learn outside when the snow melts. Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
As the vaccine rolls out in long-term care homes across the country, some provinces, including British Columbia, are also prioritizing essential caregivers for a shot to benefit residents and staff. But there’s some inconsistency about who qualifies as essential.
Intel Corp executives have raised the possibility of licensing chipmaking technology from outside firms, a move that could see it exchanging manufacturing secrets with rival Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. Intel is one of the few remaining semiconductor firms that both designs and manufactures its own chips, but the business model has come into question in recent years as the company lost its manufacturing lead to the Taiwanese and Korean companies. But licensing technology could help Intel avoid major investments in rivals' factories that outsourcing deals would likely entail.
She has served as a member of the Central York Fire Services for more than a decade. It is a job she loves, serving the community which has become a second home and, earlier this year, Kristy Paterson became a somewhat reluctant trailblazer as the Central York Fire Service’s first female Acting Captain. A historic first, to be sure, but Paterson has a different perspective. “I am proud of my accomplishment because I think it is a great position, but I don’t think it is special that I am the first woman,” Patterson tells The Auroran. “I am super happy for everyone who passed the test and was a successful candidate, but I don’t think I should be given any more recognition as the first female because everyone passed the same time. The public doesn’t care, or shouldn’t care, if it is a man or a woman who is responding to [a call], all they really care about is if you can do the job when the time comes.” Instead, the Barrie resident wants to be seen as a good role model for all genders, regardless of whether they want to follow in her footsteps to a local fire station. Being a fire fighter was not a life-long dream for Patterson. As a student at the University of Toronto, she was a player on their varsity hockey team. Athletics came to her naturally and she focused on kinesiology. In her fourth year, however, a conversation with a firefighter left her pondering a career pivot. “It just sounded like a super interesting path to follow,” she says, noting she undertook college training to become a firefighter soon thereafter. It didn’t take long for her to be hired by the CYFS – and, perhaps most importantly, realize she made the right choice. “I loved it probably from Day One,” she says. “Every day is different, you’re always learning. It’s a team environment and everybody works together. You’re constantly learning new things and every shift is different and you don’t know what you’re going to get. You’re not confined to an office; you’re out, you’re helping the community, you’re involved and you’re just helping people. It is a good feeling to be there for the community. “I am super happy to come to work every day and to work with really awesome people just being part of a team and knowing we get to help the towns of Aurora and Newmarket.” Currently stationed in Aurora, Patterson hopes that in her new role she will continue learning and being there for the community. “In my new role, I want to be a good role model to not only young girls but young boys as well, that if you work hard, you’re able to achieve it,” she says. If it is something you want, then work hard, take the right schooling and you will be able to do it. I understand the support [stemming from being the CYFS’ first female Acting Captain], but at the same time, why is it special? I am proud of my accomplishment and it didn’t have anything to do with being female. My goal is to just be better every day than I was yesterday. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it is just that you’re capable of doing the job.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
When Kerri Thompson was allowed to see her mother once again as an essential visitor to her assisted living residence, it was a lifeline for the family. Kerri’s mother, Joyce, was a regular visitor to the Alzheimer Society of York Region’s D.A.Y. program six days a week. Her visits to their Edward Street facility offered social interaction that was not only craved, but needed. She was busy, staying active and, in doing so, remained vital, engaged and interested. But, when COVID-19 forced the shut-down of the regular D.A.Y. programs and Joyce was largely confined to her room, Kerri saw Joyce begin a rapid decline. “My mom’s world was narrowing with COVID and now it’s literally one room,” says Kerri. “Each day, all she wants to do is do what she always loved to do, which is go for a walk. That one small pleasure and a sense of normalcy has been taken away. For her own health, she cannot leave her room and yet, for her mental health, all this is just devastating. She is losing her strength and her confidence to walk.” Kerri being deemed an essential visitor helped to a degree. Although her mother was still confined to her room, Kerri was allowed to visit after following all protocols, but four days after Joyce was out of lockdown, Kerri tested positive for COVID-19. Not being able to visit her mother as an essential visitor during that trying time was understandable and necessary, but no less difficult. While Kerri was sick with mild symptoms, Joyce, who tested negative, saw isolation set in even deeper. It goes without saying that COVID-19 is devastating, but “COVID-Alzheimer’s” is another thing altogether. “Thank God for the wisdom of the government officials and general managers at the respective retirement homes to understand that COVID is absolutely too isolating for seniors and that we had to do something different from what we did in March, April and May, which was to lock them in their rooms,” says Kerri. “For the people lucky enough to be on the first floor, they got to wave to their loved ones and all the rest, but others missed even that little glimmer of interaction. There were a lot of people trying to do the right things for the right reasons, but not looking at the total impact of keeping people alive. There’s more to it than that that we have to consider. It is a no-win situation. If just one person gets sick from this idea [of essential visitors] then the public is in an uproar.” By the time Kerri was first deemed an essential visitor, she had to re-learn the rules of the game. Not only were there new and strict screening measures, she couldn’t take her mother into common areas. Confined to their room, both Joyce and her daughter were required to mask up. They couldn’t hug, hold hands or otherwise touch. They could not eat or drink when they were together and they had to sit six feet apart. “But, the fact that we were able to be in the same room was wonderful,” says Kerri. “With my mum having Alzheimer’s, which is an isolating disease because they get lost in their own locked room in their mind, kind of being in that locked room physically too, I lost a lot of her. Her Alzheimer’s came on harder and faster, not to the fault of anybody, but just to the reality of a pandemic. She’s less interactive. She wouldn’t get as excited. It was just so long that she had done anything but stare at those four walls that there wasn’t that same amount of energy, desire and remembrance of some of the fun things she had done more recently while having Alzheimer’s. She even lost that.” Joyce was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease 18 months ago, but Kerri says the reality of the situation was her fight has been “twice as long as that.” It was a difficult but necessary decision to put her in an assisted living facility so she could get the help, care and safety that she needed. “I knew she was fraying around the edges, specifically because she had lost her sense of time,” Kerri shares. In a pandemic, that has been a mixed blessing. While Kerri says Joyce doesn’t have a concept of how long this pandemic has been going on, there is a huge negative in that every day there could be a disappointment in waking up and not fully understanding why you can’t leave your room or receive visitors. “At the first stages of this pandemic, I couldn’t even visit her. I was the person standing outside her window every single day, usually with my then-15-year-old son just waving to her. We weren’t even allowed to have the window open to try and communicate with her out of logical fear of the virus. Some days you would see her in tears and some days you saw a smile on her face, but you didn’t know what you were going to get. Every day I was distracted – never with her safety, because the retirement home does a great job – but it was more her happiness. “Sitting alone in her room has taken away the joy. She knows enough about what she is missing to say, ‘Kerri, sometimes I just want to scream.’ I get you, mom. Go ahead and I will scream with you. Please, we need the vaccine faster so mom can go to the Alzheimer Society of York Region D.A.Y. program and fight to keep what abilities she has.” Kerri’s quarantine ended on January 8 – 14 days are an “eternity” when it comes to Alzheimer’s, she says – and she can’t wait to be with her mother once again, but this difficult journey has only underscored that the isolation that is a by-product of COVID can have unintended consequences. “I have nothing but applause to give to the caregivers and management of the facility that my mom is at,” says Kerri. “To be honest, there isn’t a single thing that I truly think they could do differently, except one little thing that would make me and my mother happy is if I could bring her in the car and just drive her around. “We’re trying to be smart but at the end of the day the most important thing is their happiness in the last years of their life. Let them have meals together as opposed to going into these outbreak situations where everyone has to stay in their room and there are no activities. I am hoping once the vaccination moves through retirement homes, essential workers, that they can look ahead and say, ‘We have the vaccine. What did this allow us to do different from where we were a month or six months ago because to die of loneliness – that, to me, is the cruellest thing of all, when there are all these people around who are loving and caring and just can’t get access. That goes for the people who work in the retirement home: they are loving and caring and they are not allowed right now to do the activities, to give hugs, to hold people’s hands. They would if they could, but they dare not to.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
Battered by criticism that the 2020 census was dangerously politicized by the Trump administration, the U.S. Census Bureau under a new Biden administration has the tall task of restoring confidence in the numbers that will be used to determine funding and political power. Picking up the pieces of a long, fractious process that spooled out during a global pandemic starts with transparency about irregularities in the data, former Census Bureau directors, lawmakers and advocates said. They advised the new administration to take more time to review and process population figures to be sure they get them right. The high-stakes undertaking will determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending each year. “We are optimistic that things at the Census Bureau will be better. The question is whether the damage caused by the Trump administration can be rectified,” said Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League. Morial’s organization, along with other advocacy groups and municipalities, sued former President Donald Trump's administration last year over a decision to end the once-a-decade head count early. According to critics, that damage includes a failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire and a Trump order to figure out who is a citizen and who is in the U.S. illegally. They say another Trump directive to exclude people in the country illegally from the apportionment of congressional seats, shortened schedules to collect and process data, and four political appointments to top positions inside the bureau also threatened the count’s integrity. Census workers across the country have told The Associated Press and other media outlets that they were encouraged to falsify responses in the rush to finish the count so the numbers used for determining how many congressional seats each state gets could be produced under the Trump administration. Census Bureau officials said such problems were isolated. Census advocates were heartened Wednesday by President Joe Biden's quick revocations of Trump's order to produce citizenship data and the former president's memo attempting to exclude people in the U.S. illegally from the apportionment count. The Biden administration also has pledged to give the Census Bureau the time it needs to process the data. The Census Bureau also said Thursday that redistricting data it's releasing later this year for states and municipalities to use in creating legislative districts won't include information on citizenship or immigration status. It also said the agency is suspending all work on trying to produce the immigration status of U.S. residents for the census. “President Biden’s swift action today finally closes the book on the Trump administration’s attempts to manipulate the census for political gain," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, who argued against the legality of the apportionment memo before the Supreme Court last year. The high court ruled that any challenge was premature. After the bureau missed a year-end deadline for turning in the apportionment numbers, it said the figures would be completed as close to the previous deadline as possible. Trump administration attorneys recently said they won’t be ready until early March because the bureau needs time to fix irregularities in the data. There will be flaws, likely undercounts of communities of colour and overcounts of whites, but “they will just have to ‘bake the best cake possible’ through identifying and correcting the errors they can find,” said Rob Santos, president of the American Statistical Association. Trump’s four political appointments to the Census Bureau last year were denounced by statisticians and Democratic lawmakers worried they would politicize the once-a-decade head count. The Office of Inspector General last week said two of them had pressured bureau workers to figure out who is in the U.S. illegally before Trump left office, with one whistleblower calling the effort “statistically indefensible.” Then-Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham ordered a technical report on that effort but halted it after blowback. He resigned this week after Democratic lawmakers and civil rights groups called for his departure. The bureau’s new interim chief, Deputy Director Ron Jarmin, didn’t respond to a request for an interview. He will report to Biden's new pick to head the Commerce Department — which oversees the Census Bureau — Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo. Former Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said he’s optimistic the final product will be as accurate as past censuses, especially now that Jarmin is at the helm. “They know how to do it right. It just takes time,” said Prewitt, who served in the Clinton administration. Another former bureau director, John Thompson, said the exit of Trump’s appointees will help eliminate distractions to finishing the 2020 census, but the agency needs to hold a public forum to discuss what anomalies bureau statisticians have found in the data and what they’re doing to fix them ahead of the apportionment numbers being turned in. U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat from Hawaii, asked Biden to set up a nonpartisan commission to review the apportionment data to make sure it’s fair and accurate before it’s delivered to the House of Representatives. “The Census Bureau faced a number of challenges with the 2020 Census,” Schatz said in a letter. “Some, like the pandemic, were beyond the agency’s control. However, the Trump Administration actively interfered with the agency’s operations.” Despite facing pressures from their political bosses, the Census Bureau’s career staff did a good job of resisting the Trump administration’s most questionable orders by coming forward when they found errors in the data without worrying about the deadline and by whistleblowing to the inspector general when they felt pressured to produce citizenship of dubious accuracy, according to Morial, Santos and Thompson. “They deserve to be honoured,” Santos said. ___ This story has corrected the first name of Rob Santos, instead of Ron Santos. ___ Mike Schneider on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP Mike Schneider, The Associated Press
Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants' efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google "news source", making it the country's first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a "news source" tag.
Leaders from across Canada recently gathered to talk about Indigenous child and family wellbeing, and the implementation of the Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, also known as Bill C-92. “This legislation ensures that First Nations laws are paramount, so we can focus on prevention, as opposed to apprehension,” says Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), in a welcome letter to those participating in the virtual gathering on Jan. 19. Since the Act came into force, “there has been significant effort by First Nations across Canada to take back authority for child and family services,” says University of British Columbia law professor Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who broke down the Act’s key principles in her keynote presentation. This was the first of five virtual leadership gatherings focused on the Act — which came into force on Jan. 1, 2020 — to be hosted by the AFN. Over the course of the series, attendees can expect to “hear presentations and updates about the Act and its implementation, learn about tools and resources for First Nations leadership implementing the Act, and discuss the changes that will come with implementation,” says Bellegarde. The Act was co-developed with Indigenous peoples, provinces and territories to reduce the overrepresentation of Indigenous children and youth in care, according to the Government of Canada. “We are in a moment of change,” says Turpel-Lafond, who served as B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth from 2006-2016. Under the Act, there are two options for Nations to exercise their jurisdiction over child and family services, according to the Government of Canada. Nations can give notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction to the Minister of Indigenous Services and relevant provincial or territorial governments. In this case, the Indigenous governing body’s laws on child and family services would “not prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” Or Nations can request a “tripartite coordination agreement with Indigenous Services Canada and relevant provincial or territorial governments.” In the latter case, if parties can reach an agreement within 12 months “or reasonable efforts to reach an agreement were made” during that year — “including use of alternative dispute resolution mechanism” — the Indigenous governing body would exercise its jurisdiction and its laws on child and family services would “prevail over federal, provincial and territorial laws.” As of Dec. 23, 2020, Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) had “received requests and notices to exercise jurisdiction under the Act from 26 Indigenous governing bodies, representing 64 Indigenous groups and communities,” according to an ISC spokesperson. Nine Nations have sent notice of their intent to exercise their jurisdiction while 17 Nations have requested coordination agreements. Not only does the Act create pathways to self-determination for nations working to reclaim jurisdiction over child and family services, but Turpel Lafond says it also “reframes’’ the best interests of the child — a key concept in Canada’s child welfare system. “There’s a concept or doctrine in the provincial child welfare system to remove the kids, and to say it’s not in the best interest of First Nations kids to be with their families.” Under the new legislation, the best interests of the child are reframed to include the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, she says. “We know [that UNDRIP] has very important protections and provisions,” she says, pointing to Article 8 of the declaration, which calls on the state to “provide effective mechanisms” to prevent “any form of forced assimilation.” “The best interest is no longer about the removal,” says Turpel-Lafond. ”The best interest is about keeping children with community.” The next virtual gathering in AFN’s series will be on Feb. 9, with a continued focus on navigating Indigenous child and family services legislation. Anyone can register to attend and there is no cost. Anna McKenzie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse