This parrot knows that he's stinky and isn't embarrassed to admit it. Hilarious!
This parrot knows that he's stinky and isn't embarrassed to admit it. Hilarious!
Facebook Inc on Thursday launched a campaign to explain to users how small businesses depend on personalized advertising, ahead of upcoming plans by Apple Inc to prompt iPhone users to allow apps to use their data for ads. The campaign called "Good Ideas Deserve To Be Found" highlights several advertisers that have grown their business on Facebook and Instagram, such as Houston-based fashion brand House of Takura. A commercial will air on TV, including during the Golden Globe Awards this Sunday, Facebook said.
OTTAWA — A new estimate suggests the move to a hybrid Parliament could save as much as $6.2 million a year. The system — which sees some MPs and senators participate in person and most others logged in remotely — has been in place since April due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the nuances of how MPs and senators participate have changed since then, the parliamentary budget officer's report suggests the primary driver of savings is reduced travel. The report notes that a decrease in travel also has the effect of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by about 2,972 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. The budget watchdog says the financial savings offset the increased costs of running a hybrid model, which include the required technology and a major increase in interpreters' services. The provision of those services has been a sore spot in recent weeks as some parties say not enough resources have been allotted to ensure enough interpreters are available and can work safely. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
TEMAGAMI – A young Temagami boy is on his way to living a life without an abundance of limitations. Elliot Lacroix Belanger, seven, underwent tendon lengthening surgery on February 16 at Health Sciences North in Sudbury. “Elliot had to quarantine from the sixth of February until the 16th of February, he needed to do a five-hour pre-op and then a COVID swab, which he didn’t enjoy too much,” said Elliot’s parents, Dan and Miranda Lacroix Belanger, in an email message to The Speaker. They noted that prior to his surgery, Elliot was “very nervous and scared” and that he needed medication to calm himself down. “It was even harder that only one parent was allowed in the hospital with him,” the parents said. “We had to spend two nights at the hotel, because he was the first surgery of the day, and we have a family history of Malignant hyperthermia (where your blood boils under anaesthetic), so they wanted us to stay close by to make sure. We are 17 kilometres short for the Northern Health Travel Grant, so it does not cover the hotel room.” The couple noted that Elliot’s surgery was conducted by a surgeon from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa who came to Health Sciences North in Sudbury to do the surgery because of COVID-19 precautions. Elliot’s health issues began early on as he suffered a stroke at birth, causing Cerebral Palsy and a right Hemiplegia (limited use of his right side.) He had been undergoing Botox injections for the last four years, but unfortunately they were no longer working. Elliot’s foot brace also wouldn’t fit anymore because it was so tight around the leg. The orthopaedic and paediatric teams believed Elliot would benefit from serial casting to help stretch the muscles. FINANCIAL CONCERNS The Lacroix Belangers said that for seven years the family has been steadily going back and forth to medical appointments and making it work financially. However, the orthopaedic team mentioned to them that the serial casting procedure wouldn’t be covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, but recommended that the family reach out to local organizations to see if they would help with covering the costs. The family was looking at three casts at $275 apiece for Elliott, along with the cost of travelling back and forth to North Bay to get the casts put on and taken off, which is a total of four trips. In order for all of the casting procedures to happen, a 50/50 draw fundraiser was set up on the Jamie’s Army Facebook page, raising a total of $1,050 for the family. “We weren’t expecting it to blow up as much as it did, but we are forever thankful,” the family said of the Jamie’s Army efforts. “We also got many people sending us donations privately, as far (away) as Ohio. There was so much generosity from the people in our community and abroad, we can’t thank everyone enough. When they say it takes a village to raise a child, we truly know what it means.” On January 20 the family travelled to North Bay to the Nipissing Orthopaedic Lab, where Elliot was supposed to be serial casted. Instead, they say he was fitted for a new ridged brace that he will need after the tendon lengthening surgery. “Karen of the Orthopaedic team decided it would be of our best interest not to do the serial casting, for a few reasons,” said Dan and Miranda. “If they were going to do the surgery, they didn’t want him casted beforehand, it’ll be too much on him. Secondly, if he needs to self-isolate, the dates wouldn’t work out, so they will be post-surgery.” MOVING FORWARD After undergoing the tendon lengthening surgery on February 16, the Lacroix Belanger family says Elliot will continue to have many follow-up appointments and they have “great hope” that he will be able to fit back into his brace, skates and boots, and be able to be a child without so many limitations. They also say the support keeps rolling in for the family from Jamie’s Army, the purchasing of the 50/50 tickets, various donations, sharing of posts and getting their story out there, offering to bring them coffee or whatever they need, offers of places to stay, simply reaching out, sending thoughts and prayers, bringing get-well gifts, and so much more. “We can’t begin to tell you how much it means,” stressed the parents. “There are so many people to thank and you are all amazing.” They also noted that even CBC Canada reached out to the family about Elliot’s health journey. Elliot now is scheduled to have a follow-up appointment on March 29 in hopes that he can take the cast off, see how the surgery went, and then he will be required to wear a ridged AFO brace. “Elliot is sore and it hurts to put pressure on his foot,” noted Dan and Miranda. “He’s finding it hard not being able to play outside, have a normal shower, go to hockey, or walk properly.” Along with follow-up appointments, the family says they also have out-of-town orthopaedic appointments and brace fittings, Botox injection appointments for Elliot’s right wrist, and an upcoming trip to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto where they’re looking at five trips or more in the month of March alone. “As always, any and all appointments and updates get posted under #strengthforelliot on Facebook, so make sure to follow that to follow Elliot’s journey.” Jamie Mountain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker
(Dave Irish/CBC - image credit) Lionel Desmond struggled to transition to civilian life, at times reporting that he drank upward of 70 beers a week and ate fewer than 600 calories a day, the first psychologist who saw him after leaving the military testified Thursday. Dr. Mathieu Murgatroyd first met the veteran in June 2015. Desmond spent about a year in his care at the Occupational Stress Injury Clinic in Fredericton, a Veterans Affairs facility geared toward rehabilitating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. But Murgatroyd testified that he and Desmond accomplished little in terms of therapy. Instead, the psychologist said he felt he sometimes took on the role of a case manager. In part, that's because Desmond was grappling with other issues: finding purpose outside the military, ongoing conflict in his marriage and isolation from his family. He also told his psychologist at one point that his financial situation was so poor that he might have to go to the food bank. CBC reporter Laura Fraser is live blogging the hearing: A stressful transition Those concerns are not unique to soldiers once they retire from the Canadian Forces, the psychologist said. In fact, Murgatroyd noted the usual stress of leaving the structure and camaraderie intrinsic to military life can worsen an underlying mental health issue. "We're talking about individuals that have several mental health issues and challenges, PTSD, depression ... which can lead to poor coping strategies," he testified. The inquiry seeks not to lay blame, but to examine the various institutions that came in contact with Desmond and his family before he fatally shot his wife, Shanna; his daughter, Aaliyah; and his mother, Brenda, before turning the gun on himself on Jan. 3, 2017 at a home in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S. Shanna Desmond worked as a registered nurse in Antigonish, N.S. Inquiry Judge Warren Zimmer is seeking answers about whether changes to public policy connected to those institutions can prevent future deaths. While the inquiry unfolding in Port Hawkesbury, N.S., is provincial in nature — and the mandate does not technically extend to the Canadian Forces or Veterans Affairs — the need for better support during a time of transition has surfaced in testimony from multiple witnesses at the second session. Inquiry counsel Shane Russell asked Murgatroyd on Thursday whether Desmond might have benefited from other supports to help him navigate the stress associated with the transition to civilian life, including a caseworker who could arrange marital counselling or check on the status of his pension and finances, or someone to drop by his home. The psychologist agreed that, in hindsight, that support would have been helpful. Lionel Desmond is seen with his mother, Brenda, and his daughter, Aaliyah. Other roadblocks to treatment But another roadblock to Desmond's treatment seemed to be that he just wasn't showing up. He split much of his time in the year after his release between his house in New Brunswick and his family home in Nova Scotia. The evidence underscores an issue faced by freshly released veterans: the potential for transience and the barriers that can create when accessing mental health services. In Desmond's case, after his first two appointments with Murgatroyd in July 2015 — when he reported having "homicidal thoughts without intent" — he cancelled his third visit over the phone, saying he was in Nova Scotia. They wouldn't see one another until October 2015. That pattern of intermittent visits continued until May 2016, when Desmond was accepted into an in-patient psychiatric program at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Quebec.
(AHS - image credit) More than 100,000 newly eligible Alberta seniors had scheduled COVID-19 vaccinations by early Thursday afternoon and several thousand had received their first doses, according to the province, with many saying they looked forward to being able to safely visit family and friends someday soon. Meanwhile, Alberta Health Services promised it had fixed the issues that caused its system to crash repeatedly the previous day while tens of thousands tried for hours to book vaccinations — while at least one expert said it never needed to happen. The province said earlier in the week that about 230,000 Albertans would be newly eligible when the system opened at 8 a.m. Wednesday to all those born in 1946 or earlier. Seniors who are residents of public long-term care and designated supportive-living facilities had already received the vaccine. With 100,000 appointments already booked, that means more than 40 per cent of those newly eligible had booked their shots by calling 811 or through the online booking tool by 2 p.m. on Thursday — less than 30 hours after the system opened up to them. Allan Pasutto, 86, of Penhold was among the 2,000 or so seniors who had received their first dose by the end of day Wednesday. "I'm very fortunate to be Canadian," Pasutto told AHS staff as he received his first dose of the vaccine in Red Deer. "I'm looking forward to my retirement and enjoying life. I'm very happy to be alive." As more seniors received the vaccine on Thursday, AHS staff shared quotes and photos from behind the scenes. Arlene Jones, who got the COVID-19 vaccine in Rocky Mountain House, was one of several thousand Albertans born in 1946 or earlier who have been vaccinated so far after bookings opened up Wednesday to everyone in that age range. 'I haven’t seen my nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren since September,' she told AHS. Arlene Jones, who was getting her first shot in Rocky Mountain House, said she can't wait to be with family again, especially since she has a new grandchild coming soon. "I haven't seen my nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren since September," she said. 'I’m excited to finally get my vaccine,' Richard Wright, 75, told AHS staff. He received his first dose of the vaccine Wednesday in Grande Prairie. 'I’m hoping to be able to safely visit friends and family this summer.' Richard Wright, 75, who received his first dose in Grande Prairie on Wednesday, said he was excited to finally get it. "I'm hoping to be able to safely visit friends and family this summer." 'I think it’s important so we can stop the spread of COVID,' Elizabeth Findlay, 75, told AHS after getting her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Lethbridge. 'It’s good for myself and it’s good for everyone I know.' Elizabeth Findlay, 75, who got her first dose in Lethbridge, said she thinks it's important. "It's good for myself and it's good for everyone I know." Barry McCaughey, 76, told AHS he has spent most of the past year hibernating. 'I very seldom go out.' He received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday and looks forward to camping one day soon. Barry McCaughey, 76, who got his first dose Wednesday, said he has spent most of the past year hibernating but looks forward to hopefully camping one day soon. AHS says online booking tool fixed, phone line improved On Wednesday, many people who called Health Link at 811 reported not being able to get through on the lines at all, or being disconnected — often repeatedly — after making it part way through the booking process, while the AHS website repeatedly went down or booted people out mid-registration as they tried for hours to book an appointment. By noon Wednesday, a trio of Edmonton brothers had figured out the problem on the website and posted a solution on Twitter to help others sidestep the now-fixed glitch. By evening, the website had started to show a message letting people know how many were ahead of them in line and how long the wait would be. At about 7 p.m., users were being told they faced waits of an hour or more with about 10,000 people ahead of them in the queue. By end of day, Alberta Health Services said 43,000 people had managed to book but many others had not. Thousands of people trying to log on to Alberta Health's website to register for COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday, when it opened to people born in 1946 and older, faced long waits. As of 7 p.m., users were getting a message saying that they faced a wait of at least an hour with about 10,000 people ahead of them in the queue. On Thursday, AHS promised it had fixed its online system. "The online booking tool has stabilized since launch on Wednesday morning. We very much appreciate everyone's patience, and we understand the frustration," AHS tweeted. AHS also said improvements were made to its 811 phone line to give callers a choice to route their calls to book a COVID-19 immunization appointment or reach a registered nurse for medical concerns. As of about 10 a.m. Thursday, the bookings for the first dose of the vaccine were being scheduled for the second week of March and some people reported waiting no more than 10 to 15 minutes before being able to book online. Still, AHS urged patience, saying it continued to anticipate a wait time to get through on the online booking tool or Health Link in the days ahead. The province also pointed out eligible Albertans can book a COVID-19 immunization through some local pharmacies listed online by Alberta Blue Cross. Some Albertans frustrated by additional issues Though many ran into issues with online booking tools, other Albertans said technical glitches weren't the only headaches along the way. Janet Wees finally got through to book a COVID-19 vaccine online, but discovered the only available appointment was in Canmore — posing a problem, as Wees is from Calgary. "It's confusing, and I don't think it's because we're seniors," Wees said. "I think anybody of any age would be frustrated and confused." And while some felt panicked to accept an appointment located far away not knowing if they would miss out, others were frustrated they couldn't register as spouses. Stephanie Pollock's mother-in-law secured a vaccine appointment. However, the 81-year-old was turned away at the appointment and told she needed a doctor's note to get the vaccine because of medicine she takes that suppresses her immune system. "To have that lack of clarity and lack of readiness to handle some of these things is what frustrated me," she said. AHS said in some areas, travel may be required to get the shot, and that it is still working through some additional issues. Vaccine booking system was preventible, expert says Tom Keenan, an adjunct professor of computing science at the University of Calgary, told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday that the province could have easily and inexpensively prevented the website from becoming overwhelmed by installing queue management software. He said Denmark-based Queue-it — which sells systems to cope with website traffic congestion by directing visitors to a queue where they can wait until bottlenecks clear — could have provided AHS with a solution for $30,000 to $100,000. And it would have taken about 20 minutes to install the fix, Keenan said. Keenan said that after making a few inquiries with Queue-it regarding how AHS could have used its services, a company official seemed to confirm the province had now contracted with the firm. "An hour ago, I got an email from the co-founder of Queue-it in Denmark and — breaking news, breaking news — she said, 'this is/will be a Queue-it customer,'" he said Thursday morning.
(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 authorities expect to have 70% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summerView on euronews
YEREVAN, Armenia — Armenia's prime minister accused top military officers on Thursday of attempting a coup after they demanded he step down, adding fuel to months of protests calling for his resignation following the country's defeat in a conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has faced opposition calls to step down ever since he signed a Nov. 10 peace deal that saw Azerbaijan reclaim control over large parts of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas that had been held by Armenian forces for more than a quarter-century. The opposition protests gathered pace this week, and the feud with his top military commanders has weakened Pashinyan's position, raising concerns about stability in the strategic South Caucasus region, where shipments of Azerbaijan’s Caspian crude oil pass through on their way to Western markets. The immediate trigger for the latest tensions was Pashinyan’s decision earlier this week to oust the first deputy chief of the military's General Staff that includes the armed forces' top officers. In response, the General Staff called for Pashinyan's resignation, but he doubled down and ordered that the chief of the General Staff be dismissed. After denouncing the military’s statement as a “coup attempt,” Pashinyan led his supporters at a rally in the capital, and he addressed them in a dramatic speech in which he said he had considered — but rejected — calls to resign. “I became the prime minister not on my own will, but because people decided so,” he shouted to the crowd of more than 20,000 people in Republic Square. “Let people demand my resignation or shoot me in the square.” He warned that the latest developments have led to an “explosive situation, which is fraught with unpredictable consequences.” In nearby Freedom Square, over 20,000 opposition supporters held a parallel rally, and some vowed to stay there until Pashinyan stepped down. Demonstrators paralyzed traffic all around Yerevan, chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” and “Nikol, resign!” There were sporadic scuffles in the streets between the sides, but the rival demonstrations led by Pashinyan and his foes later in the day went on in different parts of the capital. As the evening fell, some opposition supporters built barricades on the central avenue to step up pressure on Pashinyan. The crisis has its roots in Armenia's humiliating defeat in heavy fighting with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh that erupted in late September and lasted 44 days. A Russia-brokered agreement ended the conflict in which the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces — but only after more than 6,000 people died on both sides. Pashinyan has defended the peace deal as a painful but necessary move to prevent Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region, which lies within Azerbaijan but was under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. Despite the simmering public anger over the military defeat, Pashinyan has manoeuvred to shore up his rule and the protests died down during winter. But the opposition demonstrations resumed with new vigour this week — and then came the spat with the military brass. Pashinyan fired the deputy chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Tiran Khachatryan, earlier this week after he derided the prime minister's claim that only 10% of Russia-supplied Iskander missiles that Armenia used in the conflict exploded on impact. The General Staff responded Thursday with a statement demanding Pashinyan's resignation and warned the government against trying to use force against the opposition demonstrators. Immediately after the statement, Pashinyan dismissed the General Staff chief, Col. Gen. Onik Gasparyan. The order is subject to approval by the nation's largely ceremonial president, Armen Sarkissian, who hasn't endorsed it yet, prompting an angry outburst from Pashinyan. “If he doesn't sign my proposal to dismiss Gasparyan, does it mean that he joins the coup?” Pashinyan asked at the rally of his supporters. He urged the chief of the General Staff to resign voluntarily, adding that “I won’t let him lead the army against the people.” Facing the top military officers' demand to step down, Pashinyan relied on his defence minister, a loyal ally. The Defence Ministry warned against any attempt to draw the military into political infighting. Amid the spiraling tensions, the chief prosecutor's office denied claims it had received instructions to arrest the top military officers. The prime minister warned that authorities now will move more forcefully to disperse the opposition protests and arrest its participants. He bluntly rejected their demand for early parliamentary elections. The political crisis is being watched closely, particularly in Russia and Turkey, which have been competing for influence in the South Caucasus region. Russia, worried about its ally plunging deeper into turmoil, voiced concern about the tensions and emphasized that Armenia must sort out its problems itself. “We are calling for calm and believe that the situation should remain in the constitutional field,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Armenia has relied on Moscow's financial and military support and hosts a Russian military base — ties that will keep the two nations closely allied regardless of the outcome of the political infighting. And even though the peace deal is widely reviled in Armenia with many calling it a betrayal, it's unlikely to be revised — no matter who is in charge — following the fighting that demonstrated Azerbaijan's overwhelming military edge. Turkey, which backed its ally Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, would relish instability that would further weaken Armenia. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country strongly condemns the coup attempt in Armenia and stands against all coup attempts anywhere in the world. —- Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov and Daria Litvinova in Moscow and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed. Avet Demourian, The Associated Press
(Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit) Ontario's public health measures have decreased COVID-19 transmission and have slowed the spread of variants of concern, according to modelling released by the province's advisory group on Thursday. But that good news comes with a caveat. According to the science table, variants of concern like B117 are continuing to spread and cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions will likely increase soon. Still, the province's latest projections come with a less dire tone than in recent weeks, with a smattering of positive news among warnings to remain vigilant. The full document appears at the bottom of this story. For one, the data suggests that lockdowns and focused vaccination in long-term care homes have rapidly reduced infections and deaths in those facilities. Doctors also predict the pandemic will likely recede again in the summer. But there are troubling statistics too. Ontario's overall test positivity rate was at 3.1 per cent on Feb. 20, but Peel Region was much higher at 7.1 per cent, as was Toronto at 5.6 per cent and York Region at 5.3 per cent. Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of Ontario's science advisory group, said "care" and "caution" are particularly critical in the next several weeks to help curb the rapid spread of variants of concern. "The next few months are really key to maintaining our gains and to achieving a declining pandemic in the summer," Brown said. "A better summer is in sight if we work for it now." Variants of concern continue to spread quickly in Ontario, the data shows, and are projected to likely make up 40 per cent of the province's cases by the second week of March. The science table says the next few weeks will be "critical" for understanding the impact of these variants, and that there "is a period of remaining risk" before the pandemic likely hits a lull in the summer months. The modelling also noted a new milestone, with more than 1,886 deaths reported in the second wave, surpassing the 1,848 deaths in the first. Number of active infections rises Ontario reported another 1,138 cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, as the number of active infections provincewide increased for the first time in more than six weeks. Brown said the new increase in the large public health units shows a trend in the wrong direction. The upward climb was small — in total, there were just 21 more active cases Wednesday than on Tuesday (10,071 compared to 10,050) — but could be notable given that, until now, infections marked as resolved have outpaced newly confirmed cases every day since Jan. 12. The new cases in Thursday's update include 339 in Toronto, 204 in Peel Region and 106 in York Region. Thunder Bay also saw another 44 cases. The local medical officer of health there told CBC News that residents should prepare to go back into the grey "lockdown" phase of the province's colour-coded COVID-19 restrictions. Thunder Bay is currently in the third-strictest red "control" phase. Other public health units that logged double-digit increases were: Ottawa: 64. Waterloo Region: 56. Simcoe Muskoka: 44. Halton Region: 40. Hamilton: 37. Windsor-Essex: 33. Durham Region: 28. Eastern Ontario: 20. Brant County: 19. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph: 18. Niagara Region: 12. Southwestern: 11. (Note: All of the figures used in this story are found on the Ministry of Health's COVID-19 dashboard or in its Daily Epidemiologic Summary. The number of cases for any region may differ from what is reported by the local public health unit on a given day, because local units report figures at different times.) The seven-day average of new daily cases increased for a fifth straight day to 1,099. Ontario's lab network completed 66,351 tests for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and reported a test positivity rate of two per cent. According to the province, there have been a total of 449 cases involving the coronavirus variant of concern first identified in the United Kingdom. That is 54 more than in yesterday's update. There have also been 11 cases of the variant first found in South Africa, and two linked to the variant identified in Brazil. Researchers from the University of Guelph and University of Waterloo independently ran modelling simulations based on Ontario's most recent reopening plan, with stay-at-home orders possibly lifted in Toronto, Peel and North Bay-Parry Sound on March 8. The results suggest that the spread of the variant, which has been shown to be more contagious, could have profound effects on case numbers in latter half of March. School-related cases The Ministry of Education also reported another 83 school-related cases: 70 students, 12 staff members and one person who was not categorized. There are currently 18 schools closed due to the illness, about 0.4 per cent of those in the province. In a news release issued late Wednesday, Toronto Public Health said that there are eight schools within the health unit where at least one case is, or is most likely, due to a variant of concern. "The affected individuals and cohorts have been dismissed from school with guidance based on their level of risk. TPH has followed up with close contacts in affected class cohorts and has recommended testing," the release said. Public health units also recorded the deaths of 23 more people with COVID-19, pushing Ontario's official toll to 6,916. Meanwhile, the province said it administered 19,112 doses of vaccines yesterday, the second-most on a single day so far. As of 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, 255,449 people had received both shots of a vaccine. WATCH | Ontario's vaccine rollout likely to be accelerated:
Out on a walk with his dog Taiga, Dorset resident Ryan Morin took the path he regularly does along Kawagama Lake Road and up toward the Nordic Inn. Morin, an ecologist, likes to explore the area there, where he often finds rare plants. It was on his way up Nordic Inn Road where he found hogweed, an uncommon but growing sight along the border where the Township of Lake of Bays meets the Algonquin Highlands. “This one is just getting humungous and almost coming out to the road,” said Morin, who counts this as the third location he has spotted the plant currently growing. Hogweed is a common name used for multiple kinds of the genus, Heracleum. The plant can grow up to 14 feet in height and, in late summer, blooms a white flower. However, its stems are home to prickly red particles and full of toxic sap because they contain chemical compounds called, furanocoumarins. When exposed to UV rays, Phytophotodermatitis occurs — an inflammation of the skin that leads to blistering, burns and in extreme cases, blindness. “It’s obviously a big human safety issue if you happen to not know what it is,” Morin said. Complicating matters further is that hogweed is often mistaken for cow parsnip and vice versa, because of their similar appearance. “It takes a bit of a plant eye to be able to tell the difference,” he said. From an ecological perspective, Morin said the hogweed doesn’t seem to be invading the habitat, despite spotting it in multiple locations. It’s kind of a unique thing, at least to me, to have in Dorset,” he said, because to his knowledge, it is more prevalent in southern Ontario. “Obviously, there is something that’s brought it here.” The Township of Lake of Bays does keep an eye out for hogweed, said public works superintendent Steve Peace. If found in the road allowance, the municipality takes care of removing or treating it, but also encourages people to report it directly. “We see the odd little bit in Lake of Bays,” Peace said. Between the township, the district and the Ministry of Natural Resources, he said, “everybody is doing what they can to stay on top of it.” Morin said he has warned his neighbours and made phone calls to both townships to report the hogweed and some has been removed as a result. At the time of this writing, Kristyn Anthony was a Local Journalism Initiative reporter, funded by the Government of Canada. Kristyn Anthony, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, muskokaregion.com
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
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
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Calls for family violence continue to rise in Hinton after Hinton’s RCMP responded to 234 calls of family violence in 2020, a five-year record high. Hinton Staff Sgt Chris Murphy told council during the standing committee meeting on Feb. 2 that the RCMP is concerned about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on people who are stuck at home without outlets and resources to help them. Family violence calls shot up drastically at the end of the summer, following three or four months of surprisingly low numbers, said Murphy. He noted that the RCMP responded to 183 calls of family violence in 2016, 176 calls in 2017, 196 calls in 2018, and 172 calls in 2019. The definition of family violence is fairly broad, Murphy explained. The call can include arguments, threats, assault, and even siblings fighting. The majority of these calls come from within the family unit. “As we respond, they’re not translating to more criminal charges thankfully, but it does show us the need of working together with other community groups,” Murphy said. The RCMP is part of a domestic violence committee, through which they work with other local agencies to provide support to struggling families. Murphy anticipates that family violence calls will continue to climb as the restrictions continue to lock down the community. Usually there are underlying factors that come into play with these types of calls, Murphy explained, such as addictions, mental health, or unemployment. “My preference is of course that the individuals receive the support and guidance and help that they need so hopefully it doesn’t escalate to a point where we are coming in, arresting somebody, and putting them in jail and before the courts,” Murphy said. During his report to council, Murphy also touched on several other crime trends and statistics, including missing persons and the mental health act. In 2020, the Hinton RCMP recorded 26 investigations for missing persons, all of which were located. The RCMP responded to 138 mental health calls in 2020, but Murphy anticipates an increase of this number further into the pandemic. Based on input from the community last year, the RCMP focused on crime reduction and community consultation. In 2019, Hinton saw a record high break and enters, which was followed by a 61 per cent decrease in 2020. That translates to 76 fewer break and enter incidents. The clearance rate of break and enters, which means solving the crimes, was at 35 per cent in 2020. Compared to 2019, there was an overall reduction in crime in 2020. These reductions include a one per cent decrease in person crimes, a 35 per cent decrease in property crime, a 31 per cent decrease in other criminal code offences, a 47 per cent decrease in motor vehicle theft, and a 46 per cent decrease in theft under $5000. The RCMP also managed to record a five-year low in traffic collisions within Hinton last year. It investigated a total of 187 traffic collisions in 2020, compared to 358 collisions in 2016, 326 in 2017, 286 in 2018, and 281 in 2019. Community consultation was challenging for the detachment throughout the pandemic, but they adapted and came up with different ways to interact and engage with the community, Murphy noted. They held two RCMP Town halls, one in-person town hall prior to the pandemic and one virtual town hall in the fall. The next town hall is planned for March 4. Murphy reported that two repeat offenders stopped committing offences after going through the habitual offender management program, while two others either moved away or are continuing with their lifestyle. The two successful individuals haven’t committed a new offence in the last year, and Murphy added that these are people who had been committing offences on a monthly basis. In addition, the RCMP has continued their aggressive prolific offender management program. This includes conducting bail release, probation checks, apprehending people on warrants, and holding people accountable. Hotpots is another initiative that the RCMP continues to update based on crime data. Strategically sending resources to certain areas in town has resulted in far more foot patrols, bike patrols, and interactions between police and the community, Murphy said. A traffic safety committee was created in 2020, partnered with numerous agencies including Hinton Peace Officers, Commercial Vehicles, Fish and Wildlife, and Parks. The traffic safety group conducted numerous joint force operations, usually over long weekends. Murphy briefly addressed the COVID-19 pandemic and explained how this changed the way RCMP respond to calls for service. “It’s not lost on all of us that we still have a very important job to do. It just may look a little bit differently and how we go about doing that,” Murphy said. A few RCMP members were recently trained for search management and will be doing training hazards and assessments in the area, Murphy said. He noted that all three municipal positions at the Hinton detachment are full, as well as all 19 regular member positions. He anticipates several transfers in 2021 and identified some replacements in March and in the summer. Murphy is also moving on to a new position in the Western Alberta District this year. The next RCMP town hall is planned for March 4 at 7pm, where Hinton and Yellowhead County residents will have an opportunity to share comments and suggestions regarding policing priorities in 2021/2022. RCMP welcomes residents to send their questions in advance to email@example.com. Questions and comments will also be monitored through the YouTube live chat during the livestream. For more information, visit hinton.ca/RCMPTownHall. Masha Scheele, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hinton Voice
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
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
BERLIN — The head of the German Bishops' Conference said Thursday that the country's Roman Catholic church is suffering from a “scandalous image” amid mounting anger over the Cologne archbishop's handling of a report on past sexual abuse by clergy, but he defended its overall record in addressing the issue. The Cologne archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, faces discontent after keeping under wraps for months a study he commissioned on how local church officials reacted when priests were accused of sexual abuse. Woelki has cited legal concerns about publishing the study conducted by a law firm. He has commissioned a new report, which is supposed to be published March 18. There has been criticism within the German church of Woelki. The head of the German Bishops' Conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, has described the crisis management in Cologne as a “disaster” but said earlier this week that the conference has no “sovereignty” to intervene. After a regular meeting of the country's bishops, Baetzing said Thursday that they take the effects on the church “very seriously.” A Cologne court this month announced that it was raising the number of appointments available for people seeking to formally leave the church to 1,500 from 1,000 starting in March, amid strong demand. “Every person who leaves the church hurts, and we perceive it as a reaction to a scandalous image of the church that we are currently delivering,” Baetzing said at a news conference. “Certainly, there are things in the Cologne archdiocese that need to be cleared up,” he said. “But focusing solely on the archbishop of Cologne would be short-sighted.” Baetzing said he can say “with a good conscience” that Germany's bishops stand by their pledge to get to the bottom of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. “A lot of good things have already happened,” he said, with successful investigation efforts taking place “in the shadow of Cologne.” Revelations about past sexual abuse have dogged the church in Germany and elsewhere for years. In 2018, a church-commissioned report concluded that at least 3,677 people were abused by clergy in Germany between 1946 and 2014. More than half of the victims were 13 or younger when the abuse took place, and nearly a third of them were altar boys. In January, a new system drawn up by the church to compensate abuse survivors took effect. It provides for payments of up to about 50,000 euros ($60,760) to each victim. Under a previous system in place since 2011, payments averaged about 5,000 euros ($6111.) The Associated Press
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
OTTAWA — The COVID-19 pandemic appears set to force a modernization of Canada's justice system. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has introduced a bill the government says will make targeted and permanent changes to the Criminal Code to give courts flexibility. Among them are clarifying the law to allow the accused to appear remotely in certain criminal proceedings and providing for remote participation for jury selection.The government says that even with the proposed changes, in-person proceedings would remain the norm, but the new provisions would ensure a remote approach remains an option. Canada's justice system was already wrestling with case backlogs in the courts when the pandemic hit last year, closing courthouses and pausing many trials.Courts were forced to look at different ways of working and accelerate steps toward modernization that many felt were long overdue.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press