Like most things in 2020, a visit with Santa will look a lot different this year. Some malls have put up plexiglass barriers, others are keeping visits at a distance or are having them happen virtually.
Like most things in 2020, a visit with Santa will look a lot different this year. Some malls have put up plexiglass barriers, others are keeping visits at a distance or are having them happen virtually.
For two Virginia police officers who posed for a photo during the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection, the reckoning has been swift and public: They were identified, charged with crimes and arrested. But for five Seattle officers the outcome is less clear. Their identities still secret, two are on leave and three continue to work while a police watchdog investigates whether their actions in the nation's capital on Jan. 6 crossed the line from protected political speech to lawbreaking. The contrasting cases highlight the dilemma faced by police departments nationwide as they review the behaviour of dozens of officers who were in Washington the day of the riot by supporters of President Donald Trump. Officials and experts agree that officers who were involved in the melee should be fired and charged for their role. But what about those officers who attended only the Trump rally before the riot? How does a department balance an officer's free speech rights with the blow to public trust that comes from the attendance of law enforcement at an event with far-right militants and white nationalists who went on to assault the seat of American democracy? An Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies nationwide found that at least 31 officers in 12 states are being scrutinized by their supervisors for their behaviour in the District of Columbia or face criminal charges for participating in the riot. Officials are looking into whether the officers violated any laws or policies or participated in the violence while in Washington. A Capitol Police officer died after he was hit in the head with a fire extinguisher as rioters descended on the building and many other officers were injured. A woman was shot to death by Capitol Police and three other people died after medical emergencies during the chaos. Most of the officers have not been publicly identified; only a few have been charged. Some were identified by online sleuths. Others were reported by their colleagues or turned themselves in. They come from some of the country’s largest cities — three Los Angeles officers and a sheriff’s deputy, for instance — as well as state agencies and a Pennsylvania police department with nine officers. Among them are an Oklahoma sheriff and New Hampshire police chief who have acknowledged being at the rally, but denied entering the Capitol or breaking the law. “If they were off-duty, it’s totally free speech,” said Will Aitchison, a lawyer in Portland, Oregon, who represents law enforcement officers. “People have the right to express their political views regardless of who’s standing next to them. You just don’t get guilt by association.” But Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a professor at Case Western Reserve University law school, said an officer’s presence at the rally creates a credibility issue as law enforcement agencies work to repair community trust, especially after last summer's of protests against police brutality sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Communities will question the integrity of officers who attended the rally along with “individuals who proudly profess racist and divisive viewpoints,” she said. “It calls into question whether those officers are interested in engaging in policing in a way that builds trust and legitimacy in all communities, including communities of colour.” In Rocky Mount, a Virginia town of about 1,000, Sgt. Thomas Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker were suspended without pay and face criminal charges after posting a photo of themselves inside the Capitol during the riot. According to court records, Robertson wrote on social media that the “Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem … The right IN ONE DAY took the f(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk) U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.” Attempts to contact the pair were unsuccessful and court records do not list lawyers. Leaders in Rocky Mount declined to be interviewed. In a statement, they said the events at the Capitol were tragic. “We stand with and add our support to those who have denounced the violence and illegal activity that took place that day,” said Police Chief Ken Criner, Capt. Mark Lovern and Town Manager James Ervin. “Our town and our police department absolutely does not condone illegal or unethical behaviour by anyone, including our officers and staff.” On the other side of the county, five Seattle officers are under investigation by the city’s Office of Police Accountability. Two officers posted photos of themselves on social media while in the district and officials are investigating to determine where they were and what they were doing. Three others told supervisors that they went to Washington for the events and are being investigated for what they did while there. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz said his department supports officers’ freedom of speech and that those who were in the nation's capital will be fired if they “were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.” But police leaders need to evaluate more than just clear criminal behaviour, according to Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a policing research and policy group. They must also consider how their actions affect the department credibility, he said. Officers' First Amendment rights “don’t extend to expressing words that may be violent or maybe express some prejudice,” Wexler said, “because that’s going to reflect on what they do when they’re working, when they’re testifying in court.” Through the summer and fall, Seattle police — along with officers elsewhere — came under criticism for their handling of mass protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd. The city received more than 19,000 complaints against officers, most for excessive use of force and improper use of pepper spray. Andrew Myerberg, director of the Seattle Office of Police Accountability, said none of the officers now under investigation were involved in those cases. But Sakara Remmu, cofounder of Black Lives Matter Seattle/King County, said the officers should be fired regardless. Their public declarations of solidarity with Trump fosters not just community distrust, but terror of the entire department, she said. “It absolutely does matter when the decorum of racial peace cracks and racial hatred comes through, because we already have a documented history and legacy of what that means in this country,” Remmu said. In Houston, the police chief decried an officer who resigned and was later charged in the riot. A lawyer for Officer Tam Pham said the 18-year veteran of the force "very much regrets” being at the rally and was “deeply remorseful.” But many chiefs have said their officers committed no crimes. “The Arkansas State Police respects the rights and freedom of an employee to use their leave time as the employee may choose,” department spokesman Bill Sadler said of two officers who attended the Trump rally. Malik Aziz, the former chair and executive director of the National Black Police Association, compared condemning all officers who were in Washington to tarring all the protesters who took to streets after the killing of George Floyd with the violent and destructive acts of some. A major with the Dallas Police Department, Aziz said police acting privately have the same rights as other Americans, but that knowingly going to a bigoted event should be disqualifying for an officer. “There’s no place in law enforcement for that individual,” Aziz said. Martha Bellisle And Jake Bleiberg, The Associated Press
Saskatchewan's premier says the fight over the Keystone XL pipeline isn't over yet. In a recent interview with CBC's Rosemary Barton, Premier Scott Moe says conversations around the TC Energy project are ongoing, despite U.S. President Joe Biden's recent cancellation of the pipeline's permit by executive order. "I wouldn't say this project is over by any stretch. There is a lot of conversation to have on KXL," Moe said in an interview on Rosemary Barton Live. The 1,897-kilometre pipeline would have carried 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily from oilsands in Hardisty, Alta., to Nebraska, connecting to the original Keystone pipeline running to the U.S. Gulf Coast refineries. A portion of the project would have crossed into southern Saskatchewan. Moe, along with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Ontario Premier Doug Ford, has pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to take action against the pipeline's halt. That could include economic sanctions, Moe suggested — a possibility also raised by Kenney. "I haven't said that we should go to sanctions and sanctions should be utilized first," Moe said in his interview with Barton. "But sanctions are always on the table in any conversation or any challenge that we may have with our trading relationship with our largest partner." The project, originally blocked by U.S. President Barack Obama, was then approved by President Donald Trump, who wanted to negotiate the terms of the project, before ultimately being blocked again by Biden in the first days of his presidency. Federal Opposition leader Erin O'Toole has also expressed frustration over the cancellation of the project, saying in a statement it "will devastate thousands of Canadian families who have already been badly hurt by the economic crisis." Trudeau's government has repeatedly said that it supports the project and has made that clear to the new U.S. administration, but both the prime minister and Canada's ambassador to the U.S. have said it is time to respect the decision and move on. Speaking on Friday morning, Trudeau reiterated his disappointment with the cancellation and said he would raise the issue during his phone call with Biden scheduled for later in the day. "Obviously the decision on Keystone XL is a very difficult one for workers in Alberta and Saskatchewan who've had many difficult hits," he said. "Over the past years we have been there for them and we will continue to be there for them and I will express my concern for jobs and livelihoods in Canada, particularly in the West, directly in my conversation with President Biden." Trudeau stressed he and the new president are on the same wavelength on fighting climate change and middle-class job creation, as well as the "values of Canadians." Moe called the cancellation a "devastating blow to North American energy security," and said in the interview with Barton he'll continue to advocate for the pipeline, which he says has both economic and environmental benefits for Canada.
LONDON — Britain is expanding a coronavirus vaccination program that has seen almost 6 million people get the first of two doses — even as the country’s death toll in the pandemic approaches 100,000. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday that three-quarters of the U.K.’s over-80s have received a vaccine shot. He said three-quarters of nursing home residents have also had their first jab. Almost 5.9 million doses of vaccine had been administered by Saturday. Health officials aim to give 15 million people, including everyone over 70, a first vaccine shot by Feb. 15, and cover the entire adult population by September. Britain is inoculating people with two vaccines — one made by U.S. pharma firm Pfizer and German company BioNTech, the other by U.K.-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It has authorized a third, developed by Moderna. It is giving them at doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies and vaccination centres set up in conference halls, sports stadiums and other large venues. Thirty more locations are opening this week, including a former IKEA store and a museum of industrial history that was used as a set for the TV show “Peaky Blinders.” Britain’s vaccination campaign is a rare success in a country with Europe’s worst confirmed coronavirus outbreak. The U.K. has recorded 97,329 deaths among people who tested positive, including 1,348 new deaths reported Saturday. The U.K. is set within days to become the fifth country in the world to record 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico — all of which have much larger populations than Britain's 67 million people. Some health experts have questioned the Conservative government’s decision to give the two vaccine doses up to 12 weeks apart, rather than the recommended three weeks, in order to offer as many people as possible their first dose quickly. AstraZeneca has said it believes a first dose of its vaccine offers protection after 12 weeks but Pfizer says it has not tested the efficacy of its jab after such a long gap. The British Medical Association says the government should “urgently review” the policy. ___ Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic,https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak The Associated Press
China reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, mostly in the northeast where some residents complained they were short of food amid an ongoing local lockdowns, down from Friday's 107. Saturday's toll included 65 domestic cases, with more than half in the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. China, which this weekend marked the anniversary of the world's first coronavirus lockdown in the central city of Wuhan, is facing its worst wave of local cases since March last year.
After much pushback and protest kept Universite de l'Ontario Francais alive, the new French language school has only received 19 applications from Ontario students as of Jan. 17. Vice-rector Denis Berthiaume confirmed that the University has also received around 20 additional admission requests from abroad or from adults who are considering a return to school. That brings the total number of requests received so far to 39. Rector André Roy had previously said the school's goal was to have 200 students for its first semester, which is scheduled to begin this September. Admission applications can still be submitted, but Jan. 17 was the first deadline in the university calendar across the province. The applications also don't mean that students will necessarily choose the university, which is located in downtown Toronto, if they are admitted, as students can apply for admission to multiple programs. Berthiaume told Radio-Canada that the start of the school year will go ahead as planned in September, no matter the number of confirmed students. 'Everything will be ready' He also said that courses will meet any student needs, whether in person or virtually, if circumstances require. "Faculty teams are being recruited, the building is being finished, so everything will be ready," he said. Other universities, like Guelph, Brock and some Western University campuses, have also experienced a decrease in the number of admissions received this year compared to 2020. The Université de Hearst, another Franco-Ontarian institution that is affiliated with Laurentian University, received 17 applications, which is half the number of last year. It's been a rocky road for Universite de l'Ontario Francais. The project was first announced under Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government, but after Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government was elected, it was nixed. The province reversed that decision following protests from Franco-Ontarians and extended talks with the federal government. An agreement reached between the federal and provincial governments in 2019 provides funding of $126 million over eight years for the university. In an emailed statement, Francophone Affairs Minister Caroline Mulroney reiterated the Ontario government's commitment to the university, but did not comment on the low number of admission requests. "Our government is proud to have concluded a historic agreement with the federal government for the creation of the University of French Ontario, under which each level of government will invest, in equal parts, $63 million over a period of eight years," she wrote.
PARIS — A suspected Canadian drug baron has been arrested in the Netherlands on an Interpol warrant, according to Dutch and Australian police. The 57-year-old was detained Friday and is of “significant interest” to Australian and other law enforcement agencies, according to a statement Sunday from the Australian federal police. It says he was targeted as part of an operation that dismantled a global crime syndicate in 2019 that was accused of trading large amounts of illegal drugs and laundering the profits. The Australian police plan to seek his extradition. Dutch national police tweeted that he was arrested at the request of Australian authorities via Interpol. The international police agency did not comment on the arrest. The suspect's name was not released. The Associated Press
There was no distribution plan for the coronavirus vaccine set up by the Trump administration as the virus raged in its last months in office, new President Joe Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, said on Sunday. "The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House," Klain said on NBC's "Meet the Press." Biden, a Democrat who took over from Republican President Donald Trump on Wednesday, has promised a fierce fight against the pandemic that killed 400,000 people in the United States under Trump’s watch.
A couple of weeks ago, a snowy owl in the care of Atlantic Veterinary College staff was released back into the wild after recovering from severe emaciation. It was an event Dave McRuer says is uncommon — usually, by the time snowy owls are found in this condition, he said it is too late to save them. McRuer is a wildlife health specialist with Parks Canada based at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown. His job takes him to national parks across Canada, where he has periodically come in contact with snowy owls. He was also director of wildlife services for 11 years at the Wildlife Centre of Virginia, where they would occasionally receive snowy owls, and worked with them as intern at the University of Saskatchewan. Since snowy owls are in the news, we asked McRuer to share what he finds most interesting about the rarely seen species, and he generously obliged. 1. Why they're suddenly here Snowy owls breed and usually stay in the North, on the flat, frozen tundra territories of Canada, the U.S., Greenland and Russia. Some, however, migrate even further north to pack ice where they forage on polar bear kills, and to open water there where they feed on sea ducks. Still others will migrate as far south as the Carolinas and do so annually. Every five years or so there's what scientists call an irruption, when large numbers of them migrate south. Rarely — once every few decades or so — there's a "super movement" of snowy owls south. Right now, snowy owls are in an irruption year, which is why more are being spotted in southern locales including P.E.I. These periodic moves south were thought to be because of a lack of food, but scientists have now debunked that theory and are working to discover why, McRuer said. For more on the owls' migration, he suggests checking out the Project Snowstorm website. 2. 'Young and dumb' The snowy owls that show up here in Canada are typically younger, McRuer said. Scientists affectionately call them "the young and dumb" because they haven't had as much practice catching food. If they miss a few attempts in a row, they can become weak, which can lead to a "downhill spiral" ending in starvation and death, McRuer said. "Those are typically the birds that don't move at all when you walk up to them here," he said. They can end up at the AVC and other wildlife rehabilitation centres, and usually die because they are too severely emaciated. "It's pretty rare that they make it through," he said. "There's no muscle left on their bodies whatsoever." 3. Females are bigger Like most raptors, the females of the species are bigger by up to one third. The males are almost pure white, McRuer said. The females have some black marking or "barring" across their chests, wings and heads, and the young snowy owls have even more barring. 4. That's a lot of eggs Normally the females each lay five to seven eggs a year, but in years where food is very plentiful, they will lay 12 to 16 eggs in one nest. "Those years, there is a ton of snowy owls, and when winter comes, there are territories that these owls do have, and there's just not as much room for all of these young owls, so they tend to migrate south," McRuer said. Those are the years people report seeing more snowy owls. 5. 1,000-yard stare Snowy owls can see for up to a kilometre — really well. As in, a mouse half a kilometre away scurrying across the snow. That's lunch! "As soon as they see it they're off, and they can actually fly really quickly" in pursuit of food, McRuer said, even though at four to five kilograms they are the heaviest North American owls. 6. People make them nervous Because they can see so far away, they can of course see you coming, and they don't like people getting too close. McRuer said if they are fidgeting and staring directly at you, you're too close. The best way to observe them, he said, is with binoculars, from your car. "Cars are fantastic blinds," he said. "You can generally get closer to any kind of wildlife in a car than you can just generally walking." If you "bump" the owl, or get so close it flies away, that's a bad thing, McRuer said: It makes them more vulnerable to predation, and it uses up valuable energy they need to hunt and survive. It also stresses their immune system. 7. Mmm, tundra grouse Prey consists of small rodents like lemmings and voles, and the occasional ptarmigan, a small tundra grouse. And, because they are used to hunting in 24-hour darkness in the North, they usually hunt at night. "Never feed owls," McRuer said, even if they look hungry. "It just encourages the owls to come close to cars," and they are often hit by vehicles. 8. Watch out for that eagle Snowy owls are listed as a vulnerable species and therefore hunting is forbidden. There are 100,000 to 400,000 around the world, he said. But other animals don't know that. Arctic foxes eat the owls' chicks and eggs, but McRuer said adult owls can take on a small Arctic fox (about the size of a domestic cat) and win. Arctic wolves and polar bears will also scavenge on the nests if they find them, he said. People hunted them and stuffed them for show in large numbers in the late 1800s and early 1900s, McRuer said. In southern climes such as P.E.I., their main predators are red-tailed hawks and eagles. But mostly they die due to human activities, McRuer said, such as collisions with vehicles or utility wires, eating rodents that have been poisoned, or being snared accidentally by hunters. 9. Where to spot them The owls' habitat in the Arctic tundra is flat, so they're most at home along the shoreline or perching on a sand dune or telephone pole, but not in trees, McRuer said. 10. Life span Wild snowy owls, like most raptor species, can live as long as 15 years but generally most die "pretty quickly," McRuer said. That's why they attempt to have and care for as many chicks as possible. Snowy owls can live close to 30 years in captivity, McRuer said. 11. The myth of the wise owl McRuer is also a falconer, and trains raptors such as hawks, falcons and even some species of owls. "I can tell you owls are not as easily trained as other raptors. They just don't pick up on things as quickly," he said. "I'm not going to say they're dumb, but they're a little slow on the pickup." The birds he has trained are ones rescued at rehabilitation centres and are used for educational purposes, he said. However, he has not trained a snowy owl. "Having a bird on your glove, you get a lot more attention than just sort of standing up there with a power-point presentation," he said. "They make great education ambassadors." McRuer does not encourage people to try to keep them as pets. 12. They can breed with other owls Scientists have seen snowy owls breeding with other large owl species — so far only in captivity, McRuer said. But don't be surprised if climate change brings about a hybrid in the wild soon, he said. "That's occurred in other Arctic species like polar bears and grizzly bears, for example," he said. More from CBC P.E.I.
OTTAWA — Under fluorescent lights, Wendy Muckle surveys the supervised consumption site that sits in quiet contrast to Ottawa's peppy ByWard Market nearby. Users filter into the brick building — dubbed "the trailer," a nod to the service's former digs — offering up greetings and grins en route to 16 basement booths, each furnished with a chair, a shatter-resistant mirror and a needle disposal box. The injection facility halved the number of booths to ensure distancing when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in March, resulting in a "huge increase" in overdoses in the surrounding community, says Muckle, who for 20 years has headed Ottawa Inner City Health, which provides health care for vulnerable populations. She restored full capacity in response to the spike in overdoses but many services remain reduced or accessible only virtually. “We've seen a really frightening, rapid increase in the number of people using drugs in this pandemic," Muckle says. "I think people feel like maybe they just aren't going to make it through this one." Drug users face greater dangers as the second wave forces harm reduction sites and outreach programs to curtail their services, leaving at-risk communities out in the cold. Shorter hours, physical distancing measures and a curfew in Quebec, combined with a more lethal drug supply due to border closures, have sent addictions services scrambling to help users across the country as opioid overdoses and the attendant death toll continue to mount. In British Columbia, fentanyl-related deaths had been on the decline for more than a year until April, when monthly numbers routinely began to double those of 2019. Deaths linked to fentanyl, a lethally potent synthetic opioid, reached 360 in B.C. between September and November compared to 184 in the same period a year earlier, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. Opioid-related deaths countrywide could climb as high as 2,000 per quarter in the first half of 2021, far surpassing the peak of nearly 1,200 in the last three months of 2018, according to modelling from the Public Health Agency of Canada. It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply and users turning to substances as a way of coping with high stress. Social services have limited capacity or shut down communal spaces, while programs from meal provision to laundry — some of which are near injection sites, encouraging their use — are now tougher to access. Canada's ongoing border shutdown has disrupted the flow of illicit drugs, and dealers looking to stretch their limited supplies are more apt to add potentially toxic adulterants. Benzodiazepines, or benzos, have been detected in drugs circulating in parts of several provinces. Users can be difficult to rouse and slow to respond to naloxone — the drug that reverses opioid overdoses — and more likely to overdose when fentanyl or other opioids are also in the mix. “With the benzodiazepine, there is no antidote for that," said Paula Tookey, program manager for consumption and treatment at the South Riverdale Community Health Centre in Toronto. "People are sedated deeply for hours, often 10 hours or even more," forcing workers to turn away other users who then may shoot up alone, she said. The Riverdale site saw 42 out of 1,110 visitors overdose last month — none fatally — compared to just two overdoses in 700 visits in December 2019, Tookey said. Pared-down services have also diminished harm reduction sites' role as de facto community spaces, cutting off a key point of social contact. "We used to have memorials, which were super important for people because we have constant deaths," Tookey said. “A lot of our folks don't have families ... The community and other people in their situations and the workers are kind of the informal family that people have." Limits on gathering in the pandemic have also closed off a critical source of knowledge sharing. "There’s no people to say, ‘Hey, that’s really, really strong, don’t use that much,'" said Karen Ward, a drug rights advocate as well as a drug policy and poverty reduction consultant with the City of Vancouver. "Those facts, that social information, is really, really important to have. You know, ‘Hey, there’s a bad batch,’ that sort of thing.” Health authorities run alert systems for poisoned drugs across B.C., but their patchwork structure leaves lives in jeopardy, she said. In Quebec, Montreal's four supervised consumption sites have seen visits drop sharply since the 8 p.m. provincial curfew came into force earlier this month. Even a mobile unit has reached far fewer users, says Kim Charest, outreach program coordinator at L'Anonyme, which runs the portable site. "Unfortunately, people are less likely to go outside their door basically past 8 p.m.," she said. "But we do know that people don't necessarily stop taking drugs." Even before the curfew, the number of EMS calls where paramedics administered naloxone to opioid users in Montreal and the suburb of Laval nearly doubled last year, reaching 270 compared to 146 in 2019, according to the Urgences-santé ambulance service. Another danger lies in sharing needles — injection sites provide clean ones — and the risk of blood-borne infections. Advocates, outreach workers and users are calling for better drug alert systems and broader support services in the short-term. However, nothing short of decriminalization of possession of small quantities of drugs — requested by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart to the federal government — and more stable housing will help beat back the tide of overdoses, Muckle says. "At the end of the day, if people are unhoused, all of the things that you're doing really have a marginal benefit," Muckle says. "You cannot heal in a shelter .... A home is such a fundamental part of our health." Meanwhile, the social isolation and unsupervised consumption of tainted drugs ratcheted up by the pandemic bode ill for vulnerable Canadians. "We had a pretty significant problem with addiction when this pandemic started. We're going to come out of it way worse." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press
The expansion of Canada's government-owned Trans Mountain pipeline assumes greater importance for the oil sector after the cancellation of rival Keystone XL reduced future options to carry crude, potential buyers say. Trans Mountain Corp, a government corporation, is spending C$12.6 billion ($9.9 billion) to nearly triple capacity to 890,000 barrels per day (bpd), a 14% increase from current total Canadian capacity. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government bought the 68-year-old pipeline in 2018 when previous owner Kinder Morgan faced legal hurdles to expand the 1,150-kilometre (715-mile) line running from Alberta to the British Columbia coast.
The Nova Scotia government has quietly dissolved a non-profit arm's-length government organization dedicated to funding gambling prevention and research groups, moving the money to a more general mental health pool. The decision to end Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia (GANS) is being criticized by a community group that received grants through the organization, and which says there's now looming uncertainty about whether its work will be supported. "In the middle of COVID ... isn't there more of a need to do this prevention work and community awareness work?" said Bruce Dienes, chair of Gambling Risk Informed Nova Scotia, a non-profit that aims to reduce the community harms associated with gambling. "This is the time when people are most vulnerable." Part of the funding for GANS, according to the government's website, was "generated from a percentage of VLT revenues, matched by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation." The province said in a statement that VLT retailers provide about $250,000 annually to support mental health and addictions services. The province did not say when the organization was dissolved, but Dienes said he learned of it in the fall and GANS's regulations were changed in October. He said he was told by the Department of Health and Wellness that because of "new information" it had come to realize there are comorbidities with gambling also associated with depression and anxiety, which justified sharing the funds more widely. "The idea that this is new information is ridiculous, we've known this for decades," he said. Dienes believes the province made the move as a way to deal with the "profound lack of funding for mental health in Nova Scotia." No one from the Department of Health and Wellness was available to speak to CBC for this story. In a statement, spokesperson Marla MacInnis confirmed that GANS will become part of the overall mental health and addictions budget — which is roughly $300 million annually — citing changes in the last two decades around gambling and how best to support it. "Problem gambling often occurs with other mental health and addictions issues, and due to the stigma, people often initially seek help for other issues. It's best if people can access support that addresses these issues together," MacInnis said. One of the consequences of the pandemic has been the restrictions placed on gambling in Nova Scotia related to public health protocols. There were no sports games to bet on, and many casinos and bars were ordered to closed. In the height of the spring COVID-19 lockdown, counselling therapist Elizabeth Stephen said some of her clients simply stopped gambling. "It was like a gift to some people that have problems that never really get that break," said Stephen, who is based in Halifax. "Of course, that didn't last long." After a second shutdown late in 2020, the province reopened the Halifax and Sydney casinos, video lottery terminals and First Nations gaming establishments on Jan. 8. Igor Yakovenko, an assistant professor at Dalhousie University, said international data found that gambling decreased in all forms as things were closed globally. When restrictions loosened in Nova Scotia, Stephen said some of her clients returned to gambling, but it varied case by case. In some instances, she said people who hadn't gambled in a long time returned to VLTs because of the "wearing-you-down kind of stress of COVID." Yakovenko, who is a clinical psychologist, said there are many barriers for people to get help, including not knowing where to go in Nova Scotia. He said research suggests that harm reduction and prevention are the most effective ways to help people. "We need services and public health resources that minimize problems from developing in the first place or, if you're already gambling, they prevent you from escalating that gambling," he said. Earlier this month, CBC News reported that the Atlantic Lottery Corporation is preparing to expand its online casinos to Nova Scotia and P.E.I., which would allow for bigger bets than what is currently allowed on in-person VLTs. The pandemic is believed to have made a significant dent in Atlantic Lottery's revenues. Dienes said having VLTs available online goes against the province's VLT moratorium, which removes the gaming devices if a bar shuts down instead of reallocating them. "They call them the crack cocaine of gambling," he said. "To backtrack on that acknowledgement of the danger of VLTs and to be slowly getting rid of them, and to move to amplifying that on the internet with essentially unlimited access is appalling. It's totally irresponsible." According to the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's website, there are 2,012 VLTs in the province and 651 VLTs in Mi'Kmaw communities. Both the Nova Scotia Department of Finance and Atlantic Lottery say the implementation of online casino-style games in Nova Scotia is still being evaluated. Neither provided a timeframe for when a decision will be made. Greg Weston, a spokesperson with Atlantic Lottery, said they regularly consult with responsible gambling experts when developing new products. He also said he believes it's important to offer a regulated alternative to the 3,000 offshore gambling websites available to Atlantic Canadians. "One benefit would be to repatriate players now playing with illegal offshore providers, and by doing so repatriating money being spent on offshore sites to help fund public services to benefit Atlantic Canadians," he said in a statement. Both Yakovenko and Stephen hope the province consults with experts in the area and uses current research in deciding whether Atlantic Lottery should be allowed to move to an online casino model. "From my perspective, the risks far outweigh the profits," Stephen said. "Someone has to lose in order for us to make money." MORE TOP STORIES
Chinese air force planes including 12 fighter jets entered Taiwan's air defence identification zone for a second day on Sunday, Taiwan said, as tensions rise near the island just days into U.S. President Joe Biden's new administration. China views democratically ruled Taiwan as its own territory, and has in the past few months increased military activity near the island. But China's activities over the weekend mark a ratcheting up with fighters and bombers being dispatched rather than reconnaissance aircraft as had generally been the case in recent weeks.
The European Union will make pharmaceutical companies respect contracts they have signed for the supply of COVID-19 vaccines, European Council President Charles Michel said on Sunday. Pfizer Inc last week said it was temporarily slowing supplies to Europe to make manufacturing changes that would boost output. On Friday, AstraZeneca also said that initial deliveries to the region will fall short because of a production glitch.
Take a look at this review of the Canon 28-70mm f/2 RF lens. A great lens for wedding-photography, portrait-photography, documentaries and for filming. Enjoy! +++ PROS +++ 1. Sharpness 2. Bokeh 3. f/2 over entire focal length 4. fast focusing 5. lens ring for own settings +++ CONTRAS +++ 1. weight 2. no wide-angle coverage
OTTAWA — Canada's taxpayers' ombudsperson says his office has seen a steep spike in complaints compared to one year ago, delivering an early warning about how complicated returns should be handled this year. François Boileau says the number of complaints from taxpayers about the Canada Revenue Agency was up 93 per cent in December from the same month in 2019. Urgent requests, for people in dire financial straits, are up 120 per cent since the start of the pandemic, he says. Boileau says the statistics paint a portrait of the difficult circumstances some Canadians find themselves in as a result of COVID-19, and the need for the agency to improve services for the coming tax season. He says too many Canadians still spend hours trying to get through to a call centre agent. Boileau adds that delays are especially frustrating for people who received the Canada Emergency Response Benefit last year and are now trying to sort out whether they have to repay some of the aid. Just a few weeks ago, the CRA sent out letters to 441,000 people questioning their eligibility for the CERB, and warning they may owe back some of the payments. The Liberals have promised leniency for people who will have problems paying the money back, but have yet to say what options will be available. Boileau noted that some callers continue to complain about waiting five hours or more to speak with an agent. He says he is worried the CRA won't be able to meet response-time standards as the calendar ticks closer to what will likely be a complicated tax season due to the pandemic. "I hope it (won't) be," Boileau says. "They are preparing for it. They know what's going on and they're taking all the necessary steps." While the pandemic has been a focus of Boileau in his first few months as ombudsperson, his office continues to work away on a review of how the CRA has handled the processing of Canada Child Benefit payments. Boileau's predecessor, Sherra Profit, launched the review of the CCB in late 2019 after three years of flagging overly stringent eligibility rules that prevented payments to some of Canada’s most vulnerable families. In some cases, newcomer families to Canada haven't receive child benefits because they can’t get needed documents, such as a note from a school or family doctor. In other situations, women fleeing domestic violence have felt like they need to get their partner's signatures on forms and other information about custody — despite the government promising that wouldn’t be the case. Boileau says some of these situations add complications for the CRA, which has to take time to sort things out. "It takes time and time is of the essence with the CCB," he says. "It's really touching the lives of citizens, taxpayers that are in a vulnerable state of mind." Boileau says his officials are currently reviewing answers from the agency to some additional questions, although there is no firm timeline on when the review will be complete. The office of the federal auditor general is doing its own review of the CCB, which it expects to publish this year. According to the auditor general's website, the review will focus on whether recipients were eligible for the benefits, and that payments are made in a timely and accurate manner. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. Jordan Press, The Canadian Press
Rioters looted stores, set fires and clashed with police in several Dutch cities on Sunday, resulting in more than 240 arrests, police and Dutch media reported. The unrest came on the second day of new, tougher coronavirus restrictions, including a night curfew, which had prompted demonstrations. Nearly 200 people, some of them throwing stones and fireworks, were detained in the city, police said.
TORONTO — Two winning tickets were sold for the jackpot in Saturday night's Lotto 649 draw -- one in Quebec and the other in British Columbia.Each ticket is worth $4.2 million.The draw's guaranteed $1 million prize also went to a lottery player in B.C.The jackpot for the next Lotto 649 draw on Jan. 27 will be approximately $5 million. The Canadian Press
BEIJING — Eleven workers trapped for two weeks by an explosion inside a Chinese gold mine were brought safely to the surface on Sunday. State broadcaster CCTV showed workers being hauled up one-by-one in baskets on Sunday afternoon, their eyes shielded to protect them after so many days in darkness. One worker was reported to have died from a head wound following the blast that deposited massive amounts of rubble in the shaft on Jan. 10 while the mine was still under construction. The fate of 10 others who were underground at the time is unknown. Authorities have detained mine managers for delaying reporting the accident. The official China Daily said on its website that seven of the workers were able to walk to ambulances on their own. State broadcaster CCTV showed numerous ambulances parked alongside engineering vehicles at the mine in Qixia, a jurisdiction under Yantai in Shandong province. Increased supervision has improved safety in China’s mining industry, which used to average 5,000 deaths per year. However, demand for coal and precious metals continues to prompt corner-cutting, and two accidents in Chongqing last year killed 39 miners. The Associated Press
Portugal's centre-right president, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, won a second term on Sunday in an election marked by record abstention as the country battles a crippling third wave of coronavirus contagion. The 72-year-old former leader of the Social Democratic Party, known for his warm persona and habit of taking selfies with supporters, won 61% of votes, above his 52% win in 2016. The president holds a largely ceremonial role but can veto certain laws and decree states of emergency, a power Rebelo de Sousa deployed often during the pandemic, taking parliament's lead.
With the return of some Ontario students to the classroom set for less than three weeks away, opinions on whether classrooms are as safe as they should be are piling up. The provincial government told CBC Toronto its plan to reopen Ontario's schools "has been informed by the best medical and scientific minds in the country, including SickKids and other hospitals." In-person classes are set to re-start in Toronto, Peel, Hamilton, Windsor and York on Feb. 10. A number of other boards still haven't been told when they'll resume. Among the new measures greeting students upon their return: adding mask requirements for Grades 1 to 3, expanding voluntary asymptomatic testing, and continuing to fund HVAC and ventilation improvements — though the government says at least 95 per cent of schools have already had upgrades. Meanwhile, the plan to reopen — and the province's approach to school safety in general — continues to draw mixed reactions and sharp criticism. Adalsteinn Brown, dean of the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health and co-chair of Ontario's COVID-19 science advisory table, told CBC Radio last week that "the decision about opening schools has to be taken very, very carefully." Students mixing and spreading the disease "could be very dangerous," he continued. Responding to a recent Toronto Star article that reported that the province had ignored or dialled back several pieces of school safety advice, the Ontario NDP took a harder line. "Parents, teachers, education workers and children are living with anguish, frustration and fear," the party wrote in a statement, adding that the Premier "chose saving money over saving kids' health and their education." The province has also been roundly criticized by teacher's unions, both for the revelations in the Star article and for a perceived failure to be included in the planning process. "What we're asking for is to have an advisory table where all of the stakeholders are there where the government will actually pay attention," said Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, in an interview with CBC Toronto. SickKids guidance says closures are 'last resort' One element of the return to school that is not being debated: the importance of getting students back into physical classrooms. In its updated guidance for re-opening, put out this past Thursday, SickKids wrote that the suspension of in-person learning should be "a last resort for pandemic control" given the "significant negative impact" it can cause. That negative impact — and the blanket closure — was also the subject of another criticism levelled at the government last week, this time from a group called "Opening Schools & Daycares Full Time Safely In Ontario." "The most significant harm your Government has done is the universal closures of schools regardless of the rate of COVID in each school's community," the group wrote in its statement. On Monday, seven health units will send students back to physical classrooms, something infectious disease expert Dr. Zain Chagla is welcoming, given the low rates of community transmission in those regions. "This is a time to restart schools and track what actually happens in the next two to four weeks," he said in a recent interview with CBC News. "We can't keep… saying schools are the issue and shutting them down." School boards prepare For school boards looking ahead to a Feb.10 opening, the task now is to prepare to roll out the new measures. Dawn Danko, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, says she's grateful to have time to iron out the details. Take asymptomatic testing — first introduced as a pilot project in some Ontario hot spots back in November — now being brought to new areas, including Hamilton. Danko is glad to hear it's coming, adding that "what we need time to do here is talk to local public health. How do we operationalize that, who does the testing?" she told CBC Toronto. The same goes for confirming the details around new forms families will likely have to sign — possibly every day. As for HVAC improvements, Danko says proactive work in the summer and early fall means every HWDSB school has been inspected, with HEPA air filters installed in classrooms where ventilation could not be improved. Forty new custodial staff members were also hired, she said, though there are plans to hire even more staff this winter. "We're in a really good position in terms of our facilities being updated," she said. The Toronto District School Board is also feeling confident about the return, writing to CBC Toronto in an email that they "have taken a number of important steps since the beginning of the school year." HVAC repairs and improvements largely carried out in the fall CBC Toronto e-mailed the province and all four GTA school boards to ask how much work had been done on their HVAC and ventilation systems to this point. The Toronto District School Board says that every school and instructional space has been reviewed, and that any classroom without mechanical ventilation has had a HEPA filter installed. (The most recent SickKids guidance says there is "insufficient evidence" to routinely recommend the filters, though they can be considered in situations where there's limited ability to improve ventilation in other ways.) In the Halton District School Board, as of November 2020, all HVAC equipment filters have been upgraded, and HEPA filters are also being used in classrooms. In all, 397 new air filtration units have been installed in schools. At the Peel District School Board, "100 per cent of our classrooms have been reviewed and upgraded in some capacity," wrote a spokesperson, adding that the work was helped along by $3 million from the province. Peel is also using nearly 1000 portable filters. A more thorough overhaul via system recommissioning has been completed at four sites and is being worked on at 32 others. York Region District School Board did not respond to the CBC's request.