As COVID-19 vaccine supplies gradually ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec The province's proposed order of priority for vaccination according to its website is those in residential and long-term care centres, workers in the health and social services network, followed by those in isolated and remote communities, people 80 years or older, and then the general population in 10-year increments. Health officials launched an online and telephone system for vaccine registrations on Feb. 25 and will begin vaccinating people aged 85 years and older in Montreal on March 1. Officials said that while residents across the province aged 85 and older can register for a vaccine, priority will be given to people in the greater Montreal area, which has the highest active COVID-19 case count in Quebec. On Feb. 26, officials opened registration for Montrealers as young as 80 years old. It has not yet been announced when the next age group can begin to register for vaccines. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province has mapped out a three-phase approach to its rollout. Phase 1, which is still ongoing, reserves shots for those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers, and people who live in congregate care settings. All Indigenous adults, people aged 80 and older and adults receiving chronic home care will be next in line. The province says it will begin vaccinations among the 80 and older age cohort starting the third week of March. Vaccinations will begin for people 75 and older starting April 15. The province will then move to offer shots to those 70 and older starting May 1; 65 and older starting June 1; and 60 and older the first week of July. Indigenous adults and patient-facing health-care workers will receive vaccinations as the province works through those age groups. The government is still finalizing the list of essential workers who will receive vaccinations in May if supply is available. The province has not detailed when people younger than 60 can expect to be vaccinated. Appointment bookings can be made online and by phone starting March 15 for those in eligible age cohorts. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. They say most people over 80, and First Nations individuals over 60, could be eligible in early March. The province plans to have all personal care home residents vaccinated with two doses by the end of February, and has started sending team to other congregate living settings such as group homes and shelters. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, say inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if new vaccines are approved and supplies are steady. The plan does not include a separate category for essential workers — something that Reimer says will be considered as vaccine supplies increase. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. When bookings opened to this age group Wednesday, the website was temporarily overwhelmed when more than 150,000 people tried to get access. Within a day, 100,000 appointments were booked. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. Some 28,000 seniors in long-term care have already been vaccinated. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia The first phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign launched in December and focused on health-care workers in hospitals, paramedics, residents and staff at long-term care homes, and remote Indigenous communities. The second phase set to wrap up in March includes people aged 80 and above, Indigenous elders 65 and up, Indigenous communities that didn't receive vaccine in the first phase, as well as more health-care workers and vulnerable populations living and working in certain congregate settings. The third phase of B.C.'s immunization campaign is set to start in April and last until June, reaching people between the ages of 60 and 79, along with those who are highly clinically vulnerable, such as cancer patients. B.C.'s plan for the general population is based on age, with the oldest residents first in line. --- Nunavut Nunavut's vaccination rollout is underway, with vaccine clinics for the general population scheduled or completed in all 25 communities. In Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, a general vaccination clinic is underway for priority populations, including staff and residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. Starting March 1, the vaccine clinic will be extended to all adults in Iqaluit ages 45 and up. Nunavut still expects enough vaccines to immunize 75 per cent of its residents over the age of 18 by the end of March. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories says it has vaccinated 42 per cent of its adult population since its vaccine rollout began in early January. Vaccine clinics are either completed or underway in all 33 of the territory's communities. In Yellowknife, residents and staff in long-term care homes are being prioritized for the vaccine. Vaccination of Yellowknife's general population will begin in late March. The N.W.T. still expects to receive enough vaccines to inoculate 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Friday that Iran should view his decision to authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria as a warning that it can expect consequences for its support of militia groups that threaten U.S. interests or personnel. “You can't act with impunity. Be careful,” Biden said when a reporter asked what message he had intended to send with the airstrikes, which the Pentagon said destroyed several buildings in eastern Syria but were not intended to eradicate the militia groups that used them to facilitate attacks inside Iraq. Administration officials defended the Thursday night airstrikes as legal and appropriate, saying they took out facilities that housed valuable “capabilities” used by Iranian-backed militia groups to attack American and allied forces in Iraq. John Kirby, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson, said members of Congress were notified before the strikes as two Air Force F-15E aircraft launched seven missiles, destroying nine facilities and heavily damaging two others, rendering both “functionally destroyed.” He said the facilities, at “entry control points” on the border, had been used by militia groups the U.S. deems responsible for recent attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. In a political twist for the new Democratic administration, several leading Congress members in Biden's own party denounced the strikes, which were the first military actions he authorized. Democrats said the airstrikes were done without authorization from lawmakers, while Republicans were more supportive. “Offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. And Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said lawmakers must hold the current administration to the same standards as any other. “Retaliatory strikes not necessary to prevent an imminent threat,” he said, must get congressional authorization. But Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, backed the decision as “the correct, proportionate response to protect American lives.” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that Biden used his constitutional authority to defend U.S. personnel. "The targets were chosen to correspond to the recent attacks on facilities and to deter the risk of additional attacks over the coming weeks,” she said. Among the recent attacks cited was a Feb. 15 rocket attack in northern Iraq that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a U.S. service member and other coalition troops. At the Pentagon, Kirby said the operation was “a defensive strike” on a waystation used by militants to move weapons and materials for attacks into Iraq. But he noted that while it sent a message of deterrence and eroded their ability to strike from that compound, the militias have other sites and capabilities. He said the strikes resulted in “casualties” but declined to provide further details on how many were killed or injured and what was inside the buildings pending the completion of a broader assessment of damage inflicted. An Iraqi militia official said Friday that the strikes killed one fighter and wounded several others. Kirby said the facilities hit in the attack were near Boukamal, on the Syrian side of the Iraq border, along the Euphrates River. “This location is known to facilitate Iranian-aligned militia group activity,” he said. He described the site as a “compound” that previously had been used by the Islamic State group when it held sway in the area. The Iraqi militia official told The Associated Press that the strikes against the Kataeb Hezbollah, or Hezbollah Brigades, hit an area along the border between the Syrian site of Boukamal facing Qaim on the Iraqi side. The official was not authorized to speak publicly of the attack and spoke on condition of anonymity. Speaking to reporters Thursday evening shortly after the airstrikes were carried out, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said, “I’m confident in the target that we went after. We know what we hit.” Biden’s decision to attack in Syria did not appear to signal an intention to widen U.S. military involvement in the region but rather to demonstrate a will to defend U.S. troops in Iraq and send a message to Iran. The Biden administration in its first weeks has emphasized its intent to put more focus on the challenges posed by China, even as Mideast threats persist. The U.S. has previously targeted facilities in Syria belonging to Kataeb Hezbollah, which it has blamed for numerous attacks targeting U.S. personnel and interests in Iraq. The Iraqi Kataeb is separate from the Lebanese Hezbollah movement. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that monitors the war in Syria, said the strikes targeted a shipment of weapons that were being taken by trucks entering Syrian territories from Iraq. The group said 22 fighters from the Popular Mobilization Forces, an Iraqi umbrella group of mostly Shiite paramilitaries that includes Kataeb Hezbollah, were killed. The report could not be independently verified. In a statement, the group confirmed one of its fighters was killed and said it reserved the right to retaliate, without elaborating. Kataeb Hezbollah, like other Iranian-backed factions, maintains fighters in Syria to both fight against the Islamic State group and assist Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in that country's civil war. Austin said he was confident the U.S. had hit back at “the same Shia militants” that carried out the Feb.1 5 rocket attack in northern Iraq. Kirby credited Iraqis with providing valuable intelligence that allowed the U.S. to identify the groups responsible for attacks earlier this year. The U.S., he said, then determined the appropriate target for the retaliatory strike. He said the U.S. also notified Russia shortly before the strike as part of the ongoing deconfliction process of military activities in Syria. “The operation sends an unambiguous message: President Biden will act to protect American and coalition personnel,” Kirby said. Syria condemned the U.S. strike, calling it “a cowardly and systematic American aggression,” warning that the attack will lead to consequences. U.S. forces have been significantly reduced in Iraq to 2,500 personnel and no longer partake in combat missions with Iraqi forces in ongoing operations against the Islamic State group. Lolita C. Baldor, Robert Burns And Qassim Abdul-Zahra, The Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Canadian Jeff Gustafson is halfway to his first-ever Bassmasters Elite Series victory. The Kenora, Ont., angler remains atop the leaderboard midway through the Bassmaster Elite Series event on the Tennessee River. Through the first two rounds Gustafson has a combined weight of 33 pounds, eight ounces. American Brandon Card is second, three pounds, one ounce behind Gustafson. Card, in his 10th Elite Series season, is also chasing his first career victory. Gustafson opened the tournament with five keeper fish weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces Thursday. He brought in another five-fish limit Friday that tipped the scales at 15 pounds 10 ounces — second only to Card (16 pounds, 10 ounces) on the day. Gustafson is attempting to become just the second Canadian to win a Bassmasters Elite Series event. Chris Johnston of Peterborough, Ont., accomplished the feat last year. Both Johnston and his older brother, Cory, finished among the top-50 in the 100-angler field Friday to qualify for the semfinal round Saturday. Cory Johnston, of Cavan, Ont., stood No. 33 (seven fish weighing 16 pounds seven ounces) while Chris Johnston was No. 46 (seven fish for 13 pounds 12 ounces). The top 10 anglers after Saturday's round will compete in the final Sunday. The tournament winner will receive US$100,000. All three Canadians are in their third season on the Elite Series and qualified last year for the Bassmaster Classic, the circuit's premier event that offers a $300,000 prize for the tournament winner.. Gustafson's best-ever Elite Series finish was second in 2019. He's cracked the top-10 on three occasions. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021 The Canadian Press
Mayor Rosanne Atkinson called the regularly scheduled council meetings of the Village of Spy Hill to order on February 19, 2021, at 8:29 A.M. with all council members present, as well as the town foreman. The foreman gave her water report to the council about what has been going on with the water in the village. There seems to be a slightly higher water usage for approximately a week. She discussed the tools she is looking at purchasing as she has priced them out at several places. Councillor B. Perrin made a motion to purchase tools from Bumper to Bumper; motion carried. Next, the council reviewed the regular minutes from the January 11, 2021 meeting before Councillor A. Perrin made the motion to accept them as reviewed; motion carried. The agenda was then reviewed before Councillor Jack made a motion to accept it as reviewed; motion carried. Moving on, the council reviewed the town’s accounts and the bank reconciliation. Councillor Jack made a motion to accept the accounts and bank reconciliation; motion carried. The council reviewed three quotes from electricians for work the village is requiring. These include wanting to have a backup generator for the lift station. Councillor A. Perrin made the motion to award the contract to Nixon’s Electrical; motion carried. A STARS Air Ambulance donation was next to be discussed. Councillor A. Perrin made a motion to donate $500 to STARS; motion carried. The council reviewed the Carlton Trail board meeting minutes for January and February. The council reviewed the RCMP monthly report. Old Business The council reviewed the requirements for the landfill closure from the Ministry of Environment. New Business The assessment roll is open in the Village of Spy Hill. Assessments are lower than before and will affect the budget. The council discussed the need to appoint a board of revision. Councillor Jack made a motion to appoint the Village of Gerald Council; carried. The village will have its final audit on February 25, 2021. B. Perrin brought up the possibility of re-starting a housing authority for Saskatchewan Housing Authority houses in the village; the idea was discussed at length due to the vacancy rate issues. The lift station was next to be discussed. The station is required to be cleaned every three months. Councillor A. Perrin made a motion to purchase a harness and lanyard to be able to go down to clean the lift station; motion carried. Mayor Atkinson adjourned the meeting. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
After a short lull, COVID-19 is surging again on Six Nations of the Grand River. The reserve had 71 band members test positive over the past week. Public health reported 15 new cases on Wednesday alone, followed by 36 on Thursday. As of Friday, there were 79 active cases on Six Nations, which has seen 321 cases and three deaths since the pandemic began. In a press release, Ohsweken Public Health called this week’s spike “extremely concerning,” adding health officials “have identified a high number of COVID-19 cases from reported large gatherings.” The press release indicated that “community gatherings” were held over the past two weeks and asked all who attended to self-isolate and book a COVID-19 test. When asked by The Spectator, a public health spokesperson said she had no further details about the gatherings. Mid-winter ceremonies held in January were identified as a source of COVID-19 transmission. “Ohsweken Public Health is pleading with community members to seek immediate testing for COVID-19 if they attended any gathering outside of their immediate household, masked or not, or if they have come into contact with other community members who attended a gathering,” public health said in Friday’s statement. Health officials reminded band members they do not need to be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to spread the virus to others. The spike in cases come as Six Nations recently opened a pre-registration system for residents to sign up to be vaccinated once more doses are shipped to the reserve. Public health also announced Friday that two staff members from Iroquois Lodge are in self-isolation after testing positive during routine testing at the long-term-care facility earlier in the week. Elected council recently voted to keep schools closed to in-person learning until the fall. Haldimand-Norfolk, which borders the reserve and has 32 active cases, is moving from the province’s orange alert level to yellow on Monday, the Ontario government announced Friday. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Just because stores are now allowed to reopen, don’t take that as a cue to have people over to your house for gatherings, says Arden Krystal, President & CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre. It has now been a year since the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in York Region and, as the second wave of the virus continues to show signs of decline, lessons from the first wave continue to inform the hospital – and community’s – response to combatting the virus. “We assembled an Emergency Operations Centre here in early February and we did that because both myself and several people on our senior team had lived through SARS and H1N1 and we had a sneaking suspicion on what this could look like – of course, none of us dreamed it would go on this long, but we knew that when a pandemic hits you certainly have to be prepared,” says Ms. Krystal. In those early days of preparing for what was coming, Ms. Krystal says there was a mixture of “fear and excitement” which quickly gave way to worry about supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). It was an issue, she says, that kept her up at night the most. “In Wave One, we literally dropped everything and we were in the Emergency Operations Centre seven days a week when we started to get COVID admissions,” she says, noting that one of the reasons why there was so much work to do in the initial stages was the evolving raft of guidelines, policies and procedures being handed down by the upper levels of government. Staff had to be trained, all masks needed to be tested, and things needed to be changed on the fly as the medical community learned more about the virus and how it operates. “We were learning new things every day and changing things up,” she says. “It was all hands on deck and it really didn’t matter what your role was. I think the second wave has definitely been more challenging for everyone and that is because in the summer we resumed some of our activity. We have had less beds to go around, if you will, because we have more activity coming in that is not COVID, but also the burden of COVID really went up and that has put a lot more pressure on staff, physicians and on our bed complement. “People are tired, too. They haven’t had their normal occasions, they can’t [go on vacation] or whatever it is they normally do for stress relief. A lot of our people here…have had the stress of trying to manage virtual learning, having elderly relatives they can’t see. Our people who work here have all the things that every other person has, plus they have had to come in and work with COVID people all day. “With more prevalence in the community, particularly right up to Christmas, [there were] a significant number of staff cases of COVID, so that was tough as well.” Last fall, when cases in the second wave began to increase at an alarming rate, Ms. Krystal was one of three CEOs of York Region hospitals who issued a statement to the Provincial Government sounding alarm bells over capacity. This was before stay-at-home orders and a Provincial shutdown were announced effective Boxing Day, but the challenge was just getting ready to hit a new level. January was a “very, very busy month” at Southlake, seeing a high of 74 COVID-admitted patients in the hospital at one time. Now that these orders are lifted, however, concerns remain on the table. “We are concerned about the variants and we continue to monitor the situation closely,” says Ms. Krystal. “Right now (Thursday, February 18) with COVID, we have about 24 patients of COVID in our hospital, four of those are in the Intensive Care Unit and all of those are ventilated. That is certainly lower than it has been, thankfully, however capacity remains a big challenge at Southlake. “During the first wave, the biggest issues we really had to deal with were fear of the unknown and fear of not having enough PPE, and really hoping to educate people on what COVID is and what it isn’t. The impact on the community was actually the community did not come and seek care when they should have sought care. Our Emergency, as well as several GTA Emergencies, were less busy during Wave One and naturally, because of people’s fear. We don’t have any specific stats on it, but we did see more patients that were in a more advanced stage, for example, of having a heart attack or waited until symptoms of cancer had presented themselves before they came to Emergency. That is less of an issue in Wave Two. “During Wave Two, I think dealing with the fatigue of people has been the biggest lesson. It has really been about trying to do what we can to support the health and wellbeing of our staff and physicians. People are generally doing a very good job staying safe. The cases have come down and that has given us a bit of breathing space right now. I can’t thank them enough for that, but I need them to continue. Whether or not York Region goes into the Red Zone or stays in the Grey Zone, continuing to follow the public health guidance of not having gatherings at home, not having close contact with people outside your household is so important to this. If the variant gets out of control and we’re into Wave Three, that is going to be a pretty demoralizing situation for our folks. They’re tired and they need a break.” Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
(ANNews) – In the wake of Alberta’s public health orders – which have prohibited the hosting of large indoor concerts – Grey Eagle Resort and Casino on the Tsuut’ina Nation has announced the creation of a drive-in theatre. This will be Alberta’s newest and largest drive-in event venue. “Performances are now possible,” said a Grey Eagle Facebook post. This 32-foot covered stage will be able to be viewed from the confines of a vehicle or through a west facing window of a Grey Eagle hotel room. The audience area – technically the vehicle parking – will be able to hold 206 vehicles. With plans to open May 1, the drive-in theatre is set to host a plethora of special events including graduations, dance recitals, comedy shows, weddings and theatrical performances. The resort plans to unveil its live concert lineup in the near future. “The Grey Eagle Drive In will feature a cutting-edge semi-trailer covered stage, with surround sound which is also available through the car FM radio transmitters,” explained Lisa McCann of The Event Group. “Three large LED screens will project the action on stage under the stars and with the Rockies Mountains as the backdrop.” The drive-in is also allowing people to rent out the facility and encourages using ticket sales, live streaming, or an onsite 50/50 draw to cover the expenses of the booking costs. The COVID-friendly venue is available now to book for special events from May 1 to July 31. Rental rates vary from $5,000 to $7,000. The Grey Eagle Drive In event space is operated and managed exclusively by The Event Group and Supervision Ltd. “We are super excited to carry on the reputation rolling into this spring with our new ‘Grey Eagle Drive In’ showcasing an incredible outdoor live event experience,” says Kevin Yates, General Manager of the Hotel & Event Centre at Grey Eagle Resort and Casino. “Guests have an opportunity to eat, play, stay and enjoy a variety of entertainment, in support of charities on the beautiful Tsuut’ina Nation. We will be following all health and safety guidelines.” Sometimes, you have to take a step back in order to take another step forward, and that is what is happening. The resurgence of drive-in theatres is also taking place in Ontario as there are a few drive-ins that were announced recently as well. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
NASHVILLE — Tennessee's top health officials revealed Friday that the state has requested federal law enforcement investigate alleged theft of coronavirus vaccine doses in the state's most populous county. They also announced that a volunteer in Shelby County improperly vaccinated two children despite the shot not being cleared for young minors. Later Friday, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced that Dr. Alisa Haushalter, the director of the county health department, has resigned. The developments come after the state previously announced that roughly 2,400 COVID-19 vaccine doses had been wasted in Shelby County over the past month due to miscommunication and insufficient record-keeping inside the local health department. The county, which includes Memphis, had also built up nearly 30,000 excessive vaccine doses in its inventory. Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey declined to elaborate on the extent of the theft allegations, but said the Shelby County Health Department only alerted the state about the stolen doses after the state had asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to launch their own investigation. Piercey did say, however, that the stolen shots are believed to have been taken by a volunteer who ran off with the vaccine in syringes — not the actual vials the shots are kept in. In a statement, the county health department said a supervisor received information that a volunteer medical professional was acting suspicious at the vaccination site where the alleged theft took place. The volunteer was removed from the site and law enforcement was contacted, but the county health department claims no theft report was filed because there was not enough information. The FBI has been made aware of the situation, FBI spokesman Joel Siskovic said Friday. Siskovic did not confirm or deny if an investigation was underway. Meanwhile, Piercey said the state is still scrambling to learn more about how a volunteer immunized two children on Feb. 3. Piercey said a mother with two children arrived at a vaccination site and all three had appointments. It's unclear if the children will receive a second dose. On top of the nearly 2,400 shots reported wasted, the health department says more vaccines were wasted this week in Shelby County. Sixty-four unused doses went to waste while 12 more were unaccounted for after a Tuesday vaccination event. “At the end of the day there does seem to be a lack of accountability and in some sense, leadership. That has led to undoubtedly potential harm to some folks," Piercey told reporters. Piercey stressed that despite the past week's revelations, her focus remained on getting as many shots into arms as possible. Speaking with reporters at a vaccination site in Memphis, Gov. Bill Lee said he was disappointed with the developments in Shelby County. Lee said the state is working with the city of Memphis, which has taken over vaccine storage and distribution from the county health department. “That speaks to the great deal of concern that we have,” Lee said about Memphis replacing the county health department with vaccine management. Along with news of the alleged theft and vaccines given to children, the state's health department also provided email correspondences with Haushalter, director of the Shelby County Health Department in Memphis. Earlier this week, Haushalter said she called and left a message for Dr. Michelle Fiscus, the state health department’s immunization program director, to discuss the wasted vaccines on Feb. 13. Haushalter said she did not talk to the state until Feb. 19, when the investigation launched after her first public statements about the wasted vaccines. According to emails released by the state, Haushalter emailed Fiscus on Feb. 17 but made no mention of wasted doses. Instead, she asked Fiscus to contact her “when your time permits.” Fiscus said there was no sense of urgency in Haushalter’s attempt to contact her. Piercey said in an email to Fiscus that she also spoke with Haushalter for 15 minutes on Feb. 16, but there was “no mention was made of any expired product.” Haushalter also said Wednesday that she found out about additional wasted vaccines Feb. 13, but did not publicly disclose that information until six days later, on Feb. 19, when she said about 1,315 vaccine doses that had expired and were thrown out amid a series of winter storms that shut down vaccination sites. Harris, the county mayor, announced during a county commission meeting that Haushalter has tendered her resignation from her position and has made plans to retire. Harris said Haushalter has worked “ferociously” over the past year on the county's coronavirus response. Separately, later Friday, Rutherford County Schools — in middle Tennessee — announced 1,000 doses had to be tossed due to a storage error, school officials announced. The school says the doses were stored in an unapproved freezer and the temperature of the vaccines were not under constant monitoring. Meanwhile, earlier this month, officials in Knox County announced that 975 doses had been accidentally thrown away by someone who thought they were throwing out dry ice. The state has also launched an investigation into that incident. ___ Sainz reported from Memphis, Tennessee. ___ An earlier version of this report had an incorrect spelling of FBI spokesman Joel Siskovic's name. Kimberlee Kruesi And Adrian Sainz, The Associated Press
Senior officials from Europe have urged the World Bank's management to expand its climate change strategy to exclude investments in oil- and coal-related projects around the world, and gradually phase out investment in natural gas projects, according to three sources familiar with the matter. In the six-page letter dated Wednesday, World Bank executive directors representing major European shareholder countries and Canada, welcomed moves by the Bank to ensure its lending supports efforts to reduce carbon emissions. But they urged the Bank - the biggest provider of climate finance to the developing world - to go even further.
“The connection is me,” said Tsuut’ina Nation artist seth cardinal dodginghorse, linking his work for Contemporary Calgary and his protest at the opening of the southwest Calgary ring road last October. dodginghorse spoke virtually yesterday, the final speaker for Contemporary Calgary’s Water Event. His exhibit, entitled The Glenmore Rezerveoir, is a water jug with a label made from elk hide parfleche. Writing is painted on the inside of the label and can only be read if it’s “really bright out” and the jug is angled. The label reads: “You drink Tsuut’ina land.” dodginghorse said he was approached in August by the gallery to be one of six Indigenous artists to produce a water sculpture as part of political activist Yoko Ono’s exhibition, Growing Freedom. Two months later, he stood at the opening of Tsuut’ina Trail, unofficially called Calgary’s southwest ring road, and cut off his braids, offering them to the portion of the road that displaced his family six years earlier from their generations-held land. “The connection is story-wise and intent behind making the work. They weren’t directly related at all. But a lot of my intent … all my own personal experiences, traumas informed making this work and those were the same things that informed me speaking out at the opening … (and) resulted in me cutting my hair and everything. It’s more like the connection is that I made the artwork and the connection is that I ended up cutting my hair. The connection is me,” said dodginghorse. dodginghorse’s family was forced off their land in 2013 because of the ring road. That land had been in the family since his great-great grandmother. His mother and her siblings had grown up there. Many Tsuut’ina people beyond dodginghorse’s family members had connections to that land. When living there, dodginghorse said the water they drank was “some of the most beautiful, delicious water you could drink.” His family moved to another piece of land on the Tsuut’ina reserve. They were told not to drink the water from the tap because of numerous environmental concerns, including nearby fracking. His family had to drink water from jugs. “We didn’t grow up having to purchase water. We didn’t grow up having to be afraid of what was coming from our tap. We’ve been drinking from these water bottles for quite a bit now and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just use one of these and highlight the issue of drinking water and where does the water I’m purchasing come from?’” he said. In 1932, dodginghorse said Tsuut’ina Nation was “pressured” by Calgary and the government to sell 400 acres of reserve land to the city. That land became the Glenmore reservoir and provides safe drinking water for Calgary residents. “There’s just so much loaded history behind Glenmore reservoir and my family as well ... It’s very strange and very ironic that my family, once we moved, in order to drink water we had to drink water from land that was originally part of Tsuut’ina. That was like essentially purchasing water back from ancestral lands,” said dodginghorse. Having to be concerned about safe drinking water is not unique to Tsuut’ina, said Dodginghorse, noting that boil water advisories are common in many First Nations communities right across the country. While some artwork takes time to conceive and time to determine the medium, this piece was readily conceived, dodginghorse said. “It was very easy to make but then thinking about the history behind the objects, behind my family’s history, all of these connection, is one of those really nice pieces in a way where I made this and then afterwards I started thinking and analysing and really understanding what I had made,” he said. dodginghorse said he prefers his work to be “blunt and in your face.” He wants people to “get” what he is saying with his art and not have to ponder it for “three hours” before the message sinks in. dodginghorse has been showing his work in Calgary galleries for about six years. He said he understands that this venue only reaches “a certain crowd.” “A lot of the people that were involved in a lot of these decisions historically that are still here, aren’t really the type of people that go to galleries. With this type of work has like the focus on reaching out to the average white Calgarian that goes to galleries,” he said. Ryan Doherty, chief curator of Contemporary Calgary, who hosted the virtual talk, said dodginghorse’s piece was popular with gallery goers, many of whom came after dodginghorse cut his braids at the ring road opening. “That seemingly mundane container is in fact so loaded,” said Doherty. When Contemporary Calgary was tasked with asking a new group of artists to collaborate with Ono in this iteration of Water Event, Doherty said he knew it had to be a group with which water had an “enormous significance.” “When you consider the long history and impact of the Bow and Elbow rivers to the Indigenous population past and present it seemed the best thing would be to invite artists for whom that connection would resonate in the collaboration with Yoko,” said Doherty. The other Water Event collaborators are Adrian A. Stimson, Faye HeavyShield, Jessie Ray Short, Judy Anderson and Kablusiak. In 1971, Ono held her first museum exhibition, Water Event, in which she invited over 120 participants to produce a water sculpture. “As Yoko herself noted to us, (this) was one of the best iterations to date,” said Doherty. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
A new report says the Manitoba government failed to provide proper oversight as costs spiralled on two mega projects at Crown-owned Manitoba Hydro. The review was done by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall.
By the middle of last week, Southlake Regional Health Centre had nearly 25 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, four of whom were ventilated in the Intensive Care Unit. Compared to other points in the first and second waves, this is lower than it has been, but capacity remains an ongoing challenge at the local hospital – and it was already a challenge well before the world had ever heard of COVID-19. “COVID has only kind of heightened some of those challenges we have,” says Arden Krystal, President & CEO of Southlake Regional Health Centre. Planning for the future and ensuring capacity as growth continues across York Region is a top-of-mind issue for the hospital and they are once again asking for input from the communities they serve. On Wednesday, March 10, from 7 – 8 p.m., Southlake Regional Health Centre will host a Virtual Community Town Hall co-hosted by Ms. Krystal and Dr. Charmaine van Schaik, Physician Leader, Maternal Child Program and Co-Medical Lead on the Vaccine Management Committee. Coinciding with the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town Hall will look back at challenges faced by Southlake over the last 12 months, look ahead to what future challenges might be, as well as solicit input on the hospital’s new Master Plan for a new build. “The one thing you don’t have in a pandemic is an old building that has a lot of four-bed rooms and that is exactly what we have,” says Ms. Krystal. “Because of that, we have had to reduce our bed capacity in many of our rooms in order to accommodate infection control standards and to isolate patients who are either suspected of having COVID or have confirmed COVID. It has really heightened a lot of the facility challenges that we already have, which is why we’re trying to move forward as quickly as we can to get our Master Plan approved.” Once the Master Plan is in place, Southlake can start planning for capital redevelopment within the community. Over the last seventeen years, Southlake has had largely the same footprint and, in that time, they have increased their number of beds by approximately 36 per cent. Ms. Krystal says they are “full to the brim” when it comes to looking after more patients. “[One of] the ways we are dealing with capacity in the short term and medium term is we have learned through COVID there are a number of activities that don’t necessarily have to happen on a hospital campus,” she says. “With our Ontario Health Team, we have been planning for some time around making sure that we can do more virtual care, that there are certain activities we can hand off to our community partners because they, in fact, do them very well. I think we have learned a lot of lessons about how we can do things more efficiently, but no matter how much virtual care we still don’t have enough space here. We’re going to have to get a new development for this community sooner rather than later.” The development of the Master Plan is ongoing. It has been driven not only by people’s wants and needs, says Ms. Krystal, but also population and demographic data so they can plan for the future. “Whether what we hear from the populations we serve is positive or negative, we take it all in, adjust it and try to make changes or to continue to make the things we’re doing well stronger. I’ll be talking to people about this master planning and our capacity challenges and ideas of how we can make that better. I will be talking to people about our Operating Budget, some of the challenges we have and some of the progress we have made. “The communities Southlake serves has lost collectively about 19 per cent of their long-term care capacity due to changed rules for infection control that affected the Class E and D homes, those older homes that have multi-bed wards. You can imagine losing 19 per cent of the beds, we already didn’t have enough long-term care beds. That impacts us because it means that a patient waits longer in our hospital to go to a long-term care bed and that is where they need to go. All of these things are issues and I am happy to chat with anyone about them, as well as vaccination which is kind of our shining light right now. We’re very involved in the vaccination effort at Ray Twinney Arena in partnership with public health and that is an exciting thing.” For more on Southlake’s Virtual Town Hall, visit southlake.ca/townhall. Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran
EDMONTON — The Alberta government and its 11,000 physicians have taken a first step toward resolving an ugly, fractious year-long dispute over fees and working conditions. Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Paul Boucher, the head of the Alberta Medical Association, say they have reached a tentative deal on a new master agreement. Boucher declined to provide specifics, saying he first wants to let members discuss and ratify the deal and that it will work within the government's “budget imperatives." Alberta’s physicians collectively receive $5 billion a year, and the Alberta budget will see that figure rise slightly to $5.3 billion over the next three years. A year ago, Shandro unilaterally cancelled the master agreement with the AMA and began imposing new rules on fees and visits, saying physician costs were rising too high year over year and were not sustainable. That led some doctors to withdraw services, the AMA launched a lawsuit and Shandro was criticized for fighting with doctors in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. The Canadian Press
Bryan Adams publicly thanked staff at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver for its care of the singer, photographer, philanthropist’s mom, Jane Adams Clark. One of Canada’s most famous rockers, Adams shared a selfie of himself and his mom at the hospital in a social media post thanking the “incredible staff” for being so kind. “Thank you for sharing your kind comments @bryanadams – we’re sending your mum our warmest wishes for a speedy recovery,” the @lghfoundation posted. Adams moved to North Vancouver in 1974 with his family, where he attended Argyle Secondary School just three years after he picked up his first guitar. Adams Clark is a poet and painter who lives in North Vancouver. Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: email@example.com Zoë Ducklow, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Island Gazette
WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, according to a newly declassified U.S. intelligence report released Friday that instantly ratcheted up pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew worldwide outrage. The intelligence findings were long known to many U.S. officials and, even as they remained classified, had been reported with varying degrees of precision. But the public rebuke of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is still a touchstone in U.S-Saudi relations. It leaves no doubt that as the prince continues in his powerful role and likely ascends to the throne, Americans will forever associate him with the brutal killing of a journalist who promoted democracy and human rights. Yet even as the Biden administration released the findings, it appeared determined to preserve the Saudi relationship by avoiding direct punishment of the prince himself despite demands from some congressional Democrats and Khashoggi allies for significant and targeted sanctions. Questioned by reporters, Secretary of State Antony Blinken defended the approach. “What we’ve done by the actions we’ve taken is not to rupture the relationship but to recalibrate it to be more in line with our interests and our values," he said. “I think that we have to understand as well that this is bigger than any one person.” The conclusion that the prince approved an operation to kill or capture Khashoggi was based on his decision-making role inside the kingdom, the involvement of a key adviser and members of his protective detail and his past support for violently silencing dissidents abroad, according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Though intelligence officials stopped short of saying the prince ordered the October 2018 murder, the four-page document described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organizations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval. Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry responded by saying the kingdom “categorically rejects the offensive and incorrect assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership.” Shortly after the findings were released, the State Department announced a new policy, called the “Khashoggi Ban,” that will allow the U.S. to deny visas to people who harm, threaten or spy on journalists on behalf of a foreign government. It also said it would impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals who have engaged or threatened dissidents overseas. The State Department declined to comment on who would be affected, citing the confidentiality of visa records. But a person familiar with the matter said the prince was not targeted. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The Treasury Department also announced sanctions against a former Saudi intelligence official, Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, who U.S. officials say was the operation's ringleader. Democrats in Congress praised the administration for releasing the report — the Trump administration had refused to do so — but urged it to take more aggressive actions, including against the prince. Rep. Adam Schiff, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, urged the Biden administration to consider punishing the prince, who he says has the blood of an American journalist on his hands. “The President should not meet with the Crown Prince, or talk with him, and the Administration should consider sanctions on assets in the Saudi Public Investment Fund he controls that have any link to the crime,” Schiff said in a statement. Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, called for consequences for the prince — such as sanctions — as well as for the Saudi kingdom as a whole. Rights activists said the lack of any punitive measures would signal impunity for the prince and other autocrats. Without sanctions, “it’s a joke,” said Tawwakol Karman, a Nobel Peace Price winner from neighbouring Yemen and friend of Khashoggi's. While Biden had pledged as a candidate to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” over the killing, he appeared to take a milder tone during a call Thursday with Saudi King Salman. A White House summary of the conversation made no mention of the killing and said instead that the men had discussed the countries’ long-standing partnership. The kingdom’s state-run Saudi Press Agency similarly did not mention Khashoggi’s killing in its report about the call, focusing on regional issues like Iran and the war in Yemen. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has told reporters that the administration intends to “recalibrate" the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. Biden previously ordered an end to U.S. support for the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen and said he would stop the sale of offensive weapons to Saudi Arabia but has given few details of his plans. Though the Biden administration's relationship with Riyadh is likely to be more adversarial than that of Donald Trump's, the reality is that Riyadh's oil reserves and status as a counterbalance to Iran in the Middle East have long made it a strategic — if difficult — ally. The broad outlines of the killing have long been known. The document released Friday says a 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince's elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, though it says it's unclear how far in advance Saudi officials had decided to harm him. Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival. Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours before his killing. A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains remain unknown. The prince, an ambitious 35-year-old who has rapidly consolidated power since his father became king in 2015, said in 2019 that he took “full responsibility” for the killing since it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it. Saudi officials have said Khashoggi’s killing was the work of rogue Saudi security and intelligence officials. Saudi Arabian courts last year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi’s killing. They were not identified. ___ Madhani reported from Chicago. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee and Ben Fox in Washington and Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City contributed to this report. Eric Tucker And Aamer Madhani, The Associated Press
Two Ontario regions struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks will be moving back into lockdown next week, while public health restrictions will be loosened elsewhere in the province. Local leaders in Thunder Bay - a hub for travel in northwestern Ontario - had been calling for assistance as COVID-19 outbreaks were declared at correctional facilities, among the homeless population and at number of local schools. Simcoe Muskoka, which has also been hit with several outbreaks driven by infectious virus variants, will also be placed on lockdown. Health Minister Christine Elliott said recent projections on the pandemic in Ontario "(show) us that we must be nimble and put in place additional measures" to stop the spread of the virus. "With COVID-19 variants continuing to spread in our communities, it is critically important that everyone continues strictly adhering to all public health and workplace safety measures to help contain the virus and maintain the progress we have made to date," Elliott said. Meanwhile, restrictions will loosen Monday in Niagara Region, Chatham-Kent; Middlesex-London; Southwestern; Haldimand-Norfolk; Huron Perth; and Grey Bruce. The government lifted a stay-at-home order for most of the province two weeks ago and moved the majority of health units back to its colour-coded restrictions system. Data has shown the stay-home order and strict public health measures imposed in January brought cases and hospitalizations down but they have since started to trend upwards again. In Thunder Bay, the local public health unit has recorded more COVID-19 cases in February than throughout all of 2020, the city's mayor said Friday before the lockdown was announced. "We're in a difficult spot right now," Bill Mauro said in a telephone interview. "Clearly there is a situation here that we don't see ending in the near term." The mayor has been calling on the provincial and federal governments to provide financial and human-resources assistance in health care. The only isolation centre in the city of over 121,000 people is on the "verge of failing," he said. Ontario's top doctor recommended Thursday that the city be moved to lockdown because the virus could spread to remote communities with scarce health-care resources. Dr. Janet DeMille, medical officer of health for Thunder Bay District Health Unit, welcomed the lockdown announcement. "These enhanced measures are needed to get COVID in our community under control," she said in a statement. A New Democrat legislator who represents the northern city in the provincial parliament said the government waited too long to help the city avoid a lockdown. “It’s been like watching a car crash in slow motion,” Judith Monteith-Farrell said Friday. Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler had also requested support from Ottawa and the province, saying the region was grappling to keep up with the growing case load. The chiefs pointed to inadequate resources for people released from correctional facilities who are being sent to isolate in hotels in Sioux Lookout, Thunder Bay and Timmins. “Thunder Bay is in a precarious situation, and there is growing concern as government ministries, health organizations and health units struggle to contain the spread of this virus," Fiddler said. "Moving back to lockdown across northwestern Ontario will be painful, but is necessary as COVID-19 cases continue to rise." One northwestern Ontario First Nation declared a state of emergency after several members living off-reserve in Thunder Bay tested positive for COVID-19. Neskantaga First Nation Chief Chris Moonias said at least 12 members had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday. There was also news Friday of more infectious COVID-19 variants detected for the first time in the northwestern part of the province. The local health unit that covers the Kenora, Ont., area, reported its first case of a COVID-19 variant. It said a person in the Dryden, Ont., area has tested positive for the B.1.1.7 variant first found in the U.K. Meanwhile, Premier Doug Ford welcomed the news that Health Canada had approved a third COVID-19 vaccine – from AstraZeneca – for use in Canada, saying it would speed up Ontario's vaccine rollout. "We're geared up, we're ready to go and just can't wait to get the third vaccine," he said. The province plans to offer shots to people aged 80 and older starting in the third week of March, though the timeline is subject to change. Some local health units will start inoculations in the broader community earlier based on their progress vaccinating the highest-priority groups first. Vaccinations for those 80 and older are to begin at Windsor-Essex County clinics on Monday. The City of Ottawa will deliver shots next Friday at a pop-up clinic open to those born in 1941 and earlier, adult recipients of chronic home care and residents of high-risk neighbourhoods. York Region will also allow residents aged 80 and older to book appointments Monday, with vaccinations to start possibly the same day. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
An emergency homeless shelter in North Battleford is closing its doors. The North Battleford Lighthouse emergency shelter program is being forced to close after losing about $500,000 from the Provincial Métis Housing Corporation — the bulk of its funding, noted Don Windels, executive director of Lighthouse Supported Living. "It's not an easy decision," Windels said. The shelter is set to close on April 1. Windels said he has approached the province and federal government for funding, but there have been no takers so far. He added that the closure isn't a slight against PMHC, which he described as supportive of the shelter. The service has retained its smaller donors, but they don't provide enough money to keep it open, Windels said. The emergency shelter, which is open 24 hours a day, has a maximum capacity of about 37 people, but it provides food for many more than that, he said. Those long hours also make it more difficult to pay staff and keep the service open, he added. The closure also affects roughly nine long-term transitional housing units, Windels said. The Lighthouse's other supportive and transitional housing programs won't be affected. The closure comes roughly seven years after community leaders first expressed interest in opening The Lighthouse in North Battleford. After buying the Reclaim Outreach Centre and undergoing months of renovations, The Lighthouse opened its services in January 2015. Windels said he hopes to either find new funding partners or hand the shelter over to another organization. Meanwhile, the closure will affect a vulnerable homeless population in the midst of the pandemic. "The province needs to come up with a housing strategy that includes shelters. And shelters need to be funded properly," he said. "Because it's really difficult to have a quality program without funds." Pointing to the overdose crisis and the pandemic, NDP Leader Ryan Meili called on the province to provide the money that would keep it open. In a prepared statement, he said it's unacceptable to "allow the crucial work the North Battleford Lighthouse does in service of the most vulnerable to be shut down due to lack of funding." Nick Pearce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The StarPhoenix
(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit) Residents and politicians are speaking out about the possible health and safety risks posed by a new meat processing plant set to open on Monday in a west-end Toronto neighbourhood. TruHarvest Meats, at 70 Glen Scarlett Rd., is set to open March 1 in Toronto's Stockyards District. The space, located near Weston Road and St. Clair Avenue, was previously occupied by Ryding-Regency Meat Packers before the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) cancelled their operating licence in 2019. David Beveridge said he and other residents living near the site believe the reopening of the new slaughterhouse will make the area "unsafe." "The big problem in the neighbourhood is right smack in the middle of all of this is a couple of slaughterhouses," Beveridge said. The new facility also has additions that will make it one of the largest meat processing plants in Ontario. According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of the former plant. During the investigation, it was noted that the company was non-compliant and provided false or misleading information to investigators. CBC Toronto reached out repeatedly for comment from both TruHarvest and Ryding Regency on Friday, but has received no response. TruHarvest Meats will process beef and veal in the former Ryding Regency facility, which was shut down over food safety violations in 2019. Beveridge moved his family to the area just four years ago. He said he was drawn to the neighbourhood by its affordable housing at the time. He bought a house during the winter and quickly discovered with warmer weather, also came an "unreasonable" smell. "The smell of blood, the smell of the cattle being driven through the neighbourhood," he said. WATCH | Residents are concerned about a meat processing plant set to open Monday in their west-end neighbourhood "It's not a farm smell, it is a slaughterhouse smell." While the foul smell is a common complaint amongst residents, Beveridge said the real concern is the safety risk the new plant imposes on many families in the neighbourhood. Beveridge is worried about the effect the plant on his two kids: a four-year-old and an 18-month-old. "They have been cited in the past and they tell us they have filters on the smoke stacks coming out of it, but I don't know what's coming out of that and how far it's drifting," he said. "It's becoming unsafe, the way it is right now." Beveridge said tractor trailers turning onto residential streets and parking on sidewalks pose a risk for families with young children in the area. David Beveridge, who has a four-year-old and an 18-month-old, moved into Toronto's Stockyards neighbourhood four years ago and says the new slaughterhouse poses a safety risk to the community. Coun. Frances Nunziata, who represents Ward 5, York South-Weston, said she is also concerned by TruHarvest taking over the plant. "This is a privately-owned facility on private land and my office has not been involved in any conversations about the use of this site as is currently permitted," Nunziata said in a statement dated Feb. 19. Nunziata said it is unfair that residents were not consulted. "With the federal government and provincial government, they can issue licences and there's no consultation, which is unfortunate because I don't think that's fair. But that's what's happened," Nunziata told CBC Toronto on Friday. The land has been in the process of being rezoned for years, she said, but its use must be discontinued in order to proceed. Faisal Hassan, NDP MPP for York South-Weston, echoed those concerns, saying residents are "disturbed" after learning the news. "Our office has been inundated with emails and calls objecting to this facility," Hassan said Thursday at Queen's Park. He questioned why residents were not consulted before the company took over operations at the facility. According to federal records, there were numerous food recalls related to E.coli in various products coming out of Ryding Regency Meat Packers, the company that formerly operated out of the facility. "The previous slaughterhouse was closed and had its licence revoked due to many health and environmental violations. An environmental compliance approval was granted to the former owners despite nearly 100 complaints and public consultations in 2018," he said. "How did this new facility get approved and why was the community not consulted?" Animal rights activists, who are calling for the the plant to be shut down, plan to hold a a vigil outside the plant Monday morning and a demonstration outside CFIA offices following that. "During this time of global uncertainty, it's more important than ever that elected officials consider the best interests of the population, taking the necessary steps to reduce the impact of this global health emergency and prevent future illness," said Jenny McQueen, organizer with Animal Save Movement, in a statement Thursday.
OTTAWA — A man who helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for WE Charity says he believes two different groups of donors were told they had raised the money for a school in Kenya. Reed Cowan testified before a parliamentary committee today where he said he discovered a plaque that had once borne his late son's name had been replaced with the name of another donor. Cowan says he then found a video online that showed an opening ceremony for the school building, almost identical to one he participated in, that took place with a different group of donors two weeks before the one held for his group. Cowan, who was a member of the advisory board to a WE-affiliated group in the United States, says he began raising money after his son Wesley died in an accident at age four and that helping children in Kenya helped him deal with the loss. In an email, WE Charity says there was only one opening ceremony for the school and Cowan misunderstood what was happening in the video. WE says it inadvertently failed to notify Cowan about the removal of the plaque and that it has now been returned. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Neither Canada's prime minister nor the U.S. secretary of state were showing their diplomatic cards Friday as the two countries discussed the plight of two Canadians languishing behind bars in China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met virtually with Canadian officials including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau as part of the Biden administration's post-Trump charm offensive. The U.S. has a "significant role" to play in helping secure the release of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, said Trudeau, although he refused to elaborate on the details. "These are processes that are ongoing," the prime minister told a news conference earlier in the day. "The United States is taking their role in this very seriously and we look forward to working with them on bringing the two Michaels home as soon as possible.” Blinken, too, stayed in his diplomatic lane, expressing earnest American harmony with Canada and cheering a multilateral effort to denounce the practice of taking political prisoners. "We stand in absolute solidarity with Canada in insisting on their immediate and unconditional release," Blinken said before lavishing praise on the new Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention. The declaration, a project initiated by former foreign affairs minister François-Philippe Champagne, is from a coalition of more than 50 countries opposed to the state-sponsored political detention of foreign nationals. Its purpose "is to bring countries together to stand against the arbitrary detention of individuals for political purposes, a practice that we see in a number of countries, including China," Blinken said. "I think and I hope that this can grow into something that establishes a new international norm against arbitrary detentions." Spavor and Kovrig — the "two Michaels" — were swept up after the RCMP's arrest in December 2018 of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech giant Huawei. Blinken demurred on the question of whether the U.S. is considering a so-called deferred prosecution agreement — a form of plea deal that could allow Meng to return to China in return for an admission of wrongdoing. "There are legal questions that are appropriately the province of our Department of Justice," he said. "They follow the law, they follow the facts and I refer you to them for anything on the legal aspects of this." Earlier this week, a Justice Department spokesman confirmed that prosecutors were continuing to seek Meng's extradition to the U.S., where she is facing fraud charges. Friday's meetings, billed as a "virtual visit" — no jet lag, but no frequent-flyer miles either, Blinken joked — follow Trudeau's own virtual summit this week with President Joe Biden, which produced a "road map" for collaboration on issues like climate change, the economy and COVID-19. "It's hard to think of two countries whose destinies are more connected, more intertwined than ours," Blinken told Garneau as their meeting got underway. "We know that every single day, the work that we're doing, and more importantly the deep ties between our people — in virtually every aspect of our societies — are benefiting both countries." Garneau returned the compliment, adding that Canada can be more to the U.S. than just a friendly ally. "I want you to know that you can count on Canada to be by your side," he said. "And I think that you'll find that we can be surprisingly helpful to you, while advancing our own objectives." That could easily be seen as an oblique reference to Buy American, Biden's suite of protectionist measures aimed at ensuring that U.S. contractors, suppliers and workers are the primary beneficiaries of American infrastructure projects and federal contract work. Canadian businesses, employees and contractors depend on that work too, however, and the federal government is pressing hard to ensure that they don't get shut out of what will surely be a big-budget effort to resurrect the U.S. economy. On that score, Blinken seemed to suggest that Garneau's message got through — particularly on the issue of fortifying North American supply chains. "There's a lot of opportunity there between the United States and Canada that we intend to pursue," he said. "My sense, from the conversations between the two governments, is that there is ample opportunity for us to work together and find ways to benefit each other." Efforts to restore ties between the two countries after extensive fraying during the Trump era have been going on all week, albeit virtually. Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson spoke Wednesday with John Kerry, Biden's special envoy on climate, to shore up plans for more stringent emissions-reduction targets in advance of a climate summit in April. And Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra have committed to tougher vehicle pollution standards, and collaborating on new standards for aircraft and ships. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2021. James McCarten, The Canadian Press