Asked whether Pfizer could change its manufacturing site from Europe to the U.S. to lessen the delay in vaccine deliveries, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said a change in manufacturing sites would need approval from Health Canada.
Asked whether Pfizer could change its manufacturing site from Europe to the U.S. to lessen the delay in vaccine deliveries, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said a change in manufacturing sites would need approval from Health Canada.
(ANNews) – The Alberta Government announced on March 4, 2020 that they will begin offering vaccination appointments to Albertans 65 to 74 years old starting on Monday, March 15 as part of Phase 2A of the provincial vaccination program. This is happening much earlier than first anticipated, as original estimates predicted that Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout would start in April. 437,000 eligible Albertans will be able to get their vaccine, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday. “By June 30, we expect to have offered every single adult in the province at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.” When Phase 2A begins on March 15, bookings will be offered in two-year age groups. On the first day, anyone aged 73 or 74 will be able to book an appointment. On the second day, eligibility will be expanded to include anyone aged 71 to 72, and so on from there. “Staff and residents in seniors’ supportive-living facilities who are not already immunized will also be able to book appointments starting on Day 1,” Shandro said. “Appointments will be booked through both participating pharmacies, the online booking tool, as well as HealthLink 811. First Nations, Inuit and Métis people who are aged 50 and older will also receive the vaccine starting the week of March 15.” “And it’s important to remember that under our system you never lose eligibility for the vaccine,” he said. “Once you’re eligible you stay eligible. No one is left behind.” On top of this, the Alberta Government also announced their roll-out plan for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved by Health Canada for all adult Canadians. The first doses of the vaccine arrived in Canada on Wednesday March. However, Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) announced that they are not recommending the AstraZeneca vaccine be used on people 65 or older. Keeping in line with the NACI’s recommendation, or lack-there-of, the Alberta Government will only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to healthy adults 64 years old and younger. Beginning March 10, the province will offer 58,500 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to eligible Albertans aged 50-64 in Phase 2D who do not have severe chronic illness. Albertans born in 1957 can begin booking their appointments on March 10. Both Shandro and Alberta’s chief medical officer of health emphasized the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with Shandro saying, “Both Dr. Hinshaw and I recommend that all healthy Albertans get immunized as soon as they are eligible no matter what vaccine option is provided.” “AstraZeneca works. It has shown to reduce infection by 60 to 70 per cent and severe outcomes like hospitalization by 80 per cent.” “Where this vaccine seems to differ is in preventing asymptomatic infection, which means reducing the spread of COVID-19. This is why we’re not using it in any congregate living settings like seniors housing.” Dr, Hinshaw explained, “All three vaccines help protect against serious outcomes or long-term health impacts that COVID-19 can cause for many people. They dramatically reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. If those reasons don’t resonate with you, please know widespread immunization will help us all return to a more normal way of life more quickly.” “Choosing to be immunized is one of the most important actions we can take for ourselves and for our communities,” she said. As for Alberta Hospitalizations, the province fell below 250 for the first time in months on March 6. There are currently 247 Albertans in hospital due to COVID-19 including 42 in intensive care units. There has been 135,537 total infections in the province with the amount of active cases being 4,649. Meanwhile, the amount of active cases on First Nations reserves, as of March 4 and according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is: Case numbers per region: Jacob Cardinal is an LJI reporter for Alberta Native News. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
The Chinese government's top diplomat State Councillor Wang Yi on Sunday said the electoral system in Hong Kong must be improved for long-term stability, saying reform would bring about a "brighter future" for the city. China's plan to dramatically reform Hong Kong's electoral system, unveiled this week during the country's annual parliamentary session, is expected to upend the territory's governance and ensure Beijing loyalists are in charge.
A far-right proposal to ban facial coverings in Switzerland won a narrow victory in a binding referendum on Sunday instigated by the same group that organised a 2009 ban on new minarets. The measure to amend the Swiss constitution passed by a 51.2-48.8% margin, provisional official results showed. The proposal under the Swiss system of direct democracy does not mention Islam directly and also aims to stop violent street protesters from wearing masks, yet local politicians, media and campaigners have dubbed it the burqa ban.
BERLIN — A lawmaker with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party said Sunday he will give up his seat in parliament and leave politics after it emerged that his company profited from deals to procure masks early in the pandemic — drawing sharp criticism in an election year. Nikolas Loebel, a backbench lawmaker with Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union, was blasted by members of his own party and opponents after it emerged Friday that a company he runs earned commissions of 250,000 euros ($298,000) from brokering contracts to buy masks. Saying that he should have been “more sensitive," Loebel admitted that he had made a mistake and gave up his seat on parliament's foreign affairs committee. That wasn't enough for critics — particularly as his home state of Baden-Wuerttemberg elects a new regional legislature on March 14. A national election in which Germans will choose a new parliament, and determine who succeeds Merkel, follows on Sept. 26. Susanne Eisenmann, the CDU candidate for governor in Baden-Wuerttemberg, told news magazine Der Spiegel that “it is unacceptable for parliamentarians to enrich themselves in this serious crisis.” On Sunday, Loebel said he will leave the Union bloc's group in parliament immediately and give up his seat at the end of August. He apologized and said he won't run in the September election, the dpa news agency reported. “I am taking responsibility for my actions,” he said. Loebel's case wasn't the first to rattle the centre-right bloc. Georg Nuesslein — a prominent lawmaker with the Christian Social Union, the CDU’s Bavaria-only sister party — faces a corruption investigation by Munich prosecutors in connection with mask procurement deals. He denies wrongdoing. On Friday, Nuesslein's lawyer said he won't run for re-election in September and is giving up his position as a deputy leader of the Union's parliamentary group. ___ Follow all AP stories on the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic. The Associated Press
Ottawa photographer and business owner Michael Willems documented his lonely lockdown experience in a series of daily self-portraits. On his way home from work just as the lockdown was beginning, he captured an image of his car in a deserted parking lot. "I was the last person to leave Place d'Orléans on the day we shutdown," said Willems. "It was otherworldly." Normally full, this parking lot at Place d'Orléans mall, just as the lockdown began. (Michael Willems) Then, he settled in for the lockdown, not knowing how long it would last. Willems would spend 81 days in a rented room, worrying about the fate of his newly-established photography shop in Place d'Orléans Shopping Centre. Each day he took one self-portrait to document his experience. "I tried to reflect in these photos my mood — and those of the country as a whole," said Willems. Willems documented his lockdown experience by taking a self-portrait each day.(Michael Willems) Willems emigrated to Canada from the Netherlands in 1995, and moved from Oakville, Ont., to Orléans in August 2019 to set up his photography business. Six months later, COVID-19 derailed his business plans, but served as his muse for his portraits. "Photos are extremely evocative. When I look back at [these photographs] I am right there again. And this will remain so for the rest of my life," said Willems. 'This was the first time in my entire life that I've done literally nothing for three months,' he says.(Michael Willems) It's his way of documenting what will become a chapter in history, not only for himself, but for his family. Someday, his descendants will be able to point at his pictures and say, "this is what granddad did when we had the virus," said Willems. Willems arrived in Orléans in August 2019, and rented a room while he got his business up and running. (Michael Willems) In addition to taking the self-portraits, Willems spent his time on his hobbies: operating his amateur ham radio and sorting through his collection of wrist watches and spinning tops. "We're social creatures. We're not meant to be sitting alone ... all day." Willems making contact with the outside world as an amateur ham radio operator.(Michael Willems) Willems made a point of keeping up appearances, including shaving, putting on a clean, collared shirt, and even occasionally wearing a tie. "To keep up — even for myself — the standard. I didn't want to become someone who just lies in bed all day and watches Netflix, which of course I did much of the time. At least this made me feel somewhat normal." Standards must be maintained. Or at least, anything to feel somewhat normal.(Michael Willems) Occasionally, Willems would visit his store to check up on the premises. It was eerie, and "totally otherworldly," he said. "There was a movie in the 1960s, The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, and I felt like that — the last person alive." Willems visited his store a handful of times during the lockdown. (Michael Willems) Willems struggled with inactivity. "This was the first time in my entire life that I've done literally nothing for three months," he said. "Almost eighty days of doing nothing." Willems wonders what we will remember about this COVID-19 era. He recalls family stories of the Spanish Flu. "My late grandmother was born in 1900. She remembered the 1918 virus. She said, 'all I remembered were hearses in the streets,'" said Willems. "Never did I imagine we'd have a repeat." 'We're social creatures. We're not meant to be sitting alone ... all day,' says Willems.(Michael Willems) When he finally returned to the store for the long-awaited reopening last year, Willems was a little rusty. "I was wondering, do I still know how to operate the computers? It took only a couple of days to get right back into the swing," said Willems. "Even though it's quiet now and there aren't an awful lot of people in the mall, it still feels like normal life again. So I'm delighted to be back." Willems on his first day back at his Place d'Orléans photography store, after 81 days of lockdown. (Michael Willems)
BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonia’s former regional president Carles Puigdemont says he will keep fighting extradition back to Spain if, as he expects, the European Union's parliament strips him of his immunity as a lawmaker this week. Puigdemont and two fellow Catalan separatists won seats in the European Parliament in 2019, two years after fleeing Spain because they had led a failed secession attempt for Catalonia, a move that Spain has deemed illegal. On Monday, Puigdemont, along with cohorts Toni Comín and Clara Ponsatí, faces a vote by the European Parliament on whether to lift their immunity as lawmakers, a move that has been recommended by the parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee. “We contemplate all scenarios, obviously even that we will lose our immunity, which is the most likely,” Puigdemont told The Associated Press via on Sunday from his residence in Waterloo, Belgium. “But we know that would not be the end of the road.” Lifting their immunity would allow Spain to once again pursue their extradition to stand trial like their fellow separatist leaders who remained in Spain and were found guilty of sedition and the misuse of public funds for the 2017 breakaway bid. So far, courts in Belgium, Germany and Britain have refused to send Puigdemont and his colleagues back on grounds of sedition as requested by Spain. Puigdemont said besides resisting in the national courts, the three will also “take our case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.” Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press
VICTORIA — Changes to the federal Divorce Act went into effect on March 1. Here is a look at some of the changes: — The amendments outline specific factors to be considered when a court decides what would be in a child’s best interests, including relationships with parents and grandparents, a child’s linguistic, cultural and spiritual heritage, and a child’s views and preferences. — Courts are required to order parenting time based on a child’s best interests. — The law includes a focus on the actual tasks of parenting, which means a parenting order also explains each parent’s “decision-making responsibilities” on important determinations to be made on behalf of a child. — The act now includes measures for dealing with family violence and requires the courts to take that into account. — A list of factors has been added to the act to help judges assess the seriousness of the violence when deciding what parenting arrangements would be in the child’s best interests. — The amended Divorce Act helps establish and enforce child support, including by allowing the federal government to release tax information to help determine accurate child support amounts. SOURCE: Federal Justice Department website. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Ontario's drive to bolster staffing in long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19 is leading to "destabilization" of the province's home care labour force, a group representing providers said Sunday as it pressed the government to standardize wages for personal support workers. Sue VanderBent, the CEO of Home Care Ontario, said a group of 50 service organizations is concerned with increasing worker movement from home care to higher wage jobs in long-term care homes, where personal support workers are paid an average of $5 an hour more than they earn in community care settings. The rate at which workers accept home-care assignments, a key indicator for service delivery levels, have dropped by nearly 40 per cent in recent months, she said. "This means that when we are asking our staff to go to see a patient, the PSW is saying, 'No, I'm not interested in doing that job'," she said. "This is unheard of." The province's long-term care sector has been devastated by the pandemic, where thousands of residents have died and staffing levels have declined dramatically. The province has created financial and educational incentives in a bid to recruit and retain thousands of PSWs to staff the nursing homes. VanderBent said those measures, when coupled with the wage gap, are enticing workers to leave home-care jobs. She said her association has been raising the concern with Premier Doug Ford's government, stressing the "unintended consequences" of the new policies. "We should be looking down the road and saying, 'this is the ultimate outcome of investing so heavily in one part of the system and not understanding the labour destabilization that you're going to create,'" she said. According to a staffing study released by the province last year, PSWs in Ontario long-term care homes make an average hourly wage of $22.69. That compared to the $17.30 average hourly rate paid to home care PSWs. The government-appointed advisory group behind the study, composed of academics and health-care industry executives, urged the province to ensure any steps it took to bolster staffing levels in one sector didn't leave any others behind. VanderBent said unless the government increases home care worker wages in the upcoming provincial budget, it will plunge that sector into crisis. "We've got to work really hard to recruit and retain and repatriate because a lot of people have left home care," she said. "This wage differential will cause a cascade." VanderBent said patients wind up in the province's overstrained hospitals when proper home-care supports are not available. "Every Ontarian who's lying on a gurney in an ER waiting for admission to a hospital bed was yesterday's home care patient," she said. A spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of Health said the government has included the home care sector in its broader PSW recruitment efforts. "Our focus is on recruitment, retention and training initiatives that will ensure that PSWs are available to meet the needs of patients and the health and social services system," David Jensen said in a statement. Jensen said the government launched a PSW "return to service" program last year with a $5,000 incentive provided for a six-month commitment for workers. That program applies to staff in long-term care and home and community care as well, he said. "As of February 26, 2021, over 600 PSWs have been hired through the program, including almost 200 in home and community care," he said. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said no matter where PSWs work in the province's health care system, they deserve a pay raise and fair treatment. “It’s not good enough for (Premier) Doug Ford to praise PSWs while doing nothing to permanently improve their salaries and working conditions," she said in a statement. "Worse yet, by allowing home care PSWs to fall even further behind, Doug Ford is putting homecare at risk and making it harder for seniors to live independently in their golden years," she added. Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said that in order to attract more people to work as PSWs, in all sectors, the province needs to treat them properly. "That means paying them a living wage, providing benefits like paid sick days, and ensuring safe and healthy workplaces," he said in a statement. "COVID-19 has exposed the massive gaps in precarious work across the province, and made abundantly clear just how vital essential workers like home care providers are." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday March 7, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 76,108 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,329,622 doses given. Nationwide, 564,217 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 6,146.877 per 100,000. There were no new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 88.84 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 21,533 new vaccinations administered for a total of 532,012 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.175 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 83.33 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 39,698 new vaccinations administered for a total of 860,412 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 58.575 per 1,000. In the province, 1.84 per cent (270,625) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 95.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,685 new vaccinations administered for a total of 87,622 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 63.632 per 1,000. In the province, 2.19 per cent (30,132) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.19 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 3,577 new vaccinations administered for a total of 90,456 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 76.713 per 1,000. In the province, 2.38 per cent (28,006) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 121.2 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 6,955 new vaccinations administered for a total of 282,674 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 64.214 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,824) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,660 new vaccinations administered for a total of 21,097 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 505.547 per 1,000. In the territory, 18.75 per cent (7,826) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 111.6 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted some recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and family connections. The number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for less than five years declined by four per cent to 1,019,000 by the end of 2020 from 1,060,000 the year before, according to an analysis of Statistics Canada's labour force survey that measures the number of workers between 15 and 65 years old by their immigration status. The number had grown three per cent a year, on average, in the previous 10 years. The data show that the number of permanent residents who have been in Canada for five to 10 years also dropped from 1,170,000 in 2019 to 1,146,000 in 2020. "It's actually not uncommon to have immigrants go back to their home country during the recessionary periods," said Robert Falconer, a researcher at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy. "If they've lost their job, they can go and live with their family and not pay rent. They can maybe find some social connections and work back home." He said the number of new immigrants fell by about three per cent between 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis and the recession that followed. He said many of those who have left in the past year might not come back if the economy doesn't recover quickly. "The longer they stay at home in their home countries, the less likely they are to come back to Canada." A study by Statistics Canada released in August showed that in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants to Canada were more likely than Canadian-born workers to lose their jobs, mainly because they had held them for less time and, as a whole, are overrepresented in lower-wage employment. That includes in service-sector jobs. Julien Bérard-Chagnon, an analyst with Statistics Canada, said the agency doesn't keep a monthly count of immigrants who leave the country but a group of its analysts are now working on a paper to examine the issue during COVID-19 pandemic. "The literature signals that immigrants, especially recent immigrants, are more likely to emigrate than the Canadian-born population," he said. While the pandemic has also driven down immigration to Canada by about 40 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, the Liberal government announced in October that Canada is seeking to admit upwards of 1.2 million new permanent residents in the next three years, including 401,000 this year. But this number seems optimistic as travel restrictions and the sharp economic downtown remain. "I doubt they will hit their target this year," Falconer said. A spokesman for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said the government is very confident it will meet it immigration targets in the next three years. "In January 2021, we welcomed more new permanent residents than in January 2020, when there was no pandemic," Alexander Cohen said in a statement. "We’re already ahead of schedule, welcoming new permanent residents at a rate 37 per cent higher than our projections." Falconer said the government is focusing on transitioning temporary residents in Canada to permanent status. "It's the best thing to do for people who are living here," he said. "But in terms of this population growth, it's a wash, meaning that we're not actually increasing our population." He said this policy is necessary but not sufficient to help the government meet its high immigration target this year. "Not every temporary resident wants to become a Canadian permanent resident or Canadian citizen. Some of them are here to work, to study and they are perfectly happy to go back home." He said the incentive for the government is still to try to increase immigration numbers, especially in jobs related to health care and technology because having fewer immigrants will harm these two sectors more than others. Andrew Griffith, a former director of citizenship and multiculturalism at the Immigration Department, says immigrants who arrive during an economic downturns tend to suffer economically, at least in the short term, more than those who arrive when the economy is growing. He said maintaining high levels of immigration at a time when the economy is weak and sectors such as hospitality, retail and tourism are devastated has an element of irresponsibility. Griffith said immigrants leaving Canada can reflect a failure of Canadian integration policies. He said the government needs to put more focus on immigrants who are already here as we face structural change in sectors including hospitality, travel and service industries that will affect mostly women, visible minorities and recent immigrants. "We may be in a fairly structural shift that will eliminate some jobs or dramatically reduce some jobs, and then what kind of retraining programs or other programs we need to support people as they transition." Cohen said the government has invested in settlement services during the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing funding to help boost wages by 15 per cent. It has helped buy personal protective equipment to keep staff safe, as well as cellphones and laptops to ensure services, including language training and job-search help, can be offered remotely. Falconer said the government should address problems with licensing and professional development that many newcomers face in Canada. "We make it very, very difficult for somebody who worked in a profession in their home country to come here and work in the same profession." "Immigrants come here with aspirations or hopes of being able to work and earn a much better living here in Canada than they did in their home country and they discover that they're actually going to be working in an unpaid, underemployed job." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $20 million jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw. However, the draw's guaranteed $1 million prize went to a lottery player in British Columbia. The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Mar. 10 will be approximately $23 million. The Canadian Press
VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of murdering their two daughters hope changes to Canada's Divorce Act will better protect children. Changes to the law took effect at the beginning of March. They place more emphasis on the needs of children during divorce and, as a result, aim to minimize legal battles between parents over custody orders, said Prof. Sara Ramshaw, a family law expert at the University of Victoria. She said the Christmas day, 2017 deaths of six-year-old Chloe and her four-year-old sister Aubrey were part of a recent discussion about the Divorce Act with her family law students. A British Columbia Supreme Court judge sentenced Andrew Berry to life in prison without chance of parole for 22 years in December 2019 after a jury convicted him of second-degree murder in the deaths of his two daughters. Berry is appealing his conviction and sentence. Berry was estranged from his partner, Sarah Cotton-Elliott, at the time he killed the girls. Ramshaw said the amendments to the Divorce Act change the way the presence and prospect of violence, including a child's direct or indirect exposure to family violence, is considered. "It signals to parents that it's not about them," Ramshaw said in an interview. "It's not about winning and losing. It's about children and who the children should be spending time with. "I'm really hoping that nothing like Cotton and Berry happens again." She said she will be watching future family court decisions to monitor where the issue of family violence factors in court parenting rulings. Cotton-Elliott supports the changes to the law. When she was in family court, she said she believed her children's safety and well-being took a back seat to arranging equal parenting for herself and Berry. "There's now a definition of all types of family violence written into national legislation, which has never been included before," she said in an interview. "I think the judges will be paying closer attention to these kinds of things when looking at making decisions." Cotton-Elliott said she believes the amended Divorce Act has the potential to protect more children from family violence. "I think for judges to make an informed decision in these family law cases they need a thorough understanding of family violence and the issues at play," she said. "The awareness is key. I really hope that these judges will take into account and recognize all signs of abuse." Berry was living in an apartment in the suburban Victoria community of Oak Bay where he was behind on his rent and the power had been cut off, his trial heard. He had quit his job and spent his savings to support a gambling habit. In sentencing Berry, Justice Miriam Gropper said he knew he was close to losing access to his children, prompting him to write a suicide note blaming Cotton-Elliott and his parents for his death. Instead, Berry killed his daughters and stabbed himself in a failed attempt to take his own life, Gropper said. In Canada, family law is a shared jurisdiction between the federal and provincial and territorial governments. The Divorce Act applies to married couples who are divorcing, while provincial or territorial legislation applies to unmarried or common-law couples, as well as married couples who are separated but not divorcing The federal government says the changes to the Divorce Act are the first substantive amendments in 20 years. In an online explanation of the changes, the federal government says the act did not previously include measures for dealing with family violence, but now the law defines it. The definition includes any conduct that is violent, threatening, shows a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour, causes a family member to fear for their safety directly or indirectly, and exposes a child to such conduct. "Courts will have to take family violence into account," the department said. "A list of factors have been added to the Divorce Act to help courts assess the seriousness of the violence and how it could affect future parenting when deciding what arrangements would be in the child’s best interests." Lawyer Shelley Hounsell-Gray, the Canadian Bar Association's family law secretary, said the Divorce Act changes will hopefully bring more peace to families, including children and their parents. "It's not about punishment," she said in an interview from Bedford, N.S. "It's about working collaboratively and more holistically with families so that children and their parents will end up with better parenting plans." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
A Victoria, B.C., man is one of the thousands around the world campaigning to win one of eight slots Japanese billionaire and fashion designer Yusaku Maezawa is offering for a trip to the lunar orbit with SpaceX.
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a wide circle of friends, Grade 12 student Alika White began Feb. 7 with a full schedule. But after a call from public health officials in St. John’s, N.L., she ended the day quarantined in her room, not knowing when and if she’d go back to school. "It just kind of gets snatched away from you in a blink of an eye," she said in a recent interview. "I was like, 'Oh my god I'm going to have COVID, I'm going to test positive, what am I going to do? My whole family is going to get it.' " That day, health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new case of COVID-19 — an unremarkable number, given that the province’s daily count of new infections had mostly hovered between zero and five since an initial outbreak last spring. But things were going wrong very quickly. Like White, young people all over the St. John’s metro region were getting calls from public health officials telling them they were connected to a positive COVID-19 case and they had to isolate for 14 days. By midnight, the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District board announced there were two positive cases associated with Mount Pearl Senior High School. The next day, the board cancelled all sports and extracurricular activities in the metro area as public health reported 11 new cases in the region. Three days later, with metro-area schools now closed, there were 100 new cases — the highest single-day COVID-19 tally recorded in all of Atlantic Canada since the pandemic began. Nearly three-quarters of those new cases were among people under 20, and all were in the eastern region that includes St. John's. On Feb. 12, officials called an evening news conference to announce that the rapidly spreading outbreak was linked to the B.1.1.7 variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom. Health authorities imposed a provincewide lockdown, prompting the cancellation of in-person voting in the provincial election that was supposed to happen the next day. Provincial chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said about 565 cases of COVID-19 are now associated with the outbreak, meaning it generated more new cases than the province saw in the previous 11 months. The provincial health authority said there were at least 185 cases across 22 different schools. White said 95 per cent of her friends and classmates had to quarantine. She avoided infection, but two of her eight closest friends tested positive. They didn't get sick, though. “One of them had a little bit of a cold and the other one barely had any symptoms at all,” she said. That’s one reason the outbreak was so explosive, according to health authorities. Dr. Patrick Parfrey, a clinical epidemiologist at Memorial University in St. John’s, said three factors combined to form one rapidly spreading outbreak. First, the B.1.1.7 variant is more easily transmitted than the original COVID-19 virus. Second, the initial spread was among young people who had milder symptoms or none at all, so they didn't know they were infected, he said. Third, he said, those young people were in situations where physical distancing is hard to enforce, like after-school sports and clubs. Parfrey said even with ramped-up testing, it would have been tough to predict the outbreak. "We probably wouldn't have identified schools as being the area of risk, because transmission was considered to be relatively low in young people," he said. The outbreak shows how quickly things can go off the rails, Parfrey said. But really, he said, it shows "how lucky we've been" to avoid a major outbreak until now. He points to previous clusters in the western Newfoundland town of Deer Lake, or in the southern Newfoundland town of Harbour Breton. In those instances, the regular COVID-19 virus was transmitted through older patients who had noticeable symptoms and thus got tested. As a result, those clusters remained small and contained, he said. It’s not known how the variant got in. The government restricts who can come into the province, requiring them to obtain permission and then isolate for 14 days upon arrival, but there’s room for cases to slip by, Parfrey said. Fitzgerald said last week that the variant and the province’s experience with it “changes the way we have to think about this disease altogether.” White thinks the outbreak has likely had a lasting impact on her and all her peers who went through it. Her school remains closed, and there has been no word as to when it will reopen. “Everything happening so quickly is taking a toll on my mental health,” she said, adding that teenagers have been targeted on social media by people looking for someone to blame. “It's really hard for people our age ... it's our last year of high school and we (may not get) to experience the last time that we'll set foot in that school.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 4 a.m. ET on Sunday March 7, 2021. There are 884,086 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 884,086 confirmed cases (29,977 active, 831,896 resolved, 22,213 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,332 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 78.88 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19,244 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,749. There were 21 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 254 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 36. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.45 per 100,000 people. There have been 25,066,354 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,005 confirmed cases (91 active, 908 resolved, six deaths). There were two new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 17.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 25 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 201,316 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 139 confirmed cases (24 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 15.04 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 111,814 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,657 confirmed cases (29 active, 1,563 resolved, 65 deaths). There were six new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 2.96 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 362,275 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,453 confirmed cases (36 active, 1,389 resolved, 28 deaths). There were six new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 4.61 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 23 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There were zero new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 241,147 tests completed. _ Quebec: 291,924 confirmed cases (7,214 active, 274,245 resolved, 10,465 deaths). There were 749 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 84.13 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 4,921 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 703. There were 10 new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 122.05 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,426,094 tests completed. _ Ontario: 306,997 confirmed cases (10,210 active, 289,735 resolved, 7,052 deaths). There were 990 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 69.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,243 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,035. There were six new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 92 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 13. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.86 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,147,485 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,170 confirmed cases (1,114 active, 30,151 resolved, 905 deaths). There were 71 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 80.77 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 361 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 52. There was one new reported death Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 12 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.61 per 100,000 people. There have been 541,269 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,593 confirmed cases (1,613 active, 27,584 resolved, 396 deaths). There were 163 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 136.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,087 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 155. There were three new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 11 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 588,194 tests completed. _ Alberta: 135,537 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 128,974 resolved, 1,914 deaths). There were 341 new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,334 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 333. There was one new reported death Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 31 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.28 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,445,307 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 83,107 confirmed cases (4,975 active, 76,752 resolved, 1,380 deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 96.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 457. There were zero new reported deaths Saturday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 25 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,969,444 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,232 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,849 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 377 confirmed cases (21 active, 355 resolved, one deaths). There were four new cases Saturday. The rate of active cases is 53.36 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 21 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,852 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
At first blush, Sheldon Corey's Twitter avatar, shown above, isn't the sort of thing you'd think is worth $20,000 US. But to the Montreal investor, it's worth every penny — if not more. The image is part of a collection of digital files known as CryptoPunks, which were first created more than three years ago. Created by a computer algorithm by software developer Larva Labs, there are about 10,000 of them out there. They were given away almost for free when they were created, but over time they have come to be very valuable to a certain subculture of people because they are among the first examples of an emerging type of digital investment known as non-fungible tokens or NFTs. While the image itself can be easily duplicated, what gives Corey's NFT its value is that its digital ownership is unimpeachable. Logged on a digital ledger known as a blockchain that can't be forged, the ownership can be publicly verified by anyone who cares to look, and Corey is its undisputed owner in perpetuity, or at least until he decides to sell it. But he has no plans to sell. "It's something I'm going to hang on to," he said in an interview. "It's doubled in value already." The "non-fungible" portion of NFTs simply means they can't be exchanged for another asset of the same type, and can instead only be transferred in exchange for some sort of money, typically ethereum or bitcoin. (Conventional money is perhaps the best example of a "fungible" asset since it can be exchanged for others of the same type. Canadian dollars for a certain amount of American ones, for example. Or two dimes and a nickel for a quarter.) NFTs are exploding in popularity right now, swept up in the mania for digital assets such as bitcoin. The most expensive CryptoPunk is currently valued at about $2 million. And about half of the 50 most valuable ones in the world have changed hands in the past month alone. CryptoPunks may be among the oldest, but they are far from the only ones. Digital artist Mike Winkelmann — better known by his online alias, Beeple — made headlines recently for selling the NFT of the 10-second video he created, shown below, to an investor for $67,000 US last fall. The buyer, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, sold that NFT this week for almost 100 times what he paid, setting what's believed to be a new record for NFTs at $6.6 million US. To him, he was buying a valuable piece of art akin to any other works from the great masters of their day, worthy of hanging in any museum you could name. "You can go in the Louvre and take a picture of the Mona Lisa and you can have it there, but it doesn't have any value because it doesn't have the provenance or the history of the work," he said this week. "The reality here is that this is very, very valuable because of who is behind it." Newer NFTs are starting to get into prickly issues such as royalties. But most, like Corey's CryptoPunk, do not. He says he's also invested in a few newer types of NFTs called Hashmasks — one of which is shown below — that come with the ability to sell the naming rights. "There's a secondary market for naming them so they are generating their own revenue source," he said. Booming business OpenSea, the largest marketplace for buying and selling NFTs, booked almost $90 million US worth of transactions last month. That's up from $8 million US the month before and just $1.5 million this time last year. Maria Paula Fernandez says even if NFTs are currently in a bubble, the underlying technology has real value that will last long after the bubble bursts.(The Golem Network) Maria Paula Fernandez is an adviser to the Golem Network, a peer-to-peer marketplace for computing power that runs on the ethereum network. While NFTs have been around for a few years, she said in an interview that they are hyped right now due to a "very large influx of new users coming into ethereum by way of some very crazy incentives in the space." Translation? There's a lot of new money pouring in. Much like conventional art, the beauty of digital art may be in the eye of the beholder, but to Fernandez the real value of NFTs is in how they can certify ownership. "They're super versatile," she said. "But the main benefit is the certificate of provenance and authenticity of an artwork." She says it's not surprising that the artistic community has jumped on board, because the conventional business model for artists and art lovers has its own set of problems. She cites the example of a New York art gallery that came upon previously undiscovered works by Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and others, and sold them to dozens of investors for more than $80 million. "The ink was right, the paper was right, people that know Rothko vouched for it," she said. Despite the way the gallery owner obtained them being "a bit shady" and the verification of their status "super opaque", customers couldn't wait to get their hands on rare gems from such revered artists. There was only one problem: they were all fake, forgeries by a talented Chinese artist. "All these millionaires, including the owner of [auction company] Sotheby's, got scammed because in the art world, provenance is created by a consensus," she said. "With NFTs there is no question, it's either there or it's not. Period." Going mainstream It's not just hobbyists with more cryptodollars than sense throwing money into the space, either. Canada's Grimes and Tennessee's Kings of Leon both made millions this week selling artwork and music, respectively, via NFT. Billionaire technology investor Mark Cuban is a big backer of them, and auction house Christie's is currently selling another Beeple work until March 11, calling it the first "purely digital" piece of art it has ever sold. Based on demand, the current record sale price for a Beeple mentioned above may be short-lived. The NBA has jumped into the space with both feet, establishing something called NBA Top Shot, which is probably best described as sports cards for the digital era. Instead of buying a pack of physical cards, fans and investors can buy NFTs of videos of memorable on-court moments. Since launching five months ago, the service has attracted 100,000 buyers and racked up more than $250 million in sales. So far the most valuable is the NFT of a dunk by superstar LeBron James. It recently sold for more than $208,000. (The Mona Lisa may belong to the Louvre, but the NFT in question is owned by a Twitter user with the apt moniker of YoDough. You can watch it yourself for free, here.) NFTs are a bit like hockey cards: collectibles that retain their value mostly because they are perceived to have it by those who care about them.() Speaking as an art lover, Fernandez says she wouldn't personally poster her wall with the LeBron dunk, but she still calls Top Shot a "great use case" to show the value of NFTs. "Of course it's not as special as a [sports card] you can hold and love and feel all that beauty, but this one lives forever," she said. "You don't have to protect it or put it in a safe, [but] you can have a very expensive collectible for your life." Emelia Thiara is managing director at Kingswap, a Singapore-based decentralized marketplace that allows trading in cryptocurrencies and NFTs. While the technology has been around for a while, she says the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in interest in NFTs, as digital assets become more mainstream. Corey owns the NFT for this piece of digital art, which is a Hashmask currently called Watermelon, but he may sell the naming rights to the piece to someone else.(Sheldon Corey) She says it's easy to think some of the assets are trivial, but so are a lot of physical collectibles. People collect high-end watches such as Rolex and save them for decades. "All that has no value to anyone who's not into the subculture, but to whoever is in the subculture it is hugely valuable," she said. "It may seem silly ... and doesn't make sense, but at least [an NFT] is recorded on a blockchain," she said. Fernandez admits that the feverish activity and meteoric price rise of some NFTs could be evidence of a bubble, but she's convinced the underlying technology will have real value even if the current frenzy fizzles out. "The only way to prove this isn't a bubble is if there are still creators willing to keep working, and technologists willing to keep investing in the platforms," she said. "Never in the history of art has it been easier to sell your work for millions."
“A book,” author Neil Gaiman may or may not have said, “is a dream you hold in your hand.” And right now, in an era of pandemic and polarization, Americans have — and need — a lot of dreams. We dream of unfettered travel, of a world free of face masks and hand sanitizer, of days that are exciting and new and not the grinding tedium of spending hour after hour staring, horrified, at the TV news. We dream of going back to school. Of eating a meal with family. Of hugs. And some of us — well, some of us dream of murder. Small-town murder. Gentle murder. Quiet murder. For those who find their dreams in books, there’s a group of readers who are hungrily consuming a particular style of narrative to escape from the past year's reality: “cozy” mysteries. In an unfathomably complex year, a gently told tale of murder and mayhem whittles the sharp edges of reality to a manageable, smooth surface. “Murder is definitely dark, but in a cozy the reader is with the protagonist every step of the way as each clue is revealed,” says Michelle Vega, executive editor of Berkley, who works with several cozy authors. “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.” In television form, the cozy can be seen in popular shows such as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Midsomer Murders” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” Cozies claim roots in early 20th-century British mysteries by such writers as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. But with the advent of the e-book, authors are setting their gentle crime scenes in RV campgrounds in the American South, tourist towns in the Pacific northwest and in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, to name a few. The genre’s parameters are few: no swearing, no sex, and little to no gore. Just what the pandemic-era doctor ordered. “The cozy mystery is a familiar way to encounter the two seemingly unreconcilable realities of death and country peace at the same time,” says Sarah Allison, an associate professor of English at Loyola New Orleans who is working on a book about “escape reading.” “The restoration of order at the end of the novel might be less significant than the way this genre makes beautiful scenery and grisly details feel like they go together naturally,” she said in an email. Such mysteries, she says, promise a messy murder and a tidy resolution, “a welcome contrast to the way we’ve all been suspended between life as it was before COVID and life as it will be after.” Kelly Vaiman, a longtime cozy fan, has tried to avoid thinking about real life this past year. First she was wary of going places due to the pandemic, then her elderly mother’s health declined while in a Pennsylvania nursing home. Vaiman couldn’t travel to say goodbye, and her mother died. “After her passing, during the mourning period, I just couldn’t handle the grief,” Vaiman says. “So I’d pick up a cozy mystery to take my mind off everything.” She estimates that she reads 120 books a year. They're not all all cozies, but those are what she turns to when she needs a comforting read. Valerie Burns writes gentle murder mysteries under the pen name of V.M. Burns, and her “Mystery Bookshop” series is now six stories long. Since the pandemic began in early 2020, she’s noticed more readers are taking the time to email her about her work, seeking that human connection that’s sorely missing. Burns, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is an avid cozy reader as well as a writer of them. She acknowledges the unusual nature of cozies — that they revolve around a murder yet are also soothing to read. But, she adds, trying to solve a mystery gives a feeling of accomplishment when so much of life seems stalled. “It’s basically a puzzle, but there’s that safety net in knowing there’s not going to be a whole lot of blood and guts and violence,” she says, laughing. “It’s contradictory. A murder mystery with no violence. But I can pick up a cozy, and can figure out clues and try to figure out whodunit but I don’t have to live in all of the horror associated with true crime or a noir.” Esi Sogah, a senior editor at Kensington Books, says she’s seen an uptick in cozy mystery sales in the past year. She believes that the genre’s settings — often picturesque small towns, quirky villages, or unique neighbourhoods — allow homebound readers to travel in their minds. “Sitting in cafes, going book clubs. Browsing in a bookstore in fictional world,” she says. “All the stuff you can’t do right now.” Unlike big blockbuster stories that revolve around one near-superhuman character (who is usually a man), cozy series cultivate an amateur sleuth (usually a woman) and a cast of quirky secondary characters. Readers become attached to the entire ensemble, says author Bree Baker, and consider them old friends. That's why readers love series that stretch to multiple books. “I think we all need a place to belong, at the core of everything. We need to have our people,” Baker says. And at a time when we can’t see our own people in real life, fictional stand-ins will have to do. Solving a murder in one’s mind, dreaming of the day when we can languidly enjoy a coffee and conversation with friends, knowing that what’s right will prevail in the end — those are the reasons people turn to cozies. And, not coincidentally, they overlap with the ways people are coping at this moment in history. “We have enough horror in our day to day lives,” Burns says. “Right now, that’s all I want to do is escape. Escape into a world where justice prevails.” ___ Former Associated Press journalist Tamara Lush, who worked for the AP from 2008 to 2021, is the author, under the pseudonym Tara Lush, of “Grounds for Murder (A Coffee Lover's Mystery)” (2020), a cozy mystery published by Crooked Lane Books. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TamaraLush Tamara Lush, The Associated Press
Two years ago, Francesco, then 18, became homeless overnight. His mother, an evangelical Christian, called the police to evict him from the family's home in the southern Italian city of Naples, saying his relationship with his boyfriend was corrupting his younger sister. "I was literally kicked out on the street with no help from the police or social services to try to resolve the situation," Francesco recounted. CBC News has agreed not to use his last name. "My boyfriend and I tried to find work to support ourselves, but it's difficult to get hired for young, gay people in a city like Naples. You're constantly made to experience your normality as abnormality." Francesco from Naples, southern Italy, was left homeless after his family kicked him out, saying his relationship with his boyfriend was corrupting his younger sister.(Megan Williams/CBC) Through a network of Italian LGBTQ associations, the Gay Center in Rome — one of few Italian refuges for young LGBTQ kids in distress — was alerted to Francesco's situation and took him and his boyfriend in. The group home provided housing, food and support for more than a year, until the two were able to launch a new, independent life in the Italian capital. But with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, these kinds of lifelines for LGBT youth in Italy and elsewhere in Europe are even more thinly stretched – putting thousands of young gay and transgender people, trapped in families that refuse to accept them, at even greater risk. Alessandra Rossi, who helps run the centre in Rome, worries about all the young people calling the centre during the lockdowns, crying out for help with isolation and depression. "With fewer jobs and university residences shutting down, many youth had to move back home," said Rossi. "The loneliness for LGBTQ kids back with families who reject [their sexual identity] is even more acute. The community and networks that kept them going before the pandemic are now cut off, making the situation even more dramatic." Large numbers of LGBTQ youth isolated, depressed In a survey of 2,445 Italian LGBTQ youth carried out by the Gay Helpline after the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, half of respondents reported facing problems of acceptance and support from their families, with 70 per cent feeling isolated and 56 per cent feeling depressed. "We have cases of kids coming out to their parents during the lockdown and parents punishing them by taking away their computers and cell phones, claiming they're protecting them from gay propaganda," she said. "It's led to a lot of suffering, especially for the teenagers who have had to withstand constant rejection and pressure all on their own." Alessandra Rossi of the Gay Center in Rome worries about young gay and transgender kids trapped in homophobic families during COVID-19.(Megan Williams/CBC) Rossi says in her experience as a group home worker, homophobic fathers are more likely to resort to physical violence in reaction to a child coming out. Mothers, she says, tend to exert psychological pressure on their gay or trans children to conform — not just to heterosexual norms, but stereotypical gender roles. "For lesbian daughters, it's even more complicated," she said, "because there's all the cultural pressure to look 'feminine,' with long hair and skirts and that sort of thing. It's especially tough for those transitioning to men, where it's important for them to bind their breasts, cut their hair and dress in [a] masculine way, and with families forbidding that." What is just as concerning during the pandemic, say experts, are politicians targeting gay and trans people as a way to divert attention away from the economic challenges of COVID. Last month, the ILGA-Europe, an LGBTQ rights group, sounded alarm bells about the rise in homophobic language and political hate speech against transgender people in Europe during the pandemic. In its latest annual report, it found that politicians in 17 countries in Europe and Central Asia, Italy among them, have verbally attacked LGBTQ people. 'LGBT-free zones' in Poland The situation in countries such as Poland, where a nationalist government has been openly hostile to its gay population and where 100 regions, towns and cities passed anti-gay resolutions, creating so-called "LGBT-free zones," is especially difficult. This week, a Polish court acquitted activists accused of offending religious sentiment for producing images of a Roman Catholic icon that included the LGBTQ rainbow — a form of protest, the activists say, against a homophobic Polish Catholic Church. Under Pope Francis, the Italian Catholic Church has been more tolerant of LGBTQ people — with one Rome parish offering shelter to migrant trans sex workers during the pandemic and the Pope telling parents of LGBTQ children that the Church loves their children. But Italy, one of the last major European countries to recognize same-sex unions in 2016, still doesn't offer legal protection against hate speech to gay and trans people. It's a situation Italian MP Alessandro Zan has been trying to address for several years. Alessandro Zan, Italian MP and LGBT activist, is hoping the anti-LGBT hate speech bill he is sponsoring will pass after six attempts.(Chris Warde-Jones for CBC) Zan, a member of Italy's Democratic Party, has sponsored an amendment to Italy's penal-code provisions on hate speech and crimes that would add LGBTQ, gender and disability to groups already protected under the law, which protects against hate based on religion, ethnicity and nationality. "Italy is in one of the last positions in Europe when it comes to recognizing civil rights and human rights. That's why we need advanced legislation. For civil society and for all society," said Zan. The bill has sparked a national debate, including among religious leaders, and has divided the country. An international petition gathered over 77,000 signatures in support. Far-right organizers, opposing the law, argued it would violate freedom of speech. If passed, Zan says it would likely outlaw as hate speech attacks like one launched by far-right Italian Sen. Simone Pillon, a member of the Lega party and organizer of so-called Family Day rallies against same-sex marriage and parenting. After Pillon repeatedly accused an LGBTQ group of "luring minors" and "distributing pornography" for handing out gay-positive sex education brochures, a lower court found him guilty of defamation. Late last month, a court of appeals absolved him. Like Rossi, Zan is especially concerned about the lack of protection against Italy's LGBTQ community at a time when its members, especially younger ones, are more isolated than ever. This year alone, ILGA-Europe documented 138 hate crimes against Italy's gay community, including violent attacks and murders of gay and trans couples. There have also been several cases of politicians denouncing LGBTQ people, with Rome City Coun. Massimiliano Quaresima stating at a meeting last summer that "homosexuality is a disease … caused by vaccines." While Zan's anti-hate speech bill has failed to pass into law five times, it did pass Italy's lower house in November and will soon be voted on in the Senate. But with a new government headed by Prime Minister Mario Draghi that includes members of the far-right, observers say it's far from certain it will pass. Zan, though, says he believes enough of his fellow politicians will support it. "It's important to approve this law because one can change the mentality, the mind of people," said Zan. And he hopes that by passing an anti-hate-speech law in Italy, a strong message that Europe is firmly on the side of civil rights will be sent to Poland, Hungary and other countries where LGBTQ groups face even more violence with fewer protections than Italy.
By the end of this year, a small batch of registered nurses will be the first in Nova Scotia to be able to write prescriptions. A pilot training program through Dalhousie University's school of nursing began in January with three participants who are on track to complete their certification in December. Ruth Martin-Misener, the director of Dalhousie's nursing school, said the first class includes nurses from emergency and primary care settings. Although the program is designed to apply to a broad range of health-care settings, Martin-Misener said having nurses with prescribing authority in busy emergency departments and primary care clinics stands to deliver the most obvious benefit. "There are gaps in access," said Martin-Misener, referring to the ongoing shortage of primary care providers. That shortage means many Nova Scotians seek out primary care through walk-in clinics or emergency departments. The hope is that by broadening the scope of work that nurses can do in those settings, health care will become more accessible and efficient. Nurse prescribing has been adopted in a handful of other Canadian provinces in the past few years, and it's been common practice in the U.K. for more than a decade. "It makes sense, given the international evidence, that registered nurses could be helping to address those gaps," Martin-Misener said. Antibiotics, contraceptives likely candidates for nurse prescribing The medications nurses will be able to prescribe will depend on the setting in which they work and decided by their employer. Martin-Misener said in other jurisdictions, it's common for nurses to prescribe antibiotics, contraceptives and medications related to wound care. The program has started small, but Martin-Misener said she expects demand to grow. "I think that the gaps in care that RN prescribing has the potential to address will mean that there will be more of an uptake." There's a possibility that another cohort of nurses could start the program this spring. The program is designed so that nurses can continue working while they study, taking one course per semester for two semesters, followed by a clinical rotation. Any registered nurse with at least three years of clinical experience in the setting where they would be prescribing can take the course, so long as they have a letter of support from their employer. 'RNs are going to really welcome this' Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton has been calling for prescribing authority for nurses, and said she's excited to see the program taking off. Nova Scotia Nurses' Union president Janet Hazelton says she hopes eventually, training to write prescriptions will be included in the undergraduate nursing curriculum. (Robert Short/CBC) "RNs are going to really welcome this," Hazelton said in an interview. "When they're in an [emergency department], they feel the frustration of the patients that have to wait. They get it. We want to be efficient, we want to be doing a good job, and we want people to come in, get what they need and get out as quickly and as efficiently as possible." Hazelton said she hopes it will eventually be integrated into the standard undergraduate program for registered nurses. MORE TOP STORIES
After nearly a year of bouncing in and out of various public health orders and reconfiguring her family's business on the fly, Lili Tran Anstee wants Monday to mark the start of a smoother and more predictable path back to normalcy. "We've had enough of this back-and-forth," said Tran Anstee, a third generation employee at the restaurant and cooking supply store Tap Phong Trading Company. "I'm hopeful, but the pragmatist in me is saying that it's probably going to continue on." On Monday, Toronto's stay-at-home order will be lifted and the city will emerge from the most restrictive measures to contain the pandemic since the initial shutdown in the spring of 2020. The shift back into Ontario's colour-coded framework means non-essential retail stores like Tap Phong will be allowed to re-open with limited capacity for the first time after they were ordered closed 104 days ago. Officially, the city remains under Ontario's grey lockdown level, though the province has adjusted its rules to permit retail stores to open at 25 per cent capacity even under lockdown restrictions. Indoor dining, gyms, and personal care services will remain closed. The city's business owners have responded to the news with relief, but also anxiety due to their experiences during the pandemic so far. "Frankly, I'm not sure we should be opening," said Elana White, the owner of the gift shop Outer Layer and a board member of the Queen Street West BIA. While White expressed concern that reopening retail stores could jeopardize Toronto's progress at containing the pandemic and potentially spark a third shutdown, she said the prospect of increased business will be too hard to resist. "Given that we're allowed to [open], we probably don't have any choice. It's been a long, tough winter and we'd like to have our sales increase," said White, who plans to open to customers later this week. 'We want this one ... to be the last one' Ontario's public health officials have repeatedly warned of a possible third wave of the pandemic that could trigger the return of more severe restrictions. They're worried a potential spike in cases could be driven by more contagious variants of the novel coronavirus, which threaten to spread rapidly and undermine Ontario's nascent inoculation campaign. Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said on Friday that it appears a third wave in her city is imminent. Her counterpart in Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa, noted that cases of variants of concern have doubled recently, though de Villa did recommend that Toronto be moved out of a stay-at-home order and into the less severe grey lockdown level. The most recent figures show Toronto has a weekly COVID-19 case rate of 68.3 per 100,000 residents. Ontario has stipulated that public health units must record rates of less than 40 per 100,000 before being moved in the red-control level. The Queen Street West BIA estimates a commercial vacancy rate in its district of more than 40 per cent.(Sam Nar/CBC) Peel Region, which is also moving into the grey lockdown level, has a weekly rate of 89.7 per 100,000. Toronto Mayor John Tory has said the city will do everything in its power "to stop the one thing that we want to stop more than anything else, which is another lockdown later." He expressed hope that a third shutdown can be avoided even with businesses slowly reopening. "We want this one, as it comes to an end, to be the last one," Tory said Friday on CBC Radio's Metro Morning. Business owners also appealed to residents to keep following public health orders, so that Toronto's economy can begin a reopening without any further setbacks. "I would like to believe that everyone is at that point where they just want to do everything as much as possible to facilitate us opening the doors," Tran Anstee said. "Not going back depends on each and every one of us."