Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had discussed the possibility of involving other countries in efforts to maintain a ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire on Nov. 10 that halted six weeks of clashes in the mountain enclave, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the enclave under the ceasefire deal, which locked in Azeri advances.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn on Wednesday, ending a yearslong prosecution in the Russia investigation that saw Flynn twice plead guilty to lying to the FBI and then reverse himself before the Justice Department stepped in to dismiss his case.“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon," Trump tweeted. “Congratulations to @GenFlynn and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!”The pardon, in the waning weeks of Trump's single term, is part of a broader effort by Trump to undo the results of a Russia investigation that shadowed his administration and yielded criminal charges against a half-dozen associates. It comes just months after the president commuted the sentence of another associate, Roger Stone, days before he was to report to prison.A Justice Department official said the department was not consulted on the pardon and learned Wednesday of the plan. But the official, who spoke on condition on anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, noted that the president has the legal power to pardon Flynn.The move is likely to energize supporters who have taken up Flynn as a cause celebre and rallied around the retired Army lieutenant general as the victim of what they assert is an unfair prosecution, even though Flynn twice admitted guilt. Trump has repeatedly spoken warmly about Flynn and, in an indication of his personal interest in his fate, asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February 2017 to end a criminal investigation into the national security adviser.In a statement, Flynn’s family thanked Trump “for answering our prayers and the prayers of a nation” by issuing the pardon.Democrats lambasted the pardon as undeserved and unprincipled. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “an act of grave corruption and a brazen abuse of power," while Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said a “pardon by Trump does not erase” the truth of Flynn's guilty plea, “no matter how Trump and his allies try to suggest otherwise.”“The President’s enablers have constructed an elaborate narrative in which Trump and Flynn are victims and the Constitution is subject to the whims of the president," House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in a statement. “Americans soundly rejected this nonsense when they voted out President Trump. ”The pardon is the final step in a case defined by twists and turns. The most dramatic came in May when the Justice Department abruptly moved to dismiss the case, insisting that Flynn should not have been interviewed by the FBI in the first place, only to have U.S. District Justice Emmet Sullivan resist the request and appoint a former judge to argue against the federal government's position and to evaluate whether Flynn should be held in criminal contempt for perjury.That former judge, John Gleeson, called the Justice Department's dismissal request an abuse of power and said its grounds for dropping the case were ever-evolving and “patently pretextual.”As Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the prosecution, Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell sought to bypass the judge by asking a federal appeals court to direct him to drop the matter. A three-judge panel did exactly that, but the full court overturned that decision and sent case back to Sullivan.At a hearing in September, Powell told Sullivan that she had discussed Flynn's case with Trump but also said she did not want a pardon — presumably because she wanted him to be vindicated in the courts.Powell emerged separately in recent weeks as a public face of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of his election loss to President-elect Joe Biden, but the Trump legal team distanced itself from her after she advanced a series of uncorroborated conspiracy claims.The pardon spares Flynn the possibility of any prison sentence, which Sullivan could potentially have imposed had he ultimately rejected the Justice Department's dismissal request. That request was made after a review of the case by a federal prosecutor from St. Louis who had been specially appointed by Attorney General William Barr.At issue in the prosecution was an FBI interview of Flynn, days after Trump's inauguration, about a conversation he had during the presidential transition period with the then-Russian ambassador.Flynn acknowledged lying during that interview by saying he had not discussed with the diplomat, Sergey Kislyak, sanctions that the outgoing Obama administration had just been imposed on Russia for election interference. During that conversation, Flynn advised that Russia be “even-keeled” in response to the punitive measures, and assured him “we can have a better conversation” about relations between the countries after Trump became president.The conversation alarmed the FBI, which at the time was investigating whether the Trump campaign and Russia had co-ordinated to sway the election. In addition, White House officials were stating publicly that Flynn and Kislyak had not discussed sanctions, which the FBI knew was untrue.Flynn was ousted from his position in February 2017 after news broke that Obama administration officials had warned the White House that Flynn had indeed discussed sanctions with Kislyak and was vulnerable to blackmail. He pleaded guilty months later to a false statement charge.But last May, after years of defending the prosecution, the Justice Department abruptly reversed its position.It asserted the FBI had no basis to interview Flynn about Kislyak and that any statements he made during the interview were not material to the FBI's broader counterintelligence probe. The department also pointed to internal FBI notes showing agents had planned to close out the investigation weeks before interviewing Flynn about Kislyak.Flynn, of Middletown, Rhode Island, was among the first people charged in Mueller's investigation and provided such extensive co-operation that prosecutors did not recommend any prison time, leaving open the possibility of probation.But the morning he was to have been sentenced, after a stern rebuke about his behaviour from Sullivan, Flynn asked for the hearing to be cut short so that he could continue co-operating and earn credit toward a more lenient sentence.After that, he hired new attorneys — including Powell, a conservative commentator and outspoken critic of Mueller's investigation — who took a far more confrontational stance to the government and tried to withdraw his guilty plea.Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — Congress is bracing for President-elect Joe Biden to move beyond the Trump administration’s state-by-state approach to the COVID-19 crisis and build out a national strategy to fight the pandemic and distribute the eventual vaccine.The incoming administration’s approach reflects Democrats’ belief that a more comprehensive plan, some of it outlined in the House’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid bill, is needed to get the pandemic under control. Republicans have resisted big spending but agree additional funding is needed. With the nation on edge but a vaccine in sight, the complicated logistics of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans raise the stakes on the major undertaking.“We have an incredible challenge on our hands,” said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, which is approaching the anniversary of its first reported case of the virus last January.A vaccine can only go so far, Murray warned, without a distribution plan. "A vaccine can sit on a shelf. A vaccination is what we’re talking about,” she said.As Congress weighs a new round of COVID-19 relief, federal officials say doses of the vaccine could begin shipping within a day of Food and Drug Administration approval. Three pharmaceutical manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca — have announced early results. But the rollout faces a patchwork of state plans, a transitioning White House and potential backlash from vaccine skeptics, despite the rising U.S. death toll of nearly 260,000 people.Biden said Tuesday on NBC's “Nightly News with Lester Holt” that his team has started meeting with COVID-19 officials at the White House on how to “get from a vaccine being distributed to a person being able to get vaccinated.”Democrats have been sounding the alarm that the Trump administration’s delay in granting Biden’s team access to transition materials was wasting precious time.States submitted draft vaccination planning documents last month, but not all of them have made full plans public. Private Capitol Hill briefings by officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine effort, left some lawmakers fuming last week over what they called a lack of co-ordination with Biden’s camp.Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Tuesday that his department “immediately” started working with Biden’s staff after the General Services Administration formally acknowledged the election results.Azar said he wanted to ensure Biden’s transition would be “in the spirit of looking out for the health and well-being of the American people and, in particular, saving lives through this COVID-19 pandemic.”From the start, the pandemic has challenged and reflected the two parties’ approaches to the public health crisis, with the Trump administration largely outsourcing many decisions to the states and Democrats pressing for a more nationalized approach.In Congress, Republicans largely rejected the $2 trillion-plus House bill from Democrats as excessive. They prefer their own $500 billion Senate effort, saying states and cities can tap funding from previous relief legislation. Senate Democrats blocked that bill twice as insufficient.Biden's campaign called for $25 billion for vaccines to “guarantee it gets to every American, cost-free.” That's similar to the amount included in both the House and the Senate bills, through different strategies, and Congress previously mandated that vaccines be free. With fresh legislation stalled, it’s uncertain if states will have the resources needed once the FDA approves the vaccines.During a conference call this week with governors, Azar and other health officials fielded a range of questions. Governors were seeking guidance on which populations they should prioritize for the vaccine and whether there was a list of pharmacies available to administer the two-dose regimens, according to a readout of the call provided by the office of Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington.Blaire Bryant, who oversees health care policy at the National Association of Counties, said a national strategy for communicating vaccine information to the public and the funding to make vaccinations equitable are vital.“We’re in uncharted territory,” she said. “The more information, the more guidance we can get from the federal level, the better.”She said states do have access to previously approved funding, but cash-strapped local governments have been reluctant to draw down the remaining dollars for vaccines. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul, she said.As Congress debates funding, at least two Republican senators are participating in vaccine trials as a way to build confidence among Americans skeptical of the federal effort.Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he hoped his participation “will reassure people about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.”Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who is participating in the Pfizer trials, asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday to consider the “unique challenges” of distributing the vaccine to remote and rural communities like those in his state.Daines said in a letter to the CDC that it will also be “critical” to ensure access for frontline health care and essential workers, as well as older adults and people with medical conditions.Other lawmakers, though, have brushed off concerns. GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he expects vaccine distribution will be “well underway” by the time Biden takes office Jan. 20.Murray, as the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, grew concerned this summer as she said the Trump administration outsourced much of the vaccine distribution planning to the states.She drafted a 19-page paper calling for $25 billion to stand up a vaccination program with supply chains, hired personnel, drive-in clinics and other ways to provide no-cost vaccines. She warned of the Trump administration's “lack of centralized leadership” and “chaotic communication” with the states.Biden and Murray have since talked about her approach, which draws on input from health professionals on Biden’s team. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, a member of Biden's COVID-19 task force, briefed Senate Democrats the week after the election.Murray compared the vaccine effort to sending a man to the moon or fighting a world war. She said it will take all Americans joining to say, “This is a pandemic, and I'm going to do my part to get the country out of it.”___Associated Press writers Candice Choi in New York and Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.Lisa Mascaro, The Associated Press
Canada's main share index is set to extend its rally over the coming year as the likely rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine bolsters prospects for the economically sensitive financial and resource stocks that dominate the index, a Reuters poll found. "The run-up in stocks will likely not end in 2021 as (U.S.) stimulus likely comes early in the new year, vaccines start to get distributed in the second half of the year and most companies go back to normal in the latter part of 2021," said Sadiq Adatia, chief investment officer at Sun Life Global Investments. A vaccine rollout would "benefit Canada more than most countries because of the large proportion of value and cyclical stocks on the TSX," said Matt Skipp, president of SW8 Asset Management.
NEW YORK — With police brutality continuing to devastate Black families and the coronavirus ravishing Black America disproportionately, the world was driven to the significance of this year’s Juneteenth more than ever before.And Beyoncé knew she wanted to release a song on that momentous day — so she dropped “Black Parade,” an anthemic jam where she proudly sings about her heritage, hometown and returning to her African roots.Months later, the song — and others focused on protesting, police brutality and the overall Black experience — are taking centre stage at the 2021 Grammy Awards.Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” scored nominations for two of the top awards: song of the year and record of the year. The track will also compete for best R&B song and best R&B performance.“There could have been a different approach as far as releasing the record and capitalizing off of timings of other things, but we really wanted to get it out during a time where we could all remember the feeling and the energy,” Derek Dixie, a longtime collaborator of Beyoncé’s who co-wrote the song with the pop star, said in an interview with The Associated Press.“It’s not always about the money and about catching streaming numbers and things like that. Sometimes it’s just about what it is — which was making our people proud.”“Black Parade” helped Beyoncé land nine nominations, making her the overall top Grammy contender. Dixie earned three Grammy nominations for co-writing and co-producing the song.For song of the year, “Black Parade” will compete with H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” the R&B singer’s track about police brutality.Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture,” a protest song he created in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, scored nominations for best rap song and best rap performance. Proceeds from the song will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, the Bail Project and the National Association of Black Journalists.Anderson .Paak also released a song on Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates when the last enslaved African Americans learned they were free — and it’s competing for two awards. “Lockdown” is nominated for best rap performance and best music video..Country singer Mickey Guyton wrote the track “Black Like Me” a year ago but released it this year because she felt it was extremely relevant. Now, it’s nominated for best country solo performance, giving the performer her first-ever Grammy nomination.“It’s been so hard in the country music community and trying to get country music to even support my music and for me to get a Grammy (nomination), it just goes to show that writing your truth is just the way to go,” Guyton told the AP on Tuesday. “And not only writing your truth, but really bringing your brothers and sisters up with you.”But Guyton admits that everyone’s response to her song wasn’t warm. It features the lyrics, “If you think we live in the land of the free/You should try to be Black like me."“I released it and I did get people that were very angry. There were even radio stations that people were like, ‘Get this (expletive) off of my radio station,’” she said. “I would get people writing me messages like, ‘Well, if you don’t like it here then leave.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, it’s just as much my country as it is yours.’”Guyton added that some “radio stations were scared to play (‘Black Like Me’) because they were (angering) their listeners because their listeners didn’t want to hear that.”“But I wasn’t writing that song for them, I was writing that song got the people that understand this exact walk that I’m walking," she continued. “It’s for them."Apart from “Black Parade,” Beyoncé also earned nominations for her film honouring Black art and Black history, “Black Is King,” as well as her ode to dark- and brown-skinned women, “Brown Skin Girl.”Dixie, who has worked as Beyoncé’s music director and has produced, engineered and arranged songs for the singer, said he’s grateful he’s working with an artist who boldly speaks about Black pride in her music.“It’s just good to see that she’s willing to put that type of energy out and not necessarily be thinking about: ‘What’s going to guarantee me a No. 1? What’s going to guarantee me this?' It’s a part of our conversation, it’s a part of the process, but when it’s necessary to put that art out there, to put that energy out there, she’s usually ... leading the pack in that regard,” Dixie said. “So I’m grateful to be associated with her on that path.”Guyton added that it’s comforting to see some many Black musicians reflect the current times in their music, and she’s grateful to the Grammys for acknowledging those kinds of songs.“It’s so important because so often Black people, and Black women especially, are getting overlooked and constantly get overlooked and you’re constantly just trying to get people to remember that you’re there,” she said. “It feels like we’re seen and I don’t think we’ve always felt seen.”“I use this scenario of going into any grocery store — if you go to any grocery store ... and you look for hair products for someone who is ethnic and ... you see an entire aisle full of every and any hair product you can possibly think for someone that is not Black. But whenever it comes to finding hair products for a Black person, we’re designated a shelf. And today, it doesn't feel like we’re designated a shelf.”The 2021 Grammy Awards will air live on Jan. 31.Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s former treasury and foreign relations secretary, Luis Videgaray, angrily denied accusations Tuesday by a lawyer for another former Cabinet secretary who claimed he used embezzled government money to help finance election campaigns.The accusations by a lawyer for ex-social development secretary Rosario Robles mark the second time that former top officials have lodged such accusations against Videgaray. A former head of the state-owned oil company, Emilio Lozoya, made similar accusations earlier this year.All three — Robles, Videgaray and Lozoya — worked in the 2012-2018 administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.Videgaray, currently a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, is considered the political figure closest to Peña Nieto.He called the accusations “completely false.”“The mechanism of ‘I will save myself by blaming Videgaray’ has a limit, and that limit is truth and justice,” Videgaray wrote in a statement.Both Lozoya and Robles have reportedly offered to turn state's evidence and implicate Videgaray in return for favourable treatment for themselves.Robles wrote in her Twitter account Tuesday that “statements have been made that have not been agreed on with me. I have instructed my lawyers to limit themselves to the legal proceedings,” but she did confirm she had decided to be a co-operating witness.Videgaray wrote that strategy “is immoral and wrong, and does nothing to contribute to the fight against corruption led by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.”López Obrador made the crusade against corruption the centerpiece of his administration upon taking office in December 2018. He has, however, said he is not personally eager to go after former presidents and has proposed submitting the question to voters in a referendum.In 2019, a judge ordered Robles to be held in jail pending trial on corruption charges. She is accused of “wrongful exercise of public service” related to the alleged diversion of up to $260 million in public funds.Robles held multiple posts in Peña Nieto’s administration. The accusations against Videgaray date to June 2014 when Robles was social development secretary. Prosecutors say she was aware of the diversion of funds but never denounced it.Robles has denied wrongdoing.Lozoya was extradited from Spain earlier this year to face money laundering charges and immediately began co-operating with authorities. Videgaray previously denied accusations by Lozoya that he engaged in bribery or illegal campaign financing.Lozoya accused Peña Nieto and Videgaray of using bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to help win the presidency and then to pass the energy sector overhaul that could greatly benefit that company and others. To that end, some opposition lawmakers were bribed for their votes, he alleges.In a statement in August, Videgaray called the accusations false, adding that "moreover, they are absurd, inconsistent and reckless.”The accusations Tuesday involved elections in 2012, 2015 and 2018. Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party denied there had been any illicit financing in those races and said mandatory electoral audits had confirmed that.The Associated Press
“Together, these public servants will restore America globally, its global leadership and its moral leadership,” US President-elect Biden said.View on euronews
Despite a global pandemic, Victoria, B.C., is still one of the best "small cities" in the world, according to UK-based magazine Monocle.The magazine, which explores urban culture around the world, looked at cities with fewer than 250,000 people for their second annual Small Cities Index. The cities chosen were described as "well-connected cities that offer great business opportunities, a welcoming culture and access to nature."According to the index, Victoria placed No. 5, making a significant jump from 16 just a year ago. Porto, Portugal, took top honours followed by Leuven, Belgium; Itoshima, Japan; and Lucerne, Switzerland. Tomos Lewis, the Toronto bureau chief for Monocle, says the charm of a small city is not feeling lost in an anonymous metropolis."From having spoken to people from a variety of sectors who have lived in Victoria either for a long time or just moved there, that kind of intimacy comes part and parcel with moving to a city like Victoria," said Lewis to host Kathryn Marlow on CBC's All Points West.Cities were graded according to accessibility to international travellers, having "a good, progressive mayor," access to nature and for being warm and welcoming. Ratings also incorporated sustainability, environmentally conscious planning and opportunities for business. The magazine had compliments for Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps who it said "introduced initiatives to encourage young Canadians and foreigners to relocate here" such as free bus passes for children and bike lanes across the city. It also praised the city's diversifying economy, specifically noting its financial-services and ocean-research sectors, and its literary and food scene.Victoria has seen its fair share of challenges during the global pandemic including increased homelessness, a devastating shut-down of its tourism sector and rising housing costs."We do feel that all cities have their challenges that are particular to that place in question. But we don't think that those should always totally overshadow the other things a city has going for it," said Lewis.He said Victoria's civic attempts to address these issues is what earned it a top spot."This idea of the community first stepping in to try and solve, address and shine a spotlight on what those issues are and try to solve them I think is what gives a place its magic and that's certainly what we found having reported on Victoria for so many years from our vantage point."
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's system for paying unemployment benefits is so dysfunctional that the state approved more than $140 million for at least 20,000 prisoners, local and federal prosecutors said Tuesday, detailing a scheme that resulted in claims filed in the names of well-known convicted murderers like Scott Peterson and Cary Stayner.From March to August, more than 35,000 inmates were named in claims filed with the California Employment Development Department, with more than 20,000 being paid, according to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. At least 158 claims were filed for 133 death-row inmates, resulting in more than $420,000 in benefits paid“It involves rapists and child molesters, human traffickers and other violent criminals in our state prisons,” Schubert said.The list includes Peterson, who was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing his pregnant wife following a trial that riveted the nation. The California Supreme Court recently overturned Peterson’s death sentence and has ordered a lower court to review his murder conviction.Schubert confirmed there was a claim made in the name of Scott Peterson, but declined to provide further details.Peterson's attorney, Pat Harris, said while Peterson's name surfaced during the investigation, there is no evidence Peterson received unemployment aid from the state.“This investigation, when it's completed, will show that he had not a thing to do with any kind of scheme to get fraudulent benefits,” Harris said.Schubert listed a number of inmates there who had claims filed in their names, including Stayner, convicted of killing four people in or near Yosemite National Park in 1999; Susan Eubanks, a San Diego woman convicted of shooting her four sons to death in 1997; Isauro Aguirre, who was sentenced to death for the 2013 murder of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in Los Angeles; and Wesley Shermantine, part of the duo dubbed the “Speed Freak Killers” for their meth-induced killing rampage in the 1980s and ’90s.Prosecutors said they learned of the scheme from listening in on recorded prison phone calls, where inmates would talk about how easy it was for everyone to get paid. They said the scheme always involved someone on the outside — usually friends or family members of the inmates, who would then receive the benefits.In Kern County, home to five state prisons, one address was used to receive benefits for 16 inmates.“In my nearly four decades as a prosecutor in this state, I have never seen fraud of this magnitude,” Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said.In some cases, inmates used their real names. In others, they used fake names and even fake Social Security numbers. In one instance, an inmate used the name: “poopy britches," Schubert said.“Quite frankly, the inmates are mocking us,” Schubert said.So far, 22 people have been charged in San Mateo County, including six people who were not in prison. Prosecutors said dozens of other investigations across the state are continuing.Prosecutors blamed the Employment Development Department, which has been overwhelmed by more than 16.4 million benefit claims since the pandemic began in March, resulting in a backlog that at one time totalled more than 1.6 million people.But prosecutors said in its haste to approve benefits, the department did not check unemployment claims against a list of prisoners, as many other states do. San Mateo District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe said that when he notified the department about inmates fraudulently receiving benefits, they told him they could not cut off the payments until they were formally charged with a crime.The problem was so bad that on Monday, nine county district attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking for him to intervene.“We face a manifest problem that requires action, not talk,” said McGregor Scott, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California.Employment Development Department spokeswoman Loree Levy said the agency has been working with the Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General on cross-checking claims with inmates, saying they are “pursuing how to integrate such cross-matches moving forward as part of enhanced prevention efforts during this unprecedented time of pandemic-related unemployment fraud across the country.”In an email to the AP, Newsom called the fraud “absolutely unacceptable.” He said he first learned of the fraud earlier this year, which prompted him to order the department to “review its practices and take immediate actions to prevent fraud and to hold people accountable.”Newsom said he has ordered the Office of Emergency Services to set up a task force to assist prosecutors with their investigation.“While we have made improvements, we need to do more,” Newsom said.___This story has been corrected to say that Cary Stayner killed four people in or near Yosemite National Park; to show 20,000 of 35,000 claims were paid; and to accurately spell the last name of convicted killer Wesley Shermantine.Adam Beam, The Associated Press
Le 29 octobre dernier, un étudiant de Techniques d’animation 3D et de synthèse d’images du Cégep de Matane, Anthony Técher, a eu l’honneur de recevoir une mention spéciale pour sa bande dessinée « Monsieur H » à l’occasion de l’édition 2020 du concours CégepBD, réunissant près d’une centaine d’inscriptions cette année. En 3e année au Cégep de Matane et originaire de l’île de la Réunion, Anthony Técher a été félicité pour son oeuvre intitulée « Monsieur H », une bande dessinée de quatre planches traitant de la mélancolie moderne et de la sensation de perdre pied, une œuvre ayant vu le jour à l’occasion du confinement du printemps dernier. Malgré le contexte de l’édition 2020, 94 inscriptions ont été enregistrées au concours, qui est organisé par le Collège de Valleyfield depuis 1996. Les planches soumises ont été évaluées selon différents critères comme la qualité technique, les illustrations, la composition des éléments narratifs et l’originalité du scénario. Si Anthony Técher n’a pas figuré sur le podium, il est parvenu à recevoir l’une des six mentions spéciales accordées par le jury. En effet, le jury a souligné le « récit simple » du bédéiste ainsi qu’un « ton mélancolique soutenu par un dessin efficace et un design des personnages réussi ». L’illustrateur Mathieu Benoit, responsable de l’activité, a félicité M. Técher pour son « utilisation imaginative de la typographie et les couleurs choisies qui appuient l’ambiance claustrophobe » dans le récit. M. Técher a eu l’occasion de développer ses compétences artistiques lors de ses études au Cégep de Matane. « Cela fait longtemps que je dessine, mais jusqu’ici c’était surtout sur du papier. Pour ce projet-là, j’ai pu me mettre à fond dans le dessin numérique et développer de nouvelles compétences acquises au cégep. Sans ma formation au cégep, je n’aurais jamais pu me sentir assez à l’aise en digital painting pour participer au concours », a expliqué l’étudiant. Sa copine, Zoé Marchal, qui étudie en Techniques d’intégration multimédia, l’a notamment beaucoup aidé au niveau de l’histoire de la bande dessinée. « Le confinement du printemps m’a permis d’avoir plus de temps pour me pencher sur ce projet. Avant le confinement du printemps, la réalisation de la première planche, entre les heures de cours et les travaux à rendre, m’avait pris environ deux semaines. Après ça, j’étais capable d’en terminer une en trois jours », a commenté le bédéiste, qui avait accès à des tablettes graphiques pour l’aider.Claudie Arseneault, Initiative de journalisme local, Mon Matane
Some snowbirds in Peterborough County are choosing to stay put this winter. Currently residing on Lake Kasshabog north of Havelock, Les Morris and Lois Galbraith have been heading south for the past six year. “We have gone to Florida in the past, but the last few years we’ve gone to an island in Honduras called Roatán,” Galbraith said Although they’d love to go away, the numbers in both the U.S. and Honduras are staggering, she said. “I can’t believe people are actually going to go away in this,” Galbraith said. As for Honduras, Morris noted it’s a Third World country and while the island is modern with many activities for tourists, it’s not really equipped to handle the COVID-19 virus. “Our contacts down there say that they’re not even paying much attention; they’re still having big parties and not wearing masks and there’s lots of COVID cases. I’m 88 and Lois has a bit of a chest problem, she has a puffer, and we just can’t take the chance,” Morris said. She said even if they could, they wouldn’t go to the U.S. anyway. “They’re crazy. They’re paying no attention to anything. Maybe when Biden takes over, things will change,” he said. Norwood resident Bonnie Davidson said she and her husband normally flock south for a month during the wintertime, but decided it would be better to stay home this year. “I mean, we’re both in our 70s and my husband, his mother is also with us and she’s 102, and so we just decided it’s better to stay home for a lot of reasons,” she said. “We have no cases in Norwood and we’ve only ever had two in nine months, so we’re safe here.” Linda Black, a Buckhorn resident who has gone to Estero, Fla. for five months during the winter season for the past seven years with her husband, said they’ve decided to stay in Canada this year for two reasons. “The atmosphere is not good anymore, with Trump and the election and everything being divided. And who wants to go where everybody’s sick. It costs too much for us to get sick down there. Your insurance only covers so much,” she said. Morris said he and Galbraith have heard that a lot of people are turning their cottages into winter homes so they can stay. Asphodel-Norwood Mayor Rodger Bonneau said he has several friends that are snowbirds who are doing this. “I’ve actually had to run out and do some work on some of furnaces for them just to make sure they can actually stay home now. We are going to see an impact, but a lot of the residents are the people that stay here all summer long and are Canadian citizens anyways,” Bonneau said. However, Black said she knows a couple of people from Buckhorn that are still heading south. “They’re flying down and then they’re going to rent a car because they’re one of these trailer people that have really nowhere to live in the wintertime, so it makes it difficult for them,” she said. Black said she believes a lot of snowbirds don’t want to go south this year because of the health and safety of themselves and others. “Our community that we go to in Florida has a mixture of people both young and old, so you don’t want to go down there and catch something from them, or give something to them, because you can also be asymptomatic. Especially some of the older people there. They just couldn’t handle it,” she said. Because where they live is so isolated, Morris and Galbraith said it’s good COVID-wise, but not good in an emergency with the winter weather on its way. “It’s a bit of a worry, but we’ll survive it,” Galbraith said. Marissa Lentz is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgMarissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner
Pour arriver à la Côte-Nord, il faut rouler des heures et des heures vers l’est. Ensuite, un contrôle routier nous attend. Avant d’embarquer sur le traversier direction Tadoussac, deux policiers s’arrêtent à chaque véhicule. « Qu’est-ce que vous allez faire sur la Côte-Nord ? » demandent-ils à chaque automobiliste, décourageant ceux qui s’y rendraient par plaisir. La mesure n’est que préventive, mais elle fait partie du plan que chapeaute le médecin-conseil de la Direction de la santé publique de la Côte-Nord, le Dr Richard Fachehoun. Visage des conférences de presse pandémiques nord-côtières, Richard Fachehoun peut aujourd’hui se réjouir du bilan provisoire de sa région. À ce jour, pour 90 000 Nord-Côtiers, les autorités ne recensent que 200 cas de COVID-19 et 2 décès. La région est une des seules régions du Québec, avec l’Abitibi, les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, le Nunavik et une partie de la Baie-James, à demeurer une « zone jaune ». Le chapelet de villages étendu sur plus de 1300 kilomètres de côte offre un avantage certain, admet le Dr Fachehoun. « La densité de la population est faible. Mais, le principal, c’est vraiment le rôle que joue la population. Si on veut contrôler la situation, c’est la population qui va la contrôler. » Originaire du Bénin, l’homme à l’œil vif a dû longtemps cheminer avant d’en arriver à ce poste stratégique. D’abord médecin généraliste en Afrique de l’Ouest, à « [prendre] en charge des patients atteints de VIH », il arrive dans la belle province en 2008. Entre Montréal et Québec en passant par Gatineau, il obtient ses équivalences québécoises avant de s’établir sur la Côte-Nord, il y a trois ans. La neige « qui fait disparaître les maisons » n’a pas manqué de le surprendre, ni les innombrables sentiers pour combler son besoin de course à pied. « Courir, c’est passionnant. Quoique ces derniers mois, non, parce que les gens parlent beaucoup des ours qui se retrouvent sur la piste cyclable… mais c’est passionnant ! » « Passionnant » aussi que de travailler avec les Autochtones, dit-il. Une passion qui s’est transformée en défi lorsque la COVID-19 a forcé la mise en place d’une « cellule innue ». En début de crise, la haute direction du CISSS s’est réunie avec les élus locaux pour protéger ces milieux tissés serrés. « [Les élus innus] avaient des réponses à tout. Ils étaient proactifs », salue le Dr Fachehoun. Rapidement, des points de contrôle bloquent l’entrée de villages à tous les non-résidents. Puis, des enquêtes épidémiologiques « faites en collaboration avec les services de santé des communautés autochtones » tiennent la pandémie en échec chez les quelque 15 000 Innus de la région. Autre défi pour l’équipe du Dr Richard Fachehoun : le fly in fly out ou, autrement dit, le navettage des travailleurs dans les mines dispersées sur le territoire. Pour assurer le contrôle sanitaire de ces industries jugées essentielles par Québec, les minières ont établi des plans : des cycles de travail plus longs, un nettoyage des navettes aériennes et des mesures d’isolement. « Toutes les minières ont été visitées », assure le Dr Fachehoun. Pour les autres recoins d’autant plus isolés, comme Schefferville, Anticosti ou la Basse-Côte-Nord, l’absence de lien terrestre avec le Québec complique l’offre de soins. Pour prévenir toute éclosion, un isolement est imposé aux voyageurs, doublé d’un test de dépistage au premier et au septième jour après leur arrivée sur place. La logistique du dépistage sur ce territoire de 236 000 kilomètres carrés n’a pas non plus été de tout repos. « Au départ, toutes les analyses étaient faites à Rimouski », explique Richard Fachehoun. Avant que l’échantillon ne traverse le fleuve et que le patient connaisse le résultat, cinq jours pouvaient alors s’écouler. Après avoir mis au point un protocole d’analyse sur place, les résultats sont maintenant connus dans un délai de 24 heures, se félicite le médecin. N’empêche, il encense surtout son équipe pour avoir convaincu les Nord-Côtiers de l’importance des gestes barrières, comme la distanciation physique. « C’est la population qui a le rôle déterminant. Si la population respecte les mesures, on n’aura pas de cas », rappelle-t-il, bien au fait que « les gens sont habitués à faire des “collures” ». Cette « chaleur humaine », qu’il tente à regret de dissoudre chez ses concitoyens, l’avait pourtant bien charmé lors de sa première visite sur la Côte-Nord. À l’époque, il se souvient s’être fait interroger en pleine rue par une citoyenne, curieuse de voir un nouveau visage. « Automatiquement, j’ai fait le parallèle », raconte-t-il. « À Montréal, tout le monde se dépasse. À Québec, sur la piste cyclable ou bien quand on fait de la course, on se salue. Mais ce qui frappe sur la Côte-Nord, les gens t’arrêtent pour te parler. C’est plus inclusif. C’est un petit milieu. »Jean-Louis Bordeleau, Initiative de journalisme local, Le Devoir
Chris Higgins and his family have traditionally gone out to find and cut their own Christmas tree. The annual ritual involves a drive from their East Vancouver home to Squamish to meet family friends, and children running through the bush in search of the best tree they can find."They make a couple of pulls on the saw," Higgins said of his two kids. "They don't do a substantial amount."He works the saw blade most of the way through the trunk, and everybody helps for the final pulls."And then 'timber!' It falls over and then we pull it out and strap it on the car," said Higgins, who gets a permit each year to harvest a tree from under a powerline.He said the family makes a whole day of it, with a thermos full of hot chocolate to warm up.That's out of the question for most Metro Vancouver residents because the Chilliwack forest district — which includes everything from Horseshoe Bay all the way to Boston Bar — doesn't issue Christmas tree cutting permits. And health officials have told people to avoid non-essential travel outside their communities until at least Dec. 7."Our plan B now, if they renew the current restrictions, is that we'd go for a local tree lot in our neighbourhood," said Higgins.But even the local tree lots will be affected by the pandemic.Changes at the charity lotsAunt Leah's Place, a charity that helps youth in government care and mothers with young children, has previously run five Christmas tree lots. This year that's down to three and customers may find service limited to curbside pickup at some locations."We're just making sure we're mindful of the health orders," said Sarah Stewart, executive director of Aunt Leah's Place. "The tree lot is a pretty big fundraiser for us to raise money for supportive housing programs."Stewart said people can buy trees online for pickup, but all 163 deliveries spots were booked up several days before the lots even opened up. Stewart said they may pivot to provide more delivery options, but on Tuesday they got the OK from the City of Vancouver to operate their Vancouver lot in a somewhat normal fashion. Customers will be allowed allowed to browse the trees and make their choice in person — with all the COVID-19 measures you would expect.At the Vancouver South Lions Club lot, which has been running for 57 years, customers will find reduced hours and significantly fewer trees than other years at 41st Avenue and Fraser Street."It's not going to be easy for us to run it," said Namtez "Babbu" Sohal, secretary of the Vancouver South Lions Club. "Things could change tomorrow, who knows when the next regulations will come."Fewer treesSohal said they usually bring in at least 2,200 trees, but this year that's down to 800 — he expects stock to sell out in a week rather than the normal three weeks.Sohal said some people in the organization suggested skipping this year, even though it's the group's only fundraiser, but he said they're doing it "just to keep the spirit going on."The tree lot will have fewer and wider aisles than normal, a maximum of six families at a time and a queue at the entrance. Sohal said they'll monitor for physical distancing, and hand sanitizer and masks will be available.Unless travel restrictions are eased, Higgins said he'll miss the seasonal experience of cutting his own tree with his family and friends."We all have to make sacrifices," he said, adding that not cutting a tree is one of the easier sacrifices to make during the pandemic.Do you have more to add to this story? Email email@example.comFollow Rafferty Baker on Twitter: @raffertybaker
Vendredi dernier, le quotidien Le Journal de Québec a publié l’annonce du retour de l’éolien dans la ligne de mire d’Hydro-Québec pour 2021. Le député de Matane-Matapédia Pascal Bérubé a réagi à cette nouvelle, qu’il définit de majeure pour la région dans un contexte de relance économique du Québec. Le chef parlementaire du Parti québécois a d’ailleurs validé l’article journalistique auprès du gouvernement, dont le ministre des Ressources naturelles, Jonatan Julien, qui lui a confirmé l’intérêt renouvelé de New York pour l’électricité verte du Québec. « Cette nouvelle est importante pour nous, alors qu’elle tend à démontrer un virage du gouvernement de la CAQ sur le développement de l’éolien », a répété Pascal Bérubé. Il réitère que cette relance ouvrira des portes pour le Bas-Saint-Laurent et la Gaspésie. « Il y a également la possibilité d’exploiter d’autres filières pour s’assurer de notre sécurité énergétique », a-t-il rappelé. Des négociations sont en cours pour remettre le projet d’Apuiat sur les rails, ce même projet sur lesquels les élus régionaux misaient pour la survie de Marmen dans l’Est. Pascal Bérubé a doublement confirmé que le premier projet serait Apuiat. « Nous n’avons pas d’échéancier évidemment, mais le gouvernement du Québec me confirme qu’il y a une volonté d’aller de l’avant avec l’éolien, ce qui est majeur dans les circonstances. » Et pour le Parti québécois, cela se traduirait en un éventuel appel d’offres pour un projet de l’Alliance de l’Est. Selon le Parti québécois, l’Alliance de L’Est rapporterait pour l’ensemble des communautés de la région et permettrait la consolidation d’emplois chez Marmen, entre autres. « On ne sait pas si ce sera suffisant à court terme pour relancer Marmen », a toutefois précisé M. Bérubé. « D’autant plus que le coût a considérablement diminué ces dernières années, mais ça on le savait déjà. C’est le gouvernement de la CAQ qui a tardé à le réaliser. » Selon lui, les communautés locales pourraient bénéficier de retombées sur plusieurs décennies. « C’est l’ensemble des communautés de notre territoire qui vont chercher des revenus supplémentaires. De plus, le couplage de l’éolien et de l’hydroélectricité est une bonne combinaison d’énergies vertes », a-t-il lancé. Le Parti québécois suivra le dossier de près. Les députés péquistes continuent d’espérer un appui formel de la part du gouvernement québécois. Ils ont publiquement demandé à la ministre responsable du Bas-Saint-Laurent et de la Gaspésie, Marie-Eve Proulx, de porter ce projet au conseil des ministres, qui pourrait apporter une fortune à ces régions et étant « très faisable », a noté Pascal Bérubé. « Ce serait une des plus belles annonces qu’on pourrait faire dans les prochaines années », a-t-il affirmé.Claudie Arseneault, Initiative de journalisme local, Mon Matane
A new national survey by Women's Shelters Canada offers a glimpse into the experiences of front-line workers and women fleeing violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, with reports of clients facing more violence that is also increasing in severity. The Shelter Voices survey says 52 per cent of 266 participating shelters reported seeing clients who were experiencing either somewhat or much more severe violence, as public health measures aimed at fighting COVID-19 increase social isolation, while job losses fuel tension over financial insecurity in many households. Violence "was also happening more frequently, or abusers who hadn't used violence in the past were suddenly using violence," said Krys Maki, the research and policy manager for Women's Shelters Canada. The survey also found 37 per cent of shelters reported changes in the type of violence clients faced, including increased physical attacks resulting in broken bones, strangulation and stabbings. Shelters and transition houses that did not report changes in the rates or type of violence were often located in communities that had seen fewer cases of COVID-19, the report notes. The data show public health restrictions have a "huge impact on women and children who are living with their abusers," said Maki. The survey says 59 per cent of shelters reported a decrease in calls for help between March and May, when people were asked to stay home, and businesses, workplaces and schools shut their doors. From June to October, "as soon as things started up again, we see a huge increase in crisis calls and requests for admittance," said Maki. The survey includes responses from shelters and transition houses in rural and urban areas in every province and territory. Just over half of the shelters in population centres with 1,000 to 29,999 residents reported increases in crisis calls between June and October, said Maki, compared with 70 per cent of shelters in urban centres with populations between 100,000 and just under a million. Women in smaller communities may be more hesitant to reach out for help, said Maki, "because everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows where the shelter is, too." While the survey shows women are facing more severe violence at home, at the same time, 71 per cent of shelters reported reducing their capacity in order to maintain physical distancing and other public health measures aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. It was more common that shelters in large population centres had to cut their capacity. To continue serving women remotely, 82 per cent of shelters and transition houses reported purchasing new technology, such as tablets, phones and laptops, although limited cell service and internet connectivity pose challenges in rural and remote areas. For many shelters, financial difficulties increased throughout the pandemic, as 38 per cent reported raising significantly less money compared with last year. The shelters were mostly appreciative of the federal government's emergency funding in response to COVID-19, with some reporting it kept them open, while others said they had to lay off staff because the money didn't go far enough. The federal government announced last month it would double the initial amount it was providing to gender-based violence services in response to the pandemic for a total of $100 million, some of which has been distributed through Women's Shelters Canada. The survey found more than three quarters of the shelters faced staffing challenges during the pandemic. That's not surprising, the report notes, since women make up the majority of shelter workers and have been trying to balance paid work with childcare and other family responsibilities during lockdown periods. The release of the survey results on Wednesday coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The Canadian Centre for Women's Empowerment is also working to have Nov. 26 recognized each year to raise awareness about economic abuse. So far, the cities of Ottawa, Brampton, Parry Sound and Kingston have signed on in Ontario, while Victoria and Comox, B.C., will also mark the day. There is little data about economic abuse in Canada, said Meseret Haileyesus, who founded the centre, although the shelter survey showed clients were subject to increasing coercion and control tactics, including limited access to money. A survivor's debt load, credit rating, and their ability to access housing and educational opportunities may be affected for years, long after they've left an abusive relationship, Haileyesus said. The centre is working with MP Anita Vandenbeld on a petition urging lawmakers to expand the strategy to end gender-based violence to include economic abuse. It also wants Statistics Canada to begin collecting data and studying economic abuse. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. Brenna Owen, The Canadian Press
The Yukon government is suing a construction company for $1.5 million over what it claims was a botched upgrade to the Mayo water treatment plant. The Department of Community Services, in a statement of claim filed in the Yukon Supreme Court on Nov. 16, alleges that the work done by Wildstone Construction and Engineering Ltd. had a number of "deficiencies," including tanks with "visible leaks and are not watertight."The government is also seeking more than $1 million from Intact Insurance, an insurance company that served as a surety for the construction contract. The claims have not been tested in court, and neither Wildstone nor Intact Insurance have filed a statement of defence. CBC called Wildstone's Whitehorse office for comment but no one was available.Lawsuit claimsAccording to the lawsuit, the Yukon government contracted Wildstone, which is headquartered in Penticton, B.C., to upgrade the Mayo water treatment plant in February 2017.The contract was valued at $2,152,053. 53.However, Wildstone "did not perform the work to the contractual specifications and standard," the lawsuit alleges, and lists nine deficiencies including two leaking tanks that are "both sloped to one side of the tank foundation." The government also claims that cathodic protection, which guards against rust, was not installed in either tank, nor was a gravel pad or polyethylene roll that was supposed to be placed between the steel floor and the tanks' foundation.The statement of claim says Wildstone was made aware of the issues via a notice in September, and that the Yukon government has declared the company to be in default under the construction contract. That declaration should have triggered action on the part of Intact Insurance, according to the lawsuit. Intact Insurance, as the surety of a performance bond, was obligated to either remedy the default, complete the work, find another company to complete the work, or pay out the bond amount to the Yukon government. However, the company hasn't done any of that, the lawsuit alleges.Both Wildstone and Intact Insurance's failure to meet their obligations "has caused Yukon to suffer loss," the statement of claim says. The government is seeking $1.5 million in damages against Wildstone, $1,035,697.50 from Intact Insurance, interest and legal costs. The case has not been scheduled yet to go to trial.
MONTREAL — CAE Inc. has signed a deal with Textron to buy TRU Simulation + Training Canada Inc. for US$40 million.The company says the acquisition of expands its installed base of commercial flight simulators and customers.CAE says TRU Canada also brings with it a backlog of simulator orders, full-flight simulator assets and provides access to a number of airline customers.The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.Textron says the deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter of 2020 or early 2021.The agreement follows an announcement earlier this month that CAE has signed a deal to buy Amsterdam-based Flight Simulation Company B.V. for C$108 million.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2020.Companies in this story: (TSX:CAE)The Canadian Press
Dreams of a “green” Christmas were dashed on Nov. 20, as the provincial government, during its daily press conference, confirmed that several regions within Ontario would be moving into a more restrictive tier, or zone, of the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework. Grey Bruce was announced as one of the areas moving from green – prevent, to yellow – protect, as of Monday, Nov. 23 at 12:01 a.m. The Grey Bruce Public Health confirmed the implementation of strengthened health measures in an email on Sat. Nov. 21. There are five levels within the framework, prevent (green), protect (yellow), restrict (orange), control (red) and lockdown (grey). Assignments to each level last a minimum of 28 days, or two incubation periods, before being reassessed on a weekly basis. However, movement to a more restrictive zone will be considered sooner if there are rapidly worsening trends. If Grey Bruce numbers decrease within the 28-day period, the region could return to green just before the Christmas holidays. Restrictions include, but are not limited to: Limits for functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, barbeques or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, or parks are 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors. Limits for organized public events and gatherings in staffed businesses and facilities are 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Limits for religious services, weddings and funerals are 30% capacity indoors and 100 people outdoors. Restaurants, bars and other food and drink establishments will be required that patrons be seated with a two-metre minimum or impermeable barrier required between tables. Up to six people may be seated together. Dancing, singing and performing music is permitted, with restrictions. Karaoke is permitted, with restrictions (including no private rooms). Contact information must be provided by all seated patrons. No buffet style service is permitted. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must separate by a two-metre distance and face covering is required. Face coverings are required except when eating or drinking only. Personal protective equipment, including eye protection, is required when a worker must come within two-metres of another person who is not wearing a face covering. Night clubs only permitted to operate as restaurant or bar. Establishments must be closed from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. Liquor may be sold or served only between 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. No consumption of liquor is permitted between 12 a.m. to 9 a.m. The volume of music must be limited to allow for normal conversation. A safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request. In retail settings, fitting rooms must be limited to non-adjacent stalls. Line-ups and patrons congregating outside venues managed by venue must have a two-metre distance between patrons and face covering is required. Retailers should limit volume of music to be low enough that a normal conversation is possible. For malls, a safety plan is required to be prepared and made available upon request. A full list of protect event restrictions is available at www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-response-framework-keeping-ontario-safe-and-openyellow. News of the change from green to yellow really came as no surprise. The health unit, in its daily situation reports listing cases in the community, had been asking the public to continue to practice the three Ws – washing hands frequently, watch your distance (ideally two metres apart) and wear your face mask correctly, in order to control the spread of COVID. Other tips included avoiding crowds, arrange for outdoor activities instead of indoor activities, staying home if sick and avoiding close contact (unprotected and within six feet) with people from outside a household. People have also been asked to avoid travel to areas with higher transmission and minimize all non-essential travel. As of Nov. 18, there were 42 active cases of COVID in Grey Bruce, and close to 200 active high risk contacts in the counties. Less than a week later, the number of active cases had risen to 53 cases (Nov. 23) and 284 high risk contacts were associated with active cases. Ian Reich, public health manager for the Grey Bruce Health Unit, says the jump in numbers is a direct result of people not following basic practices. Groups have been coming together at many different locations and not adhering to basic public health recommendations, including personal distancing, face covering and staying home when sick. He said many cases are a result of the entire family testing positive, with multiple cases within one household. “Some people say we are done with the virus” said Dr. Ian Arra, Grey Bruce medical officer of health. “The truth of the matter, the virus is not done with us. The virus is not going to stop, until we stop it. It is critical that we stay focused on preventing the spread of the virus, and work together to protect the most vulnerable of us.”Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
The province's child and youth advocate says absenteeism was already an issue for children across Newfoundland and Labrador — even before anxiety started to swirl this week about a cluster of COVID-19 cases on Newfoundland's west coast.Jackie Lake Kavanagh says it's vital to keep gathering information about why kids are missing school. Elwood Elementary School in Deer Lake is reopening Wednesday, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD), after it had shut its doors Monday and Tuesday, following a student testing positive for COVID-19. However, it appears assurances from public health are not convincing all parents and caregivers to send their kids to school. CBC News has learned that only 10 out of 280 students showed up for school on Tuesday at Xavier Junior High, while roughly 10 out of 230 showed up for school at Elwood Regional High School. That information comes one day after the district's CEO Tony Stack admitted that attendance at Elwood Elementary, before the closure was announced, was "very low.""I would imagine it was apprehension within the community — understandably so — so the attendance rates were very low, less than 25 per cent," he said at a media conference Monday. Absenteeism 'significant problem': reportBut Lake Kavanagh's concern about kids missing class began long before schools closed province-wide in March.In January 2019, the office of the Child and Youth Advocate released a report that said about 10 per cent — or 6,600 — of the province's children missed a month or more of school on average, a "significant problem," said Lake Kavanagh, with some children missing more than that.Her department released a series of recommendations which she knows the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District had been working on, but Lake Kavanagh said she's worried chronic absenteeism might fall off the map."We're in the middle of COVID, [and] a lot of resources are focused on some of the very practical issues around student safety, keeping schools open, and a lot of the other issues that have arisen around that, and so my concern is that this does not drop off the radar — this is critically important," she told CBC's Anthony Germain in an interview Tuesday. "Children have an absolute fundamental right to a good-quality education, and they have to be in school."The absenteeism rate in September 2019 was around 6.2 per cent, Lake Kavanagh said. This year, that number was around nine per cent."In some ways I'm a little bit surprised, perhaps, that it wasn't higher than that compared to last year's numbers, especially in light of the issue with school bussing," she said, referring to the school board's plan to cut the number of seats available on school buses by 6,000.That decision was a particular worry for her, especially after three months at home in the spring."I was really, really concerned about that, because if we're starting the school year with children not able to get to school, can't even get to the front doorsteps of the school, that's a big problem," she said."When they become disconnected, it becomes harder to reconnect again."'This is so much more complex'Lake Kavanagh cites global research that shows that 75 per cent of students chronically absent in Grade 6 will not go on to finish high school, for example.It's a problem without a straightforward solution, she said."Oftentimes, absenteeism is looked at as not a big issue ... it's competing with some really big loud issues in the school system," she said.> To point at schools or the school system and say, 'Tag, you're it,' it's lost from the beginning. \- Jackie Lake Kavanagh"A lot of people tend to look at it as, that's a school problem, teachers need to do a better job and administrators need to do a better job of getting students in their desks every morning. But we know that this is so much more complex."If a child has significant mental or physical health issues that haven't been addressed, for example, "that's a barrier," she said. So, too, is a parent struggling with a diagnosis, disability or addiction."Home can be chaotic for children. There can be family violence, there can be all kinds of issues around school itself [so] that maybe it doesn't feel like it's a safe place … there's all kinds of really complex issues," she said."We can't point a finger at the schools, although the schools are critically important in being a part of the solution. These children's lives are often much more complex than that, and we have to look at holistic solutions to see, 'how do we take down some of those barriers in this province for children?' she said."It's not as simple as just getting them to show up."In the COVID-19 era, Lake Kavanagh said a heightened sense of worry, as well as the speed of misinformation spread, can also be an issue prompting parents to keep kids out of classes more than necessary."Once rumours start circulating, once social media lights up — whether it's accurate information or not — people will often act on that," she said."So if people are acting without good information and it may not be accurate, they're keeping their children home from school. Those are concerns as well, especially if there's no basis for those kinds of decisions."Lake Kavanagh said chronic absenteeism will need involvement from multiple government departments and the NLESD."There really needs to be a team effort, and to point at schools or the school system and say, 'Tag, you're it,' it's lost from the beginning," she said. "A much more holistic response is needed."Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
GUYSBOROUGH – This past week brought unwelcome news on the COVID-19 front: Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Strang says there is community spread of the virus and some HRM schools have been closed due to positive COVID-19 cases. As the second wave of the pandemic hits the shores of Nova Scotia, PC Leader Tim Houston is on the road speaking to municipal governments and stakeholder groups about his and the PC Party’s vision for the future and how they would handle the current crisis. He spoke to The Journalduring his visit to Guysborough last Friday. For starters, Houston is critical of the government’s response to school cases. The initial reaction of the government to last week’s school cases was to announce that close contacts would be tested and asked to self-isolate for 14 days. By Friday, the schools involved were facing a complete closure for two weeks. Houston points to this as a failure of leadership and communication on the part of the government. “I think the key is information and setting expectations,” Houston said. “As recently as Tuesday when media was asking government and leadership, what can they expect around schools, can they expect school closures, the answer was ‘We’re a long ways away from that.’ Turned out we were only a couple of days away from it and it is not clear to people what the criteria the government is looking at.” With cases on the rise and additional restrictions put in place in the Halifax area, Houston is in favour of colour-coded zones such as that used in New Brunswick. “That gives people some information…some sense of the risk that is happening around them. In the absence of that we’re solely relying on understanding a decision after it has been made without information as to why it was made.” Houston believes that more testing is the key to containing the virus without locking down the economy. “I am a big advocate for testing, testing, testing and more testing – making sure we have the capacity that when public health identifies that someone has been in close contact with someone or is at a higher risk because of some situation, [we can] test those people. The timing of the test is critical but maybe we can test them twice. It is all designed to take some pressure off the mental health of Nova Scotians and reduce anxiety.” When asked about the price tag of such a rigorous testing regime, Houston said, “This is a time in our province when we are going to have to have deficits for the next few years. We have to invest in people, we have to invest in infrastructure. There are a lot of investments that have not been made over the last few years just for the sake of balancing the budget and our communities are less because of that. This is not the time to do that. The cost to the economy of just locking down or having everyone isolate is significant as well.” The health and well-being of Nova Scotians who live in long-term care facilities has been a major issue during the pandemic. “We know that isolation is a big drain on people’s mental and physical health,” said Houston. “We know that family members and loved ones are a big part of the care giving team…We need to be conscious of the virus – there is a lot of technology that can help; help share information with family members…More than anything it will give family members peace of mind. “Let’s look to technology. Now more than ever we have more technology that helps people stay connected. It’s not the same as a hug but it is a lot better than not having any information at all,” he said. While the second wave of the pandemic is top of mind, there are other longstanding issues that require attention from government, such as physician recruitment and EHS service in rural areas. Of physician shortages, Houston said the health care system needs to modernize to match the needs of today, which are increasingly the issues faced by an older population dealing with chronic, not acute conditions. Part of that modernization plan would be the provision of more virtual doctor’s appointments when and where possible. But that hinges on the availability of reliable high-speed Internet; something rural areas often do without. Houston said, “Access to proper high-speed Internet would be the biggest economic development initiative since the railways…I am completely focused on making sure that everyone has access to cell service and high-speed Internet.” In regard to poor EHS service, Houston said he’d like to see a separation of patient transfer service between hospitals and emergency calls. And he calls for the government to release the Fitch report, an ambulance system review delivered to the government in Oct. 2019, stating, “I’d like to see what recommendations the experts made about how to improve service.” Next month MLAs will return to the legislature for one day, Dec. 18, when the government will prorogue the fall session. Houston said of that decision, “The number of days we’ve sat this year, which will be 14…that will be the lowest number of days that any legislature in Canada has sat probably since confederation and it will be the lowest by half. And when you put that into context of what has happened this year, and the changes we’ve had to our lives, to our economy, to our provincial budget; it’s very remarkable. “This is the latest example of the lack of respect for the democratic process that we’ve seen from the government for seven years. They’ve systematically reduced the ability to be held accountable. They’ve reduced the effectiveness of committees, they’ve reduced the access of media, access of opposition. All of these things make for less democracy and in the long term it is bad for the people because the best decisions are made when people making the decisions know they will be scrutinized,” he said. In light of his disappointment in the course followed by the Liberal government, Houston told The Journal that it will be the PC Party’s practice to let people know where they stand on the issues of the day. He said they’ve been putting out thoughtful, detailed, researched plans, adding, “we won’t criticize without putting a solution forward.” Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal