Cold and clear afternoon on Baccaro Point, Nova Scotia.
Cold and clear afternoon on Baccaro Point, Nova Scotia.
Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) now says the maximum interval between the first and second doses of all three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada should increase to four months in order to boost the number of Canadians being vaccinated. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, that means going from a three week interval to a full four months. "NACI recommends that in the context of limited COVID-19 vaccine supply, jurisdictions should maximize the number of individuals benefiting from the first dose of vaccine by extending the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine up to four months after the first," the committee said in a statement. Prior to this new recommendation, NACI had said that the maximum interval between the first and second shots of the Moderna vaccine should be four weeks, the interval for the Pfizer-BioNTech product should be three weeks and the interval for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine should be 12 weeks. "While studies have not yet collected four months of data on vaccine effectiveness after the first dose, the first two months of real world effectiveness are showing sustained high levels of protection," NACI said. Since first doses of all three vaccines have been shown to dramatically increase immunity to the disease, or to significantly reduce the illness associated with contracting COVID-19, the committee said stretching the interval would help protect more Canadians sooner. NACI said that it reviewed evidence from two clinical trials that looked at how effective the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were after a single dose. Those studies, NACI said, showed the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines started providing some level of protection 12 to 14 days after the first dose. By the time the second dose was administered — 19 to 42 days after the first — the first shot was shown to be 92 per cent effective. Population studies find lower protection Outside of clinical trials, NACI looked at the effectiveness of a single shot of these two vaccines in the populations of Quebec, British Columbia, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. NACI said that analysis showed the effectiveness of a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine was between 70 per cent and 80 per cent among health care workers, long-term care residents, elderly populations and the general public. "While this is somewhat lower than the efficacy demonstrated after one dose in clinical trials, it is important to note that vaccine effectiveness in a general population setting is typically lower than efficacy from the controlled setting of a clinical trial, and this is expected to be the case after series completion as well," NACI said. The committee said that published data from an AstraZeneca clinical trial indicated that delaying the second dose 12 weeks or more provided better protections against symptomatic disease compared to shorter intervals between doses. Earlier this week, before NACI changed its interval advice, B.C.'s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced that the province would be extending the interval between doses of the Moderna, Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines to 16 weeks. Henry said data from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control and countries around the world showed a "miraculous" protection level of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Moderna or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The head of Moderna's Canadian operations, Patricia Gauthier, said Monday that the company's own trials, and the conditions under which the vaccine was approved by Health Canada, are tied to a four-week interval. "That being said, we're in times of pandemic and we can understand that there are difficult decisions to be made," Gauthier said. "This then becomes a government decision. We stand by the product monograph approved by Health Canada, but governments ... can make their own decisions." Gauthier said she was not aware of any studies done or led by Moderna on what happens when the interval between the first and second doses is changed from four weeks to four months. 'We have to do it safely and watch carefully' Dr. David Naylor, who has been named to a federal task force charged with planning a national campaign to see how far the virus has spread, said the data have been "very encouraging." "The evidence is there for the concept of further delay," Naylor told CBC News Network's Power & Politics today. "We [had] trial data from earlier showing that going out from 90 days, a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine is effective. So things are triangulating." He said health officials need to pay close attention to the data coming out of other countries to determine if the protection provided by the first dose remains strong four months after it was administered. "We do it because we can cover more people with a single dose of the vaccine, spread the protection, prevent more severe disease and prevent fatalities, and the evidence is clear that that's what you can do if you spread those doses out widely. But we have to do it safely and watch carefully," Naylor told host Vassy Kapelos. Watch: The evidence is there for the 'concept of further delay' of second doses: Dr. Naylor: Storage and transport recommendations also changed Health Canada also announced today that after reviewing a submission from Pfizer-BioNTech, it would authorize changes to the way the vaccine is handled in Canada. The new rules allow the vaccine to be stored and transported in a standard freezer with a temperature of between -25 C and -15 C for up to two weeks, instead of the previous requirement that it be stored in ultra-cold conditions of -80 C to -60 C. Vials of the vaccine stored or transported at this higher temperature for no longer than two weeks remain stable and safe and can then be returned to ultra-cold freezers once, said the department.
TORONTO — Relief washed over victims of the Toronto van attack Wednesday after the man responsible for the rampage was found guilty of murdering ten people and trying to kill 16 others. Justice Anne Molloy said Alek Minassian carried out the 2018 van attack to achieve notoriety and was fully aware of the devastation he had caused. "He desperately wanted to achieve fame and notoriety, believing even negative attention for his actions would be better than to live in obscurity," said Molloy, whose judgement was delivered via video conference and broadcast on YouTube. Minassian had admitted to planning and carrying out the attack on April 23, 2018, but had argued he should be found not criminally responsible for his actions because of his autism spectrum disorder. The key issue at the trial, which began last November without a jury, was whether he had the capacity at the time of the attack to make a rational choice. The 28-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., had pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Molloy found Minassian guilty on all 26 counts and took the unusual step of not naming him in her ruling, saying she'd refer to him only as John Doe because she did not want to contribute to his desire for infamy. "Mr. Doe knew that the vast majority of people in society would find an act of mass murder to be morally wrong," said Molloy. "He chose to commit the crimes anyway, because it was what he really wanted to do. This was the exercise of free will by a rational brain, capable of choosing between right and wrong." Elwood Delaney, whose grandmother Dorothy Sewell died during Minassian's rampage, welcomed Molloy's ruling. "I'm relieved that he was found guilty," said Delaney, who watched the proceedings from his home in Kamloops, B.C. "We now can start to close this awful chapter and try to move on to a new norm." Robert Forsyth, whose 94-year-old aunt Betty Forsyth died after being hit from behind by Minassian, also expressed relief. "I'm happy with the decision, although it's hard to use the word happy when you lose a loved one like this," he said. "It was clear he knew what he was doing." Catherine Riddell, who was brutally injured in the attack, said her years-long anxiety has abated. "I probably will sleep tonight for the first time in a while," she said. "It was the best I could hope for ... He can spend the rest of his life in jail because he deserves it." First-degree murder carries an automatic life sentence with no chance to apply for parole for 25 years. Minassian's case is set to return to court on March 18 to discuss next steps for sentencing. Joe Callaghan, the lead Crown attorney, called Molloy's decision a "fair and just result." Turning to some of the victims and their supporters assembled behind him outside a Toronto courthouse, Callaghan commended them for their resilience. "Despite your continuing pain and trauma from this horrific attack, you showed us how love and humanity can prevail." Minassian's lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said the focus should not be on his client. "The victims are the victims and should forever be at the forefront of our thoughts," Bytensky said. He said he had spoken only briefly to Minassian after the judgement and didn't know if his client plans to appeal. Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city will continue to support the victims and everyone affected by the tragedy. The Crown had argued that Minassian is a mass killer who knew right from wrong — and happens to have autism. But the defence argued that because of autism, Minassian never developed empathy, and that lack of empathy left him incapable of rational choice. Molloy rejected that argument. "It does not matter that he does not have remorse nor empathize with the victims. Lack of empathy for the suffering of victims — even an incapacity to empathize, for whatever reason — does not constitute a defence under Section 16 of the Criminal Code," she said, referring to the not criminally responsible section. The trial heard Minassian fantasized about mass killings for years, starting when he was in high school, where he was bullied. At one point he became fixated on an American mass murderer who hated women. He joined an online community of so-called "incels" — males who are involuntarily celibate. Minassian told a detective hours after the attack that he sought retribution against society because he was a lonely virgin who believed women wouldn't have sex with him. But he later said that was ruse designed to increase his infamy. Three weeks before the attack he booked a rental van for the day after he completed his final college exam, court heard. Around 1:30 p.m. on a warm April day, Minassian sat in the driver's seat at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue at a red light. When the light turned green, he floored it, hopped the curb and began the attack. He was arrested moments later following a failed attempt to commit suicide by cop. Betty Forsyth, Ji Hun Kim, So He Chung, Geraldine Brady, Chul Min Kang, Anne Marie Victoria D'Amico, Munir Najjar, Dorothy Marie Sewell, Andrea Bradden and Beutis Renuka Amarasingha died in the attack. —With files from Nicole Thompson and John Chidley-Hill. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
JUNEAU, Alaska — A state vaccine task force on Wednesday vastly expanded eligibility for people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in Alaska, adding those 55 to 64 and people 16 and older who meet certain criteria. That criteria includes being considered an essential worker, living in a multigenerational household, being at or at possible high risk for severe illness from COVID-19 or living in communities lacking in water and sewer systems, the state health department said in a release. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called expanding eligibility significant in efforts to protect Alaska residents and to help restore the state's economy. State health officials previously emphasized vaccinating those 65 and older. Individuals who have previously been eligible remain so. More than 100,000 first doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are expected for the state and Indian Health Service allocations this month, the department said. Also, 8,900 doses of the one-shot Johnson and Johnson Janssen vaccine are expected to arrive within the next two weeks, the department said. The number of vaccines do not include military allocations or those for programs involving pharmacies and federally qualified health centres. The state's chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said the vaccine supply is not yet sufficient to make it widely available to everyone who wants it. She said it is being offered to groups “who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, who are at risk for severe illness or death or who work in essential jobs." She added: "Some Alaskans may be more vulnerable to this disease than others due to their unique health or life circumstances. Offering vaccine is one step we can take now to help address these inequities.” The Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo intends to remain in office in the face of sexual harassment allegations that have weakened his support and led to calls for his resignation, he said Wednesday. The Democratic governor, speaking somberly in his first public appearance since three women accused him of inappropriate touching and offensive remarks, apologized and said that he “learned an important lesson” about his behaviour around women. “I now understand that I acted in a way that made people feel uncomfortable,” Cuomo said. “It was unintentional and I truly and deeply apologize for it.” Cuomo acknowledged “sensitivities have changed and behaviour has changed” and that what he considers his “customary greeting” — an old-world approach that often involving kisses and hugs — is no longer acceptable. He said he will “fully co-operate” with an investigation into the allegations being overseen by the state's independently elected attorney general. Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, is in the process of selecting an outside law firm to conduct the probe and document its findings in a public report. Asked about calls for him to step aside, the third-term governor said: “I wasn’t elected by politicians, I was elected by the people of the state of New York. I’m not going to resign." Cuomo addressed the allegations during a news conference that otherwise focused on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the kind of briefings that made him a daily fixture on TV and a national star among Democrats. Before that, Cuomo last spoke to reporters during a conference call on Feb. 22. His last briefing on camera was Feb. 19. Two of the women accusing Cuomo worked in his administration. The other was a guest at a wedding that he officiated. Former aide Charlotte Bennett, 25, said Cuomo quizzed her about her sex life and asked whether she would be open to a relationship with an older man. Bennett said she believed he was gauging her interest in an affair. Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, said Cuomo commented on her appearance inappropriately, kissed her without her consent at the end of a meeting, and once suggested they play strip poker while aboard his state-owned jet. Cuomo has denied Boylan’s allegations. Anna Ruch, told The New York Times that Cuomo put his hands on her face and asked if he could kiss her just moments after they met at a September 2019 wedding in Manhattan. The accusers rejected his latest attempt at an apology. “How can New Yorkers trust you @NYGovCuomo to lead our state if you “don’t know” when you’ve been inappropriate with your own staff?” Boylan tweeted. Bennett's lawyer, Debra Katz, said the governor's news conference “was full of falsehoods and inaccurate information.” She said Cuomo's claim that he was unaware he had made women uncomfortable was disingenuous, considering that Bennett had reported his behaviour to her boss and one of Cuomo's lawyers. “We are confident that they made him aware of her complaint and we fully expect that the Attorney General’s investigation will demonstrate that Cuomo administration officials failed to act on Ms. Bennett’s serious allegations or to ensure that corrective measures were taken, in violation of their legal requirements,” Katz said. Cuomo said he inherited his gregarious way of greeting people from his father, the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo, and that he intended it as a way of welcoming people and making them feel comfortable. He said he realizes now, “it doesn’t matter my intent, what it matters is if anybody was offended by it.” Speaking about the allegations, Cuomo initially said he was apologizing to “people” who were uncomfortable with his conduct, but he didn’t make clear as he continued which of the women he was referring to. At one point, he said he was apologizing to “the young woman who worked here who said that I made her feel uncomfortable in the workplace,” though that description could apply to both Boylan and Bennett. Asked what he was saying to New Yorkers, Cuomo said: “I’m embarrassed by what happened... I’m embarrassed that someone felt that way in my administration. I’m embarrassed and hurt and I apologize that somebody who interacted with me felt that way.” The governor, who has touted a law requiring all workers in New York to receive sexual harassment training, said he felt at the time that his behaviour was innocuous but now acknowledges that sexual harassment centres on how the victim is impacted — not the offender’s intent. “I didn’t know at the time I was making her feel uncomfortable. I never meant to, but that doesn’t matter," Cuomo said. "If a person feels uncomfortable, if a person feels pain, if a person is offended, I feel very badly about that and I apologize for it. There's no but — it's, I'm sorry.” __ Sisak reported from New York. __ This story has been updated to correct the day of the press briefing. It was on Wednesday, not Tuesday. Marina Villeneuve And Michael R. Sisak, The Associated Press
Members of the Eastern Newfoundland Regional Appeal Board have ruled the Town of Paradise was correct in refusing an application by Fairview Investments in August of 2019 for a commercial plaza with a drive thru on Topsail Road. The main concern of the town, as citied in the appeal board document, was the safety of students attending a nearby school. The board found that the Town followed due process as per its Development Regulations, which require that it consult with the public and that representations received be considered by council before taking a vote on a discretionary use application. The Shoreline reached out to Fairview to inquire as to whether there were plans to submit the application for another location, but did not receive a response. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
Nolan Jespersen, the new Sexsmith district fire chief, introduced himself to council after starting last Monday. The district fire chief position was created in 2018 to manage the Sexsmith Fire Department and provide support to the La Glace, Bezanson and Teepee Creek stations. The previous district fire chief was Dale Widsten, who took the role in August 2018. Jespersen was previously deputy fire chief for Stony Plain starting in 2017 and an officer in Fort Saskatchewan helping that department transition to a staffed fire service in the last year, he said. EDAC provides update Shane Pospisil, Sexsmith’s economic development consultant, also gave an update on the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC). Pospisil said EDAC has met with industrial developers to promote the town during several recent meetings. Companies include Hammerhead, which updated EDAC on a project in Greenview, and Northern Eagle, which is considering establishing a biodiesel plant in town. EDAC is also looking at local infrastructure including Internet capacity, and is exploring options to improve connectivity, Pospisil said. No ATCO fee increase The town is renewing its electric franchise agreement with ATCO Electric, with no increase to the franchise fee billed to consumers. Under the agreement ATCO will deliver electricity to residents for approximately 10 years. The fee is currently 5.5 per cent, or a monthly average of $6.10 for a resident. The bylaw approving the agreement was given first reading Dec. 7 and received no objections from the public, according to administration. Councillors Clint Froehlick and Dennis Stredulinsky’s motions for second reading and passage were carried unanimously. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Montreal general manager Marc Bergevin said he needed to be "100 per cent sure" he was ready to make the decision to fire longtime goaltending coach Stephane Waite. It turns out the reached that point during the second period of the Canadiens' 3-1 win over visiting Ottawa on Thursday night. The Canadiens announced shortly after the game that Waite, who had been with the club since 2013 and helped Carey Price reach elite goaltender status, would be replaced by Montreal scout and former NHL goalie Sean Burke. Bergevin, who said the move was made while the game was in progress, said the decision to fire Waite was the result of a years-long pattern in his goaltenders' play that he found troubling. "There was not one incident that happened," Bergevin said Wednesday in a video conference. "I thought about it thoroughly and 98 per cent is not good enough for me. I had to be 100 per cent sure it was the right decision for me and I came to that decision yesterday." The abrupt dismissal of Waite was another example of how quickly Bergevin is ready to make a move in a shortened NHL season with little room for error. Waite was fired a week after Bergevin replaced head coach Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme following a string of disappointing results. The last straw was a pair of road losses to the last-place Senators. After an impressive start to the season that saw the Canadiens briefly lead the North Division standings, Montreal has produced just three wins over its last 11 games to slide to fourth place. Part of the issue has been the play of Price, who has posted a pedestrian 6-4-3 record with a .296 goals-against average and an ugly .893 save percentage so far this season. "I've seen ups and downs. You guys saw it," Bergevin said. "Again, everybody goes through it, but it was a gut feeling I had and sometimes you have to trust your instincts. My instincts told me a change was needed." Bergevin said Price was not consulted on the change. The goaltender said Wednesday that he found the move "surprising." "I'm grateful for the time I spent with Steph," Price said. "He's been a hard-working, dedicated goalie coach, and I really appreciate all that hard work he's done with us. "Right now it's a quick turnaround. We don't have a lot of time to dwell on things, so it's about regrouping, getting the work done and start bonding quickly." Price added he expects to start getting to know Burke quickly, despite Burke having to finish a 14-day quarantine period due to COVID-19 protocols before joining the team. Bergevin said Burke will work with Montreal's goaltenders through videoconferencing while in quarantine. Tuesday's decision ends a largely productive relationship between Price and Waite that reached its zenith in 2014-15, when Price posted a 44-16-6 record with nine shutouts, a 1.96 GAA and a ,933 save percentage. He cleaned up at the 2015 NHL awards, winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP and the Vezina Trophy as top goaltender among other honours. While Price has had some excellent runs since then, his play has been mercurial over the past few seasons. He also struggled during the 2019-20 season before returning to top form when the league resumed after a months-long break due to COVID-19. Bergevin said he didn't notice any problems with the chemistry between Price and Waite. "There was no fight or argument, none of that," he said. "I think they had a good relationship. I make decisions for the organization, for the team, for the players. That's my job. And I take for responsibility for making that change." Despite Price's struggles, backup Jake Allen has found early success in his first season with Montreal with a 4-2-2 record, 2.12 GAA and .929 save percentage. Asked why Allen has played well and Price poorly under the same goaltending coach this season, Bergevin declined to get into specifics. "I go back to a pattern I saw occurring the past few years, so I felt it was necessary for me to make that change," he said. The Canadiens return to action Thursday with the first of two home games against the Winnipeg Jets. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Curtis Withers, The Canadian Press
The global technology services company Infosys plans to create 500 jobs in Calgary over the next three years as it ramps up its Canadian workforce. Infosys president Ravi Kumar made the pledge at a virtual news conference on Wednesday with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. "Calgary is a natural next step as part of our Canadian expansion and represents a significant and promising market for Infosys," Kumar said. "The city is home to a thriving pool of talent that the economic downturn of COVID-19 has impacted. We will tap into this talent and offer critical skills and opportunities that will build on the city's economic strengths." The company, which started in India and now has operations in 46 countries, provides digital services and consulting for clients in many industries, such as natural resources, energy, media, retail and communications. Infosys's head of global government and public affairs, Anurag Varma, who spoke from the company's office in Silicon Valley, said because he was born in Calgary and educated in Alberta he's confident that the expansion is a smart move. "It only gives me more pride that our global company is coming to a neighbourhood that I know very well, and I believe that this is going to be a match made in heaven," he said. Officials said the Calgary office will be in the core, but a location was not specified. The Calgary office currently has fewer than 10 employees, but the company has hired about 2,000 people in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver over the past two years. Officials say the plan is to double the Canadian workforce to 4,000 employees by 2023. Mary Moran, president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development, says the Infosys expansion could be a game-changer for the city. "We are embracing digital transformation in Calgary and Infosys can support companies on their digital journey as they address global challenges like cleaner energy, safe and secure food supplies, safer and more efficient transportation and logistics and better health solutions," she said. Infosys says it will hire tech grads from 14 educational institutions in Canada, including the University of Calgary, SAIT and the University of Alberta.
MONTREAL — Quebec provincial police say a man in his 50s is dead after the small plane he was flying crashed into a lake in Gore, northwest of Montreal. Provincial police spokesman Sgt. Stephane Tremblay says the man was the only person aboard the plane. He says witnesses who saw the crash, which took place around 8:30 a.m., called emergency services. The pilot was removed from the plane by the local fire department and transported to hospital, where he was declared dead. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada says it has sent a team of investigators to determine the cause of the crash of the Wag-Aero amateur-built aircraft. Tremblay says provincial police investigators are on the scene to determine whether any crimes were committed and the coroner's office is also investigating to determine the cause of the death. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. ——— This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship. The Canadian Press
FREDERICTON — Health officials in New Brunswick are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today. They involve two people in their 20s in the Fredericton region and both cases are travel-related, as well as a person in their 50s in the Miramichi region which is under investigation. Officials have identified a list of locations in Miramichi where there may have been public exposure, and a mass testing clinic will be held to determine if there has been any further spread in the area. The clinics will be held tomorrow and Friday at the gymnasium of the Dr. Losier Middle School. There are now 37 active cases in the province and three people are hospitalized, including two in intensive care. There have been 28 COVID-19-related deaths in the province since the onset of the pandemic. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
No one was harmed after a sour-gas leak on Range Road 92 near Township Road 704 south of Huallen Monday, said Matthew Smith, Wembley Fire Department chief. “There was a significant leak,” Smith said. “We’re glad it went the way it did, and no one was hurt or injured.” Smith said the department received a 911 call from a resident reporting “a dirty vapour or dirty cloud” near an oil-and-gas facility. When the firefighters arrived, they found several pickup trucks belonging to the energy company were on site and the leak had been stopped. Smith said he was unsure how long the leak lasted. The Wembley firefighters checked with residents living downwind from the incident. They reported smelling something funny but no one was ill, he said. Smith encouraged anyone who observes similar incidents related to oil-and-gas facilities to keep a distance and call 911. Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
Legislators in more than 20 states have introduced bills this year that would ban transgender girls from competing on girls’ sports teams in public high schools. Yet in almost every case, sponsors cannot cite a single instance in their own state or region where such participation has caused problems. The Associated Press reached out to two dozen state lawmakers sponsoring such measures around the country as well as the conservative groups supporting them and found only a few times it’s been an issue among the hundreds of thousands of American teenagers who play high school sports. In South Carolina, for example, Rep. Ashley Trantham said she knew of no transgender athletes competing in the state and was proposing a ban to prevent possible problems in the future. Otherwise, she said during a recent hearing, “the next generation of female athletes in South Carolina may not have a chance to excel." In Tennessee, House Speaker Cameron Sexton conceded there may not actually be transgender students now participating in middle and high school sports; he said a bill was necessary so the state could be “proactive.” Some lawmakers didn't respond to AP's queries. Others in places like Mississippi and Montana largely brushed aside the question or pointed to a pair of runners in Connecticut. Between 2017 and 2019, transgender sprinters Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood combined to win 15 championship races, prompting a lawsuit. Supporters of transgender rights say the Connecticut case gets so much attention from conservatives because it’s the only example of its kind. “It’s their Exhibit A, and there’s no Exhibit B -- absolutely none,” said Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a prominent trans-rights attorney. The multiple sports bills, he says, address a threat that doesn’t exist. There’s no authoritative count of how many trans athletes have competed recently in high school or college sports. Neither the NCAA nor most state high school athletic associations collect that data; in the states that do collect it, the numbers are minimal: No more than five students currently in Kansas, nine in Ohio over five years. Transgender adults make up a small portion of the U.S. population, about 1.3 million as of 2016, according to the Williams Institute, a think-tank at the UCLA School of Law that specializes in research on LGBTQ issues. The two dozen bills making their way through state legislatures this year could be devastating for transgender teens who usually get little attention as they compete. In Utah, a 12-year-old transgender girl cried when she heard about the proposal, which would separate her from her friends. She’s far from the tallest girl on her club team, and has worked hard to improve her times but is not a dominant swimmer in her age group, her coach said. “Other than body parts I’ve been a girl my whole life,” she said. The girl and her family spoke with The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to avoid outing her publicly. Those who object to the growing visibility and rights for transgender people, though, argue new laws are needed to keep the playing field fair for cisgender girls. “When the law does not recognize differences between men and women, we’ve seen that women lose,” said Christiana Holcomb, an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed the Connecticut lawsuit on behalf of four cisgender girls. One of those girls, Chelsea Mitchell, defeated Terry Miller -- the faster of the two trans sprinters -- in their final two races in February 2020 The ADF and others like it are the behind-the-scenes backers of the campaign, offering model legislation and a playbook to promote the bills most of them with common features and even titles, like the Save Women’s Sports Act. When asked for other examples of complaints about middle or high school transgender athletes, ADF and the Family Policy Alliance, cited two: One involved a Hawaii woman who coaches track and filed a complaint last year over a trans girl competing in girls’ volleyball and track. The other involved a cisgender girl in Alaska who defeated a trans sprinter in 2016, then appeared in a Family Policy Alliance video saying the trans girl’s third-place finish was unfair to runners who were further behind. Only one state, Idaho, has enacted a law curtailing trans students’ sports participation, and that 2020 measure is blocked by a court ruling. Chase Strangio, a transgender-rights attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, notes that in several states with proposed sports bans, lawmakers also are seeking to ban certain gender affirming health care for transgender young people “This is not about sports,” he said. ”It’s a way to attack trans people.” Some states' school athletic organizations already have rules about trans participation in sports: 19 states allow full inclusion of trans athletes; 16 have no clear-cut statewide policy; seven emulate the NCAA's rule by requiring hormone therapy for trans girls; and eight effectively ban trans girls from girls’ teams, according to attorney Asaf Orr of the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Texas is among those with a ban, limiting transgender athletes to teams conforming with the gender on their birth certificate. That policy came under criticism in 2017 and 2018, when trans male Mack Beggs won state titles in girls’ wrestling competitions after he was told he could not compete as a boy. While Beggs, Miller and Yearwood were the focus of news coverage and controversy, trans athletes more commonly compete without any furor -- and with broad acceptance from teammates and competitors. In New Jersey’s Sussex County, trans 14-year-old Rebekah Bruesehoff competes on her middle school field hockey team and hopes to keep playing in high school. "It’s all been positive,” she said. “The coaches have been really helpful.” While New Jersey has a trans-inclusive sports policy, Rebekah is distressed by the proposed bans elsewhere – notably measures that might require girls to verify their gender. “I know what it’s like to have my gender questioned,” Rebekah said. “It’s invasive, embarrassing. I don’t want others to go through that.” The possibility that any athlete could have to undergo tests or examinations to prove their gender was among the reasons that Truman Hamburger, a 17-year-old high school student in North Dakota, showed up at the statehouse to protest a proposed ban. “Once you open up that door on gender policing, that’s not a door you can easily shut,” he said. Sarah Huckman, a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, ran track and cross country for three years at Kingswood Regional High School in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, after coming out as trans in 7th grade. Huckman showed great talent in the sprints and hurdles, but was not dominant on a statewide level. In her senior year, she won several events in small and mid-size meets, and had 6th place and 10th place finishes in the Division II indoor state championships. The proposed bans appall her. “It’s so demeaning toward my group of people,” she said. “We’re all human beings. We do sports for the love of it.” ___ Associated Press reporters covering statehouses across the U.S. contributed to this report. David Crary And Lindsay Whitehurst, The Associated Press
The COVID-19 pandemic has elicited strong emotional reactions across the globe, and a St. John’s author and her extended family are using poetry to bottle and preserve those emotions. Though written in verse, Lillian Bouzane said the collection of poems is as much a historical documentation of the early days of the pandemic as it is a book of art. “I imagine that a hundred years down the road, some graduate student is writing about the pandemic of 2019 and 2020 (or however long it lasts,) and comes across this book of poetry, or the manuscript of poetry, which I have every intention of putting in the archives, and what they get is a picture of the beginning of the pandemic, when very few people, including the doctors and scientists, knew what to do about it,” said Bouzane. “So, I see it more as a historical document written in verse.” The poems, written by siblings, children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and spouses, reflect a wide range of emotions, emotions that we’ve all felt at some point during the pandemic: anguish, fear, boredom, uncertainty, contentment, bravado, and joy. One poem paints a picture of planting gardens and snaring rabbits during isolation, while another highlights the heartache of grandparents who are not able to properly visit growing grandchildren. The poems, written by everyday folk who would never style themselves as ‘poets’, portray how folks felt in all the moments, little and big, of unprecedented times. Bouzane, herself the author of In The Times of Wolves, a suite of poems on the Mount Cashel crimes, and the novel In The Hands of the Living God, which was long listed for the International IMPACT Dublin Literary Award in 2000, said that creativity provides an emotional lift, especially during times such as these. “The joy of writing the poems makes you feel good,” said Bouzne. “To write a poem, as one person said, makes you feel as if you’ve had a glass of wine… I heard on the radio that somebody has composed a song to Janice Fitzgerald, the Chief Medical Officer.” Bouzane said she was ‘surprised by joy,’ a line borrowed from poet William Wordsworth that expresses the feeling of being caught off guard by a sudden burst of joy in a dark moment, when her family embraced her suggestion to write and publish the collection. “I was so surprised by all of the members of the family who were writing poems,” said Bouzane. “I thought, ‘Am I going to get 30? Am I going to get 20? Am I going to get any at all?’ And I got 75.’” The collection, the cover of which is a photo of The Rower statue at Quidi Vidi Lake adorning a facemask, is available as an eBook from Amazon at $3.94. Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News
OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau signalled Wednesday that Canada will stand up for an Ottawa sociology professor facing trial in France as human-rights advocates renewed calls for the Liberal government to intervene. The prime minister's words left Hassan Diab's supporters wishing Trudeau had been more forceful in pledging assistance. In late January, France ordered Diab to stand trial for a decades-old synagogue bombing, a move his lawyer called the latest misstep in a long odyssey of injustice. The Canadian government has been communicating with officials in France about the case and will continue to do so, Trudeau said during a news briefing Wednesday. "It has been a priority for us to make sure that we're standing up for our citizens all around the world, with countries that are challenging, but also with our allies," he said. "And those conversations will continue." Canadians would rightly expect their prime minister and government to stand up for a falsely accused citizen, said Donald Bayne, Diab's Ottawa lawyer. "But what does that ambiguous phrase mean?" Born in Lebanon, Diab became a Canadian citizen in 1993, working in Ottawa as a university teacher. The RCMP arrested him in November 2008 in response to a request by France. French authorities suspected Diab was involved in the 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four people and injured dozens of others, an accusation he has consistently denied. After lengthy proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, Diab was extradited to France, where he spent three years behind bars, including time in solitary confinement. In January 2018, French judges dismissed the allegations against him for lack of evidence and ordered his immediate release. Trudeau said later that year that what Diab went through "never should have happened." Diab's supporters have long argued he was in Beirut — not Paris — when the attack took place and that his fingerprints, palm prints, physical description and age did not match those of the suspect identified in 1980. Earlier this year, Bayne called the French move to have Diab stand trial "a travesty of justice," saying the latest analysis of handwriting evidence in the case makes the argument for pursuing his client even weaker. Diab, 67, is now back with his wife and young children in Ottawa as his lawyers in France appeal the latest decision. Alex Neve, former secretary-general of Amnesty International Canada, said in January it is "cruel and baffling" that French authorities continue to suspect Diab. Neve said the Canadian government must become involved at the highest political levels and not simply stand aside on the grounds that justice must be allowed to run its course. Justin Mohammed, a human rights law and policy campaigner with Amnesty Canada, said Wednesday the organization was encouraged by Trudeau's remarks but stressed that Canada must not co-operate with extradition requests that prolong Diab's ordeal. "It would be unconscionable to return him to face trial in France given the way his case has proceeded.” The Ottawa-based International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group has called on Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau to intervene with their French counterparts "to put a stop to this endless, Kafkaesque affair." The group, which represents dozens of civil-society voices, also wants the prime minister to commit to not extraditing Diab to France a second time. It also says Canada must reform its extradition laws to ensure no one else is forced to go through what Diab has endured. Tim McSorley the group's national co-ordinator, said Wednesday that while the prime minister's words were encouraging, Trudeau missed an opportunity to "clearly and publicly denounce the ongoing miscarriage of justice being faced by Hassan Diab." Early last year, Diab filed a lawsuit accusing the Canadian government of negligent investigation and malicious prosecution, saying federal officials violated his constitutional guarantees of freedom of movement, liberty and security of the person. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press
After Mateo Perusse-Shortte, experienced racism while playing his sport, he and his mom decided to plan a hockey diversity group in Quebec.
TORONTO — Canadian auto sales in February were down nearly 10 per cent compared with February 2020, the last full month before the lockdowns began due to the COVID-19 pandemic.According to estimates compiled by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants, auto sales last month totalled 112,654 units, down from the 125,059 units of February 2020.Despite some lifting of pandemic restrictions, much of the country was still in various degrees of lockdown in February, DesRosiers said on Wednesday. These, combined with microchip supply chain disruptions, led to a drop in light vehicle sales, the firm said.Canadian light vehicle production was already down to its lowest levels since 1982 in 2020, the consulting firm noted in a separate report last month. COVID-19 was a factor, but Canada also lost ground to the U.S. and Mexico last year, DesRosiers Automotive Consultants managing partner Andrew King said in that report.The supply chain of autos has been further strained by a worldwide computer chip shortage. General Motors said its CAMI plant in Ontario would be idle for at least a week this spring amid the chip shortage, and a Brampton, Ont. Stellantis plant was down in January. Canadian auto parts maker Magna International Inc. recently said it is hoping that production can catch up from the chip shortage by the end of this year.The move of buyers away from cars towards the light truck market also continued last month, DesRosiers said. Light trucks accounted for 83.5 per cent of the market in February compared with 78.9 per cent a year ago.The relative popularity of trucks is an ongoing trend has also been noted by Statistics Canada. The agency said that while sales of light trucks, heavy trucks and buses were down four per cent in November from the year prior, passenger car sales fell 20.5 per cent that month.This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
Kenn Clark and his partner haven't been able to see his mother-in-law, Hilda Frisky, since last October. He's worried about the 84-year-old's mental health. "She was buried in a dark place for quite a while," Clark said. "She wouldn't come out of her room, she wouldn't go eat, she wouldn't do any activities. And some of the talk that we were receiving in conversations with her was very not warm and fuzzy." Frisky is a resident of Arborfield Special Care Lodge. As in all care homes in the province, visitation has been severely limited at the home in Arborfield — a town about 230 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon — since mid-November because of the risk of spreading COVID-19. "We are working with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and constantly monitoring the situation, but at this time no date has been set for changing this policy," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health said this week. On Tuesday, Premier Scott Moe signalled the rules on household gatherings might be relaxed soon but said nothing about long-term care homes. Clark says health officials should allow masked visitors — especially now that 91 per cent of Saskatchewan long-term care residents have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 53 per cent have received both doses. "My mom and dad both passed away years ago," Clark said. "I couldn't imagine not being able to go see them. A year in the life of my mother-in-law at this age is like 10 years in our lives." But there are several reasons why health officials may remain reluctant to open the doors again, according to Cory Neudorf, a professor of community health and epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. Here are four of them. 1. Some residents have refused vaccines Doses were offered to all long-term care residents, but an unknown number of them declined the vaccines, according to the ministry. On Tuesday, the ministry said nine per cent of residents didn't receive vaccines either because they refused them, weren't available to take them or had "a change in health status." The ministry did not provide a breakdown of those categories. On Wednesday, the health authority said it does not track its vaccine data to that level of detail. Allowing visits in long-term care homes again depends, in part, on the number of people immunized in each home, Neudorf said. "Do they have a large enough percentage of people immunized to reach some true herd immunity?" he said. "Then secondly, how do you protect those people who've chosen not to be immunized?" Clark said vaccine refusers shouldn't be holding up the line of visitors. "If someone wants to refuse it then, I'm sorry, they shouldn't get the same consideration," Clark said. "I don't want my mother-in-law in a place [where] one person is obstinate and won't take it [and] we can't go visit because of that one person. That's baloney." 2. Not all residents have received 2 doses The efficacy for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines jumps from the "low 90s" after 14 days for people who have had one dose to 94 or 95 per cent for people who have had two, according to Dr. Tania Diener, the Saskatchewan Health Authority's lead medical health officer for immunization. Neudorf said the province has done a good job of getting at least one dose into a large percentage of seniors. "But we're still getting the second dose in," he said. Clark said residents who have received two doses should be allowed to receive visitors. "Let them have their family come visit. Why can't they do that?" 3. There are still some unknowns about vaccines While early vaccination results are encouraging, COVID-19 has re-entered some facilities where people were immunized, Neudorf said. There's also the potential for immunized people to still pass on the virus to others, he added. "The early results seem to show that, yes, they're still shedding virus, but not as much as if they were un-immunized," Neudorf said. "That's good news. But it's still something we need to watch for. "You could end up with people who have been immunized but inadvertently are still capable of spreading the virus to others. That will become less and less of an issue most of the population gets immunized." 4. Risks from staff traffic, community spread, variants The immunization rate of other people going into long-term care homes is also key, Neudorf said. "Staff of long-term care and places caring for COVID-19 patients have been prioritized for immunization, but it's not mandatory," Neudorf said. "So it depends on what coverage rate we are getting and what is the rate of COVID in the community itself. That affects the likelihood that a staff member might end up inadvertently introducing it." In mid-January, early in the first phase of Saskatchewan's vaccine rollout, the province said only a small percentage of health-care workers were declining the vaccine. The SHA said Wednesday it did not have an up-to-date breakdown. "Although COVID vaccinations are strongly encouraged for everyone, they are not mandatory. Note that once you become eligible, you are always eligible and vaccination rates may yet change," an SHA spokesperson said. Neudorf said the province's recently announced plan to broaden its use of rapid testing could bolster the case for visitations in long-term care homes, but the province still needs to remain cautious in light of variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, some of which are more transmissible. "We could very easily see a third wave of COVID strike very rapidly in this province within March and April. And that throws all these other plans out the window." Clark says his mother-in-law's spirits have lifted now that one visitor (a different family member) has been allowed to visit her at Arborfield Special Care Lodge. But he says the uncertainty around allowing wider visitation is becoming increasingly tough to accept. "You can't keep telling seniors that for … six, seven, eight months and expect them to keep swallowing it," he said.
(ANNews) - On Saturday Feb. 20, hundreds of people gathered at the Alberta Legislature to protest COVID-19 restrictions, but the rally raised concerns over racism in the province. A similar "anti-lockdown" rally was held in Calgary on Feb. 27. Both rallies included people holding lit tiki torches as they marched through the streets. Although the rallies were attended and organized by members of known hate groups, Edmonton’s police chief says the department doesn’t have evidence of racist intent behind the use of tiki torches at the rallies. On March 2, Chief Dale McFee said that the EPS doesn't condone tiki torches but "some people didn’t know why they were carrying them at the legislature." He added that if the real intent of the torches was racist, he'd like to see the evidence. Premier Jason Kenney, Mayor Don Iveson, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, former Premier Rachel Notley and MLA David Shepherd are among those who condemned the rallies as having racist intent. Mayor Nenshi stated that there is “no lockdown to protest in Alberta, schools are open, restaurants are open… It’s been clear for some time that the regular demonstrations against pandemic public health measures are also a vehicle for spreading hate. “When we see people advertising these marches using pictures from Charlottesville, we know what that means. We know who that’s meant to intimidate,” he said. “And I will tell you right now, as a person of colour in this city, I will never be intimidated by that.” Regarding the suggestion that marchers were using the tiki torches for purposes other than hatred, Nenshi tweeted, “It's not for light, it's not for heat – don’t be ridiculous.” "What are those torches used for?" he added. "They're used to light crosses on fire. This is disgusting behaviour and frankly we need to denounce it and we need to denounce strongly." I don't accept this, tweeted Notley, about the suggested naiveté of the torch bearers."These marches have been advertised using images from the racist, hate-filled Charlottesville march. There is a long history of racist hate groups using torches to intimidate, going back to the Nazis and the KKK." The convoy, which was organized by the “Walk for Freedom Alberta” group, began in Lethbridge and travelled up North through Calgary and Red Deer before arriving in Edmonton. The group claims to stand up for rights and freedoms and “peacefully promote breaches to civil liberties across Alberta.” Saturday morning before the convoy gathered, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson released a statement, saying “COVID-19 is not a joke nor a hoax.” “We are in the middle of a global public health crisis,” Iveson said. “Wearing a mask and following other public health measures keeps people safe and saves lives.” Iveson also said he had been “made aware” that some of the organizers “may be associated with known hate groups.” “Edmonton unequivocally condemns racism, misogyny and other forms of hate — such speech is not welcome in our community,” said Iveson. The protest was attended by those who organized it, as well as other groups. Concerns about racism were raised after some of the attendees started carrying lit tiki torches during their “walk for freedom.” The tiki torch is a symbol that is historically linked with white-supremacists such as the KKK and was recently used by white-supremacists chanting racist rants at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. On Monday Feb. 22, Premier Jason Kenney released a statement which condemned the event’s connection to hate groups. “Albertans value the constitutionally protected freedoms of speech and assembly. This weekend, protesters gathered at the Alberta Legislature to oppose our government’s public health measures that are in place to protect the vulnerable, and our hospitals, from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kenney stated. “I understand that publicity for this event incorporated an image apparently taken from the notorious 2017 Charlottesville torch rally, which was an explicitly white supremacist event. “Prominent racists promoted Saturday’s protest at the legislature, and individuals attended the event from known hate groups like the ‘Soldiers of Odin’ and ‘Urban Infidels.’ I condemn these voices of bigotry in the strongest possible terms. “Albertans believe in the dignity of every human being and have no time for these voices of division and hate, or the symbols that they represent.” Kenney then went on to say that there were likely people with varying views at the protest, mentioning some who came only because they were opposed to the public health restrictions. “Like any large public protest, there was likely a range of perspectives and motivations amongst those who attended. There is no doubt that some people came just to register their opposition to public health measures, which is their democratic right.” “But these people also have a responsibility to disassociate themselves from the extremists who peddle hatred and division, and who played a role in this event,” Kenney said. David Shepherd, MLA Edmonton City Centre, also released a statement, “I'm saddened. I'm frustrated. I'm angry.” “It's clear it was not a march about freedom. It was about anger, hatred and fear.” “As others have ably explained, the symbol of crowds marching with torches has a long-standing history of threat towards racial minorities as clearly demonstrated by the white supremacist hate rally in Charlottesville in 2017, which was included on this event's poster,” said Shepherd. EPS Chief Mcfee reiterated that the rally / protest was “largely peaceful” even though four police officers were assaulted during the protest after attempting to conduct an arrest. No officers were injured; however, Edmonton police are looking at protest footage in order to identify the culprits. Sgt. Mike Elliot, president of the Edmonton Police Association, said “Right now we’re reviewing video footage to identify the suspect or suspects involved in this.” “Usually, it’s best to try and identify and then contact that person later instead of in a heated, dynamic situation.” Before the Feb. 27 protest in Calgary, police chief Const. Mark Neufeld assured there would be a large police presence. “The vast majority of these events pass uneventfully with the members of our service working with groups of all sorts to facilitate the expression of constitutional rights in a way that is not only safe but in a way that minimizes the impact on the public and the broader community,” said Neufeld. Irfan Chaudhry, director of the office of human rights, diversity and equity at MacEwan University, told the Edmonton Journal that downplaying the significance of racist symbols is “disheartening.” “Symbols are power in right-wing extremism, and the power in itself is by being able to deny that it’s connected to any type of … hateful ideology,” he said. “Acknowledging the impact that the symbols have on communities of colour — whether or not there’s enough evidence to proceed with any charges, I think that’s another consideration — but it’s that support for the community that I think is missing.” Jacob Cardinal is an LJI reporter for Alberta Native News. Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alberta Native News
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Newfoundland and Labrador is extending the interval between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to four months. Public health officials said Wednesday the change will help them vaccinate 40,000 more people with a single dose by the end of March. Liberal Leader and incumbent Premier Andrew Furey says the decision is a game changer for the province's vaccination prospects. British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry raised eyebrows Monday when she announced her province will delay the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to four months. Henry said Monday she expected the National Advisory Committee on Immunization to issue a statement in the coming days aligning with B.C.'s decision. Health officials in Newfoundland and Labrador are reporting three new cases of COVID-19 today and say all are linked to previously reported infections. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press