Little birds bounce around a feeder during light snowfall in Stafford, Pennsylvania.
Little birds bounce around a feeder during light snowfall in Stafford, Pennsylvania.
Most provinces, including British Columbia, announced this week they expect every adult will receive a first COVID-19 vaccine dose by June or July. The move came after a recommendation by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) to delay a second dose for four months, following evidence of high levels of protection from one dose. All provinces have adopted the recommendation, potentially accelerating Canada's vaccination timeline by two months. But where does that leave kids? Close to one million people in B.C. are 19 or younger, and they make up nearly one-fifth of the province's population. Here's what you need to know about where they fall in the vaccination plan. Can kids get vaccinated? Not yet. Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people aged 16 and older, while the Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved for those 18 and up. Health Canada's chief medical adviser, Supriya Sharma, has said there's not enough data from the initial clinical trials to know how the vaccines affect kids. So far, B.C.'s immunization plan is focused on residents 18 and older. B.C.'s health ministry said it will administer Pfizer vaccines to teens between the ages of 16 and 17 who are severely clinically vulnerable, and whose care provider has determined vaccination is the best course of action. Do kids need to be immunized? Dr. Manish Sadarangani, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and director of the Vaccine Evaluation Centre at B.C. Children's Hospital, said it's not yet not clear whether all kids need to get vaccinated. He is currently leading research that is testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people. Experts will also have a clearer picture once most adults are vaccinated, Sadarangani said. At that point, health officials can look at the number of cases among kids, whether severe cases are showing up and whether kids are a source of ongoing community transmission. Researchers are testing children across B.C. for COVID-19 antibodies to understand asymptomatic infections and better estimate the true infection rate among younger people.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Fiona Brinkman, a professor in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, said children should "definitely" be vaccinated. "Getting COVID is much worse in terms of potential for long-term side effects than getting the vaccine," said Brinkman, who is also working on Canada's variant containment efforts through the Canadian COVID-19 Genomics Network. When will kids receive a vaccine? The four pharmaceutical companies are at all different stages of testing the vaccines on kids. It's unclear when exactly those vaccines could be approved for kids. Sharma said Friday that data from teenagers will come first, followed by kids under 12. "Potentially, by the end of the calendar year, we might have some answers for children." Clinical trials are underway to determine vaccine effectiveness on children.(Evan Mitsui/CBC) Sadarangani said the first clinical trial data from older kids is expected to come by the end of August. If the Health Canada approves the vaccines on kids, NACI will then recommend how to best deploy the doses, he said. Sadarangani said rolling out the vaccine as part of school immunizations will be far more efficient than immunizing adults, noting the system is "better set up" to vaccinate kids. Is achieving 'herd immunity' possible without vaccinating kids? Some experts have suggested that achieving "herd immunity" — the point at which the virus can no longer spread in the community because enough people have either been infected or vaccinated — may not be feasible without vaccinating kids. Brinkman said it's a reasonable concern, but the degree of protection to society from vaccines make them a powerful tool, even before they're available to children. "We have vaccines that have incredible efficacy. In fact, they're astounding," she said. "When you have vaccines that work that well, you don't actually have to vaccinate as many people in the population to have it be effective." A nurse administers a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination in Vancouver on March 4. B.C. says it expects every adult to receive a first vaccine dose by July.(Ben Nelms/CBC) Anna Blakney, an assistant professor at University of British Columbia's school of biomedical engineering, said herd immunity is often thought of as a percentage of a population that must be protected to ensure safety for all. But it's actually a more dynamic concept, she said, especially since it's unknown how long immunity from COVID-19 will last. "With herd immunity, you don't just reach that level and then it's there forever," she said. "People can lose their immunity over time, so most likely what's going to happen is that it will be a combination of natural infections and the vaccine that get us to that kind of steady state of herd immunity." Are there safety concerns for kids? Blakney, who also runs a popular TikTok account that educates viewers about COVID-19, said she's received many questions about the safety of the vaccine in children. She said clinical trials are generally designed with less vulnerable populations in mind — those between the age of 18 and 55. (Because COVID-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, older people were included in vaccine trials.) Once a vaccine is found to be safe in those populations, they're expanded out to children and pregnant women. "It's routine for children and babies to get vaccines. That's when you get the most vaccines in your life. They're just waiting for that safety to be proven," Blakney said. "We want to first test it in the less vulnerable population in case there are any side effects. That doesn't mean we expect there to be — that's just how it's evolved over time." Sadarangani explained that the dose may be adjusted to ensure the best protection possible for children. "Some vaccines do need a bit more because they need a bit more to stimulate their immune systems than adults do. And some vaccines, they need a bit less," he said. "This is one of the reasons in the trial for going down through the age groups, starting with the older kids that are likely to be most like adults." What about parents who are hesitant to vaccinate their kids? In a UBC study last fall, about 43 per cent of 2,500 families across Canada surveyed said they would accept less rigorous testing and expedited approval of a vaccine for their kids. Blakney said she finds some degree of vaccine hesitancy normal, especially because people are not accustomed to the speed with which the vaccine was developed. A B.C. COVID-19 vaccination immunization record card. Sadarangani says school immunizations will be far more time efficient than immunizing adults.(Ben Nelms/CBC) But she said the vaccine research involved an unprecedented level of funding and effort from scientists, doctors, and governments alike. "We have lots of safety data on this because not only were they trialled in tens of thousands of people, but now they've been implemented to millions of people," she said. "So we have a pretty good idea of the safety profile of them thus far, which is what gives us that extra confidence to go into other populations. These vaccines are incredibly safe in the data we have so far." What can parents do in the meantime? Brinkman said, for now, parents can ensure that their children's other vaccinations and booster shots are up to date, while also following public health orders until restrictions can safely be lifted. "That will help protect them and give their system the best chance against other diseases," she said, adding some people may have fallen behind schedule on immunizations while B.C. has been partially shut down. "It's very important at this stage that we keep the numbers of cases as low as we can because we really need to reduce the chance of the viral variant spreading."
A 29-year-old man from Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaël, N.B., has been found dead near Lamèque. RCMP searched for for Justin Savoie after he was reported missing on Thursday. Savoie was last seen Monday at a business on Rue de L'Église in the village where he lives on New Brunswick's Acadian Peninsula. Police believe he was heading toward Lamèque or Tracadie on a snowmobile. A snowmobile matching the description of the one driven by Savoie was located underwater by police near the bridge on Route 113 between Haut-Lamèque and Lamèque. The RCMP Underwater Recovery Team conducted searches in the area on Friday. Police worked with the Canada Border Services Agency on Saturday to locate and remove the body from the ice. It was identified as the missing man, RCMP say. Several organizations assisted in the operation, including the Lamèque and Shippagan fire departments, Ambulance New Brunswick, the Department of Justice and Public Safety and the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization. RCMP continue to investigate.
Regina and Saskatoon are both seeing above normal temperatures this week, which could lead to a quick thaw. Workers in both cities started going out earlier this week to clear storm drains in preparation. The City of Regina says it prioritizes work on its 22,000 storm drains based on the level of risk to public safety or the risk of property damage. Residents in both cities are encouraged to help keep drains clear and to make paths for snowmelt to drain. A release from the City of Saskatoon said that despite the record-breaking snowfall in November, Saskatoon actually saw less snow than average this year. Additionally, the release said the citywide snow removal following that storm will help prevent flooding on residential streets and sidewalks this spring. The city is also encouraging residents to clear snow and ice from sidewalks to avoid big puddles from forming, and to protect against icy conditions during the freeze-thaw cycle. Snow should also be kept in your yard, the city said. Throwing it on the street can affect drainage. If residents notice water collecting that's impacting traffic or crosswalks, they can call the Customer Care Centre. The City of Saskatoon warns that if snow melts quickly, your home may be at risk of flooding even if you haven't flooded before. City of Saskatoon tips for avoiding a snowmelt flood Remove snow from around your foundation, especially around window wells. Remove snow from along the outside edges of lots, where most lots drain. Clear snow and ice from around the bottom of your downspouts and extend the downspouts at least two metres so that water drains away from your foundation. Check your roof and eavestroughs for excess snow. Consider hiring a professional to clear snow from your roof. A roof rake may help to clear the snow and debris from the edge of your roof. Consider using sandbags to block water from entering low-lying areas beside your foundation. If water is getting close to your foundation, use an appropriate pump to drain it to the gutter or back lane. City of Regina tips for protecting your home from a flood Test sump pumps and backflow prevention valves to ensure they are working properly. If you do not have either of these, consider installing them. Remove items that are blocking the water drainage pathway to the floor drain. Store valuables in watertight containers or raise them off the basement floor. Store hazardous materials in watertight containers or remove them from the basement. Raise electronics off the basement floor.
TORONTO — Three major health care worker unions are launching a campaign to press the Ontario government for increased wages and better access to personal protective equipment. The unions say the campaign will launch on Monday in workplaces across the province ahead of the Ontario budget, which is expected to be delivered later this month. They say they are asking the government to raise the wages of personal support workers in all health care settings to $25 an hour as the pandemic continues. They also say the province has a stockpile of 12.4 million pieces of personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, but say staff still struggle to access what they need in some long-term care homes. The unions are calling on the province to ensure employers distribute the protective gear to staff as needed. The call for action is being led by members of Unifor, Service Employees International Union - Healthcare, and the Canadian Union of Public Employees. Meanwhile, Ontario reported 1,299 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, along with 15 more deaths linked to the virus. Health Minister Christine Elliott said there were 329 new cases in Toronto, 192 in Peel Region, and 116 in York Region. Sunday's data is based on 46,586 completed tests. The province also reported administering 30,192 doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Saturday, for a total of 890,604 doses handed out so far. There have been 308,296 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Ontario since the pandemic began, including 290,840 classified as resolved and 7,067 that have resulted in death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The board that oversees the U.S. Capitol Police is beginning a search for a permanent police chief, a person familiar with the matter said, as the fallout from the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol continues. Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman has faced scrutiny from Capitol Hill leaders and congressional committees over law enforcement failures that allowed thousands of rioters to overtake police officers during the insurrection. The search for the permanent leader of the force, which has more than 2,300 sworn officers and civilian employees, will be nationwide, and while Pittman can apply for the position, she is not guaranteed it, according to the person, who had direct knowledge of the search. This person was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Capitol Police and other law enforcement agencies are trying to determine the best way to secure the Capitol over the long term. Officials last week quibbled over requesting National Guard reinforcements to remain in the District of Columbia and whether to remove the massive fence that has encircled the Capitol grounds since January. The Capitol Police Board, which includes the House and Senate sergeant at arms and the Architect of the Capitol, is charged with oversight of the police force. ___ Merchant reported from Houston. Michael Balsamo, Nomaan Merchant And Colleen Long, The Associated Press
MINNEAPOLIS — Jury selection begins Monday for a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder and manslaughter in George Floyd's death. Derek Chauvin's trial, which is expected to last weeks, will be overseen by an experienced judge and argued by skilled attorneys on both sides. It will be streamed online for the world to see because the COVID-19 pandemic has limited who can attend. Floyd, who was Black, died May 25 after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe. Among the key figures and elements at trial: COVID-19, CAMERAS and COURT SECURITY Chauvin's trial, one of the highest-profile criminal cases in Minnesota history, is taking place during a global pandemic that has had a dramatic impact. Precautions to guard against the spread of COVID-19 have limited courtroom space, leading the judge to try Chauvin ahead of three other fired officers charged with aiding and abetting. And because the pandemic all but wiped out the possibility of public seating, the judge is allowing the trial to be broadcast and livestreamed — a rare occurrence in a state that doesn't routinely allow cameras in court. City, county and state officials are preparing for any sort of reaction that trial testimony or a verdict might elicit. Barbed and razor wire and concrete barriers surround the courthouse, and strict security is in place to protect trial proceedings. City and state leaders want to avoid a repeat of last year's rioting that destroyed dozens of businesses and a police station. THE JUDGE Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill is respected and has a reputation as a no-nonsense, fair judge. He started in the county public defender’s office in 1984 and worked for 10 years as a prosecutor, serving as top advisor to U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar when she was the county’s head prosecutor. Cahill has been a judge since 2007 and has been chief judge. He's known for being decisive and direct. He held firm on his decision to allow video cameras at the trial over the state's objections, and to starting the trial in March despite prosecutors' concerns about the pandemic. He also refused to reinstate a third-degree murder charge, sending prosecutors to the Court of Appeals — which ruled Friday that he must reconsider that decision — and denied defence requests to move the trial out of Hennepin County. PROSECUTION Days after Floyd's death, Minnesota's governor announced that Attorney General Keith Ellison would take the lead on prosecuting the case. The county prosecutor's office is still part of the case, but the unusual move was a win for local civil rights advocates who said longtime Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman didn't have the trust of the Black community. Ellison, the state's first African American elected attorney general, previously served in Congress and worked as a defence attorney. His team of prosecutors includes Matthew Frank, an experienced attorney in Ellison’s office who recently won a guilty plea in the case of Lois Riess, a Minnesota woman who got life in prison without parole for killing her husband in 2018. Riess became notorious after she fled the state, killed a woman in Florida, and assumed her identity before she was captured. Also on board are: Jerry Blackwell, who last year won a posthumous pardon for a Black man wrongly convicted of rape before the infamous Duluth lynchings of 1920; and Steven Schleicher, a former federal prosecutor who led prosecution of the man who kidnapped and killed Jacob Wetterling in 1989. Defence Chauvin, 44, started working for the Minneapolis Police Department in 2001, making him by far the most experienced of the four officers involved in Floyd's arrest. He was fired soon after bystander video of Floyd's arrest emerged the following day. He was charged days later, and moved to a state prison for security reasons. He posted $1 million bond in October and was allowed to live out of state due to safety concerns. His attorney, Eric Nelson, is among a handful of attorneys in Minnesota who often represent police officers. One of his bigger cases involved Amy Senser, the wife of former Minnesota Vikings tight end Joe Senser, who was convicted in the 2011 hit-and-run death of a Minneapolis chef. Nelson argued that Senser should be sentenced to probation, but a judge gave her 41 months in prison. Nelson also has tried murder cases. He helped win an acquittal for a Minnesota man who was charged with fatally shooting his unarmed neighbour in 2017. He also won an acquittal for a Wisconsin man who testified that he feared for his safety when he fatally stabbed a man who confronted him in 2015. Nelson has not said whether Chauvin will testify during his trial, but many legal observers predict Chauvin will take the stand. GEORGE FLOYD Floyd, 46, moved to Minneapolis from Houston several years before his death in hopes of finding work but had lost his job as a restaurant bouncer due to COVID-19. On May 25, an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called the police saying Floyd tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd left behind a young daughter, who lives with her mother in Houston. His friend Christopher Harris told The Associated Press last year that Floyd “was looking to start over fresh, a new beginning.” THE JURY Chauvin's fate will be decided by 12 Hennepin County residents, whose names will be kept confidential until further court order. Two alternate jurors will be selected to listen to testimony, but will not be part of deliberations unless needed. Prospective jurors were sent questionnaires to determine how much they have heard about the case and whether they had formed any opinions. Prosecutors can block up to nine potential jurors without giving a reason, while the defence will be allowed up to 15 objections, with no reason given. Legal experts say since pretrial publicity has been so pervasive, both sides will seek jurors who are willing to have open minds. “You don’t want jurors who are completely blank slates, because that would mean they're not in tune at all with the world,” Susan Gaertner, a former prosecutor, said in a recent interview. “But what you want is jurors who can set aside opinions that have formed prior to walking into the courtroom and give both sides a fair hearing.” ___ Follow Amy Forliti on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/amyforliti ___ Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd Amy Forliti, The Associated Press
OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides to testify on when they first learned of sexual misconduct allegations surrounding the military's former top soldier — and account for what they did about the accusations. The Tories said they will ask the House of Commons' defence committee on Monday to have Zita Astravas and Elder Marques appear in the coming days, as opposition parties continue digging into the government’s handling of the allegations against Gen. Jonathan Vance. Astravas was Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s chief of staff and Marques was a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March 2018, when former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne says he first raised an allegation against Vance to the minister. Walbourne did not reveal the nature of the allegation, citing a promise of confidentiality to the complainant. But Global News has reported it was a lewd email that Vance allegedly sent to a much more junior soldier in 2012, before he became chief of the defence staff. An email obtained by The Canadian Press showed Astravas writing to Walbourne on March 5, 2018, four days after the former ombudsman says he met with the minister, asking if Walbourne had talked to the Privy Council Office about an unspecified allegation. The Privy Council Office is the department that supports the Prime Minister’s Office. Astravas, who is now chief of staff to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, and Marques, who left the Liberal government in late September, also discussed concerns related to the Canadian Armed Forces’ commander, according to a Globe and Mail report. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he wasn’t aware of any specific allegation against Vance, telling reporters on Friday that “The ombudsman did not provide sufficient information ... to be able to follow up on these allegations.” Sajjan, for his part, has refused to confirm Walbourne notified him of any allegations against Vance, and told the committee he was surprised when Global News reported two allegations of inappropriate conduct against the former defence chief last month. The defence minister has also said he always followed proper procedures whenever an allegation of sexual misconduct was brought to his attention. Opposition parties have disputed that assertion, alleging the Liberals are trying to sweep the affair under the carpet. “Canadians need to get answers from those directly involved in this Liberal cover-up,” Conservative defence critic James Bezan said in a statement on Sunday. “That’s why we will be moving a motion to have Minister Sajjan’s former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, and senior Trudeau advisor Elder Marques testify at defence committee.” The Conservatives have indicated that they also plan to call Sajjan back for a second round of questioning. The Global report alleges Vance had an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that started more than a decade ago. The report alleged the relationship continued after he was named chief of the defence staff in 2015, at which time he promised to root sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces. Global has also reported on the allegations concerning Vance's email to a much younger female officer in 2012, allegedly suggesting they go to a clothing-optional vacation resort. Vance has not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Canadian Press, and the allegations against him have not been independently verified. Global has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing. Military police have launched an investigation. Sajjan has also promised a separate, independent probe, but it has yet to begin. Walbourne testified to the House of Commons’ defence committee last week about his closed-door meeting with Sajjan on March 1, 2018, saying he told the defence minister that an allegation had been made against Vance. The former ombudsman told the committee that Sajjan declined to look at supporting evidence and instead referred the matter to the Privy Council Office. Walbourne said that was despite his having asked the minister to keep the matter confidential. Sajjan’s office has said the minister “disagrees with parts of (Walbourne’s) testimony that occurred in committee.” The Conservatives have also said they want to expand the committee’s study to include the government’s handling of allegations of misconduct against Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald. McDonald temporarily stepped aside as chief of the defence staff late last month, only weeks after succeeding Vance in the role. Acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre sent a letter to Canadian Armed Forces personnel on Friday praising their commitment and professionalism while acknowledging the presence of “elements of our military culture that need, must and will change.” “Certain behaviours and attitudes exhibited toward our personnel are beyond troubling,” he added. “None of us should ever tolerate, or condone, behaviour or attitudes that threaten the well-being of our people. The road will not be easy, but we will emerge a stronger, better and more effective Force.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
Trois-Rivières – À l'aube de la Journée internationale des droits des femmes, les combats demeurent légion afin de faire en sorte que «l'égalité concrète» soit atteinte, selon la directrice de la Table de concertation du mouvement des femmes de la Mauricie. Joanne Blais estime que l'autonomie économique de celles-ci, comme l'accès égalitaire à l'emploi ou le travail à temps partiel figurent encore et toujours sur la pile de travail à accomplir. Sans parler de l'impact de la pandémie sur les femmes. Déjà fortement touchées avant que la COVID-19 ne surgissent dans leurs vies, les femmes doivent, depuis plus d'un an, composer avec ce nouvel ennemi. «Certaines femmes n'ont pu retourner sur le marché du travail et sont plus dépendantes de leur conjoint parce qu'elles ont perdu leur emploi», souligne Joanne Blais. La situation est encore plus préoccupante lorsqu'il s'agit de femmes issues de l'immigration. «Ces femmes vivaient déjà d'autres questions par rapport à leurs origines. C'est la même chose pour celles qui sont réfugiées ou monoparentales.» Cette insécurité, elle ne se fait pas seulement ressentir sur le plan économique, mais aussi sur le plan physique. «Il y a encore beaucoup de travail à faire pour vivre dans un monde sans violence faites aux femmes, pour qu'elles n'aient pas peur de marcher dans la rue, de prendre le transport en commun, qu'elles n'aient pas à vivre de violence conjugale ou de comportements inappropriés au travail. Bref, pour qu'elles puissent vivre dans un monde qui est plus paisible», insiste-t-elle. Pour Mme Blais, chaque 8 mars est une occasion de rappeler les gestes qui restent à poser pour les droits des femmes. «Il y a l'autonomie économique, les femmes gagnent encore moins que les hommes; l'accès égalitaire à l'emploi, certaines femmes sont discriminées en raison de leur sexe; le travail, elles sont souvent à temps partiel; elles se retrouvent souvent dans des conditions difficiles parce qu'elles travaillent dans le domaine des soins ou des services», énumère la directrice. Ces «soins ou services» peuvent comprendre les hôtels par exemple, la restauration etc. «On n'a pas encore atteint l'égalité concrète, dans les faits», rappelle-t-elle. Joanne Blais souligne également que la situation délicate dans laquelle se retrouvent les soins de santé et de services sociaux avait été rapportée plusieurs années en avance par des groupes de femmes, sans pourtant être prise en considération. «Ça fait des années qu'elles dénoncent la situation», observe-t-elle, soulignant au passage que la thématique de l'édition 2021 de la Journée internationale des droits des femmes est «Écoutons les femmes». Marc-André Pelletier, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Nouvelliste
The first death in the 19 and under age group related to COVID-19 was reported by the province on Sunday. The death was reported in the North West zone, which includes such communities as North Battleford and Lloydminster. This was among two deaths reported on Sunday the other was in the 40 to 49 age group and in the Far North West zone. There were 116 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the province on Sunday. The North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert, reported eight new cases. North Central 2, which is Prince Albert, has 40 active cases. North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has 37 active cases and North Central 3 has 22 active cases. Three cases with pending residence information were added to North Central. Two cases were found to be out-of-province residents and were removed from the counts. There are currently 136 people in hospital overall in the province. Of the 114 reported as receiving in patient care there are 10 in North Central. Of the 22 people reported as being in intensive care there is one in North Central. The current seven-day average 152, or 12.4 cases per 100,000 population. Of the 29,709 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan,1,518 are considered active. The recovered number now sits at 27,793 after 52 more recoveries were reported. The total number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic is 29,709 of those 7,553 cases are from the North area (3,071 North West, 3,317 North Central and 1,165 North East). There were 1,428 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered yesterday in Saskatchewan bringing the total number of vaccines administered in the province to 91,884. There were 226 doses administered in the North Central reported. Doses were also administered in the North West, Saskatoon and Regina. There were 2,263 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan on March 6. As of today there have been 594,116 COVID-19 tests performed in Saskatchewan. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
An unfair labour practice application brought on by the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU) against the Government of Saskatchewan over the use of a fitness test — which was previously found to be potentially discriminatory — was dismissed late last month. In 2012, Saskatchewan implemented a fitness test called the WFX-Fit test, developed by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for Type 1 wildland firefighters across Canada. People are tested in their ability to complete a series of physical, strenuous tasks within a set minimal time, called a cut score. After the union filed a grievance, an arbitrator found the WFX-Fit test cut score as it was previously set had "a potential discriminatory adverse impact on females and older males," and was not a reasonable measure of their fitness to perform the job. An appeal court upheld that finding, and in March 2019 the Supreme Court of Canada refused the Saskatchewan government's request to appeal the ruling. The Ministry of Environment previously told CBC that across Canada, SGEU was the only union to complain about the test. It noted the arbitrator had not criticized the test itself or its use — but that the cut score itself is arbitrary and could be discriminatory. The government said it got opinions from experts who designed the test that the cut score could be validly lowered from 17 minutes and 15 seconds to 18 minutes and 10 seconds. The labour board decision, published on Feb. 28, showed discussion about how to move ahead in the 2019 wildfire season took place shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case. There, the government told SGEU representatives it intended to use the slower cut scores. The Labour Relations Board decision showed SGEU asked the government to consider using an arduous test, which it had used until 2012. The government stuck with the WFX-Fit test in 2019. SGEU took the government to task over its use of the test that year. But a unanimous decision by the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board vice-chair Gerald Tegart and board members Joan White and Maurice Werezak found an "enforceable agreement" was never reached by both parties.. The labour board decision said the WFX-Fit test was deemed to be valid in all respects, aside from the use of its original cut score due to its discriminatory impact on women and older men which the government had accounted for. The board also found the government was not obligated to negotiate the general terms of the WFX-Fit test with the union. Because the board determined no formal enforceable agreement was reached between the two parties, the labour board found three of the orders the union sought from the board were not available. The union asked the labour board to order the government to comply with the previously-agreed upon arbitration award, but the board found the government had already met its obligations there and did not dispute the fact the WFX-Fit testing was discriminatory. The union was also unable to prove the government had failed to comply with the arbitration award during the labour board hearing. The labour board ruled there was no basis to prohibit the government from requiring wildland firefighters to complete the WFX-Fit testing, as no agreement was reached between SGEU and the province, and the tests' use with the revised cut score was not shown to be in contravention with the previous arbitration award. The union also asked for financial compensation in the form of damages but that was also dismissed as the board's determination meant damages would not be available. A request for comment from SGEU was not returned by deadline.
The Saskatchewan Coroners Service and police in Regina are investigating after a man died Sunday morning. Officers were called to the 100 block of St John Street, at the corner of 5th Avenue N., for reports of an injured man just after 4:15 a.m. CST Sunday. EMS was also dispatched but it was determined the man was "beyond help," according to a news release. He was declared dead at the scene. Police said their investigation is in its infancy and no further details were available. More information would be released at a later date. Anyone with information that could help police is asked to call the Regina Police Service or Crime Stoppers. More from CBC News:
A recent survey revealed most British Columbians want to end heckling during Question Period, and if the first week of the 2021 legislative session was any indication, the Speaker is no fan either. The session began with two days of restrained civility, led by Interim Opposition Leader Shirley Bond and Premier John Horgan as they parried through each day’s Question Period openers. The wheels flew off the bus on day three, Mar. 3, when heckling, desk banging, and insults throughout Question Period caused Speaker Raj Chouhan to issue a rare admonishment to MLAs in the Chamber afterwards. “Members, you may think that making a big noise is a good way of doing Question Period. The Chair doesn't appreciate it,” he said. Chouhan, the NDP MLA for Burnaby-Edmonds since 2005, was appointed Speaker last December after serving as Deputy Speaker since 2017. “I heard the words competence, incompetence, incompetent, numerous times,” Chouhan said. “So?!” fired back a member of the Liberal caucus. “So, the point is… let's be temperate in our language in our debate, because the public is watching,” Chouhan said. “Opposition members have every right to ask questions. I understand their passion and all that, but be careful. Be careful.” His comments followed a 32-minute long Question Period in which ‘incompetent’ or its derivative was used in every question asked by a Liberal Opposition member and in one response by a government minister, for an average of once every two minutes. Ravi Kahlon, minister of jobs, economic recovery and innovation, was in the hot seat for much of the week about his ministry’s handling of COVID-19 relief funding for small and medium-sized businesses which, at that point, had disbursed $50 million of the total budgeted $300 million. By the time the last questioner, Liberal House Leader and Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar, unleashed a string of insults and the Premier forcefully responded, the Chamber reverberated with shouts of support and heckling on both sides of the aisle. A far cry from the previous day’s Question Period, which Horgan had hailed for its “respectful dialogue” and wrapped up with a team-building, all-party unity message about how progress could be made on the opioid crisis if every MLA took responsibility and worked together. According to recent survey results, most British Columbian want their legislators to work together, and heckling, a long-held acceptable partisan behaviour in the political theatre known as Question Period, no longer enjoys popular public support. “Desk banging, heckling, a majority of people say, we don't want to see this happening,” said Mario Canseco, president of Research Co., a Canadian public opinion polling and research company. “The appetite’s not there.” Research Co recently polled 800 British Columbians for their opinion on heckling, desk banging, reform of parliamentary decorum, and several other recommendations made by former Speaker Darryl Plecas in his final report to the B.C. Legislative Assembly entitled, Speaker’s Forum on the Role of Members: Actioning Proposals for Change. Aimed at legislative reform, the Plecas report made dozens of recommendations including the formation of an all-party committee to consider how to discipline unacceptable behaviour in the Chamber and whether to eliminate heckling, desk banging, clapping and interruptions during Question Period. “Improving decorum during proceedings of the Legislative Assembly has been a hallmark of my tenure as Speaker,” wrote Plecas in his December 2020 report. In the Research Co survey, 57 per cent of British Columbians thought an all-party committee to examine parliamentary decorum was a good idea. Of the BC Green supporters who responded, 57 per cent were in favour, while 62 per cent of NDP voters and 66 per cent of Liberals were supportive. “Ultimately, this is about figuring out a way to discuss policies that is not going to be drowned by clapping or heckling,” said Canseco. It’s unclear whether the government would consider these reforms, but change could begin with the Speaker establishing rules with the house leaders, said Canseco, likening it to when a judge speaks privately with the defence and prosecution lawyers to curb courtroom overacting. “Where the Speaker discusses this with the house leaders pre-emptively and says, ‘This is the way it's going to go from now on, so please advise your sides,’” Canseco said. “But it's definitely something that people want,” said Canseco. “People want to see some sort of decorum back in the legislature.” Fran@thegoatnews.ca / @FranYanor Fran Yanor, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Rocky Mountain Goat
A new executive order from President Joe Biden directs federal agencies to take a series of steps to promote voting access. Biden announced the plan in a recorded address on the 56th commemoration of the 1965 incident known as “Bloody Sunday.” (March 4)
CHARLOTTETOWN — Health officials in Atlantic Canada reported seven new cases of COVID-19 today, including two in Prince Edward Island. Officials in that province say both new patients are men in their 20s who are now self-isolating. With 26 active reported cases, chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says there are more active infections on the Island now than at any other point in the pandemic. The province is under so-called circuit-breaker measures until March 14, which require all businesses and services to operate at reduced capacity and keep records for contact tracing. Public health authorities in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia reported two new cases in their respective provinces and say all infections are connected to travel or to previously known infections. Officials in Newfoundland and Labrador reported one new travel-related case, marking the province's 10th consecutive day with single-digit infection numbers following an outbreak last month in the St. John's region. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
ATHENS, Greece — Greek police clashed with more than 500 protesters in an Athens suburb on Sunday evening, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The crowd was protesting police violence, but views of what happened earlier Sunday diverge widely. In an announcement, police say that a motorcycle patrol went to suburb Nea Smyrni’s main square just before 3 p.m. Sunday to investigate “multiple reports” of violations of lockdown measures and that they were set upon by a group of 30 people who injured two police officers. Police reinforcement detained 11 from among the group, police say. But videos uploaded on several websites show a different picture: peaceful citizens arguing with police and suddenly being thrown to the ground and attacked with batons. It was to this incident that the protest rally was held about four hours later. Police say that an administrative inquiry will be held in response to the video uploads. Opposition parties have entered the fray, denouncing the “police repression.” “It wasn’t an accident. The government and (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis wanted this,” said Pavlos Christidis, the spokesman for socialist party Movement for Change. With the number of new cases of the coronavirus still well above 1,000 daily, the Athens area as well as others across Greece are under a strict lockdown and police patrols conduct checks to see if people are keeping social distancing and refrain from travelling unnecessarily. Police say that they, on Saturday alone, they conducted 71,177 checks across the country, finding 2,025 violations; 1,627 concerned unauthorized movement, 304 non-wearing of masks and 91 illegal operation of businesses. Demetris Nellas, The Associated Press
ClubLink has appealed the Ontario Superior Court decision to uphold a 40-year-old agreement that stated the Kanata Lakes Golf and Country Club must remain open space. The appeal, filed to the Court of Appeal for Ontario on Friday, comes two weeks after the lower court sided with the City of Ottawa after a two year battle to prevent the property owner, ClubLink, from turning the golf course into a development, alongside its partners Minto Communities and Richcraft Homes. At the heart of the case are the facts of a 1981 agreement — which has been updated several times, including when ClubLink bought the property 23 years ago — between the then City of Kanata and the operator at the time. That agreement called for 40 per cent of the area in Kanata Lakes to be open space in perpetuity. It also laid out guidelines about land use and ownership if the original owner of the golf course decided to get out of the business. In his decision last month, Ontario Superior Court Justice Marc Labrosse found the agreement remains valid.
“A book,” author Neil Gaiman may or may not have said, “is a dream you hold in your hand.” And right now, in an era of pandemic and polarization, Americans have — and need — a lot of dreams. We dream of unfettered travel, of a world free of face masks and hand sanitizer, of days that are exciting and new and not the grinding tedium of spending hour after hour staring, horrified, at the TV news. We dream of going back to school. Of eating a meal with family. Of hugs. And some of us — well, some of us dream of murder. Small-town murder. Gentle murder. Quiet murder. For those who find their dreams in books, there’s a group of readers who are hungrily consuming a particular style of narrative to escape from the past year's reality: “cozy” mysteries. In an unfathomably complex year, a gently told tale of murder and mayhem whittles the sharp edges of reality to a manageable, smooth surface. “Murder is definitely dark, but in a cozy the reader is with the protagonist every step of the way as each clue is revealed,” says Michelle Vega, executive editor of Berkley, who works with several cozy authors. “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.” In television form, the cozy can be seen in popular shows such as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Midsomer Murders” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” Cozies claim roots in early 20th-century British mysteries by such writers as Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers. But with the advent of the e-book, authors are setting their gentle crime scenes in RV campgrounds in the American South, tourist towns in the Pacific northwest and in neighbourhoods in Brooklyn, to name a few. The genre’s parameters are few: no swearing, no sex, and little to no gore. Just what the pandemic-era doctor ordered. “The cozy mystery is a familiar way to encounter the two seemingly unreconcilable realities of death and country peace at the same time,” says Sarah Allison, an associate professor of English at Loyola New Orleans who is working on a book about “escape reading.” “The restoration of order at the end of the novel might be less significant than the way this genre makes beautiful scenery and grisly details feel like they go together naturally,” she said in an email. Such mysteries, she says, promise a messy murder and a tidy resolution, “a welcome contrast to the way we’ve all been suspended between life as it was before COVID and life as it will be after.” Kelly Vaiman, a longtime cozy fan, has tried to avoid thinking about real life this past year. First she was wary of going places due to the pandemic, then her elderly mother’s health declined while in a Pennsylvania nursing home. Vaiman couldn’t travel to say goodbye, and her mother died. “After her passing, during the mourning period, I just couldn’t handle the grief,” Vaiman says. “So I’d pick up a cozy mystery to take my mind off everything.” She estimates that she reads 120 books a year. They're not all all cozies, but those are what she turns to when she needs a comforting read. Valerie Burns writes gentle murder mysteries under the pen name of V.M. Burns, and her “Mystery Bookshop” series is now six stories long. Since the pandemic began in early 2020, she’s noticed more readers are taking the time to email her about her work, seeking that human connection that’s sorely missing. Burns, who lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is an avid cozy reader as well as a writer of them. She acknowledges the unusual nature of cozies — that they revolve around a murder yet are also soothing to read. But, she adds, trying to solve a mystery gives a feeling of accomplishment when so much of life seems stalled. “It’s basically a puzzle, but there’s that safety net in knowing there’s not going to be a whole lot of blood and guts and violence,” she says, laughing. “It’s contradictory. A murder mystery with no violence. But I can pick up a cozy, and can figure out clues and try to figure out whodunit but I don’t have to live in all of the horror associated with true crime or a noir.” Esi Sogah, a senior editor at Kensington Books, says she’s seen an uptick in cozy mystery sales in the past year. She believes that the genre’s settings — often picturesque small towns, quirky villages, or unique neighbourhoods — allow homebound readers to travel in their minds. “Sitting in cafes, going book clubs. Browsing in a bookstore in fictional world,” she says. “All the stuff you can’t do right now.” Unlike big blockbuster stories that revolve around one near-superhuman character (who is usually a man), cozy series cultivate an amateur sleuth (usually a woman) and a cast of quirky secondary characters. Readers become attached to the entire ensemble, says author Bree Baker, and consider them old friends. That's why readers love series that stretch to multiple books. “I think we all need a place to belong, at the core of everything. We need to have our people,” Baker says. And at a time when we can’t see our own people in real life, fictional stand-ins will have to do. Solving a murder in one’s mind, dreaming of the day when we can languidly enjoy a coffee and conversation with friends, knowing that what’s right will prevail in the end — those are the reasons people turn to cozies. And, not coincidentally, they overlap with the ways people are coping at this moment in history. “We have enough horror in our day to day lives,” Burns says. “Right now, that’s all I want to do is escape. Escape into a world where justice prevails.” ___ Former Associated Press journalist Tamara Lush, who worked for the AP from 2008 to 2021, is the author, under the pseudonym Tara Lush, of “Grounds for Murder (A Coffee Lover's Mystery)” (2020), a cozy mystery published by Crooked Lane Books. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TamaraLush Tamara Lush, The Associated Press
OBERSTDORF, Germany — Canadians Antoine Cyr and Russell Kennedy posted top-30 finishes in the 50-kilometre classic ski mass event Sunday at the world nordic championships.Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., finished 27th in the race, one spot ahead of Kenned of Canmore, Alta."For sure I wanted more (Sunday) but I made a few tactical mistakes that cost me a lot of energy," said Kennedy, who appeared ready for the world event before suffering an ear infection. "I'm stoked with how well I recovered and was able to perform."And it was fun to watch Antoine have a really good race and make some really good moves out there."Cyr, 22, completed the eight laps in two hours 15 minutes 31.2 seconds. He was the third-fastest athlete under the age of 23 in the field of 57."I haven’t done much racing at the World Cup level and I don’t have a lot of mass start experience," Cyr said. "Mass starts are chaos here in Europe."It is nothing like we race at Canada and I learned so much."Kennedy, 30, finished in 2:15:45.6. Remi Drolet, 20, of Rossland B.C., was 31st in 2:17:05.7 while Philippe Boucher, of Levis, Que., did not finish.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 7, 2021. The Canadian Press
The White House on Sunday urged computer network operators to take further steps to gauge whether their systems were targeted amid a hack of Microsoft Corp's Outlook email program, saying a recent software patch still left serious vulnerabilities. "This is an active threat still developing and we urge network operators to take it very seriously," a White House official said, adding that top U.S. security officials were working to decide what next steps to take following the breach. The White House official, in a statement, said the administration was making "a whole of government response."
The Democratic leader of New York’s Senate called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign Sunday amid mounting allegations of sexual harassment and undercounting COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins added her voice to a growing number of Cuomo’s foes and allies who believe the three-term Democrat should step down. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, also a Democrat, stopped short of echoing Stewart-Cousins but said in a statement that “it is time for the Governor to seriously consider whether he can effectively meet the needs of the people of New York.” On Saturday, another woman who worked for Cuomo publicly accused him of inappropriate behaviour, on the heels of other allegations in recent weeks. “Every day there is another account that is drawing away from the business of government,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “New York is still in the midst of this pandemic and is still facing the societal, health and economic impacts of it. We need to govern without daily distraction. For the good of the state Governor Cuomo must resign.” Her push for his resignation came shortly after a Sunday press conference where Cuomo said it would be “anti-democratic” for him to step down. “They don’t override the people's will, they don’t get to override elections," Cuomo said during a conference call with reporters when asked about members of his own party calling for him to step down. "I was elected by the people of New York state. I wasn’t elected by politicians.” Cuomo said the next six months will determine how successfully New York emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not going to be distracted because there is too much to do for the people,” he said, noting that the state must pass a budget within three weeks and administer 15 million more COVID-19 vaccines. Asked about Ana Liss, who told The Wall Street Journal in a story published Saturday that when she worked as a policy aide to the governor between 2013 and 2015, Cuomo called her “sweetheart,” kissed her hand and asked personal questions including whether she had a boyfriend, Cuomo said such talk was “my way of doing friendly banter.” He acknowledged that societal norms have evolved and noted: "I never meant to make anyone feel any uncomfortable.” Liss told the Journal she initially thought of Cuomo’s behaviour as harmless and never made a formal complaint about it, but it increasingly bothered her and she felt it was patronizing. “It’s not appropriate, really, in any setting,” she said. “I wish that he took me seriously.” Cuomo’s workplace conduct has been under intense scrutiny in recent days as several women have publicly told of feeling sexually harassed, or at least made to feel demeaned and uncomfortable by him. The state's attorney general is investigating. Former adviser Lindsey Boylan, 36, said he made inappropriate comments on her appearance, once kissed her on the lips at the end of a meeting and suggested a game of strip poker as they sat with other aides on a jet flight. Another former aide, 25-year-old Charlotte Bennett, said Cuomo asked if she ever had sex with older men and made other comments she interpreted as gauging her interest in an affair. Another woman, who did not work for the state, described Cuomo putting his hands on her face and asking if he could kiss her after they met at a wedding. In a news conference last week, Cuomo denied ever touching anyone inappropriately, but apologized for behaving in a way that he now realized had upset people. He said he’d made jokes and asked personal questions in an attempt to be playful and frequently greeted people with hugs and kisses, as his father, Mario Cuomo, had done when he was governor. Karen Matthews And David Porter, The Associated Press