"Government modellers have indicated opening schools, both primary and secondary, will probably increase the infection rate at a time when we're not getting anything like enough protection from the vaccine."
"Government modellers have indicated opening schools, both primary and secondary, will probably increase the infection rate at a time when we're not getting anything like enough protection from the vaccine."
LONDON — Buckingham Palace said Wednesday it was launching an investigation after a newspaper reported that a former aide had made a bullying allegation against the Duchess of Sussex. The Times of London reported allegations that the duchess drove out two personal assistants and left staff feeling “humiliated.” It said an official complaint was made by Jason Knauf, then the communications secretary to Meghan and her husband, Prince Harry. He now works for Harry’s elder brother, Prince William. The palace said it was “clearly very concerned” about the allegations. It said in a statement that the palace human resources team “will look into the circumstances outlined in the article” and would seek to speak to current and former staff. “The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace,” it said. American actress Meghan Markle, a former star of the TV legal drama “Suits,” married Harry, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, at Windsor Castle in May 2018. Their son, Archie, was born the following year. In early 2020, Meghan and Harry announced they were quitting royal duties and moving to North America, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media. They recently bought a house in Santa Barbara, California, and are expecting a second child. The bullying allegations were reported four days before the scheduled broadcast of an Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan, which is anticipated to draw a huge audience. It also comes less than two weeks after the palace announced that the couple’s split from official duties would be final. A spokesman for the duchess said she was “saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma.” In a 30-second clip released by CBS Wednesday night, Winfrey asks Meghan how she feels about the palace “hearing you speak your truth today?” “I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we would still just be silent if there was an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us,” Markle says. “And if that comes with risk of losing things, I mean, there's been a lot that's been lost already.” The Associated Press
Wall Street slumped on Thursday and global stock markets declined after U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell repeated his pledge to keep credit flowing until Americans are back to work, rebutting investors who have openly doubted he can stick to that promise once the pandemic passes. Benchmarket U.S. Treasury yields rose toward last week's highs as Powell spoke, and the dollar hit a three-month high. With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out and the government fiscal taps open "there is good reason to think we will make more progress soon" toward the Fed's goals of maximum employment and 2% sustained inflation, Powell told a Wall Street Journal forum.
P.E.I.'s new Minister of Social Development and Housing Brad Trivers received a dressing down in the provincial legislature Wednesday, apologizing for remarks he made the day before where he dismissed the financial toll the pandemic has taken on young Islanders, referring to accounts of "precarious employment" among young people as "employment opportunities." Those comments came during debate on a motion introduced by the Green Party to recognize the contributions of Island youth in the province's fight against COVID-19, and to acknowledge those same youth have borne much of the "economic risks and harms related to COVID-19, as a result of inadequate wages, inconsistent paid sick leave, precarious employment and challenges obtaining gainful employment." "I have to say that, I think what we need from our elected officials is we need people who are going to support the youth, and not encourage them to be victims," Trivers said Tuesday in response to the motion. "On Prince Edward Island, I personally don't see a lot of precarious employment out there, I see a lot of employment opportunities." Trivers went on to describe growing up on a farm, working for no wages. "I wasn't making money doing that, but that was very gainful employment," he said. "Those were the type of experiences that made me the person I am today, and they made me appreciate every dollar I've earned." On Wednesday Trivers offered a short apology, saying the comments he made were "misinformed." But the Official Opposition was not satisfied with that apology. "Yesterday, the Minister of Social Development and Housing told us that he doesn't understand what precarious unemployment is and that he doesn't believe it exists in PEI," said Hannah Bell, the opposition social development critic during question period. MLA Hannah Bell, official opposition critic for social development and housing, says Islanders need to know that all cabinet ministers support the message of equality and inclusion. (Laura Meader/CBC) "He described low-wage precarious work, even unpaid work, as an opportunity for character building. He also said that we should stop pointing out the problems with precarious or low paying work, lest we make our youth victims." Bell had previously delivered a written statement to the house, describing constituents she said were struggling to work multiple low-paid jobs, raise children, pay tuition fees and make the rent. "This is what precarious employment looks like. It is unstable, poorly paid, unreliable, with few if any worker rights," said Bell. "While this may not be the experience of members of this house, it is the experience of thousands of Islanders." Asked by Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker whether he supported his minister's statements, Premier Dennis King said, "I don't support that statement at all. I think we're here to help Islanders, that's our job, and if we're not here to help Islanders, none of us should be in here." Minister should show 'empathy' "The Department of Social Development and Housing is a place where many marginalized Islanders seek support," said Bevan-Baker. "Do you think it's important for the cabinet minister in that portfolio to have a deep understanding of, and an empathy for the people that their department serves?" he asked the premier. The Greens also brought up previous comments Trivers has made on housing. At a committee meeting in January, before Trivers was housing minister, he said Islanders receiving rental support from the province living in substandard housing "have the freedom to choose to make their own decision about whether they stay there or not." At a meeting in October he calculated that two people earning minimum wage could buy a home, accessing a provincial funding program to make the down payment, and afford mortgage payments of $1,200 per month. "It may not be right in Charlottetown, maybe people will have to travel," he said. In question period Wednesday, Bell said anyone who was "precariously employed … can't actually qualify for a traditional mortgage." Minister hasn't shared 'life experiences' "These are very serious issues," Trivers said in the legislature Wednesday. "We're all learning, we're all growing and the comments I made yesterday, when I say they were uninformed, it's simply because I haven't shared the life experiences of people who were impacted in that way in many cases and I will freely admit that." At one point during the session Trivers committed to creating a rental registry to track rental rates on P.E.I., something the Opposition has been asking for. After question period, Bell said the point of questioning Trivers about his comments was to get him to acknowledge there are problems with issues like wages, employment and sick leave benefits. "Premier King needs to have his cabinet ministers on board" with the vision of equality and economic security delivered in last week's throne speech, Bell said. "Trivers' comments show a pretty huge gap. It makes it hard for Islanders to know what to believe, and who to trust."
Legislation is coming this fall to streamline the laws governing Alberta's continuing care system, Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday. The changes are part of a broader, ongoing review of the province's network of long-term care homes, designated supportive living facilities and home care, which collectively serve about 175,000 people. Charged with leading the review is Calgary-Fish Creek MLA Richard Gotfried. Continuing care is "deeply personal" because it concerns the dignity of parents and grandparents, Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Wednesday at a press conference in Calgary. When the review is complete later this year, he said he hopes it leads to a network that prioritizes patient needs over system convenience. Homes should adapt so that seniors can stay in one place as they require more care and assistance, he said. "Why can't we have spouses living together if they need different levels of care? It's a big concern of mine, and it's one of the issues that started us down the path of reviewing the different types of legislation and the funding models for these operators," he said. Kenney, who spoke at the same press conference, said the government is also looking to redesign the home-care system to increase accessibility and offer clients more choices and control. Shandro aims to introduce a new continuing care act in the legislature this fall that would replace three pieces of legislation dating back to the 1980s. The government also wants to consolidate regulations to make the rules clearer for people running care homes and home care services. Care homes want protection from outbreak lawsuits Wayne Morishita, executive director of the Alberta Continuing Care Association, says the existing laws and regulations are dated, cumbersome, administered by different government ministries, and in some cases, overlap or contradict one another. He would also like to see rules be less prescriptive and give care homes more flexibility in how to offer high-quality care, with safety standards remaining in place. "We're not looking for any less accountability." A predictable system of funding, particularly for building maintenance and improvements, would also be helpful, he said. Privately operated care homes are also asking the government for liability and insurance changes. Morishita says in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak, people should not be able to sue facilities that followed all public health orders and rules to prevent it. Some insurance companies are spooked by COVID-19 and refusing to insure care homes, Morishita said. The industry is lobbying the federal government to provide a financial backstop so insurers would be required to provide this coverage, which they cannot run without. A successful pandemic class-action lawsuit against a care home could permanently damage the industry at a time when the number of seniors is set to rise substantially, he said. Alberta's 2021 budget document says the number of Alberta seniors will increase by 30 per cent in the next two decades, and that by 2038, more than a million Albertans will be age 65 or older. Advocate says pandemic shows private care homes a failing model Patient advocates who've watched the pandemic take a deadly toll in seniors' homes are worried about the direction the government's review is taking. Sandra Azocar, executive director of public health-care advocacy group Friends of Medicare, said the pandemic reinforced how problematic staffing is in continuing care. Sandra Azocar, executive director of Friends of Medicare, said the pandemic laid bare several problems with Alberta's continuing care system, particularly in private facilities.(Sam Martin/CBC) Relatively low-wage workers are frequently hired as part-time or casual employees, and must work multiple jobs to make a living wage. The homes were often short staffed before the pandemic arrived, she said. The problems were exacerbated when staff became ill or had to isolate due to exposure. She said Alberta should mandate staff-to-patient ratios and require a minimum number of daily care hours. Health and safety inspections should also be unannounced, she said. The Alberta government touts wage top-ups it gave to private sector health-care aides and millions it spent to compensate care homes for lost revenue, cleaning supplies and protective gear. Azocar said the government should not prop up or expand a private system that she said is failing patients and workers. "If we don't actually see any meaningful changes happening in the way that we provide care to the most vulnerable, then it's a government that will have failed to have learned anything throughout this year, and all the lives that we have lost would be for nothing," she said. A government-ordered review of Alberta Health last year recommended Alberta Health Services sell its network of Carewest and Capital Care long-term care homes to save money. The review also suggested increasing resident fees and introducing a co-pay model for home care. The review's recommendations about continuing care are on hold until the sector review is complete, the government has previously said. On Wednesday, Shandro said AHS hasn't asked for cabinet permission to sell Carewest or Capital Care, nor is he sure if his colleagues would approve the move. NDP seniors and housing critic Lori Sigurdson said she's leery that promises to cut red tape for private providers will actually lower safety or care standards. Before and during the pandemic, her office received many calls and emails from people concerned their relatives aren't getting proper care. People are developing bedsores from not being moved, or failing to receive proper hygiene and personal care, she said — all products of short staffing. She's also suspicious the government will attempt to download more of the costs of care onto residents and their families. Sigurdson wants to see the province hold an inquiry into how continuing care functioned during the pandemic, particularly given the high numbers of residents who died from COVID-19. In the proposed 2021 budget, the government plans to boost spending on continuing care by four per cent, community care by seven per cent and home care by about three per cent compared to last year's budget — a $174-million increase to a $3.5-billion system.
VANCOUVER — A lawyer for British Columbia's attorney general says the provincial health officer understands the importance of balancing any COVID-19 restrictions on in-person gatherings against the charter right to freedom of religion. In a hearing over a petition challenging Dr. Bonnie Henry's health orders, Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court that Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders both verbally in public briefings and in writing. He says Henry's statements described how rapidly rising COVID-19 cases in B.C. last fall threatened exponential growth that could have overwhelmed the health-care system, and further restrictions were necessary to prevent transmission while keeping schools and essential workplaces open. Paul Jaffe, a lawyer for the group of petitioners that includes three Fraser Valley churches, told the court this week the restrictions substantially and unjustifiably interfere with his clients' charter right to freedom of religion. Morley told Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson that Henry believed accelerating cases constituted a health hazard, allowing her to issue orders that she acknowledged may affect charter rights in a reasonable and proportional way. However, Hinkson questioned whether Henry fully appreciated the right to religious freedom based on Morley's description of her statements related to the orders last November and December. "She talks about needs of persons to attend in-person religious services, but that really wouldn't capture the charter right that's asserted by the petitioners ... would it?" he asked. The orders have since been amended and now include specific reference to the charter and freedom of religion, Morley said, adding Henry has always recognized the importance of religious practice and in-person worship. Morley told the court Henry consulted with faith leaders before issuing the orders last year and invited churches to submit requests for case-specific exemptions in proposals outlining how they could conduct services in ways that minimize the risk of COVID-19 to her satisfaction. Jaffe said during his argument this week that his clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. He said during a separate hearing last month that his clients applied for an exemption in December and did not receive a response. More legal challenges to B.C.'s public health rules have been filed by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, and by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
EDMONTON — Five Black Muslim women, all Somali-Canadians wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks. The city's Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence lessons following the attacks. The classes are full. Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton's Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says someone approaches him or his network on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women. "There's been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It's so pervasive right now," Daley says. "It's full of racial epithets, full of disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identity they presumed that this person has. It's dehumanizing." Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it received 60 reports of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women. On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter were violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was subject to racial slurs as someone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag. In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the ground and made threats to kill her and tear off her burqa. The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to kill her. Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. But the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not enough and government leaders at the local and provincial level need to take action. "Anti-Black racism is a real problem in Alberta," says Mustafa Farooq. "Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real problems. "We can look, for example, at street harassment bylaws. We can look at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can look at hate crime units and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges." "So much can be done immediately, but it's not happening." Daley added that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants were seen carrying tiki torches, which many say are a symbol used by white supremacists. Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the police service is doubling down in its effort to work with the Somali community to address racially motivated assaults. "We've got to listen to what they need and then we've got to figure out how we can ... actually get some of the changes that they need," he said at a news conference Tuesday. McFee also alluded to the suspects in the assaults possibly having mental-health issues. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 ___ This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This story has been edited. An interview subject was removed from the original version because of concerns raised about her safety.
The top public health officials in Southwestern Ontario pulled in hundreds of thousands in overtime pay last year for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic. At least two of the region’s medical officers of health received more than $100,000 each in overtime, including Middlesex-London’s top public health doctor, Chris Mackie, and Haldimand-Norfolk’s Shanker Nesathurai. The overtime pay is part of a provincial program to compensate local health units for extraordinary expenses incurred relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. “It was one of the initiatives set up by the province to recognize some of the frontline healthcare workers,” said London city councillor Maureen Cassidy, who chairs the Middlesex-London board of health. “They’ve asked us to keep a tally of all the overtime hours and the dollars for every one of our employees who have worked overtime directly related to the COVID-19 response," she said. Between March 22 and Nov. 14 of last year, the health unit had 47 staff log overtime ranging from 44 to 716 hours. The global pandemic was declared in mid-March. Mackie, the London area's medical officer of health, logged 611 overtime hours during that period, earning a payout of $100,072. His base salary in 2019 was $300,000. “That reflects the leader of an organization that has gone from five days a week, 8:30 to 4:30, to seven days a week, 8:30 until some days, 10 at night,” Cassidy said about the overtime pay. The total staff overtime spending at the Middlesex-London Health Unit was $730,000. Cassidy said public health staff are making “incredible sacrifices” in their personal lives while battling the pandemic. As Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health, Nesathurai logged 1,100 overtime hours, worth $160,000, on top of a base salary of $240,000. Joyce Lock, the medical officer of health for Oxford and Elgin counties, received just more than $62,000 in overtime pay “for hours worked over and above the regular schedule as well as unused vacation,” according to Larry Martin, Southwestern Public Health’s board chairperson. “The Ministry of Health has provided provincial health units with clear guidelines for allowable COVID-19 expenditures eligible for reimbursement,” Martin said in a statement. “(Lock’s) employment contract . . . allows for overtime payments in specific circumstances – such as those that have unfolded over the course of what is now a year-long pandemic response.” Lock’s salary in 2019 was $288,000. The base salaries of medical officers of health are paid by local health boards based on member municipalities' professional salary scale and benefits policies. Whether an individual medical officer of health is eligible for overtime pay, and how they're compensated, depends on each board’s contract and municipal policies. In Ontario, most managers and supervisors, usually paid a salary rather than by the hour, aren't typically paid overtime. “In September 2020, public health units were provided with an opportunity to request additional one-time funding from the ministry for COVID-19 extraordinary costs incurred,” Anna Miller, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, said in an email. “Examples of eligible COVID-19 extraordinary costs included overtime for staff if local board of health policies related to overtime allowed for this.” Meanwhile, Lambton’s medical officer of health, Sudit Ranade, did not receive any overtime pay as the County of Lambton’s overtime policy sees employees take time off in lieu. Shari Sterling, executive assistant for Lambton County’s public health services, said Ranade has “some banked hours” but did not specify how many. Lambton submitted $848,429 to the province for reimbursement for COVID-19 extraordinary costs, including staff salaries, accommodation, supplies, equipment and communications. Health units in Huron-Perth, Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex and Grey-Bruce did not immediately respond to Free Press requests about overtime expenses during the pandemic for medical officers of health and other staff. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation slammed the overtime pay. “Ontarians hand over nearly half – 45 per cent – of their household income to governments every year in taxes, yet we're still a province struggling with hallway healthcare and chronic problems in long-term care,” said Jasmine Moulton, the federation’s Ontario director. “Then you see governments handing out six-figure top-ups and seven-figure severances to top health officials, and you start to see where the problem truly lies." Moulton said 355,300 Ontarians lost their jobs last year amid the pandemic. “This story is further proof that we're not all in this together." firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press
WASHINGTON — Cheered on by President Joe Biden, House Democrats are hustling to pass the most ambitious effort in decades to overhaul policing nationwide, confident they can avoid clashing with moderates in their own party who are wary of reigniting a debate they say hurt them during last fall's election. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act was set for a House vote late Wednesday. The sweeping legislation, which was approved last summer but stalled in the Senate, was named in honour of Floyd, whose killing by police in Minnesota last Memorial Day sparked protests nationwide. The bill would ban chokeholds and “qualified immunity” for law enforcement and create national standards for policing in a bid to bolster accountability. Democrats say they are determined to pass the bill a second time, to combat police brutality and institutional racism after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans following interactions with law enforcement — images of which were sometimes jarringly captured on video. Those killings drew a national and international outcry. But the debate over legislation has turned into a political liability for Democrats as Republicans seized on calls by some activists and progressives to “defund the police” to argue that Democrats were intent on slashing police force budgets. This bill doesn't do that. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said it was a reason the party, after talking confidently of growing its majority in November, instead saw it shrink to just 10 seats, 221-211. “We played too much defence on ‘defund the police,’” Perez said. Moderate Democrats said the charge helped to drive Democratic defeats in swing districts around the country. “No one ran on ‘defund the police,’ but all you have to do is make that a political weapon,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate Texas Democrat who has pushed for more police funding in places like his city of Laredo, where law enforcement presence is especially concentrated given the close proximity to the Mexican border. While Democrats used their then-larger majority to pass the police reform measure in the House last summer, it stalled in the then-Republican-controlled Senate, where GOP senators pushed an alternate plan that Democrats blocked from consideration, calling it inadequate. Democrats now control both chambers of Congress, but it seems unlikely the bill could pass the Senate without substantial changes to win GOP support. The bill had been set for a vote Thursday, but House leaders abruptly changed the schedule after U.S. Capitol Police warned of threats of violence by a militia group seeking to storm the Capitol two months after the Jan. 6 siege. Democratic control in the House is now so narrow that the loss of even a handful of moderate votes can sink legislation. But senior Democratic congressional aides said Wednesday they were confident the policing bill would clear the House and were eager to get it to the Senate, where negotiations will take longer. Despite the political attacks by Republicans, even the House's more centrist lawmakers, some representing more conservative districts, appear ready to back the bill. Aides pointed to the moderate New Democrat Coalition saying this week that its members would support it. “Black Americans have endured generations of systemic racism and discrimination for too long, and this has been painfully evident in their treatment by law enforcement," said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash, who chairs the coalition. That endorsement came despite the bill's prohibitions on so-called qualified immunity, which shields law enforcement from certain lawsuits and is one of the main provisions that will likely need to be negotiated in any compromise with the Senate. Police unions and other law enforcement groups have argued that, without such legal protections, fears of lawsuits will stop people from becoming police officers — even though the measure permits such suits only against law enforcement agencies, rather than all public employees. California Rep. Karen Bass, who authored the bill, understands the challenge some House members face in supporting it., “My colleagues, several of them, I do not make light of the difficulty they had getting reelected because of the lie around defunding the police,” Bass said. She called provisions limiting qualified immunity and easing standards for prosecution “the only measures that hold police accountable — that will actually decrease the number of times we have to see people killed on videotape.” Bass said she was not planning to make concessions before the bill clears the House. Changes would only serve to weaken it while failing to shield Democrats from the false “defund the police” narrative surrounding it, she said. “Even if they were to vote against the bill, even if they were to have a press conference denouncing the bill, they are still going to be hit with the same lie,” Bass said of Democrats. She also acknowledged the challenges Democrats faced last November — and may likely see again — when former President Donald Trump's reelection campaign and other leading Republicans crowded the airwaves with images of cities around the country burning. But Bass said those attacks, like much of the opposition to the bill, are built on racism, promoting fears about how, “The scary Black people are going to attack you if you try to rein in the police.” “That's as old as apple pie in our history,” she said. “So do you not act because of that?” Still, she conceded that changes are likely to come if the measure is to win the minimum 60 votes it will need to advance in the Senate, which is now split 50-50s. Bass said she'd been in contact with South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the only Black Republican in the chamber, and was confident he would help deliver some GOP support. Scott said this week that the legislation's sticking points were qualified immunity and prosecutorial standards and that in both areas, “We have to protect individual officers.” “That's a red line for me,” Scott said, adding “hopefully we'll come up with something that actually works.” That could prove a tall order, despite the White House's vocal support for police reform. Biden has promised to combat systemic racism and signed executive orders he says will begin doing that, though advocates are expecting the new administration to go further. Biden has tweeted that he hopes "to be able to sign into law a landmark police reform bill.” Will Weissert And Padmananda Rama, The Associated Press
Pembroke -- Three new cases of COVID-19 in Renfrew County and district were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total of confirmed cases since the pandemic began to 349. The Renfrew County District Health Unit (RCDHU) reported on Monday two individuals were in hospital in intensive care and another individual was in hospital. At that point 29 people were in isolation with confirmed cases of the virus. Last week Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the RCDHU, issued a stern warning to county residents following a large number of cases identified in the Arnprior and McNab-Braeside area after a gathering in the community which saw a large number of people infected and several businesses affected. “RCD has been classified as a Green Zone for weeks now, which will likely change if cases continue to rise,” he warned. “Businesses are finally getting the chance to open again, to employ their workers, and to serve their customers delayed needs. The last thing we want to do is to jeopardize our status and clamp down yet again on the economy, or possibly implement more stringent rules in the Arnprior area.” Last Friday, the RCDHU confirmed nineindividuals that reside in the Town of Arnprior and five that reside in the Township of McNab-Braeside tested positive for COVID-19 in a period of a week. The health unit noted there were 37 high-risk contacts and six local businesses affected. According to the health unit, many of these cases attended the same social gathering, and several others are considered close contacts of those that attended the gathering. RCDHU has directed all persons and business impacted to self-monitor and/or self-isolate until exposure and risks have been assessed by the contact tracing team at RCDHU. “This will continue to be followed by further testing and investigation, which could lead to more cases over the coming days,” Dr. Cushman said. The health unit was supported by the mayors of the affected communities in asking for continued vigilance and adherence of COVID protocols among area residents. “I really encourage the residents of Arnprior to take this virus seriously and not let your guard down,” Arnprior Mayor Walter Stack said. His comments were echoed by Mayor Tom Peckett of McNab/Braeside. “With the new variants of concern spreading in other regions across Ontario, we want to ensure that we are taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community, family and friends safe,” he said. The county currently has one long-term care home in outbreak. Miramichi Lodge in Pembroke has seen three confirmed cases of the virus. The health unit has completed 65,633 tests since the pandemic began and although almost 350 cases have been identified so far there have been zero of the more contagious variants identified in the county and district. COVID testing continues in the county with tests on Thursday in Laurentian Valley, Cobden and Deep River. Friday tests are being done in Arnprior, Horton and Barry’s Bay. Testing is done by appointment and anyone needing a test must call RCVTAC at 1-844-727-6404 to schedule a testing time. Those requiring a test are reminded to wear a face mask or covering, arrive at their scheduled time and bring their health card and proof of address. Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
As First Nations across the country begin to adopt their own child and family welfare laws, they are being reminded about liability issues and adopting statutory immunity. “It’s very much a policy or political issue for Indigenous governing bodies as to whether or not they want to follow what most provinces have done in including a statutory immunity … (which) obviously does limit recovery for children who may have suffered damages. It’s a question that may not be palatable to include in laws, but it’s there in the laws that the provinces have applied,” said Eileen Vanderburgh, lawyer with Alexander Holburn Beaudin and Lang LLP. In the case of child services, statutory immunity would require a child who is suing for damages to establish that the acts or omissions were done in bad faith, which is a higher standard than claiming a duty was not performed, said Vanderburgh. Vanderburgh spoke March 2 at the third of five virtual gatherings hosted by the Assembly of First Nations on Child and Family Services and Self-Determination. Bill C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, came into force Jan. 1, 2020. It allows Indigenous groups to design and deliver child and family welfare services in the manner that best suits their needs. Indigenous groups would be taking over delivery of these services from the provinces. Vanderburgh addressed liability considerations for transitioning to First Nations jurisdiction over child and family services, pointing out that Indigenous governing bodies could be sued in Canadian courts for damages suffered by children whose care they have taken over. It was a sobering reminder of what could go wrong. “This is a complex area of law that is being applied to a complex web of relationships and there’s a number of legal principles guiding (this),” she said. She pointed out that claims of negligence in performance of duties were common and that these fell into two categories, direct and vicarious. “Vicarious liability can apply even if the authority itself hasn’t done anything wrong but somebody who they employed or contracted with to supply services has, and the law recognizes a vicarious liability in that relationship,” said Vanderburgh. She also noted that the Indigenous governing body could be held liable in the performance of duties that they delegated to another agency. However, the courts do make distinctions between foster homes and institutions. Vanderburgh highlighted the Supreme Court of Canada’s 2003 decision in KLB v. British Columbia, where “the relationship between governing bodies and foster parents is not sufficiently close to impose vicarious liability on governing bodies for abuse committed by foster parents.” Foster parents were described by the court as “independent contractors.” When it came to institutions, the court made the distinction that care was provided by employees and it was the employees who abused or neglected the children and “that was the distinction why vicarious liability would be imposed on the institution for the institutional care, but not on the province where the care was in a foster home,” said Vanderburgh. She added, however, that there were exceptions to the rule and there were cases where the province was held directly liable for abuse that took place in the foster home because the province failed to properly investigate a foster home, to supervise regularly or to investigate complaints made by the child. Vanderburgh also said that the Indigenous governing body could be held financially accountable in a case of joint and several liability even if they are not vicariously liable. Where a number of defendants are liable for damage caused to a child and not all defendants can pay, the court would order the defendant “with the deep pockets” to make compensation. That defendant is most likely the governing body. In turn, the governing body can collect from the other defendants. Vanderburg also pointed out that various sections of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families Act underscored that the best interests of the child were the primary consideration of the Indigenous governing body and not the child’s parents or family when it came to decisions made or actions taken to apprehend the child. “This is consistent with the case law that has developed in child welfare,” she said. The act sets out the minimum national standards of care for the child, but Indigenous governing bodies can adopt other measures in their laws and these form the basis for standard care. Development of clear and operational policies and protocols, as well as limiting liability through laws passed by the governing bodies help to manage the risks, as does hiring and training of employees, and providing supervision and support to caregivers. “Really the gold standard is get insurance…That’s the best risk management tool,” said Vanderburg. She also suggested that Indigenous governing bodies consult with the provinces to see what policies they have in place. “It will outline the scope of what certainly the province considered needed to be covered by policy and tailor that. It will become more than what we want but we can tailor it to the issues that you see or what you want to address in your own policies,” said Vanderburg. She also suggested that First Nations think hard about whether they wanted to create an internal judiciary system or use a dispute resolution system to address the issues that will arise from child and family welfare services. “They could be complicated claims and whether or not you want to take on that additional burden and if so how do you manage that in the legislation because it affects people’s rights who are affected by the decisions made by the governing body on these issues. That I think is a trickier sort of policy, political question as to whether or not that’s what you want to do,” said Vanderburg. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
A promotional photo and video shoot was produced at McGeachie Trails in Limerick Township on Feb. 27 to highlight the trails’ suitability for various winter sports for residents and tourists alike, and to promote economic development. The photo and video materials, focusing on cross country skiing and snowshoeing, were produced by Hastings Destination Trails Inc. with a grant from the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization, in cooperation with Hastings County. It is set to be used to promote McGeachie Trails after the pandemic has subsided, likely for the 2021/2022 winter season. According to HDTI’s Cathy Trimble, the organization had received a $2,500 digital marketing grant from the OHTO recently, and decided to do a photo and video shoot to market McGeachie Trails as a winter tourist destination for the 2021/2022 winter season. Luisa Sorrentino is the marketing coordinator for economic development and tourism with Hastings County, and emphasizes that the photos and video will not be used to publicize McGeachie Trails this year, due to COVID-19, but will be used to do so next year for the 2021/2022 winter season. “So, we are not promoting the area this time during COVID-19. We are all local within Hastings County. We’re wearing masks and we’re doing everything according to protocol,” she says. While there was an uptick in local tourism to the area in 2020, with some businesses seeing a 30 per cent increase in revenues, Sorrentino wants to prepare for when the pandemic is behind us and tourism from other parts of Ontario, Canada and the world can start to resume. “We’ve been busy helping businesses survive and pivot during COVID-19, and also to be ready with services when [COVID-19] ends and tourists come back to the area,” she says. To that end, HDTI and Hastings County highlighted the trails’ suitability to use for cross country skiing and for snowshoeing. They had Clive Emery, the owner and operator of Trips and Trails Adventure Outfitting (tripsandtrails.ca), and an avid skier and sportsman, to teach a handful of people how to cross-country ski on the trails and take them on a short journey for the video. Trimble confirmed that Emery was there that morning teaching skiing fundamentals and that the photo and video shoot went well. “He was the instructor and supported us with equipment for the event. They [his students] were novice cross country skiers and they really enjoyed themselves. Clive just showed them the ropes and they went for a short ski,” she says. Bernie Hogan was also there that afternoon to teach a small group of people how to snowshoe for the afternoon’s video segment and to take them on a brief snowshoeing excursion. They were the Card family; Meredith, Shayne and son Maxwell, and Rick Cassidy and Mary Ann Pierce. An award-winning long-distance runner and snowshoe racer, Hogan is also the athlete ambassador for northern Ontario with Snowshoe Canada (snowshoecanada.ca/contact). He works at CP Rail as a track maintenance technician. He’s been snowshoeing since he was a kid, but took up snowshoe racing a few years ago to keep his conditioning for running in place over the winter. Racing snowshoes are smaller and lighter than traditional snowshoes. “I started getting injured running in the snow, so I was looking for a different kind of sport and found it with snowshoe racing,” he says. Hogan has seen more people on snowshoes this winter than he did last year, and says it’s even hard to buy snowshoes at all as they’re selling out. Grooming the trails that day was Don Stoneman, a retired editor and journalist, director of Canoe Kayak Ontario and an avid canoeist. He used his specialized extra wide track snowmobile and its grooming attachment. “It was a bit of a challenge as the snow was so wet, so I just packed it down with the snowmobile. I’ll track it when it gets a bit colder,” he says. The cross-country skiing and snowshoeing were captured for posterity that day by local photographer Emily Musclow (emilymaeannphotography.com) and local videographer Erica Tripp (ericasorensonmedia.ca). Tripp, who recently moved back to Gilmour from British Columbia, captured the action along the trail with her digital video camera and her gimbal, which is a camera mount that uses three motors within the mount to compensate for unwanted movements and keep the camera steady. “The weather was pretty interesting this morning. It was a bit of a challenge shooting with the snow, but we made it work,” she says. Overall, the photo and video shoot went great that day and Trimble and Sorrentino were happy with the results. “The idea is for people, not during COVID-19 but next year, to come up here as tourists or even if they buy a place up here,” says Sorrentino. “They want to be able to have opportunities to go out and live an active lifestyle and try new experiences, something they’ve never done before, like snowshoeing or skiing.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
South Algonquin Township just completed the public consultation survey phase for its Community Safety and Well Being Plan, which is due to be submitted to the provincial government by July 1. Coordinated by Dr. Meara Sullivan, the survey found that employment, COVID-19, healthcare and affordable housing were residents’ biggest concerns. On the plus side, 95 per cent of respondents felt safe within their respective communities. In a media release from Dr. Sullivan on Feb. 23, the results of the community consultation survey in South Algonquin were made public. The municipal councils of the townships of Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, Madawaska Valley and South Algonquin decided to work collaboratively with Dr. Sullivan to come up with a CSWB plan, and Dr. Sullivan also administered surveys to those municipalities for their input. The survey ran from Oct. 5 to Nov. 30, 2020. Available in hardcopy and online through Survey Monkey, 305 local residents from all the townships participated. Eighty-one people participated from South Algonquin, or 7.4 per cent of its population of 1,096. Dr. Sullivan is a community and restorative justice specialist with over 20 years experience in her field. Her experience led her to be hired by the seven municipalities of North Hastings in 2019 to help them to come up with their own CSWB programs. This tenure helping the municipalities in North Hastings led her to be hired by South Algonquin, Brudenell, Lyndoch and Raglan, Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, and Madawaska Valley, as well as her teaching experience in Community, Safety and Well-Being at Loyalist College. Within South Algonquin, survey respondents had an average age of 55 to 64 years, 75 per cent were female, 92 per cent were white/Caucasian, 75 per cent had a post secondary education, 68 per cent were permanent residents, 90 per cent lived in a home they owned, and 9 per cent said they experienced home insecurity or homelessness in the past year. The good news was that 95 per cent of respondents always or often felt safe in their community, while a strong sense of community and sense of belonging was felt by 57 per cent. While employment at 33 per cent, COVID-19 at 27 per cent, affordable housing at 23 per cent, and healthcare access at 18 per cent were listed as the greatest concerns and the services needed in the area, the greatest community strengths were hailed as nature at 73 per cent, peace/quiet at 60 per cent, small town/rural life at 56 per cent and peace/quiet. It wasn’t a surprise that 75 per cent of respondents reported that COVID-19 had brought higher levels of stress, and 47 per cent reported that the ongoing pandemic had greatly impacted their work and family life. Dr. Sullivan completed the data analysis and the final report, and says that the results give significant insights into the views of the 305 local area residents. “The sample is comprised of individuals who volunteered to participate and is not intended to represent the overall population. However, every resident has a unique voice and each is equally important,” she says. Now in its final phase, the CSWB planning information will be compiled into a regional plan. The final plan will be sent to the Solicitor General and shared with the community by July 1. Dr. Sullivan says that their information gathering process has finished, which included a local service providers’ survey, the community consultation survey, meetings with local agencies and advisors, attendance at round tables on physical and mental health, collecting statistical and previous reports data, and one on one discussions with community members. “In order to be responsive to the immediate needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to be flexible in our planning. At this point, in order to meet the deadline, set by the province, I am compiling all the available information into the final plan,” she says. “I will be reaching out to our advisors throughout this process to ensure the final plan meets the needs of the individuals that are at the greatest risk.” Michael Riley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Bancroft Times
The man they call Father T now has the appropriate headwear to be Chaplain Father T. Father Thomas Dorward was given the white helmet last week that signifies him as the Fire Rescue Chaplain of the Rideau Lakes Fire Department. "It's wonderful to be recognized by your peers and by the township and village," said Dorward. Fire Chief Scott Granahan considered it to be "absolutely an honour" to entrust the helmet to Dorward. "We sometimes look past the roles that are often supportive," said Granahan. "But I don't forget, nor does our Deputy (Chief) forget, that we have that ability to pick up the phone and have somebody that can not just help, but also bring us back to where we need to be. "He's been just an absolutely amazing resource, not just for our members in the community, but also for our members' families." Dorward, who began serving with the fire department shortly after moving to Westport in 2002 following retirement, made the decision last year to step back from being a full-time responding volunteer firefighter. "As they say, 'time marches on,'" said Dorward. "It seemed the right time to step down from the rigours of firefighting." "We really wanted to keep him in our family, so that’s where this little bit of a change to him becoming a face within our command team came from," said Granahan, who is chief of the just over 80 other members of the fire department. There are many roles of a Chaplain within a fire department. Some include offering support and assistance at emergency incidents, conducting or assisting with fire department funerals or memorial services and acting as a confidential listening ear to personnel and family members. Granahan said the role is vital, as one call cannot drag into the next. "He offers such a level place to focus to get our members and our department as a whole back to where they need to be," Granahan said. Before his run with the township's fire department, Dorward's previous work experience included serving in the Canadian Forces medical services, an emergency EMS responder, and a full-time Toronto International Airport Emergency Services and volunteer firefighter. The last job he held before retirement was as security director for the Toronto District School Board. "It seemed a natural fit to be able to utilize the skills I had learned to serve our new home community," said Dorward on why he joined the volunteer fire department after he and his wife Brenda moved to Westport. When Dorward moved to Westport, he was a Religious Brother in the Order of Saint Andrew. Upon joining the fire department, he assumed the dual role of firefighter-chaplain. Soon after completing his studies, Dorward was ordained as a priest. Something that both Dorward and Granahan stressed was that Dorward's role as fire chaplain is not limited to Rideau Lakes. "With our mutual aid services and partners… this isn't a service that is limited to our own membership. It is something that is absolutely available to everybody in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Lanark and beyond," said Granahan. "There's been issues where a chaplaincy was required in other departments," said Dorward. "It's like any other fire department resource. If another department requires it, all they have to do is ask. "We're there for everybody." Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times
VANCOUVER — Studies from Israel and the United Kingdom showed that a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine significantly reduced COVID-19 infections, helping to guide British Columbia's decision to delay the second dose of vaccines by four months. B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the plan is based on research in the two countries as well as evidence collected by the BC Centre for Disease Control and in Quebec. She and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement Wednesday that the goal is to protect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, through the available vaccines. "Setting the second booster dose at 16 weeks allows us to expand the number of people who will have access to these safe and effective vaccines, and may provide more durable and longer lasting protection," the statement said. Newfoundland and Labrador has announced it will also adopt a four-month interval, and Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization released a statement Wednesday recommending 16 weeks between doses when there is limited supply. A study published Feb. 24 by a team at the University of Cambridge in the U.K., which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests that a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can reduce the number of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections by 75 per cent. The team examined thousands of COVID-19 test results of unvaccinated and vaccinated health-care staff, who showed no signs of infection, at the university hospital over a two-week period in January. The study found that 26 out of 3,252 tests, or 0.8 per cent, from unvaccinated workers were positive. In comparison, 13 out of 3,535 tests, or 0.37 per cent, from vaccinated staff were positive less than 12 days after immunization, and four out of 1,989 tests, or 0.2 per cent, from vaccinated workers were positive more than 12 days after the shot. The findings suggest a fourfold decrease in the risk of asymptomatic COVID-19 infection among health-care workers who were vaccinated more than 12 days earlier, or 75 per cent protection. "This is great news — the Pfizer vaccine not only provides protection against becoming ill from SARS-CoV-2 but also helps prevent infection, reducing the potential for the virus to be passed on to others," said study leader Dr. Mike Weekes, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Cambridge, in a statement. Henry has said that B.C.'s situation of limited vaccine supply and ongoing virus transmission is similar to that of the U.K., where officials have recommended that delivery of the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines should be prioritized over a second dose. The U.K.'s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization said in December that the second dose of either vaccine could be given up to 12 weeks after the first dose. Another recent study in the U.K. concluded that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is more effective when the second dose is delivered later. The research, published in peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet on Feb. 19, found the vaccine is 81 per cent effective when its second dose is given three months after the first, compared with 55 per cent efficacy after six weeks. In Israel, researchers studied the effects of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and published their findings in The Lancet on Feb. 18, determining that it was 85 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infections. The study authors analyzed data from 7,214 health-care workers who were vaccinated at Israel's largest hospital, the Sheba Medical Centre. They saw an 85 per cent reduction in symptomatic infections between 15 and 28 days after the first dose. Henry has also pointed to research conducted in Quebec, where officials said in January they were extending the gap between the two doses to a maximum of 90 days. The National Institute of Public Health of Quebec said on Feb. 18 that the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are about 80 per cent effective 14 to 28 days after the shot. The manufacturers, for their part, provide different guidelines for the time between doses. Pfizer-BioNTech recommends three weeks, Moderna proposes four weeks and Oxford-AstraZeneca calls for eight to 12 weeks. But the companies shouldn't be the ones determining the appropriate interval, said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiology lead at the BC Centre for Disease Control. "We shouldn't ask the manufacturer for their blessing in doing this. That's not their role," she said. "It really is squarely the responsibility of public health authorities to do that full benefit/risk analysis for their population." Henry has said that the manufacturers completed their clinical trials according to a short timeline in order to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible. Skowronski led the B.C.-based research that underpinned the province's plan, including the finding that a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines reduced the risk of COVID-19 among long-term care residents and health-care workers by up to 90 per cent. She also examined Pfizer-BioNTech's submission to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and found that it underestimated the efficacy of its own first dose. The manufacturer said it was 52 per cent effective, but it included data from the first two weeks of the shot, a time when vaccines are typically ineffective. When Skowronski cut the first two weeks of data, she found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to a first dose of the Moderna vaccine. B.C. reported 542 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday and seven new deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities linked to the virus to 1,372 in the province. It also said there have been 18 new cases of variants of concern, for a total of 200 cases. Horacio Bach, an adjunct professor of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia, said the province has enough evidence to back the four-month interval, though he believes it was the first in the world to announce such a long delay between doses. He said people who receive their first shot now will still have a reserve of antibodies four months later. Even if one assumes four months is too long to wait, people will still have enough antibodies to prevent severe illness and hospitalization, he said. "Four months, I don't think, is something out of the box," he said. "It's a decent period of time that we can wait." Bach pointed out, for example, that the booster for the hepatitis B vaccine is delivered after a year. Giving as many people as possible a first shot will help prevent transmission of the disease in the province, he added. "The more people you vaccinate, the less chance you give to the virus to infect. When the virus cannot find a host, meaning a person, it will reduce the level of infection automatically." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 7:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. There are 875,559 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 875,559 confirmed cases (29,930 active, 823,524 resolved, 22,105 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 2,812 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 78.75 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,365 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,909. There were 60 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 299 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 43. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.11 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.16 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,676,396 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 997 confirmed cases (153 active, 838 resolved, six deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 29.3 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 35 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is five. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 199,347 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 137 confirmed cases (22 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 13.78 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 20 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 107,377 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,646 confirmed cases (30 active, 1,551 resolved, 65 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 3.06 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 30 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 343,260 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,438 confirmed cases (38 active, 1,372 resolved, 28 deaths). There were three new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.86 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 12 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There were zero new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 238,399 tests completed. _ Quebec: 289,670 confirmed cases (7,336 active, 271,908 resolved, 10,426 deaths). There were 729 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 85.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,198 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 743. There were 19 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 81 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.13 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.59 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,320,910 tests completed. _ Ontario: 303,763 confirmed cases (10,397 active, 286,352 resolved, 7,014 deaths). There were 958 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 70.56 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,590 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,084. There were 17 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 121 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 17. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.6 per 100,000 people. There have been 10,964,481 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,000 confirmed cases (1,146 active, 29,953 resolved, 901 deaths). There were 50 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 83.09 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 413 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 59. There were three new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 14 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.15 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.32 per 100,000 people. There have been 535,163 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,059 confirmed cases (1,431 active, 27,239 resolved, 389 deaths). There were 121 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 121.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,079 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 154. There were two new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 10 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is one. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33 per 100,000 people. There have been 579,326 tests completed. _ Alberta: 134,454 confirmed cases (4,649 active, 127,903 resolved, 1,902 deaths). There were 402 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 105.14 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,421 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 346. There were 12 new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.01 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,414,903 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 81,909 confirmed cases (4,718 active, 75,819 resolved, 1,372 deaths). There were 542 new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 91.65 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,559 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 508. There were seven new reported deaths Wednesday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 34 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.09 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.65 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,941,589 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,183 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (two active, 40 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 4.43 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,664 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 359 confirmed cases (eight active, 350 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Wednesday. The rate of active cases is 20.33 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of eight new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is one. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,718 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
By the end of March, Indigenous Services Canada should have received a letter from Sawridge affiliate members (SAM) requesting a new band be created for them. They “would like to split away” from the Sawridge Indian Band (SIB). Ceno Loyie-Clark, who is leading the charge, says SAM have never been allowed full membership in SIB. “I’ve been standing on the gate for 30 years,” said Loyie-Clark. “There’s 475 of us on the edge. None of us have ever lived there.” Loyie-Clark, like the others, are registered Indians affiliated with the Sawridge First Nation located in northern Alberta, but they are not included on SIB’s membership list. SIB has about 45 members. Membership in SIB became an issue back in 1985 when Bill C-31 was passed. That bill amended the Indian Act to, among other things, allow the status of Indian women, and that of their children, to be reinstated after it was lost when marrying non-Indian men. At that time, then-chief Walter Twinn had built a band-owned business empire as a result of oil and gas discovered on Sawridge land. Two trust funds were created to control the band’s income and two days before Bill C-31 was passed, Twinn locked the band’s assets in those trust funds. Court documents in 2019 estimated those funds to be in excess of $140 million. In numerous court cases since 1985, Twinn and SIB argued they were not opposed to the women and their children regaining Indian status, but that they would not be told by the government who was a member of their band. To that end, SIB used Sect. 10 of the Indian Act, which states “a band may assume control of its own membership if it establishes membership rules…” to create its membership list. It’s the same argument SIB has used to exclude people who received Indian status under Bill S-3. That amendment to the Indian Act addressed the inequities of how Indian status is passed on, or not passed on, to cousins in the same family or to children born out of wedlock to Indian women. With SIB determining its own membership criteria, Loyie-Clark says his hand was forced. Despite his mother being a first cousin to Walter Twinn, Loyie-Clark is still not a full member of the band. Although he admits, he was “never that stupid” to try and get his band membership. To become a member is a lengthy, impossible process, he says, which involves “knowing who lived in your home when you were a baby,” and includes other detailed information like employment, medical and legal histories. “The government allowed (SIB) to set up the racist band application process that goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the government has allowed this to go on for 35 years,” he said. Since SIB won’t accept the affiliate members as full members, Loyie-Clark says more than 70 SAMs will be asking ISC to utilize Sect. 17 of the Indian Act, which allows the minister to constitute new bands “from existing Band Lists, or from the Indian Register, if requested to do so by persons proposing to form the new bands.” “The minister may let us have some of the land (on Sawridge First Nation) because there’s two chunks of land that nobody’s living on, but we’re never going to get any of the money,” said Loyie-Clark. “We’re not going to ask for any of the money or for land. There’s enough land in northern Alberta.” It’s Loyie-Clark’s intention to implement an Indigenous lease transformation program that he designed “for me and my cousins” that makes use of depleted oilfield leases. Loyie-Clark says the timing is right for such a venture. Last year the federal government committed $1.7 billion to Alberta, BC and Saskatchewan for orphan well clean up and site reclamation. As far as Loyie-Clark is concerned, these sites don’t belong to any existing band as part of any traditional territory. However, Sect. 17 of the Indian Act states, “Where … a new band has been established from an existing band or any part thereof, such portion of the reserve lands and funds of the existing band as the Minister determines shall be held for the use and benefit of the new band.” “They would have to carve out space for themselves within the confines of that piece of land. That’s the only jurisdiction the federal minister has. Otherwise the province of Alberta has jurisdiction over the land outside the reserve,” said Rob Louie, who at the request of Loyie-Clark is supporting SAM’s endeavours. Louie is president of Band Members Alliance and Advocacy Association of Canada (BMAAAC), a newly created organization that offers its services free of charge to band members who have concerns about alleged unethical behaviour of leadership. “The affiliate members do not need legal representation to form their own band as this is a political matter that will be resolved in the political arena,” said Louie. However, BMAAAC is supporting SAM’s efforts with legal research and Louie will be setting up Zoom calls for tripartite negotiations between SAM, the federal government, and SIB. “We are throwing our full support behind those 400-plus affiliate Sawridge members so that they, too, may form their own band and become masters in their own house. Currently, they are living in a two-tier membership system: have and have-not. And the 400-plus affiliate members of Sawridge have not seen any benefit, whereas 42 regular members have,” said Louie. Should SAM be successful in forming its own band, benefits will include core funding from Indigenous Services Canada and eligibility for grants other First Nations have access to, including money for coronavirus pandemic measures, says Louie. The best case scenario would see negotiations taking one to two years, he adds. “Because we’re not dealing with a lot of people and because the terms and conditions of the new band aren’t that onerous—basically they’re just saying we want a clean break—there’ll just be an issue about the amount of land, the quantity of the property of reserve land that would form under the new band,” said Louie. The process will only be completed once a vote is held and the majority agrees to the separation terms. That is not something current Sawridge Chief Roland Twinn anticipates happening, “because you have to give up a part of your reserve.” “I don’t know what the Indian Act says about (the vote) because there is clearly a difference between membership and affiliation and when it comes to referendums it’s the membership not the affiliation that votes on referendums, as I understand it,” said Twinn. Twinn says membership sits at around 45 and “it’s been a couple of years” since a member was accepted. In information on the five steps of forming a band, as outlined on the ISC website, it is noted “most new bands have come into being from a band division. Some have involved both status and non-status Indians, following the general rule that registered members are the majority.” Twinn told Windspeaker.com that he was unaware of SAM’s intention to approach ISC to create a new band. Louie says Twinn has not yet been officially notified. However, Loyie-Clark says he has been talking “unofficially” about his plan to people living on reserve “because they’re all my cousins.” Loyie-Clark says he is initiating this action now as a form of reconciliation and “repairing the relationship.” It’s something he would like to see be done “pleasantly.” “It’s terribly unjust what’s going on…so let’s do this peacefully. Otherwise we’re going to be fighting… At the end we may end up with absolutely nothing and we don’ have a (First Nation) …. This is supposed to be for the future generations not just us,” said Loyie-Clark. Windspeaker.com By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com
Pembroke – It’s back to the drawing board for the County of Renfrew Official Plan(OP) with a few changes still needed at the committee level and then back to Renfrew County Council before more distribution to municipalities and an eventual public meeting. “I’m not prepared to have this endorsed to commenting agencies until the council of the County of Renfrew is satisfied,” said Admaston/Bromley Mayor Michael Donohue last Wednesday at a virtual county council meeting after pointing out some of the changes councillors were told were made were either vague or not outlined in the document. One issue was the OP amendment councillors had received as part of their packet had undergone additional tweaking by staff. While some areas of concern were eliminated others were being studied on a case-by-case basis and Mayor Donohue said one concern was the document needed to be clearer before it was passed on to municipalities and other agencies for comment. “Agricultural land is deserving of protection or it is not,” he noted. The result is this Official Plan amendment, which is very much a living document, will not be approved very quickly. The most contentious issues appear to be the agricultural designation of some properties as well as the deer yards in Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards, but many of the other areas which had created concern and angst in the community have been resolved. These include the one kilometre development buffer around urban communities and some of the mapping which is now just being used as a guide instead of triggering an automatic study. Mayor Donohue’s resolution to send it back to the Community Development committee and then return to county council was overwhelmingly endorsed by the mayors and reeves. This is despite the fact county staff, including CAO Paul Moreau, re-iterated the intent had never been to approve the document but rather to keep the commenting process ongoing. “This is a resolution that keeps the process moving forward,” the CAO said of the original resolution to send the draft amendment out to commenting groups. Director of Development and Property, Craig Kelley, had the task of outlining the changes made to the Official Plan amendment, including several which were not in the document councillors had before him. He stressed the intent by county staff was to help the county grow. “We are development friendly, but it is just a matter of working within the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS),” he said. Some of the changes he highlighted included secondary dwelling units being allowed on properties. “We’ve heard of many folks who want to bring additional family members to the area,” he said. “It does allow an additional housing unit outside the primary dwelling.” This could keep a family on the farm for example in a separate home. This will all be subject to local zoning by-laws by lower-tier municipalities, he added. The fringe development issue, where the county had recommended any development within a kilometre of urban centres be restricted to allow for the possible expansion of water/sewer services, has all but been removed. While the councillors had the information in the packet it would be narrowed down to 500 metres outside an urban limit, Mr. Kelley said staff now recommended the removal of this policy. “We talked about one kilometre or 500 metres,” he said. “We understand the tone against. At this time, we’d like to remove this proposal.” However, he said this is an issue which still needs to be considered. “When it comes to development in the fringe, we will work with the proponent and the municipality to see if it is the best fit,” he said. A growth friendly change was small housing developments on private roads which would also be for small housing groupings on private roads, he said. As well, the aggregate layer is now considered information only and does not constrain development. One issue of ongoing contention is the designation of new agricultural land in Horton Township. Mr. Kelley said staff needs direction on this. “We have to strike a balance between the PPS and what county council would like us to do,” he stressed. “We are seeing rural growth. We get it.” The planning department is receiving between two and three inquiries a day and is quite busy, he added. Warden Debbie Robinson said it is important not to focus on a confrontational environment with the Official Plan amendment. “It is not council against staff,” she said. “We are trying to work together.” Renfrew Reeve Peter Emon said residents need to recognize the county has to work within constraints set out by the province. “The County of Renfrew cannot just rip up the Provincial Policy Statement nor can they ignore the Planning Act,” he said. “We are bound by that.” He said the changes made to the plan made it “a pretty positive day. We managed to whittle down a number of contentious issues. I am a lot more hopeful today than I was six weeks ago.” Constraints on Development Horton Mayor David Bennett said while he was glad to see some things removed from the plan, like the buffer around rural areas for development, he still had major concerns about the designation of agricultural land in his township. He said his municipality has hired a consultant to study the agriculture designation. He pointed out there is no supporting documentation showing why this land was designated as prime agriculture. “It is very difficult to drive across Horton and say this is number one land,” he said. “There is no justification for a lot of that.” If the land remains designated as agriculture it will be impossible to do development there, he said. “We see this as the future for Horton,” he said. “The highway was our economic growth. When you look at the mapping, agriculture has put a rope around growth.” Understanding why some properties were designated as agriculture is baffling to him, he said. “The government flew over on a 747 and saw a piece of green land and decided it was agricultural,” he said. Killaloe, Hagarty and Richards Mayor Janice Tiedje was also outspoken in her concerns. Agreeing with Mayor Bennett, she said she was happy to see some changes to the plan including the removal of the development barrier outside urban centres. “I’m very happy to hear by the stroke of a pen you removed the one kilometre buffer from the village,” she said. Her issue continues to be the map which shows most of her municipality designated as a deer yard. This covers about 80 per cent of the township, she said. “You took a little bit away,” she admitted. “But I have to show objection to that habitat in my township. I cannot justify to anybody the need for that.” North Algona Wilberforce Mayor James Brose said he also has an issue with mapping. He pointed out there were areas identified as agriculture which should not be classified as such. “My concern is it further restricts our opportunity for development in our municipality,” he said. “We are looking to create opportunities for developers. “If we restrict further it hinders our opportunity for development and to keep our taxes at a reasonable level,” he said. Council then proceeded to vote on the move by Mayor Donohue to have the document sent back to the committee level. Mayor Tiedje asked for a recorded vote. While the vast majority of council agreed to send it back, some argued for continuing the process by having the document distributed for more comments now. “This is not a perfect document,” Reeve Emon admitted, saying it was important to get the information out and then focus on the irritants. “Part of our struggle is it has been so prolonged,” he said. “I’d like to keep moving if we can because we have had some successes.” In the end, council agreed to send it back to the committee level. Warden Robinson told the Leader later there had been some widespread concern because the document shown in the packet to the councillors was not what was presented on Wednesday. “So, staff were asked to clean it up a bit and go to committee and back to county,” she said. As well, there might be the opportunity to already hear from the consultant hired by Horton looking into the agricultural lands. Warden Robinson said council wants to have a workable document. “We are taking this seriously,” she said. “Once we have a reasonable draft, we will send it out, but it has to go to the province for comments.” While the county has been given some discretion, this is not a carte blanche to do whatever it wants, she stressed. “We still have a Provincial Policy Statement we must adhere to,” she said. “We need to use working which allows some flexibility to grow. We don’t have the ultimate authority to scrap the Provincial Policy Statement.” Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader
It has been more than a year since the government issued a temporary extension on renewing health cards, driver's licences and licence plate stickers. The pause was implemented to prevent line ups at Service Ontario during the pandemic. So what's the status on that now? Jessica Nyznik has the details.
There's been a rise in the number of people believed to have one of the COVID-19 variants of concern, according to Ottawa's medical officer of health. Variants of concern are ones that can spread more easily or cause more severe infections. So far, 10 people have tested positive for one of the variants — eight with the one first identified in the U.K. and two first identified in South Africa. On Wednesday, Dr. Vera Etches said another 73 people have been identified as having a genetic indicator after initial screening — meaning they may be infected by a COVID-19 variant of concern. "These screened positives are likely to be confirmed as a variant of concern," said Etches during a virtual OPH news conference. 'We're actually treating everything as if it could be a variant of concern,' said Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches.(CBC) The city's key indicators have also been on the rise — something Etches said is concerning. Latest wastewater data shows a significant jump at the end of February. The number of people hospitalized have gone up, as have the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive. "That is the experience in other jurisdictions, that the variant does spread more quickly," she said. "It does have that potential to grow. I'm concerned." Most variants related to travel About 70 per cent of the variants of concern identified in Ottawa so far are related to either travel, someone coming into close contact with someone who travelled, or by living in the same household with someone who has the variant. Etches said the source is unknown for 30 per cent of cases, which indicates it was likely caused by community spread. It can also take weeks to determine if someone has a variant of concern because all positive samples are sent to a Public Health Ontario lab for genetic sequencing, used to determine if a sample has the variant. "We're actually treating everything as if it could be a variant of concern," said Etches.
CALGARY — As the Calgary Flames try to snap out of their malaise, the return of their star goalie appears imminent. Sidelined five games with lower-body injury, Jacob Markstrom put in a full practice Wednesday with the Flames. "He's close," Flames head coach Geoff Ward said. "Right now he's going through hurdles to get clearance from our medical staff. "He should be ready to go moving forward here based on sort of what we saw, but we'll leave that decision up to the medical people ultimately." Markstrom was pulled midway through a 7-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 20 to open a six-game road trip. A 2-3-1 swing, including a pair of losses to the division cellar-dwelling Ottawa Senators, dropped the Flames below the .500 mark (10-11-1) heading into Thursday's rematch at home against the Sens. Markstrom was Calgary's best player the first quarter of the season with an 8-4-1 record, a .924 save percentage and 2.36 goals against average. The coveted free agent signed a six-year, US$36-million contract with the Flames in October after seven seasons in the Vancouver Canucks organization. In his seventh straight start, and 14th of Calgary's first 16 games of the season, the six-foot-six Swede twice collided hard with Canucks players while coming out his crease to challenge them Feb. 17. Three days later in Edmonton, Markstrom was replaced by David Rittich after giving up five goals to the Oilers on 15 shots. Whether he returns Thursday against Ottawa, or in the weekend's back-to-back games against the Oilers and Senators respectively, Markstrom is hungry to help restore his team's confidence. "Stop the puck. That's my top and only priority," Markstrom said. "It sucks not being out there to battle with the team. You want to be out there for the good times, but also, when we're not playing our best and guys are battling, you want to be out there with them and get us out of this little slump." Veteran forward Derek Ryan also skated Wednesday and appears ready to return to the lineup after missing 12 games with a broken finger. "Things are a little heavy around here," Ryan said. "Guys are gripping the sticks, and it's just not the happiest place right now. "So I was trying to bring a little positivity today in practice and then when I get in the lineup, it's more of that, the energy, positivity." The Flames are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and scored one goal or less in seven of them. Calgary sits three points back of fourth-place Montreal with the halfway point of the pandemic-shortened season looming March 13 when the Canadiens come to Calgary. "We've got some guys coming back from injury, which is a positive thing for us," Ward said. "There's no panic in our situation. We understand exactly where we're at. But we also understand the only people who can get us out of this is ourselves. "We need to come together collectively, we need to do the things that we need to do to, to make positive plays, we need to look after what's important on a daily basis, and we'll start to go the other way again." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press