Following more than two dozen new coronavirus infections of Eglinton Crosstown LRT contractors, a closer look at the construction industry shows a lack of data for infections of the overall industry. Matthew Bingley reports.
Following more than two dozen new coronavirus infections of Eglinton Crosstown LRT contractors, a closer look at the construction industry shows a lack of data for infections of the overall industry. Matthew Bingley reports.
While Ontario and Quebec are the epicentres of COVID-19 outbreaks in Canada, people in First Nations are being hit the hardest in Western Canada, where they make up half the number of hospitalizations in some provinces. The rising curve is alarming federal officials, who urged the provinces during a press conference in Ottawa on Wednesday to continue prioritizing Indigenous populations as they roll out vaccines. "So what we're saying to Canadians, to Indigenous Peoples, is now is not the time to let down your guard," Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said. "This is not the time to ease public health restrictions." As of Jan. 19, Indigenous Services Canada was reporting 5,571 active cases on reserves — most of them in Prairie provinces: British Columbia: 580 Alberta: 1,312 Saskatchewan: 1,196 Manitoba: 2,241 Ontario: 93 Quebec: 144 Atlantic: 5 Indigenous Services Canada has reported 13,873 confirmed COVID-19 cases on reserves since last March. More than 90 per cent are in Western Canada: British Columbia: 1,348 Alberta: 4,459 Saskatchewan: 3,525 Manitoba: 3,643 Ontario: 428 Quebec: 462 Atlantic: 8 First Nation leaders and health experts say there are several reasons why infections are increasing in First Nations in Western Canada, including overcrowding, gatherings, people letting their guard down, relaxed restrictions and people driving in and out of communities with road access for goods and work. Lack of housing With COVID-19 caseloads rising all across Canada, the pandemic is emerging in places where it wasn't before, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at Temerty Faculty of Medicine and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health. "It's quite concerning that COVID is starting to break into these communities," Banerji said. "They've held the forts for so long." Banerji researched respiratory infections in Inuit communities for over two decades. She said the main risk factors facing First Nations are poor access to health care services, underlying ailments, food insecurity, poverty and overcrowding. Banerji said she fears that when people get sick in First Nations, they can't find places to self-isolate. Onekanew (Chief) Christian Sinclair of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, 628 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, said his community needs 600 more houses. "When you have people living under one roof, anywhere from six to as high as 14 members living under one roof on the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, you can see how quickly that spread can happen," Sinclair said. "We're second-class citizens living in Third World conditions in a first world country." Opaskwayak Cree Nation has had success in preventing and controlling outbreaks by enforcing curfews and monitoring who enters and leaves the community with border patrols paid for by Indigenous Services Canada. The highest funding requests the department has seen for the Indigenous Community Support Fund — which was created to help communities fight COVID-19 — have been for perimeter security, said Valerie Gideon, associate deputy minister of Indigenous Services. Close to 350 First Nations across the country have closed their borders to non-essential travel, she added. But even with the added layer of security in some places, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs says 50 per cent of all active COVID cases in Manitoba are First Nations members. Call for stricter provincial measures Relaxed provincial measures are also being blamed for the rise in First Nations cases. The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is calling on the province to close bars and liquor establishments. "We believe alcohol in the bars is a contributing factor," said FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt, who recently recovered from COVID-19. "When you're on alcohol, you're more likely to lose your inhibitions, share drinks and not keep those social distance practices in practices and in check." Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization in Manitoba is urging the provincial and federal governments to enforce tougher rules to limit travel. Daniels said he thinks caseloads are rising because of people going back and forth from First Nations to urban areas. "I think until COVID is completely wiped out, they should be taking the strongest approach possible," Daniels said. Daniels said nearly 80 per cent of the 34 Anishnaabe and Dakota communities he represents are trying to control the spread of COVID-19. Concern for loss of elders Dr. Shannon McDonald, acting chief medical officer at the First Nations Health Authority in British Columbia, said there isn't enough rapid testing available to test everyone who needs to travel to B.C. First Nations, and some tests can't detect infections in their first few days. "It only takes one person to come in and spend time with people in the community," McDonald said. McDonald fears the pandemic could take a particularly heavy toll on First Nations communties. "I always worry about our elders," McDonald said. "Our elders are our knowledge-keepers, our language holders and they are the human libraries, culturally. So communities are very sensitive to that, but individuals who are choosing not to adhere to public health advice are putting those individuals at risk and I really worry about that." Lawrence Latender, a member of Dauphin River First Nation, has felt first-hand the impact of COVID-19 during an outbreak in his community 250 kilometres north of Winnipeg. He recently lost seven neighbours and friends to the virus, including two aunts and an uncle. "I don't know if I had time to really grieve because it's one thing after the other," Latender said. "It's like you're focused on one death and then you're, well ... 'OK now I got to focus on this one. Ok, this one is gone, now I got to focus on this one.'" Letander, his wife and two young sons also tested positive, but have since recovered. Indigenous Services Canada says that, so far, there have been 120 COVID-19 deaths in First Nations. But with 169 Indigenous communities now administering the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine and more doses on the way, there's hope the chain of transmission will break.
WASHINGTON — Three new senators were sworn into office after President Joe Biden's inauguration, securing the majority for Democrats in the Senate and across a unified government to tackle the new president's agenda at a time of unprecedented national challenges. In a first vote, the Senate confirmed Biden's nominee for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines late Wednesday, overcoming Republican opposition to approve his first Cabinet member. It's traditionally a show of good faith on Inauguration Day to confirm at least some nominees for a new president’s administration. On Thursday, the new Senate majority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he hoped Biden's nominees for the departments of Defence, Homeland Security, State and Treasury could also be swiftly confirmed. “To leave these seats vacant does a disservice to America,” Schumer said at the Capitol. Schumer introduced all six new Democratic senators — the “majority makers” — who he said represent an “expanding Democratic majority." Four are from the West and two from the South. They are a diverse group bringing several firsts to the Senate, along with Schumer's rise as the first Jewish majority leader of the Senate. The three who joined on Wednesday — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock of Georgia and Alex Padilla of California — took the oath of office from Kamala Harris, a former California senator who is first woman to be vice-president, and the first Black woman and Asian-American to hold that office. Warnock, a pastor from the late Martin Luther King Jr.'s church in Atlanta, is the first Black senator from Georgia. Ossoff, a former congressional aide and investigative journalist, is Jewish and also the now youngest member of the Senate, at 33. They won run-off elections in Georgia this month, defeating two Republicans, to lock the majority for Democrats. Padilla, a the son of immigrants from Mexico, becomes his state's first Latino senator, tapped by California’s governor to finish the remainder of Harris’ term. They join a Senate narrowly split 50-50 between the parties, but giving Democrats the majority with Harris able to cast the tie-breaking vote. “Today, America is turning over a new leaf. We are turning the page on the last four years, we’re going to reunite the country, defeat COVID-19, rush economic relief to the people,” Ossoff told reporters earlier at the Capitol. “That’s what they sent us here to do.” Taken together, their arrival gives Democrats for the first time in a decade control of the Senate, the House and the White House, as Biden faces the unparalleled challenges of the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout, and the nation's painful political divisions from the deadly Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol by a mob loyal to Donald Trump. Congress is being called on to consider Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID recovery package, to distribute vaccines and shore up an economy as more than 400,000 Americans have died from the virus. At the same time, the Senate is about to launch an impeachment trial of Trump, charged by the House of inciting the insurrection at the Capitol as rioters tried to interrupt the Electoral College tally and overturn Biden’s election. The Senate will need to confirm other Biden Cabinet nominees. Yet as Washington looks to turn the page from Trump to the Biden administration, Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is not relinquishing power without a fight. Haines' nomination was temporarily blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., as he sought information about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., is holding back the Homeland Security nominee, Alejandro Mayorkas, over Biden's proposed immigration changes. McConnell is refusing to enter a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats unless they meet his demands, chiefly to preserve the Senate filibuster — the procedural tool often used by the minority party to block bills under rules that require 60 votes to advance legislation. At her first White House briefing, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s desire to have his Cabinet confirmed and in place is “front and centre for the president,” and she said he was hoping to have his national security nominees in place Thursday or Friday. Psaki said the president will be “quite involved” in negotiations over the COVID relief package, but left the details of the upcoming impeachment trial to Congress. The Senate can “multitask,” she said. That’s a tall order for a Senate under normal circumstances, but even more so now in the post-Trump era, with Republicans badly split between their loyalties to the defeated president and wealthy donors who are distancing themselves from Republicans who back Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is expected to soon transmit to the Senate the House-passed article of impeachment against Trump, charged with incitement of insurrection, a step that will launch the Senate impeachment trial. Meantime, the power-sharing talks between Schumer and McConnell have hit a stalemate. It’s an arcane fight McConnell has inserted into what has traditionally been a more routine organizing resolution over committee assignments and staffing resources, but a power play by the outgoing Republican leader grabbing at tools that can be used to block Biden’s agenda. Progressive and liberal Democrats are eager to do away with the filibuster to more quickly advance Biden’s priorities, but not all rank-and-file Senate Democrats are on board. Schumer has not agreed to any changes but McConnell is taking no chances. For now, it will take unanimous consent among senators to toggle between conducting votes on legislative business and serving as jurors in the impeachment trial. The House last week impeached Trump for having sent the mob to the Capitol to “fight like hell” during the tally of Electoral College votes to overturn Biden’s election. __ Associated Press writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report. ___ This story has been updated to correct that Sen. Tom Cotton represents Arkansas, not Oklahoma. Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Newfoundland and Labrador’s Department of Health is asking anyone who travelled on the Blue Puttees ferry to or from Nova Scotia and Port aux Basques between Dec. 29 and Jan. 16 to call 811 to arrange for COVID-19 testing. The request comes on the heels of a crewmember testing positive for the disease. Marine Atlantic said Wednesday it’s the first such case it has had to deal with since the pandemic began. “We have been in contact with public health officials in Nova Scotia and with Marine Atlantic occupational health and safety, and are co-ordinating a response,” Newfoundland's chief medical officer of health told reporters. “We’d like to indicate that the risk is low for these people, but we are doing this out of an abundance of caution,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said. Testing can also be arranged by completing the online assessment tool at covidassessment.nichi.nl.ca. Fitzgerald would give no further details about the case because of privacy concerns. However, a Marine Atlantic spokesperson said it’s clear the crewmember contracted the disease on board because he only developed symptoms after leaving his two-week shift. The incubation window for COVID-19 is 14 days. Fitzpatrick said the risk is low for passengers because there are less spaces for people to intermingle on board. “Marine Atlantic certainly has put a lot of protocols in place since the beginning of the pandemic to reduce the amount of interaction that their staff and the passengers will have,” she said. “They’ve certainly got masking protocols and all of that as well, and they’ve reduced common spaces.” When contacted, the Marine Atlantic spokesperson didn’t have specific details on the number of passengers who have travelled on the ferry during the timeframe in question, but said it would be in the hundreds. He said on one recent crossing, there were about 10 regular passengers and 50 commercial passengers, but those numbers vary day by day. The Public Health Authority in Nova Scotia has already started contact tracing of crewmembers, although Fitzgerald said any contact tracing that involves this province will be conducted by local public health officials. Crewmembers must self-isolate on the ferry after the testing. With the Blue Puttees moored indefinitely, Marine Atlantic cancelled its morning crossing from North Sydney, N.S., to Port aux Basques and Wednesday evening’s crossing from Newfoundland to Cape Breton. The company says the MV Highlanders will remain in service, and the MV Atlantic Vision is currently being prepared to enter service should it be required in the days ahead. The Atlantic Vision has been moored in North Sidney on standby, but it may take up to 48 hours to establish a crew and get it into service. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
A federally-funded environmental monitoring institute could be in Fort Chipewyan’s future as the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) pushes for a local research hub. In late December, Parks Canada announced $59.9 million during the next three years to fund conservation efforts in Wood Buffalo National Park. MCFN expects some funding to support the creation of the Delta Institute, an environmental research and monitoring group that leadership has been planning for more than three years. “This place could really be an example of how Indigenous knowledge and Western science could work together,” said Melody Lepine, director of government and industry relations for MCFN. “It’s about collaboration and showing that we want to protect our delta.” Fort Chipewyan is home to the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the largest freshwater inland river delta in North America. Lepine said the delta attracts scientists and researchers from all over the world. The Delta Institute would be based in Fort Chipewyan and have smaller field stations across the delta. This would give scientists visiting the community a home base for research trips. Youth and elders could also be brought to field stations for educational trips. Lepine hopes this will make it easier for Fort Chipewyan residents to learn about monitoring and research projects in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Scientists and researchers will often come to Fort Chipewyan to study the delta, but won’t always share their findings locally, said Lepine. The Delta Institute requires scientists and researchers to collaborate with community knowledge holders in their studies. This would help preserve research for future generations. “They collect their data and they often go back to their academic world,” said Lepine. “What was that study about? How can we use those results in protecting and managing the delta?” Much of the research Fort Chipewyan’s leaders want to preserve include interviews with elders and knowledge holders. For MCFN, preserving Indigenous cultural knowledge is as important as studying Western science. “We are going to make sure those worldviews are balanced,” said Lepine. “Strong preservations of knowledge can be shared to manage very complex issues such as managing ecosystem health, conservation and wildlife management.” Since 2014, MCFN and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have asked the federal government to help reverse the deterioration of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, which has seen water levels drop for years. The Delta Institute has not yet been approved, but Lepine said Parks Canada is enthusiastic about the project and potential roles in conservation efforts. “The Cree, Dene and Métis people were in that delta long before it became a World Heritage Site and long before it became a national park,” she said. “The institute would be an important instrument to reflect the sacredness of this place.” firstname.lastname@example.org Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
International students who are on a co-op work term don't have to wait for their permit to begin their job placements, according to a new policy released earlier this week by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Students can start working while their applications for their co-op work permit are being processed. This is a special permit that allows international students to complete all work components related to their academic degree, including co-op terms, internships, and practicum. It is a separate permit that students have to apply for, in addition to their study permit, with which students are authorized to complete non-academic-related work. Amy Braye, the manager of the International Education Centre at Mount Saint Vincent University, said students are now allowed to use the regular work hours allocation from their study permit for their co-op experience while they wait for approval for the special work permit. "Basically the regular work and the co-op work were always separate. And the government has said, listen, we're going to allow that students can use their regular work allotment for their co-op experience, if they want to, and if they can," said Braye. The new policy applies to students who are studying remotely in their home country as well. "In the past, if a student didn't have their co-op work permit, and they said, 'I'm living in China, but Nova Scotia Power wants to hire me, they are OK if I telecommute. Is that acceptable?' We would have advised that no, it's not acceptable," Braye said. But with the new policy, the answer is yes, she said. However, according to IRCC's website, it requires approval from both the institution and the employer. "Ultimately both the employer and the co-op program must be in agreement that the specific opportunity is suitable for remote work from outside of Canada and that the employer can support the student in their learning appropriately," said Janet Bryson, associate director of media relations and issues management at Dalhousie University. A standard study permit only grants students 20 hours per week of off-campus work experience. Students may work full-time off campus during an academic break. "It's still good for students. It means that they can work right towards their co-op, whereas before, they were just barred from working towards their co-op," Braye said. "It doesn't solve all of the problems, because they have to meet the co-op hours that they need." Lu Xu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle Herald
Regina police are investigating the city's second homicide of 2021, after a man who was assaulted died. On Tuesday, police responded to the 1700 block of Quebec Street following a report of an attack. Police and emergency medical responders found the victim with injuries that were described as serious. The man was taken to hospital, where he died on Wednesday, Regina police said, and they are treating the death as a homicide. His next of kin have been notified. Police described him only as an adult male in a news release Wednesday. "Police will release the victim's name publicly, but wanted to give the family some time before doing so," the news release said. No other details have been provided at this time. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Regina Police Service at (306) 777-6500 or Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.
Music sometimes tells a story more succinctly than a speech and, on Wednesday, Lady Gaga managed to capture the story of Joe Biden's inauguration, and the sweep of American history, in just one note. It lasted four soul-stirring seconds, deep into a performance of the U.S. national anthem for which the pop megastar strode to the stage gripping a golden microphone and sporting an oversized peace-symbolizing dove lapel pin. Gaga gestured across a balcony that two weeks ago was filled by an angry mob attacking the Capitol. In that moment, she improvised on the anthem's melody, slid up a half-tone to a C sharp and held it there in a lung-depleting extended finale to the line celebrating the endurance of the American republic: "That our flag was still theeeeee-eeeeeere." It so happens that the author of that anthem, Francis Scott Key, was also a notoriously committed slaveholder who not only aggressively prosecuted but even sought to execute abolitionists, the unheralded heroes of his time. This slaver's poem rang out Wednesday over the National Mall in a ceremony where a Black and South Asian woman, Kamala Harris, became the vice-president of the United States. And there's the story of America in four seconds. WATCH | Lady Gaga belts out the U.S. national anthem: It's a place that has repeatedly suffered political violence, has often had its politics embittered by racial hatred and inequality, and yet manages to break some barriers, on occasion faster than many nations around the world whose residents revel in judging it. A call to unity Biden took the podium later. The new president used his inaugural address to tell that same story. Biden's version, unlike Lady Gaga's, lasted 2,500 words, but like Gaga's, it gained unusual poignancy after the democracy-testing events of the last few weeks. It was a call to unity that didn't gloss over the nation's imperfections. In fact, Biden embedded America's failures squarely in his message. "I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep, and they are real, but I also know they are not new," Biden said. "Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, demonization have long torn us apart. The battle is perennial, and victory is never assured." WATCH | Biden's full inaugural address at Wednesday's inauguration: Democracy prevailed after Jan. 6, says Biden He referred to the Jan. 6 attack and described this year's troubled transition of power as a moment of triumph for the battle-tested 232-year-old republic. "Democracy is precious. Democracy is fragile. And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed," Biden said. Of course, calls to unity are usually more easily pronounced than achieved. And the country is dredged in reminders that Biden's desire to unify the country faces towering and perhaps insurmountable obstacles. Biden said politics need not be a raging, goodwill-consuming fire and that adversaries should be capable of disagreeing without detesting each other. "We can treat each other with dignity and respect," he said. "We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury; no progress, only exhausting outrage; no nation, only a state of chaos." Yet the desire for political combat runs deep. Even this saccharine speech from Biden drew a reprimand from one of the country's upstart right-wing media organizations, Newsmax, where an anchor called it dark and divisive. A top congressional Republican tweeted congratulations to Biden and was flooded with angry replies from across the political spectrum. Republicans who voted to certify Biden's election win are being threatened with primaries by pro-Trump rivals who intend to unseat them in 2022. More than half of the party's lawmakers in the House of Representatives have joined a challenge to strip Liz Cheney from her leadership role as chair of the House Republican conference after she voted to impeach Donald Trump. The coming weeks will be a big test. And not just because Trump's impeachment trial will loom over the Senate's activities. WATCH | The day's most memorable moments: The coming test to the unity message Biden burst out of the gate with a barrage of executive orders that include rejoining the World Health Organization and the Paris climate accord, cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline, imposing new mask-wearing rules on federal property and restoring the so-called DACA program protecting immigrants who were brought illegally into the U.S. as children. Signing orders is easy. The harder-to-achieve, more durable, change in American politics comes in law, through bills passed through two chambers of Congress. The first bill Biden intends to suggest involves immigration, and it would provide a path to legal residency and then citizenship for millions of people. That proposal will land like a political grenade on the other side of the aisle. Immigration, perhaps more than any other issue in recent years, has been the one that most enrages the Republican base. Trump recognized that anger and milked it. That's why Trump went from agreeing with a softer approach on immigration reform, in the early 2010s, to campaigning to restrict immigration in 2015-16. So it's far from assured this debate will go smoothly, and far from certain an immigration bill will gain enough Republican votes in the Senate to overcome a 60-vote filibuster override. The fact that Democrats now control both chambers of Congress and the White House now gives them at least a chance to introduce bills and try getting them passed. Inaugural addresses: Hits and misses Some inaugural addresses have proven successful predictors of the era ahead. For instance, Ronald Reagan called for less government and lower taxes in 1981, and it generally happened; he called for peace with the Soviets in 1985, and the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt promised a program of job-creating actions during the Great Depression, and he delivered, in a radical few months of transformation. Other speeches are half-prophetic. Donald Trump's in 2017 is one notable example. Trump's so-called American carnage speech promised a more nationalist, America First approach to government — and it happened. On the other hand, Trump also promised to fight against well-connected insiders, yet Trump spent his last day in office relaxing rules for lobbyists and pardoning a number of well-connected and wealthy criminals convicted of corruption. Other speeches tragically fail to capture the reality ahead. Abraham Lincoln also called for unity in 1861: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies," he said, urging Americans to heed the better angels of their nature. What followed was a devastating four-year civil war. Lincoln urged unity again in 1865, asking Americans to put aside the bitterness of that war and find charity, not malice, in their hearts for former enemies. He was killed a month later; the country wrestled for decades with the war's consequences. Whatever happens, Biden has already begun adding to an old story. From the country's founding, partisan tension has threatened to split it apart. Thomas Jefferson also urged unity in his 1801 inauguration speech at a time when it appeared the then-new nation might not make it. Jefferson referred to the two political factions of the day and urged Americans not to allow differences of opinion tear them apart. "We are all Republicans," said the writer of the Declaration of Independence. "We are all Federalists." On Wednesday, Biden mentioned Jefferson's most memorable words in the American Declaration of Independence — the idea that all men were created equal, endowed with equal rights. Jefferson, of course, was also a slave holder, so much of a slave holder that, unlike some others in his era, he refused to allow his slaves to be freed upon his death. It's a complicated place. And, as Biden acknowledged in his first moments as the 46th president, it's a complicated story. One not always as sweet as Lady Gaga's floating C sharp.
Canada Basketball president and CEO Glen Grunwald says he was blindsided by sanctions levied against the program on Wednesday. The International Basketball Federation, or FIBA, fined the Canadian governing body for the sport up to $227,138 and threatened to dock Canada's national team a point in the standings after it chose not to attend a FIBA AmeriCup qualifier in November on the advice of medical experts amid the COVID-19 pandemic. "We're going to try and be positive," Grunwald told CBC Sports. "We're going to appeal this because we do think it's unfair and wrong. But we'll play by the rules as they're dictated. And I hope FIBA can be bigger than what they've been here instead of, you know, trying to be strong arming teams to violate public health protocols." The third and final stage of AmeriCup qualifying is scheduled to be held Feb. 18-22, with Canada's group — including Cuba, the Dominican Republic and the U.S. Virgin Islands — playing in San Juan, Puerto Rico. WATCH | CBC Sports' Vivek Jacob, Jevon Shepherd break down FIBA decision: The games have no bearing on qualification for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. However, failing to qualify for the AmeriCup would end Canada's Paris 2024 Olympic bid. Even after missing two games, Canada could still clinch its AmeriCup spot with two wins in February. One victory would still open the door, while two straight losses spells the worst-case scenario. 'I didn't expect this' In November, Canada Basketball said it was working with FIBA to reschedule the games it would miss. Grunwald said progress was made on that front in the interim. Just two months later, the 62-year-old former Toronto Raptors executive says the program was surprised by its punishment. "I didn't expect this, actually," Grunwald said. "So then for this to come out of the blue, when I had been advised earlier that if we were not participating because of medical reasons, it would not be any penalties. So, again, very disappointed and a bit disillusioned with the approach." CBC Sports contacted FIBA, asking a number of questions including how it came to the ruling, what the criteria for the ruling was, as well as if Canada Basketball was made aware of the decision prior to making it public. "As proceedings are in progress, FIBA, unfortunately, cannot make any comment on the matter," it said. In its statement on Wednesday, FIBA said that Canada would only be fined half the amount and would not lose a point if it attends the February tournament. If not, those sanctions would remain in place. "It is kind of a threat. We're working really hard and our medical staff has been awesome," Grunwald said. "One of the great things about the Canadian sport community is we're all working together in this very difficult time." Exploring more testing, longer quarantine Head coach Nick Nurse agreed with Grunwald's sentiments about FIBA's sanctions. "I back the decision [not to play] by Canada Basketball," he said. "It was all about player safety for us. And we just didn't feel like we could execute it and keep our players as safe as we wanted to at that point, which I think is understandable. "We look forward to getting playing hopefully in February and getting on to the Olympic qualifier and going from there." Grunwald said Canada Basketball is hopeful to participate in that February window and is working with health experts to stiffen protocols from what they were in November. Those measures could include more frequent testing, verification of those tests and longer quarantine periods. The program is working with lawyers to sort out the next step in the appeals process. An official appeal must be filed within the next 14 days. "Ideally, we will win the appeal, and we won't have to pay it, but if we do have to pay it, I would hope that FIBA contributes that money to COVID-19 front-line workers and other people that are working in this area where they really do need support instead of pocketing the cash," Grunwald said. Canada currently sits 1-1 after splitting a pair with the Dominican in February 2020. Games against Cuba and the Virgin Islands had been scheduled for November, with the same opponents set for February 2021. The top three teams in each group qualify for the 2022 FIBA AmeriCup. WATCH | Vivek Jacob of CBC Sports breaks down Raptors' outlook: 'Dangerous precedent' set by ruling, says COC Canada Basketball said in a release Wednesday that not only would its participation have directly contradicted the mandates of the federal government "but also the directive of our chief medical officer and other medical professionals throughout Canada's sport system, including those with Canada Basketball, Sport Canada, Own The Podium, the Return to Sport Task Force, and the Canadian Olympic Committee." As for the COC, CEO and secretary general David Shoemaker said the organization is "extremely disappointed with this ruling." "Canada Basketball should not face punitive sanctions for prioritizing the health and safety of its athletes, coaches and staff during a pandemic of this magnitude." Shoemaker went on to say the COC is very concerned with the decision. "It sets a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to sport organizations while the world remains locked in a battle with COVID-19," Shoemaker said to CBC Sports. "In essence, FIBA is saying that Canada Basketball should have sent its team into harm's way, notwithstanding clear medical and public health advice." Shoemaker said the ruling could also negatively impact Canada Basketball's finances, which, he said, were "already decimated by COVID-19." That could have lasting consequences for its operational capacity and "funding for programs that grow the game of basketball across Canada." Shoemaker said the COC continues to stand by Canada Basketball's decision not to travel to the November qualifier in the midst of a pandemic.
Traditional helper Elaine Kicknosway wants to make sure no more First Nations children belong to “this era of child welfare.” “We have these different labels which are placed upon us as children: neglected, abandoned; in that light of knowing our mothers or community would not raise us,” she said. “I was born in that era.” Kicknosway, of Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, was one of four people – two Elders and two youth – who spoke Jan. 19 at the Assembly of First Nations’ first of five virtual conferences on First Nations Child and Family Services and Self-Determination. Kicknosway was joined by Knowledge Keeper Edmond Sackaney and youths Erickson Owen and Cheyenne Mandamin to talk about what they lost growing up away from their families and communities. They spoke of the changes they would like to see in the family and child welfare system as First Nations move forward in implementing C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families. Kicknosway said First Nations children were removed from their homes through policies for Indian residential schools, day schools, the Sixties Scoop and child welfare. She referred to this as an “era of when it was blacked-out time”. Taken children were not always told that they were First Nations or what communities they came from. Kicknosway is a Sixties Scoop survivor, having grown up in several foster homes, all of them non-Indigenous. She managed to find her way home with help from an understanding foster family, but no help from the system. “There’s always that ongoing, ‘Oh, you were in child welfare’ or ‘You’re a foster kid’ … all these different labels…. It’s not our shame; we were just kids. It’s not our families’ shame; they were struggling. It’s not our grandparents’ shame,” she said. Bill C-92 recognizes Indigenous peoples' jurisdiction over child and family services as part of their right to self-governance. The federal law came into force Jan. 1, 2020. “We want no Indigenous children in care. We want no Indigenous children in stranger foster care. That should be achievable in five years,” said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, law professor at the University of British Columbia, who also spoke at the virtual forum. However, one year after the act has became law, only one First Nation has had their childcare law come into effect. As of Jan. 8, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations controls its own child welfare under Anishinaabe law. Indigenous Services Canada Minister Marc Miller told viewers that as of Dec. 23, 2020, there were 26 confirmed Indigenous governing bodies representing 64 Indigenous groups and communities who had submitted notice of requests to exercise jurisdiction under the act. Those 26 Indigenous governing bodies have received nearly $12 million in capacity-building funding, he said. Miller pointed out that $542 million over five years had been announced by his government to support communities at various stages of capacity building. That funding does not include infrastructure development, such as new offices to house child and welfare services. The funding committed by the government, said AFN Manitoba Regional Chief Kevin Hart, who is the social development portfolio holder, has clearly “missed the mark.” The AFN has called for $3.5 billion over five years to do the necessary work. “In many cases First Nations are building from the ground up. We need to establish new laws and reinvigorate traditional laws after years of colonialism, after years of our laws being outlawed and banished altogether through federal and provincial law,” said Hart. “It’s time that Canada steps up and funds First Nations based on actual needs in a way that allows for planning and stability so that First Nations can make this transition in a good way.” Turpel-Lafond agreed. “At some point we’re going to have to get Canada to step up, support us … making sure we have funding to bring these principles to life and to make sure that anytime a First Nations child’s life is being considered somewhere that these principals are there,” she said. The legislation is strong, though, she said, putting the best interest of the child at the centre. Turpel-Lafond said that everything First Nations need to move forward on implementing their own laws and in decision-making and enforcing their jurisdiction over their children and families can be found within this legislation. The legislation gives First Nations and provinces one year to put into place a coordinating agreement, although that timeframe may be extended, she said, due to complications presented through measures to control the coronavirus pandemic. Whatever the timeframe, though, if that undertaking is unsuccessful, First Nation law takes precedent. However, Turpel-Lafond admitted, some provinces are having difficulty letting go of their authority. “I do monitor court decisions in the first year and I look at how there are still big decisions being made about the placement of First Nations kids and they’re not taking into account the federal law adequately. That’s not what we would like to see,” she said. Miler agreed that some provinces were more willing than others to “undertake that discussion.” He said the federal government would do the necessary work with the provinces for the shift in authority. “We’re trying to achieve major change. It’s not on our shoulders completely. Systems need to change and they were very slow to change.… We are shifting, but we need to make sure these shifts are meaningful and they continue at a good pace,” said Turpel-Lafond. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
A union representing workers at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver has filed a class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court alleging the hotel wrongfully terminated 100 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unite Here Local 40 says the workers — many of them women and immigrants with years of service — are owed as much as $3 million in severance pay. In a statement, the union said the Pan Pacific "concocted a plan to drastically reduce its staff from 450 workers to 80." "Instead of informing workers of their plans, the company sent workers repeated messages delivering false hope suggesting they intended to bring workers back." Local 40 president Zailda Chan said the hotel circumvented group termination payout regulations in the Employment Standards Act by firing workers in three batches of fewer than 50 workers. Chan also said the hotel offered some workers $250 to sign a contract taking away their regular full-time status to become casual, on-call workers with no severance rights. Those who refused to sign were among those fired. "Had the hotel properly notified workers of its plans to drastically reduce its workforce, this class of workers could have been entitled to receive significant payouts," said Chan. CBC reached out to the Pan Pacific Hotel for comment but has not heard back. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented upheaval in the tourism and hospitality sector. Statistics Canada has estimated travel restrictions could lead to a loss of 74 per cent of tourism industry jobs and a reduction in tourism industry gross domestic product of between 50 per cent to 70 percent from 2019 to 2020. The lawsuit said lead plaintiff, Romuel Escobar, started working at the Pan Pacific in 1996 as a houseman and worked his way up to become a senior concierge in 2008. It said Escobar held that position until he was fired "without cause and without notice" in August 2020, after working his last shift in March 2020. The hotel has not filed a response and none of the allegations have been tested in court.
Six months after Edmonton banned shisha smoking inside lounges, city administration will look at creating a separate business licence class to allow establishments to resume the activity. Council's community and public services agreed Wednesday to direct city staff to consider a new category for shisha lounges. Coun. Aaron Paquette said after the city banned shisha smoking in lounges in July, he heard a lot of feedback. He suggested in December the city develop a new kind of licence. "This is something that's important to them and that they miss," Paquette said. "I would feel like I wasn't being responsive to the community if I didn't ask the question." The four-councillor committee, chaired by Paquette and includes Jon Dziadyk, Andrew Knack and Mike Nickel passed the motion unanimously. The proposed licence category would include the following conditions: no minors would be allowed in designated smoking areas a physically separated smoking area from the rest of the premises no food or drink service within the smoking area mandatory signage identifying smoking areas work to eliminate any second hand impact on employees Before the committee voted, three advocates spoke in favour of allowing the activity inside lounges. Mahlet Belete, a manager at One XVII Lounge, argued that shisha smoking is a cultural activity that's been done for centuries in Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. "I don't believe people will stop consuming shisha just because shisha lounges are not operational," she said. "It will only drive people to consume within their homes." Mohamad El-turk, with the Edmonton Hookah Cultural Committee, asked the city "to create some establishments and facilities where people can come and just smoke and practise their shisha enjoyment away from kids and away from their families." El-turk's colleague Jarrett Campbell acknowledged the issue is complex. "Finding an exact solution or a nice, easy, bright line is probably not available," Campbell said. "But I think that on the merits, this would stand up because of those two reasons: It's herbal — it's not tobacco — and it's cultural." 'I used to be a smoker' Two councillors who don't sit on the committee expressed concern. Coun. Scott McKeen pushed for the ban in past years but acknowledged that the topic is complicated. "I used to be a smoker; I get it," he said. "We have gone at this several times, in this committee, in previous years." McKeen noted that shisha lounges were given allowances in the past to give them time to prepare for the ban. "My major concern will remain that we do not open up a bag of snakes," McKeen said. "Because restaurants and coffee shops in this city went through a tough, tough, period of transition in no smoking and many of them were deeply concerned." Later, new customers started going out to restaurants because there was no smoking, he said. Coun. Ben Henderson said some people might argue smoking cannabis and tobacco are cultural activities. "We've had this debate," Henderson said. "I think we're being naive if we think this doesn't open up this question again. "These changes were difficult all the way along — going back 20 years — but we've adapted." Administration will return to the committee to present bylaw changes likely within two months. A new business license category would have to go to a public hearing before being approved. @natashariebe
BEIJING — The U.S.'s accusation of genocide against China touches on a hot-button human rights issue between China and the West. In one of his final acts as secretary of state, Mike Pompeo declared Tuesday that China’s policies against Muslims in its Xinjiang region constitute “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” The same day, British lawmakers narrowly rejected a proposal aimed at China that would have barred trade deals with any country deemed to be committing genocide. The far western region of Xinjiang is home to the predominantly Muslim Uighur ethnic group. China denies human rights violations and says its actions in Xinjiang are necessary to counter a separatist and terrorist threat. ___ WHY IS CHINA ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE? Pompeo cited forced birth control among Uighurs, which an Associated Press investigation documented last year, and forced labour, which has been linked by AP reporting to products imported to the U.S., including clothing, cameras and computer monitors. “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uyghurs by the Chinese party-state,” Pompeo said in a written statement, using an alternative spelling for Uighurs. ___ WHAT IS CHINA'S RESPONSE? China strongly defends its human rights record and policies in Xinjiang, saying its constitution and laws treat all citizens equally. It denies imposing coercive birth control measures or forced labour, saying those behind the allegations are lying in an effort to smear China’s reputation and impede its development. Xu Guixiang, a deputy spokesperson for the Xinjiang branch of the ruling Communist Party, told reporters last week that birth control decisions were made of the person’s own free will and that “no organization or individual can interfere.” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying on Wednesday called Pompeo a “doomsday clown” and said his designation of China as a perpetrator of genocide and crimes against humanity was merely “a piece of wastepaper.” ___ WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? The genocide designation does not trigger any immediate repercussions, but requires the U.S. to take it into account in formulating policy toward China. It puts pressure on President Joe Biden to maintain a tough line against China. He and members of his national security team have expressed support for such a designation in the past. Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice to be secretary of state, said Tuesday that the Trump administration was right to take a tougher stance on China, but that it had approached the matter poorly by alienating U.S. allies and not fully standing up for human rights elsewhere. ___ HOW WILL CHINA RESPOND? China may wish to avoid an early skirmish with the Biden administration, saving its invective for Pompeo and calibrating its response based on the possibility of tensions easing now after they flared under Donald Trump. As with most sensitive issues, China has heavily restricted foreign media access to Xinjiang and sought to limit any domestic discussion to official pronouncements. Still, the “parting shot" from the Trump administration will likely further stress the relationship in the near term, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China. He said the already slim chances of reducing China-U.S. tensions have been further limited in the coming weeks and months. ___ WHAT HAPPENED IN LONDON? Lawmakers rejected by a 319-308 vote an amendment to a post-Brexit trade bill that would have forced the British government to revoke bilateral trade agreements with a country if the High Court of England found that it had perpetrated genocide. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week called the amendment “well-meaning” but ineffective and counter productive. A significant number of rebel Conservatives backed the proposal, as did Jewish, Muslim and Christian community leaders. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to continue facing vocal calls within his Conservative party for a stronger and more coherent policy on China over its alleged rights abuses and violations of international norms. The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has given the Oval Office a slight makeover. Biden revealed the new décor Wednesday as he invited reporters into his new office to watch him sign a series of executive orders hours after he took office. A bust of Cesar Chavez, the labour leader and civil rights activist, is nestled among an array of framed family photos displayed on a desk behind the new president. Also represented in sculptures are civil rights icons Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. Benjamin Franklin peers down at Biden from a portrait on a nearby wall. Biden brought a dark blue rug out of storage to replace a lighter colored one installed by former President Donald Trump. One office feature remains: Biden is also using what’s known as the Resolute Desk because it was built from oak used in the British Arctic exploration ship HMS Resolute. Trump used that desk, too. The Associated Press
One of the wonders of the world was illuminated Wednesday night in tribute to a larger-than-life businessman from Six Nations of the Grand River. Niagara Falls glowed blue and green between 6 and 11 p.m. in honour of Ken Hill, a multimillionaire cigarette magnate who died Monday of undisclosed causes at his Miami home. He was 62. The falls are usually illuminated to celebrate days of significance and draw attention to worthy causes. Hill joins Canadian prime ministers, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Nelson Mandela and basketball superstar Kobe Bryant on the short list of individuals to be memorialized with a light show. In their application to the Niagara Falls Illumination Board for this rare tribute, Hill’s family described him as “legendary, both on and off Six Nations” as the co-founder of cigarette manufacturer Grand River Enterprises, among dozens of business interests that employed thousands of people. Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati remembered Hill as “a strong advocate for Indigenous rights (and) a generous philanthropist.” Hill’s Jukasa Studios sponsored the 2020 Niagara Music Awards last October. “Kenny’s appreciation and love for music inspired him to build a world-class studio and sanctuary for artists and musicians to call home and produce lasting pieces of musical history,” the Ohsweken studio said in a statement. “Kenny was always excited to meet new artists and was delighted to come into the studio and listen to what was being created. He had an undeniable presence that was felt from the moment he walked into a room. That presence will be sadly missed.” Global superstars Willie Nelson, Steven Tyler and Snoop Dogg recorded at Jukasa, and Canadian indie rockers July Talk recorded their Juno Award-winning sophomore album, Touch, on the reserve in 2016. Webster actor Emmanuel Lewis was a fixture at the studio. “You were and still are a legend with the heart the size of a grizzly bear,” Stevie Salas, guitarist and executive producer of music documentary “RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” said of Hill on social media. In a video tribute posted on Monday, rapper Fat Joe said he and Hill had met for lunch in Florida the week before his death. “Kenny Hill is one of the sweetest, most humble people I ever met in my life. He is a gentle giant,” the five-time Grammy nominee said. “Six Nations, Ontario, Canada, my heart goes out to you.” Six Nations councillors extended their condolences to the Hill family, including Elected Chief Mark Hill, who is Ken Hill’s nephew. Ken Hill served three terms on Six Nations Elected Council from January 1986 to December 1991. “Always maintaining Six Nations as his home, Mr. Hill built portions of his industry at the very same corner where he grew up and lived,” read the statement from council. “His ventures also gave back in the form of education and employment opportunities through the local Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation. Our thoughts and prayers are with Chief Hill and his family while they try to deal with their devastating loss.” According to its website, the Dreamcatcher Foundation provides funding to Indigenous recipients involved in education, sports, health care and the arts, with a particular focus on developing future Indigenous leaders by supporting youth and families in need. Haldimand Mayor Ken Hewitt told the Sachem that Hill’s loss would be felt far and wide. “It’s hard to fathom and perhaps appreciate the depth and reach he’s had in different communities, and employing so many different people and then helping so many families,” Hewitt said. While Hill enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, he demonstrated his generosity by quietly paying off medical bills for those in need and sending three jet airplanes packed with relief aid to the hurricane-stricken Bahamas in 2019. “Ken Hill was well known across both sides of the border and around the world. He was an advocate for Indigenous rights as well very helpful on and off the reservation,” his family’s statement to the Niagara Parks Commission read. “He along with his best friend Jerry (Montour, co-founder of GRE) worked to help so many people around the world. He will always be loved and surely missed by all.” Sports were a passion for Hill, who sponsored lacrosse, hockey and fast-pitch teams, and co-owned Jukasa Motor Speedway near Nelles Corners. Lacrosse organizations across Canada expressed their condolences, with the Six Nations Snipers saying that Hill’s “impact on lacrosse has been felt locally and across the globe.” Hill assumed control of the Six Nations Chiefs in 1993, after the death of his brother Erlind. The Chiefs promptly won three straight Mann Cups, adding three more national titles in the 2010s. “Words cannot describe the sadness and disbelief that the team is in over the passing of our owner and leader Ken (KR) Hill,” said Chiefs presidents and general manager Duane Jacobs. “Ken was like an older brother to me. He did so much for me and my family. He allowed me to run this team and is directly responsible for all the championships we’ve won. The players were treated well and all he ever wanted in return was championships.” Hill ran the Brantford Golden Eagles junior B hockey team in early 1990s, and at the time of his death owned the junior B Caledonia ProFit Corvairs, sponsored by his Caledonia health club. “Kenny wasn’t just an owner. He was a friend to all players, staff, volunteers and fans,” the Corvairs said in a statement. “Kenny gave his all to make sure everyone was treated respectfully and set up to succeed both on and off the ice. He wanted to create something the community could always be proud of.” Hill also sponsored the world-renowned Hill United Chiefs fast-pitch team and, with Montour, co-owned MontHill Golf and Country Club, south of Caledonia. The business mogul earned millions of dollars tax-free annually, according to court filings, and his life was not without controversy. As an exporter of cigarettes to clients worldwide — including as the exclusive supplier of the German army — Hill and Montour fought legal battles over taxation and licensing, and defended charges of trafficking contraband tobacco in the United States. As a result, Hill’s relationship with Ottawa over the years was not always harmonious. But after his death, federal international trade minister Mary Ng offered her condolences to the family. “I am saddened by the new of Ken Hill’s passing — a community leader, prominent entrepreneur and philanthropist from the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory” Ng tweeted. In recent years Hill was involved in a contentious child and spousal support dispute with one of his former partners. Earlier in the pandemic, he made the news after allegedly hosting a large party at his Six Nations mansion in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions. J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton’s public school board is asking the province for pandemic pay for educators supporting students learning in the city’s schools. “Educational assistants and teachers are providing direct care and in-person instruction for students who are not able to follow COVID-19 health and safety protocols, such as wearing masks or physically distancing,” Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) chair Dawn Danko wrote in a Jan. 19 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and Mayor Fred Eisenberger. The letter calls on the Ontario government to administer an additional payment for education workers who have been “attending in-person at a physical school” in Hamilton — many since Jan. 4 — “in recognition of the elevated risk to staff performing the essential work of supporting students with significant special needs during the lockdown and remote period.” Temporary pandemic pay was initiated by the Ontario government last spring to provide financial support offered to “eligible front line and support workers,” including health-care and long-term-care staff. The program ended in mid-August. As of Jan. 14, there were approximately 330 staff supporting students learning in-person at public schools in Hamilton. On Jan. 15, the Catholic board told The Spectator that approximately 360 educators were working in schools. Chair Pat Daly said the Catholic board, through the Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), has advocated for “additional funding and support” since March, but pandemic pay isn’t something that has been requested. Susan Lucek, president of the Canadian Office and Professional Employees Union (COPE) Local 527, which mainly represents educational assistants, said the HWDSB’s request is “a step in the right direction.” “We are happy that somebody is finally listening,” she said. But, Lucek said, pandemic pay isn’t enough to address members’ health and safety concerns. “Schools should be closed for everybody at this time,” Lucek said. “Everybody should be remote, even though it’s not ideal for parents, students or educators.” In an email to The Spectator, Daryl Jerome, president of the local bargaining unit for the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF), said the letter penned by Danko “was certainly welcomed.” “However, I would have hoped for more of an emphasis on just how unsafe our membership is when delivering curriculum to students who cannot social distance or wear masks and some who require hands-on supports,” he said, adding that approximately 80 members are currently working in schools. Not included in the request are principals, vice-principals, administrators and custodial staff. “They typically are a step removed, they’re not working directly with the students,” Danko told The Spectator. Danko said “it seemed that a focused request would likely be more successful.” Kate McCullough, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator
As 2020 drew to a close, Bess Legault harvested the final bulbs of garlic from her leased farm along the Peace River in northern B.C. and walked away. In a few months' time, the land will be underwater, submerged by the contentious Site C dam. The $10.7-billion project — on hold pending the results of two international reports on the site's geotechnical viability — has been a flashpoint of controversy in recent years. Ranchers, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups decry the project as unnecessary, environmentally harmful, and a threat to B.C.'s food security. Legault, who is now in the midst of taking over a farm just outside the Peace River Valley, said she has heard from farmers in the area who are “heartbroken” about the potential repercussions of Site C. Namely, the more than 3,500 hectares of agricultural land that would be flooded if the hydroelectric project goes through. “In full production, the deep alluvial soils and unique microclimate of the Peace Valley have the capacity to meet the nutritional needs of over one million people a year, forever,” said Legault, a first-generation farmer and women's president of the National Farmers Union. “Bringing Site C to completion would flood one of B.C.'s last vestiges of prime farmland just when we need it the most.” The organization recently sent a letter to B.C Agriculture Minister Lana Popham asking her to oppose the project. Popham has been a strong advocate for improving B.C.'s agricultural capacity and local food security throughout her time in office. Popham's office declined to comment on the issue, and instead forwarded the request to the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon, which said in a statement that the Horgan government “inherited a project with significant cost pressures and risks, and we were left to manage it in the best interests of British Columbians.” Premier John Horgan made a statement on Jan. 14 saying that the government will make a decision about the project once it has received two new expert reports on the geotechnical safety of Site C. Meanwhile, Legault is waiting to see if the letter will get Popham’s attention. “I have a lot of respect for Lana Popham,” she said. “The picture that I painted through that letter to Lana, is to (ask her) to be the guiding light on what we need to see happen in agriculture in Canada.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
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Homalco First Nation Chief Darren Blaney said that two aquaculture companies’ move to seek a judicial review of the federal decision to phase out 19 Discovery Islands fish farms directly challenges reconciliation and Aboriginal rights of First Nations. Blaney said that the matter is now about the First Nations’ “inherent right to self government,” and added, “First Nations will have to intervene, since our Aboriginal rights are on the line here.” On Jan. 18 Mowi Canada West and Cermaq Canada applied to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the decision by Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan to phase out salmon farming in the waters off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island by June 30, 2022. READ MORE: Major B.C. salmon farms seek court intervention in Discovery Islands ban Minister Jordan’s announcement on Dec. 17 was made after a months-long “nation-to-nation” consultation process with seven First Nations that hold title in the area – Homalco, Klahoose, K’ómoks, Kwaikah, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum First Nations. A coalition of Indigenous groups and wild salmon advocates have been calling for fish farms to be removed from B.C. waters, arguing they threaten the health of wild salmon. The declining numbers of salmon – food fish for the First Nations – also had several cultural implications. Jordan’s decision to phase out the farms was welcomed by First Nations in the area who said that her decision gives salmon “an opportunity to come back.” However, aquaculture industry stakeholders and local mayors have been at the forefront of voicing dissatisfaction with the federal decision stating that it affects 1,500 jobs and the economy of Vancouver Island. READ MORE: Discovery Islands salmon farms on their way out Cermaq said in a statement Jan. 19 that their judicial review focuses only on the conduct of DFO and the Minister of Fisheries and that the companies respect the opinions and the rights of the First Nations in the Discovery Islands region. “Cermaq’s goal is to allow time for engagement with the local First Nations to examine opportunities to achieve mutually beneficial agreements,” read the statement. But Blaney said that these statements coming from the company are “hollow… just words, no action.” “If they (aquaculture industry) want to reinstate the farms they will have to consult with First Nations going all the way up to the end of the Fraser and every other person who gets impacted on the B.C. coast,” said Blaney and added that the First Nations have begun discussions about this matter with the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN). He also said that it was disappointing to see “unanimous support” coming from city halls to fish farms. Calling Minister Jordan’s decision a “bad” one, North Vancouver Island mayors raised concerns about the economic impact it would have in their jurisdictions. Some of the mayors expressed their support for fish farms and in a letter to the fisheries minister told her that they feel “disposable and discarded.” READ MORE:Campbell River city council unanimous in support of fish farms Blaney said that the reaction coming from them, “shows how little regard people have for First Nations,” and added that it’s “racism.” “They voted unanimously to overturn this decision saying that it was a ‘mistake’ and so does that mean my culture is a mistake? We passing on our culture to future generations, is that a mistakes? That’s what this challenge is. It goes right back to the kind of racism that our people have been subjected to throughout Canada.” Binny Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Campbell River Mirror
A recent spike in COVID cases at Horse Lake First Nations is cause for concern, says its chief executive officer Azar Kamran. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre reported 21 active COVID-19 cases there Monday; 13 homes have been placed under isolation. That represents an increase of nine cases in just a week. On Wednesday Horse Lake reported five recoveries and 16 active cases, accounting for 59 per cent of the total number of cases in west county as of Wednesday. West county active cases are currently sitting at 27; the west county local geographic area (LGA) includes First Nations communities, said Tom McMillan, Alberta Health communications assistant director. “We find this concerning, as does the whole province,” Kamran told the News. Still, he said the Horse Lake numbers are “stable” and attributed the rising numbers to increased testing. As of Monday nurses had completed 304 tests in Horse Lake, compared to 243 last Monday. The reserve has a population of 437, according to Indigenous Affairs Canada. Kamran said he believes COVID made its first appearance in the community approximately two months ago. By early January there had been seven recovered cases, according to the wellness centre. On Jan. 4, there was only one active case. “Our advice would be to maintain hygiene and all safety precautions, including maintaining (two-metre) distance,” Kamran said. He said band administration is promoting the precautions through the community newsletter and social media. Travel is also being discouraged though administration recognizes residents can leave and enter the community, Kamran said. Horse Lake has a small school for Grade 1 to 3 students, with approximately 24 students. Kamran said it’s been closed since November at band council’s direction; buses to schools outside the community haven’t been operational since November. The 13 homes were placed under isolation in accordance with Alberta Health guidelines, Kamran said. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre is also discouraging visits between members of different households. Some residents are observing this directive and others aren’t, Kamran said. Outdoor and indoor gatherings were banned across the province in December, with the province lifting the ban on outdoor gatherings Monday, with a limit of 10. The Horse Lake Wellness Centre has discouraged indoor gatherings and advised residents who witness them to call 1-833-415-9179, the number to report health violations, or the RCMP. Rick Wilson, Alberta’s indigenous relations minister, acknowledged Monday in a statement a delay in getting vaccines to indigenous seniors 65 and up due to a shortage in doses. Kamran said Horse Lake is hoping to receive vaccines as soon as possible and has remained in contact with AHS about the matter. No vaccinations have been made yet, he said. At press time there are 46 active cases across the County of Grande Prairie, including 19 in the east and central portions, and there have been four fatalities in the east and central county. The City of Grande Prairie has 180 active cases and has had 14 fatalities. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
MENDON, N.Y. — Three National Guard members on a training flight were killed Wednesday when their helicopter crashed in a farmer's field in western New York. The craft, a UH-60 Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopter, crashed around 6:30 p.m. in Mendon, New York, a rural town south of Rochester, officials said. The circumstances were under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration said it would take part. Photos of the crash scene posted by local news media showed the aircraft wreckage burning on a snow-covered field. The helicopter flew out of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Rochester International Airport, and was assigned to C Company of the 1st Battalion, 171st General Support Aviation Battalion, according to Eric Durr, public affairs director of the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said flags on state buildings would be lowered to half-staff on Thursday to pay tribute to the troops. “National Guard members are our citizen soldiers who voluntarily serve and protect both here and abroad, and I extend prayers and condolences from all New Yorkers to the family, loved ones and fellow soldiers of these honourable heroes," he said in a statement. Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter said at a news conference that witnesses who called 911 reported hearing the sounds of an engine sputtering and said the aircraft was flying very low. There were no survivors of the crash, he said. Baxter called the three guard members who perished “great Americans.” “Keep them in your minds and your prayers,” he said. The Associated Press