Police say on two separate occasions, employees at two different convenience stores in Oshawa found a suspicious package tied to a door. In one case, it burst into flames. Marianne Dimain reports.
Police say on two separate occasions, employees at two different convenience stores in Oshawa found a suspicious package tied to a door. In one case, it burst into flames. Marianne Dimain reports.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
The RCMP sergeant who headed the foreign and domestic liaison unit responsible for Meng Wanzhou's arrest says she saw no problem with Canada Border Services Agency officers questioning the Huawei executive before she was taken into police custody.Sgt. Janice Vander Graaf testified in B.C. Supreme Court Tuesday that the original plan she discussed with her supervisor would have seen RCMP officers board Meng's plane on arrival from Hong Kong in order to execute a provisional arrest warrant.But by the time she arrived at the airport on Dec. 1, 2018, Vander Graaf said her officers had agreed instead that the CBSA would intercept Meng once she got off the plane and then take her to a secondary examination area to begin an immigration admissibility examination."This seemed like a reasonable course of action and it seemed like a safe course of action," Vander Graaf said."[The CBSA] had to do what they had to do, and I didn't have any input on what they were planning on doing or what they needed to do for their job or their responsibility. So I had really no sense of the timeline of how long they would take."Fraud and conspiracy chargesVander Graaf was testifying at a hearing to gather evidence in advance of extradition proceedings next year. Defence lawyers plan to argue that the delay in the arrest amounts to a violation of Meng's rights because CBSA officers questioned her about her business without a lawyer, seized her electronic devices and asked her for the passcodes, which they later gave police in error.Meng faces fraud and conspiracy charges in New York in relation to allegations that she lied to an HSBC executive about Huawei's control of a subsidiary accused of violating U.S. economic sanctions against Iran.Prosecutors claim that by relying on Meng's alleged lies to continue financing Huawei, HSBC was placed at risk of loss and prosecution.Vander Graaf is the third RCMP officer to testify so far.She took the stand after two days of testimony from Const. Gurvinder Dhaliwal, one of the two officers who was tasked with executing a provisional warrant for Meng's arrest.Conflicting evidenceDhaliwal was the exhibits officer responsible for making sure that Meng's phones and laptops were kept secure. He and Vander Graaf are at the centre of conflicting evidence relating to defence allegations that RCMP improperly shared technical information about the electronic devices with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.In testimony, Dhaliwal claimed he took pictures of the serial numbers, make and model of the devices and then sent them to the RCMP's file coordinator and a supervisor, Staff. Sgt. Ben Chang.Vander Graaf's contemporaneous notes later record Dhaliwal telling her that Chang provided the serial numbers to the FBI. But Dhaliwal told a defence lawyer Tuesday that he had no recollection of Chang telling him he had sent the information — or of telling Vander Graaf it had happened.Meng's lawyer, Scott Fenton, suggested that Dhaliwal did recall the conversation. But Dhaliwal said he was "positively sure" he didn't speak to Chang.Chang has retained a lawyer and is refusing to testify, according to the defence.'These things are fluid'By the close of proceedings on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor John Gibb-Carsley had not yet reached the topic of the discrepancy between Vander Graaf's notes and Dhaliwal's memory.He dwelt instead on the circumstances surrounding Meng's arrest. From the outset, Vander Graaf seemed to echo previous testimony in which RCMP officers have stated they were mainly concerned about safety considerations and ensuring CBSA officers were able to carry out their duties in an area that was under their jurisdiction.The day before the arrest, she says she spoke with her supervisor, acting Insp. Peter Lea, who favoured boarding the plane directly in order to arrest Meng the moment her flight landed.Vander Graaf said she didn't think it was the kind of emergency situation that would necessitate officers making the arrest on the plane.She characterized Lea's idea as a "strong" suggestion."These things are fluid and other information arises," she said. "So I would suggest a course of action, but if there was a reason to change that then that would be fine."In his testimony, Dhaliwal said he didn't see why Meng couldn't have been arrested as she walked off the plane, leaving the CBSA to conduct their examination after she had been cautioned of her rights. The defence has repeatedly suggested that Canadian authorities deliberately delayed the execution of the warrant —which called for Meng to be arrested "immediately" — so the CBSA could gather information illegally for the FBI.Meng's legal team will have a chance to make those arguments at a hearing on abuse of process sometime next spring.Those proceedings were originally scheduled for February, but on Tuesday, the Crown said they anticipated a delay which might involve the calling of even more witnesses to respond to the evidence currently being heard.Meng has denied the allegations against her.
OTTAWA — Consumer rights advocates are criticizing the latest statement on airline refunds from the country's transport regulator, saying it contradicts federal and provincial rules to the detriment of customers.The Canadian Transportation Agency updated its statement on vouchers last week, writing that "the law does not require airlines to include refund provisions" in their passenger contracts — known as tariffs — for flights cancelled due to reasons beyond carriers' control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.The CTA website post tops up its initial statement on travel credit from March, which suggested refunds are mandatory only if the tariff provides for it in certain cases.However, passenger rights advocates say both statements go against federal and provincial law and legal precedent.An airline's terms of carriage must clearly lay out its policy on matters including "refunds for services purchased but not used ... either as a result of the client’s unwillingness or inability to continue or the air carrier’s inability to provide the service for any reason," according to regulations under the Canada Transportation Act.The same terms and conditions must be "just and reasonable," the Air Transportation Regulations state. In at least four decisions going back to 2004, the CTA has cited the phrase in upholding passengers' right to reimbursement following flight cancellation.A 2013 decision concerning Porter Airlines found that “it is unreasonable for Porter to refuse to refund the fare paid by a passenger because of its cancellation of a flight, even if the cause is an event beyond Porter’s control.""The refund has to be addressed in the tariff. And the tariff has to be just and reasonable," said Gabor Lukacs, founder of the Air Passenger Rights group.Provincial laws also go against the regulator's statement, said Elyse Thériault, a lawyer for Quebec-based advocacy group Option consommateurs."For us, it's nonsense, especially in Quebec. Because the rules in the Civil Code that are speaking about force majeure — act of God — say that if a merchant cannot deliver the service because of a force majeure, then he must give a refund."Provincial law applies to companies regardless of whether they are provincially or federally regulated, Thériault said, citing Supreme Court of Canada precedent."And I’m pretty confident that no province in their contract law and in their consumer protection laws allow a business to take your money without giving you any service."Passenger protection regulations rolled out last year stipulate that, in the event of a cancellation that is within the carrier’s control, airlines must “refund the unused portion of the ticket” if alternate travel arrangements do not suit the customer’s needs.If a flight is cancelled for reasons outside an airline’s control, however, the Air Passenger Protection Regulations (APPR) only require alternate arrangements, not a refund — though tariffs at multiple airlines when the pandemic hit spelled out passengers’ right to a refund as an alternative."If the CTA is given the necessary authority, we will move quickly to make changes to the APPR to fix this gap in the framework. In the meantime, we encourage airlines to adopt policies providing for refunds if flights are disrupted for reasons outside their control and rebooking options do not meet a passenger's needs," the CTA said in an email."The CTA does not apply provincial law."As for case law, the agency said its past decisions "may have limited relevance in the face of new circumstances," including last year's passenger rights charter.Lukacs argued the new batch of regulations does not nullify older ones that, when paired with previous CTA decisions, amount to a refund requirement.Most Canadian airlines continue to offer travel vouchers rather than reimbursement for flights they cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with WestJet a notable exception since October.Transport Minister Marc Garneau said earlier this month that an aid package now in the works for commercial carriers will hinge on them offering refunds to passengers whose trips were nixed — a long-standing demand by advocates and opposition parties.The pandemic has devastated airlines and the broader tourism industry, with travel restrictions and collapsing demand prompting tens of thousands of airline layoffs and billions of dollars in losses.But customers say they too are in need of funds they believe they are owed.The CTA says it has received more than 10,000 complaints since March. Meanwhile Air Canada garnered more refund complaints to the U.S. Department of Transportation than any American carrier in August, the latest month for which statistics are available.Passengers have also filed a handful of proposed class-action lawsuits and three petitions with more than 109,000 signatures that call for customer reimbursement.The CTA said in March that airlines have the right to issue travel credit instead of a refund for cancelled trips in the "current context," though it later clarified that the online statement was "not a binding decision" and that reimbursements depend in part on the contract between airline and passenger. "The statement was issued in extraordinary circumstances and addressed the risk that passengers would be left with nothing in the event of flight cancellations outside of the airline's control," the CTA said Tuesday.It added that complaints remain an avenue for travellers, though as of several weeks ago none of the 10,000-plus filed to the CTA had been handled due to an earlier backlog.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
Debbie Forward looked back at 24 years at the helm of the Registered Nurses Union of Newfoundland and Labrador Tuesday in a tenure punctuated by a strike in 1999 that got them banned from the lobby of the Confederation Building and a showdown in 2009 with then premier Danny Williams. Forward, who started nursing 40 years ago, gave her last address to the biennial convention at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s before stepping down next month. “I’ll never forget 1999, having rallies on the steps of Confederation Building, not knowing if our members would show up,” she said, recounting their fight with then premier Brian Tobin. “Well, we didn’t have to worry about that, because they came out in the hundreds.” She recalled how members rallied in the lobby of the legislature, banging their picket signs on the floor until someone complained they were chipping the marble. Protests were banned from the building after that. “That was unity and solidarity like I had never seen or experienced before,” she said. During the showdown with Williams in 2009, Forward said, the premier insisted his sources said most nurses would be happy with a deal on the table. The union put it to a vote. Sixty-four per cent rejected it. Forward said her numbers predicted 66 per cent would. The dispute was finally settled in negotiation. Forward highlighted some of her primary goals as president, including a long battle to increase staffing levels and end the cycle of overtime and sick leave that has characterized the profession for many years. She said nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador currently punch in 250,000 hours of overtime a year. Overtime and sick leave, she said, cost the province an extra $45 million annually. “Research shows more RNs, staffed properly and working in healthy environments, will improve our health-care system and save the province money,” she said. Forward said she is pleased Health Minister Dr. John Haggie has committed to breaking that cycle, and only regrets she won’t be around to see the results. She said the fact incoming president Yvette Coffey will play a role in the province’s 10-year Health Accord Task Force speaks volumes about that commitment. “I am confident that Yvette will be a strong, powerful voice for our union. Having a seat at that table will ensure that we are not on the menu.” After her speech, Forward said she has three main things in mind for her retirement: “Relaxation, relaxation, relaxation.” She said she’s looking forward to spending more time with family, including her granddaughter, but admits travel is out of the question for now. Asked if she misses nursing as such, Forward said she never left. “I believe I’m still nursing, I’m just nursing in a different role,” she said. “I miss connections with patients and those conversations and being on the front line. “My connection with my members and my conversations with them on what’s happening on the front line has really helped keep me grounded in the realities of the system.” Before Forward’s address, the minister made a virtual appearance to offer his thoughts and answer some questions from members. Haggie also had a few flattering words for the outgoing president, saying she has laid the groundwork for a new approach to nursing. “Your successors will go further because they’re stood on your shoulders, so I wouldn’t worry about not having been able to finish this particular piece. It will be done.”Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Adamson Barbecue based in Etobicoke, just west of Toronto, was allowed to have guests dine-in on Tuesday afternoon despite being in violation of provincial and municipal bylaws.
Care home operators in B.C. say having a daily rapid COVID-19 test for their workers could help stem outbreaks and alleviate anxiety about brining the virus to elderly people under their care.The comments follow B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie's call for the province to provide rapid tests for workers in care homes.The majority of COVID-19 deaths in the province have occurred in long-term care. On Tuesday the province said there were currently 55 active outbreaks in long-term care and assisted living centres."If we had rapid testing we might catch some of those people who actually are shedding the virus but they're not showing any symptoms," said Mackenzie about workers who inadvertently bring the disease into a care home where it can easily spread with devastating results.Rapid tests for coronavirus, known as rapid antigen tests, have been developed to give results in 15 to 30 minutes, much quicker than conventional tests.Most often health workers use what's called "reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction" (RT-PCR) testing to confirm cases of COVID-19. The tests evaluate a cell sample taken with a swab at the back of the nose and throat for trace amounts of the coronavirus's RNA.These test are more accurate than rapid tests, but it can take days to receive the results.'A huge difference'Dan Levitt is the executive director of Tabor Village an independent and assisted living home in Abbotsford where 122 staff and residents have positive tests during its current coronavirus outbreak. There have been 16 deaths from the disease in November.He said rapid tests could be one more tool, along with temperature checks, mask use and cleaning, to push back the rate of outbreaks at care homes. "It's really the asymptomatic staff members, so if we could test them every day when they come in, we would wait for 15, 30 minutes until we get the results back and then if they're clear then they'll be able to come in," he said."If we could do that, it would make a huge difference."Debra Hauptman, the CEO of the Langley Care Society, which operates Langley Lodge agrees."We would welcome it, we think it's a very positive move to undertake everything that we can," she said. "One more measure that would give us all confidence."The lodge has had three outbreaks, one of which put the care home into lockdown for more than 60 days starting in mid-May and resulted in 51 cases and 26 deaths.Hauptman said the anxiety workers face over potentially bringing the disease to residents is difficult to cope with and a rapid test could mitigate that."Let us try it," she said. "We're not asking for perfection, we're asking for support."'Not a panacea'Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said on Monday there aren't enough tests in the province to apply them widely. She was also lukewarm about their efficacy."It is not a panacea," she said. "It is not what is going to solve our issue, because the tests have faults and limitations."She said testing all workers each and every day is not currently possible. "We don't yet have that type of a test that we could easily do every day," she said.Still long-term care providers like Hauptman said they would be willing to help fund the tests if the province was willing to try and implement them.The B.C. Care Providers Association has also asked for the tests to be used at long-term care centres.
EDMONTON — Finance Minister Travis Toews says COVID-19 will affect Alberta’s economy for the next couple of years and perhaps beyond, but projections are encouraging.“COVID-19 has created an environment of uncertainty, not just here in Alberta but around the world,” Toews said Tuesday as he announced updated numbers for his current budget.“I can’t say whether the worst days are behind us in this pandemic. (But) I’m hopeful when I see signs of economic recovery out there. We’re doing all we can to position Alberta for recovery.”Toews said the revised budget deficit this year will be $21.3 billion. That’s $2.8 billion less than projected at the first update in August, but still exponentially larger than the $6.8-billion deficit announced when Toews first presented the budget in February.Since then, Toews said Alberta’s economy has been hit by the “triple black swan”: the COVID-19 pandemic, the drop in oil prices due to an international price war, and a global economic contraction.But he said the updated revenue forecast for the current budget is $41.4 billion, almost $3 billion higher than last quarter due to improved forecasts for resource and gaming revenues, investment income and federal transfers.Expenses are pegged at $62.7 billion, up $5.4 billion due to compensation and health-care initiatives responding to the COVID-19 crisis.Taxpayer-supported debt is pegged to hit $97.4 billion by the spring and $125 billion by 2023.Total spending to fight COVID-19 and for pandemic recovery efforts is forecast to be $4.8 billion this year and an estimated $1.8 billion for the two years after that.Revenue from non-renewable resources is forecast at $1.7 billion, down $3.4 billion.Toews said there are encouraging signs, but it will be a long path to full recovery. Real GDP, a measure of a jurisdictions’ total economic output, is expected to fall to 8.1 per cent rather than the expected 8.8 per cent this year and won’t recover to 2014 levels until 2023.Real GDP is expected to grow 4.4 per cent in 2021.Elsewhere, the province reported that the agriculture sector is reaping the rewards of strong crop conditions overall and the forestry sector is seeing higher prices for lumber.Refined petroleum exports are rising. The food manufacturing sector has seen sales rise 5.5 per cent through September. In the labour sector, employment has gained back 72 per cent of the 360,900 jobs lost earlier this year during the first COVID wave. However, employment is still expected to shrink by seven per cent in 2020 and won’t get back to 2019 levels until 2022.Toews said recalibrating Alberta’s finances in the long term will be tied to three “anchors”: keeping spending under control and comparable to other provinces, keeping the net-debt-to-GDP ratio to no more than 30 per cent, and devising a post-pandemic timeline to get the budget out of the red.“Economic recovery and efficient delivery of government services are both critically important for fiscal recovery,” said Toews. “As we continue to face the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to do everything we can to protect Albertans while also managing our finances responsibly.”Opposition NDP finance critic Shannon Phillips dismissed Toews’ update as an overly optimistic forecast given the province is still dealing with a renewed wave of COVID-19.“Simply put, the UCP can’t be trusted to manage the province’s finances or the economy,” said Phillips.“The first wave of COVID-19 was on our doorstep, but the UCP acted like everything was fine."Now in the midst of a second wave, we see the outcome of this government’s poor planning. We have an out-of-control pandemic, an absent premier and one of the slowest economic recoveries in Canada.”This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Ottawa is taking the first steps toward creating a national flood insurance program for high-risk residential properties. The federal government this week announced the creation of an interdisciplinary task force on flood insurance and relocation that will begin work in January, considering what form a national low-cost insurance program would take. It will be comprised of representatives from all three levels of government, as well as members from the insurance industry. The task force will work alongside a steering committee that will consider the needs of Indigenous communities and how the needs of people living on reserves might differ. “Flooding in Canada has devastating effects for thousands of Canadians each year. Our government is making investments to reduce the impact of climate-related disasters to foster a more resilient Canada,” Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said. Overland flood insurance is excluded by most home insurance plans in Canada, and when it is offered, it is often expensive. Increased frequency of extreme weather events, such as flooding, comes along with a changing climate. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised a national flood insurance program as part of the Liberals’ climate strategy in the 2019 election campaign. The Insurance Bureau of Canada — an industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers — has been calling for years on the federal government to create a national flood program. “More Canadians are exposed to flooding than to any other climate-related peril. Through this task force, insurers will work with governments across the country to ensure every Canadian has access to affordable flood insurance,” said Don Forgeron, IBC president and chief executive officer. The insurance industry is feeling the weight of mounting claims. In 2018, “insured catastrophic losses” were pegged at $2 billion — 60 per cent higher than in 2017. “But unlike the 1998 Quebec ice storm, the 2013 Calgary floods or the 2016 Fort McMurray, Alta. wildfire, no single event in 2018 caused the high amount paid out for losses. Instead, Canadians and their insurers experienced significant losses from a host of smaller severe weather events from coast to coast to coast,” the 2019 industry report reads. The IBC estimates 10 per cent of Canada’s 10.9 million homes are at high risk for flooding. The association has also called on provincial and municipal governments to immediately amend bylaws and land-use planning that allows for people to construct new buildings on flood plains. The task force will report its findings in spring 2022.Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Volker Gerdts, a leading vaccine researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, says Canada should focus on manufacturing vaccines domestically to better prepare for future events.
As COVID-19 cases continue to grow, Premier Andrew Furey has decided to pull the plug on the Atlantic bubble — at least for now. Beginning Wednesday at 12:01 p.m., anyone arriving in the province from the Maritimes must isolate for 14 days. However, travellers within Atlantic Canada will still not have to apply for an exemption. The resumption of quarantine rules will also now apply to southern Labrador border communities, and those who live on the Quebec side but work in Labrador will have to apply for an exemption. Furey described the move as a “circuit break” and said it will be re-evaluated in two weeks. “This is not an easy situation,” he told reporters Monday to a live video briefing. “We must be responsive now and address the situation today,” he said, adding that the aim is to protect the school population and vulnerable citizens. “None of us want another full lockdown like the one we’ve just been through.” Furey said he talked to the other Atlantic premiers over the weekend and all are on board with the decision. P.E.I. Premier Dennis King announced Monday that province will also pause its participation in the bubble, starting Tuesday. “We’re enjoying this level of freedom,” Furey said. “We want to keep it that way.” But he dismissed the notion that leaving the bubble may affect some businesses in the province. “This is an effort to protect the economy.” Furey said the number of cases in other Atlantic provinces was not the only factor in the decision. Public Health also took into account that non-residents from the rest of Canada are still allowed to travel to those provinces without the need of an exemption. The province added another two cases to its tally Monday, including the first case of a child in school. It’s a girl in elementary school in Deer Lake, where a cluster of cases has caused much of the town to shut down as a precaution. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said the child’s cohort — which in this case means the rest of her class — will now have to self-isolate while awaiting a test. “While this is not welcome news today, it is certainly not unexpected,” Fitzgerald said. “We knew we would eventually see cases in schools.” She added that procedures are being followed, and that the source of all cases in Deer Lake has been established and there’s no evidence of community spread. Fitzgerald said she’s tweaking the rules for rotational workers, but won’t backtrack on the shortened seven-day quarantine period implemented in September to relieve the burden of constant isolation while home. However, workers returning from sites elsewhere in Canada will have to wait till Day 7 to get a test, rather than being able to arrange one on Day 5. That may mean some workers may have to wait an extra day for results. That rule goes into effect Wednesday as well. Fitzgerald said waiting two extra days will provide an extra layer of protection. Workers returning from work outside Canada or returning from sites with an identified outbreak still have to isolate for the full 14 days. As well, Fitzgerald said families of rotational workers should avoid large gatherings during the isolation period, should wear a mask when in contact with anyone outside their bubble, and should avoid entering personal and long-term care homes. However, she admitted that is a recommendation and not a rule. Rotational workers, however, are now required to stay out of care facilities. “We continue to carefully consider the balance of risks and benefits as COVID rages on outside our borders,” she said. The province now has 23 active cases, but no longer has anyone in hospital. In Grand Bank — where seven people tested positive, including five seniors over the age of 70 — all contacts have been traced and are in quarantine, Fitzgerald said. In Deer Lake, however, contact tracing continues. Peter Jackson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Telegram
Health officials at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Cote-Saint-Luc refute a nurse's assertion that staff are made to travel between hot and cold zones, as the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 45 at the residence. They say they have added several precautions since the first wave, including employees whose sole purpose is to make sure protocols are being followed and personal protective equipment is worn and discarded properly. "Staff stay in the same unit," said Jennifer Clarke, site coordinator at Maimonides."It could be that a staff member was asked to move to a hot zone because maybe we need extra support there, but then they do not return to the regular care unit."Monday, a nurse at Maimonides told CBC a colleague had been forced to work in one of the regular units after having worked in the centre's hot zone on the seventh floor. The nurse, whom CBC agreed not to name, said the home is short-staffed and workers are questioning the quality of the personal protective equipment (PPE) they are provided, as seven staff members tested positive on one floor. "The morale is low. We are burned out. We are tired. At night, there is one nurse and one patient attendant for 70 patients," she said. Clarke agreed staff are tired, but that there are no serious staff shortages at the centre. She said the Quebec government program to train thousands of patient attendants benefited the centre, as 70 new patient attendants were sent to work there."The staff are feeling the burden of the pandemic. In the first wave, we were running on adrenaline. But heading into the second wave, you can feel it — they're feeling discouraged."Four Maimonides residents have died since the outbreak began more than a week ago at the centre. Clarke said the outbreak has been traced to a resident who was infected by their caregiver. The centre holds a testing clinic three days a week from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., where staff and caregivers are encouraged to regularly get tested. Clarke says the centre cannot legally force them to be tested, but that testing becomes mandatory once an outbreak is declared. The centre considers one positive case sufficient to declare an outbreak "because we know that once we have one case, it can very easily spread," she said.Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the president of the health board overseeing Maimonides, CIUSSS West Central Montreal, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon, reassuring residents and their families that staff were not transferred from hot to cold zones. "To those who are ill and to their loved ones, I would like to express my deepest concern, as well as my assurances that everything possible is being done to support the residents' recovery," Rosenberg wrote. "It is also worth noting that representatives of the Public Health Department visited Maimonides on Friday. Although their official report has not been released yet, they have already spoken to us and given their approval for the measures we have put in place."
After 17 years on the job, former Timmins mayor Jamie Lim is looking forward to the spending more time with family life while keeping an optimistic eye on the future of the province’s forestry sector. On Monday it was announced that she will be retiring from her position as president and chief executive officer of the Ontario Forest Industries Association (OFIA) at the end of the calendar year. “In 2019, we had a little bit of a family health crisis, and it just sort of made me reassess everything, and I thought 2020 would be a nice time to retire,” she told The Daily Press. “I made the decision before COVID. I can tell you now when I made the decision in 2019, I thought 2020 was going to be a nice walk in the park, and regular work, and closing some files and stuff with the association. I had no idea that 2020 would have a global pandemic and a global economic crisis waiting for us.” Her final year at the helm has seemingly gone in a flash. “Since March, it’s just been a blur, because we’ve been so busy making sure that we can continue working during this global pandemic.” Lim said it is important to know when to pass the torch. “Seventeen years at a trade association is a really long tenure. I’m very, very proud that I’ve had 17 wonderful years to work with the forest sector. Some of my members have been running their mills in their family for six generations. Representing this sector, honestly, has been one of the greatest pleasures in my life. It really has.” Ian Dunn will step in as interim president and CEO effective Jan. 1. Dunn is currently the executive director of policy and operations, and has been with the organization for five years. “It’s really an honour and a privilege to lead an association like this,” he said. “I got into this because of a passion for Ontario’s forests, and that’s a real source of inspiration for me and OFIA staff, and I'm looking forward to Jan. 1.” Dunn believes the experience from his current role has prepared him to step into his new position smoothly, as it was policy focused. “Certainly, how it impacted the woodlands operations of our members of forest management type issues. It’s grown over time to include manufacturing-type issues such as carbon pricing, emissions standards, things like that, as well as market-related issues such as the softwood lumber trade dispute. “So in my current role, I’ve had a really good opportunity to get exposed to all facets of the business and I’m really looking forward to stepping into more of a leadership position.” Lim said that by both growing up in Timmins and living in the city as an adult, she knows how important the mining and forestry sectors are to the local and regional economies, and emphasized their roles as the economic engines of the area. She pointed to some big numbers from the OFIA. “We employ 147,000 people directly and indirectly, and we generate about $18 billion in revenue for the province every year.” Over the last two years, she said it has “been a pleasure” to work with a provincial government that recognizes the importance of the forestry sector to Ontario “and acknowledges the importance of having economic engines in Northern and rural Ontario that can create employment for our people.” She credited Premier Doug Ford, Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, as well as Minister of Environment, Conservation, and Parks Jeff Yurek for their commitment to improving the forestry sector in Ontario. “All three ministers with the Premier have been instrumental in supporting the sector before the pandemic and during the pandemic,” said Lim. Ford and Yakabuski announced the provincial forest sector strategy in August. Lim stated that in her 17 years with the OFIA, she has never seen the province willing to put forward a formal strategy. “It couldn’t have come at a better time. The United Nations in 2018 had a study commissioned and it showed that global demand for wood products is expected to increase by 30 per cent by 2030.” Lim believes that everything points to continued strength for the forest products sector, and that with the right public policy, and right aspirations from government decision makers, forestry can become an even bigger economic powerhouse. “Respond to that global demand for wood products. I want to see them come from Ontario, and I want to see the jobs, and the economic growth in Northern and rural Ontario.” Dunn agrees. “I think we’re on a real solid foundation. The province’s forest sector strategy is an amazing opportunity to grow the sector. So I’m very optimistic about the future of forestry in Ontario,” he said. In a year like no other in history, the forestry sector being declared an essential service was absolutely critical for both the people who are employed in the sector, as well as the general public. Ontario was the first jurisdiction in Canada to make that declaration. “People realize in times of crisis like this how important forest products are, and if we can source them from a local jurisdiction like Ontario, that’s even better,” said Dunn. The forestry sector is essential to not only the province’s economic recovery, but also its response to the crisis. “I think this is a sector that can really contribute to the response to the current pandemic in a number of ways. The production of PPE (personal protective equipment) or lumber for infrastructure projects or even palettes for the movement of goods and medicines,” he said. Lim added, “We’ve kept people working, and to me, right now during this economic and health crisis, nothing could be more important. “I never thought I would see something like this in my entire life.” As she prepares to leave her position, Lim talked about the overall current state of forestry in Ontario. “In March, I didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, and it’s incredible that forestry doesn’t seem to have been impacted like other sectors.” The demand and sales numbers for wood products have been “exceptional,” according to Lim. “Who knew that people, because they were staying home, would start doing all these do-it-yourself projects, new decks and renovations — the amount of building that went on really allowed our sector to maintain its strength in the global marketplace.” Having been with the OFIA since 2004 and working through the 2008 recession, Lim sees the forestry sector as being in a better position this time around. “I think there are more opportunities than challenges.” She said that health and safety for everyone must be the top priority, but it does also present its own challenges. There are questions about how tree planting will be handled next spring, for example. However, the forestry sector is in big demand right now with PPEs, consumer lumber, and of course, toilet paper sales way up. “We’re the sector that is making sure that the supplies that people need right now are available,” said Lim. She said the OFIA has a very engaged and passionate team in place, and has full confidence in Dunn. “I am confident that the strong, effective advocacy that OFIA has been known for is going to continue without even a hiccup. We’re going to continue to make sure that forestry is top of mind with the provincial and federal governments, and that the measures we need to keep people working will be in place.” Dunn will be keeping a close eye on the numbers in the final weeks of 2020 before he moves into his new role. “I think Ontario is in a good position,” he said. “I think prices that we’re seeing for some commodity products, certainly dimensional lumber, which have increased pretty substantially over the last couple of months, it will be interesting to see how sustainable those prices are, or if they're more of a blip on the radar.” So what’s next for Lim? Well, for starters, she said she would like “a well-deserved rest” but also, more family time. “I want to exhale. My three children work in the medical sector and they’re all in hospitals, so I really haven't been able to spend any time with them over the last nine months. So my priority is going to be my family. “We’re a really close family and we’re used to being together all the time.” She is looking forward to the next chapter of her life. “People that work with me and know me well, know that I am so passionate about two things: That’s my family and Northern Ontario.” Andrew Autio, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Daily Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's system for paying unemployment benefits is so dysfunctional that the state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners, local and federal prosecutors said Tuesday, detailing a scheme that resulted in claims filed in the names of well-known convicted murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.From March to August, more than 35,000 inmates were named in claims filed with the California Employment Development Department, with more than 20,000 being paid, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates, resulting in more than $420,000 in benefits paid“It involves rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons,” Schubert said.The list includes Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his pregnant wife following a trial that riveted the nation. The California Supreme Court recently overturned Peterson’s death sentence and has ordered a lower court to review his murder conviction.Schubert confirmed there was a claim made in the name of Scott Peterson, but declined to provide further details.Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, said while Peterson's name surfaced during the investigation, there is no evidence Peterson received unemployment aid from the state.“This investigation, when it's completed, will show that he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits,” Harris said.Schubert listed a number of inmates there who had claims filed in their names, including Stayner, convicted of killing four people in or near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Susan Eubanks, a San Diego woman convicted of shooting her four sons to death in 1997; Isauro Aguirre, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Los Angeles; and Wesley Shermantine, part of the duo dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” for their meth-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and ’90s.Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid. They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside — usually friends or family members of the inmates, who would then receive the benefits.In Kern County, home to five state prisons, one address was used to receive benefits for 16 inmates.“In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.In some cases, inmates used their real names. In others, they used fake names and even fake Social Security numbers. In one instance, an inmate used the name: “poopy britches," Schubert said.“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” Schubert said.So far, 22 people have been charged in San Mateo County, including six people who were not in prison. Prosecutors said dozens of other investigations across the state are continuing.Prosecutors blamed the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed by more than 16.4 million benefit claims since the pandemic began in March, resulting in a backlog that at one time totalled more than 1.6 million people.But prosecutors said in its haste to approve benefits, the department did not check unemployment claims against a list of prisoners, as many other states do. San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that when he notified the department about inmates fraudulently receiving benefits, they told him they could not cut off the payments until they were formally charged with a crime.The problem was so bad that on Monday, nine county district attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for him to intervene.“We face a manifest problem that requires action, not talk,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working with the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General on cross-checking claims with inmates, saying they are “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”In an email to the AP, Newsom called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he first learned of the fraud earlier this year, which prompted him to order the department to “review its practices and take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”Newsom said he has ordered the Office of Emergency Services to set up a task force to assist prosecutors with their investigation.“While we have made improvements, we need to do more,” Newsom said.___This story has been corrected to say that Cary Stayner killed four people in or near Yosemite National Park; to show 20,000 of 35,000 claims were paid; and to accurately spell the last name of convicted killer Wesley Shermantine.Adam Beam, The Associated Press
As part of IndigiNews’ ongoing look into Indigenous reproductive healthcare access, we are speaking to people about their birth experiences. As the snow started to fall, marking the beginning of the winter solstice, Estella Carmona was on her way to the hospital to give birth to her first daughter, Katiyana. The all-encompassing birthing process would turn into a life-changing spiritual experience that showed Carmona her “true connection to spirit,” she says. Carmona sees her daughter Katiyana, who’s turning seven on Dec. 21, as her greatest teacher. “I knew that I was bringing in sacred life,” says Carmona who is of Sechelt, Stó:lō and Mexican descent, reflecting on the day her daughter was born. Carmona is a member of shíshálh First Nation, which is located along the Sunshine Coast in Sechelt, B.C., and comes from a strong line of matriarchs. She says it’s the strong cultural teachings from the smokehouse that pulled her through two complicated birth experiences. “It showed the strength of spirit,” she says. “I was raised by my great-grandmother, my grandmother and my mom, and [strong moral teachings are] something that we live, we breathe.” She credits her great-grandmother who was a fluent speaker in her language for instilling these teachings in the family. Carmona was living in Stó:lō Territory in 2013 when she was pregnant with her first daughter. Before Katiyana was born owls and hawks started visiting her, she explains. For many Indigenous people, the connection between birds as a kind of messenger is a part of cultural teachings passed down. “An owl started visiting me throughout my pregnancy. They’ve never come into my life beforehand,” says Carmona. “I had four owls visit me and two owls came the night before she was born.” During the delivery, Carmona explains how her cultural teachings helped assist in the birth. “I did tap into sacred energy, our breath, and prayer,” she says. Carmona used a birthing tub at the hospital during her labour. “Having been surrounded by water, she came into this world in a very peaceful way,” she says. However, after her daughter was delivered Carmona says she lost a lot of blood but was not given a blood transfusion. She left the experience wishing she had known her rights. “If I knew my rights, I would have demanded a blood transfusion,” she says. “They took my blood count after she was delivered. They took my blood count the next morning. And they’re like, well, it’s already increasing. So we don’t think you need one.” After suffering from extreme fatigue for six months, navigating being a new mother, working, and being in school, she didn’t realize the severity of the situation until years later. After requesting to see her medical records she says, “I realized this is how women die in childbirth.” Carmona believes a higher power is what pulled her through this experience. “When I say spirit saved my life, I believe that Katiyana chose me as her mother. She chose her father. And those owls visited me throughout,” she says, “it was spirit all the way.” As they left the hospital, she remembers seeing a hawk on the side of the road. “Her spirit is the owl spirit,” Carmona says smiling. “There’s no question about it, she sees truth.” In 2015, Carmona was pregnant with her second child, a daughter named Ivy. Still living in Stó:lō Territory, she returned to give birth at a local hospital. This time, she says, the delivery was excruciating and there were complications with baby Ivy being delivered. According to her medical records, baby Ivy was born face up, blue and limp with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. While Carmona says her mother and mother-in-law knew what was happening, she was unaware of the severity of the situation. “I did not know the severity of the situation being like you just delivered a baby,” she says. The medical records show that baby Ivy was not breathing when she was born, and Carmona says they called a “code pink” signalling an emergency. “She’s a miracle that she survived,” says Carmona. “My belief in the Creator, my belief in the teaching saved us a hundred percent. We had people watching over us.” Reflecting on the experience, Carmona once again wishes she was given more information in the moment. “There was no, how long was she out of breath for, what’s her cognitive ability kind of thing. Like, your daughter could have died,” she says. “It was, she can sit up in her car seat. You’re fine, go home.” For other expecting parents Carmona says that due to the lack of cultural safety, systemic racism and stereotyping of Indigenous women, it’s important to “trust your intuition.” “Whether it’s the doctor, a white midwife, the stereotyping that you receive, whether it’s in the doctor’s appointments, leading up or in the delivering room, having multiple Indigenous family members there, there’s a lot of racism that happens in these experiences,” she says. Many Indigenous Peoples who access the healthcare system in Canada feel the impacts of systemic racism. On June 19, 2020, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was appointed by Health Minister Adrian Dix to lead an investigation into Indigenous-specific racism in the B.C. health care system. “If I could say anything to a woman who would be giving birth or in this process, trust your intuition, pray for protection and guidance,” says Carmona. With two healthy young girls, now one of the most important things for Carmona is that her kids are raised traditionally so that they too are equipped to navigate the world. “I can say that practicing our cultural teachings benefits new mothers and their babies, that little plant, that little seed,” says Carmona, “Every thought, every feeling that we think our baby experiences and my daughters are very cultural beings.” Our series on reproductive health access is made possible in part with funding from First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and Thunderbird Partnership Foundation. Their support does not imply endorsement of or influence over the content produced. Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse
Former patients of a maximum-security psychiatric facility who were subject to a series of “horrific” experimental treatments are appearing in a Toronto court via video feeds from across the country to testify at a three-week long damages hearing. Last June, Justice Edward Morgan of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found two former psychiatrists who worked at the Oak Ridge Division of the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre, along with the provincial government, liable for what their lawyers call unethical and degrading human experimentation between 1966 and 1983. Dr. Elliott T. Barker and Dr. Gary J. Maier gave patients high doses of hallucinogens and mind-altering drugs, including LSD and alcohol as the cornerstone of one of the programs. They confined naked men together for days on end at the facility along Georgian Bay’s Asylum Point, now known as Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. Eight of those 28 patients have died since the lawsuit was launched 20 years ago. The first hearing revealed "varying degrees of harm” perpetrated by the two doctors in which the judge found the Crown also liable and in breach of their fiduciary duties “by perpetrating assault and battery." The current hearing is meant to quantify the damages by establishing the income patients lost as a result of their treatment in Penetanguishene and other related impacts. While the lawyers for the former patients haven’t yet attached a dollar figure to their claim, it is expected to be in the millions. Rod Joanisse told a court Monday that his brother, Danny, could have had a career with the family’s successful printing business in St. Catharines, possibly as a partner, were he not plagued by the effects of his time at Oak Ridge. As a 16-year-old, Danny was repeatedly cuffed to a convicted pedophile murderer, deemed, like many others at Oak Ridge, to be not criminally responsible for his crimes. The judge earlier found the teen “was humiliated, degraded, and deprived of any sense of security.” Danny, who died last year after testifying at the original hearing, had cut off two of his own fingers, but that didn’t stop him from doing tasks around the printing plant, his brother testified. But recurring nightmares prevented him from sleeping, increasingly interrupting his work schedule, he added. “He was more than capable,” the surviving Joanisse told the court this week. Allen McMann, now 61, told the hearing he spent five years on welfare after his release. And a letter from the welfare office finally prompted him to find some direction for his life and he signed up for a janitorial training program with Goodwill Industries. “I basically froze; I had a lot of shame,” McMann said, adding that he didn’t know what to do up until that point. That course eventually led him to a career of window cleaning, which he said suited him because it meant not having to deal with people, something he said is difficult as a result of his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). McMann was considered to have a behavioural problem, was a bully in school and had stolen a car when he was sent to Oak Ridge in 1975 at age 16. There, he was deemed difficult to manage and remained at the facility until 1978. As part of the experimental treatments, he was coerced or forced to participate in humiliating programs he didn’t know were experimental, according to court documents. He was placed in a “capsule” with groups of naked men and locked in an isolation cell for group encounters where he spent his 17th birthday. That included being coupled with “a prison-hardened, seasoned killer who was several decades older than him.” The damages hearing is expected to continue for three weeks over the next four-week period and is to culminate with closing statements by lawyers for the former patients, the doctors and the provincial government in mid-December.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
EDMONTON — The Alberta government announced Tuesday new restrictions to battle record-high rates of COVID-19 infections in the province. In addition to declaring a public health emergency, the government ordered the following for the next three weeks:— No indoor social gatherings. Funerals and weddings are limited to 10 people, as are outdoor gatherings. Churches are restricted to one-third normal attendance.— Restaurants and bars can remain open. But a maximum of six people from the same household can sit at a table and there must be no movement between tables. People who live alone can meet with two people.\-- Retail stores can remain open at 25 per cent capacity. — At-home learning for students in Grades 7 through 12 starting Monday. Other students are to do their schooling from home starting Dec. 18 before winter break. All students are to resume at-home learning after the break and can return to school Jan . 11.\-- Casinos can remain open at 25 per cent capacity with slot machines only.— The closure of banquet halls, conference centres, trade shows, concert venues, community centres, and indoor play places.— A halt on all levels of sport, although exemptions may be considered.— Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces in Edmonton, Calgary and surroundings areas.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Justin Bieber emerged as the top Canadian nominee at this year's Grammys, but the singer says he's confused over why his latest album "Changes" wasn't acknowledged as an R&B project. The Stratford, Ont.-raised superstar turned to Instagram on Tuesday with a message that, in part, said he was "flattered" by his four nominations, while he questioned the Recording Academy's decision to box him into pop music categories. "From the chords to the melodies to the vocal style all the way down to the hip hop drums that were chosen it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!" he wrote. But his fifth studio release wasn't recognized as such, and while it's unclear who submitted it for nominations, the recording picked up only pop praise, pushing him ahead of multi-faceted Canadian music producer Kaytranada, who trailed closely behind with three nods. Bieber grabbed a best pop vocal album nod, while his single "Intentions," with rapper Quavo, was recognized in the pop duo performance category. The hit "Yummy" is competing as best pop solo performance. Aside from his pop prospects, Bieber found his name under best country duo or group performance for his single "10,000 Hours" with Nashville act Dan + Shay. Being shut out of the R&B categories is a setback for Bieber, who many critics suggest is trying to shed his image as a teen pop star and mature into a soulful adult vocalist. His Grammys lead was nearly matched by Kaytranada. The Montreal producer made waves as a contender for best new artist where he'll compete against heavyweights that include Texas rapper Megan Thee Stallion and Los Angeles singer Doja Cat. Kaytranada, born Louis Celestin, is also up for best dance/electronic album for "Bubba," and best dance recording for "10%," featuring Kali Uchis. The first-time Grammy nominee was joined by fellow Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta who also scored her first Grammy nod with the album “Miss Colombia” in the best Latin rock or alternative category. Reached at her Toronto art studio Tuesday, Pimienta said the nomination was unexpected. "I don't really pay attention to awards but it's still, of course, a great honour," she added. "I might not care about it that much, but because I love my family, and people who love me care about it so much and they're so proud of me, I have to be happy, you know? And I am so grateful." Toronto rap star Drake pulled in three nominations. He has two for "Laugh Now, Cry Later" — best rap song and best melodic rap performance — and another for the music video of "Life is Good," a track he made with rapper Future. Producer Frank Dukes, who grew up in Toronto, shares two nods with Post Malone for his work on "Hollywood's Bleeding," up for album of the year, and the single "Circles," under record of the year. Among the biggest upsets was the total absence of Toronto singer the Weeknd from the nominations. His inescapable 2020 album "After Hours" and its No. 1 single "Blinding Lights" were considered front-runners by awards prognosticators. Late Tuesday, the artist born Abel Tesfaye addressed the snub on Twitter by addressing organizers and their largely secret voting process: "The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency..." Other Canadians sharing the Grammy spotlight include singer-songwriter Jonathan Saxe, who performs under the name JP Saxe. He locked his first song of the year nomination with co-writer and duet partner Julia Michaels on their sombre "If the World Was Ending." Sam Ellis, a native of Cambridge, Ont., marked his own landmark Grammy moment as songwriter on "More Heart Than Mine," nominated for best country song. Leonard Cohen landed a fourth career nomination for his posthumous 2019 album "Thanks For the Dance" in the folk album category, while Rufus Wainwright added a second Grammy nod to his illustrious career, this year for "Follow the Rules" under traditional pop vocal album. Nasri Atweh, best known as the vocalist for reggae-pop fusion act "Magic!", was among the songwriters nominated for best R&B song with "Slow Down," performed by Skip Marley and H.E.R. British Columbia house music producer Jayda G, who started her professional pursuits as a science student in Vancouver, will compete for dance recording with her track "Both of Us." "Weird Al" Yankovic's longtime guitarist Jim West said being named in the new age category for the second consecutive year was enough to convince him to scrap plans of spending the day in line at the Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles. Renewing his driver's licence could wait, he decided, since he wanted to savour the moment for his album "More Guitar Stories." But West, who grew up in Toronto and Ottawa, wondered how different the Grammys might look compared to last year when fellow nominees could celebrate together. "One thing I think I'm gonna miss is going to the parties," he said. "I don't think anybody's going to be up for anything like that." French-Canadian actress Audrey Brisson shares a nomination with the U.K. cast of "Amelie," a musical based on the 2001 romantic comedy that's recognized in the best musical theater album category. Sound engineer Shawn Everett secured three separate nominations in the best engineered album, non-classical, category. He's being recognized for Devon Gilfillian's "Black Hole Rainbow," Brittany Howard's "Jaime," and Beck's "Hyperspace." Several other famed Canadians didn't get nominations themselves but were involved in recognized projects. A reading by "Jeopardy!" contestant Ken Jennings of the late Alex Trebek's memoir "The Answer Is...Reflections on My Life" is competing for spoken word album, while Ottawa native Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill" production is up for musical theater album, a prize for the vocalists. And Niagara Falls, Ont.-raised producer Deadmau5, born Joel Zimmerman, saw a rework of his track "Imaginary Friends" by Morgan Page land a spot in the remix category. The 63rd Grammy Awards air Jan. 31. on CBS and Citytv. —With files from Cassandra Szklarski. This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 24, 2020. David Friend, The Canadian Press
In SABA’s Nov. 16 news bulletin, Angela Pollak informed everyone that the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation will be pausing the application intake for the Northern Ontario Recovery Grant program worth $25,000 on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m. to process the overwhelming volume of applications they have gotten in. She encouraged anyone with eligible products to apply as soon as possible, as there was no indication if or when the intake may reopen to applications. She stressed that people could apply on their own but that she was available to help out if necessary. So far, Pollak knows of several businesses that have applied for this grant. The NOHFC promotes economic growth across Northern Ontario by giving financial assistance to projects that stimulate recovery, growth, job creation and skilled workforce development. They have invested $193 million in 1,386 projects across the region since June 2018, leveraging over $748 million in investment and creating or sustaining nearly 4,000 jobs. According to John Guerard, the acting executive director of the NOHFC, the NORP has been really successful and consequently the applications have been halted, at least for the time being. The last applications will be accepted by 6 p.m. on Nov. 20. While the application deadline had initially been the end of the year, the huge volume of applications received prompted them to move the deadline forward. Natalie Dumont, with the communication services branch of the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines, says the program has been overwhelmingly successful. “The NOHFC received over 1,000 applications in the first month of the program. While we have received applications from a wide range of communities, specific data by community is not currently available,” she says. NORP was launched on Oct. 1 by the provincial government to help support northern companies impacted by COVID-19. Greg Rickford, the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, announced the program on Sept. 28, and pledged his government’s support for business owners, entrepreneurs and workers. “There’s no denying that COVID-19 has had a significant impact on businesses throughout Northern Ontario and that this program will deliver targeted funding so they can continue to serve their communities,” he said at the time of the announcement. NOHFC has already approved and processed hundreds of NORP applications. Due to this influx, the NOHFC is going to focus on processing the outstanding applications after Nov. 20 to get the funding out to the northern business owners who need it. “The Ontario government, through the NOHFC, is committed to moving NORP funding along swiftly so we can continue to promote economic recovery in every region of the north and get our northern economy back on track,” said Guerard in his press release. Guerard also mentioned that new NOHFC programs were coming in January of 2021, making it easier for more businesses to apply and to give them increased support to find market opportunities, address the skilled labour shortage in the north, provide more opportunities for Indigenous people and continue to aid in COVID-19 recovery. Dustin Turner is the northern development advisor with the Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines reminds people that the program offers 100 per cent grant funding up to $25,000 for private for profit businesses only, as not for profits and public sector business are not eligible, to reimburse them for costs incurred while adapting their business operations to adhere to public health guidelines to protect their employees and customers. Eligible costs for reimbursement will be retroactive to March 17, 2020 and businesses are permitted to apply for future costs they may incur. Pollak is gratified by the response to the NORP grant funding she’s seen from businesses in South Algonquin Township. “I know of three businesses in South Algonquin who plan to apply. Two of these businesses reached out after the SABA bulletin went out. I also know that Explorers’ Edge picked up the thread about the new deadline and forwarded it to businesses in the area to get the word out to the northern communities in our region on the west side of [Algonquin Park],” she says. ”This is an indication that the SABA bulletin is working from a communication perspective, which I find encouraging.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The federal government says American duties on Canadian softwood lumber exports continue to be "unfair" and "unjustified," even if they have been reduced. An administrative review by the U.S. Department of Commerce imposes countervailing duties of nearly nine per cent on certain Canadian exporters, down from just over 20 per cent. It's the latest salvo in one of the most persistent trade irritants between Canada and the United States, a dispute that has been raging for nearly 40 years. The lower rate appears to be the result of a World Trade Organization decision in August that found Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission were wrong to impose the original duties in 2017. International Trade Minister Mary Ng acknowledged the lower tariffs as a step in the right direction, but insisted they remain baseless and unfair. Ng says the government will continue to seek a negotiated settlement and defend the interests of Canadian forestry companies and workers."While reduction in tariffs for some Canadian producers is a step in the right direction, Canada is disappointed that the United States continues to impose unwarranted and unfair duties on Canadian softwood lumber," she said in a statement Tuesday evening."These duties have caused unjustified harm to Canadian businesses and workers, as well as U.S. consumers."U.S. producers have long taken issue with Canada's system of provincially regulated stumpage fees, which are paid to the Crown in exchange for the right to harvest timber. They say the system unfairly subsidizes an industry which in the U.S. is privately owned and operated, with pricing set by the competitive marketplace.Canadian lumber exports play a critical role in the U.S., where demand for wood products used in construction significantly outstrips the domestic supply.The U.S. Lumber Coalition, a champion of countervailing duties against Canada, noted in a statement that the August decision by the WTO is being appealed — although the U.S. has effectively hamstrung the world body's dispute resolution panel by refusing to appoint new members. "It is absolutely imperative that these flawed WTO recommendations are not allowed to undermine in any way the continued enforcement of the trade laws," executive director Zoltan van Heyningen said in a statement. "The WTO case is far from over, and as such, it must not be allowed to influence the ongoing process and the results of the second administrative review."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 24, 2020.The Canadian Press