As 2020 comes to an end, people across Canada have found creative ways to deliver joy and moments of hope to their communities during the pandemic’s holiday season.
As 2020 comes to an end, people across Canada have found creative ways to deliver joy and moments of hope to their communities during the pandemic’s holiday season.
WASHINGTON — Federal law enforcement officials are examining a number of threats aimed at members of Congress as the second trial of former President Donald Trump nears, including ominous chatter about killing legislators or attacking them outside of the U.S. Capitol, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. The threats, and concerns that armed protesters could return to sack the Capitol anew, have prompted the U.S. Capitol Police and other federal law enforcement to insist thousands of National Guard troops remain in Washington as the Senate moves forward with plans for Trump's trial, the official said. The shocking insurrection at the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob prompted federal officials to rethink security in and around its landmarks, resulting in an unprecedented lockdown for Biden's inauguration. Though the event went off without any problems and armed protests around the country did not materialize, the threats to lawmakers ahead of Trump's trial exemplified the continued potential for danger. Similar to those intercepted by investigators ahead of Biden’s inauguration, the threats that law enforcement agents are tracking vary in specificity and credibility, said the official, who had been briefed on the matter. Mainly posted online and in chat groups, the messages have included plots to attack members of Congress during travel to and from the Capitol complex during the trial, according to the official. The official was not authorized to discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke Sunday to the AP on condition of anonymity. Law enforcement officials are already starting to plan for the possibility of armed protesters returning to the nation's capital when Trump’s Senate trial on a charge of inciting a violent insurrection begins the week of Feb. 8. It would be the first impeachment trial of a former U.S. president. Though much of the security apparatus around Washington set up after the Jan. 6 riot and ahead of Biden’s inauguration — it included scores of military checkpoints and hundreds of additional law enforcement personnel — is no longer in place, about 7,000 members of the National Guard will remain to assist federal law enforcement, officials said. Gen. Dan Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said Monday that about 13,000 Guard members are still deployed in D.C., and that their numbers would shrink to 7,000 by the end of this week. John Whitley, the acting secretary of the Army, told a Pentagon news conference that this number is based on requests for assistance from the Capitol Police, the Park Police, the Secret Service and the Metropolitan Police Department. Whitley said the number is to drop to 5,000 by mid-March. Thousands of Trump’s supporters descended on the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress met to certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. More than 800 are believed to have made their way into the Capitol during the violent siege, pushing past overwhelmed police officers. The Capitol police said they planned for a free speech protest, not a riot, and were caught off guard despite intelligence suggesting the rally would descend into a riot. Five people died in the melee, including a Capitol police officer who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher. At least five people facing federal charges have suggested they believed they were taking orders from Trump when they marched on Capitol Hill to challenge the certification of Biden’s election victory. But now those comments, captured in interviews with reporters and federal agents, are likely to take centre stage as Democrats lay out their case. More than 130 people have been charged by federal prosecutors for their roles in the riot. In recent weeks, others have been arrested after posting threats against members of Congress. They include a Proud Boys supporter who authorities said threatened to deploy “three cars full of armed patriots” to Washington, threatened harm against Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., and who is accused of stockpiling military-style combat knives and more than 1,000 rifle rounds in his New York home. A Texas man was arrested this week for taking part in the riot at the Capitol and for posting violent threats, including a call to assassinate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y ___ Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report. Michael Balsamo, The Associated Press
SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Samsung scion Lee Jae-yong and prosecutors have decided not to appeal a court ruling that convicted him for bribing South Korea’s former president for business favours, confirming a prison term of two and a half years for the country’s most influential corporate leader, according to lawyers and court officials on Monday. But Lee’s legal troubles aren’t over. He has been indicted separately on charges of stock price manipulation, breach of trust and auditing violations related to a 2015 merger between two Samsung affiliates. The deal helped strengthen Lee’s control over Samsung’s corporate empire. The bribery allegation involving Lee was a key crime in the 2016 corruption scandal that ousted Park Geun-hye from the presidency and sent her to prison. In a much-anticipated retrial of Lee last week, the Seoul High Court found him guilty of bribing Park and one of her close confidantes to win government support for the contentious merger between Samsung C&T and Cheil Industries, which helped strengthen Lee’s control over Samsung’s business empire. The deal faced opposition from some shareholders who argued that it unfairly benefited the Lee family and only succeeded with the support of a state-controlled national pension fund, one of Samsung’s biggest investors. Lee had portrayed himself as a victim of presidential power abuse and his lawyers criticized the ruling. But after mulling his options, Lee decided to “humbly accept” the High Court’s decision, his head attorney Injae Lee said. Prosecutors had sought a prison term of 9 years for Lee Jae-yong. In a statement released to the domestic media, they said the court was too lenient with Lee considering the severity of his crimes but they will not appeal because their biggest goal was to prove that the payments between Lee and Park were bribes. Samsung did not release a statement over Lee’s legal issues. Lee, 52, helms the Samsung group in his capacity as vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s largest makers of computer chips and smartphones. Like other family-run conglomerates in South Korea, Samsung has been credited with helping propel the country’s economy to one of the world’s largest from the rubbles of the 1950-53 Korean War. But their opaque ownership structures and often-corrupt ties with bureaucrats and government officials have been viewed as a hotbed of corruption in South Korea. While never admitting to legal wrongdoing, Lee has expressed remorse over causing “public concern” over the corruption scandal and worked to improve Samsung’s public image. He declared that heredity transfers at Samsung would end, promising the management rights he inherited from his father wouldn’t pass to his children. He also said Samsung would stop suppressing employee attempts to organize unions, although labour activists have questioned his sincerity. It’s not immediately clear what his prison term would mean for Samsung's business. Samsung showed no specific signs of trouble when Lee was in jail in 2017 and 2018. Prison terms have never really stopped Korean corporate leaders from relaying their business decisions from behind bars. The Supreme Court earlier this month confirmed a 20-year prison sentence for Park for the Samsung case and other bribes and extortion while she was in office from 2013 to 2016. Kim Tong-Hyung, The Associated Press
Susan Larder's life is not her own. She eats, sleeps and relaxes when her mother, Bea, does. Larder moved from her home to her mother's home six years ago to provide care as Bea's dementia worsened. With assistance from her partner, Larder helps her mother get dressed. She makes sure her mother's teeth are clean. She is an unpaid caregiver, 24 hours a day, every day of the week. She said feels privileged to do it. But the pandemic is exhausting her. She and her partner even sleep in shifts to make sure Bea is looked after. "There's a level of fatigue that I don't even know if I have words to put to it, truly," Larder said. "My mother, who is 92, looks younger and fresher than I do." Larder is not alone. No time off Caregivers across the province are taking on the same responsibilities with almost no time off, according to Denise Peterson-Rafuse, executive director of Caregivers Nova Scotia. The group provides support services for family and friends who provide care, and advocates on their behalf. "It's humanly impossible to continue to live your life like that," she said. "So now what's happening is, of course, we're seeing caregivers that are dealing with mental health issues, or physical issues, and they can't look after their loved one because they need someone to look after them. "It's past the breaking point." Since COVID-19 hit, Larder can barely get anyone to provide her some relief. Bea used to be in adult day programs, have in-facility respite care, go out for family dinners and have home-care visits. The pandemic shut all that down. In an average week before COVID, Larder would be able to get about 32 hours off duty. Since the pandemic started, she might get eight. "It's the most privileged work in the world, it was never meant to be this hard," said Larder. "You can't name another job that anyone does 24 hours a day for nine months without reprieve ... and yet I'd still pick it given the alternative. Isn't that crazy?" Finding people to take over some of those home-care duties is a problem across Nova Scotia, said Peterson-Rafuse. Shortage of caregivers She said safety concerns around COVID are part of the problem and "the other is because of the lack of the number of caregivers that are available in our province." She believes that the province needs to invest more in home care and caregiving. She said the province could loosen restrictions around its caregiver benefit. The benefit gives unpaid caregivers of low-income adults $400 a month. She said the benefit should be increased and the rules to qualify should be expanded. Some caregivers also receive money from the self-managed care program that allows them to hire their own home-care workers. But Peterson-Rafuse said it's extremely hard to find workers. Right now, the rules don't allow that money to be used to pay a family member for helping with home care. Peterson-Rafuse said that should change, since it can be easier to recruit a family member to help than anyone else, especially during the pandemic. Nova Scotia's Department of Health doesn't see it that way. "Publicly funded programs in home care are expected to supplement care provided by family and community supports, so family are excluded from providing paid care under the current policy," said spokesperson Marla MacInnis in an email. MacInnis said the department recognizes the challenges some unpaid caregivers may be facing and some exceptions can be made. She said those exceptions are usually approved on a short-term basis. "We welcome feedback on our programs and would encourage people who need flexibility to work with their care co-ordinators to explore options," she said. Larder thinks her options are limited, so she soldiers on waiting for the pandemic to end. "I don't feel in a position to complain, if that makes sense, because I still have my mother," she said. "So many people have lost them. "So when I look at what other families have had to go through in the pandemic all I can say is, 'I'm tired, I'm very tired. I'm a whole new kind of tired, and yet I'm still incredibly lucky.'" MORE TOP STORIES
Ukraine reopens schools, restaurants and gyms on Monday, ending a tough lockdown introduced on Jan. 8 to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, Ukrainian authorities said. The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Ukraine has significantly decreased from 6,000 to 9,000 cases a day at the beginning of January to 2,516 new cases on January 25, the fewest since early September. "Such statistics, which indicate the stabilisation of the situation, the improvement of the situation could be obtained only thanks to you, Ukrainians," health minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.
China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is in early-stage talks to sell its premium smartphone brands P and Mate, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said, a move that could see the company eventually exit from the high-end smartphone-making business. Huawei started to internally explore the possibility of selling the brands as early as last September, according to one of the sources. Shipments of Mate and P Series phones were worth $39.7 billion between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, according to consultancy IDC.
Traveling can be tricky now but here are three things you can pay attention to before booking anything.
The U.S. House of Representatives delivered to the Senate on Monday a charge that former President Donald Trump incited insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol, setting in motion his second impeachment trial. Nine House Democrats who will serve as prosecutors in Trump's trial, accompanied by the clerk of the House and the acting sergeant at arms, carried the charge against Trump to the Senate in a solemn procession across the Capitol. Wearing masks to protect against COVID-19, they filed through the ornate Capitol Rotunda and into the Senate chamber, following the path that a mob of Trump supporters took on Jan. 6 as they clashed with police.
MOSCOW — The Russian anti-doping agency confirmed Monday that it will not file an appeal to further loosen restrictions on its teams at the Olympics and other major sports events. The Court of Arbitration for Sport last month ruled that Russia's name, flag and anthem would be barred from the next two Olympics after backing the World Anti-Doping Agency's finding that doping data was manipulated. However, CAS halved the duration of the sanctions from four years to two, removed vetting requirements for Russian athletes and allowed them to keep wearing national colours. The Russian agency, known as RUSADA, had the option to file an appeal with the Swiss supreme court on procedural grounds. It said Monday that it still regards as “flawed and one-sided” the ruling that doping data in Moscow was modified but it was satisfied that CAS rejected tougher sanctions proposed by WADA. “RUSADA considers that this chapter has now been closed and is looking forward and committed to working with WADA with a view to fully restoring RUSADA’s membership status,” RUSADA said in a statement. The Russian agency added that it “remains fully committed to the fight against doping but will continue to defend the rights of clean Russian athletes and to oppose any form of discrimination against Russian sport.” ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports The Associated Press
After months struggling with the symptoms faced by COVID-19 "long-haulers," Chantal Renaud faces the prospect of having to sell her home to pay the bills. The Clarence-Rockland, Ont., woman has had her long-term disability claim rejected by her employer's insurance company. And she can't access federal COVID-19 support programs because they don't acknowledge the condition. Renaud has now launched a lawsuit against the insurer, joining the growing list of long-haulers fighting in court for recognition of the post-viral illness. "I'm feeling very hopeless and anxious," said Renaud about the symptoms that have left her mostly bedridden for months. "It can not only destroy your life, but you can also start losing everything you worked for." 'It makes you panic' The 48-year-old communications manager living east of Ottawa said she contracted COVID-19 in March during the first wave from her construction worker husband. Renaud continued working until early June, when she came down with a more severe set of symptoms, including debilitating fatigue, shortness of breath and a racing heartbeat. For seven weeks, when her illness was at its worst, Renaud said she thought she'd die in her bed. Her husband also developed many of the same symptoms, she said, leaving them both unable to work. "When you're unable to breathe, it makes you panic," she said. "We had a few episodes where we were freaking out and called the ambulance because we couldn't breathe." WATCH | Renaud describes her symptoms: Left in the lurch Renaud tried several times to return to work in the fall, but each time, the severe symptoms came flooding back. She now hasn't worked since November. And while she managed to successfully appeal her workplace insurer's rejection of her short-term disability benefits, her long-term disability claim was rejected in November. That's when she decided to hire lawyer David Brannen. Brannen said Renaud's case is part of a growing number of lawsuits launched against insurance companies for not recognizing the post-viral illness, also known as chronic COVID syndrome (CCS) or "long COVID." Those patients, Brannen said, are trying to seek support at a time when the medical community hasn't established a protocol for how to recognize, diagnose and treat sufferers — leaving them in the lurch when it comes to accessing insurance benefits and income assistance. Medical condition 'in its infancy' "There needs to be some attention here, because this is having real effects on people — to the point they're losing their homes," Brannen said. "Because they're not able to work, and they're stuck trying to prove a medical condition that's really in its infancy." Unlike the United Kingdom, Canada has yet to establish federal guidelines recognizing and defining long COVID, something Brannen said would go a long way to improving sufferers' lives. The U.K. recognizes the condition regardless of whether the sufferer has had a positive test, using other criteria to diagnose and treat the illness. In Canada, people like Renaud and her husband, who came down with COVID-19 during the first wave without needing to be hospitalized were often ineligible for testing. By the time Renaud got a test, the virus had run its course. The U.K. is also building a network of post-COVID-19 clinics to give sufferers access to specialized care. There are only a handful of such clinics in Canada, however. "My concern with long-haulers is that they are really at risk of falling through the cracks," said Brannen. "These people will be left in the dust." Challenge recognizing long COVID Renaud has now joined a new initiative at The Ottawa Hospital called "Stop the Spread," one of the few research projects underway in Canada that involve COVID-19 sufferers with long-lasting symptoms. Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the hospital is actively recruiting 1,000 people, half of whom have been infected with COVID-19. A cohort of that group will be long-term sufferers, said Dr. Curtis Cooper, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital. "We really don't understand who these people are, and why them and not others," said Cooper. Figuring out why their immune systems react differently, Cooper said, could one day "help us develop therapies to try to assist these people." But that won't provide immediate help to sufferers like Renaud. "Not only are we not getting the financial support we need, but we're not really getting the care that we need to recover," said Renaud. Renaud's short-term disability ends in a couple of weeks, and after that, she said she'll be forced to put the family home up for sale. And she's already used up the 15 weeks of employment insurance sick benefits she was eligible for. She said she's speaking out because she wants people to know the risks long-haulers face. "It's a lot more debilitating than just fighting an illness," she said. "You have to be ready to lose everything."
When the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in China in 2019, slid silently across the United Kingdom in March, Johnson initially said he was confident it could be sent packing in weeks. But 98,531 deaths later, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth worst official death toll - more than its civilian toll in World War Two and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign, although the total population was lower then. Behind the numbers there is grief and anger.
A St. John's man is still looking for answers more than seven years after he filed a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary's Public Complaints Commission. Billy Earle filed a complaint with the commission after police responded to a mental health call at his house in October 2013. The commission is a civilian body, which is independent from the Department of Justice and police. It investigates and hears public complaints against members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. But years later, Earle says he still doesn't have answers about his complaint. Earle, who is a survivor of physical and sexual abuse at the Mount Cashel orphanage, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. "I was very inebriated — alcohol, drugs — just wanted to end it all, get it over with, I couldn't handle it any longer," Earle said of the 2013 incident. He said eight officers responded to the call and blocked the road around his home. "I ended up getting into an altercation with them," he said. "They ended up putting me in hospital." Earle said he has surveillance video of the altercation, which he said shows police beating him with a baton and using what he believes was excessive force. "They hit me across my wrist, they opened up my knee cap," he said. "Then when they finally got me down, subdued, well, I was under control once I was down, but then to roll me over and jump on my knee cap and squat it into the asphalt?" Earle said he spent four and a half hours in surgery, requiring 60 staples in his knee. He said the injury still bothers him. "There was no need for the force endured on me," he said. Earle said he was arrested after the incident and then charged with uttering threats and possessing a weapon, but later received a complete discharge from the courts. More mental health training needed, Earle says In the meantime, Earle said police are only just beginning to learn how to deal with mental health calls. "Why would they send down eight officers to a mental health call?" he asked, adding that he believes police need more training on mental health. Earle said he's asked police and the commission for updates, but still doesn't have an answer and he feels like his complaint has fallen by the wayside. "They always come up with an answer, we're doing our investigation, we're looking into certain things," he said. "One of the inspectors that did the investigation, I gotta say did a very thorough, very well job … [but] I'm not going to let go until this is put to bed," he said. After the lengthy wait, Earle said he's losing trust in the process, a process that he'd like to move past so he can get on with his life. "I'd like to see justice," he said. Earle also wants to know if he's entitled to a copy of the reports about the incident after the investigation is complete. Commission can't talk specifics Meanwhile, the province appointed Twila Reid as the new public complaints commissioner on Oct. 30, replacing John Rorke who left the commission in July of last year. Reid says the commission receives about 50 complaints a year. Once they accept a complaint, it is forwarded to the RNC's professional standards division, where an investigation begins and must be completed within three months. The results of that investigation are then delivered to the chief of police. "The chief of police can either dismiss a complaint or assign discipline to the officer," said Reid. Earle believes his complaint is tied up with the police chief, because he said there's no time limit dictating how long the chief has to conclude a complaint. When it comes to what's been stalling Earle's complaint, Reid said she can't speak to individual complaints or confirm if a person has a complaint filed with their office. But she did say that the commission's process is suspended if there's an ongoing criminal investigation under Section 43 of the RNC Act. In the meantime, Reid said if the complainant isn't satisfied with the outcome they can file an appeal. "If an appeal is filed with our office, we will do our own civilian led investigation. And then I can choose whether to dismiss a complaint or refer to a hearing for adjudication," she said. Reid said an adjudicator can decide to suspend or remove an officer from duty, if wrongdoing is found. She said decisions from an adjudicator's hearing are posted to their website. But the commission hasn't publicly published a decision on its website since June 2014, because there have been no final decisions since that time. Meanwhile, the RNC said they won't comment on matters before the public complaints commission, leaving Earle with few answers. In a statement before the election, the province's Department of Justice said they also won't comment while an investigation or review is ongoing. "We are committed to accountability in dealing with serious incidents that involve our police agencies which is why we established a provincial Serious Incident Response Team," the statement read. Earle said he is also pursuing a civil case against the force for the injury to his knee. Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
SRINAGAR, India — Indian and Chinese soldiers brawled last week along the countries' disputed border, Indian officials said Monday, as a monthslong standoff between the nuclear-armed rivals continued. The clash in the Naku La area of Sikkim came four days before the countries held a ninth round of talks on Sunday on ending tensions in another disputed border area in the remote Ladakh region. The Indian army described the clash at Naku La as “a minor face off” and said it “was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols.” An army statement did not provide any other details, but asked media “to refrain from overplaying or exaggerating” the incident. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said he did not have information to provide on the incident but urged India “not to take any unilateral action that may further complicate or exacerbate the border tension.” Since a deadly clash last year, soldiers from the two sides have brawled occasionally and fired shots for the first time in decades, breaking a longstanding agreement not to use firearms during border confrontations. Two Indian security officials said at least 18 Chinese soldiers tried to cross into Indian-claimed territory at Naku La last Wednesday night and were blocked by Indian soldiers, leading to clashes with sticks and stones. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue and in keeping with government regulations, said soldiers on both sides were carrying firearms but did not use them. The two officials said over a dozen Indian soldiers and at least eight Chinese soldiers received minor injuries. There was no independent confirmation of the incident. Both sides rushed more soldiers to the area in an “aggressive deployment" that swelled the number of personnel to hundreds, the officials said. The leader of India’s main opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, accused China of “expanding its occupation into Indian territory” and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence. Modi “hasn’t said the word ‘China’ for months,” Gandhi said in a tweet Monday. “Maybe he can start by saying the word ‘China.’” India and China have been locked in a tense military standoff since May high in the Karakoram mountains, with troops settling in for the harsh winter. Both sides have mobilized tens of thousands of soldiers, artillery and fighter aircraft along the fiercely contested border known as the Line of Actual Control, or LAC, that separates Chinese and Indian-held territories from Ladakh in the west to India’s eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims in its entirety. The frontier is broken in parts where the Himalayan nations of Nepal and Bhutan border China, and where Sikkim, the site of the latest brawl, is sandwiched. The LAC divides areas of physical control rather than territorial claims. Despite more than three dozen rounds of talks over the years and multiple meetings between Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping, they are nowhere near settling the dispute. The standoff began last May with a fierce brawl, and exploded into hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones and fists on June 15 that left 20 Indian soldiers dead. China is believed to also have had casualties, but has not given any details. Indian and Chinese army commanders met for the ninth round of talks after a gap of 2 1/2 months in Ladakh on Sunday but neither side released any details of the outcome. ___ Saaliq reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Beijing contributed to this report. Aijaz Hussain And Sheikh Saaliq, The Associated Press
When Ken Oguzie arrived in Nova Scotia in 2014, he was faced with the challenge of convincing prospective employers that his previous work experience counted for something. Like many new Canadians in Nova Scotia, Oguzie had a wealth of work and life experience. Born in Nigeria, he lived in Malaysia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States before deciding to move to Nova Scotia with his family. He was very well qualified academically, with a bachelor's degree in business management from a U.K. university and a masters degree in social policy and development from the London School of Economics. But even with this background, Oguzie said his early job-hunting experience was like a "roller-coaster." 'It didn't mean a lot' "It was kind of challenging because ... you have all of these things, education and experience," he said, "and then you come in here and it didn't mean a lot. "I have all this stuff on my resumé and then I came here and every day I kept having to drop the standards." He was eventually hired by Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia in a role that allowed him to coach other new immigrants on the ins and outs of job hunting in the province. Oguzie described the opportunity to help others at ISANS as one of the "most fulfilling jobs" he's had. He said having gone through the experience himself helped him to relate to clients and have a "direct impact." Today, he is a diversity consultant and CEO of Africa Canada Trade and Investment Venture, which promotes trade between Canada and West Africa. Oguzie's experience will have a familiar ring for many. Ann Divine was born in Guyana, raised in England, and moved to Canada in 2004. She runs Ashanti Leadership — a company that works with organizations on professional development and increasing diversity. Divine said there was no consideration given for her qualifications or work history when she arrived in Canada. She said she had to start at the bottom and ended up teaching English to other immigrant women. "Their experiences were no different from mine because they were highly educated women and they couldn't find jobs," she said. Overcoming bias She said one of the problems she encountered was that employers didn't trust foreign qualifications. She said another issue in Nova Scotia was that "many individuals were not used to seeing Black and brown people in a high-profile position." The situation is improving, Divine said, but there is always a challenge of overcoming unconscious, and sometimes overt, bias in organizations. She believes the key is in approaching job applicants with an open-minded approach and having a conversation with them to see what is below the surface and "what they can bring to the table." "Change is happening gradually," she said, "but we need to move a little faster if we're going to grow our economy in the way that we want it to grow and to be more inclusive, particularly of those individuals who are not from Nova Scotia." The problem of obtaining employment even affects new immigrants who are allowed express entry into Canada under the Federal Skilled Workers program, according to Halifax-based immigration lawyer Lee Cohen. He said he has clients who successfully immigrated to Canada because they qualified under the "occupations-in-demand category" and were shocked to discover they had difficulty finding employment. "The truth of the matter is it doesn't make sense. And you have to come up with an answer. Well, one of the possible answers is — wrong last name, wrong accent." Cohen said many professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers and pharmacists get frustrated that their qualifications are not recognized in Canada. 'Closed-shop syndrome' Calling it a "closed-shop syndrome," Cohen said many immigrants can't get past the regulatory bodies that govern their profession in Canada. He said immigrants are reluctant to spend five to 10 years going back to school to learn a profession that they already know. "I think it is very paternalistic," Cohen said. "It's also condescending. I also think there's bigotry and discrimination associated with this as well." Nabiha Atallah is an adviser for strategic initiatives at ISANS and has been working with the organization for 25 years. Atallah said the organization offers programs to help immigrants adjust to workplace culture in Canada and also works with employers to make them aware of cultural differences. One of the programs offered gives job seekers a six-week unpaid job placement in an area where they want to work, and allows them a chance to get Canadian work experience and a job reference. "Often the employer is very happily surprised by the ability of the immigrant," she said, "And in many cases they have actually offered jobs, although that's not part of the program." Atallah said she has seen a change over the years and an increasing "openness" on the part of employers to embrace the diversity that hiring an immigrant can bring to the workplace. "I think that we are realizing and we are seeing more and more the wonderful contributions that immigrants make to our community," she said. "And it's not totally new. "The numbers are new, but we've had immigrants contributing to Nova Scotia for many years." Strategic job hunting Oguzie offered some practical advice for new immigrants when it comes to job hunting. He said the immigrant journey is often "a step backwards to get to move three steps forward" and he urges job seekers to be strategic in their approach to finding employment. If someone can't get a job at the level they were used to in their previous country, he said, they should think carefully about what job they take in order to pay the bills. Drawing an example of someone with 10 years of experience in investment banking, Oguzie said it is better to take a temporary job in retail banking rather than in a completely different area like a call centre or Walmart — even if it pays a little less. "That way is easier for you to find ways, when the right investment manager job, which is what you used to do, comes along," he said, "it's easier for you to align your resumé." MORE TOP STORIES
The San Francisco 49ers will take a greater role in the running of English Premier League club Leeds after raising their stake to 37% on Monday. Paraag Marathe, the president of 49ers Enterprises, will become vice chairman of the northern English club under Andrea Radrizzani, who remains the majority owner. The 49ers first bought 15% of the team from Radrizzani in 2018 and the club has since secured promotion back to the Premier League after a 16-year absence — making increased investment from the NFL franchise more desirable. “Our investment two-and-a-half years ago was to dip our toes in the water," Marathe told The Associated Press. "We really felt like Leeds had the bones of a powerful big global club and just from their global fan base and the supporter base and everything that they have. “As we’ve spent more time there we’ve realized that to be very true, and the opportunity to be very great and so it didn’t take us very long to realize we wanted to be involved in a much deeper way.” Leeds has won admirers with its style of football under Marcelo Bielsa, who has guided the team to 12th in the 20-team standings halfway through the season. “We want to be competitive and not just a flash in the pan competitive, but we want to be sustainably competitive,” Marathe said from San Francisco. "This is really about a deeper engagement. And not just me, but all of us at the 49ers, deploying our resources and expertise and blueprints for success over to Leeds and enable that club (to) really transform itself as well.” That means sharing resources and best practices. “We’re one big family now and it’s really about … and we’ve gone through a transformation at the 49ers over the last decade, decade and a half, and we feel like Leeds, LUFC is in the nascent stages of exactly that,” Marathe said. "First is showing we belong (back in the Premier League), next is competing in Europa (League) and eventually is competing in Champions League. That’s the goal. We’re just on the first step of that matriculation. But like I said, I think we’ve already shown that we belong.” ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports Rob Harris, The Associated Press
Improved access and quicker turnaround times for COVID-19 testing are essential if schools in Ontario's hardest-hit regions are to open again safely, experts say. Yet as the province delays in-class learning again for students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton regions, Windsor-Essex and Ottawa, the bulk of 4.6 million rapid COVID-19 tests sent to Ontario by the Public Health Agency of Canada sit unused. It's still unclear whether — or how — they might be used as part of the provincial safe school reopening strategy. In an interview with CBC News on Friday evening, Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce said that as other southern Ontario schools open on Monday, the province is ready to provide whatever testing capacity is needed. But he said it would be up to local public health units to make the call. "Both tests and people can be deployed when the public health unit deems it right," Lecce said. "We are not involved as a ministry or politicians in deploying it. We leave that up to the medical officers locally." Lecce also said that rapid tests could be "layered into" a school testing program, but that decision would be up to the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams. When asked at a news conference on Thursday about the potential use of Ontario's supply of rapid tests in schools, Ontario's associate chief medical officer of health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, said she and Williams were working with the Ministry of Education and "other partners ... to figure out what the best way to do this is." Yaffe made reference to a school testing pilot project in November and December on asymptomatic students, staff and families in high-risk areas of Toronto, Ottawa and York and Peel regions. That voluntary asymptomatic testing identified COVID-19 cases that may otherwise have been missed, including an outbreak of more than 20 cases at a Toronto school. The pilot used the traditional nasopharyngeal PCR test to diagnose COVID-19, in which a long swab is used to collect the sample from the back of the nose and throat and is then analyzed in a lab. At the news conference, Yaffe said there were questions about the accuracy of rapid tests versus that "gold standard," but she noted that they were "looking at" the possibility of using them. 'Test that is done is the best test' But experts say that testing rates are too low and and wait times for results are too long as Ontario struggles with high case numbers — an indication that it's time to make greater use of Health Canada-approved rapid PCR tests and rapid antigen tests, which can be analyzed on the spot and provide results within minutes. "Right now we should be using all of the tools we have," said Dr. Irfan Dhalla, co-chair of Canada's COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel. "While a rapid antigen test is not as accurate as the laboratory-based PCR test, a rapid antigen test is certainly better than no test at all," said Dhalla, who is also a general internal medicine specialist and vice-president at Unity Health Toronto. WATCH | Dr. Irfan Dhalla on importance of rapid COVID-19 tests in safe school reopening: That's especially true in areas where community spread is high, he said, because getting as many people as possible tested quickly — and therefore isolating positive cases faster — is key to preventing them from spreading the virus to others. The fact that rapid tests can be less accurate than the lab-analyzed counterpart fostered skepticism about their usefulness earlier in the pandemic, but Dhalla said that thinking has shifted. "What they lose in accuracy can be gained back through the rapid turnaround time and through frequency" that isn't possible in lab-based tests, he said. That means rapid antigen tests could be helpful in preventing COVID-19 outbreaks in schools, Dhalla said, because students, teachers and staff could be tested repeatedly and regularly throughout the school year. Those who test positive would get a PCR lab test to confirm the diagnosis but would already be isolated while awaiting confirmation. "If we adopt the view — and I think most of us do have this view — that schools should basically be one of the last communal settings to close and one of the first communal settings to reopen, then it makes sense that when community transmission is still an issue and we are just reopening schools, that we should try to reopen schools ... in such a manner that we can detect these outbreaks either, you know, before they occur [and] prevent the outbreak altogether, or detect them when they are really, really small," he said. "And so the rapid antigen tests do have a role to play." Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University in Hamilton, said rapid testing in schools can also help public health experts understand where COVID-19 is circulating in the broader community. That's especially true, he said, in areas where there's high community transmission but a low number of people getting the traditional tests — either due to difficulty in accessing testing centres or reluctance to go to them because they feel stigmatized. "At the end of the day, the objective is to get more positive people identified and isolated to break chains of transmission," Chagla said. "The test that is done is the best test. Not the one that we think is the best on paper. It's the one that actually gets done." Rapid tests in long-term care homes, workplaces As of Monday, the Public Health Agency of Canada had distributed about 15 million rapid COVID tests across the country — most going directly to the provinces and territories, a spokesperson told CBC News in an email. Ontario has received 4,625,084 of those tests. According to updated numbers provided by the province's Ministry of Health to CBC News on Monday, it had deployed about one million of those tests. More than 159,000 rapid PCR tests have gone to rural and remote communities, including First Nations, the ministry said, and about 850,000 rapid antigen tests have been distributed to long-term care homes and workplaces. According to the ministry, more than 150 long-term care homes are using them to test staff and visitors more frequently to better protect long-term care residents — something both Dhalla and Chagla agree is a critical use for rapid tests. The Health Ministry also said it has distributed rapid tests to more than 150 workplaces — including Air Canada, Magna and Ontario Power Generation. In an email, the ministry told CBC News that it would also be distributing more rapid tests in a pilot program "for participating employers in the private, public and non-profit sectors, prioritizing access for health-care settings, essential front-line settings and congregate settings." Through that program, the provincial government aims to "learn about the value of antigen screening for asymptomatic workers in a range of workplace settings, and [the program] will inform future decisions about safely and fully reopening the economy." A couple of provinces are using some of their federally distributed rapid COVID tests for students or teachers, but in a limited way. However, Quebec is launching a study in two Montreal high schools to determine how effective rapid tests are at identifying COVID-19 cases in school settings. Manitoba has started a "fast pass" system for teachers and staff in five school divisions, which allows them to get a rapid test at a centralized location. Nova Scotia is not doing rapid COVID-19 testing in elementary or secondary schools, but the province has trained volunteers to help at a pop-up rapid testing clinic that travels the province and frequently sets up at Dalhousie University, providing easy access for students there.
Recent developments: A highly transmissible COVID-19 variant has been found in the Kingston, Ont., area. What's the latest? Ottawa is reporting 48 new COVID-19 cases and no more deaths Monday. The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) health unit said it's detected a case of the more easily transmitted B117 COVID-19 variant. The KFL&A health unit is asking anyone in the wider region who has travelled, or who has been in contact with someone from outside the area, to get a COVID-19 test. Facing a temporary shortage of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Ontario says it's going to give available doses to its most vulnerable care home residents and delay them for health-care workers. How many cases are there? As of Monday, 12,977 Ottawa residents have tested positive for COVID-19. There are 869 known active cases, 11,689 resolved cases and 419 deaths from COVID-19. Public health officials have reported more than 24,000 COVID-19 cases across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, including more than 20,800 resolved cases. One hundred and fourteen people have died of COVID-19 elsewhere in eastern Ontario and 150 people have died in western Quebec. CBC Ottawa is profiling those who've died of COVID-19. If you'd like to share your loved one's story, please get in touch. What can I do? Ontario says people must only leave home when it's essential to avoid more COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Some places, like Kingston, Ont., have started taking on patients from other regions struggling with hospital capacity. People who leave home for non-essential reasons can now be fined, though police won't stop people just for being outside. Travel within Ontario is not recommended. Residents who leave the province should isolate for 14 days upon returning. Private indoor gatherings are not allowed, while outdoor gatherings are capped at five. It's strongly recommended people stick to their own households and socializing is not considered essential. People who live alone are still allowed to interact with one other household. Students in areas covered by four of eastern Ontario's six health units can return to the classroom, but not in Ottawa or the area covered by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU). Most outdoor recreation venues remain open, although in Ottawa the city has closed one of the most popular sledding hills. The Rideau Canal Skateway is expected to open this week under pandemic rules. In-person shopping is limited to essential businesses. Others can offer pickup and delivery. The lockdown rules are in place until at least Feb. 11. Health officials say there are signs they have slowed COVID-19's spread and there's been talk about what it will take to lift them. In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it's essential and not see anyone they don't live with to ease the "very critical" load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries. An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home. Quebec's 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is now in effect, with fines of up to $6,000 for breaking the rules. The province has shut down non-essential businesses, but has brought students back to classrooms. Like in Ontario, travel from one region of Quebec to another is discouraged. Those rules are in place until Feb. 8. Distancing and isolating The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air. People can be contagious without symptoms. This means it's important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don't live with — even with a mask on. WATCH | COVID-19 'long-hauler' suing insurer after disability claim rejected: Masks, preferably with three layers, are mandatory in indoor public settings in Ontario and Quebec. OPH says residents should also wear masks outside their homes whenever possible. Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms should self-isolate, as should those who've been ordered to do so by their public health unit. The length varies in Ontario and Quebec. Health Canada recommends older adults and people with underlying medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems stay home as much as possible and get friends and family to help with errands. Anyone returning to Canada must go straight home and stay there for 14 days. Air travellers have to show recent proof of a negative COVID-19 test. WATCH | Feds considering further measures to limit travel: Symptoms and vaccines COVID-19 can range from a cold-like illness to a severe lung infection, with common symptoms including fever, a cough, vomiting and loss of taste or smell. Children can develop a rash. If you have severe symptoms, call 911. Mental health can also be affected by the pandemic, and resources are available to help. COVID-19 vaccines have started being given to health-care workers and long-term care residents in most of the region. Renfrew County expects its first doses in early February. Local health units have said they've given more than 33,600 doses, including about 23,900 in Ottawa and more than 8,400 in western Quebec. The fact Pfizer is temporarily slowing its vaccine production to expand its factory, however, means some jursidictions can't guarantee people will get the necessary second dose three weeks after the first. It may take four to six weeks. Ontario is giving its available doses to care home residents and delaying them for health-care workers. Its campaign is still expected to expand to priority groups such as older adults and essential workers in March or April, with vaccines widely available in August. Ottawa believes it can have nearly 700,000 residents vaccinated by then. WATCH| Family doctors unsure when they might get a vaccine: Quebec is also giving a single dose to as many people as possible, starting with people in care homes and health-care workers, then remote communities, then older adults and essential workers and finally the general public. Before Pfizer's announcement, the province said people would get their second dose within 90 days. It has had to delay vaccinating people in private seniors' homes. Where to get tested In eastern Ontario: Anyone seeking a test should book an appointment. Ontario recommends only getting tested if you have symptoms, if you've been told to by your health unit or the province, or if you fit certain other criteria. The KFL&A health unit now says people that have left southeastern Ontario or been in contact with someone who has should get a test as they track one of the new COVID-19 variants. People without symptoms but part of the province's targeted testing strategy can make an appointment at select pharmacies. Travellers who need a test have very few local options to pay for one. Ottawa has 10 permanent test sites, with mobile sites wherever demand is particularly high. The Eastern Ontario Health Unit has sites in Alexandria, Casselman, Cornwall, Hawkesbury, Rockland and Winchester. People can arrange a test in Picton over the phone or Bancroft, Belleville and Trenton, where online booking is preferred. The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit has permanent sites in Almonte, Brockville, Kemptville and Smiths Falls and a mobile clinic. Kingston's main test site is at the Beechgrove Complex, another is in Napanee. Renfrew County test clinic locations are posted weekly. Residents can also call their family doctor or 1-844-727-6404 with health questions. In western Quebec: Tests are strongly recommended for people with symptoms and their contacts. Outaouais residents can make an appointment in Gatineau at 135 blvd. Saint-Raymond or 617 ave. Buckingham. They can check the wait time for the Saint-Raymond site. There are recurring clinics by appointment in communities such as Maniwaki, Fort-Coulonge and Petite-Nation. Call 1-877-644-4545 with questions, including if walk-in testing is available nearby. First Nations, Inuit and Métis: Akwesasne has had more than 140 residents test positive on the Canadian side of the border and six deaths. More than 270 people have tested positive across the community. Its curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. is back and it has a COVID-19 test site by appointment only. Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who's been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days. Kitigan Zibi logged its first case in mid-December and has had a total of 20. The Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte had their only confirmed case in November. People in Pikwakanagan can book a COVID-19 test by calling 613-625-2259. Anyone in Tyendinaga who's interested in a test can call 613-967-3603. Inuit in Ottawa can call the Akausivik Inuit Family Health Team at 613-740-0999 for service, including testing, in Inuktitut or English on weekdays. For more information
BALTIMORE — President Joe Biden plans to sign on Monday an executive order that aims to boost government purchases from U.S. manufacturers, according to administration officials. The United States has shed roughly 540,000 factory jobs since last February as the coronavirus pandemic hurled the world's largest economy into recession. The goal of the order would be to use the $600 billion the federal government spends on procurement to boost domestic factories and hiring, said officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss the forthcoming announcement. Biden's order would modify the rules for the Buy American program, making it harder for contractors to qualify for a waiver and sell foreign-made goods to federal agencies. It also changes rules so that more of a manufactured good's components must originate from U.S. factories. American-made goods would also be protected by an increase in the government's threshold and price preferences, the difference in price over which the government can buy a foreign product. The order also has elements that apply to the separate Buy America program, which applies separately to highways and bridges. It seeks to open up government procurement contracts to new companies by scouting potential contractors. The order would create a public website for companies that received waivers to sell foreign goods to the government, so that U.S. manufacturers can have more information and be in a more competitive position. To help enforce these goals, the order establishes a job at the White House Office of Management and Budget to monitor the initiative and focus on ensuring the government buys more domestically made goods. It also requires federal agencies to report on their progress in purchasing American goods, as well as emphasizing Biden's support for the Jones Act, which mandates that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports. Past presidents have promised to revitalize manufacturing as a source of job growth and achieved mixed results. The government helped save the automotive sector after the 2008 financial crisis, but the number of factory jobs has been steadily shrinking over the course of four decades. The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 at 19.5 million and now totals 12.3 million, according to the Labor Department. Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, famously promised a factory renaissance, yet manufacturing employment never returned to its pre-Great Recession levels before the coronavirus struck. Josh Boak, The Associated Press
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 4:00 a.m. ET on Monday Jan. 25, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 15,213 new vaccinations administered for a total of 816,451 doses given. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 2,154.265 per 100,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 1,122,450 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 72.74 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 3,258 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 8,549 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 16.326 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 16,500 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 51.81 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,423 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 6,525 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 41.134 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 9,225 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 5.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 70.73 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 2,975 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,575 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 10.836 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 28,850 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 3.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 36.66 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 2,704 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 10,436 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 13.379 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 21,675 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 48.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 8,503 new vaccinations administered for a total of 218,755 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 25.565 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 238,100 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 91.88 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 4,427 new vaccinations administered for a total of 280,573 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 19.101 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 411,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.16 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 1,389 new vaccinations administered for a total of 28,941 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.017 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 55,650 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 4.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 52.01 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 654 new vaccinations administered for a total of 33,039 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 28.019 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 32,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 101 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 240 new vaccinations administered for a total of 99,047 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 22.50 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 122,725 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.71 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 110,566 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 21.546 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 144,550 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 2.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 76.49 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,730 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 89.382 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 35 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 25.9 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 1,893 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 41.956 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 14,400 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 32 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 13.15 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 3,822 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 98.693 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 12,000 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 31 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 31.85 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published Jan. 25, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Some Alberta rivers and streams have already been heavily contaminated by coal mining, unreported government data suggests. The province's plan for large-scale expansion of the industry is fuelling widespread criticism that includes concerns over selenium pollution. The data shows that same contaminant has been found for years at high levels downstream of three mines and never publicly reported. The findings raise questions about Alberta Environment, said a former senior official who has seen the data. "There were lots of (selenium) numbers and it was consistently above the water quality guidelines and in many cases way higher," said Bill Donahue, the department's one-time executive director of science. "Why did Alberta Environment sit on these data for easily the last 10 to 15 years?" Donahue left the department in 2018 after the NDP government of the day dissolved the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Evaluation and Reporting Agency, an independent body intended to fill information gaps. Before resigning, he had become concerned about selenium in the Gregg and McLeod rivers and in Luscar Creek, all in the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Jasper, Alta. He took the data with him when he left and recently analyzed it for The Canadian Press. "The results are stark," he said. Since at least the late 1990s, Alberta Environment has monitored water upstream and downstream from the Luscar, Gregg River and Cheviot mines. Cheviot, owned by Teck Resources, still operates. The Gregg River and Luscar operations closed in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Gregg River, now managed by Coal Valley Resources, is considered reclaimed. Luscar, managed by Teck, is about 50 per cent reclaimed. Donahue looked at water samples from 1998 through 2016, taken upstream and downstream on the same day. He found that selenium levels averaged almost six times higher in the McLeod River downstream from the Cheviot mine. They were nearly nine times higher in the Gregg River and 11 times higher in Luscar Creek, despite years of reclamation. Selenium levels in all the samples from the Gregg River and Luscar Creek exceeded those considered safe for aquatic life: by nearly four times in the Gregg River and nearly nine times in Luscar Creek. The level was exceeded in about one-quarter of the McLeod River samples. "This is not a subtle story," said Donahue. "This is shocking." Alberta Environment and Parks spokesman John Muir said the department routinely monitors selenium at 89 waterways across Alberta. "We have key experts working on our own water quality studies to better understand the conditions of watersheds and aquatic life downstream of coal mining operations," he said. "(We) will make those findings publicly available." Muir pointed out that all raw monitoring data is available on a searchable database. He said the mines in question pre-date modern regulations and technology. An Alberta government document on reclaiming the mine sites states: "Current assessments indicate there is no risk to humans who drink water or eat fish containing excessive amounts of selenium." Selenium is a naturally occurring element vital in small amounts but toxic in excess. In fish, it can damage the liver, kidney and heart. It can reduce the number of viable eggs a fish can produce and lead to deformed spine, head, mouth, and fins. In humans, it can cause nausea, vomiting, hair loss and fatigue. The last time Alberta Environment reported on selenium in the three waterways was 2006. Using data collected in 2000 and 2001, it concluded "selenium concentrations in rainbow and brook trout were usually greater than toxicity effects thresholds." Why the subsequent silence? asks Donahue. "They knew when a report was published that selenium was a problem in these systems related to coal mining. It draws a lot of questions." Last May, the United Conservative government revoked a policy that protected much of the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains from open-pit coal mining. The area is home to endangered species, the water source for much of the southern prairies, and one of the province's best-loved landscapes. Hundreds of exploratory drill sites and kilometres of access roads have now been scribed into its wilderness, documents from Alberta's energy regulator show. One open-pit coal mine proposal is before a joint federal-provincial review panel. More than 100,000 Albertans have signed petitions opposing the plans. Opponents range from small-town mayors to ranchers to popular entertainment figures, including Corb Lund and Jann Arden. Mining opponents point across the boundary into British Columbia, where selenium from coal mines in the Elk Valley has created serious contamination problems. The lingering contamination from the three Alberta mines shows the stakes are high, said Donahue. "These pollution problems have persisted long after the closure of coal mines." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021 — Follow @row1960 on Twitter Bob Weber, The Canadian Press
Millbrook First Nation is nearly a step closer to developing a section of Shannon Park, but will first need an endorsement from the Halifax Regional Municipality. "We've been working on this for quite, quite some time now," said Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade. "We've acquired the part of Shannon Park a number of years ago and we've been working toward an expansion of our community." The band owns about four hectares of land at Shannon Park in Dartmouth, which is being redeveloped by Canada Lands — the real estate arm of the federal government. The land, which is also known as Turtle Grove or Turtle Cove, was acquired by Indigenous Services Canada and declared reserve land after an outstanding Mi'kmaw claim dating back before the Halifax Explosion. Gloade said Millbrook has been working with Canada Lands and Indigenous Services Canada on the redevelopment of this land for at least 10 years. On Nov. 24, Gloade sent a letter to the Halifax Regional Municipality stating that it was nearly finished establishing a reserve on the Shannon Park land, according to a city council document. The office of Mayor Mike Savage then received an email from Indigenous Services Canada stating it would require "an indication of support" for the reserve. It also required a commitment to enter into a municipal services agreement with Millbrook before the land could be developed. By Dec. 18, the municipality's chief administrative officer, Jacques Dubé, sent a letter to Chief Gloade confirming support for the creation of the reserve and his intention to create a municipal services agreement. However, this first needs to be be endorsed by city council. If the development of the land is endorsed, Gloade said this allows Millbrook to have a larger footprint in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Millbrook has also already worked with the Halifax Port Authority to establish a long-term lease for the infilled water lot. "We're looking at doing a mix of residential and commercial development along the waterfront for economic development purposes for our community," Gloade said. He said if all goes well, the area could see between five and 10 years of construction developments on the waterfront, which will eventually draw more people to the area. "There's a significant amount of the land that we're looking at developing and projects that we're going to be undertaking," he said. "So it will take between five to 10 years by the time everything is done and completed." Halifax Regional Council is expected to vote on the endorsement on Tuesday. MORE TOP STORIES