More than a million Canadians are still under- or unemployed as a result of COVID-19, but the crisis also allowed others, who were easily able to work from home, save more money.
More than a million Canadians are still under- or unemployed as a result of COVID-19, but the crisis also allowed others, who were easily able to work from home, save more money.
China's medical products regulator said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, raising the number of domestically produced vaccines that can be used in China to four. The two newly cleared vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc (CanSinoBIO) and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm). They join a vaccine from Sinovac Biotech approved earlier this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit approved last year.
De nouvelles voix s’élèvent pour s’opposer publiquement au modèle de financement que souhaite implanter la Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ) afin de réduire les écarts de revenus entre les divers clubs de la province. Depuis deux semaines, les instances de plusieurs clubs d’un peu partout se mobilisent contre le nouveau modèle, Objectif 2020, auquel ils ont adhéré sous forme de projet-pilote. En vertu de ce modèle, appliqué à l’invitation de la FCMQ, une somme de 200 $ est accordée pour chaque kilomètre de sentier reconnu auquel s’ajoute une somme de 70 $ pour chaque heure de surfaçage effectué ainsi que 10 $ par membre d’un club ayant acquis un droit d’accès. Sous la formule traditionnelle, chaque club reçoit de la FCMQ 160 $ par droit d’accès acquis. Depuis la sortie médiatique de mardi faite dans Le Quotidien par des dirigeants de clubs du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, certains dirigeants de clubs de la région des Laurentides et de Québec ont tenu à faire part de leur opposition au projet Objectif 2020. Soulignons au départ que tous ont convenu de la nécessité de mieux répartir les revenus tirés des droits d’accès entre les clubs dits « riches » et ceux plus « pauvres ». Clément Belval, trésorier du Club de motoneige Blizard, qui opère un réseau de 2473 kilomètres dans les secteurs Sainte-Marguerite du Lac Masson, L’Esterel, Entrelacs et Saint-Hippolyte, accuse la FCMQ de vouloir s’approprier tout l’argent des clubs locaux au détriment de leur autonomie, et ce, avec l’établissement d’une formule uniforme à travers toute la province, sans tenir compte des réalités régionales ou locales. « Il y a deux ans, la FCMQ a voulu nous embarquer dans sa nouvelle formule. Les 21 clubs des Laurentides, on s’est réunis pour établir un partage régional. On a proposé ça à la FCMQ et on n’a même pas eu de réponse », affirme-t-il. Il précise que dans le cadre du projet proposé, la région des Laurentides aurait dû transférer ses surplus de 300 000 $ à 400 000 $ pour éponger le déficit des clubs gaspésiens. M. Belval prédit que si la nouvelle formule est appliquée à l’ensemble de la province, c’est le sentiment d’appartenance et le bénévolat au sein des clubs qui risquent de s’effriter, tandis qu’on assistera à une hausse des droits d’accès. Il compare la situation à l’organisation du Canada, dans lequel le fédéral, assimilé à la FCMQ, disposerait de tout l’argent, alors que les provinces (clubs) devraient quémander l’argent alors qu’ils fournissent les bénévoles sur le terrain, la négociation des droits de passage, etc. Dans la région de Québec, une autre réalité a été exprimée par Mario Bernier, président du Club de motoneige Le Petit Sentier Saint-Émile. Ce club compte 750 membres et entretient 35 kilomètres de sentiers en milieu fortement urbanisé, entre le marché Jean-Talon, la réserve de Wendake et Stoneham, Lac-Saint-Charles et le Haut-Charlesbourg. Il s’agit d’un secteur névralgique où passe le sentier 3 reliant l’est et l’ouest de la province. M. Bernier affirme qu’il n’est pas question d’embarquer dans Objectif 2020, même s’il est d’accord pour une meilleure redistribution des revenus entre les clubs, à la condition de ne pas déshabiller les plus riches au profit des plus pauvres. « Le point d’accrochage avec la FCMQ est la façon dont on redistribue l’argent. On ne tient pas compte de la réalité des milieux. Nous ici, on doit négocier huit droits de passage pour traverser un kilomètre de sentier. Avec la nouvelle formule, la FCMQ veut nous couper les deux tiers de nos revenus », affirme-t-il. Selon lui, avec 33 000 kilomètres de sentiers à entretenir et plus d’une centaine de clubs actifs, il serait peut-être temps de parler de fusions et de rationalisation du réseau. Il ajoute que la volonté d’établir le nouveau modèle tel qu’il a été élaboré est inacceptable pour la majorité des clubs de la province et qu’il revient aux membres des clubs de prendre les décisions et non à la FCMQ de décider pour la base. « Ça prend une décision de nous tous. La FCMQ est là pour nous représenter, ce qui n’est pas le cas actuellement », conclut-il. Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
The invitation to a foot race set Dave Murphy on the path to changing his life. In 2018 he was leaving the neighbourhood park with his daughter. The pair were walking back to their Calgary home when she asked her father if he wanted to race home. The now 45-year-old Murphy was pushing 400 pounds and still dealing with the ramifications of a late-night altercation in Ontario more than two decades earlier. He was 17 then and that altercation left the Grand Falls-Windsor native without part of the muscle in his left leg. Parents can have a hard time saying no to their children, and Murphy is no different. However, due to his health, he had to tell his daughter they couldn’t race. The look he was met with sparked something. “That look of disappointment on her face, I will never forget. That lit a fire under me,” said Murphy. “That was the thing and the biggest reason for her and my wife, to be around longer for them. “I was headed in a bad direction.” He was 391 pounds when he started, and he now sits at 235 pounds. Almost three years later, Murphy has dropped 155 pounds and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. When he started, Murphy set himself a 100-pound goal to reach. To help keep himself in check, he added a stipulation to that goal. For every pound he lost, he would make a $1 donation to military veterans and first responders. “First responders saved my life in 1994. I was attacked and knifed 13 times, so I wouldn’t have even made it if it wasn’t for first responders,” said Murphy. “So, I needed a way to stay motivated, so I made a pledge online that I was going to lose 100 pounds and donate a dollar a pound.” The son of preachers — his parents were Salvation Army officers — Murphy always believed in paying it forward. At each of his family's stops, he saw the benefits of giving and supporting something bigger than himself. First responders saved his life in Ontario, and he has spent the last two-plus decades paying them back. It started with dropping off a tin of coffee at fire stations every week and that morphed into several other initiatives that supported military veterans. Things like sending Tim Hortons gift cards to soldiers and The Gratitude Project were a way for Murphy to say thank you. “I just want to pay it forward and help as many people as I can,” said Murphy. To date, Murphy figures he’s donated more than $3,000 with the help of people who have matched his donations to the volunteer organization Can Praxis. Can Praxis is an organization that offers mental-health recovery programs to Canadian military veterans and first responders who have an operational stress injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. Founded in 2013, the Alberta-based group uses equine therapy to accomplish its goals. “Dave has done great and his support for Can Praxis and for veterans and first responders has been meaningful,” said Steve Critchley, a facilitator with Can Praxis. Weight loss journeys are never easy. Ask anyone in the middle of one. For Murphy, there were days when he didn’t want to hit the gym or head to his boxing sessions. On those days, he’d think of his family and of the first responders he was raising money for. “They're running into burning buildings and fires while people are running out of them, and here I am not wanting to go (to the gym),” said Murphy. “Whenever there is a day I don’t want to go, I think about those guys and I’m like, ‘alright, let's go.’” Benchmarks for success come in different forms. When looking at the work Murphy has done for his well-being, these benchmarks come in the form of his family. It was an interaction with his daughter that started him on his fitness journey and it’s another interaction with his daughter that reaffirms his commitment. Often the pair would go to a play centre near the family home. Whenever his daughter would hit the obstacle course, Murphy would sit on the benches and watch. There was no way he could muster the energy to join her. Before the centre’s shutdown due to the pandemic, Murphy was able to hit the course alongside his daughter. “I got a second chance at life,” said Murphy. Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice
PARRY SOUND-MUSKOKA — Camp Ooch Muskoka isn’t your typical summer camp and this year isn’t your typical summer. Since COVID-19 arrived, it has dramatically changed the way people live, work and socialize. For the non-profit oncology camp that welcomes families affected by childhood cancer, the challenges have been no different. But, while many summer camps and programs have been cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium has developed virtual programming to keep its community connected. “We want people to know that we’re still here and we’re still programming,” said Melanie Lovering, director of marketing and communications for Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium. To date, the camp has offered more than 2,000 virtual experiences for its campers and their families with content ranging from interactive games, songs and dance to entertainment from program specialists. “Families who have a child with cancer are, at the best of times, isolated,” Lovering explained. When deciding how to proceed this year with a camp for so many immune-compromised guests, she said cancelling just wasn’t an option. “We couldn’t do that to our families because they need us more than ever.” Ooch Muskoka, the last year has been one of growth as its location in Rosseau where Path to Play, a $35 million expansion is now primed for further construction to render the camp more accessible, building outdoor paths that can accommodate wheelchairs and accessible boating facilities. The goal, Lovering said, is to make Ooch Muskoka the kind of place where kids using assisted devices can navigate the campus fully independently. Ooch Muskoka is the only oncology camp in Canada that provides on-site IV chemotherapy and blood transfusions thanks to a team of pediatric oncologists and nurses on call 24 hours a day. “No matter the depth of their illness we’re there for them,” Lovering said. “They come to camp and they’re just like every other kid. There’s a lot of comfort and a lot of acceptance and a sense of community and a sense of belonging. It’s like a lifeline for them.” Many people think Ooch Muskoka is an overnight camp only, but Lovering points out the philosophy is more that of a social support system for families affected by childhood cancer across the province. “We really want the Muskoka community to know what we’re up to,” she said. The camp currently serves 1,900 kids from approximately 750 families. However, the goal is to reach 100 per cent of the more than 4,000 kids in Ontario currently experiencing cancer. The ripple effects of COVID however, have left Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium with “a major downturn in our revenues,” Lovering said so fundraising is particularly vital this year. To that end, Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium is hosting a virtual campfire chat June 25 at 12:30 p.m. to keep its supporters, donors and extended community, updated. “We’ve been so busy actually building this,” said Lovering, “we’ve had limited opportunity to tell our community what we’re doing.” To join the virtual chat RSVP to email@example.com. Guests will also be sent an outlook invitation with the following zoom details: Zoom online: https://ooch.zoom.us/j/8658057056 Zoom phone-in: 647-374-4685, enter meeting # 8658057056. This story was altered at 3:25 p.m. on June 23 to reflect the full name of the camp as Camp Ooch and Camp Trillium and to clarify $35 million of the construction is now complete and does not include the future modifications to make the camp accessible. Kristyn Anthony reports for Muskokaregion.com through the Local Journalism Initiative, a program funded by the Canadian government. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
Some talents come naturally, whether that is sports, singing, helping others, or in Cher Pruys’ case, hyperrealism painting. If you have ever seen Pruys’ paintings, you are sure to have done a double take, easily mistaking it for a photograph. Cher Pruys was born in Regina and has lived in many places across Canada from Saskatoon to Ottawa, Fort Frances and now Devlin where she lives with her husband, four dogs and two cats. She is also a musician, playing both the piano and guitar, and has been teaching music for 35 years. Pruys began drawing when she was three. Over the years she has worked with pencil, charcoal and ink but it wasn’t until she was 35 that she began painting. “I just decided to pick up some paints one day and see what the difference was between them and drawing and it was just great,” Pruys said. “It just came natural and it was even nicer than drawing everything out.” Pruys started out with oil paints but she said it gave her a headache and with a tendency to lick her paint brushes to get a precise point, oil paints did not taste great either. Pruys found her chosen mediums in acrylic, water colour and gouache. Diving into the world of hyperrealism art was a gradual process for Pruys. She's dabbled in abstract art, but found that she enjoyed painting what was in front of her more. Hyperrealism is an art form that resembles high resolution photography. This art form includes sculptures and paintings that focus on detail to look like real life. Looking at Pruys’ work you would have expected her to have taken years of classes, but she is self-taught. Her work has been juried into 132 international exhibits as well as numerous non juried shows and has earned her 115 awards for her work at the International Juried Exhibits. Included in these awards, the first recipient of a major Canadian National Award, The Mary Pratt Crystal Award of Excellence at the 2014 SCA Open Juried Exhibition and The Gold Medal recipient for Figurative Painting in The Mondial Art Academia’s International 2018 Competition. Pruys has had 14 solo exhibits and her work has adorned the covers of three books, 21 magazines, and has been featured in over 84 international publications. Her works have found a permanent home in private and public collections worldwide. Hyperrealism is not for the impatient. Pruys said the least number of hours she’s spent on a painting was 60 and some can take up to 250 hours, but the end result is worth every tiny brush stroke. “I’m a stickler for detail but it’s just a whole lot of time and patience,” Pruys said. “You can’t rush it, it’s just layer on layer and also you have to be able to draw to do realism in order to the perspective and everything right.” Pruys said the process before painting can require a lot of research. “If I’m doing a portrait, even if there’s a particular photo that somebody wants me to paint, I like to have a number of photos so I can get a feeling of their personality,” Pruys said. “It goes beyond just making it look like the person, is has to capture some of the person’s personality in there.” Pruys said now that she is semi-retired, she has more time to paint and has been enjoying the process more. Pruys said she loves to paint reflections and shiny surfaces, which can be the most difficult details to paint. Pruys said she likes a challenge and what others might dread painting, she enjoys the most. Painting makes it possible to recapture the magic of a memory or a feeling, Pruys said, adding that it is her motivation and reason for being. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “Better Call Saul,” the prequel spinoff to the hugely successful series “Breaking Bad,” will begin production in New Mexico on its sixth and final season beginning in March. White Turtle Casting officials told the Albuquerque Journal that production will begin in the second week of March and the agency is looking for stand-ins for the series. Pre-production is currently underway, and the crew is being quarantined and tested for the upcoming start, the Journal reported Wednesday. Production originally was set for March 2020, but it was moved because of the pandemic. There will be 13 episodes in the final season, although no air date has been confirmed. “Better Call Saul” has been shot in New Mexico since 2015. The production has given nearly $178,000 to the state’s film programs. The Associated Press
Twitter Inc will launch new features and products faster to refresh its business after years of stagnation, the company said on Thursday, aiming to double its annual revenue in 2023. "Why don't we start with why folks don't believe in us," said Chief Executive Jack Dorsey at the start of Twitter's virtual investor day presentation. The social media network outlined plans including tipping and paid subscriptions to "super follow" some accounts, to attain at least $7.5 billion in annual revenue and 315 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU), or those who see ads, by the end of 2023.
ROME — Italy paid tribute Thursday to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a U.N. convoy, honouring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.” Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces and relatives of the young men. Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed Monday north of Goma when an armed group stopped them as they travelled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. WFP's Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, was also killed in the attack. Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether the U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission. In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world." “Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven," he said. He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.” But he praised the men for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.” “If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked. The funeral, carried live on state RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica. After the service, the socially-distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort. Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members. Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to waive some intellectual property rights on COVID-19 medicines and vaccines to speed up their rollout to poor countries, the head of its disease control body said on Thursday. South Africa and India, which both manufacture drugs and vaccines, made the proposal at the World Trade Organization last year, saying intellectual property (IP) rules were hindering the urgent scale-up of vaccine production and provision of medical products to some patients. They have faced opposition from some developed nations, but the backing of the African Union may give renewed impetus for the push to relax IP rules.
Alphabet Inc's Google will change procedures before July for reviewing its scientists' work, according to a town hall recording heard by Reuters, part of an effort to quell internal tumult over the integrity of its artificial intelligence (AI) research. In remarks at a staff meeting last Friday, Google Research executives said they were working to regain trust after the company ousted two prominent women and rejected their work, according to an hour-long recording, the content of which was confirmed by two sources. Teams are already trialing a questionnaire that will assess projects for risk and help scientists navigate reviews, research unit Chief Operating Officer Maggie Johnson said in the meeting.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia — A Bosnian court on Thursday sentenced a man to six years in prison on charges that he fought for the Islamic State group in Syria. Jasmin Keserovic, a Bosniak who has spent nearly seven years in Syria, was also charged with inciting others to take part in terrorist activities. Bosniaks are one of the three main ethnicities living in the Balkan state. The others are Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats. Bosniaks are primarily Muslims. Judges said that by publicly calling on Muslims to kill Christian soldiers and civilians alike, the defendant “demonstrated specific ruthlessness.” Hudges rejected defence claims that Keserovic was in Syria for charity work to help the local population amid the war. He was part of a group of seven Bosniak men flown back to Bosnia from Syria on a U.S. Air Force flight in December 2019 along with 18 women and children. In 2014, Bosnia became the first country in Europe to introduce prison terms for its citizens who fought abroad. Fighters who have since returned to the country were tried and, in most cases, sentenced to prison. The Associated Press
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was full of uncertainty. Almost a year later, people and businesses have found ways to adapt and help each other in the community. In March 2020, local teen Ray Calder created the Rainy River District COVIDelivery group on Facebook, that aimed to help deliver essential groceries and supplies to those unable to go out themselves due to self-isolation or being part of a high risk group. “I think we had around 25 volunteers the first time around probably late March or the first part of April last year, right when things were just starting to shut down and a lot of people were returning from travels and having to quarantine for 14 days. We had quite a few requests in the early days because of that,” said Lisa Brockie, who handles calls and messages for the Rainy River District COVIDelivery. The initial response was overwhelming because many people were self-isolating after returning from trips and many seniors could not risk leaving their homes, Brockie said, adding that since then, requests have decreased. Brockie got involved with the service as a volunteer and later came on board to help Calder when the requests were too overwhelming to handle on his own, but they have not had any requests this month. Brockie said they did just over 100 deliveries in total from March until now. There were not many requests in June so they decided to suspend the service, Brockie added. “We thought that was the end of it and then we got a handful in January,” Brockie said. “A lot of our volunteers who were off work last year are now back so we had a smaller group of volunteers sign up to help and then all of a sudden, we didn’t get any more calls.” Brian Cawston, owner of Einar’s Foods in Fort Frances, has quite a popular grocery delivery service. Cawston said the service was busy because of the pandemic but has now gone back to its usual flow. Cawston said he is happy that the delivery service which runs twice a week, has been steady. He said that more people are opting for it or for curbside pickup. “We have some people who do more curbside,” Cawston said. “A lot of people phoning in and we get ready for them and then they just come in and pick it up.” Brockie said she thinks one of the reasons the demand for the COVIDelivery service dropped was because stores were pivoting to curbside pickup and that many people were able to get family members to buy their necessities. “Overall I think it was really positive, especially back when there weren’t really many options for people and there was a lot of fear when we didn’t know much about the virus, how it was spread and who was most at risk,” Brockie said. “There was a lot of gratitude from the people who were getting the delivery to know that they didn’t have to put their health at risk or go without their necessities.” Brockie said the service is currently running but they are in discussion of whether to continue it. Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced late Wednesday that the country's new Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Art McDonald, who took on the role last month, has stepped aside from his post as an investigation is conducted by the force's national investigation service. Mercedes Stephenson reports on what we know so far.
NEW YORK — “Caste,” Isabel Wilkerson's exploration of racism in the United States, and “The Dead are Arising,” an acclaimed biography of Malcolm X, are among this year's nominees for awards presented by the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project. The project announced Thursday that Wilkerson is a finalist for the Lukas Book Prize, along with Becky Cooper's “We Keep the Dead Close,” Seyward Darby's “Sisters in Hate,” Barton Gellman's “Dark Mirror” and Jessica Goudeau's “After the Last Border.” The Lukas project, based at Columbia University's journalism school and named for the late investigative journalist, also announced nominees for the Mark Lynton History Prize and the Lukas awards for works in progress. The awards honour “literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern.” Winners will be announced March 24. Winners of the Lukas Book Prize and Lynton history prize receive $10,000 each. The project awards two works in progress, each worth $25,000. “The Dead are Arising,” which won the National Book Award last fall, is a finalist for the Lynton prize. The book was co-written by Les Payne, who died in 2018, and daughter Tamara Payne. Other Lynton nominees are Martha S. Jones' “Vanguard,” Geraldine Schwarz's “Those Who Forget,” Walter Johnson's “The Broken Heart of America” and Dwayne Betts' “A Question of Freedom.” Finalists for the work-in-progress awards are David Dennis Jr.'s “The Movement Made Us,” Emily Dufton's “Addiction, Inc.,” Channing Gerard Joseph's “House of Swann,” Casey Parks' “Diary of a Misfit” and Elizabeth Rush's “The Mother of All Things.” The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece — Greece's prime minister on Thursday promised sweeping changes to the country's laws and labour regulations to combat sexual abuse and misconduct in the wake of an assault allegation made by Olympic sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou that has prompted more cases and triggered a nationwide debate. Speaking in parliament, conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government will introduce tougher sentencing guidelines, propose changes to statute-of-limitation rules for cases involving minors, and create a dedicated government agency to deal with abuse claims in workplaces and organized youth activities. Multiple cases of alleged sexual misconduct and abuse have been made public since former Olympian Bekatorou alleged she was sexually assaulted by a national sailing federation official in 1998. The people coming forward with accusations include other athletes, current and former university students, and stage actors. Mitsotakis said reports that unaccompanied minors were vulnerable to abuse at migrant camps on Greek islands also motivated him to take action. “There were children at the camps...and in Greek cities that were being exploited for sex for 5 and 10 euros ($6-12),” the prime minister told lawmakers. He noted that children and teenagers travelling alone no longer live at the island camps or are held in police cells for protection but have supervised, separate living quarters. The reports include a 51-page document from the Francois-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at Harvard University in 2017 that said, citing camp informants, there were serious indications of child abuse at Greek migrant camps. Separately Thursday, a former director of Greece’s National Theatre appeared before a public prosecutor to respond to child abuse allegations. The 56-year-old suspect, who denies any wrongdoing, was arrested Saturday and remains in police custody. Opposition parties have demanded that Mitsotakis replace his culture minister over the alleged scandal. A government official told the AP Thursday that new sentencing guidelines and details of the proposed legal changes would be announced “in the coming days.” ___ Follow Gatopoulos at https://twitter.com/dgatopoulos Derek Gatopoulos, The Associated Press
MAPLETON – Mapleton council have endorsed the County of Wellington’s application to the province for an official regional training centre for firefighters. This comes after the province announced the closure of the Ontario Fire College (OFC) in Gravenhurst while expanding to 20 regional training centres. At a Wednesday meeting, Mapleton fire chief Rick Richardson explained there is an existing training centre, called the Wellington County Training Academy in Fergus. At this site, firefighters from departments across the county can train closer to home than at the college. The County of Wellington is applying for the Fergus training centre to become a provincially recognized regional training centre. As of now, the site is open only to the seven member municipalities in the county but Richardson said this designation would open it up to the whole province but county members would still get the first chance to apply. Although far from Wellington County, Richardson said there were some benefits to the college such as the subsidized cost of $65 for training, food and accommodation. Council questioned if the province will step in with funding for these centres to make up for this difference. Richardson said chiefs around the province have been considering what the province will do with the money they used to subsidize training and if they sell the OFC property. “Those things have not come up anywhere that we’ve heard from the chiefs’ point of view, so we hope to hear from that soon,” Richardson said. “You would think the very inexpensive price the OFC was charging that there would be some kind of provincial funding to help the regional centres out at some point in time,” said mayor Gregg Davidson. Councillor Michael Martin questioned if there would be any advantage if theoretically the province did not pull through with any funding. “Is that going to come at a cost? It sounds like there’s some unknowns attached to it,” Martin said. “Being designated that way, are we going to lose some of the advantages we have currently?” Richardson said costs would rise if they had to send firefighters out to other regional training centres but acknowledged there is still a lot for the province to sort out around this situation. Davidson questioned if it was possible the province would shut down more localized training centres if they aren’t designated. Richardson replied the important takeaway is to get this application in early before there are too many other applicants. “If people start applying left right and centre and there’s 25 (applications), they only accept 20, we could be one of the five out of the loop,” Richardson said. “That makes it key we get an application in.” Mapleton council approved the endorsing the application with the mayor adding he’s fairly positive the province will pull through with funding. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
Many people dream of their retirement day, and finally find time to pick up new hobbies or travel but for Dr. Robert Lidkea, it is the last thing on his mind. Lidkea was born in North Bay and came to Fort Frances after he graduated from university. He said he would have stayed in North Bay but there were no openings for an optometrist and he was forced to find a job elsewhere. Lidkea came to Fort Frances in 1952 to become part of the Fort Frances Clinic. At the time the clinic only had two M. D’s, a dentist, an optometrist who was looking to retire and a pharmacy. In 1952 Lidkea was the youngest practicing optometrist in Ontario and now in 2021, he is the oldest optometrist at 90. He graduated as a registered optometrist in 1952 from the College of Optometrists in Toronto and in 1957, he returned for his post graduate studies and earned his doctor of optometry. Lidkea said jokingly he continues to work because he needs the money, but in reality he said he could not stay home all day. Lidkea said he officially retired on Jan.1 and went back to work on Jan. 21. “I just enjoy doing what I’m doing, that’s all,” Lidkea said. “I’m happy to come to work.” It may only be for one day a week, but Lidkea said he always looks forward to it. Lidkea was president of the Ontario Association of Optometrists from 1975 to 1976. He was accepted as a fellow in the American Academy of Optometrists in 1983 and was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Waterloo in 1987. Lidkea said when he first began practicing, an eye exam was $3. “It’s quite a long stretch since then,” Lidkea said. “A lot of knowledge and a lot of changes, knowledge and training, everything’s changed.” Lidkea said he has been learning all his life as the training never stops. “When I graduated there was not even such a thing as calculator so it’s been a very long learning process but it’s not all at once, it’s been very gradual,” Lidkea said. He adds that is has been helpful working with his son Bruce who has been able to coach him through all the new technology. Bruce is now the primary practitioner. Lidkea has also been an active member in the community, through clubs and volunteer work. He has been a member of the Kiwanis Club of Fort Frances since he came in 1952 and has 60 years of perfect attendance. He became president of the club in 1961 and was elected Lt. Governor in 1973. He has now been the secretary for many years. Lidkea was also elected to town council for two terms and has served on many local boards. In 2004, Lidkea was honoured with the Ontario Association of Optometrists 2004 Milenium Award for Public Service. The award recognizes a member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists who has performed extraordinary public service in either a professional or non-professional capacity. In 2007, Lidkea received the Fort Frances Citizen of the Year award. Lidkea said his favourite part of the job is interacting with people in the community, adding that in some families, he has cared for five generations. “It’s been an interesting life,” Lidkea said. “My wife and I have been blessed with good health and we’re getting by quite well.” Lidkea said he gets to see his two sons quite often and has coffee with his friends every morning at 10 a.m. sharp. The secret to a long career, according to Lidkea, is being passionate about what you do. “If you’re eager to get to work in the morning, you’ve got the right job,” Lidkea said. “If you aren’t happy going to work, you got the wrong job.” Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times
(Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit) Growing up in Tsawwassen, B.C., Ashley Bell and Brock Ranata had both heard of Southlands — a 530 acre development with homes, farmland and open fields near Boundary Bay Regional Park — but never seriously considered living there. That is, until a global pandemic dramatically changed their day-to-day lives. "We were living in our one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver and working literally a foot beside each other for eight hours a day," said Bell, 36. "Not going to confirm or deny that that maybe had something to do with us getting more space." The couple says before COVID-19, they were looking to buy a condo in downtown Vancouver. Working from home, however, inspired them to expand their search criteria. In November, they said goodbye to their rental in the city's Fairview neighbourhood and purchased a townhouse in the Southlands development with help from their parents. "COVID made things in our lifestyle a lot better to then put us in this position to be out here and make it work," said Hill, who acknowledges that not everybody has been so fortunate in the past year. "It was a catalyst for completely changing our lifestyle." And it seems they are not the only ones. Though the pandemic initially caused home sales to slump, economists and real estate insiders say 2021's numbers have already surpassed expectations, as many British Columbians look to capitalize on low mortgage rates and increased savings in order to purchase property — in some cases for the very first time. The spike appears to reflect a national rebound, thought by the Bank of Canada to show "early signs" of an overheated housing market. Still, for many the purchase appears to be a bet on the province's post-pandemic future, with some wagering that work from home protocols will remain in place. "Some people believe that we [will] work at home forever. But it may not be the case." said Brian Yu, Central 1 Credit Union deputy chief economist. "I think that some businesses will want their staff back in the office once the pandemic ends," Yu said. Millennials buying or looking to buy: survey In particular, data suggests millennials are among those driving sales. In a survey of 2000 Canadians aged 25 - 35 conducted between December 29 and January 8, Royal LePage found 240 had purchased a home during the pandemic. The survey showed another 600 planned on buying a home within 2 years. The data does not include a breakdown of how many people were interviewed in each region. However, 65% of those surveyed in British Columbia said they intend to buy within the next five years. "This is a local market, this is a domestic, principal-residence driven market," said Adil Dinani, sales representative at Royal LePage West Real Estate Services in Greater Vancouver. "People are buying to live, not buying to profit, or not buying to speculate." But while more than half of B.C. respondents to the survey said they would choose to live in a city, even more (63%) said they felt it was important that their employer allow them to work remotely. The company also found that, despite surging job loses, B.C. respondents had a relatively rosy outlook on their finances with more than 70% saying they were confident in their short and long term personal financial outlooks. Bank of Canada watching home sales 'carefully' Bank of Canada governor Tiff Macklem, however, is approaching the situation more cautiously, saying the central bank is seeing early signs that people may be purchasing homes solely on the assumption that prices may go up. "In that low-for-long world, there are risks that housing could get carried away, so that is something we will be looking at very carefully," said Macklem, speaking with the combined Calgary and Edmonton chambers of commerce. Bank of Canada Governor Tiff Macklem says the central bank is seeing early signs that Canadians are purchasing homes on the belief that prices will rise indefinitely. "It's definitely nicer to see mortgage rates at what we got it at," said Ranata. "They're almost giving you the money," he said.
People 95 and older, as well as First Nations people 75 and older, are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. "I’m personally very excited to be announcing that we’re expanding into general population, and I’m looking forward to decrease the age of eligibility continually over time," said Dr. Joss Reimer at Wednesday’s news conference. Calls for the newly eligible can be made beginning this week, with vaccines beginning next week. The vaccine call centre, at 1-844-MAN-VACC (1-844-626-8222) now has 2,000 lines, with more than 370 trained agents. The online booking self-serve tool is in its pilot phase, but will not replace the call centre. "We do know it’s possible the call centre will receive an overwhelming number of calls. We know Manitobans have been eager for this moment, and many of you are going to want to call right away," said Reimer. She asked that only eligible people, or the people calling for an elderly person, ensure they fit the criteria. These days, the wait time is less than a minute on the booking line, with a call-back option. If the wait time does increase, people can opt to have their call returned rather than waiting on the phone. Dr. Marcia Anderson, public health lead for the First Nation Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team, explained that in the coming weeks, people who call to make an appointment and self-identify as First Nations would be transferred to a member of a specialized team. "These specialists will have additional training and cultural safety to ensure that they support callers and facilitate access to an appointment for those who are eligible," Anderson said. At first, self-identification will be the method by which First Nations can access the vaccine. But, in the future, because some people do falsely identify as First Nations — called "pretendians" — the system will be tightened up over time. "This is a phenomenon that I have been aware of and had to work through in multiple different contexts, but I never imagined that one of the harmful ripple effects would be that non-registered or non-status First Nation people would face the risk of not being able to get a vaccine at a time when they rightly should be able to," said Anderson. In the future, First Nations people in Manitoba will be asked to verify their identity, she added. "We want to make sure that this is done in a way that is safe for people and does not exclude our First Nations relatives, that because of the complicated and various processes of colonization, do not have Indian status cards," she said. If a First Nations person does not have a status card under the Indian Act, there will be an escalation process to deal with the more complex cases in a trauma-informed and culturally safe way. Anderson reported that, as of last Friday, 7,023 doses of vaccine have been administered on-reserve — four per cent of the eligible population received first doses, while .08 per cent are fully vaccinated. Off-reserve, 2.96 per cent of the population have received one dose and .07 per cent are fully vaccinated. Of Manitoba’s eligible population, 2.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. As Anderson explained, First Nations have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 — making up 54 per cent of new cases in the overall Manitoba population and 70 per cent of active cases, and the virus does affect them more harshly, as demonstrated by hospitalization rates. The median age of death in Manitoba is 83, while in First Nations it is 66. Meanwhile, full two-dose vaccination at personal care homes is set to wrap up this week. "This is a tremendous accomplishment," said Reimer, adding results are already showing. "While we are seeing decreases in rates in the community overall, and we know that there are strong public health measures still taking place in personal care homes, we’re also seeing quite a sharp drop in the number of outbreaks happening in personal care homes." Additionally, the focused immunization teams began first doses at congregate living sites in Brandon and Winnipeg on Feb. 19, with regional health authorities scheduling high-priority congregate living sites starting this week. There are 1,400 congregate living sites in the province. A list of those sites can be found at bit.ly/2P9KaWX The vaccination task force has looked ahead in terms of doses coming to Manitoba to the end of March — which Johanu Botha, co-lead for the Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said will be 15,000 Pfizer doses weekly, up slightly from the roughly 12,000 doses it is receiving currently. "These are not large quantities," said Botha, adding all Pfizer doses go to supersites due to the storage requirements. There are currently two supersites — in Winnipeg and Brandon — with two more scheduled to open. The plan is to open Selkirk’s site in early March and Morden/Winkler’s in mid-March. Apart from the doses received from Moderna this week, next shipments of that vaccine are unknown. "We have just over 8,000 doses on hand remaining," said Botha, who added that those are tagged to complete vaccinations at personal care homes and support the congregate living campaign. Moderna is the vaccine of choice for First Nations, due to its less stringent storage requirement. That’s concerning, said Anderson. "We certainly want to respond to the data and have everybody — First Nations people living both on and off reserve — vaccinated as quickly as possible, especially as we start to think about heading into flood season, fire season, and what a large-scale evacuation at the same time as we’re dealing with the pandemic would mean," she said. But Anderson referenced Reimer’s news that Pfizer is looking into changing some of its shipping and storage restrictions. That may mean Pfizer can be used at First Nations in the future. "And I would say my experience has been both our provincial and federal counterparts are very willing to have that dialogue," she said. Anderson said it’s hard to calculate First Nation uptake of the vaccine at this time. "In general, in 61 of the 63, the anecdotal feedback that we got was that uptake was very high among those who were eligible. In one community, some further communication was needed, and support. Then uptake improved," she said. Anderson said the experience is much more in line with H1N1, which was higher than usual vaccine uptake. "We’re very encouraged by this progress." It was also revealed at the news conference that the Manitoba Metis Federation continues to be in conversation with the province for a vaccine program targeting vulnerable Métis populations. Reimer suggested Manitobans monitor the eligibility criteria website. The eligibility criteria will expand — sometimes quickly — by decreasing age, and can be found at bit.ly/3ssXBQb Additionally, 213 pharmacies and doctors across the province have signed up to deliver vaccines when more, with less stringent storage needs, are approved. The Wednesday technical briefing for media, which preceded the news conference, can be found at bit.ly/37LRuhP Michèle LeTourneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun
A North Battleford woman and alleged Westside gang member had court appearances scheduled in Lloydminster and Meadow Lake Provincial Courts and the matters were adjourned. Tonia Cantel, 22, is charged in connection to several separate incidents. She was denied bail in January. In February the Crown said they continue to oppose her release. Cantel has been in custody at Pinegrove Correctional Centre for women in Prince Albert since her arrest in November 2020. In the November 2020 incident, where Cantel and four others allegedly took police on a 150-kilomtre, two-hour chase, she is charged with theft of a vehicle, storing a prohibited firearm, four counts of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose, two counts of carrying a concealed weapon, possessing a firearm without a license, being in a vehicle with an unauthorized firearm, possessing a prohibited firearm with accessible ammunition without registration, possession of a firearm with an altered serial number, endangering the safety of the public and flight from police. For those charges Cantel had an appearance scheduled in Lloydminster Provincial Court on Feb. 23 and the matter was adjourned. In that incident, police also arrested Juanita Wahpistikwin, Kyle Lajimodiere and two young offenders who can’t be named in accordance with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Earlier this month, Wahpistikwin was sentenced to 18 months in jail for her part in that incident. Lajimodiere’s trial is set for June 29 and 30, 2021, in Lloydminster Provincial Court. Cantel also has charges out of Big River including aggravated assault, operation of a vehicle causing bodily harm, robbery, and possession of property obtained by crime. For those charges she had an appearance scheduled in Pierceland Circuit Court on Feb. 16. The charges against Cantel haven’t been proven in court. She is now scheduled to appear in Meadow Lake Provincial Court on March 9. If you are associated with a gang and want to leave it, contact STR8 UP in northern Saskatchewan at 306-763-3001, STR8 UP in central Saskatchewan at 306-244-1771, or Regina Treaty Status Indian Services in southern Saskatchewan at 306-522-7494 to get assistance. firstname.lastname@example.org Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist