Vibrant, diverse, and plentiful are a few words that describe the UAE’s culture and art scene, which also serves as a hub for regional creatives stemming from the Middle East and North Africa to share their work, before the pandemic.
Vibrant, diverse, and plentiful are a few words that describe the UAE’s culture and art scene, which also serves as a hub for regional creatives stemming from the Middle East and North Africa to share their work, before the pandemic.
There was no distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccine set up by the Trump administration as the virus raged in its last months in office, new President Joe Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, said on Sunday. "The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House," Klain said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Biden, a Democrat who took over from Republican President Donald Trump on Wednesday, has promised a fierce fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.
After a five-year hiatus marked by grievances over their rival claims to Mediterranean waters, Turkey resumes talks with Greece on Monday in the first test of its hopes to reverse deteriorating relations with the European Union. While diplomats say that rebuilding trust will be a hard slog, the talks follow Turkey's decision to stop its search for gas in disputed waters which angered Greece and Cyprus and a cooling of rhetoric around Ankara's wider disputes with the EU. They could also pave the way for an imminent visit to Turkey by EU leaders.
Flute player Tyler Evans-Knott, a member of Curve Lake First Nation near Peterborough, Ont., dreams of becoming a professional orchestra musician. The 20-year-old flautist has been playing the flute for 11 years. As a child, the sound of the flute caught his young ears while watching an orchestra performance on TV. "I liked that it sort of carried over the rest of the orchestra," Evans-Knott said. "It was the most prominent thing I could pick out." He was self-taught for a couple of years before joining a band program at his school in Grade 7. He said he struggled to get a sound out of the instrument for the first three or four days but once he did, the rest came naturally. His high school music teacher encouraged him to audition for the Kawartha Youth Orchestra (KYO). Founded in 2002, the KYO gives young musicians of the Kawartha region of Ontario the opportunity to learn symphonic music and perform in an orchestral ensemble. He was accepted into the advanced program and was a member of the KYO for five years. During his last year with the KYO, Evans-Knott won the senior Concerto Challenge, an opportunity to perform as a soloist during a larger orchestral work. "He is a remarkable young man with a fabulous, fabulous talent," said Maggie Goldsmith, president of the KYO. "I think Tyler has been a really big part of our recruitment team, he's been such an inspiring member of our organization." She said he's been a mentor to other students over the years and also jumps in to cover parts for other wind instruments when needed. Now that Evans-Knott's time with the KYO has come to a close he's begun planning his path to becoming a professional orchestra musician. There are a few music schools in Toronto, such as the Royal Conservatory of Music, and universities that offer four-year music degree programs that he said he's thinking about. "It basically sets you up for a professional career and other things like teaching," said Evans-Knott. He hasn't yet applied to any of the programs yet but is hoping to next year. Evans-Knott auditioned for and won principal flute in the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra for the 2020-21 season. "Tyler is a man of few words," said his mother Janet Evans. "As a parent, I want him to be happy and I want him to be fulfilled." She said sometimes she will come home from work and he'll tell her he's practised for five hours. "It's really neat to watch Tyler bloom," she said.
TORONTO — Two winning tickets were sold for the jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw -- one in Quebec and the other in British Columbia.Each ticket is worth $4.2 million.The draw's guaranteed $1 million prize also went to a lottery player in B.C.The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Jan. 27 will be approximately $5 million. The Canadian Press
Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of COVID-19, the health minister said on Sunday, also urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against Britain's own potentially more deadly variant. Matt Hancock said all 77 cases were connected to travel from South Africa and were under close observation, as were nine identified cases of a Brazilian variant.
For two Virginia police officers who posed for a photo during the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, the reckoning has been swift and public: They were identified, charged with crimes and arrested. But for five Seattle officers the outcome is less clear. Their identities still secret, two are on leave and three continue to work while a police watchdog investigates whether their actions in the nation's capital on Jan. 6 crossed the line from protected political speech to lawbreaking. The contrasting cases highlight the dilemma faced by police departments nationwide as they review the behaviour of dozens of officers who were in Washington the day of the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump. Officials and experts agree that officers who were involved in the melee should be fired and charged for their role. But what about those officers who attended only the Trump rally before the riot? How does a department balance an officer's free speech rights with the blow to public trust that comes from the attendance of law enforcement at an event with far-right militants and white nationalists who went on to assault the seat of American democracy? An Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies nationwide found that at least 31 officers in 12 states are being scrutinized by their supervisors for their behaviour in the District of Columbia or face criminal charges for participating in the riot. Officials are looking into whether the officers violated any laws or policies or participated in the violence while in Washington. A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos. Most of the officers have not been publicly identified; only a few have been charged. Some were identified by online sleuths. Others were reported by their colleagues or turned themselves in. They come from some of the country’s largest cities — three Los Angeles officers and a sheriff’s deputy, for instance — as well as state agencies and a Pennsylvania police department with nine officers. Among them are an Oklahoma sheriff and New Hampshire police chief who have acknowledged being at the rally, but denied entering the Capitol or breaking the law. “If they were off-duty, it’s totally free speech,” said Will Aitchison, a lawyer in Portland, Oregon, who represents law enforcement officers. “People have the right to express their political views regardless of who’s standing next to them. You just don’t get guilt by association.” But Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a professor at Case Western Reserve University law school, said an officer’s presence at the rally creates a credibility issue as law enforcement agencies work to repair community trust, especially after last summer's of protests against police brutality sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Communities will question the integrity of officers who attended the rally along with “individuals who proudly profess racist and divisive viewpoints,” she said. “It calls into question whether those officers are interested in engaging in policing in a way that builds trust and legitimacy in all communities, including communities of colour.” In Rocky Mount, a Virginia town of about 1,000, Sgt. Thomas Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker were suspended without pay and face criminal charges after posting a photo of themselves inside the Capitol during the riot. According to court records, Robertson wrote on social media that the “Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem … The right IN ONE DAY took the f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.” Attempts to contact the pair were unsuccessful and court records do not list lawyers. Leaders in Rocky Mount declined to be interviewed. In a statement, they said the events at the Capitol were tragic. “We stand with and add our support to those who have denounced the violence and illegal activity that took place that day,” said Police Chief Ken Criner, Capt. Mark Lovern and Town Manager James Ervin. “Our town and our police department absolutely does not condone illegal or unethical behaviour by anyone, including our officers and staff.” On the other side of the county, five Seattle officers are under investigation by the city’s Office of Police Accountability. Two officers posted photos of themselves on social media while in the district and officials are investigating to determine where they were and what they were doing. Three others told supervisors that they went to Washington for the events and are being investigated for what they did while there. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said his department supports officers’ freedom of speech and that those who were in the nation's capital will be fired if they “were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.” But police leaders need to evaluate more than just clear criminal behaviour, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a policing research and policy group. They must also consider how their actions affect the department credibility, he said. Officers' First Amendment rights “don’t extend to expressing words that may be violent or maybe express some prejudice,” Wexler said, “because that’s going to reflect on what they do when they’re working, when they’re testifying in court.” Through the summer and fall, Seattle police — along with officers elsewhere — came under criticism for their handling of mass protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd. The city received more than 19,000 complaints against officers, most for excessive use of force and improper use of pepper spray. Andrew Myerberg, director of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, said none of the officers now under investigation were involved in those cases. But Sakara Remmu, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County, said the officers should be fired regardless. Their public declarations of solidarity with Trump fosters not just community distrust, but terror of the entire department, she said. “It absolutely does matter when the decorum of racial peace cracks and racial hatred comes through, because we already have a documented history and legacy of what that means in this country,” Remmu said. In Houston, the police chief decried an officer who resigned and was later charged in the riot. A lawyer for Officer Tam Pham said the 18-year veteran of the force "very much regrets” being at the rally and was “deeply remorseful.” But many chiefs have said their officers committed no crimes. “The Arkansas State Police respects the rights and freedom of an employee to use their leave time as the employee may choose,” department spokesman Bill Sadler said of two officers who attended the Trump rally. Malik Aziz, the former chair and executive director of the National Black Police Association, compared condemning all officers who were in Washington to tarring all the protesters who took to streets after the killing of George Floyd with the violent and destructive acts of some. A major with the Dallas Police Department, Aziz said police acting privately have the same rights as other Americans, but that knowingly going to a bigoted event should be disqualifying for an officer. “There’s no place in law enforcement for that individual,” Aziz said. Martha Bellisle And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan's premier says the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline isn't over yet. In a recent interview with CBC's Rosemary Barton, Premier Scott Moe says conversations around the TC Energy project are ongoing, despite U.S. President Joe Biden's recent cancellation of the pipeline's permit by executive order. "I wouldn't say this project is over by any stretch. There is a lot of conversation to have on KXL," Moe said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live. The 1,897-kilometre pipeline would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from oilsands in Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, connecting to the original Keystone pipeline running to the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. A portion of the project would have crossed into southern Saskatchewan. Moe, along with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to take action against the pipeline's halt. That could include economic sanctions, Moe suggested — a possibility also raised by Kenney. "I haven't said that we should go to sanctions and sanctions should be utilized first," Moe said in his interview with Barton. "But sanctions are always on the table in any conversation or any challenge that we may have with our trading relationship with our largest partner." The project, originally blocked by U.S. President Barack Obama, was then approved by President Donald Trump, who wanted to negotiate the terms of the project, before ultimately being blocked again by Biden in the first days of his presidency. Federal Opposition leader Erin O'Toole has also expressed frustration over the cancellation of the project, saying in a statement it "will devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis." Trudeau's government has repeatedly said that it supports the project and has made that clear to the new U.S. administration, but both the prime minister and Canada's ambassador to the U.S. have said it is time to respect the decision and move on. Speaking on Friday morning, Trudeau reiterated his disappointment with the cancellation and said he would raise the issue during his phone call with Biden scheduled for later in the day. "Obviously the decision on Keystone XL is a very difficult one for workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who've had many difficult hits," he said. "Over the past years we have been there for them and we will continue to be there for them and I will express my concern for jobs and livelihoods in Canada, particularly in the West, directly in my conversation with President Biden." Trudeau stressed he and the new president are on the same wavelength on fighting climate change and middle-class job creation, as well as the "values of Canadians." Moe called the cancellation a "devastating blow to North American energy security," and said in the interview with Barton he'll continue to advocate for the pipeline, which he says has both economic and environmental benefits for Canada.
OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site that sits in quiet contrast to Ottawa's peppy ByWard Market nearby. Users filter into the brick building — dubbed "the trailer," a nod to the service's former digs — offering up greetings and grins en route to 16 basement booths, each furnished with a chair, a shatter-resistant mirror and a needle disposal box. The injection facility halved the number of booths to ensure distancing when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March, resulting in a "huge increase" in overdoses in the surrounding community, says Muckle, who for 20 years has headed Ottawa Inner City Health, which provides health care for vulnerable populations. She restored full capacity in response to the spike in overdoses but many services remain reduced or accessible only virtually. “We've seen a really frightening, rapid increase in the number of people using drugs in this pandemic," Muckle says. "I think people feel like maybe they just aren't going to make it through this one." Drug users face greater dangers as the second wave forces harm reduction sites and outreach programs to curtail their services, leaving at-risk communities out in the cold. Shorter hours, physical distancing measures and a curfew in Quebec, combined with a more lethal drug supply due to border closures, have sent addictions services scrambling to help users across the country as opioid overdoses and the attendant death toll continue to mount. In British Columbia, fentanyl-related deaths had been on the decline for more than a year until April, when monthly numbers routinely began to double those of 2019. Deaths linked to fentanyl, a lethally potent synthetic opioid, reached 360 in B.C. between September and November compared to 184 in the same period a year earlier, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Opioid-related deaths countrywide could climb as high as 2,000 per quarter in the first half of 2021, far surpassing the peak of nearly 1,200 in the last three months of 2018, according to modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply and users turning to substances as a way of coping with high stress. Social services have limited capacity or shut down communal spaces, while programs from meal provision to laundry — some of which are near injection sites, encouraging their use — are now tougher to access. Canada's ongoing border shutdown has disrupted the flow of illicit drugs, and dealers looking to stretch their limited supplies are more apt to add potentially toxic adulterants. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, have been detected in drugs circulating in parts of several provinces. Users can be difficult to rouse and slow to respond to naloxone — the drug that reverses opioid overdoses — and more likely to overdose when fentanyl or other opioids are also in the mix. “With the benzodiazepine, there is no antidote for that," said Paula Tookey, program manager for consumption and treatment at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto. "People are sedated deeply for hours, often 10 hours or even more," forcing workers to turn away other users who then may shoot up alone, she said. The Riverdale site saw 42 out of 1,110 visitors overdose last month — none fatally — compared to just two overdoses in 700 visits in December 2019, Tookey said. Pared-down services have also diminished harm reduction sites' role as de facto community spaces, cutting off a key point of social contact. "We used to have memorials, which were super important for people because we have constant deaths," Tookey said. “A lot of our folks don't have families ... The community and other people in their situations and the workers are kind of the informal family that people have." Limits on gathering in the pandemic have also closed off a critical source of knowledge sharing. "There’s no people to say, ‘Hey, that’s really, really strong, don’t use that much,'" said Karen Ward, a drug rights advocate as well as a drug policy and poverty reduction consultant with the City of Vancouver. "Those facts, that social information, is really, really important to have. You know, ‘Hey, there’s a bad batch,’ that sort of thing.” Health authorities run alert systems for poisoned drugs across B.C., but their patchwork structure leaves lives in jeopardy, she said. In Quebec, Montreal's four supervised consumption sites have seen visits drop sharply since the 8 p.m. provincial curfew came into force earlier this month. Even a mobile unit has reached far fewer users, says Kim Charest, outreach program coordinator at L'Anonyme, which runs the portable site. "Unfortunately, people are less likely to go outside their door basically past 8 p.m.," she said. "But we do know that people don't necessarily stop taking drugs." Even before the curfew, the number of EMS calls where paramedics administered naloxone to opioid users in Montreal and the suburb of Laval nearly doubled last year, reaching 270 compared to 146 in 2019, according to the Urgences-santé ambulance service. Another danger lies in sharing needles — injection sites provide clean ones — and the risk of blood-borne infections. Advocates, outreach workers and users are calling for better drug alert systems and broader support services in the short-term. However, nothing short of decriminalization of possession of small quantities of drugs — requested by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to the federal government — and more stable housing will help beat back the tide of overdoses, Muckle says. "At the end of the day, if people are unhoused, all of the things that you're doing really have a marginal benefit," Muckle says. "You cannot heal in a shelter .... A home is such a fundamental part of our health." Meanwhile, the social isolation and unsupervised consumption of tainted drugs ratcheted up by the pandemic bode ill for vulnerable Canadians. "We had a pretty significant problem with addiction when this pandemic started. We're going to come out of it way worse." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
New U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during his first phone call with his Japanese counterpart, reaffirmed America's commitment to Tokyo to defending a group of East China Sea islets claimed by both Japan and China, the Pentagon said. Austin, in talks with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, confirmed that Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan security treaty, which stipulates U.S. defence obligations to Japan, covers the uninhabited islands, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The councillor whose ward encompasses Mooney's Bay says he's disappointed with the City of Ottawa for banning sledding on the park's toboggan hill on short notice, as other plans had been discussed to limit crowds. The city announced late Friday afternoon — ahead of a sunny weekend — that people would no longer be allowed to sled down the hill. "This is one of the few amenities, outdoor winter amenities, that's free for families to go to," said River Ward Coun. Riley Brockington on Saturday. "Yes, it's popular. There have been capacity concerns in past weekends, but there really hasn't been a reservation system implemented or anything else." Brockington said he'd spoken with the city's bylaw department earlier in the week about problems with crowding, after a 25-person cap was put on toboggan hills and outdoor skating rinks earlier this month to try to limit the spread of COVID-19. He said he thought he'd come to an agreement with the city to implement parking restrictions, increase bylaw enforcement and install more signage to let people know about capacity limits. 'A two-sentence email' "I heard nothing throughout the week from anyone else. And late [Friday] afternoon, I get a two-sentence email that says we're closing the hill." Brockington said it was the city's parks and recreation department that decided to close the toboggan hill. He's reached out to city staff to discuss other options, especially considering the hill is not nearly as busy during weekdays, and hopes it can reopen. He also said it would be interesting to see what happens once the Rideau Canal Skateway opens. "The canal is much longer than a toboggan hill. I get that you can spread out more," he said. "But on weekends of very nice weather, in past years, the canal has been elbow-to-elbow in some spots."
Eleven workers trapped for two weeks by an explosion inside a Chinese gold mine were brought safely to the surface on Sunday.View on euronews
Canada has a patchwork of different policies in place regarding the public disclosure of COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces, and expert opinion seems as divided as the regulations on whether making outbreaks public helps or hinders the spread of the virus. Earlier this month, the city of Toronto moved to publish the names of companies seeing multiple COVID-19 infections, even though the province of Ontario doesn't disclose outbreaks. "Across Canada, workplace reporting is not being done nearly enough," said Joe Cressy, the chair of Toronto's Board of Health and a councillor in Ontario's capital. In Quebec and Ontario, workplace outbreaks surpassed those in long-term care facilities for a time before the new year arrived. Recent Ontario outbreaks at a 9-1-1 dispatch centre and a Canada Post distribution facility, plus outbreaks at industrial settings in Alberta and B.C., and others at food processing plants and warehouses late last year have renewed concerns about workplace spread. CBC News looked at how provincial and territorial governments disclose COVID-19 workplace outbreaks across the country — and the pros and cons of making them public. Who names companies and who doesn't In Newfoundland and the rest of Atlantic Canada, workplaces are only named publicly if health officials cannot identify and contact people who may be at risk of infection and should isolate and monitor themselves for symptoms or get tested. This means workplaces that are not open to the public are rarely named, while grocery stores and transportation services, such as ferries and flights, for instance are common on Nova Scotia's published list of exposure risks. Newfoundland does publish a list of workplace outbreaks at industrial sites in Alberta and B.C., because so many of its residents travel for work to those provinces. In Canada's North, territorial governments will publish the locations where there was a risk of public exposure, which can include workplace names. Manitoba's policy mirrors the practice in Atlantic Canada, with businesses named only if health officials are not able to complete contact tracing. Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. all publish the names of workplaces with outbreaks. Canada's largest provinces Quebec and Ontario, however, do not publish the names of specific workplaces experiencing outbreaks. WATCH | Why Toronto has decided it needs to disclose workplace outbreaks: In a statement, Ontario's Ministry of Health said disclosing the names of companies or workplaces "is within the purview of local public health units." Though Toronto just began publishing workplace outbreak names, Hamilton has been doing so since last spring. Meanwhile, some disclosures come from companies themselves, or from workers or union officials publicizing the issue. Naming brings accountability While standard public health practice is to only name outbreak locations for communicable diseases when there's a risk of exposure for the public, Cressy believes the best way to make government and companies accountable for protecting workers is to name every workplace outbreak, everywhere. "COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting low income frontline workers," he said. "In a pandemic, information is power. And information can also provoke change." Dr. Nitin Mohan, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at Western University in London, Ont., thinks naming workplaces could lead to changes that would protect essential workers. "Understanding how government is responding to a once-in-a-generation pandemic requires us to have the available data. So if we're seeing workplace outbreaks, and we know that a government is not supportive of providing paid sick leave, essentially, folks are armed with more information for the next election cycle." For Mohan, naming workplaces would also "provide us with a lot of data about community spread." However, he said the privacy of individual workers must be protected, which would mean some small companies couldn't be identified. Naming could backfire Cynthia Carr, an epidemiologist with Epi Research Inc. of Winnipeg, says naming businesses could backfire. She says it could actually scare employees into not reporting feeling sick if they fear being blamed for bad publicity from an outbreak. At the same time, she worries it could create a stigma around businesses that might have good safety practices, but still had an outbreak. "My concern is always that we don't make that mistake of equating shaming with accountability. It's not the same thing." Carr supports public health transparency when it helps give people the power to make choices or take action. Publicizing outbreaks at long-term care facilities and hospitals, she said, "has an associated action people need to understand," like: "I can't visit my loved one." She thinks workplaces should be named when COVID-19 could be spread in the community, but naming every single workplace with an outbreak doesn't give the public useful information about whether they need to self-monitor or go for testing. Keeping workers safe In Alberta, where workplace outbreaks are published, a union spokesperson says the naming policy is mostly a public relations issue for employers. "On the ground, on the shop floor, in the workplaces ... it hasn't meant a whole lot," said Micheal Hughes of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 401. "Certainly not enough to stop outbreaks from happening." Before Alberta started naming workplaces, it was workers and UFCW that exposed what became the largest COVID-19 workplace outbreak in Canada at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River, Alberta. WATCH | Family of Cargill worker who died of COVID-19 pushed for police investigation: At least 950 workers, almost half the plant's staff, tested positive for COVID-19 by early May 2020. Recently, the RCMP launched an investigation into possible criminal negligence by the company in the death of Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old Cargill worker who died from COVID-19. Hughes believes the best way to keep workers safe is to have "a worker-centred, robust kind of regulatory system" including clear and mandatory guidelines for workplaces and more inspections by labour officials. In the fall, Ottawa began giving cash to food processors across the country to help them deal with COVID-19. The $77.5-million emergency fund is meant to help the sector implement measures to fight the coronavirus, including acquiring more protective equipment for workers. Epidemiologists say meat plants present ideal conditions for the COVID-19 virus to spread, because workers are in close contact, windows can't be opened for fresh air and the temperature is cool. Hughes said while naming businesses as workplace outbreaks continue may help "motivate a company to do things," the focus of the UFCW is to continue the push for safety measures and benefits like paid sick leave.
Former President Donald Trump considered replacing the acting attorney general with an official willing to pursue unsubstantiated claims of election fraud, and he pushed the Justice Department to ask the Supreme Court to invalidate President Joe Biden’s victory, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. Citing people familiar with the matter, the Journal said the efforts in the last weeks of Trump's presidency failed because of resistance from his Justice appointees who refused to file what they viewed as a legally baseless lawsuit in the Supreme Court. Other senior department officials later threatened to resign if Trump fired then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, several people familiar with the discussions told the Journal.
On her journey to find a suitable therapist, Edmontonian Odion Welch spent 15 minutes of an hour-long counselling session explaining to her white psychologist about plantain — the fried banana common at the dinner table in her Caribbean household. She went through seven counselors before finding the right one because of the barriers of cost, accessibility and most importantly — finding someone who understood her Black culture. "Who do you talk to about that experience?" asked Welch, a mental health youth coordinator with the Africa Centre. Welch is now part of efforts at the Africa Centre that will make it easier for other Black Albertans to find a therapist who can better relate to their experiences. The organization has launched a free counselling clinic to support Albertans of African descent dealing with the impact of COVID-19. "There's a safe one hour conversation that someone can have that's either going to be a safe venting session or a place where they leave with resources and that almost kind of virtual hug that someone gets it," Welch said. In partnership with Alberta Black Therapists Network and funded by United Way, the program is the first of its kind in Western Canada to provide free, culturally-relevant counselling services for Black community members. With many appointments available on evenings and weekends, the sessions are solely virtual right now due to COVID-19 with future plans for in-person sessions. The team of all-Black therapists speak a total of nine different languages. Access to multilingual Black therapists is just one of the ways the program aims to reduce barriers identified during consultations to accessing mental health support. As well as having therapists who better understand the cultures or systemic racism, their lived experience also makes them more sensitive to the reality of microaggressions, pre-migration or intergenerational trauma clients may face. "The most common microaggression that I feel like Black people talk about is the hair, petting the hair and 'Oh I can't believe it feels like this'," Welch said. "We have so many of our youth talk about — they still have teachers say to them, 'You're smart for a Black person'." 'Rocking your natural hair' Welch, an entrepreneur who overcame her own struggle with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, self-published a best-selling book on Amazon: Breakthrough: A Courageous True Story of Overcoming Depression and Anxiety. She highlights the pressures Black women feel whether it's being a good spouse, parent and career woman; fulfilling family expectations; sexual trauma and body image; or concerns about coming across as the "angry Black woman" or "rocking your natural hair." Current events such as the video repeatedly played of the murder of George Floyd can add to that trauma, said Welch. She pointed out that the last segregated school in Canada only closed in the 1980s and noted Edmonton's history of white supremacy lives on today, with racist eruptions repeatedly grabbing headlines. "So if you're a parent, there's only two generations before me that went through those things and saw the segregation and heard the comments and came from a time where, you know, 'If it's Black, it ain't right' kind of thing," Welch said. Jasmine Duncan, an entrepreneur and single mother of three children who struggled to find a Black therapist for her own family, welcomed the new program. "I think it's important, especially for our children to see somebody who looks like them, kind of representing them and understanding what it's like for them," Duncan said. "Even for myself, when I get therapy it's hard to really explain some of the things that you're going through or that you feel if somebody has never experienced anything like it, and it's not something you can really read in a textbook." "When it comes to racism, you can express the things that you have been through or the way you've been treated. But because somebody hasn't had an experience, something to that level, it's kind of like, 'OK, but was it really that bad?' "Unless you've actually really been in those shoes, it's really hard to give the advice that's needed for somebody to work through it." Duncan hopes other parents will see the value of Black children seeing a therapist as a sort of mental health hygiene much like going to the doctor or dentist. "We need to teach them how to take care of themselves once they do leave the home," Duncan said. "So you need to know that if you are struggling with something, you reach out and you ask for help." 'Re-traumatized' Noreen Sibanda is the executive director of the Alberta Black Therapists Network formed last year to offer services for individuals with an understanding of lived experiences of the Black community. The network aims to offer services coming from an anti-oppressive, decolonizing and trauma-informed space that destigmatizes mental health within the Black community. "It's something that people would sort through in isolation," Sibanda said. "But individuals were not seeking out supports one, because they didn't know and two, they were afraid that if they do connect, they are going to connect with someone that would not understand their lived experience and they would have to be re-traumatized by retelling of their story." She said the launch of the program in partnership with the Africa Centre is especially important now because of the pandemic. "So having the Africa Centre partnered with the Alberta Black Therapists Network is saying, we recognize that we cannot think of mental health as something that we'll deal with later, but something that has to be part of the already existing programs," Sibanda said. "We cannot connect individuals with education, employment if we're not taking care of their mental health because they will not succeed. They would run into different areas, or they would come back and feel like they're not being successful because their mental health is not being addressed."
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador’s thousands of rotational workers are once again at the top of the province’s policy discussions, this time in relation to the timing of the provincial election. In a release Saturday, Chris Tibbs, a Progressive Conservative candidate in central Newfoundland, says a snap election called in the middle of winter makes it tough for rotational workers to vote. His concerns are echoed in a local Facebook group for rotational workers, which began in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when health authorities were rolling out special quarantine rules for people regularly travelling back and forth to other provinces for work. Many in the group are sharing information on how to vote by mail, urging their fellow rotational workers to be sure they get a ballot. In an interview, Gillian Pearson, who co-chairs a local group supporting women and gender-diverse people in politics, says snap elections can also make it harder for women to run, as they are often in charge of child- or elder-care and must make arrangements. According to the province’s election rules, Liberal leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey had to call an election before August 2021. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. The Canadian Press
India said it will administer homegrown coronavirus vaccine COVAXIN in seven more states from Monday as it seeks to inoculate 30 million healthcare workers across the country. The government this month gave emergency-use approval to the vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd and state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
DENPASAR, Indonesia — A Russian social media celebrity was being deported from Indonesia on Sunday after he held a party at a luxury hotel on the resort island of Bali attended by more than 50 people despite coronavirus restrictions. The party held on Jan. 11 violated health protocols put in place to fight the spread of the virus, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, chief of the Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights. Sergei Kosenko, who has more than 4.9 million followers on his Instagram account, arrived in Indonesia in October on a tourist visa. Immigration officials in Bali decided to examine Kosenko’s activities after he posted to social media a video of him driving a motorcycle with a female passenger on the back off a pier into the sea in December. The stunt was condemned by many Indonesians as reckless and a potentially hazardous to the environment. Manihuruk said the immigration investigation found Kosenko took part in activities that violated his tourist visa, such as promoting companies and products. After the announcement of his deportation, Kosenko told reporters at the immigration office in Bali that he was sorry. “I love Bali. I am sorry and I apologize,” Kosenko said. The deportation comes just days after Indonesia deported an American woman who had been living on Bali over her viral tweets that celebrated the island as a low-cost, “queer-friendly” place for foreigners to live. Her posts were considered to have “disseminated information disturbing to the public,” which was the basis for her deportation. Indonesia has temporarily restricted foreigners from coming to the country since Jan. 1 to control the spread of COVID-19, and public activities have been restricted on Java and Bali islands. Bali regional office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights recorded 162 foreigners have been deported from Bali in 2020 and 2021. Most of them are being deported for violating the visit visa. Firdia Lisnawati, The Associated Press
Chinese air force planes including 12 fighter jets entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone for a second day on Sunday, Taiwan said, as tensions rise near the island just days into U.S. President Joe Biden's new administration. China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has in the past few months increased military activity near the island. But China's activities over the weekend mark a ratcheting up with fighters and bombers being dispatched rather than reconnaissance aircraft as had generally been the case in recent weeks.
The Nova Scotia government has quietly dissolved a non-profit arm's-length government organization dedicated to funding gambling prevention and research groups, moving the money to a more general mental health pool. The decision to end Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS) is being criticized by a community group that received grants through the organization, and which says there's now looming uncertainty about whether its work will be supported. "In the middle of COVID ... isn't there more of a need to do this prevention work and community awareness work?" said Bruce Dienes, chair of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, a non-profit that aims to reduce the community harms associated with gambling. "This is the time when people are most vulnerable." Part of the funding for GANS, according to the government's website, was "generated from a percentage of VLT revenues, matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation." The province said in a statement that VLT retailers provide about $250,000 annually to support mental health and addictions services. The province did not say when the organization was dissolved, but Dienes said he learned of it in the fall and GANS's regulations were changed in October. He said he was told by the Department of Health and Wellness that because of "new information" it had come to realize there are comorbidities with gambling also associated with depression and anxiety, which justified sharing the funds more widely. "The idea that this is new information is ridiculous, we've known this for decades," he said. Dienes believes the province made the move as a way to deal with the "profound lack of funding for mental health in Nova Scotia." No one from the Department of Health and Wellness was available to speak to CBC for this story. In a statement, spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed that GANS will become part of the overall mental health and addictions budget — which is roughly $300 million annually — citing changes in the last two decades around gambling and how best to support it. "Problem gambling often occurs with other mental health and addictions issues, and due to the stigma, people often initially seek help for other issues. It's best if people can access support that addresses these issues together," MacInnis said. One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the restrictions placed on gambling in Nova Scotia related to public health protocols. There were no sports games to bet on, and many casinos and bars were ordered to closed. In the height of the spring COVID-19 lockdown, counselling therapist Elizabeth Stephen said some of her clients simply stopped gambling. "It was like a gift to some people that have problems that never really get that break," said Stephen, who is based in Halifax. "Of course, that didn't last long." After a second shutdown late in 2020, the province reopened the Halifax and Sydney casinos, video lottery terminals and First Nations gaming establishments on Jan. 8. Igor Yakovenko, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, said international data found that gambling decreased in all forms as things were closed globally. When restrictions loosened in Nova Scotia, Stephen said some of her clients returned to gambling, but it varied case by case. In some instances, she said people who hadn't gambled in a long time returned to VLTs because of the "wearing-you-down kind of stress of COVID." Yakovenko, who is a clinical psychologist, said there are many barriers for people to get help, including not knowing where to go in Nova Scotia. He said research suggests that harm reduction and prevention are the most effective ways to help people. "We need services and public health resources that minimize problems from developing in the first place or, if you're already gambling, they prevent you from escalating that gambling," he said. Earlier this month, CBC News reported that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is preparing to expand its online casinos to Nova Scotia and P.E.I., which would allow for bigger bets than what is currently allowed on in-person VLTs. The pandemic is believed to have made a significant dent in Atlantic Lottery's revenues. Dienes said having VLTs available online goes against the province's VLT moratorium, which removes the gaming devices if a bar shuts down instead of reallocating them. "They call them the crack cocaine of gambling," he said. "To backtrack on that acknowledgement of the danger of VLTs and to be slowly getting rid of them, and to move to amplifying that on the internet with essentially unlimited access is appalling. It's totally irresponsible." According to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's website, there are 2,012 VLTs in the province and 651 VLTs in Mi'Kmaw communities. Both the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Atlantic Lottery say the implementation of online casino-style games in Nova Scotia is still being evaluated. Neither provided a timeframe for when a decision will be made. Greg Weston, a spokesperson with Atlantic Lottery, said they regularly consult with responsible gambling experts when developing new products. He also said he believes it's important to offer a regulated alternative to the 3,000 offshore gambling websites available to Atlantic Canadians. "One benefit would be to repatriate players now playing with illegal offshore providers, and by doing so repatriating money being spent on offshore sites to help fund public services to benefit Atlantic Canadians," he said in a statement. Both Yakovenko and Stephen hope the province consults with experts in the area and uses current research in deciding whether Atlantic Lottery should be allowed to move to an online casino model. "From my perspective, the risks far outweigh the profits," Stephen said. "Someone has to lose in order for us to make money." MORE TOP STORIES
COVID-19's disastrous effects on Canada's hotel industry are well-documented, but as owners struggle to survive the pandemic, they are also battling a second crisis: skyrocketing insurance rates. It seems counterintuitive, since hotels are serving fewer guests and many of their restaurants and lounges are closed, but hospitality insurance rates across the country have increased dramatically in the past year, putting more pressure on an already pinched industry. Michael Mazepa, who is part of an ownership group for the St. Albert Inn and Suites, the Continental Inn and Suites in west Edmonton, and a Best Western in B.C. said rates doubled at two of the hotels, with insurance for each now costing more than $135,000 annually. "It's a lot of money and you don't have the money rolling in," Mazepa said. Dave Kaiser, president and CEO of the Alberta Hotel and Lodging Association, said in the past year, members have reported insurance increases of 100 to 300 per cent. Most of the association's members were part of a large group of businesses from British Columbia to Ontario that pooled their resources to help stabilize rates. The system worked well for years, Kaiser said, but this year, the group failed to find an insurance company that would insure this kind of model. The group turned to traditional insurance, but premiums went up, and in some cases, hotels failed to stay in the group or find insurance at all. Jay Deol, who owns the Westgate Motor Inn in west Edmonton, said his annual insurance rate quadrupled this year, rising from about $8,600 to $34,000. He can't afford the hike and said he was baffled because he has never made a claim. Deol said he tried shopping around for another option, but could not find a company that would even give him a quote. Why did rates rise? Industry experts say hospitality insurance has become more expensive for several reasons. The first is there have been more claims and losses in recent years. A recent report by Deloitte, relying on statistics from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, found that over the past 15 years, insurance loss ratios have climbed faster than premiums have. On the property insurance side, water damage and catastrophic weather events like hail in Calgary and flooding in Fort McMurray have been costly for insurers. On the liability side, slips and falls have led to expensive lawsuits. Recognizing this, some companies have stopped offering hospitality insurance, with the result being fewer players in the market and higher rates for hotels and restaurants. The pandemic is exacerbating the problem. "The lower the interest rates, the higher the insurance premiums because insurance companies can't make money on the investment behind the scenes," explained Brett Kanuka, marketing director for CMB Insurance Brokers in Edmonton. Pandemic-related closures and suspensions in the hospitality sector have also meant fewer hotels and restaurants are paying into the pool of money that covers losses. Experts say the issue is global and goes beyond hospitality insurance — condominiums, shopping malls, recycling plants and school districts are also struggling to pay for higher rates. "We're not immune to some of the events that are happening around the world," said Rob de Pruis, a director of consumer and industry relations for the Insurance Bureau of Canada. Some hotels ditch property insurance Some hotel owners who can't afford the increases are choosing to accept the risks that come with reducing coverage. Kaiser said he is aware of hotels foregoing property insurance and only paying for liability. "To me, that's very scary," said Nona McCreedy, owner of Aurora Underwriting Services in Edmonton. "It must make it difficult for them to sleep at night because they're suddenly taking on that risk themselves." Though hotel owners cannot do much to prevent catastrophic weather events, they can ramp up their risk management systems in an effort to avoid making claims. At Mazepa's hotels, staff are checking rooms for damage weekly, even if they are not occupied, and Kaiser said risk management education and training will be a key focus for the hotel association going forward. Helping businesses find insurance In the meantime, there are efforts underway to help companies that have been unable to find insurance. The Insurance Bureau of Canada launched a business insurance action team in December to help connect hospitality businesses in Ontario with insurance companies. The pilot project may expand, if demand persists, to other parts of the country. For companies like Echelon Insurance, the problem presents an opportunity. In the fall the company expanded its commercial insurance offerings for small and medium-sized hospitality businesses in Ontario and as of Jan. 1, it has made those available to companies across Canada. "We are definitely hearing the noise from some businesses and brokers, which tells us that there's a need for this particular coverage because there's a gap in the industry," said Echelon Insurance president Robin Joshua. Experts say that with rates likely remaining high for at least another year, business owners should scrutinize their policies, go over them in detail with brokers and look for opportunities to reduce coverage or increase deductibles. "Most of us are really trying to do the best we can for the insured and get them the fairest price possible," McCreedy said.