Wopke Hoekstra sparked anger after posting a photo of himself on Twitter with Sven Kramer, the winner of four Winter Olympics speed skating gold medals. His outing breached the Dutch coronavirus restrictions.
Wopke Hoekstra sparked anger after posting a photo of himself on Twitter with Sven Kramer, the winner of four Winter Olympics speed skating gold medals. His outing breached the Dutch coronavirus restrictions.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
A man accused of cyberbullying the parents of a missing Nova Scotia boy on social media said Tuesday a Facebook group devoted to the child's case started with good intentions but spiralled out of control. Tom Hurley is one of the administrators of a Facebook group where people shared information and theories about the case of Dylan Ehler, a three-year-old boy who went missing in Truro, N.S., last year and has not been found. The Facebook group was one of several that became a source of anguish for Dylan's parents, Ashley Brown and Jason Ehler, after participants began accusing them of negligence and even murder. But Hurley said the group was originally meant to assist in the search for the boy. Three-year-old Dylan was last seen near Queen and Elizabeth streets in Truro, N.S., last May. Search and rescue teams have focused their efforts in and around Lepper Brook and the Salmon River, where they found a pair of the boy's boots.(Town of Truro/Facebook) "Our intentions were to try to help them find Dylan," Hurley said. "And it was going good from the beginning. And then something turned somewhere, somewhere along the line, it got turned around." Dylan was playing at his grandmother's house when he disappeared on May 6, 2020. His boots were located nearby shortly afterward, but no other trace of the toddler has ever been found. Police have said they do not believe there was any foul play in the child's disappearance. There were about 13 Facebook groups devoted to the case, Hurley said, but his is the only one that has ended up in court. Hurley said he deleted some posts, but they continued to circulate because users took screenshots of them. The boy's parents are using the Intimate Images and Cyber-protection Act to attempt to have Hurley's group permanently deleted. They are also seeking punitive damages. Lawyer Allison Harris, who is representing the boy's parents, said no monetary value has yet been set for those damages. Group's admin calls for apology 'on both sides' During an interview with reporters Tuesday, Hurley at one point said he didn't see any posts in the group that constituted cyberbullying or harassment, but at another point said "everybody was doing it." "We're not the only ones doing it. The only reason we're here today is because we didn't hide behind fake accounts like everybody else is doing," he said. Hurley also said Jason Ehler cyberbullied and issued threats in a Facebook group. "I think a sorry should be good on both sides," Hurley said. Father of missing boy says damage is done Ehler acknowledged he did make a threat once, but apologized right after. "You guys can't even imagine what they've said about us, you know? So try to sit there and not say anything, sometimes you slip and you say things," he said. Dylan's parents said the accusations in the group have caused them fear and anxiety, but they also worry the posts have distracted people from "the most important thing" — the search for their son. Ehler said an apology from Hurley would be nice, but "the damage is already done." The active search for Dylan was called off on May 12, 2020, 6 days after his disappearance.(Submitted by Ashley Brown) "How do you take that back?" said Ehler. "How do you take Ashley waking up every morning crying, you know, how do they take back us being nervous to go to the store because everybody looks at us like we could be murderers or we can be this or we could be that? "How do you take back the impact they put on my son's searches? How do they take back any of that? They can't take back any of that. What's done is done." The cyberbullying case will be back in court on April 6. Ehler and Brown said the police investigation into their son's disappearance is ongoing, and they will be meeting with police soon to talk about renewed searches this spring. MORE TOP STORIES
REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus. He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June. Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions would stay in place. "What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home. Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities. The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65. The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials. Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths. Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed. Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas. The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favourite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Navalny's supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not include any of Russia's most powerful businesspeople and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get the attention of Putin. Tuesday's step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.” The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for Russian entities, including those the U.S. said worked to research, develop and test chemical weapons. The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia's Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia says it had no role in any attack on the dissident. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new U.S. sanctions as part of its “meddling in our internal affairs.” “We aren’t going to tolerate that,” Zakharova said in a statement, adding that “we will respond in kind.” “Attempts to put pressure on Russia with sanctions or other tools have failed in the past and will fail again,” she said. The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malign actions abroad, including the hacking of U.S. government agencies and U.S. businesses. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of Putin's government. That included dismissing U.S. intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in its covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The administration co-ordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday over the attack on Navalny. The U.S. and European Union shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” Blinken said in a statement. The individuals sanctioned by the U.S. included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defence figures, and Russia's prosecutor general. The Biden administration had forecast for weeks that it would take action against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies. Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation. His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial. Long a target in Russian government attempts to shut down dissent, Navalny has repeatedly appealed to the West to start targeting the most powerful business and financial oligarchs of his country, saying only then would Russian leaders take international sanctions seriously. Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new U.S. sanctions would be “way too little and not touch Putin’s billionaire cronies.” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the U.S. move overdue. Working with U.S. allies, “we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement. The U.S. government has previously censured behaviour by Russia that American officials saw as having violated international norms. In 2016, for instance, the Obama administration responded to interference by the Kremlin in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and by shuttering two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York. Trump's administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including the closure of Russian consulates on the West Coast and the suspension of a nuclear arms treaty. ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press
On Wednesday, the verdict in Toronto’s van attack trial will be revealed. Alek Minassian has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Erica Vella reports.
Les cultures dites « émergentes » gagnent du terrain au Québec, à tel point qu’elles devraient bientôt être incluses dans le plan conjoint des Producteurs de grains du Québec, la fédération de l’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) active dans ce secteur. Cela permettra d’aller chercher davantage de financement pour la recherche et la promotion de grains tels que la cameline ou le quinoa, aujourd’hui marginaux mais qui pourraient rapidement devenir beaucoup plus visibles. Au Québec, il n’existe qu’un syndicat agricole, l’UPA, formé de plusieurs fédérations représentant les différentes productions agricoles. Pour organiser la mise en marché de leurs produits, ces fédérations adoptent des plans conjoints, qui ont force de loi. Ils permettent notamment d’adopter des règlements et de négocier collectivement avec les acheteurs. Certains plans conjoints sont très contraignants, comme les fameux quotas de lait ou de poulet. Dans le cas des grains, le plan conjoint impose une contribution de 1,45 $ par tonne produite. L’argent ainsi récolté permet de financer les associations régionales des Producteurs de grains, de faire de la promotion et de payer des projets de recherche. « On soutient un centre de recherche, le CÉROM. Mais on a aussi des projets avec des institutions, par exemple avec l’Université du Québec en Abitibi » explique le directeur général des Producteurs de grains du Québec, Benoit Legault. Le CÉROM est célèbre pour avoir été au cœur de l’affaire Louis Robert : cet agronome avait été congédié du ministère de l’Agriculture après avoir dénoncé l’ingérence du secteur privé dans les résultats de recherche de ce centre. Des chercheurs étudiant l’effet des pesticides avaient notamment été la cible de pressions, et plusieurs avaient alors décidé de démissionner. Peu de producteurs dans l’Est Les cultures émergentes qui pourraient rejoindre le plan conjoint incluent la cameline, le chanvre, le quinoa, le pois chiche, les lentilles, le riz et le sésame, entre autres. D’après M. Legault, il se fait déjà de la recherche sur ces grains, mais financées à partir des contributions des autres cultures. Selon lui, c’est donc « une question d’équité avec les autres productions », d’autant plus que dans le cas du chanvre, les producteurs demandent depuis longtemps à rejoindre le plan conjoint. Les producteurs de grains ont déjà voté une résolution pour étendre le plan conjoint en 2019, et ont soumis cette demande à la Régie des marchés agricoles et alimentaires, qui décidera si elle l’accepte ou non. Avant cela, elle tiendra une séance publique virtuelle le 7 avril pour écouter les producteurs, qu’ils soient pour ou contre. Ils peuvent également envoyer leurs commentaires écrits à la Régie avant cette date. Au cours des trois dernières années, 693 entreprises ont déclaré avoir vendu du grain au Bas-Saint-Laurent ou en Gaspésie, ce qui représente 20 à 30 000 tonnes annuellement. Les cultures émergentes sont cependant rares : on trouve par exemple un producteur de quinoa à Sainte-Florence, et un producteur de cameline à Baie-des-Sables, Nature Highland. Ce dernier est en train de se renseigner sur le sujet et préfère s’abstenir de commenter pour le moment. La contribution sera retenue par l’acheteur au moment où le grain est vendu. Cela signifie que si un fermier utilise du grain pour nourrir ses animaux, celui-ci ne sera pas concerné, mais seulement un éventuel surplus qu’il déciderait de vendre. De même, le grain transformé au sein d’une même exploitation – comme la cameline de Nature Highland, qui est destinée à faire de l’huile – n’est pas visé. Réactions mitigées Le président des Producteurs de grains pour l’Est-du-Québec, Francis Caouette, voit d’un bon œil ce changement : « Par exemple, le quinoa n’est pas typique au Québec. Il faut qu’on ait de la recherche pour savoir comment le produire », dit-il en faisant notamment référence au climat. « Pour qu’il y ait une diversité dans l’Est-du-Québec, il faut qu’on aide ceux qui font des productions marginales. » Mais l’ancien président de l’Union paysanne Maxime Laplante ne veut pas de cette aide. Ayant une petite production de céréales biologiques à Sainte-Croix-de-Lotbinière, il n’était même pas au courant de l’histoire quand Le Mouton Noir l’a contacté pour lui demander son avis, disant ne pas avoir été invité à l’assemblée générale de 2019 où la résolution a été votée. « J’explore la possibilité de faire du chanvre, du quinoa ou des lentilles l’année prochaine, et dès le départ ils vont m’exiger une cotisation et un contrôle de mes opérations? Et ils ne m’informent même pas? », s’emporte M. Laplante. La somme à payer serait minime, mais il considère que les recherches menées par les Producteurs de grains ne lui ont pas été utiles jusqu’à présent. « Je dois avoir à peu près le dixième de la surface moyenne des producteurs de grains en moyenne au Québec. Je n’ai pas intérêt à payer des prélevés à gauche et à droite pour l’industrie », lance-t-il. Malgré sa démission survenue en novembre, Maxime Laplante reprend ainsi la critique que l’Union paysanne a toujours faite à l’UPA : cette dernière s’intéresserait davantage aux gros producteurs conventionnels qu’aux petits défendant une agriculture paysanne écologique. Ceux qui pensent comme lui ont jusqu’au 7 avril pour se faire entendre… Rémy Bourdillon, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Mouton Noir
At least 165 more British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses in the first month of 2021, more than double the number of deaths recorded last January. An average of more than five people died each day in the deadliest January recorded since the overdose crisis was declared a public health emergency nearly five years ago in April 2016. January was the 10th consecutive month where more than 100 people died as pandemic-driven border restrictions contributed to an increasingly toxic street supply, and progress dragged on promises of safer supplies for substance users. The devastating report comes just weeks after the province confirmed 1,726 people died in 2020, making it the deadliest year for overdoses. “We’re particularly concerned about the toxicity of the drugs detected in many of the deaths recorded in January,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release. “The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services.” As the province’s death rate per capita climbed to 38 per 100,000 in January, up from 33.1 in 2020, no community has been left untouched. Northern Health, where harm reduction services are sparse and access to health care can require expensive and time-consuming travel, experienced the highest rate with 71 deaths per 100,000. Vancouver Coastal Health region was second with 52 deaths per 100,000. According to the most recent data from the First Nations Health Authority, First Nations individuals in B.C. represented 16 per cent of overdoses in the first four months of 2020, up from 9.9 per cent in 2019, despite only representing 3.3 per cent of people in B.C. Extreme fentanyl concentrations were present in nearly one in five deaths, the most ever recorded, the Coroners Service reported. Benzodiazepines, including analogues like etizolam, were found in almost half of deaths in January. Etizolam was found in 31 per cent of deaths. In combination with fentanyl, it can repress the respiratory system and significantly increase the risk of overdose. The province has been spending on new treatment and recovery bed spaces and training nurses to be able to prescribe some first-line opioid substitutes. It has also approached the federal government about decriminalizing personal possession of illicit substances. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson said in a statement the province had “stepped up our response to these emergencies as quickly as possible in B.C., but the effects of the pandemic on the illicit drug supply chain has made drugs dramatically more toxic than a year ago and, tragically, more lethal. “We know people are hurting now and we have to do more to stop this terrible surge in overdose deaths,” she said. But critics have accused the government of moving far too slowly to address the deadly public health crisis. People who use drugs and advocates say more has to be done to separate people from the illicit supply and provide safer alternatives, particularly for those who can’t or don’t want to access treatment. In September, the ministry announced it would massively expand eligibility and substances available in safe supply programs in the province. Safe supply programs aim to separate people from the poisoned street supply by providing pharmaceutical-grade alternatives to illicit drugs. This prevents overdoses because people can be more certain of what they are taking as well as the exact dosage. The Globe and Mail reported in February that the province is considering a variety of substances, including powdered fentanyl and fentanyl patches, in its safe supply guidance. But details on the expansion are still scarce six months after it was announced, with hundreds more lives lost in the meantime. Vancouver is still pursuing its own application to the federal government to decriminalize possession of drugs for personal use. It sent its first submission to Health Canada Monday as a step toward formal negotiations. The city saw 411 people die in 2020, and an additional 42 in January alone. “Today’s news that 2021 has started off with an even higher level of overdose deaths makes decriminalization and ending the war on people who use drugs even more urgent,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart in a release. Staff consulted with Vancouver Coastal Health, community groups and the Vancouver Police Department in the initial submission, which aims to divert people who use substances away from the criminal justice system. A spokesperson for the mayor said this so-called “Vancouver model” is still being developed. The city doesn’t plan to use administrative penalties or mandatory treatment as alternatives to criminal sanctions, as seen in the recently approved Oregon model. But police will be able to determine if the individual is in personal possession and to refer them voluntarily to the city’s Overdose Outreach Team. Further details and community consultations are expected in April. Moira Wyton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Tyee
NEW YORK — Edmonton Oilers forward Alex Chiasson has been suspended for one game for cross-checking Toronto Maple Leafs forward Jimmy Vesey. The incident occurred at the end of Toronto's 3-0 win at Edmonton on Monday night. Chiasson was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for cross-checking. Chiasson will forfeit US$18,534 in salary. The Maple Leafs and the Oilers finish a three-game series Wednesday in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Some of the most active companies traded Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange: Toronto Stock Exchange (18,421.60, up 121.98 points.) Suncor Energy Inc. (TSX:SU). Energy. Up 52 cents, or 2.03 per cent, to $26.11 on 26.6 million shares. Enbridge Inc. (TSX:ENB). Energy. Up 29 cents, or 0.66 per cent, to $44.25 on 11.4 million shares. Barrick Gold Corp. (TSX:ABX). Materials. Up $1.05, or 4.37 per cent, to $25.08 on 11.1 million shares. Zenabis Global Inc. (TSX:ZENA). Health care. Down half a cent, or 3.85 per cent, to 12.5 cents on 10 million shares. Manulife Financial Corp. (TSX:MFC). Financials. Down three cents, or 0.12 per cent, to $25.98 on 9.8 million shares. MediPharm Labs Corp. (TSX:LABS). Health care. Down 13 cents, or 19.12 per cent, to 55 cents on 9.6 million shares. Companies in the news: Spin Master Corp. (TSX:TOY). Up $6.95, or 23.9 per cent, to $36.01. Spin Master Corp. recorded meteoric growth in its digital games business in the latest quarter as users of its Toca Life World app filmed themselves playing the game and shared the videos on social media. The Canadian toymaker’s digital games revenue increased by more than 400 per cent to $31.8 million in its fourth quarter, driven by the Toca Life World platform. While it's free to download the app, Spin Master makes money through the in-game purchases and upgrades. The Toronto-based company said revenue for the quarter was US$490.6 million, up from US$473.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019. Canopy Growth Corp. (TSX:WEED). Up 56 cents, or 1.3 per cent, to $44.47. Canopy Growth Corp. will deepen its U.S. presence by launching four sparkling cannabidiol waters there before possible federal legalization. The Smiths Falls, Ont.-based cannabis company said four drinks from its Quatreau brand will be available online to U.S. customers Tuesday. They will contain 20 milligrams of CBD; come in ginger and lime, cucumber and mint, blueberry and açaí, and passion fruit and guava flavours; and be Canopy’s first CBD drinks to cross the border. The beverages, which have been available in Canada since last fall, will join Martha Stewart, BioSteel and This Works CBD products Canopy already sells in the U.S. as part of an expansion strategy. Industry observers believe those U.S. opportunities will multiply this year because U.S. President Joe Biden and his Democratic party have favoured legislation to relax cannabis laws. George Weston Ltd. (TSX:WN). Up $1.97, or 2.1 per cent, to $96.59. George Weston Ltd. reported its fourth-quarter profit fell compared with a year ago as it was hit by one-time charges. The company, which operates through Loblaw, Choice Properties and Weston Foods, says it earned a profit available to common shareholders of $289 million or $1.88 per diluted share for the quarter ended Dec. 31. The result was down from a profit of $433 million or $2.81 per diluted share a year earlier. However, on an adjusted basis, George Weston says it earned $2.03 per diluted share, up from an adjusted profit of $1.69 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2019. Revenue was $13.81 billion, up from $12.11 billion a year earlier when George Weston's fourth quarter only had 12 weeks. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — Domestic extremist groups pose a serious threat to the military by seeking to recruit service members into their ranks and, in some cases, joining the military to acquire combat experience, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday. The report, prepared last year at the request of Congress, did not assess whether the problem of extremism in the military is growing, but it cited a number of examples of service members with extremist affiliations. It said the number of current and former military members who ascribe to white supremacist ideology is unknown. “Military members are highly prized by these groups as they bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks,” the report said. “In addition to potential violence, white supremacy and white nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military.” For example, the report noted that a Marine was discharged in 2018 for having ties to a neo-Nazi group called Atomwaffen Division, and it said the group’s co-founder served in the Army National Guard in Florida. Another Marine was determined to be the founder of a different white supremacist group, called AIM, which stands for American Identity Movement. The group spread propaganda through an operation it called “Project Siege” and as of March 2019 had about 500 members. The group’s founder was a former Marine sergeant and a former leader was an Army veteran. Several other members of the military and the Reserves were identified as being associated with the group, and the report noted that some were either demoted or discharged. The report described a social media post, reported by a service member, who claimed to “see plenty of our kind” in combat arms. The message recommended ways to identify fellow group members, saying “simply wear a shirt with some obscure fascist logo.” The military has long been aware of small numbers of white supremacists and other extremists in its ranks, but the problem burst into public awareness after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where an outsized number of military veterans and some current military members were present. It quickly fell to a new Pentagon chief, Lloyd Austin, to determine the scale of the problem and try to fix it. On Feb. 5, Austin directed all commanders and supervisors at every level of the military to conduct a one-day “stand down” — a pause in normal business — by early April to discuss extremism in the ranks. At his first Pentagon news conference two weeks later, Austin said extremism is a threat to the bonds of trust between service members, who count on cohesion to make them effective on the battlefield. “I really and truly believe that 99.9 per cent of our service men and women believe in” the oath they swear when entering the military, Austin said, adding that the actual number of extremists in the military is unknown. “I expect for the numbers to be small, but quite frankly, they’ll probably be a little bit larger than most of us would guess,” he said. “But I would just say that, you know, small numbers in this case can have an outsized impact.” Austin often mentions that he has personally witnessed the damage that racism and extremism can inflict. In 1995, when then-Lt. Col. Austin was serving with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, three white soldiers described as self-styled skinheads were arrested in the murder of a Black couple who were walking down the street. Investigators concluded the two were targeted because of their race. The killing triggered an internal investigation, and all told, 22 soldiers were linked to skinhead and other similar groups or found to hold extremist views. Robert Burns And Lolita C. Baldor, The Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The federal government has provided nearly $3.5 million in funding for vending machines that will dispense a medical-grade opioid to drug users in four cities in an effort to prevent overdose deaths. Darren Fisher, parliamentary secretary to Health Minister Patty Hajdu, said two machines are located in Vancouver and one each are in Victoria; London, Ont.; and Dartmouth, N.S. The machines, called MySafe, are similar to ATMs and allow drug users to get hydromorphone pills, a substitute for heroin, dispensed to them after their palm has been scanned to identify them. "Safer-supply projects offer people with opioid use disorder a life-saving alternative to the toxic, illegal drug supply, but they are not always convenient and easy to access," Fisher said. He said MySafe allows participants to access a safer drug without fear, shame and stigma, and without contact with anyone, which is all the more essential during the pandemic. Overdose deaths spiked to a record level in British Columbia last year as COVID-19 precautions closed the Canada-U.S. border, leading to domestic manufacturing of more potent substances often laced with high concentrations of the opioid fentanyl. Participants in the MySafe program in Vancouver are assessed by a doctor and a baseline urine sample is collected before they can access hydromorphone through the machines, which are bolted to the floor. Dr. Mark Tyndall, an epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, began the MySafe project in December 2017, with the installation of the first machine next to an overdose prevention site in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. The area is home to North America's first supervised injection site as well as Crosstown, the continent's first facility to provide injectable heroin as a therapy for entrenched drug users who have tried multiple methods to quit their habit. While Crosstown also provides injectable hydromorphone, Tyndall said the program's strict regimen requiring users to attend several times a day and use their drugs under supervision is not ideal for people who fear being stigmatized. The MySafe program, which now has 20 participants at the initial Vancouver site, allows users to access hydromorphone tablets at their convenience, he said. "In a very short time, I've seen people's lives change. The ability to get up in the morning and just go and pick up your medications is just revolutionary to many people who have, in many cases, got up in the morning, felt unwell and had to hustle to find their drugs," said Tyndall, a former director of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. However, he said it's been "an uphill battle" trying to persuade "skittish" doctors in the Downtown Eastside to prescribe hydromorphone that would be dispensed through a machine instead of by a pharmacy. Doctors in Victoria and Dartmouth are more open to using MySafe, and a group in London is already using MySafe, Tyndall said. "The two machines in Vancouver are going to still be a challenge," he said of reluctance by prescribers in the city where Mayor Kennedy Stewart has implored the federal government to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use due to the high number of overdose deaths. Tyndall said that at 32 cents for an eight-milligram tablet of hydromorphone, MySafe is a cheap and scalable option for communities after an estimated 20,000 overdose fatalities across Canada in recent years. Jen Baker, chair of the Ontario Pharmacists Association, said the province already has remote dispensing locations at pharmacy kiosks, and a system like MySafe could be incorporated to provide hydromorphone for those at risk of overdose. "I could see how those sorts of locations could be adapted in this harm-reduction model to contain medications for those individuals," she said. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Camille Bains, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the federal government was providing nearly $5.6 million in funding.
A proposal to revamp Bayfield's downtown is dividing residents and business owners over the future of the Lake Huron village. The debate over the Bayfield Main Street revitalization project is set to come to a head Wednesday at a virtual public meeting, with some locals saying the plan could strip the quaint village of its heritage charm. “There’s a lot at stake for a lot of people here,” Bluewater Coun. Bill Whetstone said. “Our downtown is a reason why a lot of people come here or live here.” A revitalization project has been on the Municipality of Bluewater’s books since the early 2000s, initially developed to address water pooling on Main Street sidewalks. The existing gravel sidewalks present accessibility issues and create hazards including water ponding, mud and ice, a staff report says. The proposed $2.3 million Main Street revitalization would see the gravel sidewalks switched to exposed aggregate concrete. The plan also proposes drive-over curbs to access parking, a narrower roadway and wider boulevards, planting of more trees, unique “welcome mat” surface treatments in front of businesses, additional seating and lighting, along with greenspace “infiltration basins” to help collect storm runoff. Whetstone said the municipality has received an outpouring of community feedback ahead of Wednesday’s meeting and will have to find a “compromise” and tweak the plan. “We have to play with it to make sure we’re not getting too far away from what Bayfield is known for,” he said. “We don’t want it to look the same as any other downtown revitalization plan.” Whetstone added common requests from locals have been to bury utility lines underground, something for which the current plan doesn’t budget, and to increase trees. One major concern is that a construction project could be devastating for small businesses looking to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. But Whetstone promised construction wouldn't take place during peak summer months, adding “minimal work” could only begin this fall. “We have to reach this balance in which we solve the problem of drainage and dirt, but yet not disrupt the charm,” said Stephen Baker, principal of the Virtual High School on Main Street and a Bayfield resident. But defining charm is “nebulous,” he said, adding some locals want to keep the village’s “quiet, subdued nature,” while others see foot traffic and tourists as a necessity for businesses. He said Bayfield doesn’t want to become a “cookie-cutter rendition” of other beach towns for the sake of added curbs and gutters. “A lot of people are saying we’re going a little bit too far to solve our problems and we’re doing more than what’s required,” to fix the drainage issues, Baker said. Lifelong Bayfield resident Tara Hessel said locals are “cut right down the middle” for and against the plan, with the sidewalk appearance a hot button issue. “The hardest problem is some people aren’t accepting of change, and change is going to happen,” she said. “What some people are trying to do is stop it and keep Bayfield a secret … (but) the businesses need tourists to succeed.” She said though some want to keep the gravel sidewalks for heritage, others feel it’s too messy, particularly when it rains and water pools. Hessel said a plan that provides safe, accessible walkways but still preserves some heritage — she’s suggesting cobblestone, like in the village park — is needed. “This a great opportunity for us to choose our change, make it a positive experience and make it better for the community.” firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
MONTREAL — Quebec has reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March to help the province get ahead of more contagious virus variants, Health Minister Christian Dube said Tuesday. Some 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70, he said. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses, Dube added. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the B.1.1.7 mutation that was first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube said, adding that pharmacy vaccination was originally scheduled to begin in early April but was sped up. "We're afraid," Dube said about the possibility that the U.K. mutation will cause infections to rise quickly in the province's biggest city. "We’re afraid the Montreal region is the calm before the storm." Quebec reported 588 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations rose by 16 to 628, and 121 people were in intensive care, a drop of one. Dube said that while the general COVID-19 curve is dropping, cases of the U.K. variant are rising quickly, especially in the greater Montreal area. The province has confirmed 137 cases of variants, most of which have been identified in Montreal and involve the U.K. mutation. There are also 1,095 presumptive variant cases across Quebec, according to the province's public health institute. He said Quebec is screening all its positive Montreal-area COVID-19 tests, and that 12 to 15 per cent are coming back as variants. Vaccination, he said, "is our weapon of massive risk reduction." The province began vaccinating older members of the general public at mass vaccine centres on Monday, and administered 16,458 doses that day. COVID-19 vaccinations are open to Quebecers aged 85 and older in outlying regions, while they are open to people as young as 70 in the Montreal area. Quebec is not the only province that has announced plans to vaccine in pharmacies. Health officials in Nova Scotia said Tuesday vaccination rollout plans for this month include the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Ontario has said that in the coming months, it plans to expand access to COVID-19 vaccines to a number of settings, including pharmacies. That plan is contingent on the province receiving a greater quantity of vaccine, the Ministry of Health has said. Benoit Morin, the head of an association representing Quebec pharmacy owners, says close to 1,500 of the group’s 1,900 members have offered to vaccinate. He said the recent flu shot campaign has prepared pharmacists for the demands of giving COVID-19 vaccines because the same distancing and health measures had to be followed. Morin said pharmacy vaccination could be a good choice for people who can’t or don’t want to go to mass vaccine centres, but he urged people to take the first appointments they can get rather than waiting for pharmacies. "If I had the chance to get a vaccine today or to wait for the pharmacy, I’d go today," he said in an interview Tuesday. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan's premier isn't saying yet how much longer his province could run deficits. Scott Moe says details of a plan to return the province to balance will be outlined next month when his Saskatchewan Party government presents its next budget. His finance minister has said eliminating the province's $2-billion deficit by the premier's election goal of 2024 will be difficult because of a slower economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Donna Harpauer said Monday financial projections are still being finalized, but it appears to be likely the government will have to choose a new target date. Moe wouldn't say what that might be, only that the next few years will dictate what happens. The premier says he isn't willing to jeopardize services to residents or efforts to bring back thousands of jobs lost during the pandemic, "Would I want to balance the budget by 2024? Absolutely. Will we be able to balance the budget by 2024? We're going to see in the next number of years," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. "We're going to support the services that the people of this province expect and we're support the full return of jobs in the economic recovery of Saskatchewan communities." Opposition NDP Leader Ryan Meili tweeted that Moe has broken a campaign promise and has never balanced a budget. The government says it was on track to dig itself out of the red, but the COVID-19 health crisis thwarted that plan. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
Western Hockey League broadcaster Bob Ridley marked a career milestone Saturday, calling his 4,000th game for the Medicine Hat Tigers. Ridley has been the voice of the team broadcasts since the Tigers' first game, Oct. 15, 1970, and he's called every game since, but one. "Those 50 years and 4,000 games went by real quick, so I guess I might have enjoyed what I was doing," said Ridley on the Calgary Eyeopener. Saturday's game at Co-op Place resulted in a Tigers win, 7-2, against the Red Deer Rebels in the 2020-21 home opener. LISTEN to Ridley's famous voice here: He said that despite the building being empty save the players, it was a "marvellous evening" of tribute from team staff and players. However, the looming achievement was a bit of a distraction. "I'm kind of glad that milestone has come and gone and I can move on with other things," he said. He was originally set to call his milestone game in March 2020, but the pandemic put a pause on that until the team returned to action last month with a shortened season. For 50 seasons, Ridley has done play-by-play for the games; and for 45 seasons, he's also driven the team bus. "That's one way I got to meet and know the players real well," he said. "As a result of it, I became very, very good friends with most of them." Many NHL stars got their start with the Tigers, including Lanny McDonald, Kelly Hrudey, Rob Niedermayer, Trevor Linden, Tom Lysiak and Bryan McCabe. Bob Ridley was honoured by the team and staff on Saturday at Medicine Hat's Co-op Place.(Medicine Hat Tigers) Career in review Ridley, originally from Vulcan, Alta., began broadcasting on the radio on weekends in Drumheller while studying at Mount Royal College in Calgary. He went on to do more radio gigs, and started to call play-by-play for a baseball team in Swift Current, Sask. After moving to Medicine Hat in 1968, he began broadcasting senior hockey. In 1969, the Medicine Hat hockey rink, called Arena Gardens, burned to the ground, but it was replaced a year later with the Medicine Hat Arena. That same year, 1970, the Tigers entered the league as a franchise and Ridley began calling their games. The one game he missed came in 1972, when he was assigned to cover the women's national curling championship in Saskatoon. The game has changed since those early days, says Ridley, who has seen three generations of athletes play, in some cases. "It's so fast now and it seems to change about every three or four years … it's so quick now. And speed and scale is what it's all about," he said. "That's what keeps me going, watching these young kids develop and move on and more kids coming up through the ranks." Last week, the WHL announced a new award, the Bob Ridley Award for Media Excellence, which will be awarded annually in his honour. He was the first recipient of the award, among many in his career. He says he's not fussed about hitting any other major milestone but rather will be "just taking it one game at a time." With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.
McMurray Métis elder Anne Michalko said she felt like she was on her way to freedom when she learned she would be getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Michalko, 83, spent much of the past year in quarantine. On Thursday, she made a rare venture outside her home for her first vaccine shot. Her second shot comes one month before her birthday in May. She hopes she can celebrate turning 84 with family. “Can you imagine feeling excited to go out and get a needle?” she said. “I’m looking forward to sitting around the fire pit and enjoying each other’s company. Maybe I’ll take my great grandson for a walk.” Alberta’s vaccine rollout plan entered Phase 1B on Feb. 7, allowing anyone born before 1946 to get a vaccine. Anyone living in retirement centres, senior citizen lodges and other supportive living homes can also get vaccinated. There have been 546 people in Fort Chipewyan that have had their first vaccine dose. The community has been prioritized because of its remote location and limited health care services. The rollout has given some relief to a community with a long memory that includes the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which wiped out three-quarters of the community. One victim was Chief Alexandre Lavoilette, the first chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. Chief Allan Adam of ACFN remembers stories of the Spanish Flu from his late grandmother. She was 18-years-old when the pandemic hit the community, he said. “She said people were lost because they had also lost their chief,” said Adam. “Nobody knew where to go.” Adam is thankful Fort Chipewyan has not experienced anything like the Spanish Flu over the past year. He said he is proud of the work the work the community is doing to keep people safe. “A lot of history was lost from the older people at that time,” he said. “We were lucky and we dodged a bullet this time.” Chief Peter Powder of Mikisew Cree First Nation said stories of the Spanish Flu made some people anxious to get vaccinated. “That’s where people’s heads were at, just hearing about that and how bad it was back in the day,” said Powder. Powder said encouraging young people to get vaccinated has been a priority, since they are more likely to travel outside the community. Some people have been excited to get vaccinated, but Angela Conner, a nurse with Nunee Health, said she has seen some hesitancy in the community. Nunee Health is promoting vaccination and trying to fight false information shared online. The hamlet received a second shipment of vaccines on Feb. 28. “Everything that we use is evidence-based,” said Conner. “We’ve been opening up our facility here for any questions. Quite a few people have called and we did have our nurse practitioner open for any kind of consults.” Other Métis leaders feel they have been left out of Alberta’s vaccination program. Since the first vaccines arrived in Alberta, elders on First Nations or Métis settlements have been getting vaccinated if they are between 65 and 74. Some communities that are mostly Métis are not considered settlements, meaning those elders must wait until the general public can be vaccinated in the fall. A community like Conklin, for instance, is mostly Métis and has seen 11 per cent of its population get COVID-19. But the community is considered a rural hamlet under the responsibility of the municipality. Fort McKay’s Métis community is also on municipal land and not considered a settlement. McMurray Métis has 45 elders between 65 and 74 who will be left out of Phase 1B because the Local is based in Fort McMurray. “In Alberta, it is recognized that Indigenous elders are part of a first priority,” said Bryan Fayant, McMurray Métis’ disaster and recovery strategist. “Our elders are a part of the regular rollout and I just don’t think that’s enough.” email@example.com Sarah Williscraft, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today
A second COVID-19 variant has been confirmed in a northern Ontario region that’s battling a deadly outbreak of cases driven by another infectious variant. The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says two people in the area have tested positive for the variant that first originated in the U.K.The health unit says the two people in the district of Parry Sound, Ont., do not know where they caught the virus.More than 500 cases of that variant have been detected across the province since December. The region’s top doctor says the confirmation of a second variant is concerning especially because it was caught through community spread. Dr. Jim Chirico says it's essential to follow public health measures to save lives and eventually reopen the economy. On Monday the health unit reported a third death related to an outbreak of 42 cases at an apartment building in North Bay, Ont.Fifteen cases in that outbreak have been linked to a more infectious virus variant that was first detected in South Africa.North Bay has remained under strict public health orders as restrictions loosened on businesses elsewhere in the province, due to the high number of variant cases detected last month. Ontario's government will decide Friday whether to move the North Bay area, as well as Toronto and Peel Region, back into the provincial COVID-19 response framework. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
The latest news on COVID-19 developments in Canada (all times eastern): 6:15 p.m. B.C.’s top doctor says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence as well as real-world data. Dr. Bonnie Henry says the data show protection from a single dose is upwards of 90 per cent and lasts for several months, and delaying second doses will maximize the benefit of vaccines for everyone while reducing mortality and severe illness for those most at risk. She adds that the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means people could be vaccinated sooner than planned as the province launches its campaign to immunize the general population. Henry explained the province’s decision to delay second doses while announcing 438 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, as well as two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. --- 6:10 p.m. Alberta is reporting 257 new infections of COVID-19, including 35 new variant cases of the virus. The variant total in the province is now at 492. Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical health officer, says 261 people are in hospital with COVID-19 and 54 of them are in intensive care. She says there have also been two additional deaths linked to the virus. --- 4:45 p.m. Saskatchewan will follow the advice of a national committee that recommends the latest vaccine against COVID-19 be used in people 64 and younger. The province's chief medical health officer says it will soon receive around 15,000 doses of the shot from Oxford-AstraZeneca. Dr. Saqib Shahab says the province will select which age groups will be eligible to be inoculated. He says Saskatchewan is also waiting on national advice about how long it could delay giving people a second dose. Premier Scott Moe says waiting up to four months to give people their second shot could be a "game changer" for the province. He says that could mean thousands more people getting vaccinated by June. --- 3 p.m. Health officials are reporting 134 new cases of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan and two more deaths. The two residents who died were 80 and older. The Ministry of Health says at least one of the approved vaccines has made its way into every long-term care facility in the province. To date, around 80,000 shots have been given provincewide. There are 154 people in hospital, with 20 people in intensive care. --- 2:25 p.m. New Brunswick is reporting four new cases of COVID-19 today and one death attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials say the province’s 28th COVID-19-related death involves a resident in their 80s at the Manoir Belle Vue long-term care home in Edmundston. The four new cases are all in the Miramichi region and bring to 36 the number of active reported cases in the province. Three patients are hospitalized with the disease, all in intensive care. Officials say a recent infection reported in the Miramichi region is a suspected case of the B.1.1.7 variant. --- 1:55 p.m. Nova Scotia is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today and confirming seven more variant cases as a result of previous testing. The new case is in the northern zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case and brings the total number of known active cases to 29. The variant cases include two that are the B.1.1.7 or U.K. variant, and five that are the 501.V2 or South African variant. The two cases with the U.K. variant are in western zone and Halifax area and are connected to a previously reported U.K. variant case, while the five South African variant cases are in the Halifax area, with one case related to travel and the other four being household contacts of the traveller. This brings the total number of cases of the U.K. variant identified in Nova Scotia to eight and South African variant to six. --- 1:45 p.m. Manitoba is reporting two additional COVID-19 deaths and 64 new cases. However, eight cases from unspecified dates have been removed due to a data correction, for a net increase of 56. --- 1:20 p.m. The Manitoba government is offering another round of grants to businesses and charities that have been forced to scale back operations by COVID-19 public health orders. The third round, like previous ones, will provide up to $5,000 to help make up for lost revenue. --- 1:20 p.m. Quebec’s health minister says the government has reached a deal that will see 350 pharmacies in the Montreal administering COVID-19 vaccines by March 15. Christian Dube says the vaccines will be available for people as young as 70 and that the locations of the pharmacies will be publicized in the coming days. He is also warning Quebecers that the drop in daily cases across the province may be deceiving because cases of the B.1.1.7 mutation are rising. He says Montreal may be in the “eye before the storm” regarding a possible surge in infections caused by the variant. --- 1 p.m. Ontario seniors won’t receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. Health Minister Christine Elliott says the province plans to follow advice from a national panel of experts who recommend against giving the vaccine to people older than 64. Elliott says the vaccine could be used in correctional facilities as it does not require the same cold storage as the other two vaccines in use. She says the province will share an updated vaccination plan that factors in the new supply soon. --- 1 p.m. Three-hundred thousand of the 500,000 doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine arriving this week expire in just a few weeks' time. Federal government officials note all COVID-19 vaccines do have expiry dates and it's not the time for hoarding doses anyway. Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says all vaccines should be administered as soon as they arrive. She says it is up to provinces to determine who is best placed to get which vaccines, but all are safe and effective. --- 12:55 p.m. Newfoundland and Labrador health authorities are reporting five new cases of COVID-19, including one infection involving a health-care worker at a rural hospital. Four of the cases reported today are in the Eastern Health region, where authorities have been battling an outbreak in the St. John's area. The fifth case involves a health-care worker at a hospital in St. Anthony, a town of about 2,200 on Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula. Public health says there are now 203 active cases of COVID-19 across the province, with nine people hospitalized because of the disease and five of those in intensive care. --- 12:50 p.m. The Manitoba government is loosening some of its COVID-19 restrictions as its case numbers continue to drop. Starting Friday, people will be allowed to have another entire household visit in their home, and outdoor public gatherings can increase to 10 people from five. Maximum capacity at stores and restaurants will increase to 50 per cent from 25, and indoor religious services can run at 25 per cent capacity, up from 10 per cent. Licensed establishments can reopen their video lottery terminals. Some facilities, such as casinos, bingo halls and concert venues, must stay closed. --- 12:45 p.m. The federal procurement minister says there's no reason to doubt delivery of 20 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine set to come from the United States. Anita Anand says she's received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer that it does not see any problems with exporting those doses. But she says a delivery schedule for those doses is up in the air. The U.S. government has said it wants Americans all vaccinated first before it shares vaccine doses with other countries. --- 12:30 p.m. Canada's top public health officials say shifting knowledge of how the available COVID-19 vaccines work is behind the changing guidance on how they should be used. Deputy chief public health officer Dr. Howard Njoo says initial advice for provinces to stick with manufacturers' guidelines on vaccine use was based on that being the best information available at the time. He says there is now real-world evidence those rules can be adapted. A decision by B.C. health authorities to stretch the interval between doses to long as four months has drawn criticism for potentially going too far off existing guidelines. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is set to release updated guidance on how the various vaccines can be used, including the extent to which one dose is effective. --- 12:15 p.m. Canada's chief public health officer says what's been a daily decrease in new COVID-19 cases is now levelling off. Dr. Theresa Tam says there is now a moderate increase in case counts at the national level. Tam says there is an increase of new variants circulating in Canada, and no province has been spared. But she says more ground is being gained on the vaccine front every day with the authorization of new vaccines that will all help to fight the novel coronavirus. --- 12:10 p.m. Federal Procurement Minister Anita Anand says half a million doses of the latest COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in Canada will arrive tomorrow. She says the first shipment of the version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India is on the way. Anand says that means Canada is on track to receive about 945,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine in total this week. --- 12:05 p.m. The Quebec government has reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. A source close to the provincial government who was not authorized to speak publicly confirmed the agreement, which was first reported today by 98.5 FM. About 50 pharmacies in the Montreal area will be the first to receive shipments of the Moderna vaccine before the program is extended to pharmacies across the province. Health Minister Christian Dube is scheduled to release details of the plan at an afternoon news conference. --- 11:50 a.m. Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 today. The new case is in Arviat, the only place in Nunavut with active cases of COVID-19. Arviat, a community of about 2,800 people, has been under strict lockdown since November, with all schools and non-essential businesses closed. The community's hamlet council has also put a nightly curfew in place to help curb the spread, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. There are nine active cases of COVID-19 in Nunavut, all in Arviat. --- 11:45 a.m. Health officials in Prince Edward Island are reporting four new cases of COVID-19. The cases involve three men and one woman, all in their 20s, and they are self-isolating. There are now 22 active cases on the Island. Test results from the National Microbiology Laboratory have confirmed that two earlier COVID-19 cases involving two women in Charlottetown are linked to the variant first identified in the United Kingdom. --- 11:15 a.m. Quebec is reporting 588 new cases of COVID-19 and eight more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus. Health officials say hospitalizations rose for a third consecutive day, up by 16 today, for a total of 628. The number of people in intensive care dropped by one, to 121. The province says it administered 16,458 doses of vaccine Monday, the first day of Quebec’s mass vaccination campaign for the general public. Quebec has reported a total of 288,941 COVID-19 infections and 10,407 deaths linked to the virus. --- 10:30 a.m. Ontario is reporting 966 new COVID-19 cases and 11 more deaths from the virus. The new data is based on 30,737 tests. There are 284 hospitalized people in intensive care and 189 people on ventilators. The province says it administered 22,326 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine since the last daily report. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said in the 12:55 p.m. item that all five new cases in Newfoundland and Labrador were in the Eastern Health region. In fact, only four of them were, while the fifth was in the northern town of St. Anthony.
Alberta's Opposition wants the UCP government to change some of what it has planned for post-secondary institutions outlined in last week's 2021 budget. The 2021 budget included a 5.4 per cent cut for post-secondary operations and 750 job losses. Standing outside the University of Calgary on Tuesday, NDP Leader Rachel Notley and advanced education critic David Eggen highlighted four changes they'll be putting to the government in the coming days and weeks. "These schools are absolutely critical to the future of our province," said Notley. "They need to be supported." Notley said post-secondary education is the real economic engine of the province, but she is worried about the future when it comes to students looking to other provinces to study in. "Alberta's advantage has always been its relatively young and well-educated population," she said. "Gutting our education is going to send these young people to other provinces." Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides has previously said universities have been going over budget. He urged them last year to immediately freeze hiring and stop spending on travel and hosting. The province is facing an $18.2-billion deficit in the coming year. Notley says cuts are the opposite of how to rebuild a faltering economy. "Premier Jason Kenney cannot claim he supports diversifying our economy and creating new jobs and then at the same time cut funding to the very schools that would give our future leaders the skills and training they need and to advance growth in those sectors," she said. Notley says the cuts will force program cancellations and cut off access to advanced education to some students. Notley wants the immediate reversal of all UCP cuts to post-secondary education, a figure she puts at $690 million. She is also calling for freezing tuition, stopping hikes to student loan rates and immediately halting performance-based funding for some Alberta institutions. "To be world class, to be nation leading, to be the educational destination for the best minds in the country, those have always been the goals of Alberta's post-secondary system." Eggen called the cuts announced last week "devastating" and said staff and students are still stunned as they continue to digest the news. The plea comes as debate on the budget begins this week. Notley says she plans to release the first of several proposal papers on education in the coming weeks as part of the NDP's economic strategy. Notley is asking for Albertans to submit their ideas for post-secondary and other areas via the Alberta's Future website. Institutions say they're still working out what the impacts will be. The University of Calgary is facing a $25-million reduction to its operating budget, a cut of six per cent. Its budget has been reduced by 18 per cent since 2019. "Fiscal pressures faced by the government are real. Long-term solutions to those challenges require economic diversification, new solutions and a trained workforce — the very work at which universities excel," president and vice-chancellor Ed McCauley said in a news release when the budget was announced. Mount Royal University fared better, receiving a smaller cut to its budget, 2.5 per cent. As well, it will receive $50 million over three years for capital projects.