WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
HALIFAX — A new website was launched Wednesday to assist Nova Scotia first responders coping with trauma, in a year in which a pandemic and a mass shooting have added to the distressing experiences they routinely face. The site offers resources designed for paramedics, firefighters, police officers and health services workers to help them manage the toll of the trauma they experience at work.It also provides support for their recovery from traumatic psychological injury, including links to online counselling.The site www.FirstRespondersMentalHealthNS.com is promoted by posters with the faces of first responders superimposed with phrases reflecting thoughts they may be keeping inside.They include statements such as "It's hard to quiet the voices in my head," and "There's this heavy feeling."The website, launched by a provincial steering committee, is modelled on a similar site in British Columbia, and also contains links for family members living with a person with post-traumatic stress disorder.Debra Fortune, a 42-year-old paramedic who participated in the committee, said in an interview Wednesday that first responders often are reluctant to seek help or are unaware of how to begin.Her husband Jason Fortune, also a paramedic, developed PTSD in 2014 but went without significant treatment for two years, she said.Fortune, who started in her field in 2002, gradually accumulated psychological traumas herself from exposure to disturbing scenes, including arriving at a home where a young child had died.Early this summer, she realized the incident was causing her to lose sleep, as painful memories kept returning. At times, she'd feel a searing pain through her back and neck."I had some previous pediatric calls that were very difficult, and all of a sudden I wasn't able to be around my (infant) daughter. I was very fearful," she said. "When I realized I was avoiding my 16-month-old child that's when I reached out for treatment."She said she's hopeful that she will be able return to work next year.Fortune said paramedics across the province have been at a breaking point for years as they try to help patients who are awaiting treatment in backed-up emergency rooms, or move them from one overcrowded hospital to another.COVID-19 has added to the stress as the paramedics must now often don protective equipment for patients who might have the illness."It's very scary because there are many people who aren't always honest with us," she said.The Nova Scotia mass shooting in April, in which a gunman killed 22 people in a 13-hour rampage, will likely contribute to the number of medics and other first responders with trauma, said Fortune. "We go to work and know anything can happen, but there is nothing that can prepare you for something like that," she said.Nova Scotia has passed legislation that presumes a diagnosis of PTSD for first responders is related to their work, and they are therefore eligible for workers' compensation. Fortune said the legislation, along with the new awareness campaign, are giving access to more resources than when her husband became ill."Hopefully this site will bring people forward, to get the help that they need," she said.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press
Le Centre de services scolaire (CSS) de l’Estuaire a procédé, au cours des derniers mois, à une vaste opération de dépistage afin de mesurer la concentration de plomb dans près de 400 points d’eau de ses écoles primaires, destinés à la consommation. « À la demande du ministère de l’Éducation et de l’Enseignement supérieur, ces analyses ont permis de démontrer que 88 %, soit 346 des 395 points d’eau analysés respectaient la nouvelle norme de Santé Canada, établie à 5 microgrammes par litre d’eau », mentionne l’agente aux communications du CSS de l’Estuaire, Patricia Lavoie. Des 21 écoles ayant fait l’objet d’une analyse, quatre présentaient des résultats 100 % conformes aux normes gouvernementales. Il s’agit des écoles Notre-Dame-du-Sacré-Cœur, Saint-Cœur-de-Marie de Colombier ainsi que Bois-du-Nord et Boisvert de Baie-Comeau. Quelque 11 établissements ne comptaient qu’un ou deux points d’eau potable dont la concentration de plomb excédait la limite acceptable. Pour les autres, le taux de non-conformité variait de 18 % à 44 %. Pour l’ensemble des points d’eau où les résultats ont démontré une concentration de plomb dans l’eau excédant les normes de Santé Canada, des correctifs ont immédiatement été apportés. « Pour ce faire, le service des ressources matérielles a procédé à l’installation d’un filtre spécialisé afin de traiter l’eau des buvettes problématiques, ce qui représente un correctif permanent aux points d’eau concernés », explique Mme Lavoie. Afin de garantir la qualité de l’eau potable mise à la disposition des élèves et du personnel, l’ensemble des établissements avaient également installé à titre préventif, il y a déjà plus d’un an, des affiches indiquant les consignes propres à chacun des points d’eau. « Cet affichage, qui permettait déjà de se conformer aux normes en vigueur, demeurera en place tout comme la décision de réserver les lavabos des toilettes et des vestiaires exclusivement pour le lavage des mains et le brossage des dents, conformément aux directives ministérielles », de préciser l’agente aux communications. Le CSS de l’Estuaire poursuivra par ailleurs son travail, au cours des prochaines semaines, afin d’installer des filtres accrédités à l’ensemble des points d’eau potable de ses établissements. Appel d’offres Ayant condamné toutes les buvettes ne permettant pas un remplissage sans contact en raison des risques de contamination liés à la COVID-19, le service des ressources matérielles procédera à un appel d’offres permettant de faire l’acquisition et l’installation de buvettes sans contact dotées d’un filtre accrédité afin de remplacer toutes celles actuellement fermées dans le but de limiter la propagation des différents virus qui circulent en milieu scolaire. Mentionnons finalement qu’à compter de 2021-2022, la réfection intérieure des écoles primaires sera amorcée de façon intensive. « Ces chantiers permettront notamment le remplacement de la tuyauterie domestique et, par le fait même, l’élimination de matériaux à base de plomb susceptibles d’influencer la contamination de l’eau potable », soutient Patricia Lavoie. D’ailleurs, la réfection de blocs sportifs, de vestiaires et de salles de bain a permis de pallier cette problématique dans plusieurs écoles au cours des dernières années. L’opération se poursuit Une opération de dépistage semblable sera réalisée dans les écoles secondaires et les centres de formation professionnelle et d’éducation des adultes à compter de la mi-décembre. En raison du surplus de travail engendré par la pandémie, le gouvernement a donné aux centres de services scolaires jusqu’au 1er mars pour compléter les analyses et les travaux correctifs dans l’ensemble de leurs établissements. « L’affichage indiquant l’importance de laisser couler l’eau une minute avant consommation ou encore de ne pas consommer l’eau à certains endroits est cependant en place partout sur le territoire depuis l’automne 2019 », conclut Mme Lavoie.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump teased running again for president in 2024 as he hosted a holiday reception at the White House.“It’s been an amazing four years,” Trump told the crowd, which included many Republican National Committee members. “We’re trying to do another four years. Otherwise, I’ll see you in four years.”The video of Trump's appearance Tuesday was streamed live on Facebook by one attendee, Pam Pollard, who is national committeewoman for the Oklahoma GOP. It showed dozens of people crammed into the broad Cross Hall of the White House state floor, standing closely together. Many seen in the video were not wearing masks.The Trumps began hosting holiday receptions this week, intent on celebrating a final season before Trump leaves office on Jan. 20. According to social media postings reviewed by The Associated Press, the events have featured large crowds of often maskless attendees gathered indoors — violating the very public health guidance the U.S. government has pressed the nation to follow this holiday season as cases of COVID-19 skyrocket across the country.White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Wednesday defended the Trumps' decision to host the parties. She noted that the guest lists are smaller than past years, hand sanitizer is made available to guests and social distancing is encouraged.“So you know if you can loot businesses, burn down buildings, engage in protest, you can also go to a Christmas party,” said McEnany, who noted that Trumps also plan to host Hanukkah celebrations.In the video, Trump is heard continuing to air baseless allegations of election fraud to explain his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden despite his attorney general, William Barr, telling the AP earlier Tuesday that the Justice Department had not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud and had seen nothing that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Coughing can be heard from the audience as Trump addressed the gathering.“It’s certainly an unusual year. We won an election. But they don’t like that," Trump told the group, adding: “I call it a rigged election, and I always will.”The White House has been the site of at least one suspected COVID-19 superspreader event, and dozens of the president's aides, campaign staffers and allies have tested positive in numerous outbreaks. Trump himself was hospitalized for the virus in October, and the first lady and two of his sons have tested positive. Numerous others have had to quarantine.Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s spokeswoman and chief of staff, had said last month that the White House would be moving forward with events, “while providing the safest environment possible." She said that would include smaller guest lists, that "masks will be required and available, social distancing encouraged while on the White House grounds, and hand sanitizer stations throughout the State Floor.”“Attending the parties will be a very personal choice,” she added.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Del.Zeke Miller And Jill Colvin, The Associated Press
Two more Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.One person was from the north zone and was in the 80 and up age category. The second person was from Regina and was in the 60 to 79 age category. The province reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.The seven-day daily average of new cases is 274 — 22.6 new cases per 100,000 population. As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan's rate of new cases remains the third highest in Canada, after Manitoba and Alberta. Of the 8,982 reported cases in the province, 3,970 are considered active. Six of the new cases Wednesday are located in the far north west, three are in the far north central, 16 are in the far north east, 17 are in the north west, 25 are in the north central, three are in the north east, 109 are in the Saskatoon area, four are in the central east, 36 are in the Regina area, eight are in the south west, one is in the south central and three are in the south east zones. Seven of the new cases have pending locations. There are currently 132 people in hospital, 106 of whom are receiving in-patient care. One person is in the far north west, seven are in the north west, seven are in the north central, one is in the north east, 42 are in the Saskatoon zone, two are in the central east, 23 are in the Regina zone, two are in the south west, one is in the south central and 20 are in the south east. Twenty-six people are in intensive care, with five in the north central zone, 12 in Saskatoon and nine in Regina.Eighty-four people were reported recovered on Wednesday. To date a total of 4,959 people have recovered.
By Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter The grade 11/12 Leadership and Peer Support class at St. Marys DCVI is looking to help local families struggling with food insecurity this holiday season. It is a tradition with DCVI to hold a food drive around the holiday season every year, however, there was some concern that the COVID-19 pandemic may put that in jeopardy. However, thanks to the senior Leadership class, the annual food drive will continue, albeit slightly modified to account for this year's unique circumstances. The event is taking place in multiple different ways, with different aspects targeted to in-school food collection, as well as donations from the public. Each part will be managed by a group of students from the class, with the first part being an in-school contest between grades. This challenges students of every grade to donate non-perishable food items and whichever grade can fill up a kiddie pool the most will win a prize. This in-school contest will run the week of December 7th to December 11th. The next group of students will be going outside the school to collect donations from the public. On Tuesday, December 8th, from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m., the students will be located in the parking lot of Delmar Foods Food Factory Outlet to collect donations. They will then be located in the DCVI parking lot on James Street on Wednesday, December 9th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. Then, on Thursday, December 10th, a group will be stationed in the DCVI parking lot outside on Elizabeth Street. Using the roundabout outside of the school's main doors, this portion of the food drive will run as a drive-thru event, allowing you to place your donations on a table and remain physically distanced from the volunteers. All events will adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, and all of the non-perishable food items collected will be donated to the St. Marys food bank once the food drive is completed on Friday, December 11th. Katie Stevens and Cierra Boyer, two members of the class running the food drive, spoke to the Independent on why it was so important for the entire Leadership class to continue DCVI's tradition of the food drive. "With COVID-19 hitting, we believe that the food drive could support many families during the pandemic, hence why we wanted to still have one even in these times. We have also lost a lot of opportunities in the course to give back to the community because of COVID-19. The course itself is about getting involved with our community and supporting not only our peers but the whole town. The class hopes to not only successfully put on a food drive during a pandemic but also fulfill the curriculum of the course and continue to get involved with the community and our peers." Stevens and Boyer also noted that Guidance Counselor Ruthan Waldick said of the pandemic impacting the food drive, "I have been at the school for over 20 years and can't imagine a school year without the food drive, not even a pandemic will get in the way." If you're unsure of what you could donate, the food drive is accepting canned goods, dry foods, infant/baby formula, diapers, personal hygiene products, bathroom tissue, and paper towels. Monetary donations will also be accepted, and the Leadership class would like to thank Delmar Foods and the Independent for their support.Spencer Seymour, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Marys Independent
Libraries across the County of Grande Prairie and other enhanced-status areas of the province have been limited to 25 per cent capacity under provincial COVID restrictions since Friday. The three-week measures have resulted in event cancellations, but local libraries are continuing regular services. “There’s no social gatherings at this point,” said Sheryl Pelletier, Shannon Municipal Library director in Sexsmith. “Socially-distanced rhymes,” an in-person family activity program, was cancelled a few weeks ago, Pelletier added. With Shannon Municipal Library having a capacity of 40 people, the restrictions set a limit of six people plus three staff in the library at a time, she said. She said in previous years the library has drawn in approximately 30 people at a time, as families gathered for movie nights. The library has curbside pickup but patrons can also come into the library as long as they’re wearing masks, Pelletier said. Meanwhile, Beaverlodge Public Library is largely unaffected by the new restrictions, but the annual artisan fair has been cancelled. “We’ve had a mask policy in place, people sanitizing and entrance by doorbell,” said library manager Tracy Deets. Before the restrictions, patrons largely preferred curbside pickups, so the 25-per cent capacity limit isn’t a problem, she said. The limited capacity means the library could accommodate approximately 30 people, which the library rarely sees at a single time, Deets said. Conversely, the artisan fair attracts an average of 250 people, she said. The fair is a one-day event rather than a regular market and as such had to be cancelled this year, Deets said. The library planned to have the artisan fair this Saturday. While the vendors won’t be at the library for a single event, Deets said the library is planning to have their goods on display and available for purchase over several days, up to Dec. 9. As well, the library will still be open Saturday, but as a regular service day, she said. The library also has a North Pole Postal Depot at the front desk where children who wrote to Santa can pick up their replies. Elmworth Community Library is allowing only two individuals or one cohort in at a time to satisfy protocols, said Michelle Gillis, library co-ordinator. “We continue to offer and encourage curbside pickup and private appointments,” Gillis said. Hythe Public Library is open and can accommodate eight patrons at a time, with visitors asked to wear masks, according to the library. Meanwhile, Wembley Public Library is generally closed to visitors and focusing on delivery and pick-ups, said library manager Anna Underwood.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
A report from an international organization that monitors global biodiversity says climate change is an immediate threat to one-third of all World Heritage Sites, including one in Canada's North. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says of 252 natural World Heritage Sites, 83 are threatened by climate change. The group's World Heritage Outlook 3 report, released Wednesday in Switzerland, says those sites include the Great Barrier Reef and locations ranging from South Africa to Brazil along with Kluane Lake in southwest Yukon. The report assigns a "critical" rating to the Great Barrier Reef for the first time, while it says the rapidly melting Kaskawulsh Glacier has changed the water flow into Kluane Lake, depleting fish populations. The study assesses threats to the protection and management of unique values within each World Heritage Site and finds 30 per cent face threats of "significant concern," while critical threats exist in seven per cent of the sites. The report says half of the sites have "effective" or "highly effective" protection and management, with sustainable funding being the most common issue rated as a serious concern. The International Union for Conservation of Nature is composed of government and private groups from 170 countries, including Canada, and spokesman Peter Shadie says it aims to ensure a "brighter future for nature's finest." "The findings of the IUCN World Heritage Outlook 3 point to a dire need for adequate resources to manage our irreplaceable natural areas," he says in a statement. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — More than half of women and men living in Canada's territories reported being victims of at least one sexual or physical assault after their mid-teens.Statistics Canada says there were fewer reports of assaults in the provinces, where 39 per cent of women and 35 per cent of men said they were assaulted at least once after age 15.The survey was conducted in 2018 to find out more about gender-based violence in Canada.Reports of sexual and physical assault were highest among women and men in Yukon, where 61 per cent of both genders said they were assaulted at least once since they were 15.The survey says that in Nunavut's largest communities, including Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet, the average number of assaults against men and women was about the same as in all the territories.The number of reported assaults went down in smaller communities, where 30 per cent of men and women said they had been assaulted.The report also highlights that women were three times more likely than men to be assaulted.LGBTQ women and women with physical or mental disabilities were also among the most vulnerable, as more than 60 per cent reported assaults.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.The Canadian Press
A four-alarm fire in a building in New Jersey that sent thick black smoke into the air visible across the river in New York City was brought under control Wednesday morning. (Dec. 2)
Memorial University will delay the beginning of its virtual winter 2021 semester, while the College of the North Atlantic is pushing on with its plan to bring 50 per cent of students back to the classroom in January.In a news release issued Wednesday, MUN says the beginning of the winter semester will be pushed back five days, with online classes set to begin Jan. 11.The move will affect the St. John's and Grenfell campuses along with the Marine Institute, except for Marine Institute diploma of technology and technical certificate students who face a different academic schedule.The new date also doesn't apply to medical, nursing or engineering students, who will return on Jan. 6.Provost Mark Abrahams said he hopes the delay will help reduce stress for students and give teachers more time to prepare for the upcoming semester."I know that right now many of you are exhausted and feeling strain," Abrahams wrote. "I heard concerns during our employee town hall in late November, and received comments along the same vein from students."'The right direction'The delay to the start of the winter semester is being welcomed by some students, including Jasper Pritchard. "I think it's a good step in the right direction," he told CBC News on Wednesday. He says the year so far has been a struggle, noting it's been a big adjustment moving to online learning and he isn't doing as well as he had hoped academically. But, if there is a bright spot, Pritchard said it's been most of the professors. "The profs have been super helpful … and as much as they've been struggling, they've been very open and honest with us, and I think when we have had struggles most of my profs have been really, really forthcoming with trying to help us out," he said. The announcement marks the second time the school has delayed a return as a result of the pandemic, as the school altered the plan to bring some non-academic staff back to campus last month due to rising COVID-19 cases.In an email to CBC News, MUN says that delay will continue through the holiday break with a decision pending in the new year. The plan to keep students learning online during the winter semester will also continue, with the school hoping to bring some students back to campus in the spring semester.CNA welcoming half of students backMeanwhile, the College of the North Atlantic is starting 2021 with a very different plan — and will welcome back over half its student body for in-person learning this winter, barring changes to public health orders.According to an email to CBC News, the school's academic learning plan will see about 50 per cent of students on campus in the next semester, including programs in the schools of engineering technology, health sciences and industrial trades.40 per cent of students will remain online, with seven per cent of students receiving a combination of in-person and online classes.As part of the return to in-person classes, a mask or face shield will be required on all campuses with COVID-19 screening protocols at all entrances. Access to facilities will be limited, with use of buildings by outside groups not permitted for the time being.Campuses with residences will be limited to single occupancy with enhanced cleaning and visitor restrictions in place."As long as conditions permit, we look forward to welcoming more of our students back to our campuses in the new year and will continue to work closely with the Department of Health and Community Services and Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure our procedures are as up to date as possible when it comes to public health guidelines," CNA spokesperson Michelle Barry wrote.While CNA is moving ahead with bringing students back to campus, MUN says it is not considering the idea as the two schools can't be compared in terms of campus density."It is not feasible at this time for us to bring more than 50 [per cent] of our students to our campuses," the school said in an email.Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
Halifax councillors want to crack down on landlords who purposely make rental units unlivable as a ploy to pressure tenants to move out of their homes. Rosanna Chilton, a renter in Halifax, said the door to her basement apartment on Joseph Howe Drive was removed on Dec. 1 for 24 hours."My roommate was there when he removed the door and ran away with it," she said. "He wanted to bully us out of here."Chilton had to miss work and make a number of calls before the door was put back. She is looking for another place to live, but has not been able to find one that she can afford.Councillors are hearing from other tenants with similar stories."I just had another note from a young woman who had her doors and windows taken off," said Coun. Pam Lovelace. "Landlords should know that Halifax will not put up with this."Councillor calls for $10K finesThe province handles landlord-tenant disputes, such as overdue rent, through the tenancy board. The municipality is responsible for health and safety standards of rental buildings."If the tenancy board has problems, that's an issue for landlords to take to the province," said Coun. Waye Mason. "But in the interim, they can't do these things that put people's lives at risk."Mason said there should be a $10,000 fine per day, per incident, and the municipality should have the ability to send in a contractor to immediately replace a door or window.HRM officials are already working on a new rental bylaw that will have occupancy standards and a rental registry. Mason is calling for new fines for health and safety violations to be included in the bylaw, which is expected to be ready by April."I think our bylaw officers need the biggest stick possible," he said. "You cannot make a unit dangerous because you have a tenant dispute."MORE TOP STORIES
With a fresh layer of snow on the ground, many in the community are anxiously awaiting the start of the 2020 ski season. “Skiing, like other activities, such as snowshoeing and hiking, can be a safe way for individuals and families to exercise during the winter months,” said Dr. Ian Arra, the medical officer of health for the Grey Bruce Health Unit (GBHU). “Cross-country and alpine skiing are enjoyed at many locations across Grey and Bruce.” One of the largest draws for winter adventure in the area is, of course, Blue Mountain Resort. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, operations at the resort will look a little different this year. “This season, we will be prioritizing pass holder access to the mountain and limiting day-lift tickets. Guests cannot arrive at the resort and purchase a day-lift ticket – all tickets must be purchased online and the number of available day-lift tickets has been significantly reduced,” said Tara Lovell, manager of public relations for Blue Mountain Resort. She adds that the number of available day-lift tickets will be based on available terrain, skier-visit data and available indoor space at the resort’s three base lodges. “The most important thing for visitors to know is that this year more than any other, the need to plan ahead. Research current public health guidelines, go online to plan and pre-book their experiences before arriving at the resort,” Lovell added. According to Arra, the GBHU has actively been working with area ski clubs and resorts to assist in modifying operations in order to reduce the likelihood of close contact between people. “The biggest risk is likely to be through close contact with other individuals, especially if people are not wearing facial coverings. Any activity where there are crowds of people, especially closer than two metres, is a concern,” Arra said. In relation to the ski hill, GBHU has released the following ski-specific guidelines: For individuals, the health unit recommends: “When guests arrive at Blue, we encourage skiers and riders to come to the hill prepared to ski,” Lovell said. “Masks are required. In accordance with our local public health guidelines, masks or face coverings will be required without exception in the lift line and on the lifts.” But what about crossing county or health unit lines for a day on the slopes? For instance, the Town of Collingwood sits in the County of Simcoe under the umbrella of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU), which is currently in the Public Health Classification Level of stage three or zone orange. Yet, on the edge of Collingwood’s town limits sits the Blue Mountain Resort, which resides in Grey County and the GBHU, which is currently in stage two or the yellow zone. “The GBHU would advise people to keep up to date with current government requirements and guidelines. Currently, the province of Ontario is advising people in high-risk areas to not travel to areas of lower risk,” said Arra. Current provincial advice states travel from high-risk areas is to be restricted and should be for "essential purposes only." Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the SMDHU, recently voiced his concerns around allowing visitors into the area from other high-risk regions. “The province’s official advice is that residents from grey and red areas not travel. ... Recreational skiing, while a pleasure … is not essential,” he said, adding that he would go as far as “recommending” businesses adopt a policy to only serve customers from orange zones or lower. Gardner also recently issued a letter to all the municipalities in the region, which strongly recommended they prohibit access to their recreational facilities by anyone residing in a red or grey zone. He also recommends residents in Simcoe-Muskoka not travel to regions that are under yellow or green restrictions except for essential purposes such as work, school, or medical appointments. For now, according to Lovell, Blue Mountain Resort does not have any travel restrictions in place for those travelling from high-risk areas. “At this time, we have not put formal travel restrictions in place. We do strongly encourage all visitors to review and abide by their own local public health guidelines and any guests planning to visit Blue Mountain must review and be prepared to adhere to our Personal Responsibility Code,” Lovell said. For the ski resorts operating in Simcoe-Muskoka, the SMDHU released a letter to area resorts at the end of October outlining the public health requirements for the coming season. According to the SMDHU, ski and snow resorts are permitted to open in stage three but are subject to various operating requirements, such as: “Daily screening applies to members of the public, staff and volunteers who only attend outdoor settings at ski and snow resort facilities even if they do not go inside a resort building,” noted Gardner in the letter to area ski resorts. In addition, earlier today Garnder released an updated letter of instruction for businesses and organizations located in the County of Simcoe, District of Muskoka, City of Barrie, and the City of Orillia. The new letter provides further detail around the expectations of screening of employees; physical distancing and ramifications for close contacts of an employee diagnosed with COVID-19. For the ski industry, the largest takeaways in the directive will be the requirement to: * Appoint a compliance officer responsible for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan * Utilize physical barriers (such as plexiglass) where reasonably possible, in particular in environments where physical distancing cannot take place. Note that a face shield is not considered an adequate face covering - a face mask must also be worn * Ensure accurate and updated contact information for all employees * Minimize instances of more than one individual per vehicle for driving associated with work. The additional requirements will come into effect on Dec.5. Kelly Sinclair, part-owner and operator of Highlands Nordic, a cross-country ski facility located in the Niagara Escarpment just outside of Duntroon in the SMDHU district, says operations at her resort have also been adapted for COVID-19 safety protocols. “As a cross-country ski resort we operate a little differently than a downhill resort. The obvious part is that we don't have a chairlift, which is the biggest restriction for downhill skiing,” Sinclair said. In regards to limiting traffic from other high-risk areas in the province, Sinclair says the resort does not have a policy in place currently but will follow the guidelines provided by Simcoe-Muskoka and Clearview Township. “We have needed to hire some additional staff to accommodate the demand for cross-country skiing and to ensure our facility stays clean and welcoming. We are a hardworking team who are ready to adapt and take on any tasks,” she said. Sinclair notes that anyone looking to visit Highlands Nordic should come with knowledge of the current public health recommendations and as ski-ready as possible. “We are encouraging skiers to come ready to ski, limit their time inside as much as possible and embrace winter!” she said. As the ski season and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, both the SMDHU and GBHU encourage the public to stay informed of the current public health recommendations and possible changes to the Public Health Classification Levels. “Follow public health advice, be respectful of club or resort instructions, wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands and be kind,” added Arra. — With files from Erika EngelJennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Dental services are resuming in six N.W.T. communities, the territorial government announced on Wednesday. Health facilities in Fort Providence, Sambaa K’e, Fort Simpson, Norman Wells, Fort Resolution, and Aklavik have been cleared to once again host visits from private dentists. On Wednesday, the GNWT said facilities in the six communities had met standards and been approved by the chief public health officer. Private dentistry clinics in Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith and Inuvik had all kept services open throughout most of the pandemic, but all non-urgent dental travel to smaller communities was suspended by the federal government in March. "The remaining N.W.T. communities that previously received visiting dental services will be able to resume operations when facility upgrades are complete, contracts are in place, and facilities are inspected and meet COVID-19 safety protocols," read a statement from the territorial government. "The necessary assessments and required work are expected to continue throughout 2021-2022. Further updates will be provided as health facilities in additional communities are confirmed to be able to accommodate visiting dentists." In communities where dental services remain unavailable, the federal ageny Indigenous Services Canada will support travel for Non-Insured Health Benefit clients to receive services elsewhere.Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 7, 2020 A 22-year-old Barrie man is charged after a woman was struck and killed last month by a vehicle on Bayfield Street North in Springwater Township. Huronia West OPP charged Kraig Roberston on Oct. 6 with failing to stop at an accident causing death. Police identified the alleged vehicle and the driver a few days after the collision. Police say a woman who was standing on the side of the highway with her dog waving at passing vehicles was struck and killed at about 10:48 p.m. Sept. 15. Police have not released the woman’s name or her age. Initially, Ontario’s police watchdog began an investigation because an OPP officer was on the scene quickly and was forced to swerve around the woman’s body. The Special Investigations Unit dropped the investigation a day later. An off-duty Barrie police officer was driving behind the unmarked OPP cruiser and also pulled over. The officers performed CPR on the woman, but were unsuccessful. The accused appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie for a bail hearing Oct. 6.Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
Manitoba students from Grade 7 to 12 will shift to remote learning for two weeks following the winter break as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, Manitoba's education minister says.The two-week remote-learning period, starting Jan. 4 and continuing to Jan. 15, will be mandatory for students in grades 7 to 12, and will also be an option for kindergarten to Grade 6 students if families want to keep younger kids at home, Minister Kelvin Goertzen said at a Wednesday news conference."These decisions, we know have various impacts," he said."They're not made lightly … but they are made in consultation with public health and with the understanding that we believe, and still believe, that the best place for students to learn is in the classroom where it is safe to do so."In a news release announcing the shift, the province said the preventative measure is focused on grades 7 to 12 because older students tend to have more contacts, and so have a higher likelihood of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In addition, the province said those students are more amenable to online learning. The mandatory shift to remote learning for Grade 7-12 students will keep close to half of the province's student body at home, the province said.Manitoba is currently under a strict lockdown barring visitors to homes. Stores are also prohibiting the purchase of non-essential items due to the high COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations.On Wednesday, the province reported there are 351 people in hospital, including 51 in intensive care, marking yet another new record.Previously, health officials acknowledged the province was mulling the possibility of extending the winter break to offset some transmission that may have occurred over the holiday, but Goertzen said students need to keep up their education."We want to keep students learning … whether that's remotely or in the classroom, the key is we don't want the education of our young students to stop."School safety an issue, critics sayCritics are worried not enough is being done to ensure the safety of Manitoba schools."Whether schools are safe or not, we don't actually know," said Dougald Lamont, the leader of the Manitoba Liberals. "We're not actually doing the testing and the contact tracing to be able to tell whether there's transmission in schools or not."The education critic for the Manitoba NDP, Nello Altomare, said the province should implement asymptomatic testing in schools."Right now it's all based on data that's incomplete." Goertzen said the decision to begin remote learning after the scheduled break was made to allow some time to shift to remote learning, and also to ensure COVID-19 numbers don't spike after the return to school."We have seen traditionally in other places, and in Manitoba … that the COVID-19 numbers can go up over the break. This provides, from a public health perspective, some additional assurance just to see what those numbers are looking like," he said.Province not sure if shift will continue after 2 weeks Goertzen couldn't say with certainty if the remote-learning period will continue after the two weeks are over."Making predictions during a pandemic has proven not to be a good business to be in," he said."But our priority is to have schools operating."Regardless, there will be supports for teachers and students during this period, the province said.Deputy education minister Dana Rudy said the previously announced resource centre to support remote learning will be in place by Jan. 4 to assist students with their studies while they're at home.The province said they were in the process of hiring up to 140 people who will be employed to support teachers delivering remote learning by providing learning programs, professional development opportunities, instructional coaching and technology supports.Early last month, about 500 teachers signed a letter saying they're at a breaking point and desperate for more staff in schools.WATCH | Manitoba education officials announce two-week remote-learning period: