This fireball over Alberta was spotted in the neighbouring province from Pinehouse, Saskatchewan.
This fireball over Alberta was spotted in the neighbouring province from Pinehouse, Saskatchewan.
In the opening moments of a Golden Globes night even more chaotic and confounding than usual, co-host Tina Fey raised a theoretical question: “Could this whole night have been an email?” Only the next three hours would tell. Well, sure, it could have been an email. But then you wouldn't have had Chadwick Boseman’s eloquent widow, bringing many to tears as she explained how she could never be as eloquent as her late husband. Or Jane Fonda, sharply calling out Hollywood for its lack of diversity on a night when her very hosts were under fire for exactly that. Or Chloé Zhao, making history as the first woman of Asian descent to win best director (and the first woman since 1984.) Or 98-year-old Norman Lear, giving the simplest explanation for his longevity: never living or laughing alone. Or Jodie Foster kissing her wife joyfully, eight years after very tentatively coming out on the same telecast. Of course, there were the usual confounding results and baffling snubs, compounded here by some epic Zoom fails. But then we had the kids and the dogs. And they were adorable. Next year, can we still have the kids and the dogs, please? Some key moments of the first and hopefully last virtual Globes night: AN OVERDUE RECKONING The evening began under a cloud of embarrassing revelations about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its lack of inclusion, including the damaging fact that there are no Black members in the 87-person body. Fey and co-host Amy Poehler addressed it early: “Even with stupid things, inclusivity is important." Winners like Daniel Levy of “Schitt's Creek” and presenters like Sterling K. Brown referred to it. Jane Fonda made it a theme of her powerful speech accepting the Cecil B. DeMille award. And the HFPA made a hasty onstage pledge to change. “We recognize we have our own work to do,” said vice-president Helen Hoehne. “We must have Black journalists in our organization.” “I DON'T HAVE HIS WORDS” The best-actor award to Chadwick Boseman for “Ma Rainey's Black Bottom” had been expected. That did not dull the emotional impact of his victory. His widow, Taylor Simone Ledward, tearfully accepted in his honour, telling viewers that her husband, who died of colon cancer at 43 before the film was released, “would say something beautiful, something inspiring, something that would amplify that little voice inside of all of us that tells you you can. That tells you to keep going, that calls you back to what you are meant to be doing at this moment in history.” But, she said poignantly, “I don't have his words." Co-star Viola Davis could be seen weeping as Ledward spoke. She was not alone. PREDICTABLE ZOOM FAILS It was obvious there were going to be awkward Zoom fails. It started early, when the very first winner, Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah,” was on mute as he accepted his award, leaving presenter Laura Dern to apologize for technical difficulties. Thankfully, the problem was resolved in time for the actor to speak. Jason Sudeikis, whose charmingly rambling speech ("This is nuts!") and rumpled hoodie signalled he hadn't expected to win, finally realized he needed to “wrap this puppy up.” And winner Catherine O'Hara ("Schitt's Creek") had some perhaps unwelcome help from her husband, whose efforts to provide applause sounds and play-off music on his phone while she spoke lost something in translation, causing confusion on social media. Oh yes, and there were those conversations between nominees before commercials — did they know we heard them? KIDS AND PETS, STILL BRINGING JOY Still, the virtual acceptances from winners stuck at home had a huge silver lining: happy kids and cute pets. When Mark Ruffalo won for “I Know This Much is True,” two of his teens could not control their joy enough to stay out of the camera shot. Not to be outdone, the adorable young daughter of Lee Isaac Chung, writer-director of the Korean-American family drama “Minari,” sat in his lap and hugged him throughout his acceptance for best foreign language film. “She’s the reason I made this film,” said Chung. Winner Jodie Foster ("The Mauritanian") also had a family member in her lap: her dog. Also seen: Sarah Paulson's dog, and Emma Corrin's cat. LOVE FOR BORAT, SNUB FOR BAKALOVA ... AND EXPOSURE FOR GIULIANI Bulgarian actress Maria Bakalova, breakout star of Amazon’s “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” had been widely expected to win, but lost out to Rosamund Pike ("I Care a Lot") who saluted Bakalova's bravery. In her movie, Pike said, “I had to swim up from a sinking car. I think I still would rather do that than have been in a room with Rudy Giuliani.” The former New York mayor's infamous cameo was also the butt of jokes from “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen, who called Giuliani “a fresh new talent who came from nowhere and turned out to be a comedy genius ... I mean, who could get more laughs from one unzipping?” Baron Cohen, who won for best actor in a comedy, also joked that Donald Trump was “contesting the result” of his win. A FIERY FONDA Did you expect anything less from Fonda? In her memorable DeMille award speech, the multiple Globe winner extolled the virtues of cinematic storytelling — “stories can change our hearts and our minds” — then pivoted to admonishing Hollywood. “There's a story we’ve been afraid to see and hear about ourselves,” she said, “a story about which voices we respect and elevate and which we tune out: a story about who’s offered a seat at the table and who’s kept out of the rooms where decisions are made.” She said the arts should not merely keep step with society, but lead the way. “Let's be leaders,” she said. ZHAO MAKES HISTORY When Zhao won best director for her haunting and elegant “Nomadland,” she was the first Asian American woman ever to win that award. But that wasn't the only way she made history: it was the first directing Globe for a woman in nearly 40 years, since Barbra Streisand won for “Yentl." Her film, a look at itinerant Americans, “at its core for me is a pilgrimage through grief and healing,” Zhao said. “For everyone who has gone through this difficult and beautiful journey at some point in their lives, we don’t say goodbye, we say: See you down the road.” With Zhao's win, the road widens for other female directors. ___ This story has been corrected to show that Norman Lear is 98, not 99. Jocelyn Noveck, The Associated Press
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Alberta’s health minister says the province is considering whether to follow British Columbia in extending the time between COVID-19 vaccine doses. Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming. The B.C. government announced Monday that it will extend the wait between first and second doses to four months to get more people vaccinated overall in a shorter time period. B.C. based its decision on data coming from the United Kingdom, Israel and Quebec that showst the first dose of vaccines is 90 per cent effective. When Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech began distributing their vaccines late last year, it was recommended the first and second shots be completed within about six weeks maximum to be fully effective. The Oxford-AstraZeneca has also been approved for use in Canada, but a national panel of vaccine experts is recommending it only be given to people under 65 – a guideline Shandro says Alberta will follow. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Restricting towing zones on some highways and licensing tow truck drivers are some of the measures Ontario will be introducing later this year in its efforts to crack down on an industry rocked by allegations of violent turf wars.Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney announced a pilot project on Tuesday that she said would cut down on dangerous practices like so-called "accident chasing," where multiple tow trucks race to be the first to a crash site to get business.Under the new rules, some of the 400 series highways will have restricted towing zones, which means only a single company can operate within that zone. Mulroney said the "tow zones" are the first step towards introducing broader regulation in the sector, which could later include licensing tow truck drivers."Ending the accident-chasing regime means people can take comfort in knowing that a reputable tow operator will get there to help them get to a safe place," she said. "It will ensure that tow operators who arrive on the scene in the tow zones will be equipped to handle any situation and get the scene cleared quickly and safely."Mulroney said the two-year project will also establish standard prices for customers and target times for response and to clear a crash site.The towing industry has been rocked by allegations of violent turf wars between organized criminal groups within the sector.Last summer, Premier Doug Ford announced Ontario was forming a task force to examine both enforcement and safety in response to an increase in violence and crime associated with the towing sector.Solicitor Genera Sylvia Jones said the zones will be accompanied by the establishment of a new joint task force to investigate criminal activity within the tow businesses involving the Ontario Provincial Police and municipal police services."Tow truck drivers are a vital part of keeping Ontario moving," she said. "But they are operating in an industry that lacks oversight structure, and where too many criminals are making their own rules."Police in the Greater Toronto Area have alleged that competition for control of the towing market has led to murders, attempted murders, assaults, arsons and property damage.In recent months, four OPP officers have been charged after a two-year long probe into alleged crimes in the tow truck industry. OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said Tuesday that the force has conducted three "complex, major" investigations into the sector over the last year alone, and more resources would be dedicated to those probes."You have a commitment from the police leaders that are part of this joint force operation that any indications of corruption will be dealt with with the same level of seriousness that you have seen over the last 12 months," he said. "We are committed to rooting it out, and we'll accept nothing less."NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused the government of dragging its feet when it comes to responding to the escalating violence in the towing industry."People's livelihoods, and their lives, have been lost," she said. "They've been taking their sweet time. ... when it's about saving people's lives and cleaning up an industry."This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press
Liverpool Regional High School (LRHS) 2020 graduate, Olivia Nowe, recently found out she was the recipient of the prestigious Bell Achievement Award worth $44,000 over the next four years. “I was ecstatic,” she said, after hearing about the scholarship. The 18-year-old is in her first year at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Modern Languages, Literature and Cultures. After her fourth year, she hopes to be fluent in French and German and to be conversational in Spanish. According to the school’s website, the award was established in 2002 as the premier entrance scholarship at Mount Allison. The Bell Scholarship celebrates students who have demonstrated strong academic ability, leadership potential, volunteerism, extracurricular involvement, work experience, and good citizenship. Nowe was a member of the Queen’s County Girls’ Choir for several years, and participated in the province-wide Catapult Leadership Camp. In 2019, she was able to see former U.S. President Barack Obama speak in Halifax. At LRHS, she was co-president of the student council and was involved in the yearbook club, Kiwanis Key Club, Safe Grad, Tutoring Program Co-op, and the Scholarship Auction Committee. She was also a member of the school’s REP (Respect, Empathy, Positivity) Committee, which focuses on mental health advocacy and organizes food bank donations. Additionally, she was active in school basketball. Nowe has held jobs at Queens Place Emera Centre, and in the summer of 2020 she worked at Queen’s Manor as a member of the recreation team. Upon graduating from high school, she received numerous awards including the Milton Community Association Bursary, worth $250; The Liverpool Regional High School Scholarship Auction Scholarship, worth $1000; and The SSRCE Memorial Bursary, worth $750. According to Nowe, there were a few steps involved in getting the Bell Achievement Award. Originally, she was offered the President’s Award, worth $20,000. The university then offered her a $36,000 Bell Achievement Award with an $8,000 internship guarantee, because “someone may have deferred or declined the offer,” said Nowe. “They said I was close in line to moving up to the higher scholarship and I actually got it.” Among the criteria for the scholarship is that she must maintain a 3.5 GPA throughout the four years. Nowe, who grew up in Milton, said she is the first of her family to go to university, which makes the award and just being able to have the opportunity to attend that much more special. “This was kind of a huge leap of faith for me. I am the first one to go away and experience something new. Everyone at home has been at home forever,” she said. “My dad has been great and supportive through all of this.” Nowe grew up with her father John, an older sister, and a brother. Her parents divorced when she was young. and her mother, Kelly Deal, resides in Springhill, Cumberland County. Her siblings and her father have Type 1 diabetes and her siblings both have cystic fibrosis. Growing up, Nowe said, it took a lot of money to support the family and pay for medications. Though her paternal grandparents and uncle who lived nearby were supportive, finances were a struggle and her father had a tough time getting a job through her school years. “I am very fortunate that I have a father who is so supportive of my goals. Without the support from him and my grandmother, I don’t quite know who I would be today,” said Nowe. A summer theatre camp scholarship from the town led to a love of theatre and she attended summer camp in Liverpool for a number of years. In Grade 6, Nowe and fellow students created A Breath of Fresh Air, a community youth theatre group, for which Nowe stayed involved throughout junior and senior high school. Kallie Koliotassis was her drama teacher/director throughout her junior and senior high years. “She’s very bright and always had goals and she works up to them. She doesn’t like to let herself down,” the teacher commented. Koliotassis suggests the struggles Nowe faced and worked through have shaped her to be a strong and confident young woman. “I think going away was daunting for her because I don’t think she has been away from her family for so long,” she said. “But I think this will give her a sense of independence and will show herself who she really is away from her family. I think she is going to do well.” Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid- and senior-level Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen businesses and other entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was an intimate and favourite of President Donald Trump even amid covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Navalny's supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not include any of Russia's most powerful businesspeople and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get the attention of Putin. Tuesday's step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.” The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for businesses and other enterprises, most of which it said were involved in the production of biological and chemical agents. The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia's Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new U.S. sanctions would be “way too little and not touch Putin’s billionaire cronies.” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the U.S. move overdue. Working with U.S. allies, “we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement. The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin in alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and in alleged malign actions abroad, including the hacking of U.S. government agencies and U.S. businesses. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of Putin's government. That included dismissing U.S. intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in its covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The administration co-ordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday over the attack on Navalny. The U.S. and European shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” Blinken said in a statement. The individuals sanctioned by the U.S. included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defence figures, and Russia's prosecutor general. The Biden administration had forecast for weeks actions against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies. Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation. His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial. Long a target in Russian government attempts to shut down dissent, Navalny has repeatedly appealed to the West to start targeting the most powerful business and financial oligarchs of his country, saying only then would Russian leaders take international sanctions seriously. The U.S. government has previously censured behaviour by Russia that American officials saw as having violated international norms. In 2016, for instance, the Obama administration responded to interference by the Kremlin in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and by shuttering two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York. Trump's administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including through the closure of Russian consulates on the West Coast and the suspension of a nuclear arms treaty. ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Aamer Madhani in Washington and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press
The board of MLAs that manages the Northwest Territories legislature has hired the same company that investigated former Governor General Julie Payette's office to look into allegations of bullying in the clerk's office. "Current and former staff of the Office of the Clerk, since the beginning of the 19th Assembly, will have the opportunity to speak voluntarily to the independent third-party firm," stated the Board of Management in a press release issued Tuesday morning. The board has hired Ottawa-based Quintet Consulting Corporation, the same firm that investigated Payette's office last summer. That investigation included interviews with 92 current and former employees. That investigation concluded that the office was a terrible place to work due to "yelling, screaming, aggressive conduct, demeaning comments and public humiliations," from Payette and an aide. Payette resigned in January after receiving a copy of the report. Like that investigation, the one of the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly was triggered by allegations of bullying from current and former staff, many first reported by CBC News. The staff allege that clerk Tim Mercer bullies and intimidates subordinates he does not favour, and is unable to control his temper. They say that in group meetings, he has berated and humiliated staff to the point of tears. Investigation will look at events since October 2019 Though employees say bullying by the clerk has been going on for years, under the terms of reference set by the Board of Management, the Quintet investigation is limited to what has occurred in the clerk's office since Oct. 1, 2019, the start of this Legislative Assembly. Investigators are also restricted to talking only to staff who have worked in the office since the start of this assembly. Tim Mercer, the clerk for the legislative assembly, went on leave, following public allegations of bullying and harassment. He denies the allegations.(CBC) In the terms of reference, the board says investigators will look into three allegations of misconduct related to "an employee of the NTLA (Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly)." CBC News reported that one complaint was filed by current committee advisor April Taylor in a letter to the board last month. Another was filed by MLA Steve Norn. Taylor was suspended with pay the day after she submitted a letter to the board, a copy of which she provided to CBC News, outlining her allegations of bullying against Mercer. In a separate letter, deputy clerk Glen Rutland tells Taylor the suspension will continue to March, pending an investigation of allegations she violated her oath of confidentiality and other rules. Rutland later confirmed that Mercer himself is "on leave," but would not say why or for how long. Quintet is required to provide a report on its investigation to the Board of Management. The board gives no indication of any deadline for the report.
Spin Master Corp. recorded meteoric growth in its digital games business in the latest quarter as users of its Toca Life World app filmed themselves playing the game and shared the videos on social media, the company’s co-CEO said Tuesday. “There was a crazy amount of people that were actually filming themselves playing in the game and then uploading it to TikTok, and that exposure of the game really started to increase the amount of users,” Ronnen Harary told investors during a conference call. “When you have that many people seeing the product, playing with the product and telling their friends, there's a multiplier effect.” The Canadian toymaker’s digital games revenue increased by more than 400 per cent to $31.8 million in its fourth quarter, driven by the Toca Life World platform. The app, developed by Spin Master's Swedish app studio Toca Boca, lets players imagine stories for characters in the virtual game, including kids, babies, elders and creatures, and drag the characters around the screen with their finger and make them do activities. While it's free to download the app, Spin Master makes money through the in-game purchases and upgrades. The stronger digital games revenue, also driven in part by its Sago Mini kids app subscription user base, was revealed as the company said its revenue grew 3.6 per cent compared with a year ago for the three months ended Dec. 31. The Toronto-based company said revenue for the quarter was US$490.6 million, up from US$473.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Spin Master's shares surged to a 52-week high and were up over 24 per cent, or $7.01, at $36.07 in midday trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Yet its quarterly results also showed a decline in net sales to $434.3 million, from $441.6 million a year earlier. Mark Segal, Spin Master's chief financial officer, explained that the sales slump was in part due to retailers pulling promotions forward earlier in the fall as well as the company's decision to limit domestic inventory. "This affected our ability to fulfil some late-season replenishment and e-commerce orders, especially on hot items," he told analysts. "While this meant we did not maximize our sales, the position we took allowed us to achieve our best sell-through and cleanest retail and Spin Master inventory levels in many years." Meanwhile, the company will be releasing its feature-length Paw Patrol movie in August, expanding the reach of the company's popular kids entertainment franchise and opening up a new revenue stream. "In terms of increasing our output, you will see more films coming from Spin Master in the future and I think that gives us a whole new way to actually entertain kids," Harary told analysts. "It's really important for everybody to understand that we're actually producing the film, we didn't license the film out ... and take a royalty on it," he said. "Our team internally in Toronto produced the film, we hired the writers, we hired the directors, we did the whole casting with all that amazing voice talent." It's unclear whether there will be a theatrical release for the movie or a combination of theatrical and video on demand, Harary said. Meanwhile, although classic toys and game were a safe choice in 2020, he said consumers will "shift to newness" post-pandemic, he said. The company is preparing for this shift with a robust pipeline of new product development and the goal of greenlighting one to two new properties a year, Harary said. Harary and Anton Rabie, co-founders of the children's entertainment company, will step down from their co-chief executive roles next year. Max Rangel was appointed global president in January and adds the chief executive role to his title in April. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Companies in this story: (TSX:TOY) Brett Bundale, The Canadian Press
Robinhood, the online brokerage used by many retail traders to pile in to heavily shorted stocks like GameStop Corp, has made an ambitious push into loaning out its clients' shares to short sellers as it expands its business. The size of the jump highlights Robinhood's rapid growth over the past year as the number of retail investors has soared in the work-from-home environment during the pandemic and as retail brokers have largely eliminated trading fees, a model Robinhood helped pioneer. Menlo Park, California-based Robinhood is expected to go public this year with a valuation of more than $20 billion.
SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah girl whose football skills won her fame online has lost her court bid to have school districts create football teams for girls. A federal judge ruled against Sam Gordon on Monday, finding that Utah school districts aren't legally required to create a separate team because girls who want to play football can play with the teams traditionally filled with boys. U.S. District Court Judge Howard Nielson acknowledged that schools and coaches could do more to encourage girls to play. But he also acknowledged concerns that without Gordon's star power there might not be enough girls to keep a league running that would have to be built from the ground up since no other high school in the U.S. has a similar program. Gordon's playing videos have racked up millions of views on YouTube since she was 9, but she and other female players argued they were worried about playing with physically larger boys as teenagers. The case also included testimony about the harassment girls have endured while playing with all-boy teams. Gordon argued plenty of girls were interested in playing, pointing to an all-female league she started with her father six years ago that’s drawn hundreds of girls from the Salt Lake City area. Those numbers show girls want to play and could fill a roster, her lawyers argued. But U.S. District Court Judge Howard Nielson disagreed. He found that no district policy had discouraged girls from playing, and that any harassment would violate athletic association rules. While schools and coaches could do more to accommodate girls, “the court is not convinced that it is required by the Constitution," he wrote. He also found the districts raised significant questions about whether there would truly be enough girls within the district boundaries to build up a large enough team without Gordon, who is now 17 and has appeared at the ESPN awards and in Super Bowl commercials. A smaller team could increase the risk of injury, he found. The districts were represented by Assistant Utah Attorney General Rachel Terry, who said she was pleased by the ruling and the finding that they did not violate the Equal Protection clause or Title IX. “The districts will continue to strive to expand opportunities for all students and to ensure equal opportunities for male and female students in athletics and activities," she said in a statement. Brent Gordon, Sam Gordon’s father who is also an attorney, said he and his daughter will continue their own work to expand football opportunities for girls in Utah. “We appreciate the Judge’s efforts to have this trial during the pandemic so that the girls’ stories could be told and voices heard,” Gordon wrote in a statement. “Those voices will continue until equality in athletics is reached in Utah and across the country.” ___ Eppolito is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Lindsay Whitehurst And Sophia Eppolito, The Associated Press
FORT FRANCES — A 26-year-old resident of Couchiching First Nation has been charged with uttering counterfeit money. Rainy River District Ontario Provincial Police were called to investigate the use of a counterfeit $100 bill, according to a news release issued March 1. Police were able to quickly identify a suspect from surveillance equipment in the victim’s business. As a result Brett Tuesday, 26, was charged and will appear in Fort Frances court on March 22. Police are reminding businesses and members of the public to look for the following signs of counterfeit money: For more information on how to detect counterfeit bills, the OPP recommends visiting the Bank of Canada website. Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence combined with real-world data from the province’s immunization campaign that began in late December.
VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief coroner says deadlier street drugs are behind another grim milestone in the province's overdose crisis as a record was set for the number of deaths in January. The BC Coroners Service says 165 people died from suspected overdoses in January, the largest number of lives lost due to illicit drugs in the first month of a calendar year. It says the deaths come amid a rise in drug toxicity, with almost one in five of the deaths involving extreme levels of fentanyl concentration — the largest number recorded to date. There were 14 deaths in which carfentanil was detected, the largest monthly figure involving the more lethal analogue of fentanyl since May 2019. More people died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia last year than in any year before. Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says more than twice the number of people died in January 2021 compared with January 2020 and the drug toxicity shows a need for swift action. “The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services," she says in the statement. The report also notes recent increases in the presence of unprescribed benzodiazepines and its analogues, including etizolam. Since July 2020, etizolam has been identified in nearly one-third of illicit drug toxicity deaths where expedited testing was performed. In January, benzodiazepines and its analogues were detected in nearly half of all samples tested. The addition of etizolam to fentanyl increases the likelihood of overdose due to the combined respiratory depressant effects, the coroners service says. It says increased drug toxicity was responsible for an average of 5.3 lives lost each day in January. Premier John Horgan and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart have written letters to the federal government asking for an exemption that would allow for the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use. Sheila Malcolmson, the minister of mental health and addictions, says in a statement that the pandemic has pushed people further into isolation, compounding the effects of stigma that drives people to use drugs alone. She says B.C. is working to add more treatment and recovery options, more services and supports, and to work with the federal government on decriminalization. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
The Rotary Clubs of Kingston and area are providing a volunteer schedule for the local COVID-19 immunization clinic at the INVISTA centre. There are four Rotary clubs and two Rotaract clubs in Kingston, and members from all six clubs are assisting this effort. “Rotarians have been assisting Kingstonians for 100 years in many areas, particularly support to youth, seniors, and the underprivileged,” said Mike Moore, local Rotarian. “COVID has presented an entirely new challenge for Kingston. So, Rotarians and Rotaractors have responded by donating significant sums of money to the Food Bank, have helped deliver food to needy families, produced and distributed masks to disadvantaged families, and will be helping KFL&A Public Health in perhaps the most positive, impactful event of our lifetime, vaccinating our residents.” The mass vaccination clinic at the INVISTA center is operational, currently only serving those who are healthcare workers in the highest or very high priority categories, and will stay in line with the provincial directive for immunization priority. It is expected that this location will immunize up to 3,000 people per day when the vaccine supply is stable. Moore said that deciding to provide this service came naturally for Rotarians. “It was an easy decision,” he shared. “The number of Rotarians and Rotaractors who expressed a desire to help out was impressive and heart-warming. I initially advised KFL&A Public Health that we could cover one of the volunteer positions, but after checking the pulse of Rotarians, I realized that we could cover two, which takes 42 volunteers committing to a three-hour shift every week. Even with that level of commitment, I still have a long list of spares.” The Rotary Club volunteers will work as screeners and ushers to keep the clinic running smoothly. About the Rotary Club: Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service in our communities and worldwide. There are four such clubs in Kingston totaling about 150 members. Their focus is on youth, seniors, and the under-privileged. As such, they support organizations like the Kingston Food Bank, Food Sharing Project, Salvation Army, RKY Kids Camp, Boys and Girls Club, Pathways for Education, and many others. Legacy projects include Rotary Park, Rotary Hall at Fairmount Home, a boardwalk at Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area, and lately a sizeable financial donation to the Kingston Hospice Centre. Internationally, Rotary’s biggest project is work wide the W.H.O. to help eliminate polio from our planet. Besides contributing financially, they also participate in hands-on projects. Jessica Foley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, kingstonist.com
FREDERICTON — New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus.Health officials say the province's 28th COVID-19-related death involves a resident in their 80s of the Manoir Belle Vue long-term care home in Edmundston. The care facility has reported a total of eight deaths linked to the pandemic.The four new infections are all in the Miramichi region and bring to 36 the number of active reported cases in New Brunswick. Three patients are in hospital with the disease, all in intensive care. Officials say in a news release that a positive case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Miramichi High School, which is closed this week for March break. The release did not say when the case was identified.A recent infection reported in the Miramichi region has been identified as a presumptive case of the B.1.1.7 mutation, first detected in the United Kingdom. A previously reported case from the Edmundston area that had been identified as the U.K. variant has been found not to be that mutation.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
After nearly 40 years in business Wa-Su-Wek Limited of Brooklyn is diversifying to make ends meet. The company, owned by the Zone 9 Native Council of Nova Scotia, will soon be adding storage units to its menu of offerings. Wa-Su-Wek began 39 years ago by offering floristry services and wreath making at its location at 85 Hillside Road, the former Brooklyn School. It’s now one of the few wreath-frame makers, if not the only one, in the province. The Wa-Su-Wek building has also been the home of the Brooklyn Post Office for more than 10 years. This latest development is designed to create more of a steady income during the “off-season.” “We’re trying to generate more revenue. We do the wreath thing, which is mostly seasonal at Christmastime,” said Shannon Jollimore, office clerk and spokesperson for the group. “With the storage units, as long as people pay their bills, we know that we will have money coming in, and that will get us through the slow season.” She said there is a need for units along the South Shore and estimates that there is a two-or three-month waiting list to get one. The hope is to have at least four units ready for occupancy by April 1, and another 10 units within a year-and-a-half. All the units will be located within the main building and each will be 2.4 metres by 3.7 metres in size. The cost to rent a unit is expected to be $125 plus tax per month. Customers will be able to access the units during regular business hours — 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. — or after hours by appointment. Meanwhile Wa-Su-Wek’s main focus is its wreath-ring sales, which centre around Christmas and extend across the country. Customers can order singularly or in bulk. According to Jollimore, last year the company sold more than 200,000 units. She suggested that was somewhat higher than normal and due to the fact that more people were staying home amid the pandemic and wanted to make their own decorations. Wa-Su-Wek also is extending its framing product line for more of a year-round offering. The Brooklyn company, which employs one full-time employee and seasonal workers in the summer and Christmas months, recently added tomato cages and funeral saddles to its items for sale. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin
VANCOUVER — The federal government has provided nearly $3.5 million in funding for five vending machines that will dispense medical-grade opioids in British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia, in order to prevent overdoses. Darren Fisher, parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, says two machines are located in Vancouver, one is in Victoria and one each are in London, Ont., and Dartmouth, N.S. The machines, called MySafe, are similar to ATMs and allow drug users at risk of overdose to get hydromorphone pills dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned. Fisher says MySafe allows participants to access a safer drug without fear, shame and stigma, and without contact with anyone, which is all the more essential during the pandemic. Overdose deaths have spiked during pandemic with many people using alone and a more toxic illicit drug supply. Drug users are assessed by a doctor and a baseline urine sample is collected before they can access safer drugs through the MySafe machines, which are bolted to the floor. This is a corrected story. A previous version said $5.6 million in funding. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
City officials are warning residents to avoid contact with raccoons after an uptick in reported raccoon-related injuries. Between January 2020 and February 2021, Toronto Public Health saw a 62 per cent increase in reports of people bitten or scratched by raccoons compared to the two-year average between the years 2018 and 2019. Toronto Animal Services also received more service requests for sick and injured raccoons, the city said in a news release. In 2020, there were 13,712 requests compared to 4,172 requests in 2019. "This may be because residents are home more than usual or spending more time exercising outside in their neighbourhoods, thus encountering more raccoons in the city," Toronto Public Health said in a release. Brad Gates, the owner and president of AAA Gates' Wildlife Control, says his company received more calls in 2020 with residents spending more time at home. "If they were out of the house, they wouldn't hear the animal moving about during the daytime, but during COVID-19 they were hearing the animals at all times," he said. Gates said reports of other wild animals, such as coyotes and foxes, have also increased as more people see them in their backyards or parks. "Our call volume for non-service requests is through the roof," he said. "Prior to this past year they weren't around to see it and they didn't think to call." 'Homeowners should keep a safe distance' Raccoons can be infected with feline distemper, which affects their coordination and eyesight. "Those calls have certainly been up for us, people seeing animals during the day that have been acting peculiar," Gates said. He added that distemper can cause raccoons to become less afraid of people. In late stages of the disease, raccoons begin to stagger and can get blinded by a crusting over their eyes. "They're getting into situations they wouldn't normally get into." He said raccoons don't usually attack humans. "It's extremely rare that a raccoon without any provoking would come near a person or attack a person," he said. Gates said it could happen, though, if a homeowner tries to deal with a sick or injured raccoon on their own and put "their fingers somewhere they shouldn't." "Like with any wild animal, homeowners should keep a safe distance." Rabies is very rare but can be fatal if it is left untreated. Toronto Public Health said that residents should not pet or feed wild raccoons, and that anyone who has been bitten, scratched or exposed to a wild raccoon should see a health provider immediately to be assessed. There have been no reports of wildlife with rabies in Toronto since 1997, according to Toronto Public Health.
Geotechnical engineers will begin drilling boreholes in the Drumheller Valley to help determine possible future berm alignments for ongoing flood mitigation efforts. Approximately 20 boreholes were drilled on publicly accessible land in fall 2020 to help engineers fill in gaps in historic records, and to provide initial information for proposals. “When designing dikes and berms, we need to get an idea of the foundation soil condition and soil type-whether it is silt, sand, or clay,” said Mark Brotherton, geotechnical engineer with Red Deer firm Parkland Geotechnical Consulting Ltd. Brotherton is one of the main consultants on the project, with 40 years experience as a geotechnical engineer, and the company is very familiar with the Red Deer River. He explained the boreholes will typically be drilled down to bedrock, which can range from only a few metres to 20 metres throughout the Drumheller Valley. The procedure will help provide data on the types of soils throughout the valley and determine whether a dike would be feasible based on whether the soil in the proposed alignment area will support the berm structure. The data will also help with completing detailed berm designs, such as determining stable side slope angles. Parkland Geotechnical is not the only company involved in this phase of the project, with most planning to conduct drilling beginning in March; drilling is anticipated to take place over the next three to four weeks. Some of the drilling may need to be conducted on privately owned land, and Scott Land and Lease will be in consultation with landowners to arrange for drilling on private properties. The berm designs will help protect residents from overland flooding. However, Brotherton notes seepage is a topic which often comes up when discussing flood mitigation efforts. While overland flooding can have worse impacts, seepage is still a cause for concern as responsibility falls onto the homeowner. Brotherton notes a good weeping tile system is the “first line of defence” against seepage in the basements of houses. “The purpose of dikes is to stop the overland flow,” he said. “We know, for the short flood period, the water rises on the river side of the dikes. If the berms are on permeable material (such as gravel or sand) it will likely have an impact on seepage in the protected area behind the dike.” He adds building berms on less permeable soils, such as clays, silt clay, and bedrock can reduce the impact of floods on the local groundwater table and seepage. Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Drumheller Mail
Members of the Queens District RCMP reached out for help from the public concerning two incidents that happened on the weekend of February 19-21. On February 21, at about 9:48 p.m., RCMP responded to a report of a motor vehicle collision in Summerville, Queens County, involving two vehicles and a pedestrian. The initial investigation appeared to show that the pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Highway 3, and that the same vehicle then went on to sideswipe a second vehicle that was travelling in the opposite direction. The suspect vehicle then fled the scene. Emergency Health Services (EHS) transported the injured pedestrian to hospital and she subsequently was released. The second vehicle that was involved in the incident had minor damage to the driver’s side. Police viewed video footage from a nearby business and conducted inquiries, but initially the only description of the vehicle available was that it’s a dark coloured car. Based on the injuries and damage to the second vehicle, the RCMP is asking the public to be on the lookout for a dark car that likely has damage to the driver’s side. Single motor vehicle collision results in arrest Two days earlier, on February 19 at about 6:45 p.m., Queens District RCMP responded to a single motor vehicle collision that occurred in Caledonia. The RCMP received a report that the driver of a van had been travelling down Hibernia Road and struck multiple mailboxes before ending up in a ditch. Members of EHS and the North Queens Fire Department also responded to the call. The driver declined treatment by EHS and was transported by police to a hospital for assessment and released shortly thereafter. He was then transported to the Queens RCMP detachment where it is alleged he declined to provide a breath sample, according to an RCMP news release issued February 23. He was subsequently arrested and charged for refusing to provide a breath sample as well as operating a motor vehicle while impaired. Police are not releasing the driver’s identity at this time. Anyone who may have witnessed either of these incidents or has any information is asked to contact Liverpool RCMP Detachment at 902-354-5721. Those wishing to remain anonymous, can also contact Nova Scotia Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or text TIP202 + a message to ‘CRIMES’ (274637), or submit tips by Secure Web Tips at www.crimestoppers.ns.ca. Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin