Discovery of giant penguin suggests New Zealand and Antarctica used to be very different

An enormous penguin standing taller than the Batman villain of the same name has been identified from fossils in New Zealand.

Remains of the flightless bird were found in the town of Waipara by researchers from Canterbury Museum, who have determined that it roamed the region during the Paleocene Epoch between 66 and 56 million years ago.

It was of the crossvallia waiparensis species - one of the oldest and largest penguins known to have existed.

It is greater in size than the 1.2m emperor penguin.

At a whopping 1.6m, the crossvallia waiparensis is taller than the villainous gangster Penguin in Batman Returns, who was played by the 1.47m high Danny DeVito.

And it would have been tough work trying to p-p-p-pick it up, as scientists say it weighed between 70kg and 80kg.

It also sported huge feet that suggest they swam more than modern penguins.

The bones were found by amateur palaeontologist Leigh Love at the Waipara Greensand fossil site in North Canterbury last year, and they were prepared for study by local fossil expert Al Mannering.

They were then analysed by Canterbury Museum curators Dr Paul Scofield and Dr Vanesa De Pietri, who teamed up with Dr Gerald Mayr of Senckenberg Natural History Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and they concluded that the bones belonged to a previously unknown penguin species.

Its closest known relative is a another extinct type of penguin, the crossvallia unienwillia, which was identified from a fossilised partial skeleton found in the Cross Valley in Antarctica in 2000.

Dr Scofield said the discoveries showed how closely connected New Zealand was to the icy continent.

"When the crossvallia species were alive, New Zealand and Antarctica were very different from today," he said.

"Antarctica was covered in forest and both had much warmer climates."

Crossvalia waiparensis is the fifth ancient penguin species to have been found at the Waipara Greensand site, making it arguably the most significant location in the world for such discoveries.

Dr Mayr said: "The fossils discovered there have made our understanding of penguin evolution a whole lot clearer.

"There's more to come, too - more fossils which we think represent new species are still awaiting description."

The findings were published in the Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal Of Palaeontology, just a week after another team of scientists in New Zealand revealed that they had discovered the fossilised remains of what is believed to be the largest parrot that ever lived .

Standing up to one metre tall and weighing around 7kg, it is thought the giant bird - named Heracles Inexpectatus after the mythical Greek demi-god - could well have dined on its smaller avian relations.

The fossils of several giant species, including crossvalia waiparensis, will be displayed in a new exhibition about prehistoric New Zealand at Canterbury Museum later this year.

  • Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases Reinforce Need To Keep Your Distance: Dr. Theresa Tam
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    HuffPost Canada

    Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases Reinforce Need To Keep Your Distance: Dr. Theresa Tam

    The CDC urged Americans Friday to wear cloth masks in public to protect themselves against COVID-19.

  • First Nations face governance crisis as pandemic threatens elections
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    The Canadian Press

    First Nations face governance crisis as pandemic threatens elections

    OTTAWA — The chief of an Ontario First Nation says her community is caught up in bureaucratic and "paternalistic" voting rules that could leave it with a governance gap in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.Chief Valerie Richer says her Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation, near Sudbury, was moving forward with its upcoming chief and council elections before the novel coronavirus hit Canada and was waiting for Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller to approve the community's new election process.The nation ratified a new custom election code in January, which would allow it to decide for itself how a vote in the community takes place rather than following the election provisions in the Indian Act.But Richer says Miller has not yet approved her nation's new election code — which her community has found frustrating and inherently paternalistic, she said.With their election set for June, nominations are due by the end of this month."ISC (Indigenous Services Canada) officials knew we were pushing to meet these dates, and nowhere during any of this process did anyone say to us, 'You might have difficulty in getting the minister's approval on this,'" Richer said.Last week, Miller sent letters to First Nations gearing up for elections this year recommending they postpone their votes for six months.Holding an election during a pandemic poses public health risks, he said, noting everyone is being asked to distance themselves from each other and avoid large groups wherever possible.But Ottawa does not have the authority to extend terms for any chiefs and councillors who are currently in office, so any decision to postpone or go ahead with an upcoming election must come from the communities or nations themselves.Officials in Miller's office have suggested to First Nations that they fill the governance gap that a postponed election would create by appointing an interim administrator or council.Richer says this would be highly problematic, especially in the middle of a pandemic."There's no legitimacy in that kind of a governance structure. Things are set up for chief and council — signatures at the bank, legal documents in agreements with various government agencies," she said."You can't tell me that's not going to cause governance issues."The new election code that her nation has approved allows online voting and would stream its upcoming nomination meeting online — actions not allowed under Indian Act election laws.That's why Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation wants to proceed with its upcoming nomination vote."It is the safest option because it allows us to put in place a whole strategy so that people don't have to come out to our community centre to vote. You can vote from the safety of your home."A number of First Nations across Canada with elections scheduled in the coming weeks and months are grappling with whether to go ahead or postpone their respective elections and some say they are not getting the information they need from the federal government.That was the case for Shoal Lake 39, which went ahead with its election on March 26 after receiving no clear direction from Ottawa about what options it had, says Tania Cameron, the electoral officer for the community on the Ontario-Manitoba border.She sent an email to Indigenous Services Canada expressing concerns from the community about going ahead with a vote in the middle of a pandemic, but the only response they received was that the department was "working on it.""I thought, 'Well it looks like we have to go ahead with it.' So we beefed up our measures and we conducted our election on March 26," Cameron said.To ensure public safety, they constructed their own isolation tent in the boardroom where voting was held. Only two voting members were allowed in the room at a time, and they were handed their ballots through a slot in the plastic tent.Voters were asked to use hand sanitizer upon entering, they were asked to stay six feet apart and everything, including the ballot box, was disinfected between each vote-casting."Some people were a little bit annoyed but I said, 'This is for everyone's protection, ours and yours,'" Cameron said.She said she would have preferred an option to postpone the vote to ensure everyone's safety.But the community would have faced the same governance gap concerns identified by Richer."There would be no official chief and council that the federal government or provincial governments would recognize," Cameron said."We need funding relief, especially during these pandemic measures that are being put into place, we need funding to continue. Their agreement is with chief and council and if there's no chief and council that has huge implications for a community."Miller's office says the government will work with communities that choose to postpone their elections to ensure leadership continuity.Regarding Atikameksheng Anishnawbek, the department has recommended approval of their new election code and is moving the process forward."Unfortunately, the current health context has affected the timing of the process," Miller's press secretary Vanessa Adams said in an email Friday."Indigenous Services Canada is doing everything we possibly can do to respond to concerns and remain in regular contact with Chief Richer."This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

  • Being on the East Coast a double-edged sword in COVID-19 pandemic medical battle
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    The Canadian Press

    Being on the East Coast a double-edged sword in COVID-19 pandemic medical battle

    HALIFAX — Being a small East Coast province in the pandemic is a double-edged sword: there are fewer critically ill patients, but the supply of hospital beds is limited if the worst-case scenario materializes."We will have fewer beds, but we will have a lower population density too," said Dr. Ward Patrick, the head of critical care at the Nova Scotia Health Authority — the biggest health agency in Atlantic Canada.The 60-year-old veteran of intensive care medicine said in an interview his teams have access to an existing supply of 120 intensive care beds provincewide — each equipped with ventilators and staffed by specialized health workers.In addition, the province's intensive care units have been emptied by 50 per cent to prepare for COVID-19 patients, and Patrick says Nova Scotia could surge to over 200 intensive care beds as the pandemic progresses.However, he also acknowledged there are "wild cards," ranging from unanticipated jumps in infections to finding replacements for sick staff.His health authority has created scenarios where 7,000 of its 23,400 staff are off due to self-isolation or illness, and Patrick said he's aware of estimates that could go higher.Janet Hazelton, the president of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, said she believes the Atlantic provinces could face some of Canada's biggest staffing issues."We don't have enough that we can move them all over, as in some of the biggest provinces," she said during an interview.An outbreak from two gatherings at a funeral home last month in St. John's, N.L. — which has generated nearly three quarters of the province's 195 infections — illustrates another key risk when ICU beds are at a premium.Gilles Lanteigne, the chief executive of the Vitalite Health Network in New Brunswick — which serves the province's francophone population — says intense outbreaks in one location are the most worrying scenario for smaller health agencies like the one he oversees."The average age of our population is very old, and we have some regions where people are not as healthy when compared to the average region in the country," he said in a telephone interview."Clustering, if that ever happens ... it could cause almost a disaster. It could increase significantly the cases."His agency has 33 intensive care beds prepared for COVID-19 patients, with a capacity to surge in two stages to a total of 116, he said. Horizon Health Network, New Brunswick largest health authority, has 98 intensive care unit beds in place, 53 of which are currently occupied.Newfoundland and Labrador has 98 such beds, and four COVID-19 patients were in intensive care Friday.Dr. John Haggie, the minister of health in the province, has said repeatedly he believes his province can cope, but this week he added: "Whether we're right, ask me in three weeks' time."Javier Sanchez, an epidemiologist at the University of Prince Edward Island's faculty of veterinary medicine, sees some hope emerging for smaller jurisdictions.Though he's a veterinarian, Sanchez's expertise has been called upon to help with COVID-19 modelling for the Island's population of 156,000. He said with just 22 positive cases and no community transmission as of Friday, P.E.I. may be exhibiting "a unique situation."He said there's little doubt a concentrated outbreak could challenge the Island's two hospitals, which have just 17 intensive care beds and a capacity to bring on 46 additional units if needed.However, Sanchez said unlike large urban centres, the Island, with a single bridge linking it to the mainland, has the advantage of being able to tightly restrict entry of people from other jurisdictions.He also suggests a rural population is likelier to succeed in social distancing than large cities, and breaking the rules would be more quickly detected."In P.E.I., everyone knows everyone, so if you have to self-isolate and you're going around, somebody will know you," he said.Lanteigne says New Brunswick's Acadian population's advantage is "the population is dispersed." With the exception of Moncton, "we don't have very large cities with high-rise buildings," he said. To date, there's little clear indication of when the Atlantic provinces expect their critical care capacity will face its greatest test.Nationally, figures cited by the chief public health officer of Canada have suggested about three per cent of the current infected population will become critically ill.New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have committed to releasing models next week showing the best- and worst-case scenarios they are working with, and when the peak of the pandemic is forecast.Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health in Nova Scotia, has said technical expertise is in short supply to create the models.Meanwhile, Patrick, the Nova Scotia critical care director, says he hopes people realize their respect of public health directives will help determine whether intensive care systems in the region are overwhelmed."It's a busy time. But we're going to see this through," he said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020 Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

  • The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada
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    The Canadian Press

    The latest developments on COVID-19 in Canada

    The latest news on the COVID-19 global pandemic (all times Eastern):7:15 p.m.Police in Delta, B.C., say it was "troubling" to catch two people this week allegedly reselling medical face masks at highly inflated prices.The police department alleges in a news release that officers found one vendor offering 60 N-95 respirators for $1,200 and another selling 3,000 surgical masks for $2,200.Both vendors were given $500 bylaw tickets and voluntarily gave up the medical supplies to police.The police say they will consult the local health authority to determine the best use for the masks.The secondary resale of medical supplies and personal protective equipment was banned on March 26 in B.C.\---7 p.m.Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says the province has seen 107 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.He is attributing the high number to the province's largest single-day total of test results.Kenney says the total number of cases is 1,075.He says there have been five additional deaths, bringing the total to 18.Kenney says 196 people have recovered from the virus.\---6:10 p.m.Four more people have died in British Columbia from COVID-19, bringing the number of deaths to 35.Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, says there have been 53 new positive tests for the virus for a total of 1,174 cases.Of those, 641 people have recovered.Henry says the province is in the "thick" of the fight against the new coronavirus.\---6:09 p.m.An annual summertime ritual at Rideau Hall is being cancelled.In a tweet, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre says the military is cancelling changing of the guard and the mounting of sentries at Rideau Hall.The head of the Canadian Army says the difficult decision is necessary to protect the safety and well-being of all involved.\---5:45 p.m.Mayor Naheed Nenshi says Calgary's ban on public events until June 30 includes NHL and CFL games should those leagues resume before then.Leagues, games and tournaments around the world have been suspended, cancelled or postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 crisis.The NHL suspended operations March 12 with 189 regular-season games remaining.The Calgary Flames were in playoff position sitting third in the Pacific Division. All CFL training camps have been postponed.\---4:45 p.m.Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says the Trump administration's call for a manufacturer to shop shipping N-95 masks to Canada is nothing short of a betrayal.Moe says the decision is reckless and wants it reversed.He says Canada and the U.S. have been the closest of allies and he's reaching out to American governors on the issue.\---4 p.m.Canadians who had been stranded for weeks on two cruise ships are now on their way home.Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne tweeted that a plane chartered by cruise operator Holland America has taken off.Only those who are asymptomatic are being allowed back into Canada for the time being, and the government has said they'll enter isolation upon their return.\---3:55 p.m.The Saskatchewan government says an employee at an assisted living centre in Regina has tested positive for COVID-19.It says the facility is closed to admissions, discharges and transfers.The Ministry of Health says there's no indication the virus has spread to other employees or residents, but residents who were in contact with the infected employee will be isolated for 14 days.The province also announced all employees working in long-term care facilities will have their temperatures checked before beginning their shifts.Saskatchewan has reported 220 cases of the virus.\---3 p.m.Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says there are no confirmed outbreaks or clusters of COVID-19 in the city's Downtown Eastside, where many residents have underlying health conditions.But he says it's "simply a matter of time" before COVID-19 spreads in communities across B.C.Stewart says BC Housing has now secured hundreds of hotel rooms in Vancouver for people who are homeless or precariously housed and need to enter self-isolation.He adds that recent income, food and cleaning supports are "stop gaps" for the next few weeks and the city needs help from higher levels of government to keep these efforts going.\---2:30 p.m.The Manitoba government reported 15 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total to 182.There has also been a second death, a man in his 50s with underlying medical conditions.Nine people are hospitalized, with six in intensive care.Health officials say 11 people have recovered.\---2:23 p.m.Ontario Premier Doug Ford says more businesses will be closing in the province in the wake of grim projections about the spread of COVID-19.Ford says the new closures will take effect Saturday at 11:59 p.m., and will include all industrial construction except for essential projects, such as hospitals.The announcement comes after public health officials released figures showing between 3,000 and 15,000 could die in Ontario over the full course of the pandemic.Ford says physical distancing saves lives and his government is prepared to do whatever it takes to protect Ontarians.\---2:05 p.m.CIBC says it is offering reduced interest rates on personal credit cards for Canadians in financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The bank says credit card clients who request to skip a payment and are experiencing financial difficulties will receive a temporary lower annual interest rate of 10.99 per cent.It says for the 80,000 Canadians who have already received CIBC credit card relief, the temporary lower rate will be retroactively applied to March 15.\---1:55 p.m.New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19, bringing the provincial total to 95.Chief medical officer Dr. Jennifer Russell says modelling is being done to determine what the province's health-care system can absorb.That modelling is expected to be released next week.Russell said she expects a shipment of personal protective equipment and other supplies to arrive on Monday.\---1:21 p.m.Quebec Premier Francois Legault says the province recorded 25 more deaths related to COVID-19 since the day prior, bringing the provincial total to 61.But Legault said today the majority of the new recorded deaths did not occur in the past 24 hours, because the province had been investigating 20 prior fatalities to see whether they had been the result of COVID-19.The premier says the province recorded an additional 583 positive cases of COVID-19, for a total of 6,101, and another 64 hospitalizations including 26 patients in intensive care.Legault says medical authorities are planning to present to the public a series of projections related to COVID-19 next Tuesday. 1:12 p.m.Canada's top public health official is urging people to have caution when looking at provincial models for how COVID-19 will develop.Ontario released its projections for the best and worst case scenarios of the crisis.Dr. Theresa Tam says people should remember they are just that, projections, and not real data.She says both must be examined to get an accurate picture of where the virus is headed.\---12:57 p.m.Health Minister Patty Hajdu says Canada is paying inflated prices for personal protective equipment.She says the global market is extremely competitive as every country vies for the limited supply.She says Canada is keeping an eye on the cost, but is focused on getting what’s needed.Health Canada is also taking measures to guard against fraud and counterfeit PPE that’s being produced.\---12:51 p.m.The 2020 edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The flagship event that draws musicians and fans from around the world was set to open June 25.The festival's general manager says the decision to cancel it, as well as a festival of francophone music set for June, was necessary to protect the public, artists and festival staff.The announcement comes the same day Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival announced it will be postponed until the fall, opening Sept. 29.\---12:49 p.m.Canada’s top public health official says authorities are reviewing their policies in light of new studies about the transmission of the novel coronavirus.Some studies have found that people without symptoms are able to transmit the virus.Dr. Theresa Tam says those studies have only been released in the last few days and weeks, and are being reviewed.She says they may have implications for policies in long-term care settings in particular.\---12:42 p.m.Prince Edward Island is reporting no new cases of COVID-19 Friday, leaving the provincial total at 22.Chief medical officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, says four people have recovered.She says more than 1,000 tests have been done on the Island.Morrison says extra people have been hired to help staff the 811 Tele-care line.\---12:36 p.m.There are 12 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, bringing the provincial total to 195.Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, says the cases announced Friday are all in the Eastern Health region.Fitzgerald says eleven people are in the hospital due to the virus and 11 people have recovered.\---12:36 p.m.Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says the government is planning to ‘pull out all the stops’ to press the U.S. on its plans to limit supplies to Canada.The White House ordered manufacturer 3M not to ship N95 respirators across the border to Canada.Freeland says Canada will push back hard.She says all ministers are in touch with their U.S. counterparts and the provincial premiers have also been asked to get involved.\---12:32 p.m.The Manitoba government is letting people hurt by the COVID-19 economic fallout avoid penalties and interest on some utility payments and property taxes.Premier Brian Pallister says there will be a six-month period, until Oct. 1, in which people can defer payments to Crown-owned hydroelectric, natural gas and auto insurance agencies without interest or penalties.Pallister says he is also working with municipalities so that interest is not charged for six months on the provincial education property tax and school division fees.The province is also funding 140 new beds at homeless shelters, and repurposing a vacant public housing building to allow for social distancing.\---12:24 p.m.Canada’s top public health official says 4 per cent of tests for COVID-19 have been confirmed positive.The percentage has slowly climbed by one percentage point over the course of the week.Dr. Theresa Tam says Canada is also seeing a sharper increase in deaths.So far, she says the health system is coping.\---12:10 p.m.Beaders in many parts of the North have joined a project to create a visible symbol of appreciation for front-line workers battling COVID-19 — from doctors and nurses to grocery store clerks and truck drivers.Yukon resident Kyla Popadynec (pop-a-DEN'-ick) says she came up with the idea earlier this week to create a beaded fireweed pin for staff at the Dawson City health clinic where she works.But when several hundred people from Alaska to Yellowknife offered their beading skills, Popadynec says plans for the tribute pins were expanded.She says the fireweed design was selected because the purple flower is often the first plant to return after a wildfire, and represents strength, healing and renewal.\---11:56 a.m.Nova Scotia is reporting 14 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the provincial total to 207 confirmed cases.Health officials say five people are currently in hospital, while 21 people have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved.Most cases in Nova Scotia are connected to travel or a known case, with one confirmed case of community transmission and more expected in the future.Officials say testing done to date has resulted in 8,234 negative results.\---11:39 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s working with the United States to help them understand that trade between the two countries goes both ways.He made the comments after the White House ordered a U.S. manufacturer to stop delivering N95 respirators to Canada from the United States.He says it would be a huge mistake to restrict staff, or products and services from crossing the border in both directions.\---11:32 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government will be delivering additional aid to low-income people through the GST credit sooner than expected.The government initially announced the money would be available in May, but Trudeau now says the money will be delivered this month.Every qualifying adult will receive up to $300, plus $150 for each child.\---11:24 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government would donate $100 million to meet urgent food needs across the country, including in northern and Indigenous communities.He says the money will help buy and deliver food to the people who need it most.The organizations who will receive funding include Food Banks Canada, The Breakfast Club of Canada, The Salvation Army and others.\---11:21 a.m.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Canadian Forces are being sent to northern Quebec to help communities there prepare to respond to COVID-19.He says the federal government is answering a call from the Quebec government.In a daily appearance outside his Ottawa residence today, Trudeau also says the federal government has an agreement with Amazon to use its distribution network to send medical supplies to meet provincial needs.\---11 a.m.Ontario is reporting 462 more COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total number in the province to 3,255.Health officials also reported 14 more deaths, bringing the toll to 67.There are also 192 more resolved cases for a new total of 1,023.\---10:20 a.m.Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for the federal Liberals to be more transparent about their response to the COVID-19 crisis.He wants the government to release national level data on the spread of the virus and its implications.He also says the government needs to move faster to get money into the hands of business, calling for them to immediately rebate GST payments.Scheer says his party wants to be part of a Team Canada approach to virus response, but that doesn't mean not asking tough questions and demanding accountability.He says Parliament must find a way to convene remotely to increase oversight of the government.\---10:11 a.m.The growing movement in British Columbia and across Canada to salute health care workers by clapping and making noise each evening at 7 p.m. will gain even more volume tonight.A statement from the Chamber of Shipping, the voice for the marine industry on Canada's west coast, says all ships in B.C. waters will sound their horns in solidarity.The statement says the audible celebration is noteworthy because ship crews are also working to maintain essential transportation networks.The chamber says vessels move critical cargo directly supporting medical efforts or supplying communities to ensure they continue to function.\---8:20 a.m.The Canadian Bankers Association says the country's six largest banks have deferred more than 10 per cent of the mortgages in their portfolios as borrowers affected by COVID-19 seek financial help.The association says almost 500,000 requests for mortgage deferrals or to skip a payment have been completed or are in process.Canadian banks announced a mortgage deferral program over two weeks ago in a move to help those hurt by the steps taken to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.The six largest banks said they would allow customers to defer mortgage payments for up to six months among other changes.\---6:30 a.m.A regional government near Toronto has apologized after revealing it accidentally mailed letters to 16 people saying their COVID-19 tests were negative when they were actually positive.The Region of Peel's top medical official says the letters were mailed on Tuesday and Wednesday.Dr. Lawrence Loh says his team is working to notify the people involved and that changes have been made to their process to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again.\---The Canadian Press

  • Scheer calls for more oversight of government's COVID-19 response
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    The Canadian Press

    Scheer calls for more oversight of government's COVID-19 response

    OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for the Liberals to be more transparent about their response to the COVID-19 crisis.He wants the government to release all its data on the spread of the novel coronavirus and its implications, as well provide regular updates with facts and figures on the stockpile of supplies, the availability of hospital beds, and other response measures."Mr. Trudeau says his government is being guided by the evidence," Scheer said during a news conference from his home town of Regina."So it's time to release that evidence."Ontario released its current projections for the province Friday, saying with the public health restrictions in place Ontario can expect to see between 3,000 and 15,000 people die of COVID-19, a number that would be 100,000 with no such measures.Quebec intends to release its information April 14. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney told the Alberta Legislature Wednesday his province will be releasing its data soon as well.The federal projections for how many people might die, when the infection rate might peak and how long people will be asked to stay home, are based on the data coming in from the provinces and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday the national analyses and projections are coming but aren't ready yet."We are working with the provinces to be able to build a robust model to give the projections that people want to see," he said."People are wondering how much longer is this going to last, how many Canadians are going to be severely affected. These are things that we will be sharing with Canadians but we need to make sure we have a better grasp on the accuracy of the data before we put projections out there."Scheer also called for the daily briefings from the prime minister and government ministers to start looking more like statements in the House of Commons.He said the Opposition ought to be able to directly question the government, and wants video sessions that would give that opportunity.Scheer said his party is ready to be part of a "Team Canada" approach to pandemic response."Taking a Team Canada approach does not mean no tough questions or oversight. In fact the opposite is true," he said."Rigorous scrutiny and accountability ensures that the right decisions are made on behalf of Canadians."Simon Ross, a spokesman for government House leader Pablo Rodriguez, said in a written statement that the government wants to work with the opposition parties."Canadians need help paying their groceries and their bills," Ross said. "They are looking to us to work together to get them the help they need. We will continue doing exactly that. We thank the opposition for their collaboration and will continue working with them so that Canadians can get the support they need as fast as possible."Parliament is expected to reconvene to handle the government's wage subsidy program. The original legislation passed by the House of Commons did not allow for the government's plan to provide a 75 per cent subsidy to a wide range of employers. It allowed a much smaller subsidy targeted at small businesses.Scheer said Friday he is hopeful there will not be a repeat of how the government handled the original bill — surprising the opposition parties with provisions in that gave the Liberals broad spending and taxation powers for upwards of a year.The opposition got the provisions axed, and got included a requirement for the House of Commons finance and health committee to provide oversight.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • How I'm Dealing With Poverty In The Pandemic As A Single Parent
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    HuffPost Canada

    How I'm Dealing With Poverty In The Pandemic As A Single Parent

    I'm fearful millions of Canadians will soon be dealing with this reality.

  • Elton John-led concert to re-air; film academy aids workers
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Elton John-led concert to re-air; film academy aids workers

    From finding ways to help others cope to sheltering in place to cancelling events, here’s a look at some of the ways the entertainment industry is reacting to the spread of the coronavirus, which most people recover from but can cause severe illness in the elderly and those with preexisting medical conditions.IHEART’S LIVING ROOM CONCERTAn Elton John-led, star-studded benefit concert that raised more than $10 million to battle the coronavirus will be re-aired on Fox next week.Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys will be shown performing from their homes on “Fox Presents the iHeart Living Room Concert for America,” which will air Monday. The money will go to Feeding America and First Responders Children’s Foundation.The hourlong event originally aired Sunday on Fox and iHeartMedia radio stations.Other performers include Tim McGraw, H.E.R. and Sam Smith, who sang “How Do You Sleep” in a cappella form. Dave Grohl sang “My Hero” from his studio in Hawaii, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong strummed his guitar to “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” while Camila Cabello sang “My Oh My” from Miami with a guitar assist from beau Shawn Mendes.Lady Gaga, Lizzo, Ellen DeGeneres and Ryan Seacrest paid tribute to those combating the spread of the virus.FILM ACADEMY DONATES $6M TO HELP INDUSTRY EMPLOYEESThe Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is giving $6 million to help film industry employees out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic.The film academy, which puts on the annual Academy Awards, said Friday that it will donate $2 million to the Actors Fund, which supports performers and behind-the-scenes workers; $2 million to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, the long-running non-profit offering relief to members of the entertainment community in need; and $2 million to the Academy Foundation, its own charitable arm.“As we face a pandemic, it’s incumbent upon us to help those in the motion picture community who are suffering,” said David Rubin, academy president, said in a statement. “The shutting down of productions, businesses and theatres has had devastating consequences. By contributing financially to The Actors Fund, MPTF, and the Academy Foundation’s wonderful grants program, we can help provide our extended family with desperately needed assistance.”SOUTH KOREA ASKS 8,000 TheatreGOERS TO SELF MONITORThe South Korean capital of Seoul says it will ask more than 8,500 theatregoers to self-monitor at home after Canadian and American cast members of “The Phantom of the Opera” were found to have the coronavirus.Seoul City official Na Baek-ju said Friday the musical’s international tour was halted following the positive test of an unidentified Canadian actress, who began experiencing throat pain and dry coughs days after she began performing at the city’s Blue Square theatre on March 14. She last appeared on stage on Monday, a day before her test.Officials have since tested 138 of her contacts, including colleagues and guests at the downtown Somerset Palace hotel, and confirmed the infection of an American actor on Thursday.Na said officials were still awaiting test results for 48 people while the other 89 tested negative.He said the hotel was ordered to prevent guests from leaving the property and stop taking new customers.South Korea earlier on Friday reported 86 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its nationwide total to 10,062.While the country’s caseload has slowed from early March when officials reported around 500 new cases per day, there’s concern over a steady rise in infections in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of the country’s 51 million people live.___Associated Press entertainment writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report.The Associated Press

  • The economy's on life support and Canadians need help now. What's the holdup?
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    CBC

    The economy's on life support and Canadians need help now. What's the holdup?

    As the COVID-19 caseload shows every sign of surging in Canada, the delivery of promised financial relief for people who've lost their jobs or closed their businesses remains maddeningly slow.The federal government's emergency wage subsidy is at least three weeks away from being available. It could take even longer. The emergency response benefit for those who already have lost their jobs begins phased-in registration for the program on Monday.Small businesses, which still have to pay rent and other bills, continue to wait for promised $40,000 interest-free loans as the Department of Finance continues to negotiate its delivery with the country's banks.Waiting for the banks to step upFinance Minister Bill Morneau said this week that his department has been working every day with the banks. He told members of the Commons finance committee that the "intense negotiations" are going well and that banks are "close to offering" the interest-free loans, perhaps as early as next week."We are going as fast as humanly possible," he told opposition MPs on the committee.Watch: Finance Minister Bill Morneau on rapid development of economic program:But the pace remains too slow for many, even as political leaders grapple with a bewildering array of new challenges on a daily basis.Today alone, the prime minister was forced to respond to U.S. President Donald Trump's directive to Minnesota-based 3M to stop shipping N95 masks to Canada. Ontario released projections saying there could be 80,000 cases of COVID-19 in the province by the end of the month, and that the pandemic's effects could last as long as two years.'Extreme sacrifices'"These numbers are stark and they are sobering," said Premier Doug Ford as he announced more mandatory closures of workplaces, including construction projects."We have to make difficult choices and extreme sacrifices."The sheer scale of the pandemic — the possibility that tens of thousands of Canadians could die, the prospect of self-isolation and business closures lasting for many months — simply adds to the stress felt by Canadians worried about their immediate future.The Canadian Federation of Independent Business released a survey this week suggesting that up to a third of small businesses that have closed because of COVID-19 will never re-open. Another 23 per cent of the 9,000 members who responded to the CFIB survey indicated they would not make their April rent payments.It's led many to question why Canadian banks aren't doing more to help.'Business as usual'Former Conservative leadership candidate Rick Peterson wrote an op-ed piece this week criticizing the banks for failing to be proactive and for continuing to charge high fees and credit card interest rates."It's basically business as usual," he wrote in The Edmonton Journal. "Sure, the banks have deferred payments for up to six months on mortgages and some loans — but the interest charges continue to accrue. Credit card payments have been deferred as well, but interest charges and transaction fees stay the same."New Democrat MP Peter Julian issued his own public appeal to the banks earlier this week."All Canadians are making sacrifices to get our country through this crisis," he wrote in an open letter. "Financial institutions, particularly Canada's six big banks, can play their part by waiving interest fees and charges on bank loans, line of credits and mortgages for the next two payment cycles."Government balks at using the Bank ActNew Democrats urged the Trudeau government to use its authority under the Bank Act to reduce interest rates, and to work with the provinces to freeze any rent increases and utility payments.Government officials, who spoke on background, said banks are cooperating and using the hammer of the Bank Act would be counterproductive."We get that people want relief," said one official. "To be fair here, the banks are very aware that they are a critical piece of keeping the economy healthy."The Canadian Bankers Association says it is working with both governments and customers to help them weather the pandemic.Spokesman Mathieu Labrèche replied to written questions from CBC News on Friday to say nearly a half a million requests for mortgage deferrals were either completed or were in the process of being completed over the past two weeks — about 10 per cent off the mortgages held by the country's six largest banks.Watch: Trudeau asked about Canada's talks with OPEC on reducing oil production:Over that same period, the banks have dealt with about 100,000 credit card deferral requests."Canada's banks assembled quickly and made a commitment to work with their customers to provide flexible solutions to help them manage through financial hardship," Labrèche wrote. "Many banks have programs in place to help ... make debt more manageable and structure the right solution, for example rolling in credit card debt into term products with lower interest rates."Short-term relief, long-term burdensBut that relief is temporary. And for many people, the cost of servicing those debts will actually increase in the long run.CIBC announced Friday that any clients with personal credit cards who want to skip a payment will receive a temporary lower rate of 10.99 per cent retroactive to March 15. But the accrued interest over the deferral period is going to be added to the cardholder's outstanding balance. "Once your payments resume," the bank acknowledges, "your minimum payment may be higher as a result of a higher outstanding balance."A letter from TD Bank to one of its mortgage customers outlines the consequences of deferrals:"It's important that by deferring mortgage payments you're not paying the mortgage principal, and interest will be capitalized, (that is, it will be added to the outstanding mortgage balance so your balance will increase)," the letter said. "We want to ensure you understand the impact."It's a fair bet that Canadians do understand the impact. They also understand why it's up to the government to ensure the banks' interests don't run counter to those of their customers — the ones obeying the government directives to stay at home at great personal cost.

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario orders further workplace closures, halt to many construction projects
    Global News

    Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario orders further workplace closures, halt to many construction projects

    The Ontario government has announced further business closures and a shutdown of many construction sites in response to the coronavirus pandemic. “My government is prepared to take every step possible and today I’m asking you to do the same,” Premier Doug Ford said in an update Friday afternoon.

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    Words to remember: Canadian newsmakers have their say on COVID-19

    A look at some of the top quotes from on Friday in relation to COVID-19 in Canada: "If we do everything that we can think of — everything that already has been done stays in place (and) all of the other measures which are being considered (are) put in place — I think we could reduce the death toll in Ontario to somewhere between 3,000 and 15,000." — Dr. Peter Donnelly, head of Public Health Ontario.———"When I look at Canada, it looks to me there is a disciplined response up there with clear information coming through. I hope you all do very well because I like Canada, and we live next door to each other, and it matters to both of us that we succeed." — Gayle Smith, a former top adviser to President Barack Obama.———"Drug dealing, we say, is not an essential service." Hamilton police Const. Jerome Stewart after an alleged cocaine dealer was charged with drug trafficking, as well as a $750 ticket for operating a non-essential business.———"All of us are itching to contribute in some way." — Heidi Li, a third-year medical student at the University of Ottawa, as the federal government announced it is seeking volunteers with medical experience to provide backup support in the fight against COVID-19.———"Having 70 per cent of people get COVID is not the end of the world. It is, though, if it all happens at once. And that's what we're trying to prevent." — Health Minister Patty Hajdu.———"I've worked my whole life to do this but we're all in the same situation so we must wait. We're in much difficulty (in Italy) . . . my life has changed completely." — Italian football player Lorenzo Dalle Piagge, who was slated to attend the CFL's postponed national combine last month in Toronto.———"It's not looking great. Just not looking great." — Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with Teal Group in the Washington, D.C., area, after a rough day for Bombardier Inc., stock.———"We're seeing our case numbers continually grow, we're seeing severe outcomes, which is distressing to many Manitobans. But again, this is not the time for fear. This is the time for our actions." — Manitoba chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin. ———"And then everyone will put pressure on public health to solve it, our health-care system to deal with it, and government to pay for it when all we have to do is stay the blazes home." — Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil after saying he's tired of seeing full parking lots at grocery and large retail stores, warning there will be increased community spread in the province if people continue to blatantly ignore health officials. This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020. The Canadian Press

  • Quebec offers low-wage essential workers extra $100 weekly to stay on the job
    News
    CBC

    Quebec offers low-wage essential workers extra $100 weekly to stay on the job

    The Quebec government is giving low-wage workers an extra incentive to stay on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.Finance Minister Eric Girard announced Friday the province will give up to $100 extra weekly to cashiers, grocery stockers, delivery people and everyone else who keeps the province running.Girard said the program is meant to ensure that those essential workers will earn more by working than by applying for the federal government's emergency benefits program (CERB), which provides Canadians struggling financially with $2,000 a month.The new program will be retroactive to March 15, for a maximum of 16 weeks.Workers can apply for this benefit through Revenu Québec's website starting May 19, and the direct deposits will start on May 27.Roughly 600,000 workers will be eligible, and the program will cost an estimated $890 million.With this compensation, the worker will obtain, in addition to their wages, a taxable lump sum of $400 per month, or $1,600 for a period of 16 weeks.Applicants to the program must: * Work in an essential service. * Earn less than $550 gross per week. * Have an annual work income of at least $5,000, and a total annual income of $28,600 or less.Jean Boulet, the province's labour minister, said the new program is meant to send a message to workers that their contribution is important."The circumstances are very extraordinary," he said."It's extremely important that we say to those essential workers that they have to keep working. It's fundamental to Quebecers."The list of jobs eligible for the additional payment can be found on the province's website.

  • Brooke Baldwin becomes 2nd CNN on-air person diagnosed
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Brooke Baldwin becomes 2nd CNN on-air person diagnosed

    NEW YORK — CNN news anchor Brooke Baldwin has tested positive for the coronavirus, the second on-air personality at the news network to come down with the disease.In an Instagram post Friday, Baldwin said that her symptoms — a fever, chills and aches — came on suddenly Thursday afternoon.She said she'd been social distancing and doing all of the things that medical experts have said to do.“Still — it got me,” she said.CNN prime-time host Chris Cuomo also has COVID-19, and twice this week did shows remotely from the basement of his home.Most people who get the coronavirus suffer mild to moderate symptoms and recover. But for some, mostly the elderly and those with underlying conditions, it can be fatal.The Associated Press

  • UNB, Mount A and STU allow students to choose pass/fail grade for disrupted courses
    News
    CBC

    UNB, Mount A and STU allow students to choose pass/fail grade for disrupted courses

    St. Thomas University joined the University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison University on Thursday in implementing a pass/fail grading system for the 2020 semester because of COVID-19. The pass/fail grading system allows students to choose whether they want to receive a final letter grade or a simple pass/fail mark on their transcript for a class. "It's been a difficult situation and stressful for many students, and they have a lot of tasks and assignments, a heavy workload," Jeffrey Carleton, spokesperson for St. Thomas, said Friday. "They also have some personal circumstances that are having an impact on their ability to complete the term, so we took a step back and looked at what we could do relative to our marking scheme."More than 40 per cent of universities across Canada are allowing students to opt into a pass or fail grading system.The University of New Brunswick and Mount Allison implemented their own versions of the pass/fail system last week. St. Thomas' senate, which includes professors and administrative staff, unanimously passed the system Thursday. The pass/fail option is only applicable for Bachelor of Arts students at St. Thomas."I think with all the challenges we have, we're doing the best we can," said Suzanne Prior, a psychology professor at St. Thomas. So far, she's seen a 50/50 split between students who want to opt into the pass/fail system and those who want to stick with a letter grade. UNB students who opt into taking a class for a pass or fail grade instead of a letter grade must notify their professors by April 9. Students at Mount A must notify their professors by April 7. "Responding effectively as a university requires us to be creative and flexible in constructive ways and in all aspects of our mission as we continue to prioritize student success while ensuring the health and safety of all," said a news release about the changes posted on UNB's website. Courses marked as a pass at UNB and STU will count toward program requirements, count as completed credit hours and count as prerequesites.Choosing a pass or fail grade will not affect a student's GPA at UNB and STU. A fail will affect a student's GPA at Mount A, however.Mount A's pass/fail grading option also includes a third choice: a conditional pass. A conditional pass means the student passed the course but cannot use that class as a prerequiste for other courses. At all universities, students choosing a pass/fail grade must still complete outstanding assignments. Opting into the pass or fail system won't affect scholarships, unless a student is at Mount A and receives a failing grade. UNB, STU and Mount A advise against students opting for a pass or fail mark if they have applied or plan to apply to graduate studies. Carleton said that for a St. Thomas grad who does apply to graduate school, STU will send a letter to the university explaining why that student's transcript may have a pass/fail mark instead of a letter grade. "Every school in the country is going through this kind of process," Carleton said."So if they if they operate a graduate school or professional program … they're going to know what the second term of 2019-2020 was like."

  • News
    CBC

    Inuvik RCMP charge two with drug offences after early-morning bust

    RCMP have charged two men in Inuvik, N.W.T. with drug-related offences, following an investigation and early morning bust at a Boot Lake Road residence.According to a news release, RCMP received a call for a disturbance at nearly 2 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1. After arriving at the scene, police "located two men in possession of Canadian currency and drug paraphernalia."After investigating, police seized the currency, paraphernalia, and crack cocaine. The two men were arrested and charged.According to the relase, police have charged Adar Mahad Mohamed, a 25-year-old from Saskatoon, with possession for the purpose of trafficking, drug possession, possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000, and three counts of failure to comply.Aaron Kay, a 38-year-old from Inuvik, has been charged with possession for the purpose of trafficking and drug possession.According to the release, Mahad Mohamed remains in custody and is scheduled to appear in court in Yellowknife on April 5. Kay has been released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court in Inuvik on Aug. 31.

  • 'It's a win-win for everybody': Grocery store buys $15k worth of Girl Guide cookies
    News
    CBC

    'It's a win-win for everybody': Grocery store buys $15k worth of Girl Guide cookies

    It isn't easy to sell cookies to the community when you're supposed to stay six feet apart, but a grocery store in Happy Valley-Goose Bay is making fundraising a little easier for local Girl Guides.Terrington Co-op bought $15,000 worth of cookies or 3,168 boxes and is placing them on their shelves for others to buy. "I started crying," said Heather Mesher-Brown, the deputy provincial commissioner of Newfoundland and Labrador Girl Guides. "I don't know if it was tears of joy or tears of relief."Mesher-Brown said she was sent thousands of boxes to sell but COVID-19 was making it impossible to sell traditionally, door-to-door. So she started posting online, hoping some local businesses might buy a few boxes."I cannot actually believe they are buying all of them," Mesher-Brown told CBC News.The kind act has also brought smiles to the girls' faces, who got suited up in their uniform Friday evening to drive past the grocery store to give their thanks.Purchasing the trademark vanilla and chocolate cookies will ensure the members can meet, make crafts, go to camp and other outings."We just thought it was a neat thing to do and we could do it easy," said George Andrews, president of the board for the Terrington Co-op.Andrews said the board was initially approached by the Girl Guides who wanted to offer them empty boxes, as Terrington Co-op had started to run low when they implemented their delivery service. He said the board declined due to health and safety concerns, but instead agreed to buy all the cookies the Girl Guides had.Although the cookies will be displayed on shelves for the public to purchase, Andrews said Terrington Co-op also purchased some to hand out to essential workers in the community.Cookies were dropped off at the hospital, police station, fire hall and the military police."We are trying to do whatever we can to help the community.""It's a win-win for everybody."              Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Ontario closing more businesses effective Saturday to limit spread of COVID-19
    News
    The Canadian Press

    Ontario closing more businesses effective Saturday to limit spread of COVID-19

    TORONTO — The sacrifices Ontarians have made recently have saved thousands from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Premier Doug Ford said Friday, even as he announced more stringent measures in a bid to avert what new projections suggest could be a dire outcome.Moments after public health officials spelled out the prospective toll the novel coronavirus could take on the province's population, including thousands of potential deaths, Ford moved to shutter an even larger swath of the Ontario economy.The move was among the recommendations made by a group of high-ranking doctors, who said failure to adopt stricter public health measures could lead to an estimated 1,600 fatalities by the end of April and as many as 15,000 over the full course of the outbreak.Ford said the decision to drastically pare down the list of essential services allowed to operate was difficult but necessary in light of the data showing the effectiveness of physical distancing in curbing the spread of COVID-19."The numbers clearly show that we collectively have saved thousands of lives," Ford said. "But we also know that we can't stop now."The new business closures, which take effect on Saturday at 11:59 p.m. and will be in effect for at least 14 days, include all industrial construction sites except for those on projects considered critical.The new list of essential services features 44 categories, down from 74 released less than two weeks ago. Grocery stores, pharmacies, utilities, public transit, taxis and animal care services all remain open.Cannabis shops, which had initially been deemed an essential business, have been cut from the revised list with only the province's online sales portal remaining open.The projections that paved the way for the latest wave of closures painted a stark picture of the effect COVID-19 will have on the provincial health-care system, but also suggested the outcome would have been much worse without the actions taken to date.They showed that up to 100,000 people in the province might have died over the full course of the pandemic without the widespread closures of schools and businesses the government enacted last month.Dr. Peter Donnelly, president of Public Health Ontario, said the numbers clearly illustrate the gravity of the situation."If we do everything that we can think of — everything that already has been done stays in place, all of the other measures that are being considered put in place — then I think we could reduce the death toll in Ontario to somewhere between 3,000 and 15,000," he said.Donnelly and other officials offered suggestions for such measures. In additions to the steps Ford announced Friday, they advised imposing entry restrictions on some communities including First Nations, providing more protection for seniors and tightening guidance on physical distancing.Donnelly said the projections, which are far from set in stone, span the full course of the outbreak. He said that could last as long as 18 months to two years if second and third waves of the virus are taken into account."Where we end up depends on all of us," he said.Ford, who ordered the release of the bleak forecasts on the grounds that Ontario residents had the right to as much information as possible, said the data make the need for aggressive physical distancing even more evident."We all have to ask ourselves,what is the cost of a life?" Ford asked. "Is a life worth a picnic in a park? Is a life worth going to the beach? Is a life worth having a few cold ones with your buddies in the basement? The answer is no."Industry groups that originally lauded the decision to keep construction sites active through the pandemic voiced support for Ford's new closures."We all want safe jobsites," said Joe Vaccaro, chief executive officer of the Ontario Home Builders' Association. "Let's keep each other safe. We are all in this together."Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Ontario continued their upward trajectory on Friday. The province reported 462 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 3,255. Deaths climbed by 14 for a total of 67 provincewide.Those figures did not include four new deaths at a central Ontario nursing home, the scene of one of the largest outbreaks in the country.Twenty of the roughly 65 residents of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, Ont., have died in recent weeks. At least 24 staff members at the facility have also tested positive for COVID-19.The home announced it had taken additional steps on Friday, including isolating healthy residents from sick ones and ramping up staffing levels and cleaning protocols.This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2020.Michelle McQuigge and Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

  • B.C. mothers of children with autism plead for more government help during COVID-19 pandemic
    News
    CBC

    B.C. mothers of children with autism plead for more government help during COVID-19 pandemic

    Dena Ashbaugh's eight-year-old son, Zack, had one goal in Grade 3.Zack Ashbaugh, who is dyslexic and on the autism spectrum, wanted to learn how to read one page of a book by himself. But with schools shut due to COID-19, Dena  doesn't think it will happen for him this year."As a mom, it is heartbreaking," said Ashbaugh. The North Vancouver resident has two children on the autism spectrum. Her youngest, Baker, six, has also been diagnosed with pathological demand avoidance, which makes him prone to violent outbursts when asked to do routine tasks.The Ashbugh's are one of many British Columbia families struggling to meet the complex care and educational needs of children with autism in the midst of a pandemic. With support workers unable to visit clients and schools closed, parents and advocates are calling on the Ministry of Children and Family Development to relax funding rules so more can be done to provide for special needs children and their families.Recommendations to provinceDeborah Pugh, executive director of Autism Community Training (ACT), said the organization has been pushing the ministry for weeks to provide guidance to families and made recommendations in mid-March about how they could help.Children over age six in B.C. are allotted $6,000 annually for supports like speech therapy, respite workers and behavioural interventionists. Families must spend the money within a year by the child's birthday or it is lost.ACT wants the ministry to let the money roll over into the next year, because so many services are unavailable right now.Campbell River resident Justine Taylor has a son, Emery, 12, and a daughter, Hadley 8, who are both on the autism spectrum and have birthdays in May. Taylor said she is set to lose $1,500 in needed money next month.She said the ministry told her to look for online solutions to help her kids, which she said is not a solution for some children on the spectrum, such as her son, who has issues with social and emotional regulation."It feels like our kids are just falling through the cracks one more time," said Taylor.Another recommendation made by ACT and echoed by Taylor and Dena Ashbaugh is for MCFD to remove restrictions on money that can be spent on equipment recommended by support workers.Twenty per cent of the funding families receive is meant for equipment support workers think can benefit the children. ACT would like that cap lifted so families can do more now.Taylor said the ministry recommends families look for online learning and support resources and this money could help families buy iPads so their children can connect to support workers and online educational tools.Missing school supportsThe Taylor children are educated at home, but the Ashbaugh boys usually attend school. Dena Ashbaugh is also hoping the Ministry of Education will find ways to help special needs students.Dena, who was diagnosed with autism herself last summer, says she is struggling to provide 24/7 care for her children who are used to a team of support workers at school."I am the person, out of a whole web of support, I am the last thread holding all of that weight," she said, her voice breaking with emotion. Karla Verschoor, executive director of Inclusion B.C., says the Ministry of Education should step up to help. It has said schools will stay open with limited staff to support children whose parents are essential front-line workers. Verschoor suggests they also prioritize one-on-one support for students with special needs when safe to do so.In a statement, the Ministry of Education said it is working with MCFD to support families with children who have autism, including continued service and support to families from a range of programs.It said school districts have been asked to ensure they have access to continued learning at home and to consider alternate delivery models for specialized supports.CBC reached out to the Ministry of Children and Families April 1 and has yet to receive a direct response.

  • HBO documentary sheds new light on 'Atlanta Child Murders'
    News
    The Canadian Press

    HBO documentary sheds new light on 'Atlanta Child Murders'

    LOS ANGELES — Anthony Terrell believes an imprisoned man currently serving two life sentences may not have been the person who murdered his brother as part of a killing spree that rocked Atlanta four decades ago.Terrell hopes new light can be shed nationwide on the murders that terrorized the African American community in the city within a two-year time span with the HBO documentary “Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children." The five-part series, which begins Sunday, will explore how the victims’ family members and others remain skeptical about Wayne Williams being the sole killer, despite evidence linking him to those murders and 10 others.“I really want them to find out who did it,” said Terrell, whose 12-year-old brother, Earl, was one of the 29 abducted and killed between 1979 and 1981. “It would be closure to a lot of parents and others who want answers. It’s more than just blaming Wayne Williams. His name was embedded in everybody’s heads. Let us be focused on something else. He was convicted of two adults, but the rest were children. What about them?"Williams was convicted in 1982 in the deaths of two adults, who were thought to be among 29 black children and young adults killed by the same person. After Williams’ conviction, police closed the rest of the cases, blaming them on Williams without formally charging him.The 61-year-old Williams says in the documentary that he never killed anyone. He has appealed his convictions, but they have been denied several times.Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Police Chief Erika Shields are leading a charge to reopen the investigation. The series kicks off with Bottoms’ announcing the city’s effort to re-examine evidence.Last year, Bottoms said she was hopeful that technological advancements and newly available genetic databases could turn up new information.Terrell said the reopening of the case is long overdue, but hopes the documentary can show the black community's plight while enduring the tragedies in their neighbourhoods in Atlanta.“This documentary could enlighten a lot of curious people,” he said. “I want people to know what happened in Atlanta. Why don't people know? They need to know."John Legend is one of those interested in the case. The renowned singer said he didn’t know much about the child murders in Atlanta while growing up in Ohio as a kid.“I didn’t hear one thing about it,” said Legend, an executive producer of the project with Mike Jackson through their film company Get Lifted, in association with Roc Nation. “I was born in 1978, so I was very young when all this was happening. But it wasn’t a part of our folklore. It wasn’t a part of the things we talked about. ... I think there’s a lot of folks around the country that this would be new to them.”Filmmaker Sam Pollard said the documentary touches on the racial and political tensions between black locals and the Ku Klux Klan along with the Atlanta Police Department. He said the series will point toward other possible suspects, thanks to an anonymous source who had new evidence connecting members of the KKK to the murders.“We walked into this project thinking Wayne was the killer,” Pollard said. “But as we started to dig into the research, educate people and connect the dots. ... there may have been a rush to judgement in this trial. For me personally, I came to the conclusion that Wayne didn’t kill anybody.”Retired journalist Monica Kaufman, who reported on the murders, said the case was mishandled by officials at a time when Atlanta was on the rise after Maynard Jackson was elected as the city’s first black mayor in 1973. The city has had a black mayor ever since then, becoming known for its thriving black business ownership, hip-hop and film scene, and having one of the largest airports in the world.Kaufman said the rise of Atlanta would have been “sullied” if the cases were solved 40 years ago.“The city was up and coming, and we didn’t want anything to tarnish that image,” she said. “I think that if those cases had been solved in some ways, if there had been more than one murderer, it would have changed the political structure. It would have affected the business in Atlanta. It would have changed this city forever.”___Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press

  • Leave a baby hare alone but bring in orphaned squirrels, wildlife society says
    News
    CBC

    Leave a baby hare alone but bring in orphaned squirrels, wildlife society says

    Springtime walks, despite snowy weather, are taking people outside more frequently in Calgary, and the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society has a message for those who may spy a baby animal while outside."If you see baby hares, they are likely not orphaned and they should be left alone," said Andrea Hunt, executive director of the group, in an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener.But if you see a baby squirrel, that is another story, and you could do a little investigating, she said."If you find a baby squirrel on the ground, then it does need help and it should come into care with us."The society is a charity that takes in injured and orphaned animals, mainly urban wildlife, with the aim to get them the care they need and eventually release the animals back into the environment.The society is still open, with reduced staff and much fewer volunteers helping to do restrictions related to COVID-19.On top of that, the charity is seeing less donations due to job loss across the province. Hunt says they're operating under an even leaner budget than usual.It'll still be a busy season as, pandemic or not, springtime is when baby animals are born."It's definitely going to be a challenge for us … as we move into our busy season," said Hunt."It means that the staff really have to be very judicious with their time and we're just trying to make sure that the focus is on animal care."There are over 50 animals in the facility, and their year-to-date intake is at 136, higher than last year's tally of 119 during the same period.Hunt says they'd typically be seeing many baby animals like hares and squirrels coming in at this time, but the majority of the animals in intake have been birds."Right now, we're seeing a lot of window strikes. We think it's because people are at home, so when birds hit their window, then they bring them to us," she said.The intake model has been altered slightly. It is now asking the public to always call ahead, to 403-214-1312, when an animal is sighted, so they can help to assess the need and have less people dropping in unnecessarily.If an animal is deemed to require assistance, then they can be brought to a prearranged bin outside of the society's facilities in northwest Calgary.Hunt says the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society will soon be offering some online animal updates on their residents like Ophelia the owl or Lito the hawk.

  • Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec wage increase for essential workers a 'temporary benefit'
    Global News

    Coronavirus outbreak: Quebec wage increase for essential workers a 'temporary benefit'

    Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard said that an essential worker who makes less than $500 a week in a full-time or part-time basis will have access to a wage subsidy announced Friday to help those still working to provide services, like a cashier at a supermarket or delivery driver. Asked whether this validates calls from service workers, both currently and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a $15 an hour wage, Labour Minister Jean Boulet said the wage increase was a "temporary" benefit due to "extraordinary circumstances."

  • Sask. Landlords Association sees sharp spike in unpaid rents during COVID-19
    News
    CBC

    Sask. Landlords Association sees sharp spike in unpaid rents during COVID-19

    A lobbying group for landlords is concerned after seeing a noticeable increase in unpaid rents so far in April.The Saskatchewan Landlords Association contacted 200 of its members, who combined own about 8,000 rental units, this week. As of Friday, 27 per cent of renters had not paid their rents, the association said.A normal month would see a rate of around three per cent."When we don't receive the rent that's due, we're unable to pay our own employees," said the association's executive officer Cameron Choquette."We are unable to pay our own bills such as insurance, mortgages, property taxes, maintenance and repairs."Choquette partially blamed the increase on the provincial government's suspension of residential evictions.Last week, the provincial government ordered the office of residential tenancies to temporarily suspend non-emergency evictions.Justice Minister Don Morgan said the move was taken to provide renters with security, especially for a growing number of people who are being laid off.Choquette said the association is concerned people will take advantage of the situation and refuse to pay even if they could afford to do so.While the province has been clear that renters will have to pay their bills eventually, Choquette isn't convinced that will happen."Good luck collecting that rent later," he said."Landlords already have trouble keeping tenants accountable for their rent because of some of the rights that each party has."The association would like to see more aid go directly to landlords in an effort to keep the industry sustainable. Good luck collecting that rent later. \- Cameron Choquette, Sask. Landlords AssociationChoquette said his industry should be treated like any other business."We expect grocery stores to collect money and we expect patrons to pay for their groceries before they leave," he said."That's the same rationale in rental housing. If you've used the service, if you've had a roof over your head, then you are forced to pay that that charge."The association said landlords are working with many tenants to come up with payment plans to help make their rents.Rent battleChoquette said he's heard anecdotal evidence that some people on social assistance are intentionally not paying their rent, even though they're receiving the same amount of money per month as usual.Peter Gilmer with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry said it's not so simple. He said many people on assistance are only receiving $575 for one person in a large city and $525 elsewhere in the province."The reality is that people are stuck with extremely difficult choices to make," he said."Right now, when there is additional costs related to the present circumstances and all the all the stress factors related to that, this is the time that we need to make sure that there's protections in place."Gilmer said rents remain high in the province, despite a sharp increase in vacancy rates."We really believe that overall rents have been excessive for low income folks for almost 15 years now," he said."We have to remember that housing adequate housing is a basic human right and not just another good to be bought and sold on in the marketplace."

  • Invasive Japanese beetle battle ramps up again in Vancouver starting next week
    News
    CBC

    Invasive Japanese beetle battle ramps up again in Vancouver starting next week

    The annual battle against the invasive Japanese beetle is set to begin anew in Vancouver next Monday when larvicide treatment starts in 30 parks and other city land.The ravenous intruder was first discovered in B.C. around Vancouver's False Creek in 2017, with the epicentre of the invasion located at David Lam Park.The beetle feeds on the roots of grass and the foliage of more than 300 plant species, including fruit, vegetables and agricultural crops. It ultimately causes the plants to die.Adult beetles can fly long distances, and spread to agricultural areas of the Fraser Valley could be devastating.This is the third consecutive year for the springtime treatments in Vancouver.They appear to be working.In 2019, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency trapped 1,157 Japanese beetles, a decline of 85 per cent from 2018 when the agency caught 8,276.Treatment will begin at David Lam Park and continue for seven weeks at parks in the West End, Downtown, Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, Fairview and Kitsilano neighbourhoods. In addition to mandatory treatment areas, the park board is also considering treating Quilchena, Prince of Wales, and Carnarvon parks after finding a single beetle near each last year.In total, approximately 50 hectares of city and park lands will be treated, ranging from large public turf areas to small strips of grass, shrubs, trees, medians and boulevards. Trained staff will be applying the product Acelepryn directly to the soil to target root-eating grubs. The park board claims the product will not impact people, pets, mammals, birds, bees, butterflies or other animals.In David Lam Park, a bio-insecticide called beetleGONE! will also be applied to plants and tree foliage to control adult beetles feeding on these plants. The product is based on a naturally-occurring bacteria found in soil that becomes toxic once ingested by beetles. Residents are asked to avoid parks and green spaces during treatment and pay attention to signs at each site.It is anticipated that treatment will continue for several years.The city of Vancouver is opening a temporary transfer station for green waste to help eradicate the invasive past, which is known to destroy agricultural crops, orchards and vegetable gardens.The CFIA's restrictions on moving plant material and soil from the downtown and False Creek area remain in place. It means residents and landscapers have restrictions around moving rooted plants and soil away from the area.

  • A glimpse at life in Saskatchewan's locked-down care homes
    News
    CBC

    A glimpse at life in Saskatchewan's locked-down care homes

    Residents and workers in Saskatchewan long-term care homes are settling into a new normal, trying to stay busy and safe while loved ones are barred from visiting.Dr. Marion Smart, 75, lives in Saskatoon's Parkridge Centre special care home. The retired University of Saskatchewan animal medicine professor has mobility issues caused by Parkinson's disease and multiple knee surgeries.Still, she's sharp as a tack and not afraid to speak her mind.Smart called the CBC Saskatchewan newsroom from her room at Parkridge, but wasn't looking to talk about her own plight as a senior in lockdown. She wanted to highlight the hard work her care aides have been doing."They're overworked and under-recognized," she said Thursday. "I really feel that these people are the unsung heroes of this whole disaster."Smart said the workload has dramatically increased for aides since care homes were prohibited from allowing outside visitors.Previously, family members or friends who visited would help feed their loved ones or carry out tasks like shaving and grooming — providing a little relief for the care aides and allowing them to attend to other urgent matters.Now, care workers are operating without family relief, all while trying to figure out ways for the residents to communicate with loved ones outside the home."Fortunately I'm somewhat computer literate, so I've got Skype and I've got FaceTime so I can communicate with my granddaughter," Smart said. "They're trying to train the people in here that are not computer literate to do that as well."Smart said the new normal in the care home still features some of the old staples of life. She still takes part in her recreational therapy group, although the group is smaller now that physical distancing measures are in place.She said the residents can move about the atrium, but most time is spent isolated in personal rooms. Smart's favourite place to go and relax before the pandemic was in the library, beside the windows that brought warm sunlight in.Now the library has been closed to limit any risk of spreading germs.Adapting to new circumstancesAcross the city at Sherbrooke Community Centre, residents and staff are settling into a new normal."It's been a very unique three weeks," said communications leader Eric Anderson.Some of the daily programming at Sherbrooke has been put on pause, Anderson said. The art studio and therapy gym are closed and the community day program provided for around 50 residents who need some extra care is also on hiatus.He said limiting programming has allowed the centre to redeploy staff so that each living unit, or "neighbourhood," actually has more staff than usual."There's still lots of art happening, there's still physical therapy happening," he said.Residents at Sherbrooke have embraced Skype for talking to their loved ones, Anderson said. The facility had to add new Wi-Fi hot spots for the extra load on the internet."Our staff are going above and beyond," Anderson said.More staff wantedBack at Parkridge, Marion Smart reminisced about some of the simpler pleasures from before the pandemic. Small things, like being able to sit and talk to the care home staff, have been lost in the shuffle."When they would come into my room sometimes I'd have my music on and we'd start singing and having a good time," she recalled. "But if they don't have time for that it stresses them and it stresses you because you don't want to bother them."Smart has been impressed by the hard work her care aides have done despite being stretched thin, but said she wishes there was more staff to lessen the load."It would be ideal to have at least one worker dealing with a maximum of four people rather than 20," she said."That would allow them to do their job with satisfaction, rather than with haste."

  • News
    The Canadian Press

    BC Ferries suspends service on some routes over COVID-19 pandemic

    VANCOUVER — BC Ferries is suspending service on certain routes and laying off hundreds of staff starting Saturday as the company deals with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.The ferry operator says capacity will be reduced by half compared to this time last year, with route cancellations and service reductions in place for 60 days.The ferry operator says all sailings on the Nanaimo to Horseshoe Bay and the Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay routes are cancelled for 60 days starting Saturday.Sailings on the Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay and Duke Point to Tsawwassen routes will be reduced from eight roundtrips per day to four.Service on the Langdale to Horseshoe Bay route will be reduced to six roundtrips a day from eight.The company says it hopes to rehire its temporarily laid off staff as soon as possible."These changes are designed to ensure we have sufficient capacity to allow the flow of essential goods, services, supplies and workers to their destinations," Mark Collins, the company's president and CEO, said in a release. "We will continue to transport the goods communities rely on, and we will get people to where they need to go."This report by The Canadian Press was first reported April 3, 2020.The Canadian Press

  • News
    CBC

    Fredericton police block south side streets in search of suspect with weapon

    Fredericton city police blocked several south side streets Friday as officers responded to a report of a male suspect with a weapon who threatened two people near the south end of Odell Park.Alycia Bartlett, spokesperson for the Fredericton Police Force, said "numerous" officers were dispatched to the area of Smythe Street, Prospect Street and Greenfields Drive shortly after 4:30 p.m.Access to several streets was restricted for about 90 minutes, as officers and the K-9 unit searched the area, but no suspect was found.The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to call police at 506-460-2300 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477."We take these matters very seriously, and appreciate the public's cooperation in avoiding the area during the incident," Bartlett said.The public was asked to avoid the area and access to some streets had been restricted, but the restrictions have been lifted and officers have left the area.When the situation was still ongoing, Bartlett said Fredericton police will draw carbines if they feel it's warranted for the situation, but she said it's "not abnormal" to see officers with their firearms drawn.