Duchess of Cambridge launches new survey on childhood development

Chelsey Sanchez
Photo credit: WPA Pool - Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

The Duchess of Cambridge is continuing her work on early childhood development by launching a UK–wide survey. Kate will begin this endeavour by completing a 24-hour tour of the United Kingdom, starting with yesterday's visit to MiniBrum at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum.

At the museum, children (who helped design the space) showed the duchess around the interactive mini city exhibit. Kate, who wore a chevron pussybow blouse by Tabitha Webb, also spoke with parents and carers about the survey.

Called "5 big questions on the under 5s," the survey includes five questions designed to bring as many people into the conversation as possible. Ipsos MORI, a UK–based market research company, is conducting the survey on behalf of the Royal Foundation. It will run for a month, from January 21 to February 21.

Photo credit: EDDIE KEOGH - Getty Images

Kate intends to use the survey's results both to better understand the firsthand experiences of parents and caretakers, as well as to guide her future early years work. For years, the duchess has focused her line of work on how social challenges can affect childhood development starting from being inside the womb to the age of five.

The next few stops on Kate's tour include a visit to LEYF Nursery in Southwark and a baby sensory class at the Ely and Careau Children's Centre.

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    CBC

    From forestry to hospitality: Family-owned contracting firm branches out with hotel, brewery

    Two generations ago, the Majors were a family of foresters. Now the family business is branching out into something new: a hotel and a brewery.Hew & Draw, Corner Brook's first new hotel in decades, gets its name from the biblical phrase "hewers of wood and drawers of water," once disparagingly used to describe Canada's economic dependence on natural resources. One of the owners of Major's Contracting says they've chosen to embrace it instead."[Those occupations] were tough and dangerous," said Dean Major. "We want … the hotel to reflect that identity as well as celebrate the refinement and modernization of those careers which still make up the backbone of our economy."With the family construction and engineering company growing and looking to diversify, the first idea was a microbrewery. But when Major's bought the former Bargain Shop department store on West Street, they had to come up with a plan for all that extra space."We had to wrap around the business plan of what best accompanies a microbrewery," he said. "[The hotel] wasn't the first idea that was floated but after a couple of iterations, it just made sense."Even with a half-dozen hotels and motels in the small city, including one right across the street, Major says there's a strong business case for the 36-room boutique hotel, which features a tap room and restaurant run by local chef David Vatcher. (Full disclosure: both Major and Vatcher have partners who work at CBC Corner Brook.) Bringing the outside inWhether you're sitting in front of the lobby fireplace or walking through the halls to your hotel room, you'll find nods to the heritage and the beauty of western Newfoundland throughout the hotel.The walls are covered with custom-ordered wallpaper featuring Newfoundland motifs like pine martens and caribou. The headboards are made from warm, cosy plaid that director of operations Autumn Gale says is reminiscent of the plaid coats commonly worn in the forestry industry.Gale says her favourite feature is not one people notice right away."We wanted to be a little different so we've taken our beds and face them out of the window so that when you come into your rooms you're not looking at a TV. You're looking at Corner Brook," she said."We want people engaged in our community and make sure they're experiencing as much as possible."Sustainability was also a big part of the hotel's design.There are water bottle-filling stations throughout the hallways and each room is equipped with a french press, a kettle and locally roasted coffee measured into refillable metal tins. In the bathrooms you'll find refillable containers of Newfoundland-made soap and shampoo instead of single-use plastic shampoo bottles. Brew and a bite to eatWhile the hotel isn't accepting guests until March 1, the brewery — Boomstick Brewing — and its retail shop are up and running. The brewery, named after the large logs used to create booms where pulpwood collected after rolling down the Humber River, has seven different beers on offer. With names like the Webber, Half Marathon and Lone Flamingo, each can shares the folklore behind each brew. Those same old boomsticks have been reclaimed to make the tables in the tap room and restaurant.There are still a lot of boxes to be checked and double-checked before the Hew & Draw's grand opening but Major and his family are excited to share it with the public. Between the hotel, the beer and the food, he hopes they've tapped into something people are craving.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

  • Assessments — and taxes — going up on 244,000 New Brunswick properties
    News
    CBC

    Assessments — and taxes — going up on 244,000 New Brunswick properties

    About 244,000 New Brunswick properties, including most homes, will be getting assessment and tax increases when bills are mailed out across the province next week but there will be no major changes to pulp and paper mill taxes - at least not yet.Service New Brunswick's Valerie Kilfoil said a reevaluation of the six mills, requested by Premier Blaine Higgs and anxiously awaited in several communities, will not be complete until later this summer."Currently the Heavy Industrial Team is finalizing physical inspection of the mills and are busy analyzing data as it pertains to this industry," Kilfoil said in an email to CBC News.  Service New Brunswick mails 470,000 assessment notices and $1.3 billion in associated tax bills to all New Brunswick property owners every March 1st.Only 430,000 of those properties are subject to annual market fluctuations in value (timberland properties have had assessments frozen since 1994) and this year 244,000 of those market based assessments are going up.  It's 60,000 more assessment increases than last year.  According to Service New Brunswick most of the increases are small but 28,000 of the hikes will be five per cent or more. The agency also says there are 89,000 properties getting assessment reductions, and 136,000 that will remain unchanged although about 30 per cent of those are forest properties that benefit from an ongoing 26 year old assessment freeze.Assessment increases in the province, driven by new construction, property improvement and growing market values, will be about $1.5 billion more than decreases and add more than $20 million to property tax bills.Most of the larger increases will be dispersed throughout the province but one area that can expect a number of them is Haut-Madawaska.  Service New Brunswick conducted a "re-inspection" of properties in the rural northwestern community of 4,000 last year and assessments are increasing by an average of 6.8 per cent.Also likely to see increases are residents of Gagetown.  The village suffered two straight years of property value declines following extreme flooding along the St. John River in 2018 and 2019 but values — and tax bills — are expected to rebound this year.Assessments have yet to rebound for the province's six pulp and/or paper mills including two in Saint John and one each in Edmundston, Atholville, Nackawic and Lake Utopia.In 2013 the group was collectively awarded assessment reductions of $130.7 million by Service New Brunswick because of an international  slump in markets. That saved the group $5.9 million per year in property tax, much of that paid to their host communities.Last fall Service New Brunswick announced it was reviewing those reductions to see if markets for paper products had improved enough to undo some or all of the tax relief,  an issue of significant interest in the mill communities.Last week Saint John Liberal MLA Gerry Lowe said he is open to supporting a Higgs government budget if he sees movement on industrial property tax issues and specifically mentioned the 2013 reduction won by mills as a sore point.In response Premier Higgs said it was he who asked for the review and agreed property taxes should go back up if markets have changed."I have said these very words to the department: I want the same conditions looked at that caused those rates to go down and compare markets today," said the premier."Whatever conditions were set then and if they're different, then we should be applying that same logic and the rates should change accordingly."But Kilfoil says the review is still ongoing with the aim of a September 1 completion date.  Any changes the review triggers would not take effect until 2021.

  • Ontario Liberal Party front-runner Steven Del Duca wants protected land to save his private pool
    News
    CBC

    Ontario Liberal Party front-runner Steven Del Duca wants protected land to save his private pool

    Steven Del Duca, the front-runner in the race to become the next leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, and his wife want the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) to hand over a section of protected land to save an in-ground pool they've built, CBC News has learned.Del Duca and his wife, Utilia Amaral, live on a cul-de-sac in Vaughan. Their backyard is nestled against public parkland that's part of the Humber River watershed. It's considered environmentally sensitive land and is controlled by the TRCA.Del Duca and his wife built the pool last summer without all the necessary permits — and it's too close to the parkland, according to municipal bylaws. "It's embarrassing," Del Duca told CBC News."I found out based on what I will call an honest mistake and the discussion we had with our contractor. It was alarming for me obviously as someone who has grown up in this community and has served publicly in the past. I knew it was a mistake."City of Vaughan bylaws stipulate the pool should have been built at least 7.5 metres from the public parkland. Instead, it was built just 1.5 metres away.  Del Duca and his wife have asked the TRCA to hand over the land. In exchange, the couple has proposed giving the conservation authority a slightly larger section of their yard that leads down an embankment into a marked potential flood zone.The provincial agency confirmed it's considering the swap."TRCA staff are reviewing and will be reporting back to a future executive committee," Michelle Sirizzotti, chief of staff to agency CEO John MacKenzie, wrote in an email to CBC News.Watch: CBC reporter John Lancaster questions Liberal leadership candidate Steven Del DucaIn April, Del Duca's wife took the first step in getting approval for the pool by applying to the TRCA for a permit.They needed the TRCA's blessing because provincial regulations require any construction near protected land to be approved first by the conservation authority. If successful, the couple could then apply for construction permits from the City of Vaughan.TRCA documents show that almost immediately there were problems. The city stepped in and told the TRCA that the section of land Del Duca wants had been encroached on for years by the homeowners. According to TRCA documents, Amaral blamed the previous owners for the encroachment and pitched a land swap to help rectify matters. "I want to make sure the values are equal or better to the benefit of the conservation authority and the public," Del Duca told CBC News.The land swap is still under review, but the TRCA agreed to issue the pool permit.The authority's executive committee approved the permit during a meeting on Sept. 6, 2019, according to a TRCA spokesperson.A copy of the permit is among 34 pages of documents obtained through a freedom of information request that was reviewed by CBC News. The documents show the permit was actually issued on July 23, 2019 — weeks before the TRCA meeting.Sirizzotti said there's nothing unusual about the discrepancy between the date the permit was issued and the executive committee's approval months later.The move was "consistent with TRCA approved policies and procedures," she said in an emailed statement.While the TRCA signed off on the pool plans, Del Duca didn't apply for the necessary city permits.He said they started construction anyway.According to the TRCA documents, someone complained. But by that time, the pool was about 60 per cent complete. Only then did Del Duca and Amaral apply for city construction permits. The city denied the couple's permit application in August of last year because the pool was too close to the backyard lot line.Del Duca concedes they continued with construction and finished the pool anyway. "We had concerns about trying to stop a project like this around safety. We have young daughters and we wanted to make sure that we were able to put it in a position so that in the off-season like we find ourselves now, that it was secure and safe for them," he said.The couple still doesn't have the required city permits and may have to fill the pool in if the TRCA doesn't allow the land swap."We understand that there's a possibility that could happen. We will work with the city and the conservation authority. And again I want to stress I accept full responsibility," Del Duca said.Rob Ford blasted for wanting TRCA landThis isn't the first time that a high-profile GTA politician has wanted a piece of public land that is under protection by the TRCA.In 2012, Rob Ford, then the mayor of Toronto, faced intense public criticism after he and his wife applied to purchase TRCA land that was adjacent to their Etobicoke home.The Fords cited late-night trespassers and the need to build a new fence around their home to protect their children.TRCA's executive committee denied the Fords' request by a vote of nine to one, stating the need to protect the land for conservation purposes.The TRCA hasn't yet scheduled a date for a vote on Del Duca's request for public land, saying only that it will happen at a future meeting. In the meantime, land surveys and appraisals will have to be completed.Del Duca said he's offered to pay for the work.If successful, Del Duca said he'll work with the city to get the necessary permits.

  • Hopes for supernova are dimming as Betelgeuse brightens
    News
    CBC

    Hopes for supernova are dimming as Betelgeuse brightens

    It appears that the hopes of people who wanted a nearby star to explode have been dashed. After weeks of unprecedented dimming, Betelgeuse — a star in the constellation Orion — is beginning to brighten again.Both professional and amateur astronomers had been keeping a close eye on the unusual dimming of the red supergiant star, as its brightness decreased to the lowest in recorded observational history. Some had hoped that its fading was indicative of an impending explosion, a supernova.But the fact that Betelgeuse is brightening is exactly what professional astronomers were expecting.Betelgeuse is a fascinating star to astronomers. The red supergiant is 14,000 times more luminous than our sun and roughly 1,400 times larger. It is surrounded by dust and gas that, if it were at the centre of our solar system, it would stretch all the way to Neptune.It is also a semi-regular variable, meaning that its brightness waxes and wanes in cycles. When red supergiants die, they do so in a spectacular fashion, exploding as a supernova. And while Betelgeuse is at the end of its lifespan, astronomers believe that it still has roughly 100,000 years or more to go. But because these types of stars aren't completely understood, they can't be certain.And that's where the hope lay with Betelgeuse's dimming.But astronomers had hypothesized that two of its three cycles — one that is roughly 430 years, one that is roughly six years and one that is roughly between 100 to 180 days — had converged, leading to its extreme dimming. And they believed that somewhere at the end of February, it would begin to recover.'Still very cautious'So Betelgeuse's brightening is right on schedule, which supports their hypothesis. However, they're still waiting for more data."At this point we're still very cautious about screaming, 'Oh, we were right! We know what's happening!'" said Stella Kafka, chief executive officer of the American Association of Variable Star Observers, an organization that monitors variable stars. "But the data shows us Betelgeuse's brightness is increasing."Though it appears that Betelgeuse won't go supernova, it's provided a wealth of information on a class of stars that aren't well understood. And that, in and of itself, is exciting, Kafka said. As well, the strangeness of Betelgeuse has been widely reported, and it's resulted in non-astronomers looking at the night sky, something that Kafka thinks is remarkable."It's really exciting that we're all in this together. It's one of those things that the whole community, the whole world is looking at Betelgeuse trying to figure out what's going on," she said. "We're learning from it."Another important takeaway from the recent activity on Betelgeuse is that it serves as a reminder that the sky isn't as static as we may think; that it can change even in our lifetimes, Kafka said. And studying something relatively nearby that is evolving sheds some light on how our solar system and life on our planet may have begun."That's why astronomy is so interesting to everybody. It satisfies this fundamental question … where do we belong?"

  • Opera star Domingo cancels Madrid shows, defends conduct after sexual harassment claims
    News
    Reuters

    Opera star Domingo cancels Madrid shows, defends conduct after sexual harassment claims

    Spanish opera star Placido Domingo has withdrawn from planned performances of "La Traviata" at Madrid's Teatro Real following complaints he sexually harassed women, defending himself in a statement on Thursday in which he partly walked back an earlier apology. Domingo had apologised on Tuesday to the women who accused him of sexual misconduct after an investigation by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) labor union concluded he had behaved inappropriately with female performers.

  • BOJ's Amamiya calls for more scrutiny in issuing digital currency
    News
    Reuters

    BOJ's Amamiya calls for more scrutiny in issuing digital currency

    Central banks must get a better understanding of the benefits and risks of issuing their own digital currencies, and look at ways to mitigate any associated perils, Bank of Japan Deputy Governor Masayoshi Amamiya said on Thursday. By issuing their own digital currencies, central banks can act as a bridge for private sector money flows and streamline settlement, Amamiya said. All the same, such a practice could also stifle private-sector financial innovation and draw money away from deposits at commercial banks if they succeed in issuing low-cost digital currencies, he said.

  • Canadian Transportation Agency flooded with 3,000 complaints over delayed flight compensation
    News
    CBC

    Canadian Transportation Agency flooded with 3,000 complaints over delayed flight compensation

    The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has been flooded with more than 3,000 complaints from passengers in recent weeks, questioning why their airlines denied them compensation for delayed flights.The complaints — 3,037 in all — poured in over the eight-week period, from Dec. 15 to Feb. 13.To give some perspective, that tally is equal to about 40 per cent of the 7,650 complaints involving all passenger beefs that the CTA received in the entirety of its most recent fiscal year.The federal government introduced new regulations on Dec.15 that mandate airlines must pay up to $1,000 in compensation for flight delays and cancellations within the airline's control and not safety-related.At the time, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the rules would give passengers protections that are "clear, consistent, transparent and fair."However, the new regulations have led to confusion and frustration for many passengers who claim the airlines aren't providing valid reasons when denying compensation."Clearly passengers are upset," said Michael Kerr, who believes Air Canada unfairly denied him compensation.The CTA is investigating the Toronto man's case as part of an official inquiry launched on Feb. 13, which will examine many of the 3,037 complaints.Kerr filed a complaint with the CTA after Air Canada rejected his compensation claim following an eight-hour delay on a Halifax-to-Toronto flight on Feb. 2. Air Canada crew had promised passengers on the flight compensation, he said, even handing out compensation information pamphlets. However, the airline later rejected Kerr's claim, stating in an email that the plane was delayed due to a "safety-related issue.""I was kind of surprised by that," said Kerr. "It kind of seemed like an escape hatch for them to get out of the financial reimbursements."CTA inquiry looks at 570 complaintsKerr's complaint is one of 570 selected by the CTA for its inquiry; 378 of those complaints involve Air Canada, which is Canada's largest airline, and the remaining 192 are scattered among Sunwing, WestJet, Air Transat, Swoop and United Airlines. The CTA said it doesn't have the resources to investigate all 3,037 complaints as part of the inquiry, and that the remaining 2,467 will be dealt with at a later date. The agency didn't offer a timeline for the remaining complaints, but said the inquiry's findings may help in resolving them.Consumer advocate John Lawford said he warned the federal government that it would be swamped with complaints in response to the new regulations and that it needed to allocate more resources toward resolving them. "When you have a federally regulated service that affects every Canadian, like transport or banking or telecom, you're going to have in the tens of thousands of complaints," said Lawford, the executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre. "I just don't think that they were [ready]."Transport Canada told CBC News that the government had already beefed up the CTA's resources before the new rules took affect and that it will continue to monitor the situation.The new regulations are clear and consistent and "if airlines do not follow the rules, they will be subject to fines," Transport Canada spokesperson said John Cottreau in an email. What about the airlines?Lawford also expressed disappointment with the airlines, suggesting they're trying to interpret the regulations in their favour whenever possible."They're gonna push it right up to the line, because they're for-profit businesses and they don't want to spend money on this," he said.Air Canada, which carries more than 50 million passengers annually, told CBC News that its policy is to abide by the new regulations and that it has devoted "considerable resources" to dealing with compensation claims."It is not unreasonable that an adjustment period would be required to adapt to these complicated new rules," the airline said in an email.WestJet, Swoop and United Airlines all said that they intend to co-operate with the CTA's inquiry, while Air Transat and Sunwing declined to comment while the inquiry is ongoing. The underlying problem is that the airlines have been allowed to design their own complaints process, Lawford said, adding that he hopes the CTA inquiry will lead to new guidelines or specific additional regulations on how airlines respond to complaints. "In order to bury the hatchet on all this, the minister should issue actual regulations," he said.If Kerr wins his case with the CTA, he'll likely get $700 in compensation. But he said his main hope with the inquiry is that it leads to positive changes for all air passengers."I hope there are stricter rules and that there are no escape hatches, where airlines try to say one thing, but actually something else goes on behind the scenes."It doesn't appear that any of the 3,037 CTA complaints have yet been resolved, but several Air Canada passengers who previously spoke to CBC News about their issues have reported that that airline has since offered them compensation.

  • New head of public library service got rid of 'hundreds' of books at Kings Landing library
    News
    CBC

    New head of public library service got rid of 'hundreds' of books at Kings Landing library

    The new head of the New Brunswick Public Library Service got rid of a significant collection of books at the Kings Landing library when he was in charge of the historical settlement, according to a former employee.Darrell Butler helped build up the Kings Landing library over more than 40 years as the chief curator and manager of heritage resources.The books dealt with topics such as the history of agriculture, wagons, furniture and ceramics, and staff used them for research and reference, said Butler."The books were very specialized and, well really, they were collectors' items, some of them individually worth over $100," he said.But in 2016, when Kevin Cormier was the CEO of Kings Landing, Butler discovered some of the books for sale at Value Village in Fredericton."I walked in one day and said, 'Gee that looks like a book that I donated to Kings Landing.' And I opened it up and there was my name inside the book, so I knew it was the book that I had donated."He also found some books that had been donated to Kings Landing by a prominent citizen in memory of her mother, he said.Butler estimates "hundreds" of books worth "well over $50,000-$60,000" were lost."I was quite concerned about it and I wrote to the chairman of the board of directors of Kings Landing," said Butler, who was on extended leave at the time because of a heart condition."Unfortunately I never heard back from them," Butler added. "But three days later Kevin Cormier called me and demanded I return my BlackBerry and my computer to Kings Landing."Cormier has not responded to requests for interviews.Last week, he was named executive director of the province's 64 public libraries. It's a contentious appointment given his apparent lack of library training or experience.The current CEO of Kings Landing, Mary Baruth, confirmed in an emailed statement that "several years ago, senior management" directed the collections manager to review the library's books, magazines, periodicals and journals "for their relevance to the collection."'Extraneous' books donated"Sources that contained information related to the mandate, and that could be used as reference material, were kept for use in the reference library and/or collections centre," said Baruth.Those deemed "extraneous" were boxed and donated to the Canadian Federation of University Women's annual book fair in Fredericton, she said."It is our understanding that some of these materials donated to the book sale may have eventually made their way to other used book retailers, charity and consignment shops."Baruth could not explain why the collection was purged since she was not with Kings Landing at the time. But she did say, "It is not unusual for libraries and museums to periodically review reference materials as new editions and digitized versions become available and to discard or donate reference materials not related to their mandate to charitable causes so that others may benefit from their use."She continued: "Kings Landing has an extensive primary archival and library collection that is the cornerstone of its history, research, exhibit and interpretation plan and it remains intact."'It's tragic'Butler disagrees. He contends only about one-third of the collection remains."It's tragic," he said. "It was a very good research library. It was specialized. We had journals and texts that you couldn't get anywhere else in New Brunswick."He cites as an example being able to compare farm wagons in New Brunswick to those in England to see the cultural influences."Without those books, it's gone," said Butler. "You don't have it. And it's not [all] online, as people said to me at the time," If the information is online, he said, it doesn't go into the same level of detail as some of the publications.If the Kings Landing library couldn't keep all of the books for some reason, Butler questions why they weren't instead donated to the New Brunswick Museum or the New Brunswick Public Library Service."I guess what I'm saying is that perhaps Kevin wasn't quite as aware of the value of the research library at Kings Landing as one would expect him to be if he had a strong history and museum background."Retired over difference of viewsButler said he retired because he didn't agree with some of the other controversial changes Cormier was making, which included cutting back on re-enactments and replacing them with static exhibits."I just said I couldn't be associated with it because I was the person … that was responsible for the historical accuracy of Kings Landing and the approach he was using was contrary to everything that I knew about historical settlements and how they should operate," said Butler.Last March, Cormier announced plans to resume using costumed characters in the three old houses.Although Cormier didn't have experience in museums, he did do research, attend conferences and get up to speed "as best he could" when he worked at Kings Landing, said Butler.But "his vision for Kings Landing was unorthodox," focused more on it being a tourist attraction than a place to teach people about New Brunswick history, he said.Despite their differences, Butler said Cormier has people skills and is an innovative thinker.

  • New glitches emerge in Ontario's teacher strike payment system
    News
    CBC

    New glitches emerge in Ontario's teacher strike payment system

    Ontario parents are reporting new problems with the Ministry of Education's payments for school days lost to teacher strikes, including applications being rejected for unknown reasons.  The province has sent emails telling parents their children's information "could not be verified," even though their children are actually eligible for the payments.The Ford government is offering parents $25 or more per child for each day their school is shut down as a result of the ongoing labour dispute with the province's four teachers' unions. The money comes from the wages that teachers and education workers forego each day they strike. Parents apply via a website, by entering their child's name, school board and school, along with their own address and contact information. However, multiple parents have CBC News their applications for funding were inexplicably rejected. "The information you provided on your child could not be verified against our Ministry records," read rejection emails parents shared with CBC News. "We have removed your application from the system so that you can submit another application.""It's really frustrating because they played it up that this was going to be an easy process," said an Oakville mother whose kids attend the French-language Viamonde school board.She has not received payments for two of her five eligible children, and the email she received does not indicate which children's applications were rejected. CBC News agreed not to name her to protect the identity of her children, and that of her husband, who is a provincial employee."Being approved for three but not for two, and not telling me where I made the mistake, is really frustrating, the mother said in an interview Wednesday. "How at this point do I know if I'm doing it properly and if I'll ever get the money that has been promised?"More than 756,000 applications have been made for the financial support program, according to an education ministry spokesperson.  "Rejections occur when the information submitted in the application does not match ministry records," said spokesperson Ingrid Anderson in an email to CBC News."Parents are encouraged to check with their child's school to verify the information they have on file and ensure it matches the information in their application."Anderson could not say how many applications had been rejected on those grounds, nor how much has been paid out by the government so far. The rejection emails encourage parents to phone a toll-free helpline if they have any questions. However, the line was experiencing such heavy call volumes Wednesday that it was frequently impossible to get through, with the line ringing busy. Those who do get through are greeted with a recorded message. "If you are calling for details regarding your application or payment status, please note that our staff are unable to access personal information or payment-specific information," the message says.It goes on to tell callers that hotline operates will relay their inquiries by email to ministry staff, who will investigate and respond.The helpline handled 1,600 calls on Tuesday, said the ministry spokesperson.

  • Richmond County's all-male council says no to funding for women's conference
    News
    CBC

    Richmond County's all-male council says no to funding for women's conference

    The all-male Richmond County council has decided not to lend financial support to a leadership conference that would encourage more women to run for office in eastern Nova Scotia.The Town of Port Hawkesbury is hosting a conference in May to encourage more women to run for municipal and First Nation band elections.Organizers have asked local governments to provide financial aid to help participants with child care and travel costs.Several are on board, but not the men on Richmond County council.Warden Brian Marchand said councillors did not oppose the idea at Monday's meeting, but they didn't support it, either."It's not that I'm against it," he said. "It's good for these things to be put on and people should have the ability to go to them on their own."Marchand said candidates should pay for their own training, but he also said the idea might have received more support if the conference had included men and women."There are many women that are mayors and wardens right across this province and probably right across this country," he said."There are many women in politics right across the spectrum from provincial to federal, so I don't think they're at a disadvantage in any sort of a way as opposed to men."Coun. James Goyetche said he has spent 23 years on Richmond council and it was only in the last three years that councillors were all male.He said a former warden was female and she was also head of what is now the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities.Goyetche said female politicians have served Richmond County well, but it's not up to taxpayers to support them."That's up to the electorate to decide," he said."I think it would be kind of irresponsible on my part, and kind of stupid, to use taxpayers' dollars to encourage somebody to run against me."Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said only 22 per cent of politicians in the 10 municipalities and six Indigenous communities in eastern Nova Scotia are women."Gender equity certainly starts with an acknowledgement that it's not a level playing field for women in politics," she said.Since Monday, she added, private businesses and citizens in Richmond County have called to offer financial help for participants."All kinds of support in the community has been coming forward," Chisholm-Beaton said.She said Marchand has since contacted her and told her the issue may come back to council."I don't think the door has been permanently closed," she said.MORE TOP STORIES

  • 'A crisis': Indigenous students at rural N.S. school say they're excessively punished
    News
    CBC

    'A crisis': Indigenous students at rural N.S. school say they're excessively punished

    When Xavier Sack walks through the doors of his high school in Milford Station, N.S., he often feels like he has a target on his back.The 16-year-old boy from the Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation said he and other Indigenous students at Hants East Rural High feel they are discriminated against when it comes to how they are disciplined by staff.Sack believes suspensions are the automatic discipline at Hants East, especially when dealing with Indigenous students."Some days you feel like you always have to be on guard," he said. "You're always protecting yourself. Some teachers don't understand what we go through, so they don't see how hard it is."Sack was recently suspended for 40 days for his part in an altercation at the school involving several people, although he said he never physically assaulted anyone.Data obtained by CBC News through access-to-information legislation shows Hants East handed out 155 suspensions in the 2018-19 school year — the largest number for the 37 high schools in the province CBC was able to obtain data for.Among those 37 schools, which included the province's 10 largest high schools, Hants East — with 743 students and the 23rd-largest student body — also had the highest per student suspension rate.The community has a history of racism. Shubenacadie — a village roughly six kilometres from the school — was once home to the Shubenacadie Residential School, where some Mi'kmaw children suffered physical, emotional and sexual abuse between 1923 and 1967.The children were not allowed to speak their own language or practise their cultural traditions.Figures provided by the Chignecto Central Regional Centre for Education show 20 per cent of all Indigenous students and 15 per cent of African Nova Scotian students within the regional centre were suspended in the 2018-19 school year.Self-identified students of Indigenous and African ancestry make up only 10 per cent of the student population within the regional centre, but represented about 17 per cent of suspensions overall, the August 2019 improvement plan said.The regional centre declined to provide suspension data for the Indigenous student population at Hants East, citing privacy concerns.Sack recognizes he did something wrong. He said he offered to take part in a restorative justice process and anger management program to stay in the classroom, but he was nevertheless suspended for 40 days."I'm going to need school, and the only way I can get back in school is if I learn how to manage my anger," said the aspiring chiropractor who will be going to Shubenacadie District Elementary School twice a week to do homework during his suspension.Why suspensions can be counterproductiveDr. Cornelia Schneider, an associate professor in the education department at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, said suspensions should be a last resort for staff because they are often counterproductive."Often students who have behavioural issues also have trouble dealing with the content that is offered in the class," she said."If you kick them out of the classroom, they might already be significantly behind … so basically with a suspension, you're just making it worse."Cheryl Maloney, a member of the Sipekneꞌkatik First Nation and a Mi'kmaw advocate, said the province should form a task force to examine why suspension rates for Indigenous students have reached "a crisis."Maloney pointed to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in federal prisons, which have reached historic highs.Indigenous people account for roughly five per cent of the population in Canada, but account for more than 30 per cent of the federal inmate population, up from 25 per cent four years ago, according to the Office of the Correctional Investigator."You can save somebody's life by doing something immediate. You can save the future of these children," said Maloney. "We know that they're getting suspended... at higher levels. Then stop doing it."'Journey of reconciliation'Gary Adams, regional executive director for Chignecto Central, acknowledges Indigenous students and African Nova Scotian students are being suspended at disproportionate rates.He said suspensions "are not always effective," adding that staff "are looking to explore their own bias, explore their own strategies and improve upon that data.""It's part of our journey of reconciliation, if you will, in making sure that together we have deeper understandings, deeper relationships, and an ability to look to other solutions so that the punitive ways of the past are not necessarily the default," said Adams.He said the school has been working with the community to build stronger relationships. He noted a healing circle was recently held with staff and Sipekneꞌkatik community members."Restorative ways of coming together and speaking to lived experience and how that influences actions and decisions is part of the relationship building and the repairing of harm," said Adams."Through those raised awareness, teachers are able to call on more appropriate strategies that do reflect a greater understanding, appreciation and respect for the lived experience of their learners."Suspension rulesUnder the Education Act, suspensions longer than 10 days must be approved by the regional centre following a recommendation by the principal.Although Chignecto Central would not provide details about the length of suspensions at its schools, student Miguel Greer said he feels Indigenous students are handed heavier suspensions than non-Indigenous students.He said he was suspended on Dec. 4 for the rest of the school year for his involvement in a fight at the school, but a non-Indigenous student involved in a separate fight received a suspension of five days, plus a two-day in-school suspension.'Sometimes you don't feel safe'Greer said the discrepancy speaks to the systemic racism that exists at Hants East."They're saying that they're improving the school. We don't see any improvement at all," said Greer, who recently posted a video to social media expressing his concerns."Not a lot of Native students like to talk about it because it's so hard to get a word out there and to actually have people stand behind you."Greer also said he feels like Indigenous students are not always taken seriously when they express their concerns to staff at the school.Both students said the historical wounds in the community have not healed, and although they don't always experience racism in an overt way, they feel systemic racism has led to ongoing tensions within the school."It sucks, because sometimes you don't feel safe at school," said Sack.MORE TOP STORIES

  • Students share their 'hair stories' in an effort to combat stigma
    News
    CBC

    Students share their 'hair stories' in an effort to combat stigma

    Zeraiah Meggo and Nefertiti Butler have seen each other in the hallways before. They both attend Walkerville Collegiate Institute, and although Nefertiti is in Grade 12 and Zeraiah in Grade 10, the two students have a passing acquaintance.What they've realized before, however, is that they share almost mirror experiences of struggling to embrace their natural hair that is easily distinguishable from the majority of their peers. "I had the dreads which was so different from everyone else, and I thought holy, no one is going to like me or relate to me," Nefertiti said. "Or think you're beautiful," Meggo said, recalling her own experience. "You just see everyone with straight hair and it's so different." The two discovered their shared experience Wednesday afternoon during a workshop at Walkerville Collegiate Institute. The event called "Hairstory" was an effort to open the floor to students who may feel stigmatised because of their natural hair. A barber and a hairstylist were brought in show them how to work with a variety of hair types. They were then asked to share their own experiences about what being black in the community means.  "Its about feeling welcomed, feeling safe in your skin, it's about identity," explained workshop organizer Natalie Browning-Morgan.Browning-Morgan runs a mentorship program for the school board which helps racialized and minority students adjust to student life. She said the idea stems from a conversation she had with students in her group. "It was really just about me opening my door and them seeing me with curly hair," she recalled.She said that's when the floodgates opened. The students began asking questions and sharing stories about their own curls in a way Browning-Morgan says they weren't able to before. "I don't think there was a place where they thought they could have that conversation."Meggo and Butler agree. Both girls struggled not only with self-esteem issues, but also with finding someone to relate to them."I felt this for so long, and I didn't talk to nobody about it. I cried to myself at home and said 'Mom I don't think nobody like me no more.' If I knew you felt like this I would've talked to you more," Butler said to the younger Meggo. Meggo is now part of Browning-Morgan's mentorship program. She says being able to connect with people who can relate to her experience as a black student has been invaluable."I don't feel alone anymore. I have people I can trust," she explained. Butler, on the other hand, has had time to grow accustomed to her locks. She first started her current style years ago."My mom was in an accident and was not able to do my hair anymore and I had to learn at the age of 13 to re-twist my hair and...that's when I decided to do dreads," she said. It was rough going at first. But now? "I love my dreads. I love how healthy they are. I love the feel of them."

  • Charlottetown man to meet with city, cab companies to discuss absence of accessible taxis
    News
    CBC

    Charlottetown man to meet with city, cab companies to discuss absence of accessible taxis

    A Charlottetown man who is calling for more accessible transportation options for people with disabilities plans to meet with the city and cab companies to discuss a solution after almost being stranded.This comes after an incident last month when Paul Cudmore, who uses a wheelchair, says the ramp on his accessible van broke and he had no other way home.He was leaving the legion in Charlottetown around 11 p.m. when he couldn't get the wheelchair ramp of his van down."It only opened about six inches and it wouldn't close," he said. "It was cold, it was like - 10, I didn't have a jacket on. I can't put a jacket on because I have a bad shoulder. I was panicking, I had no idea what to do."Cudmore said transportation services for people with disabilities such as Pat and the Elephant don't run past 11 p.m. and there are currently no accessible cabs in Charlottetown.At one point Charlottetown did have an accessible taxi, but the service has since been discontinued. The CBC spoke to six Charlottetown taxi companies, which all confirmed they do not have accessible cabs in their fleets.He had no idea how he would get home, Cudmore said.'We just can't leave it in the streets'His friends thought about calling an ambulance to see if they could get Cudmore home, but he was worried about what to do with his chair."We just can't leave it in the streets. The legion was closed at this time and it is a $16,000 chair."One of Cudmore's friends called a person he knew who drives a cab and they showed up with their van."Three or four of them got together and picked me up and put me in the passenger seat of the van," he said, adding that his friends also put his wheelchair in his van afterwards.Cudmore said he contacted the city to let them know his van was in the parking lot at the legion so it wouldn't be towed. It took two weeks to repair the ramp on his van, leaving Cudmore with few options for getting around and a $3,400 bill.City needs accessible cabs, Cudmore saysCudmore worked with Spinal Cord Injury P.E.I. and has been advocating for an accessible cab in the city for years."We need an accessible taxi in the city and I don't understand why we don't have one now," he said.Cudmore said he also thinks about people who have mobility issues who might land at the Charlottetown Airport to learn the city doesn't have accessible cabs."What happens if somebody that's not familiar with the province is out having a few drinks and thinks 'I can just call a taxi to get home,' and there is no taxi available to get home, like how do you get home?"Cudmore said adding accessible taxis to the city would mean freedom for those who have mobility issues — and he's also not the only one thinking about the issue in Charlottetown.Accessible transportation a 'real challenge'Officials with the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities said the organization has been working on the issue for the past decade."Accessible transportation is a real challenge in Charlottetown," said Marcia Carroll, executive director of the organization.While she said Charlottetown has accessible buses they're off the road at 10 p.m., leaving little options for those with mobile disabilities that want to go out in the evenings.She said she believes the barrier for adding an accessible cabs to Charlottetown is the cost."In order for a person to invest in an accessible cab their overhead would be significantly more than a person who is just buying a regular van," Carroll said.She said she believes a partnership should be created between different levels of government and cab companies to create options like subsidies for accessible taxis.Comparably, officials with the City of Summerside say there are accessible cabs there.In Charlottetown, Mayor Philip Brown said he spoke to Cudmore after the incident last month and has now planned a meeting with taxi companies, Pat and the Elephant and the P.E.I. Council of People with Disabilities to try and find a solution. That meeting is planned for Thursday evening."I think Paul has opened up a door for us to look at this whole, barrier-free, totally-accessible city that we've been talking about for some time," Brown said.More from CBC P.E.I.

  • Winter storm picking up after a slushy start
    News
    CBC

    Winter storm picking up after a slushy start

    Snowmagedden2020 started as a bit of a wet firecracker, but is picking up steam.From a worst-case scenario of 40 or more centimetres, it's now a prediction of 10 to 20 centimetres in downtown Ottawa and 10 to 15 centimetres around Pembroke and Maniwaki before it ends late tonight.Ottawa got 2.4 cm of snow and 3.8 mm of rain before midnight, and it mostly rained in the early hours, but heavy snow started falling before sunrise.A winter storm warning remains in effect for the entire region — except for Prince Edward County, where there's a wind warning of gusts up to 90 k/h, and Kingston and Belleville, one of a few regions in southern Ontario without a warning.Kingston should only get five more centimetres of snow today on top of the snow and freezing rain it's received, with some of it blowing around in gusts up to 60 km/h this afternoon.Easterly winds could gust up to 40 km/h in Ottawa switching to westerly winds gusting to 50 km/hr near noon.The temperature will fall to -4 C by this afternoon in the capital, with an overnight low today of -12 C and a wind chill making it feel like -20.Pembroke's wind chill should approach the serious frostbite risk threshold of -25.The next three days look generally cloudy and a bit colder than normal, without much snow.

  • Climate activists jubilant as expansion of Britain's Heathrow Airport blocked
    News
    Reuters

    Climate activists jubilant as expansion of Britain's Heathrow Airport blocked

    The planned expansion of London's Heathrow Airport was declared unlawful on environmental grounds by a court on Thursday, a ruling that could sink the $18 billion project that has been dogged by decades of dispute and indecision. In a victory for climate change campaigners, an appeal court judge said that a failure to take into account the government's commitments on climate change was "legally fatal" to the plans to build a third runway at Europe's busiest airport. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been a vociferous opponent of the expansion, which was approved under the previous government.

  • Town of C.B.S. facing $10M to repair T'railway damage
    News
    CBC

    Town of C.B.S. facing $10M to repair T'railway damage

    The Town of Conception Bay South says damage done to a popular seaside hiking path during last month's blizzard could cost $10 million to repair."It's a lot of money for anybody," said Richard Murphy, deputy mayor.The storm surge washed out about 10 kilometres of the T'railway between Conception Bay South and Seal Cove, rendering the trail unsafe for users.Large rocks now dot a once-groomed, flat path next to the water."If you're familiar with the area, the trail is no longer [resembling] what it used to be," Murphy said. "Even though it may look safe enough to walk along, there's probably damage underneath it that you don't realize. So we had no choice but to close the trail."The town is applying to the provincial and federal governments for disaster relief funding, and is still in the process of getting applications in order.Murphy said the price tag doesn't include the emergency repairs that have already been done in the Long Pond area. Large sections of the trail are washed out, while some infrastructure, including bridges on the trail, were also damaged.Check out this drone footage of the T'railway damage captured by the town of C.B.S.:"The worst part of it is ... the water has undermined the trail itself," Murphy said. "It's going to be quite a task."The town is also working to repair a breakwater in the area, which caused damage to several boats at the Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club. The cost of repair around the yacht club could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to commodore Larry LeDrew.The town is telling the public to avoid the T'railway, and to avoid the area."Even though it may look OK, it's closed. And we closed it for a reason," Murphy said. "We closed it for safety reasons. [People still using the trail] is really not a good idea. Just stay away from it."Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador