With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
With meteorologist Jaclyn Whittal
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers and conservative groups opposed President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming immigration plan Tuesday as massive amnesty for people in the U.S. illegally, underscoring that the measure faces an uphill fight in a Congress that Democrats control just narrowly. In a further complication, several pro-immigration groups said they would press Biden to go even further and take steps such as immediate moratoriums on deportations, detentions and new arrests. Coupled with the discomfort an immigration push could cause for moderate Democrats, liberals' demands illustrated the pressures facing Biden as four years of President Donald Trump's restrictive and often harsh immigration policies come to an end. “It simply wouldn't have happened without us," Lorella Praeli, co-president of the liberal group Community Change, said of Biden's victory. “So we are now in a powerful position." Biden plans to introduce the legislation shortly after being inaugurated Wednesday, a move he hopes will spotlight his emphasis on an issue that's defied major congressional action since 1986. Its fate, as written, seemed in doubt. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who will become Senate majority leader this week, said Trump's impeachment trial, confirmation of Biden's Cabinet nominees and more COVID-19 relief will be the chamber's top initial priorities. “I look forward to working together with him" on the measure, Schumer said — a choice of words that might suggest changes could be needed for it to pass Congress. Biden's proposal would create an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants, set up a processing program abroad for refugees seeking admission to the U.S. and push toward using technology to monitor the border. The measure was described by an official from Biden's transition team who described the plan on condition of anonymity. With an eye toward discouraging a surge of immigrants toward the U.S.-Mexico boundary, the package's route to citizenship would only apply to people already in the U.S. by this past Jan. 1. But it omits the traditional trade-off of dramatically enhanced border security that's helped attract some GOP support in the past, which drew criticism on Tuesday. “A mass amnesty with no safeguards and no strings attached is a nonstarter,” said Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "There are many issues I think we can work co-operatively with President-elect Biden, but a blanket amnesty for people who are here unlawfully isn’t going to be one of them,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., often a central player in Senate immigration battles. “Total amnesty, no regard for the health or security of Americans, and zero enforcement," Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who like Rubio is a potential 2024 GOP presidential contender, said in a Monday tweet. That view was shared by Mark Krikorian, executive director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, which favours curbing immigration. “Past proposals at least accepted the concept of turning off the faucet and mopping up the overflow. This is nothing but mopping up and letting the faucet continue to run," Krikorian said. Rosemary Jenks, top lobbyist for NumbersUSA, which also wants to limit immigration, said the measure seems likely to fail in the Senate. It would need at least 10 Republicans to join all 50 Democrats to overcome a filibuster that would kill the measure. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said, “Moving an immigration reform bill won’t be easy, but I think it’s possible." He cited a 2013 massive overhaul that narrowly passed the Senate, only to die in the GOP-run House. Menendez and Rubio were part of a bipartisan “Gang of 8" senators that helped win Senate approval. Under Biden's legislation, those living in the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2021, without legal status would have a five-year path to temporary legal status, or a green card, if they pass background checks, pay taxes and fulfil other requirements. From there, it’s a three-year path to naturalization if they pursue citizenship. For some immigrants, the process would be quicker. So-called Dreamers, the young people who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, as well as agricultural workers and people under temporary protective status could qualify more immediately for green cards if they are working, are in school or meet other requirements. Biden is also expected to take swift executive actions, which require no congressional action, to reverse other Trump immigration actions. These include ending to the prohibition on arrivals from predominantly Muslim countries. The legislation represents Biden's bid to deliver on a major campaign promise important to Latino voters and other immigrant communities after four years of Trump's restrictive policies and mass deportations. It provides one of the fastest pathways to citizenship for those living without legal status of any measure in recent years. Biden allies and even some Republicans have identified immigration as a major issue where the new administration could find common ground with the GOP to avoid the stalemate that has vexed administrations of both parties for decades. That kind of major win, even if it involves compromise, could be critical for Biden. He'll be seeking legislative victories in a Congress where Republicans are certain to oppose other Biden priorities, like rolling back some of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts and increasing federal spending. Democrats will control the 50-50 Senate with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris' tiebreaking vote. Democrats currently control the House 222-211, with two vacancies. ___ Barrow reported from Wilmington, Delaware. AP writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego also contributed to this report. Alan Fram, Lisa Mascaro And Bill Barrow, The Associated Press
LAAX, Switzerland — Canada's slopestyle snowboard team is in isolation and will not participate in this week's World Cup season opener after two members of its delegation tested positive for COVID-19. The International Ski Federation (FIS) said on its website that the positive tests came at the slopestyle and halfpipe event. The men's slopestyle event began its qualifying Tuesday with Canadians Mark McMorris, Max Parrot, Sebastien Toutant, Liam Brearley and Cameron Spalding listed as "did not start." Women's slopestyle qualifying begins Wednesday. Laurie Blouin, Brooke Voigt, Jasmine Baird and Sommer Gendron are the Canadian women on the slopestyle team who traveled to Switzerland but will not be able to compete. The status of Canada's halfpipe team was not provided on the FIS's website. Meanwhile, the majority of the American snowboard team is in quarantine in Kreischberg, Austria, after two members of its delegation tested positive following the big air season opener last week. A small U.S. team is participating in Laax. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A man and woman have each been fined for pretending to cough on customers in a gym just steps from Vancouver police headquarters. A statement from police says the owner of the gym flagged down two passing constables outside the business Saturday night. He said a man and woman, who were not wearing masks and were not members of the gym, were inside coughing in the general direction of patrons and equipment. A 60-year-old man and his 25-year-old girlfriend told the officers they were only pretending to cough. Police say the couple claimed they reacted because gym members were staring at them. The police statement says both people left the business after being handed $230 tickets for violating the Emergency Program Act by failing to wear a face covering. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Rank, Book Title by Author Name, ISBN, Publisher 1. Bridgerton Collection Volume 1 by Julia Quinn - 9780063045118 - (Avon) 2. Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424105 - (Avon) 3. Bridgerton by Julia Quinn - 9780062424037 - (Avon) 4. The Scorpion’s Tail by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - 9781538747292 - (Grand Central Publishing) 5. The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn - 9780062424075 - (Avon) 6. To Sir Phillip, With Love by Julia Quinn - 9780062424112 - (Avon) 7. An Offer From a Gentleman by Julia Quinn - 9780062424082 - (Avon) 8. When He Was Wicked by Julia Quinn - 9780062424136 - (Avon) 9. Daylight by David Baldacci - 9781538761687 - (Grand Central Publishing) 10. The Wrong Family by Tarryn Fisher - 9781488076749 - (Graydon House Books) The Associated Press
Fraser-Nicola MLA Jackie Tegart addressed the Thompson Nicola Regional District (TNRD) Board of Directors at the first TNRD board meeting of 2021, which took place on Jan. 15. Tegart reflected on the past year, which she acknowledged has been a rollercoaster for many, not excluding those in office. “What a difference a year makes,” Tegart began. “I thought about going into the house last year in February, where our biggest challenge was the protestors at the front of the building, and the fact that we couldn’t get in for the Throne Speech. Then coming home for our March break, and we never went back until the summer. We did a short summer session and then in October we had a snap election and had a short session in December.” The lack of time spent in the Legislature translated to some frustrating times for Tegart, particularly when it comes to providing assistance to small businesses and communities. “We have issues around supports for businesses, and we look at the hospitality industry, lots of requests for a very comprehensive recovery plan coming out of COVID. I think many of us who have small communities are recognizing our mom-and-pop operations are in crisis, and how do we make sure that the programs provided by both federal and provincial government are actually getting to the people who need them? I think that those voices in tandem, our voice and yours at the provincial level are incredibly important.” Tegart touched on a few projects that are in the works for her riding, mainly regarding tourism and infrastructure. “We’ve got some exciting things happening in Fraser-Nicola, over the last year,” said Tegart. “Certainly, we will continue our work on the ‘Wake up the Fraser Canyon’ project, in partnership with the Village of Lytton and all the other stakeholders down the corridor, and we are reconnecting with the new ministers and making sure that they’re well aware of the project. And we are in the final throes of a tourism masterplan for the corridor section between Yale and Lytton, and we are excited about the project. Making sure that we have shovel ready projects for money that is going to become available, I believe this spring, as part of the recovery. Of course, the Ashcroft terminal is quite an exciting project, and when we look at the region that will bring significant employment opportunities and some challenges around how we house people and provide services for them.” Tegart opened up about how difficult it has been for her to serve in the MLA role while maintaining social distance and staying home rather than being out visiting communities and businesses and engaging with people face to face. “It’s tough in the MLA role to not be on the road and not be in communities and not meeting with groups,” Tegart said. “We miss that. That and the energy that you get in order to do this job sometimes when you’re pretty tired. I really encourage you all to be in touch and I’ll reach out when needed because it’s our job to keep that enthusiasm and that hope out there for our citizens. It’s been a long year and we’ve had incredible tragedies as we look at the death toll during COVID, and we’ve got some challenges around what the data is telling us and what kind of services we’re providing, and I think we all need to be open to look in a critical way about what we’re doing in community and in services provided and how we can improve that. We’ve learned a lot during COVID.” Tegart also touched on the fact that the provincial budget could be delayed until the end of April. “I’d be very interested to hear from the TNRD, as you take a look at the impact of that bill delaying the budget for two months, what impact that will have on you,” queried Tegart. “I’m sure you are well aware of the bill being passed, and we ask the questions about the unintended consequences. We’ve had a lot of organizations that will be affected with the uncertainty of what a two-month delay in the budget presentation means.” Tegart also encouraged anyone on the TNRD board to reach out to her if they had any questions or concerns regarding education, which she would address in her role as Opposition Critic for Education. “If there are issues within your communities or in your region that you want questions asked at estimate, please feel free to get in touch with me, because that is our opportunity to get answers from the Minister,” explained Tegart. “So, if you need new schools or are concerned about anything that’s happening within the education field, our one opportunity to get real answers is during estimate and I would encourage you to be in touch so that we can make sure that those questions are asked.” Tegart concluded her update by thanking the TNRD board for the work they had done during COVID, and her appreciation for the working relationship which all levels of government need to have, referring particularly to democratic strife Canadians are witnessing south of the border. Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Merritt Herald
Le bilan lavallois de la COVID-19 est désormais de 1652 cas actifs selon les données émises par le Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux (CISSS) de Laval. Cela représente une baisse de 79 cas actifs par rapport à la veille et de 585 cas actifs en comparaison à la semaine précédente. Il s’agit toutefois d’une augmentation de 125 cas confirmés, ce qui porte le total à 20 666 citoyens lavallois touchés depuis le mois de mars 2020. Au total, 801 personnes (+3) sont décédées du virus sur l’île Jésus. Parmi les Lavallois actuellement touchés, 93 sont hospitalisés, dont 29 aux soins intensifs. 89 employés du CISSS de Laval sont quant à eux absents du travail en raison de la COVID-19. Pont-Viau/Renaud-Coursol/Laval-des-Rapides et Sainte-Dorothée/Laval-Ouest/Laval-Les Îles/Fabreville-Ouest/Laval-sur-le-Lac présentent les plus petites augmentations du jour avec 16 nouveaux cas confirmés. Ce dernier est d'ailleurs celui qui présente les données les plus basses du territoire lavallois lors des 14 derniers jours, que ce soit en chiffres absolus (361) ou en taux d'infection (522 cas par 100 000 habitants). À l'inverse, Chomedey (+34) demeure le plus touché sur cette même période. On y constate 819 nouvelles personnes touchées et un taux d'infection de 860 cas par 100 000 habitants. De leur côté, Duvernay/Saint-François/Saint-Vincent-de-Paul et Fabreville-Est/Sainte-Rose ont ajouté 21 cas à leur total respectif. Cela est trois de plus que Vimont/Auteuil qui est désormais le deuxième secteur de l'île Jésus le moins touché en chiffres absolus sur les deux dernières semaines. *** Prendre note que tel qu’indiqué sur le site Web du CISSS de Laval, ces données par secteur incluent l’ensemble des cas des citoyens testés positifs à la COVID-19, qu’ils résident dans des milieux fermés ou ailleurs dans la communauté. Les milieux fermés incluent des milieux de vie comme les centres d’hébergement et de soins de longue durée (CHSLD), les résidences privées pour aînés (RPA), les ressources intermédiaires (RI), ainsi que les centres correctionnels. Les données présentées sont calculées en fonction du lieu de résidence. Le CISSS tarde à déterminer le foyer de 28 cas jusqu’ici.Nicholas Pereira, Initiative de journalisme local, Courrier Laval
A huge dump of snow at Marmot Basin kicked off this year’s Jasper in January and staff are continuously monitoring conditions as well as keeping up with COVID protocols. Lasting until Jan. 31, Jasper in January includes virtual and private events at the ski resort along with deals on lift tickets. Although COVID-19 has altered the format of the festival and the overall operations of Marmot Basin, staff say the recent snowfall has proven to be a significant boon. “The recent snowfall has been fantastic - we've had 29 centimetres in the last two days - and conditions are absolutely superb,” said Alyssa Golbeck, active content producer, said in an email on Jan. 14. “I can personally attest to the fact that there is still tons of powder and there is some really great skiing up here right now.” Although Saturdays and weekends aren’t as busy as last year, there is a steady flow of skiers from Monday to Friday. With that pace, staff are managing COVID protocols with the visitors. “Business has been good,” said Brian Rode, vice president. “We are now seeing quite a few people who haven’t been to Marmot for a number of years or who haven’t skied for a number of years. Right now, we’ve had more skiers visit this year than last year.” He attributed these numbers to Albertans staying closer to home and the warmer weather. Chalets run at 15 per cent capacity, and Rode said people have been patient and complying with health restrictions. “Outside, people wear masks and naturally spread out when they’re skiing,” he said. Upon arriving to work, staff must sign in and declare they have not come to work with symptoms. “All of our supervisors are talking with and monitoring the staff. Our staff body is healthy,” Rode said, noting staff have a personal responsibility to monitor their health. Golbeck said the avalanche team has been hard at work the past few days, and staff were able to open much of the upper mountain on Jan. 14. Rode said Marmot Basin’s safety team monitors conditions regularly “to ensure all of the runs are safe to ski, without any risk of avalanches occurring.” “To do that, they’ve got patrols in place,” he said. The team makes sure the main runs are ready to use first thing in the morning, then the higher runs are tackled later. Factors to monitor include the amount of snowfall, wind, temperature and moisture content. “All of these affect the type of snowpack we have,” Rode said, adding any runs with an avalanche risk are kept closed until the ski patrol team checks the conditions. They do ski cutting, or “traversing the slope” as Rode called it. “Without fail, they do it in such a way so you can traverse from point to another,” he said. “They ski across the slope. That knocks the air out of it. They start at the top at a safe point - a rock outcrop (for example) - and ski across to the other side. That will give them a good sense of what that slope is like.” That measure sometimes releases the snow without having to use explosive charges. For slopes higher in the alpine region, explosive charges are thrown in and detonated, which knocks the risky snow down. “All slope angles are charted on every single run - 91 of them - some long and (some) short,” Rode said. “Below the treeline, the runs are risk-free of avalanches. The slopes above the treeline, where there’s a risk of avalanches, if the slope doesn’t avalanche, they’ll continue to monitor it, looking for trigger points.” Slopes are only opened once staff determine them as safe. While the scenery may be beautiful, Rode noted boundaries are in place for a reason. “If people stick to runs that are open and don’t go into areas that are closed, they’re safe,” Rode said. With avalanche control, there are temporary closures, but there are other areas around the mountain, outside the ski area boundaries, that are permanently closed. “We don’t patrol those areas,” Rode said. “Some areas are closed because they’re caribou closures. It’s illegal to be in that area.” Rode warned the public not to duck under any ropes or enter these closed areas. “Not only are you putting yourself in danger and the ski patrol team in danger, you’ve established a trail that other people may follow,” he added. Rode said people went outside the boundaries twice this year so far. “We sent a ski patrol in,” he said. “They knew where (they) were going, and that they’d have difficulty going through a particular area.” Wearing snowshoes themselves, the team brought in a pair of snowshoes for the wanderer to wear out. “Often, a person will report to ski patrol that one of their buddies ducked under,” he said. “That’s typically what happens. Invariably, we can determine where they’ve gone.” Rode recalled there have been incidents where it’s dark before people get back to safety, such as one incident a few years ago where a male didn’t get out until the following day. Marmot Basin is also posting a series of videos about avalanche safety at the hill this week, which can be viewed on its Facebook page. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
RICHMOND, Va. — Two Virginia Democratic lawmakers are spearheading a push to repeal a decades-old law that allows the state to hold certain sex offenders at psychiatric facilities indefinitely after their criminal sentences if they are deemed “sexually violent predators.” Critics say civil commitment laws are fundamentally unfair and violate the constitutional prohibition against punishing someone twice for the same crime. Supporters counter that the laws protect society from repeat offenders who are unable to control their behaviour. Sen. Joe Morrissey and Del. Patrick Hope, both Democrats, are co-sponsoring legislation that would end the state’s authority to civilly commit sex offenders. “It is as archaic and as Neanderthal a process as I can imagine," said Morrissey, a defence attorney and lead patron of the bill that would repeal 1999's Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act. “We don't sentence people because of what they might do,” he said. “That's abhorrent to everything that our democracy and our criminal justice system believes in.” Twenty states and the federal government now have civil commitment laws, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Morrissey's bill is drawing criticism from Republicans and raising eyebrows among some Democrats who believe the state should retain the ability to commit the most serious sex offenders. “The civil commitment of sexual predators appears to be well within constitutional bounds, and there is no reason to believe it’s not working to make sure that dangerous people do not have access to future victims as long as they remain a threat to the public,” said House Republican Leader Todd Gilbert. The process begins with an initial screening by the Department of Correction. Based on that, offenders deemed likely to reoffend are given a psychological evaluation and additional review by an interagency committee. That group then makes a recommendation on whether the state attorney general should seek civil commitment. A judge or a jury makes the ultimate decision on whether to commit or release an offender. Offenders who are committed are sent to the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation, where about 405 people are currently housed and a 258-bed expansion is underway. Attorney General Mark Herring's office says inmates are placed in a “secure, intensive, inpatient sex offender treatment program,” while critics say it's a place where sex offenders are forced to serve a second prison term. Offenders are entitled to an annual review hearing for the first five years and every two years after that, when a court decides whether the person remains sexually dangerous and needs to stay at the facility or can be released with monitoring and supervision. Since 2003 — when the law was first funded by the legislature — through October 2020, Virginia had a total of 689 civil commitments after final disposition as a sexually violent predator. During that same time period, the state granted 410 conditional releases from civil commitment. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services said the recidivism rate for people released from the centre is currently estimated at about 2%. “If you look at our discharge numbers, despite claims, people are not held here indefinitely. They receive good treatment and it results in a reduction in recidivism and safety in the community," said Facility Director Jason Wilson. Critics say the process of deciding who will be committed is rife with speculation by state-hired experts trying to predict who will commit crimes in the future. Galen Baughman has spent years trying to repeal civil commitment laws around the country. Baughman spent 6 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to nonviolent sexual misconduct involving offences that occurred when he was 14 and 19. As he was completing his sentence, the state moved for civil commitment, and he was held for another 2 1/2 years while awaiting a trial. The jury found he was not a “sexually violent predator” and he was released on probation. Four years later, he was arrested on a technical probation violation after he exchanged text messages with a teenage boy he met at the funeral of a mutual friend. Baughman, who is gay, said there was no sexual content in his text messages with the heterosexual boy. The state moved to revoke his probation, and a judge sentenced Baughman to 21 months in jail. When the state then tried to civilly commit Baughman for a second time, a psychologist hired by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services found that Baughman was not a "sexually violent predator." But Attorney General Mark Herring then retained another psychologist who said Baughman met the criteria to be labelled sexually dangerous. In 2019, the jury, which was not allowed to hear testimony from two defence psychiatrists or from the first expert who found that Baughman was not dangerous, found that Baughman was eligible for commitment as a sexually violent predator. Baughman has asked the Supreme Court of Virginia to hear his appeal. “This is anyone's worst nightmare — getting locked up, with no exit, with the government claiming it's ‘treating’ you," he said. "The state is trying to punish you for what you might do in the future. This turns the Constitution upside down.” Denise Lavoie, The Associated Press
A new group launched today to get more women sitting around local council tables in Grey-Bruce. The effort, called electHER, has a planning committee that includes 12 present or past council members and six community members, all women. Co-founders are community member Laura Wood and Owen Sound city councillor Carol Merton. The group has a web site and social media presence. A learning session on Mar. 16 will address “How to Decide to Run for Office.” “Having worked on federal, provincial and municipal elections, I’d have to say I see a more immediate impact on having women at the political table at the municipal level,” Ms Wood said. The issues considered make a difference to people’s everyday lives, and are not bogged down in partisanship, she observed in the organization’s press release. The group characterizes itself as non-partisan, with a goal to have at least one woman on each of the 17 municipal councils in Grey-Bruce. On the day Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the first woman vice-president of the United States, Jan. 20, the group plans to offer commentary online during the day. M.T. Fernandes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Dundalk Herald
OTTAWA — Translators say they are "riddled with auditory injuries" after nine months of interpreting parliamentarians online via fuzzy laptop mics and poor internet connections. The association representing some 70 accredited interpreters who translate English into French and vice versa on Parliament Hill says seven in 10 respondents to a new survey have experienced auditory issues that forced them to go on leave for recovery. The problem persists as MPs prepare to return virtually to the House of Commons next week, even as roughly 15 per cent of staff interpreters remain on leave and a growing number of freelancers also take time off from work. The strain of Zoom-based proceedings has also prompted shorter shifts and more requests for transfer to non-virtual assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a shrinking pool of available translators. Interpreter Nicole Gagnon says she has experienced some hearing loss due to a constant stream of low-quality sound and loud feedback loops, while her colleagues are coping with tinnitus, nausea and headaches. The federal translation bureau did not respond immediately to requests for comment on calls for better sound quality. Many Canadians grapple with the frustrations of daily video conferencing, but Gagnon says the clash of speaking constantly overtop of audio from high-decibel MPs adds a level of physical strain and mental stress that has pushed some to the breaking point. A study last fall found Canada ranked 13th out of 81 countries in the number of acoustic shock incidents suffered by interpreters, with six in 10 Canadian respondents having reported symptoms typical of the trauma. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. The Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford says all long-term care and high-risk retirement homes will receive vaccinations by Feb. 15 despite a shortage of Pfizer vaccines. As Morganne Campbell reports, the backlog is causing a delay in the province's rollout plan.
Health officials in B.C. have not detected a single case of influenza circulating in the community since flu season began, continuing an "exceptional" nationwide trend even as the province sits in the thick of its regular flu season. The B.C. Centre of Disease Control (BCCDC) confirmed the non-existent seasonal flu numbers to CBC News on Monday. "It's still a big goose egg in terms of influenza detection provincially. It's really quite exceptional how low the influenza activity is," said Dr. Danuta Skowronski, the lead for influenza and emerging respiratory virus monitoring at the BCCDC. "I've been on the influenza beat for 20 years and I've never seen anything like this ... and that's not for lack of trying." The BCCDC has tested 30,000 samples for influenza this year. Only a dozen of those tests came back positive and all were linked to people who'd received a vaccine, which doesn't count as community spread. By comparison, the centre found 861 positive tests last year with roughly one-third of the testing. B.C.'s experience is reflected across the country. A report from the Public Health Agency of Canada on Thursday said there hasn't been enough influenza cases to even declare that the 2020-21 flu season has begun in Canada. The statistics have calmed fears of health experts across Canada who worried a second wave of COVID-19 would arrive just as seasonal flu infections began to spread, creating an overwhelming "twindemic" this winter. "We are trying to find that [influenza] virus, but so far, nothing — which is good news," said Skowronski. COVID-19 measures caused 'dramatic drop-off' The 30,000 tests run for the flu this year is four times the average number of tests B.C. has done over the past five flu seasons. The dozen positive results were all connected to people who'd received the "live attenuated" flu vaccine, which is made from weakened influenza virus and delivered by nasal spray. "It's not unusual to pick up the vaccine virus in the nose swab," Skowronski said. "What is unexpected is to find no influenza viruses otherwise at all in the province." Flu season typically peaks in B.C. in December and January. Skowronski said public health measures taken to slow COVID-19 — like handwashing, physical distancing, mask-wearing and reduced travel — are likely what's thwarted the regular flu. "We saw a dramatic drop-off in influenza activity almost as soon as we implemented those public health measures last March. We were experiencing an influenza epidemic then and as soon as those measures were in place, it was like influenza fell off a cliff ... and it's been like that ever since," she said. Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. The flu comes from influenza viruses, while COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. As for whether the public health measures should remain in place to ease flu season even after COVID-19 is under control, Skowronski said it's an idea for health officials to consider. "I think it would be useful to take stock of the measures and what's worked, but it's a balance. Some of those measures are quite extreme and are put in place because, ultimately, the SARS-COoV-2 virus is not the influenza virus," she said. "It takes a much greater toll in terms of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and deaths than typical influenza season virus does. "We'll have to weigh the benefits and the costs of those measures."
The ice skating season is over in the Sundridge region. In the words of Sundridge Coun. Steve Rawn, the ice in the Sundridge Strong Joly Arena is coming out “immediately.” The decision at an arena board meeting after the province announced further lockdown measures, which include arenas as it continues to fight COVID-19 outbreak numbers. Rawn says the original hope was the arena could be used by residents of the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit area once the province's previous two-week lockdown of Northern Ontario ended. But Rawn says the board voted to remove the ice after the province invoked the stay-at-home order. Rawn says the latest lockdown would take the arena situation well into February and that's getting closer to the end of the regular ice season. In a statement, Rawn said “this last extension would be too long to keep the ice sitting and not be used.” In neighbouring Magnetawan, it's a different story. Although the lockdown has closed the community's outdoor skating rink, Mayor Sam Dunnett says it will reopen once the order ends. “We had people using it for public skating and they were in groups of no more than five people,” he says. The local Lions club was instrumental in creating the covered outdoor rink, which is appropriately named Lion's Pavilion. Dunnett doesn't know for certain how long the latest lockdown will last since the province could change the length at any time. And while this reason alone is enough for other communities to end the ice skating season, Dunnett says “we're not taking out our ice. “We'll continue to maintain it,” he says. Dunnett says the outdoor nature of the Magnetawan rink makes it easier to maintain compared to the indoor arena ice in surrounding towns. If COVID outbreak numbers can fall low enough, Dunnett believes the province “can start opening stuff back up a little like ice-skating rinks. “And if it does re-open, people can come out and enjoy themselves,” he says. “There will still be no hockey, but they can get some exercise.” Dunnett says the municipality will continue to maintain the outdoor ice until warmer spring temperatures arrive. Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget
Shelburne Council looks at street names for new subdivisionThe municipality’s Town Planner, Steve Wever presented a report to Council regarding the proposed street names in the Fieldgate Development on the eastern edge of town. Shelburne’s Street naming and Addressing Policy, #2018-14 establishes a uniform and logical street naming system for new streets in town and assists with naming streets in a way that recognizes and promotes the her-itage and identity of Shelburne, as well as emergency or safety considerations and sig-nificant contributions by organizations or individuals. The policy provides for street names in a development to be based upon a particular theme and that all names be consistent with that theme. The Fieldgate theme is natural heritage and the names are to reflect local flora and fauna found surrounding woodlots and wetlands. However, the company had one special request for a street name – Leanne Lane, which was significant to the company. The name reflects that of the late wife of the architect who designed the homes in the subdivision.The street naming policy also provides direction for names to reflect a sense of con-tinuity and belonging, long standing local area identification and/or recognition, or to celebrate local history, places, events or cul-ture, so Council directed Town staff to work with Fieldgate to create inclusive street names, acknowledging the region’s Black and Indigenous community history.Several indigenous names were offered for inclusion and as a result, Fieldgate revised their original proposal to include, Anishi-naabe Drive, Ojibway Road, Potawatomi Crescent, White Oak Avenue, Red Elm Road, Black Cherry Cresent, Hemlock Place, Leanne Lane, Trillium Court, Chippewa Ave-nue and Limestone Lane.The report noted that street names, which advertise the developer, are not allowed, but this wasn’t an issue for Fieldgate’s special request of Leanne Lane.It went on to say that no objections had been received from any of the organizations approached to review the names, including the County, Canada Post and various indigenous groups. The Town is proposing to name the park in the subdivision, now being marketed as Emerald Crossing, after William and Mary Ghant, two prominent early Black settlers to Dufferin County.Council approved the names suggested.In other news, Councillor Benotto brought up the issue of the sidewalks in Shelburne being icy and difficult to walk on, especially up near the Arena, where he walks fre-quently. He asked if Public Works was plan-ning to sand them soon and if there was a problem. Director Jim Moss responded, say-ing that during the holidays, there had been some equipment failures regarding sidewalk maintenance and that currently only one machine was operational. He added that first thing Tuesday (Jan. 19), he would send a crew up to evaluate the situation and deal with it as best as possible.Meanwhile, Council approved a motion by Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson, in his ongo-ing crusade for inclusivity and diversity within the Town, to establish a Diversity and Inclusion Committee, as per the recommen-dations of the Anti Racism Task Force. This committee would consist of eight to 10 community members plus two or three councillors and was fashioned after the similar Dufferin County Committee.The community members on the new committee would be selected, perhaps by application, and the three councillors would guide them in their deliberations, again similar to the County template.Finally, two new nominations were put forward by Deputy Mayor Anderson for the Community Excellence Awards. Mike Mackely was nominated for his many years of dedicated community ser-vice, along with Mr. Yehya Soliman for his services to the community. Theses awards along with the others will be presented vir-tually la Peter Richardson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Orangeville Citizen
On Monday, January 11th at 6:30 P.M. Mayor Johnston called the public meeting for the Cedar Crescent Development open with Evan Wight present as the project planner. Some of the concerns raised were back alleys and drainage, as well as the proposed start date of the development. After a few amendments to the agenda, Councillor N. Thies made a motion to accept the agenda as amended; motion carried. After reviewing the minutes of the last meeting Councillor Gosselin made the motion to accept which was carried. The Foreman’s Report was next. Foreman Poppenheim explained to the council what the maintenance staff has been up to over the last two weeks, as well as a review of the year. Foreman Poppenheim thanked the summer students for their hard work over the summer. Council Standing Committees were next as each councillor gave a short explanation of their assigned committees. Mayor Johnston gave his report with three recommendations included that will be brought forward at the next council meeting. Administrator Report was next. Administrator Paridaen included an update on the RO system build, strategic planning and a landfill update. There is approximately $128,000 from MEEP as well as $87,000 in reserve for lot development to be used towards the Cedar Crescent Development as well as for the water heater for the town hall as it broke and now needs replacing. Councillor R. Thies motioned for the town to pay for a new water heater for the hall; motion carried. The town staff will be picking up old Christmas trees on January 13th; this is a service the town maintenance staff do yearly. N. Thies made the motion to accept the reports which was carried. OLD BUSINESS Borrowing By-law 2020-014 received its third reading with a motion by Councillor Vaughan; motion carried. This By-law 2020-014 is so the town can borrow more money to pay for projects like the reverse osmosis system. Nuisance By-law 2020-016 received its second reading with a motion by N. Thies, and 3rd Reading with a motion by R. Thies; motion carried; there was an amendment added to exempt the fire department to allow five old cars at the Firehall rather than three. Residents are not allowed old unlicensed vehicles on their property. The Big Bike will be taken back by Ken Mack, the developer of the bike. CORRESPONDENCE The preschool has made a proposal to only pay $75 a month during the summer as it won't be using the building for the three months in the summer; motion tabled. Walking/bike path snow removal was then discussed. Rural Connectivity Task Force sent information concerning the lack of internet service and cell service in rural areas. The council reviewed the RCMP Report. Council will request the RCMP to attend a council meeting when available. Councilor Antosh-Cusitar made the motion to file the correspondence which was carried. The council reviewed the list of accounts for approval. Councillor N. Thies making a motion to accept which was carried. NEW BUSINESS A Financial Reserve Policy was discussed next. Councillor Vaughan made a motion to table this until further information is received; motion carried. Commercial bin locks were next to be discussed. There is a lot of contaminated recycling still being received by the recycling center resulting in contaminated recycling charges. The town will consult with commercial users for their input. Election Appointments and rates for poll clerk was discussed, with the upcoming by-election coming up to fill the vacant council seat. Administrator Paridaen proposed $18.80 for the returning officer and $15.00 per hour for pole clerk. Councillor Antosh-Cusitar made a motion to accept Administrator Paridaen’s proposal; motion carried. Councillor Gosselin made a motion to table the Municipal Access Agreement until after the strategic planning; motion carried. Councillor Vaughan mentioned purchasing a wheat weaving art display/picture and wishes to donate it to the town to display possibly in the library. Councillor R. Thies made a motion to go in-camera; motion carried. Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
OTTAWA — Canada is not going to get any vaccine does from Pfizer-BioNTech next week.Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the Canadian military commander co-ordinating the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, says Canada's shipments of the vaccine will be cut by nearly one-fifth this week and then go down to zero next week.Pfizer told Canada last week its shipments would be affected because the production facility in Belgium is being upgraded to produce more doses overall.Fortin said last week that Canada expected to get about half the total number of doses it was originally expecting over the next four weeks, but can't say today what the total impact will be beyond this week and next.Canada was to get more than 417,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week and next, but will now get just 171,093 doses this week nothing the next week.Procurement Minister Anita Anand says this is disappointing and she spent the weekend on the phone with Pfizer officials about the matter.Pfizer says multiple countries will be affected but won't say which ones. Europe is seeing its shipments cut back this week but its dose deliveries will return to normal next week.Earlier Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated his commitment to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses for any Canadians who want them by the end of September.Meanwhile, Trudeau also urged Canadians who might be planning an international trip in the near future to cancel it.Trudeau said Canadians have the right to travel, but the government could at any time, and without warning, enforce new restrictions on travellers returning to Canada.New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 add a level of uncertainty that could affect decisions about how to handle international arrivals.The Public Health Agency of Canada has documented 183 flights arriving in Canada from abroad since Jan. 4 alone, on which at least one passenger had COVID-19.That includes four flights from London since the ban on incoming flights from the United Kingdom was lifted Jan. 6. Trudeau would not say when pressed what other measures he is considering, noting only that travellers now must present negative COVID-19 tests before boarding their planes, and must still quarantine for two weeks after arriving in Canada.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
After four years, U.S. President Donald Trump will be leaving office as President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into the position on Jan. 20, 2021. The weeks leading up to Trump’s departure have been tumultuous, with a siege on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, five federal executions, and 143 presidential pardons, just to name a few pivotal moments.Trump began the day by speaking to a crowd at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before boarding Air Force One. He is traveling to his golf club, Mar-a-Lago, in Florida, and will not be attending Biden’s inauguration ceremony in Washington, D.C.For all the latest on the U.S. inauguration, click this link for live updates.
Four people have been arrested in connection with the death of Amber Dawn Wood, 38, of Bienfait, Sask. Justin Julien Englot, 29, and Jayden Marie Sanford, 25, both of Regina, have been charged with accessory after the fact to murder and possession of property obtained by crime over $5,000. Sanford and Englot made their first appearance in Regina provincial court Tuesday morning. Two other people, both males, are also in custody. They haven't been charged, but police say an investigation is continuing. Wood died after being severely injured Saturday morning at a home on the 700 block of Athol St., police said. Police were called to the scene following a report someone had been shot. Wood was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead. It was the city's first homicide of 2021.
TORONTO — Ontario plans to implement a digital evidence management system for police that it says will allow officers to focus on crimes and prevention rather than pushing paper. Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said the cloud-based system will allow police to securely capture, store, manage and share digital evidence. "With this new system in place, more time will be given to core police work because less time will be spent administering the evidentiary paper trail," Jones said in a virtual news conference on Tuesday. Axon Public Safety Canada, which makes body cameras and Tasers, won the contract for the project, Jones said, although she declined to say how much it is going to cost. The evidence system will allow easy storage and sharing of large audio files, videos and photographs that can be securely sent to Crown attorneys and other police forces, she said. Gone will be the days of handing off USB sticks and DVDs to the courts, Jones said. The program will be made available to provincial enforcement agencies including the Ontario Provincial Police, First Nations police, and the Correctional Services Oversight and Investigations unit. Two Ontario forces, Peel Regional Police and Toronto police, already use a digital management system from Axon that will be compatible with the provincial one, Jones said. Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said the digital evidence system has reduced "tremendous amounts of administrative work" for officers. "The benefits from modernizing our digital systems include a seamless and efficient and secure exchange of files in evidence from the police service to our partners in court," Duraiappah said. Five years ago, as Toronto police began looking into the use of body-worn cameras, concerns were raised about storing evidence on the cloud while the physical servers were located elsewhere. It proved a particularly thorny issue if those servers were located in the U.S. due to that country's Patriot Act, which allows American authorities to access data that is stored in their country. Jones said the new evidence management system would be based in the province. "We have assurances and we made sure the cloud-based (system) is Ontario-based," Jones said. Vishal Dhir, a managing director of Axon, said the infrastructure used is based in Canada. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Whether it's a slight cough or a scratchy, sore throat, some may be tempted to dismiss mild symptoms as "just the flu" amid a serious global pandemic. But experts say a drastic drop in the circulation of the influenza virus this season means signs of flu are more likely to be COVID-19 than another respiratory virus. A FluWatch report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) released last week shows laboratory-confirmed incidents of flu are exceptionally rare this season, despite "elevated testing" for it during the pandemic. Experts say a confluence of factors are playing a role in the abnormally light flu season, including public health measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 and the reduction of international travel. Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease expert in Mississauga, Ont., says the low prevalence of flu underscores the need to get tested for COVID if people develop symptoms. "You can't tell by looking if somebody has influenza or COVID," he said. "And right now, depending on where they live, if someone has acute viral symptoms, the chances of it being COVID over other things is much higher." PHAC's report shows there have been 51 influenza detections in Canada to date this flu season — significantly lower than the nearly 15,000 cases averaged by this point in the past six seasons — and there were zero lab-detected cases (from 13,000 tests) over the first week of 2021. Chakrabarti expects there to be more cases of influenza than what PHAC's data shows, since not everyone with flu-like symptoms is tested for that virus. But in the segment of the population that is getting tested — typically older adults seeking medical care — influenza isn't coming up. People admitted to hospital with symptoms are given respiratory multiplex tests that can detect multiple viruses at once, Chakrabarti said. "And we've picked up very little in the way of other viruses. So if you're seeing a reduction in those cases, it suggests that the overall amount of flu in the community has dropped." While experts assumed public health measures like mask-wearing and physical distancing would also lessen flu prevalence, the level of drop-off has been surprising, says Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist with McMaster University. He believes travel restrictions have likely played a significant role. Whereas COVID-19 can continue to spread easily because the virus is already entrenched here, Chagla says influenza is usually brought in each winter from tropical climates. A population confined largely indoors due to cold weather helps it spread. "Border restrictions, quarantine rules, that probably limits the amount of influenza coming in in the first place," Chagla said. "And the odd case that does come in, it's harder to spread because people aren't congregating." Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist with the University of Ottawa, agrees that a reduction in international travel likely explains the light flu season more than just the implementation of public health measures. He says places in South America are also seeing dips in flu numbers even though mask-wearing hasn't been as widespread there. A level of immunity to influenza may also be contributing to the stifling of the virus, he added. "More people got a flu vaccine this year," Deonandan said. "That can't be underestimated." Chagla says other respiratory viruses also seem to have decreased this season. While there was an uptick in the common cold rhinovirus in the fall — usually correlated with children going back to school — PHAC data shows it's been dropping since. Hand-washing and sanitizing high-touch areas may be playing a role in controlling viruses that are more transmissible on surfaces, experts say. Chagla says cold or flu-like symptoms should raise a red flag for anyone right now, and he worries about people mistaking COVID signs for another virus. "In years past you could say: 'this is just a cold,' doctors would say: 'don't even come in,'" Chagla said. "And now we have to switch the mentality to say: 'actually, no, go get tested.'" Chakrabarti warns the "just the flu" mentality also diminishes the significance of influenza, which can lead to serious disease in vulnerable people too. So there's need for caution, even if symptoms are from the flu virus. "A lot of people say 'it's the flu, who cares? I get it all the time,'" he said. "This is going to sound familiar, but the reason it matters is because you can spread it to somebody else." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 19, 2021. Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press