As the EU starts to rollout the AstraZeneca vaccine, there's concern over its effectiveness on new coronavirus variants.
As the EU starts to rollout the AstraZeneca vaccine, there's concern over its effectiveness on new coronavirus variants.
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.
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
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
Hospitality industry veteran Ken Loudon will be the new executive director of the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association (GPRTA), the organization announced last week. Loudon will begin in the position March 1. “I’m excited to take on the leadership of a vital organization,” Loudon said. “This position enables me to serve our community at a greater level and be part of a team that’s here for the betterment of our region, businesses and area residents.” GPRTA in a non-profit marketing group intended to promote the Grande Prairie area and support local businesses. Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, the city and county of Grande Prairie, the Municipal District of Greenview and Saddle Hills County are GPRTA members. The municipalities pay a $2.25 per capita annual membership fee, said Johnathan Clarkson, GPRTA board president. The previous executive director was Terry Dow, who stepped down in December, Clarkson said. Previously, Loudon was the regional manager of the Grande Prairie/Wood Buffalo YMCA of Northern Alberta for five years. Loudon is a city resident, Clarkson said. Loudon also worked in the hotel and casino industries and served as a director on the Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce board, Clarkson said. As well, Loudon is a past president and board member of GPRTA in the 2000s, according to the group. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
LONDON — Britain announced further sanctions Thursday against members of Myanmar’s military for their part in the coup that ousted the country’s elected government. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said six more top generals face sanctions for serious human rights violations, in addition to 19 others previously listed by the U.K. The new round of sanctions targets Myanmar’s State Administration Council, which was set up following the coup to exercise state functions. The measures immediately ban the generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, from travelling to Britain and will prevent U.K. businesses and institutions from dealing with their funds or economic resources in Britain. The British government added that it will ensure U.K. businesses do not trade with Myanmar’s military-owned companies. The government has said it was ending aid programs that sent money to the Myanmar government but that aid would still reach “the poorest and most vulnerable in Myanmar.” The U.K. is the ex-colonial ruler of Burma, as Myanmar was formerly known. The Myanmar military seized power on Feb. 1 and detained national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other pro-democracy figures. The Associated Press
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
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.
(Submitted by The Front Yard Flower Co. - image credit) Flower vendors are worried B.C.'s COVID-19 rules for farmers' markets could lead to greenhouses full of blooms going to waste. Farmers' markets are considered an essential service and have been allowed to continue operating throughout the pandemic. However, non-food vendors like potters, jewelry and soap makers and flower sellers are excluded from in-person sales. This rule was lifted for a time last summer before being reinstated in December. Flower farmers plan months ahead, ordering seeds and growing plants throughout the winter, said Rachel Ryall, who owns River and Sea Flowers in Ladner. "We planted the current flowers that will be blooming over the next month back in September and October, assuming things would be alright to sell them again," Ryall said. "I can't stop them from flowering. They're coming." Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition urging non-food vendors be allowed back. She has sold her flowers at the Vancouver Farmers Market for years and says the market has maintained strict rules throughout the pandemic to keep visitors and vendors safe. Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and she's worried about lost sales and wasted blooms — she says she's not equipped for large-scale delivery across the Lower Mainland. "I feel like maybe we've been forgotten, because we're not vegetable farmers, we're kind of a smaller segment of vendors," Dykstra said. Rose Dykstra, owner of The Front Yard Flower Co. in Richmond, says it was never clear why non-food vendors were excluded from selling in farmers' markets. She has started a petition asking that non-food vendors be allowed back. Laura Smit, executive director of Vancouver Farmers Market, says although she is grateful the province has permitted markets to continue operating, it's never been made clear why non-food vendors aren't allowed. The farmers' market has been working since December to bring back non-food vendors, and she says if the rule is not overturned, it will have a big impact on the bottom line for flower vendors in particular. "Their product is absolutely seasonal," Smit said. "It's not something that is shelf-stable and can sit around to be sold later on in August. Literally the spring time is when these flower farmers are planning for, preparing for, and they don't understand why they can't come to market and we don't either." Spring flowers like tulips, narcissus, ranunculus and anemones will be ready soon and Rose Dykstra is worried about lost sales and wasted blooms if she can't bring them to the market. In an email to CBC News, the B.C. Ministry of Health said the rule is in an effort to keep the risk of COVID-19 transmission down, and added that non-food vendors can do online sales and pick-up orders. "The reason that food vendors are allowed is that farmers' markets are essential food and agriculture service providers," a spokesperson said. "The B.C. government will continue to listen to feedback from the community and stakeholders and adjust our response to support businesses as needed." Soap also not allowed — during a pandemic It's not just flower farmers who are concerned. Shea Hogan hopes he will be able to sell his natural bar soap at farmers' markets again this spring. The owner of PoCo Soap Co. says farmers' markets used to be a big part of his business and a way to build relationships with customers. He says it's ironic that, as a non-food vendor, he can't sell soap in a pandemic. He believes buying items from an outdoor farmers' market is among the safest ways to shop. "It was frustrating because other than being arbitrary and general, we're being told to wash our hands with soap and water," Hogan said. "And as a maker and seller of soap, to not be allowed to sell soap somewhere seems ... extra weird."
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.
BALA — When Linda and Jack Hutton opened Bala’s Museum nearly 30 years ago, they never dreamed the year a pandemic occurred would be good for business. Bala’s Museum — with memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery is tucked away on Maple Avenue, but for a slew of new and returning customers this summer, its location is on Facebook. Adapting to a digital-friendly operation during the COVID-19 lockdown has turned a stressful year into a record-breaking one thanks to worldwide sales from a converted home office. The museum has always had a loyal following on social media, said Linda, who — stocked up on memorabilia for the museum’s gift shop — turned to the social platform to see if there might be interest in purchasing items there. On the heels of the cancellation of the biennial Lucy Maud Montgomery conference held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, messages from fans and collectors started pouring in. “All of a sudden they have some extra money and they were really willing to support our museum because they realized what a tenuous situation we were in,” Linda said. Because the museum is such an interactive experience — visitors can dress in costume, participate in re-enactments from Anne of Green Gables and children’s games — coronavirus was a real cause for concern. As well, the Huttons are seniors and more vulnerable to the virus. With the help of their son, who taught them how to read Facebook’s analytics, Linda began posting items for sale. Buyers have appeared from as far away as Argentina, Australia, the Philippines and Poland. “They all realized how vulnerable we are since we don’t get any government money and never have,” Linda explained. “Every single sale, whether it’s just five dollars and I have to mail it, it’s another five dollars in the pot.” International connections are nothing new for the museum, it is outfitted with Japanese translation and the Huttons have welcomed more than 120,000 guests from 30 different countries over three decades. Still, the transition to e-commerce has been a “huge learning curve” said Linda, as she manages international shipping and how to gauge the growth of the business through Facebook. Jack admits he was skeptical at first, unsure at just how many bites they would get online. According to stats he compiled, the museum’s Facebook page saw a 459 per cent jump in likes during May. Before coronavirus the average post reached 400 people; it now reaches an average of 700 users. “We had the best financial return we have ever had for the month of May thanks to Linda’s idea,” he said. As for the museum, the Huttons anticipate opening by appointment only when COVID restrictions lift. There have been disappointments, including a group of women from Arkansas unable to cross the closed border. “I’m very thankful,” Linda said. “I feel very blessed and very honoured that people who have known about our museum are looking in on us every day. It is a huge help.” 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
(Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit) The executive director of the Downtown Mission says a new emergency shelter for those who have tested positive for COVID-19 is opening up to the city's most vulnerable. Rev. Ron Dunn said on CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that people will begin moving to the Windsor International Aquatic and Training Centre on Thursday. "My staff are going to be staffing it mainly and so many of them are going to be reporting there this morning," he told host Tony Doucette. Clients are expected to start moving in Thursday afternoon. The opening of the shelter was prompted by large COVID-19 outbreaks among people experiencing homelessness in Windsor-Essex. As of Wednesday, there are 81 cases among clients and staff at the Downtown Mission, and 34 related to an outbreak at the Salvation Army shelter. The city's existing isolation and recovery shelter had become full amid the outbreaks, creating a scramble to accomodate those affected. Windsor's International Aquatic and Training Centre is being transformed into an emergency shelter. When the city announced that a second space would be opening up to respond to the crisis, officials initially said Wednesday would be the target date but as of that afternoon, it had still not opened and the city gave no indication of why the opening was delayed or when it may be opened. The Mission's two main locations were shut down officially by order of the health unit earlier this week, though the organization had already taken that step and moved into the former Windsor Public Library site on Ouellette Avenue. Dunn said on Windsor Morning that screening measures and other protocols were in place prior to the outbreak and the Mission was in contact with city officials and the health unit on outbreak plans. Nonetheless, Dunn said he felt it was inevitable that someone at the shelter would contract COVID-19. Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for the region, has previously noted the vulnerabilities within the homeless population to COVID-19, and challenges in preventing transmission.
(Tyler Pidlubny/CBC - image credit) Five people have been arrested after allegedly invading a home more than a year ago in the city's University Park East neighbourhood. The incident took place in the afternoon on Jan. 20, 2020 on Westminster Road. Regina Police Service said three male suspects were dropped off at the home by two others. The three masked men forced their way into the home of a 71-year-old woman after threatening her with a Taser, said police. They allegedly stole 14 pellet guns, prescription medicine and a laptop before fleeing in the woman's Chevrolet Impala, just as two other residents were coming home, police said. The five suspects were arrested between December 2020 and Feb. 23, 2021. They are jointly charged with break-and-enter and robbery. One male suspect faces an additional charge of assault.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus will reopen high schools, gyms, pools, dance academies and art galleries on March 1 in a further, incremental easing of the country’s second nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the government said Thursday. Health Minister Constantinos Ioannou said easing the six-week-old lockdown should proceed “slowly, cautiously and in a controlled manner.” He warned that the situation could easily get out of hand again as the country’s infection rate remains slightly above safety limits set by the European Union’s disease prevention agency. According to Ioannou, the number of infections now stands at 164.3 per 100,000 people. Middle school students are scheduled to return to classrooms March 8, Ioannou said, signalling the reopening of all schools after weeks of online instruction. Primary schools are already holding in-person classes. But the minister made it clear that twice-daily excursions requiring SMS approval and a 9:00pm-5:00am curfew will remain in effect. “We'll do without certain things for the next two or three months, some measures will carry on until there's (sufficient) vaccination coverage which is estimated to happen by June," Ioannou said. A ban on public gatherings also continues to apply despite growing public fatigue that culminated with thousands demonstrating last weekend in the capital to protest the restrictions, alleged police heavy-handedness and corruption. Police didn’t intervene in that protest, but used a water cannon, pepper spray and stun grenades to disperse a much smaller group of left-wing demonstrators a week earlier. One young woman required surgery for an eye injury following a blast from the water canon. The force’s actions triggered a public outcry and prompted a probe to determine whether riot police used disproportionate force. On Wednesday, Amnesty International urged Cypriot authorities to lift what it called “an unlawful and disproportionate blanket ban” on demonstrations. Amnesty International Greece and Cyprus official Kondylia Gogou said police made “unnecessary and excessive use of force" during the earlier protest. She said the violence was also part of a “deeply worrying pattern" in Cyprus where “human rights are coming under sustained attack." ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
Coinbase, the biggest U.S. cryptocurrency exchange, moved a step closer to listing on the Nasdaq with a filing on Thursday to go public, revealing that it had swung into profit last year as bitcoin surged. Approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for a listing would represent a landmark victory for cryptocurrency advocates, vying for mainstream endorsement for a sector which has struggled to win the trust of mainstream investors, regulators and the general public. It would pave the way for the highest-profile share listing of a company whose business is primarily focused around the trading of cryptocurrencies, and could also be seen as a tacit regulatory approval of assets traded on its platform.
Those with children in school are probably already aware that on Friday the province updated its COVID-19 screening tool to include changes to symptom screening criteria. Now if a single symptom is selected in the screening tool, children must stay home and get tested. Dr. Kit Young Hoon, medical officer of health at the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) said the new direction from the province is set because of concerns related to the new variants of COVID-19 which can spread more easily, Young Hoon added. “In order to use case and contact management as a tool it’s important to isolate contacts as soon as possible,” Young Hoon said. “If they have symptoms they need to isolate and get tested and household members need to isolate as well while the test results come back.” Young Hoon adds that once those results are negative, the child may return to school but if the results are positive, then they become a case and that requires some different actions. Young Hoon said there have been concerns brought forward of a business refusing service because of someone’s race. The NWHU does not collect comprehensive data on the matter, Young Hoon said, adding that regardless, it is important to recognize that this is not an issue that is specific to race because COVID is not a visible virus. “We encourage kindness at this time and remind the public that the outbreak situations are not unique to our area,” Young Hoon said. “No one should be blamed or mistreated for having COVID-19. As residents of northwestern Ontario, we must come together to be supportive and caring especially for those who need it the most.” Young Hoon said businesses should be concerned with following their safety plan and prevention measures, adding that if they follow all measures required, there should be very little risk of contracting COVID-19 at a business. There are currently 91 active COVID-19 cases in the region. There are three in the Dryden/ Red Lake area, 82 in Kenora region, one in the Rainy River region and five in the Sioux Lookout region. One new case was reported in Sioux Lookout on Tuesday. For the week of Feb. 15 to Feb. 21, there were 85 new confirmed cases. There were 77 in the Kenora area, four in Sioux Lookout, three in the Dryden area and one in Fort Frances. Two new hospitalizations also occurred. Young Hoon said most cases were close contacts of previous cases or related to an outbreak. The source of exposure remains unknown for a small number of these cases. The NWHU has identified 124 people who had high risk close contact with the 85 new confirmed cases. Despite the high rates of COVID-19, Young Hoon said the region is still in the yellow level because most of the cases are affecting only one community in the Kenora region. Young Hoon adds that if there was suggestion of spread beyond that community, then they would need to think about changing the colour code. “We’re beginning to see the early signs that it could be decreasing so I think right now we just need to monitor the situation and stay the course with public health measures,” Young Hoon said. “I don’t want to pin down an exact timeline because this is a large number of cases, it doesn’t just go away.” Young Hoon said conversations about the colour code will be happening over the course of this week. Young Hoon reminds residents that just because the region is in the yellow level of the province's response framework, it does not mean things are back to normal, or that the risk is low. “People still need to stay two metres away from anyone they do not live with and just because there are indoor gatherings of up to 10 people allowed, it doesn’t mean they are recommended,” Young Hoon said. “The public is reminded that anyone breaking gathering limits can be fined.” Young Hoon said the NWHU also does not recommend non-essential travel to a region that is in a different framework level from the NWHU. As for vaccines, there are no updates but Young Hoon said they are expecting to deliver the second dose of the vaccine with the next shipment they receive. In addition, they will be looking at distributing the vaccine to the highest priority health care workers as outlined by the provincial government. 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.
Mississauga–Streetsville Liberal MP Gagan Sikand, who has not participated in a legislative vote since October, will remain absent from Parliament “until further notice” according to his staff. The MP is on an unspecified medical leave that has stopped him from working since the fall and there appears to be no timeline for his return. It means just over 118,000 Mississaugans are without direct representation in Ottawa, reliant on bureaucrats to respond to their needs. None of their concerns or positions on issues are currently being represented in the House of Commons. “With the full knowledge and consent of MP Mark Holland, the Chief Government Whip, MP Sikand is officially on a medical leave of absence until further notice,” a staffer told The Pointer in an email. The Pointer sent a request to the Whip’s office asking if the party was aware of Sikand’s absence. No response was received in time for publication. The Pointer could not find any public notice of the medical leave on Sikand's Twitter feed or his official website, which does not have any press release or other communication informing constituents of the leave. The Parliament website which lists all members also does not indicate that Sikand is on a medical leave. Eight calls to Sikand’s constituency office went unanswered; the number for his Ottawa parliamentary office failed to connect on multiple attempts. An advisor provided a short response by email, but the MP’s staff, tasked with handling matters in his absence, could not be reached by phone. “Our office is experiencing a high volume of inquiries at this time,” an automated email response tells those who reach out to Sikand’s constituency inbox. It is unclear exactly when Sikand’s medical leave began, but parliamentary voting and speech records suggest it was in the latter half of 2020. During the first session of Parliament, between December 5, 2019 and prorogation on August 18 2020, Sikand had a standard participation record for a backbench MP. He spoke in the chamber with relative frequency and voted 18 times. His record compares to Omar Alghabra (Mississauga Centre, recently elevated to the position of Transport Minister) and Sven Spengemann (Mississauga—Lakeshore) who had 22 and 18 votes respectively. But, when the legislature returned for its second session on September 23 2020, Sikand’s record began to fade. Since September, he has participated in just six votes compared to 53 for both Alghabra and Spengemann. At the end of October, Sikand’s parliamentary participation ended abruptly. He hasn’t spoken or voted in Parliament since October 29, according to records maintained by the government and Open Parliament, an independent, non-governmental website that tracks votes, speeches and committees in Parliament. On social media, Sikand’s activity remained longer than in Parliament. Twitter, where many politicians communicate their core messages to residents, saw Sikand continue engaging with constituents until he took a break. His digital posts included Christmas greetings and messages shared in December and the first half of January. On January 21, the MP congratulated US President Joe Biden on his inauguration, his last tweet before apparently unplugging from social media. He has not replied to or liked a tweet since his absence from Parliament began after his final vote on October 29. A medical absence for a serving MP is not unprecedented. Almost immediately following the 2019 election, Winnipeg MP Jim Carr was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, he stepped back from his parliamentary duties, leaving his staff in charge of helping the constituents who elected him. Sikand was first elected during the Liberal red wave in 2015, when Justin Trudeau’s party swept through Brampton and Mississauga taking every seat. He won reelection in 2019, finishing almost 10,000 votes ahead of his nearest rival, Conservative candidate Ghada Melek. Sikand has been relatively quiet during both his terms as an MP, showing a particular interest in the Criminal Code. Between 2015 and 2019, he introduced one Private Members Bill in 2016 which would have amended the Code, also speaking regularly on the topic. Sikand wanted to introduce the use of a passive detection device that would allow police officers to detect the use of alcohol within a few hours of operating a vehicle. His Bill died in 2017. A lawyer by training, Sikand worked for the Ontario government’s Attorney General before he made the leap to federal politics. It remains unclear how long Sikand will be away, but staff say the Mississauga—Streetsville office continues to operate as normal. “All constituency matters are being handled diligently by our staff without disruption on a remote basis,” one of his staff members said. Email: email@example.com Twitter: @isaaccallan Tel: 647 561-4879 COVID-19 is impacting all Canadians. At a time when vital public information is needed by everyone, The Pointer has taken down our paywall on all stories relating to the pandemic and those of public interest to ensure every resident of Brampton and Mississauga has access to the facts. For those who are able, we encourage you to consider a subscription. This will help us report on important public interest issues the community needs to know about now more than ever. You can register for a 30-day free trial HERE. Thereafter, The Pointer will charge $10 a month and you can cancel any time right on the website. Thank you. Isaac Callan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer
Le président de la Fédération des clubs de motoneigistes du Québec (FCMQ), Réal Camiré, rejette du revers de la main, les critiques exprimées par les dirigeants de trois clubs du Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean au sujet de la mise en application du nouveau modèle de financement Objectif 2020. En entrevue avec Le Quotidien, M. Camiré a expliqué que la décision d’établir un nouveau modèle destiné à mieux répartir les revenus des droits d’accès entre les clubs de la province a été prise au congrès de 2018 et que, depuis, beaucoup de travail de consultation et d’information a été réalisé pour son peaufinement. « Il y a 10 clubs sur 13 qui ont embarqué sur une base volontaire, dans votre région. Tout a été expliqué lors de réunions régionales annuelles. On a donné tous les détails, les paramètres, le paiement par kilomètre. Ils ont présenté ça à leur conseil d’administration et ç’a été accepté », déclare-t-il. Les directions de clubs riches savaient au départ qu’il y aurait des fluctuations à la baisse dans les flux de trésorerie et que les surplus engendrés dans le passé seraient beaucoup moindres parce que l’intention est de mieux répartir la richesse, explique-t-il. M. Camiré ajoute qu’il existe du mécontentement en raison des faibles précipitations de neige dans certains secteurs de la région, touchant deux ou trois clubs, sauf que les autres clubs voient leurs finances stabilisées et améliorées. En ce qui a trait à la mécanique des paiements du surfaçage et le 200 $ du kilomètre reconnu, M. Camiré affirme que les opérations se déroulent rondement, les clubs n’ayant qu’à produire leur rapport mensuellement pour recevoir un paiement rapide. Les revenus des droits d’accès sont distribués en trois versements avant les Fêtes jusqu’à la mi-décembre, par versements électroniques, ce qui évite aux clubs d’avoir à mobiliser des bénévoles pour cueillir les fonds comme ça se faisait dans le passé. Un des aspects que n’ont pas fait ressortir les clubs récalcitrants, selon lui, est que dans le nouveau modèle, la FCMQ accorde désormais du financement aux clubs pour le remplacement des surfaceuses (90 %), la réparation des ponts et ponceaux jusqu’à 100 %, les réparations pour deux surfaceuses entre 75 % et 100 %, etc. Selon lui, lorsqu’il faut parler du nouveau modèle, il est important de mettre dans la balance tous les avantages et critères. Le président de la FCMQ se dit prêt à écouter les dirigeants de clubs qui ont des critiques à formuler, mais il n’est pas question de faire marche arrière. « Est-ce que deux ou trois clubs qui ne sont pas satisfaits vont faire revirer la situation lorsque 33 clubs sont satisfaits? Il y a des situations particulières au Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean. » Parmi ces situations qui ne font pas partie du nouveau modèle, M. Camiré fait référence aux compensations aux agriculteurs accordés pour les droits de passage par les instances municipales de Saguenay jusqu’à 100 000 $. Pas question de soutenir les clubs qui voudraient maintenir des relais à même leurs fonds. En ce qui a trait aux prétentions d’un club qui se plaint beaucoup au Saguenay, M. Camiré soutient qu’après vérification, il y aura une différence de 20 000 $ sur les revenus dans le nouveau modèle. Ceux qui prétendent qu’il en coûte 120 $ de l’heure pour le fonctionnement d’une surfaceuse doivent être questionnés afin de déterminer si, dans le calcul, on inclut les frais de fonctionnement de garages, selon lui, alors que certains clubs n’en disposent pas. Selon lui, le 70 $ du kilomètre couvre le taux horaire d’un opérateur à 20 $ et le 50 $ pour les frais de fonctionnement de la surfaceuse. Selon le président de la FCMQ, toutes les pierres doivent être retournées puisque l’argent payé par les motoneigistes doit avant tout servir au développement et l’entretien des sentiers. Ceci dit, M. Camiré se montre ouvert à ce que le modèle puisse être adapté aux réalités de certaines régions et revalidé. Il est possible que certains clubs aient été mal évalués. M. Camiré et son directeur général, Stéphane Desroches, auront l’occasion de discuter avec les directions des clubs régionaux, puisqu’ils seront de passage dans la région pendant trois jours, à compter de lundi, afin d’effectuer une virée dans le haut du Lac-Saint-Jean et sur les Monts-Valin. Dans les derniers jours, les conseils d’administration des clubs se sont rencontrés en prévision d’une rencontre. C’est le cas pour le Club du Fjord et le Club Lac-Saint-Jean. Denis Villeneuve, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Quotidien
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
BERLIN — A German man has been charged with espionage for allegedly passing information on properties used by the German parliament to Russian military intelligence, prosecutors said Thursday. The suspect, identified only as Jens F. in line with German privacy rules, worked for a company that had been repeatedly contracted to check portable electrical appliances by the Bundestag, or the lower house of parliament, federal prosecutors said in a statement. As a result of that, he had access to PDF files with floor plans of the properties involved. The Bundestag is based in the Reichstag building, a Berlin landmark, but also uses several other sites. Prosecutors said, at some point before early September 2017, the suspect “decided of his own accord” to give information on the properties to Russian intelligence. They said he sent the PDF files to an employee of the Russian Embassy in Berlin who was an officer with Russia's GRU military intelligence agency. They didn't specify how his activities came to light. The charges against the suspect, who is not in custody, were filed at a Berlin court on Feb. 12. The court will have to decide whether to go ahead with a trial. Relations between Germany and Russia have been buffeted by a growing list of issues in recent years. In October, the European Union imposed sanctions on two Russian officials and part of the GRU agency over a cyberattack against the German parliament in 2015. In addition, a Russian man accused of killing a Georgian man in broad daylight in downtown Berlin on Moscow’s orders in 2019 is on trial in Berlin. And last year's poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was flown to Germany for treatment and then arrested immediately after he returned to Russia, has added another layer of tensions. The Associated Press