BERLIN — Veteran German diplomat Helga Schmid, a key behind-the-scenes negotiator of the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, was named Friday as the new administrative head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.The Vienna-based regional security organization plays an important role in trying to resolve conflicts in Europe and on its periphery, including Ukraine. Its 57 members include Russia and the United States.A career diplomat, the 59-year-old Schmid was the German embassy's spokeswoman in Washington during the early 1990s, before taking senior roles at the German Foreign Ministry in Berlin, and later moved to Brussels. She spent the last four years as the head of the EU's diplomatic service.The post of OSCE secretary general comes with a three-year term that can be renewed once. The secretary general is the administrative head of the OSCE, complementing the presidency which rotates annually among member states.A branch of the organization also conducts election monitoring missions, including during last month's U.S. presidential vote.The Associated Press
WELLINGTON COUNTY – A newly-announced mobile addictions services van in Wellington County aims to bridge healthcare gaps in rural areas of the county. Stonehenge Therapeutic Community recently got $900,000 in funding from Ontario Health to enhance their addiction services. Kristen Kerr, executive director of Stonehenge Therapeutic Community, said about a third of this is going toward a project to serve the needs of rural Wellington County residents who face substance use issues. They are expanding their Rapid Access Addiction Clinics (RAAC), where there is only one in Wellington County, with a mobile van that can address issues with transportation, a common gap in health services in the county. “These clinics offer specialized medical addiction services and that can be hard to access when you live in a rural community,” Kerr said. “Sometimes it can be quite a long geographic distance to get to a clinic that is stationary. We have four existing clinics but most of them are far from Harriston for example.” Kerr said another issue in rural areas when accessing addiction services relates to anonymity. The thought is In a smaller community, people who are using such services can be more easily identified by other residents. The van itself will act as a mobile medical clinic that is staffed with a nurse practitioner. “It will be able to go to more central or accessible locations so that folks from the rural areas can more easily access the clinic,” Kerr said. The nurse practitioner can provide medicine services, addictions counselling and referrals. Kerr said they are working out the fine details with their rural healthcare partners such as precisely where the van will go in the county and therefore couldn’t say exactly where it will be making stops. Some of the funding is also going toward enhancing supportive housing they have in Guelph for those who face substance-use issues and have some level of involvement in the justice system. Kerr said the van concept was created from feedback about barriers clients face in rural areas and they will continue to listen and learn how they can improve. “I think listening to those who need to access service and listening to the voice of people with lived experience is key to knowing what more we need to do,” Kerr said. Keegan Kozolanka, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, GuelphToday.com
AL-QAYYARAH, IRAQ (Reuters) - Tuqqa Abdullah and her Iraqi family have wandered from one displaced people's camp to the next in the past three years, buying time and hoping they will one day be able to go home. Just 14 when her father took the family to the then Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Mosul, she has inherited a legacy that might take generations to overcome. When Iraqi forces captured Mosul in the dying days of the three-year-old IS caliphate in 2017, Abdullah's father and older sons were killed.
Northumberland County hopes residents dig a program that provides them with free tree saplings to plant on their properties. Applications for Northumberland County's Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) replacement tree program have reopened following two years of successful EAB replacement tree programs that resulted in the local planting of 24,000 trees. County residents are invited to apply to receive free tree saplings as part of a five-year program subsidized by the county. Residents can apply to receive between 25 to 150 trees to plant on their property in Northumberland. There will be 12,000 trees subsidized through this year's application process on a first-come, first-served basis. Tree species available through the program include various types of oak, maple and pine as well as spruce, birch and tamarack. All successful orders will be available for pickup from Lower Trent Conservation in the spring. This program was developed to replace trees that are being removed as part of Northumberland County's 10-year plan to remove hazardous trees as a precaution to prevent injury or damage. This plan was developed in response to the EAB, an invasive insect that attacks and kills ash trees. For every tree removed as part of the plan, Northumberland County will subsidize about 10 native trees for residents to plant on their property. For more information about the program and to apply to receive free saplings, visit Northumberland.ca/EABprogram. Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News
For the second time in the past five days, Niagara Region Public Health has advised District School Board of Niagara that one individual at Port Colborne High School has tested positive for COVID-19. The first case was confirmed on Nov. 29. As a result of the two COVID-19 cases, three classrooms have been closed. Local school boards will not identify the individual who tested positive. However, the provincial online database that tracks school-related COVID-19 cases does identify the Nov. 29 case as staff member. Today’s case will not be immediately known as the provincial database lags behind school boards in its reporting. In a media release, DSBN said, “As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individual have been contacted and told by NRPH to stay home and self-isolate.” Provincial guidelines indicate “an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection.” Public health has not indicated if it will declare an outbreak at Port High. Preventative COVID-19 practices that Port Colborne High School has been following since classes started, such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, maintaining hand hygiene, and doing the daily health screening, will continue, DSBN said. Sean Vanderklis is a Niagara-based reporter for the Niagara Falls Review. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSean Vanderklis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara Falls Review
MADRID — Spain’s armed forces chief has dismissed as ‘’not representative” leaked chats by retired military officers allegedly talking about shooting political adversaries and praising late dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.In a statement Friday, Air Force Gen. Miguel Villarroya Vilalta also said the remarks by the retired military members “damage the image of the Spanish Armed Forces and only confuse public opinion.’’The messages from a private Whatsapp group were published recently by Spain’s Infolibre news website. They reportedly were posted by members of the General Air Force Academy class that started training in 1963, when Franco still ruled the country.Some of them were among dozens of retired officers who wrote King Felipe VI last month to criticize Spain’s left-wing coalition government. The letters to the monarch included some of the language used by far-right politicians and expressed discontent with the “social-communist” government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its deals with separatist parties in parliament.The royal palace has not commented on the letter.It is not clear how many people were involved in the chats.Spain’s defence minister Thursday asked prosecutors to investigate, saying both the letters and the chats were “reprehensible.”The country’s leading conservative opposition Popular party has refrained from condemning the comments while its ally, the far-right VOX party, has said it identifies with the ex-military members.Villarroya said the Spanish armed forces did not look to the past and were “always in (the) service of the Spanish people and the constitution.”According to Infolibre, one of the WhatsApp chat participants, while discussing activists advocating for the northeastern Catalonia region’s independence from Spain, wrote: “There is no other choice but to start shooting 26 million (expletive).”Another group chat member referred to Franco, who helped lead a military rebellion that led to Spain’s 1936-39 Civil War and then became the country’s dictator, as “the Irreplaceable.”The armed forces were a backbone of Franco’s regime until the dictator died in 1975. Spain’s peaceful transition to democracy didn’t lead to a widespread purge in the military ranks as happened in other countries emerging from authoritarian regimes.In 1981, a coup d’état bid by a few members of a paramilitary police force ended when then-King Juan Carlos I, Felipe’s father, condemned the plot on national television.____Associated Press writer Aritz Parra contributed to this report.CiaráN Giles, The Associated Press
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations communities must be a priority once it becomes available. FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said access to the vaccine is a matter of treaty rights."First and foremost … we come from that inherent and treaty right aspect, that Treaty Right to Health," he said. "In there, there's what we call the Medicine Chest Clause. When our ancestors signed treaties in the eighteen and nineteen-hundreds, that guaranteed us health and medicine chest supplies and services."The FSIN has spent the last seven months lobbying the federal government on this topic. Cameron said this is an important way of keeping Indigenous people at the forefront of policy decisions. "Obviously, the priority is that First Nations people are going to be safe and taken care of and live a long, happy, healthy life," he said. FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt has argued that ensuring First Nations communities' priority access to the vaccine will be good public health policy."Our First Nations communities have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other health conditions that put them at an even higher risk of serious complications or even life-threatening problems if they contract COVID-19," he wrote in a news release. "These elders and vulnerable community members must be the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccination."Every day they go without this vaccine, their lives and the lives of their [community's] most vulnerable are at exceptional risk."Cameron said has found that federal ministers are receptive to these arguments so far. "I had a conversation with the federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu and the Indigenous Services of Canada Minister Mark Miller last week," he said. "And the comment we got is that they are going to make sure First Nations are a priority when vaccines are available."Cameron said that when the government begins distributing vaccines, the doses intended for Indigenous communities must go directly to the First Nations, not be handled by an intermediary."We need the vaccine directly to us," he said. "We don't need anybody else to deliver it for us - we can do it. We have the capacity, we have the knowledge, we have the manpower, and we're ready. We're ready to deliver once the vaccines become available."As of earlier this week, almost 1,160 cases of COVID-19 and 17 active outbreaks had been reported across First Nations communities in Saskatchewan.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — U.S. Rep. Don Young of Alaska has returned to work after recovering from COVID-19, his office said.Young's staff said the veteran Republican lawmaker was back at work in his congressional office in Washington, D.C., The Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.The 87-year-old announced Nov. 12 he had tested positive for the coronavirus.In March, Young referred to the coronavirus as the “beer virus” before an audience that included older Alaskans and said the media had contributed to hysteria over COVID-19. His campaign manager told the Anchorage Daily News at the time that the virus’ impact is real and that Young was trying to urge calm.After contracting the virus, Young said he had not grasped the severity of the illness.“Very frankly, I had not felt this sick in a very long time, and I am grateful to everyone who has kept me in their thoughts and prayers,” Young said following his release from an Anchorage hospital Nov. 16.Young is now “preparing to fight harder than ever” for Alaskans, spokesman Zack Brown said.Voters last month reelected Young, Alaska’s lone U.S. representative, to serve his 25th term in office.Young has held his seat since 1973 and is the longest-serving Republican in congressional history.For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.The Associated Press
Saskatchewan appears to be on pace for a new record for drug overdose deaths.The Saskatchewan Coroners Service says that ass of Dec. 1, 323 people have died or are suspected to have died from overdoses since Jan. 1. Of those, 122 are confirmed to be deaths by overdose and 201 are presumed to be, but are still under investigation.The previous record is 171 overdose deaths in 2018.Regina Police Chief Evan Bray told CBC Radio's Blue Sky the provincial drug epidemic has been magnified in that city.He said there needs to be immediate action and a long-term plan — which may include harm reduction strategies — because police can't arrest their way out of a drug epidemic.Many advocates and addictions experts have been calling for a supervised consumption site for years. Bray said having health-care workers around when people are consuming drugs could be helpful."I know a [supervised consumption site] is a discussion that is happening in Regina and I think harm reduction is part of the overall fix for sure," he said.Saskatoon is the only place in the province that currently has a supervised consumption site, but the site does not receive government funding.Advocates and former addicts in Saskatoon told CBC News in September they believe there are a few other reasons for the higher overdose numbers, like increased use of fentanyl and other opioids, and fewer support groups due to the pandemic.New treatment centre, more detox bedsThe province said it's taking action to address opioid-related overdoses and deaths.The budget announced in June includes about $1.55 million to establish a new crystal meth treatment facility in Estevan.The province is also spending more than $1.7 million to fund 28 new detox beds in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw, Prince Albert and North Battleford.More than $800,000 is going toward hiring addiction workers in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert.The province has also implemented programs aimed at helping people with addictions — like Take Home Naloxone, which has already distributed more than 5,400 kits so far the year, the statement said — along with a rapid access addictions medicine program, mental health and addiction services and HealthLine 811.
Given the logistical challenges Canadian winters can pose, Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious disease specialist at Montreal's Jewish General Hospital, said 'dry runs' for COVID-19 vaccine distribution are a great way to resolve problems in advance.
Ontario’s justice system will continue to push forward and modernize beyond the rapid transformations forced by the pandemic, Attorney General Doug Downey told the Empire Club of Canada on Thursday. During the lunchtime virtual meeting, Downey talked about some of the advancements made in the province's justice system since emergency measures were enforced in March to ensure it could operate safely. “It wasn’t long before capacity was expanded to conduct 100 per cent of proceedings involving a person in custody” and advancing to remote hearings, said Downey, who is also the local MPP for Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte. “Behind the scenes, we were making targeted investments to update technology in a sector where fax machines were still an acceptable way of doing business.” The initiatives included remote court access, the new use of digital signatures and service by email, all of which are now becoming permanent staples of the system. As a result, he said, the system has become stronger by becoming more accessible and more resilient. “We really did rely on fax machines, millions of pages of paper, and technology that was just slightly better than Morse code to share information,” he said, adding that just two days ago the word 'telegram' was replaced by 'email' in a civil rule. Within months, the old paper-based system has been modernized to allow for online filing of more than 450 different documents. As a result, 95 per cent of civil proceedings are filed online and more than 70 per cent of family matters. Information about court cases are now available online, meaning people don’t have to line up at the courthouse to gain access. And a platform to power online and in-person hearings was also adopted. Last June, the changes allowed 20,000 people to log into an online Superior Court hearing to witness a judge deliver a sentence in a high-profile case. In September, the Superior Court reported 50,000 hearings had been conducted virtually. The lesson, Downey said, was to not just address yesterday’s issues, but to look at solutions for tomorrow’s sustainability and resilience and to not be afraid of change. He also suggested adopting a design for a courthouse implementing some of the customer service elements available in an airport. Or creating an app that allows the user to schedule a court appearance from a cellphone. “The pandemic showed us, in stark terms, how far behind Ontario’s justice system had fallen,” he said. “Now we know better, and we’ll do better. In this new approach, justice accelerated means justice delivered.” During a question period, he pointed to Ontario’s tribunals, which were largely shut down after the COVID-19 crisis and prevented normal interaction. Downey said he’s struck a deal with British Columbia’s attorney general to adopt its four-year-old online tribunal system for $1, provided Ontario takes care of the updates.Marg. Bruineman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, barrietoday.com
The University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and Capilano University have announced they are extending their upcoming winter breaks, so students and staff can better prepare for another term under pandemic restrictions.Students at all three schools will now be returning to class on Jan. 11 instead of Jan. 4. UBC said the change applies to both its Vancouver and Okanagan campuses."As many of you have noted, there have been extraordinary pressures on our students, faculty and staff this year due to COVID-19," UBC president Santa J. Ono wrote in the notice."The hope is that by allowing a delayed start to classes, we can help our students, faculty and staff to better prepare for Winter Session Term 2."Post-secondary institutions around the world have spent the term adjusting to remote learning, with both students and faculty becoming all too familiar with the challenges of distanced education — from misunderstood assignments to allegations of cheating on virtual exams.SFU and Capilano University said both groups need the extended break."We recognize everyone is tired as we deal with the changes this pandemic has brought to how we teach and how our students learn," wrote SFU vice-president, academic and provost Catherine Dauvergne."This one-week delayed start provides faculty with additional time to prepare for the beginning of the new term in a remote, adapted model," said the statement from Capilano. "Students will have a longer break between terms to rejuvenate, and more time to prepare for classes."Capilano said the delayed start means the spring term will end on April 16 instead of April 9. SFU said the start of classes in the summer term will also be delayed by about a week.UBC did not specify when its spring term will finish, but said exams will still be written no later than April.As for elementary and high schools in B.C., the Ministry of Health has not announced plans to extend the winter break — but the option is not off the table."It's incredibly important for families and for children to have in-person, in-class [education], but we're looking at all of our options,'' Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters on Nov. 16.
A new program that looks to connect Canada’s resort communities in an effort to tackle climate change has called on the Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) to become a founding partner. “We believe our love of adventure in nature demands our participation in the fight to save and protect it,” said David Erb, executive director of Protect Our Winters Canada (POW). “We're a not-for-profit organization that's really focused on aligning the outdoor industry, which includes everyday enthusiasts like myself and, and others that might visit Blue Mountain to ski or hike, professional athletes and industry brands,” he explained during a recent deputation to TBM council. POW focuses its efforts on organizing, educating and equipping businesses, social influencers and the general population to advocate for systemic policy solutions to climate change. In recent months, POW has been approaching municipalities across Canada that rely on adventure tourism in an effort to seek out partnerships for collaboration on an inter-municipal climate awareness plan. Prior to approaching TBM, POW also invited the municipality of Whistler, the Town of Banff, the municipality of Jasper, Ville de Mont Tremblant, the University of Waterloo, interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change and Hot Planet Cool Athletes Canada, to also become founding members. “The fact that we've been identified and have been invited into this group — you'll note that we're the only Ontario municipality — so I definitely think we have to put our commitment behind this and we can't just be their name, we've got to be there in actual action as well,” said TBM Coun. Andrea Matrosovs. “So much can be learned from each other, both across Canada, and the world. I was quite impressed when I did research on POW that this isn't just Canada, but it's a worldwide network,” she continued. The program strives to assist its partner municipalities in developing a Climate Action Plan blueprint by providing projections on impacts, assessment on local and tourist related CO2 emissions and identifying strategies, best practices, technology efficiencies, and engagement strategies. “We aim to increase the resilience and future viability of Canada’s adventure tourism sector by evaluating climate-change risks, developing strategies to decarbonize ski and adventure tourism destinations, and transition resort communities on climate resilient pathways,” Erb explained. POW also plans to create a Resort Municipality Climate Coalition (RMCC), which will leverage the collective experience of Canada’s resort communities to create a forum to exchange information, ideas, successes and challenges. “The intention behind this RMCC is that we can bring together other resort municipalities from across the country, no matter what stage they're at in their climate planning, and create a community where we can really forward each other's efforts,” Erb said. The program will be based out of the University of Waterloo, and is also backed by the Climate Caucus, a non-partisan network of 250-plus elected local leaders working collectively to create and implement equitable policy, which aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services science. Erb adds there is no direct cost to partner municipalities for the first year of the program, as POW is currently in the process of acquiring funding through Canadian Climate Action and Awareness Fund. In the second year of the program, POW will be asking founding partners to make a $50,000 annual contribution for two years. According to Erb, the funds can be allocated directly, indirectly or in-kind. For example, wages for staff working on climate planning or allocation of consultant fees would be considered as indirect contributions. “There's no cost to doing this. It's essentially a working committee that will come together and resource one another,” he said. “However, that would likely lead to part two, which is a commitment for in-kind matching funds. And, that can be a very flexible ask, it doesn't need to be new dollars, we just need to have the ability to point to dollars in your budget that are being allocated toward climate planning.” According to Jeffery Fletcher, manager of solid waste and environmental initiatives for TBM, the town has already begun work in some of these areas through such sub-committees, such as the sustainability advisory committee. “This is a great opportunity for the town to take advantage of some great academia and influential groups like the Climate Caucus. As well as all the other resorts that are involved. Together we can gain some real momentum,” Fletcher said. Erb adds that the threat of climate change is a stark reality for the outdoor tourism industry, pointing to the impact the climate crisis is having on the length of the winter season. “As you may know, ski operators have a magical number of 100 days. If they can operate for 100 days in a winter, that's generally their break-even point and anything above that is a surplus,” Erb said. “But, as soon as they dip below 100 days, it's really questionable if they're able to sustain their overall operations.” “A major engine of our economy is Blue Mountain Resort and the other resorts that operate in the area, not to mention the rest of the outdoor winter activities that happens here and some of our smaller tour operators. It's a big part of economic sustainability, but it's also apart of our social sustainability as well,” Matrosovs added. Following the deputation from Erb, TBM council moved a motion to join the RMCC as a founding member and also directed staff to provide a follow-up report regarding the request for a commitment to allocate in-kind matching funds to the program once federal funding is in place. “This is an important opportunity for us, whatever noise we can make will be amplified greatly by being part of an organization like this,” added TBM Deputy Mayor Rob Potter. Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca
Denmark on Friday agreed on a deal with parliament to put at least 775,000 electric or hybrid cars on Danish roads by 2030 in its latest move to reach its ambitious target reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 70% in 2030. The government also announced a broader aim of having as many as one million low or zero-emission cars on the road by 2030, but the current deal would secure financing for the first 775,000. There are currently only around 20,000 electric cars in Denmark, a fraction of the 2.5 million cars currently on Danish roads.
The Humboldt Special Olympics Floor Hockey Team took home the Special Olympics Canada Team of the Year Award. TSN hosted the award ceremony on Facebook Live on Dec. 3 with athletes and coaches sending in their thank you videos for the ceremony. The team has been collecting the hardware over the last two years with a bronze medal win during the 2019 Special Olympics Ontario Invitational youth games in Toronto and another bronze win at the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games in Thunder Bay 2020. Floor hockey has been part of the Humboldt Special Olympics sporting list for the last 16 years. Ever since the team lost fellow teammate, Brody Hinz, in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash, the team has played to honour him, said Vic Rauter, a TSN announcer, during the ceremony. “Since the loss of their friend and teammate, the Special Olympics Humboldt Broncos floor hockey team have been on a mission to honour those lost and those who were affected.” This award comes on the cusp of two provincial awards in October, another team award for the floor hockey team and a coaching award from coach Brain Reifferscheid. Reifferscheid said the award was unexpected and the coaches and players are pretty happy and proud and excited and humbled by the honour, he said. The provincial award was enough of a surprise for the team to wrap their heads around and celebrate but it was not long after before they were contacted by Special Olympics Canada about their national award. This will be the second year in a row that a Humboldt Special Olympics athlete or team has received a national award from Special Olympics Canada, with Tianna Zimmerman from Englefeld taking home Athlete of the Year during the 2019 award ceremony as well as the provincial honour that same year, just like the floor hockey team. This two year stretch at both the national and provincial level said a lot about the Special Olympics Humboldt, Reifferscheid said. “We've got a group of athletes that are very sports-minded and committed to achieving high goals. It also says something about the Special Olympics Humboldt organization, all the volunteers and coaches and all the sports. Everyone has a piece of contributing to helping athletes be successful.” On behalf of the Humboldt Special Olympics floor hockey team, they are honoured to receive this award, Reifferscheid said.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
The mayor of San Francisco on Friday ordered new lockdowns and business restrictions across the Bay Area in the face of the COVID-19 surge, as political leaders nationwide ramp up pressure on Americans to stay home until vaccines can be distributed. The new measures announced by Mayor London Breed, a first-term Democrat, apply across five Bay Area counties and are among the harshest of any major U.S. city, closing all personal services, outdoor dining and most public gatherings. California Governor Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat, said on Thursday he would impose similar stay-at-home orders statewide, to take effect region-by-region as intensive care beds reach capacity.
Had the ATAC mining access road in the Beaver River watershed been built, it would have constituted a “breach of the honour of the Crown” and betrayed First Nations people, according to a decision document released by the Yukon government after inquiries by The Narwhal. The document provides insight into the territorial government’s Nov. 27 decision to reject the proposed all-access road by Vancouver-based ATAC Resources, a mining exploration company with gold and copper claims in the region. The document also sheds light on concerns raised by the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, on whose territory the claims are located. The rejected road was given a conditional green light by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board in 2017 but was awaiting a final decision from the Yukon government. The new route would have opened access to a 65-kilometre portion of the company’s three mineral claims that form the Rackla gold property and connected Keno City to the Tiger gold deposit, the site of a planned ATAC Resources’ open-pit gold mine. The First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun was “strongly opposed” to the project going ahead, the decision document reveals. The document contains a list of concerns raised by the nation, including fears the road would have caused “significant adverse impacts” on treaty rights such as hunting, fishing and trapping in traditional territory. That list also noted concerns the road would have prevented Na-Cho Nyäk Dun citizens from adequately exercising treaty rights in “one of the few remaining wilderness areas in its traditional territory.” The road would have “fundamentally alter[ed] an untouched portion of” the nation’s territory and would have “alienated” citizens from their lands. “Approving the application would permanently impair the process of reconciliation that the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun, the Yukon government and Canada have been engaged in for more than 30 years,” the document states. Na-Cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn did not return a request for comment. Andrew Carne, ATAC Resources’ vice-president of corporate and project development, told The Narwhal this week that the company is seeking legal counsel on the Yukon government’s decision and that, as a result, there’s little else he can state at this time. “ATAC does not agree with many material aspects of the government’s decision,” Carne said in an email to The Narwhal. In an ATAC Resources’ press release, president and CEO Graham Downs said the road’s cancellation suggests Yukon isn’t open for business. “We are extremely disappointed with and surprised by this decision,” he wrote. The Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has warned that roads such as the one ATAC Resources’ proposed can fragment wildlife habitat, interrupt migratory patterns and lead to an increase in mining activity and hunting pressure. The Beaver River watershed, northeast of Mayo, is a vast expanse of relatively intact wilderness that’s home to moose, grizzly bears and wolves. According to the Yukon government’s decision document, ATAC Resources’ plan for the road didn’t adequately consider cumulative effects on the region’s ecosystem — particularly on wildlife. Todd Powell, director of mineral resources at the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, told The Narwhal the company did not review wildlife impacts “in a meaningful way.” “The bigger the project, the bigger the effects are. In this case, a road into an area like that was going to have fairly significant effects.” The company’s plan to mitigate effects on wildlife “simply didn’t go far enough,” he said. According to ATAC Resources’ draft management plan, mitigation efforts included building the road in the Rankin Creek valley, where fewer wildlife are present, reducing or suspending traffic during calving and rutting and making the route private to prevent hunting. The company also said it would conduct road patrols to further deter hunting. The decision document notes there were baseline data “deficiencies” that would have affected environmental monitoring efforts. In its draft management plan, ATAC noted Lebarge Environmental Services conducted eight aerial and three ground surveys of wildlife between 2010 and 2013 that noted the project area is home to species that are considered of “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada including woodland caribou, grizzly bear, wolverine, collared pika, horned grebe, rusty blackbird, peregrine falcon and dolly varden. Threatened species that are found in the project area, according to ATAC, include the common nighthawk and the olive-sided flycatcher. Without adequate monitoring, Powell said there was little hope potential impacts could be mitigated in the future, which contributed to the Yukon government pulling the plug on the project. The Beaver River watershed is largely roadless and the ATAC road would have set a new “precedent” for mineral exploration in the territory, the document states. No roads longer than 50 kilometres have been built for operations that, like ATAC Resources’, are purely exploratory over the past decade, the document notes. “Far more typically, existing access routes and new access routes have only been upgraded or constructed once mine development and production has been authorized.” ATAC Resources is not currently operating any mines in the region and is not permitted to. The company is only permitted to conduct exploratory work until 2024, which raised questions about the need for the access road and concerns the company wouldn’t have long enough to successfully build and decommission the road as proposed. “The nearness of the expiration date doesn’t suggest that they would have a reasonable timeframe to get all of that work done,” Powell said. A sub-regional land use plan for the Beaver River watershed was recently launched by the Yukon government and the Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nation. Work on the plan is set to continue, regardless of the ATAC road cancellation, Powell said. “Everybody recognizes that this is a highly mineralized area with lots of potential,” he said. “The commitment remains in place to finalize [the land use plan] as soon as we can.” Randi Newton, conservation manager with CPAWS Yukon, recently told The Narwhal she hopes that the sub-regional land use plan will be replaced with a much broader plan that encapsulates the entire Beaver River watershed. CPAWS recently released a report that cautioned the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board against approving road projects before land use plans are completed. “Land use planning can take that broader view of how much development is allowable in an area, which areas should we keep remote and free of roads,” Malkolm Boothroyd, the report’s author and campaigns co-ordinator at the Yukon chapter of CPAWS, told The Narwhal in a previous interview. Powell said that while the sub-regional land use plan won’t be scrapped, it could help inform a region-wide plan in the future, so the intention now is to finish what has already been started. Lewis Rifkind, mining analyst at the Yukon Conservation Society, told The Narwhal his organization has been highlighting concerns associated with the ATAC road since its inception. While he questions why it took the Yukon government so long to cancel the project, he’s hopeful environmental protection is coming to the region through land use planning. “It does give us a chance to protect or manage a pretty large-scale landscape,” he said. “Now we can do the planning without having the road dictate certain land uses.”Julien Gignac, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
Thousands of Indian farmers angered by farm laws that they say threaten their livelihoods have intensified their protests by blocking highways and camping out on the outskirts of the capital Delhi. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders of protesting farmers' unions have held several rounds of talks but have not made any progress in breaking the deadlock over the set of laws passed by parliament in September. Although various farmer unions have supported the protest, the agitation is largely led by the growers of relatively well-off states of Punjab and Haryana in India's north.
COVID-19 has made things difficult for municipalities, especially when it came to tax collection for the 2020 tax year. During a normal year, Tisdale has a reminiscing tax discount period from May to November, with a 15 per cent tax discount for those residents who pay in May and the discount diminishing over the following months by five per cent, said Brad Hvidston, Tisdale’s administrator With COVID causing financial challenges for residents, Hvidston said they changed the rates so the discount dropped by two per cent over the following months so that residents could still take advantage of the discount if they paid later. While Al Jellicoe, Tisdale’s mayor, said this was appreciated by residents, tax payments came into the town as usual with 95 per cent of property taxes paid by the end of May, Hvidston said. People save up during the year, he said, in order to take advantage of that discount. “By the time COVID hit in March and taxes were due in May, a large amount of people had their taxes mostly accumulated by them. I'm anticipating that next year will be the year that we see the impact on COVID.” With tax challenges being expected for the coming year, Hvidston said the council will have to decide how they can help residents deal with this in the future. The tax update was reported during the council meeting on Nov. 30.Becky Zimmer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
Canada added more jobs than expected in November, Statistics Canada data showed on Friday, though the pace of growth slowed and the numbers reflect labor conditions before more lockdowns were imposed later in the month. Canada added 62,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5%, beating analyst predictions of a gain of 20,000 jobs and for the unemployment rate to remain at 8.9%. "Canada's labor market continued to outrun COVID in November," said Royce Mendes, senior economist at CIBC Capital Markets.