A Valentine's Day themed art in a snowbank, complete with food-colouring paint.
A Valentine's Day themed art in a snowbank, complete with food-colouring paint.
(NASA/JPL-Caltech - image credit) When the Perseverance rover successfully landed on Mars last month, it arrived with a B.C.-made tool in its figurative tool belt. The six-wheeled, plutonium-powered U.S. rover landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, with a mandate to drill down and collect tiny geological specimens that will be returned to NASA in about 2031. That drilling will be done using a drill bit tip designed and manufactured by a company based in Langford, B.C. "It has great wear and fraction resistance so it is perfect for a Mars application," said Ron Sivorat, business director for Kennametal Inc., during an interview on CBC's All Points West. The drill bit tip is made from K92-grade tungsten carbide blanks, which Sivorat said are one of the toughest grades used for drilling here on earth and he is confident it will be good enough for Mars. According to Sivorat, the company has had a relationship with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory since 2014, when the space agency first began ordering and testing Kennametal Inc. drill bit tips. In 2018, the company learned NASA wanted to work with it to build a bit for Perseverance. Sivorat said staff built the drill bit to NASA's specifications and then sent it to the agency who finessed it somewhat for its Mars mission. When Perseverance landed safely on the fourth planet from the sun, it was an exciting moment for Kennametal Inc. employees, many of whom watched the landing online and are continuing to check on Perservance's daily progress updates. "We know that we are going to be part of, in one way or another, an historical event that will be remembered for many years to come," said Sivorat. Sivorat said he expects the drill bit built in B.C. to start penetrating the surface of Mars in the next couple of weeks. And B.C. is not the only Canadian province with a connection to Perseverance. Canadian Photonic Labs, based in Minnedosa, Man., manufactured a high-speed and highly-durable camera that played an instrumental role in landing the rover. The Manitoba company's relationship with NASA dates back roughly 15 years, he said — but much of the work that's happened in that time has been cloaked in secrecy.
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials began expanding access to COVID-19 vaccines on Feb. 22, opening community clinics for people aged 80 years and older. Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, has said the province's plan is to open another 10 clinics in March for 48,000 people who will be mailed a letter informing them how to book an appointment. Strang said the vaccination program will then expand to the next age group in descending order until everyone in the province is offered the chance to be immunized. The age groups will proceed in five-year blocks. Future community clinics are to be held March 8 in Halifax, New Minas, Sydney and Truro; March 15 in Antigonish, Halifax and Yarmouth; and March 22 in Amherst, Bridgewater and Dartmouth. The province began its vaccination campaign with residents of long-term care homes, those who work directly with patients, those who are 80 and older, and those who are at risk for other reasons including First Nations and African Nova Scotian communities. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island The province says the first phase of its vaccination drive, currently slated to last until the end of March, targets residents and staff of long-term and community care, as well as health-care workers with direct patient contact at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure. Those 80 and older, adults in Indigenous communities, and truck drivers and other rotational workers are also included. The next phase, which is scheduled to begin in April, will target those above 70 and essential workers. The province intends to make the vaccine available to everyone in late summer and fall. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors on Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. The province says the vaccination of children and pregnant women will be determined based on future studies of vaccine safety and efficacy in those populations. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry also says first responders and essential workers may be eligible to get vaccinated starting in April as the province also decides on a strategy for the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. The Canadian Press
Sorry kids, but an education expert says a snow day might not be enough to get you out of that test in the era of online learning. Heavy snowfall disrupted the reopening of schools in three COVID-19 hot spots in the Toronto area Tuesday. Public and Catholic school boards in Peel and York Regions cancelled in-person classes because of the inclement weather, but they said virtual learning would continue, snow or shine. Meanwhile, the Toronto District and Toronto Catholic District school boards decided to move ahead with reopening, but forced students to make their own way to class after cancelling transportation services. Paul Bennett, director of Schoolhouse Consulting, says the COVID-19 pandemic has served as a lesson about the need for learning to continue even when students can't make it to class. "It's time to say goodbye to snow days, once and for all," Bennett said by phone from Halifax. "We need to be using all the knowledge we've gained through adjusting to COVID-19 and put it to good use.' Bennett said Canadian schoolchildren are suffering from the "COVID slide," which he characterized as the greatest learning loss in recent history. But the crisis has also forced school authorities to adopt a variety of remote learning techniques that allow kids to carry on with their studies during periods of mass disruption, he said. "There has been a steep learning curve for teachers, parents and students. And they're now much more accustomed to performing online," Bennett said. "There's no rationale any longer for cancelling school because of inclement weather." In recent years, school boards in some regions seem to have become more inclined to cancel classes at the first sign of bad weather, particularly in the storm-prone Maritime provinces, he said. Bennett said the rise of snow days has not only cost students valuable class time, but also hurts working parents' productivity. While he appreciates that snow days are a childhood "rite of passage," Bennett said these surprise days of winter fun should be as special as they are scarce. "I love snow days as much as any kid going to school," he said. "But as soon as you're losing a week or two weeks (of school), as is the case in some jurisdictions across Canada ... there is a legitimate case to be made that there's significant learning loss." One Ontario school board is trying a new approach in responding to severe weather. The superintendent of the Waterloo Region District School Board said Tuesday marked the district's second "weather-impacted distance learning day," allowing virtual studies to continue through school and bus closures. Scott Miller said in previous years, students were still expected to attend school when transportation services were suspended on account of snow. But that's changed under the school board's new COVID-19 snow day policy, shifting all learning to the online sphere. Because not all students have access to devices, these modified snow days will be used to review what they've learned rather than teaching new concepts, said Miller. When normal studies can safely resume, he said, the school board is considering offering a hybrid of online and in-person learning so students can keep up with their studies regardless of whether buses are running, he said. "Students do look at snow days with exuberance. Or did in the past, certainly, as they saw it as a day that they didn't have to necessarily engage in school," said Miller. "This year, (we're) ... really taking advantage of some of the experiences so that we are learning through what has been an incredibly difficult time." Krista Harquail, a mother of two in York Region, said she welcomes the shift toward online learning as a way to ensure that students, staff and parents alike stay safe rather than risk driving to school in subpar conditions. She recognizes that snow days put pressure on parents who don't have the option of working from home. But if kids are going to be home regardless, they may as well be learning something, Harquail said. "Perhaps this is a step to make education better in the long run," she said. "No one's really falling behind." Harquail added that parents still have the option of pulling their children out of class if they want to make the most of the powder for seasonal pastimes, such as snowball fights and tobogganing. Still, she said her kids were disappointed to learn that they wouldn't be going back to class Tuesday. "I think this one hit a little bit differently than normal snow days," said Harquail. "(My daughter) almost started crying today. Because she's like, 'Oh, I thought I was going to go back to school and see my friends.'" This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021. Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — "Never Have I Ever" star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan is among the Canadians on Time magazine's 100 Next list. Comedy star Mindy Kaling, who co-created Netflix's "Never Have I Ever," wrote the profile of the Tamil-Canadian teen in the newly released issue. Ramakrishnan is from Mississauga, Ont., and plays the leading role of a first-generation Indian-American dealing with the death of her father and the hormone-fuelled challenges of adolescence. The 19-year-old auditioned for the part in the coming-of-age comedy series after seeing an open casting call Kaling had posted on social media. Ramakrishnan beat out some 15,000 auditioners and recently got an Independent Spirit Award nomination for her performance. Also on the Time 100 Next list is Canadian-raised Apoorva Mehta, founder and CEO of grocery delivery company Instacart, and climate journalist Julian Brave NoiseCat, whose website says he is a member of the Canim Lake Band Tsq’escen and a descendant of the Lil'Wat Nation of Mount Currie in British Columbia. Ramakrishnan made the "Phenoms" section of the list, which is an expansion of the magazine's flagship Time 100 franchise that highlights emerging leaders. The profiles are written by Time 100 alumni. Kaling wrote that Ramakrishnan is a "gifted comic actress" who "has an activist's heart and wants to use her platform to help others." "What’s most extraordinary about Maitreyi is that when you’re with her, you think you’re simply talking to a cool, smart teenager, but later, when you see her work onscreen, you realize you were actually interacting with a great artist at the beginning of her journey," Kaling wrote. "Thank you for seeing me as I am," Ramakrishnan tweeted to Kaling after the list was revealed Wednesday. In a video on the Time website, Ramakrishnan says she feels "a sense of responsibility to take strong roles that have actual character and story to them." "All genres are great, but it just matters about the actual character depth and what the project is trying to say to audiences." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 17, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
The number of new coronavirus infections globally rose last week for the first time in seven weeks, the World Health Organization said on Monday. "We need to have a stern warning for all of us: that this virus will rebound if we let it," Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO technical lead for COVID-19, told a briefing. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the rise in cases was "disappointing but not surprising" and urged countries not to relax measures to fight the disease.
VANCOUVER — A former hotel on the Vancouver's eastside has been purchased to create about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. The City of Vancouver, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. and the federal government say the former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November. Ahmed Hussen, the minister of families, children and social development, has also announced a separate $51.5 million plan to create 135 new affordable homes. Hussen says in a news release that the program will quickly provide homes for vulnerable people to keep them safe. The Canadian Press
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) Public health officials in Windsor-Essex are working on a plan to soon vaccinate people experiencing homelessness, the region's medical officer of health said Monday. The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is in conversation with the province and is working on a process to get the population their COVID-19 shots. "We hope to start vaccination later this week for that population group," Dr. Wajid Ahmed said at a media briefing on Monday. The rollout will come amid two COVID-19 outbreaks at two shelters, the Downtown Mission and the Salvation Army, that were declared several weeks ago. There were 115 cases associated with the outbreaks as of last week. The City of Windsor opened up an emergency shelter on Thursday to house those affected. People experiencing homelessness were not initially included in the first phase of Ontario's vaccination plan, which aims to prioritize those most vulnerable to the virus while supplies are extremely limited. Officials with the City of Toronto, which recently announced plans to vaccinate its homeless population, said the province has modified the framework so that people who are without housing can be vaccinated under Phase 1. Vaccine clinic opens up WECHU opened its vaccination clinic for seniors 80 and older on Monday morning. According to CEO Theresa Marenette, 11,300 eligible people have signed up to receive their shots so far, and about 148 appointments are scheduled for Monday. "It's pretty amazing to see our over 80-plus seniors coming into the centre," she said, adding that many would have been home for most of the pandemic. Those who got appointments were selected randomly and contacted by the health unit. Some couldn't believe they had been picked, Marenette said. "[Staff] said that some people did cry on the phone," she said. "They were really excited."
Rural provincial advocates say provincial cuts to municipal funding detailed in the recent budget could be the final straw for some small communities. On Feb. 25, the Alberta provincial government released their annual budget, which prioritizes healthcare and jobs, while delivering a cut to municipal infrastructure funding by 25 per cent for the next three years. That budget shows $1.2 billion in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) dollars coming to municipalities across the province this year, $200 million more than was given out last year. MSI is a major source of provincial funding for Alberta’s municipalities, especially on the capital project side. However, the following two years will deliver cuts to the pot with municipalities having to share $485 million in 2022-23 and 2023-24, a 44 per cent decrease from the amount municipalities were expecting to receive. For each of those years, the province is putting an additional $375 million in a new pot of money it will invest in strategic capital projects, called the Economic Recovery Capital Envelope. Paul McLauchlin, president of the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), said rural communities are already owed $245 million in unpaid oil and gas property taxes from the industry. An additional cut to their MSI funding will mean some communities may have to hand in the keys. “The viability question starts to become very real,” McLauchlin said. Several municipalities have completely burned through their reserves paying for losses from unpaid oil and gas taxes instead of using the savings account for infrastructure projects, like replacing roads and bridges, he said. Rural communities were already faced with having to pay partly for policing services, a new cost dished out to them two years ago, which further strains their budgets. Oil and gas companies can also make up a big portion of some rural municipal budgets, so when the industry struggles, these communities have fewer tax dollars to collect. “We might see a spike in oil and gas prices when people get back to work, but we're going to see peak prices in 2025,” McLauchlin said. For McLauchlin, in his community of Ponoka County where he serves as reeve, some 70 per cent of their tax base is made up of oil and gas companies. Many rural municipalities with a few thousand residents just don’t have the tax base to make up for the shortfall. Those communities rely on grants, like MSI, to keep the lights on in the community, he said. A hit to that funding on top of an already strained local budget could be the final blow to some rural municipalities hovering on the brink. “They don't have the critical mass or the tax base to weather decreases in funding,” McLauchlin said. “If you had the unpaid taxes dealt with, you wouldn't have the distress.” Associate Minister of Natural Gas Dale Nally said the best thing the province can do to deal with unpaid taxes is to help the oil and gas industry get back on its feet. "(Unpaid oil and gas taxes) comes down to the fact that our oil and gas industry has just been battered over the last few years," Nally said. "We've got to get that economy going, we've got to create an environment where oil and gas companies can continue to hire Albertans, pay their municipal taxes and contribute to the economy in a meaningful way. And I'm confident that things look positive for that industry," Nally said. Diversification is key for rural municipalities to move forward, and time is of the essence, McLaughlin said. Rural communities need to make a plan for how to navigate the next decade. “I think reliance on one commodity as a rural municipal leader is fraught with disaster,” he said. “If we follow this path, we're going to get into an existential crisis as it relates to rural municipalities.” Considering the role cities play in getting people back to work and oil products to market, McLauchlin said he is disappointed municipalities took such a big hit in the provincial budget. But McLauchlin said he is optimistic for the future given the province's plan to diversify Alberta's economy. According to the budget, the province will invest $1.5 billion over four years into key economic sectors to build Alberta’s economy and create jobs. The diversification of natural gas, investment in hydrogen, value-added agriculture, electrification of transportation and broadband are all low-hanging fruit, McLauchlin said. The provincial government has shown they have an interest in energy diversification, and he said he is hopeful the coming year will see new initiatives across Alberta. “There is a lot of intellectual energy and innovation in this province,” McLauchlin said. While municipal funding delivered a blow to local governments, the budget wasn’t all bad news for rural communities. The Family and Community Support Services programs – which provide a slew of social support services to communities – didn’t get slashed, and McLauchlin said those offices are important hubs for rural centres. “Those are really a critical piece of the social hub in rural municipalities,” he said, adding libraries also maintained funding levels, which serve as key community centres. Agriculture service boards also maintained their funding, which work to serve different purposes including advocacy, education, weed inspections and pest control, McLauchlin said. The province will also be dishing out the administrative costs of running the upcoming referendum on equalization at the same time as the municipal election. Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has eased slightly more restrictions tied to COVID-19. Libraries can now open at 15 per cent capacity and gyms can now host indoors low-impact group activities, like Pilates and tai chi. Kenney had been expected to ease rules in other areas, such as retail capacity and hotels, but he says the COVID numbers have hit a plateau and they need more time to assess just to be safe.
(Robert Short/CBC - image credit) Nova Scotia reported one new COVID-19 case Monday, with 35 active cases in the province. The case is in central zone and is a close contact of a previously reported case. Two people are hospitalized and both are in intensive care. Nova Scotia completed 3,931 COVID-19 tests on Sunday. As of Sunday, the province has given 32,856 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Of those, 12,845 Nova Scotians have received their second dose. Nova Scotia Health is holding asymptomatic rapid testing at the following locations: Monday, March 1 at the Halifax Convention Centre, Argyle Street entrance, from 3:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and at Halifax Central Library in Paul O'Regan Hall, from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 2 at the Halifax Central Library in Paul O'Regan Hall, from 12 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Drop-in testing available Monday March 1 and Tuesday March 2 at the Royal Canadian Legion Calais Branch 162, 45 Sackville Cross Rd, Lower Sackville from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Avoid non-essential travel Premier Iain Rankin warned against complacency because of the low number of new cases. "A record number of Nova Scotians took advantage of COVID-19 testing over the weekend. Thank you for that," said Rankin. "It's a great response, but it doesn't mean we can let down our guard. Testing is just one part of our multi-layer response to the virus. So, continue to follow all the public health measures, including keeping your social circles small and consistent." On Friday, Rankin and Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, asked Nova Scotians to avoid non-essential travel within the province and elsewhere, especially to and from restricted areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Hants County and Lunenburg County. The following restrictions came into effect 8 a.m. Saturday for the Halifax Regional Municipality, up to and including Porters Lake, as well as Enfield, Elmsdale, Mount Uniacke and Hubbards: Residents in long-term care homes may only have visits from designated caregivers or volunteers, and can only leave for medical appointments or for a drive. Restaurants and bars must stop serving food and drink by 9 p.m. and must close by 10 p.m. Sports games and events, as well as arts and culture events and festivals will no longer be permitted, but sports practices and arts and culture rehearsals can continue with a limit of 25 people participating. Faith gatherings can have 150 people outdoors, or 50 per cent capacity to a maximum of 100 people indoors. Weddings and funerals are permitted to have 10 people but no receptions are permitted. Business and organized club meetings and training may have 25 people with physical distancing, except where emergency responders need to be closer for training. There can be no more than 25 people involved in a virtual performance, including performers and people managing the live stream. The restrictions will be in place until at least March 26. Current restrictions across the province will remain in place including restricting gatherings in homes to 10 and reduced retail, mall and fitness facility capacities. The province also announced new testing requirements starting last week for domestic rotational workers and specialized workers, as well as for parents and children whose child custody arrangements see them travelling outside of Nova Scotia or P.E.I. Atlantic Canada case numbers MORE TOP STORIES
TORONTO — A few days before the Strumbellas were set to embark on a Canadian concert tour in January 2020, they dropped a bombshell announcement: the entire 14-city run of shows was being postponed as one of the band's own sought treatment for an unspecified illness. The news rocked their fanbase, but lead singer Simon Ward said the decision to cancel came during a crucial time. He was the unnamed member spiralling into a mental health crisis. Over a year later, he’s still digging himself out of it. "I'll be honest with you, it's been the worst year of my life," Ward explained in an interview from his home. "And every day I'm just here, trying to heal and get better." On Friday, the Strumbellas will release "Greatest Enemy," a new single that marks their first effort since Ward faced crippling depression and anxiety. He began writing the song before the six-member band sidelined their touring plans, and the band finished it during a recording session last November. Thematically, "Greatest Enemy" reflects on the overwhelming demons of the mind, but in true Strumbellas fashion, the words are paired with a soaring chorus of perseverance. It’s a formula that did wonders for the band in 2015 when "Spirits" elevated them from a ragtag group of Ontario indie musicians to a Top 40 success story, driven by an unforgettable chorus: "I got guns in my head and they won’t go. Spirits in my head and they won’t go." But the struggles hinted at in "Spirits" became all the more real for Ward as the Strumbellas embarked on a 2019 European tour for their followup album “Rattlesnake." Looking back, Ward says there were signs something was amiss. Sometimes it was as simple as him deciding to hide away in his hotel room when the rest of the group went to dinner together, he said. "It's so easy to isolate yourself when you're having mental health issues," he added. "All you want to do is… not be with other people. So I would stay by myself." But it was after the European leg of the tour wrapped and he returned to Canada that Ward started to realize something more serious was happening. "I started to feel so weird, like total lethargy," he said. "I couldn't get out of bed, dark thoughts, negative thoughts. Thoughts that were really mean to myself. I knew something wasn't right." Ward’s family paid him a visit, and he says that’s when he broke down, confessing to them that he was not doing well. He decided to check himself into a local hospital to seek professional help, receive a mental health assessment and discuss medications. "This has just been a full-on mental health year for me," he said. "(I’m) still in it, still working my way through it and struggling. I'm better now. But, you know, mental health is just such a tricky game. It seems to hang around, come back and float around." Getting the Strumbellas back on their feet will take some time. The band has worked on the early stages of new material in recent months, said guitarist Jon Hembrey. But a near-total shutdown of the concert industry during the COVID-19 pandemic has eased the pressure of getting back on the road. "I wouldn't bet any money on whether there will be shows in the summer," Hembrey said. "It's just too hard to tell." That's left room for the Strumbellas to interact with their fans in creative ways. Last year, they hopped on TikTok for the first time, creating a venue to answer questions about music, and recently for Ward to lend positive encouragement to others dealing with mental health hurdles. “A lot of people are in tough spots right now," he said, reflecting on how the live music industry has ground to a halt. "But everybody's going through it, so honestly make the best of it. We're just trying to make new music, get back in the groove of things and hang out again and see where it goes.” Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 18, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
TORONTO — The Weeknd's "Blinding Lights" is making Canadian history on Spotify. The Toronto-raised singer's hit single has become the first song by a Canadian artist to pass two billion plays on the streaming platform. And he's only the fourth artist in the world to join this elite group of massively popular songs. Ahead of him is "Dance Monkey" by Australia's Tones and I (2.1 billion streams), "Rockstar" by American Post Malone (2.12 billion) and the leader "Shape of You" from English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran (2.7 billion). A couple of other Canadians could also reach two billion streams with one of their songs later this year. Drake's "One Dance" is teetering around the mark with 1.98 billion streams, which ranks him one spot behind the Weeknd as the No. 5 most-streamed song. Shawn Mendes' "Senorita" is at No. 9 with 1.7 billion plays. The Weeknd's streaming numbers were helped by his performance at the Super Bowl, which gave his entire catalogue of albums a boost. But it's fellow Torontonian Drake who holds the biggest streaming crown on Spotify. He earned the platform's most-streamed artist of the decade honour at the end of 2019. Follow @dfriend on Twitter. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 24, 2021. David Friend, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — A new online tool allows Metro Vancouver residents to track the viral load of COVID-19 found in untreated wastewater at each of the region’s five wastewater treatment plants. Metro Vancouver, the regional district that delivers water, waste treatment and other services to the area's local governments, says the tool is now active on its website. A statement from Metro Vancouver says it worked with the public health laboratory of the BC Centre for Disease Control and the University of British Columbia to sample and test wastewater to track the presence and trends of the COVID-19 virus. Residents can click on a specific wastewater treatment plant on a map to see a snapshot of the COVID-19 virus trend for that area. Metro Vancouver says tracking the viral load can help health authorities evaluate how well COVID-19 containment measures are working. But they say it can't pinpoint the number of people who are infected or contagious. The chart for each wastewater treatment plant shows the amount of COVID-19 virus present per litre of wastewater before the liquid is treated. Dr. Natalie Prystajecky, program head of the public health lab at the BC Centre for Disease Control, says studying the virus in wastewater means researchers can "look at an entire population, rather than an individual person.” “Studies have demonstrated that about 50 per cent of COVID-19 cases have the virus in their feces,” she says. The virus that causes COVID-19 is non-infectious in feces and wastewater, the statement says. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2021. The Canadian Press
COPENHAGEN — The Norwegian Nobel Committee said Monday that there are 329 candidates — 234 individuals and 95 organizations — that were nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize by the Feb. 1 deadline. The Oslo-based organization said that it was the third highest number of candidates ever, adding the current record of 376 candidates was reached in 2016. A vast group of people — heads of state or politicians serving at a national level, university professors, directors of foreign policy institutes, past Nobel Prize recipients and members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee — can submit a nomination for the prize. However, the nominees aren’t announced by the very secretive board in Oslo, but those doing the nominating may choose to make it public, raising publicity both for the nominee and the proposer. The Associated Press earlier has reported that the 2021 nominees include exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and two other Belarus democracy activists, Veronika Tsepkalo and Maria Kolesnikova; the Black Lives Matter movement; Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny; Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has become a leading voting rights advocate; and former White House adviser Jared Kushner and his deputy, Avi Berkowitz, who negotiated a series of Middle East agreements known as the Abraham Accords. Groups nominated in 2021 include the World Health Organization for its role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic; NATO; Reporters Without Borders, known by its French acronym RSF; and Polish judges defending civil rights. The U.N. World Food Program won the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee announces its annual decision in October. The peace prize and other Nobel prizes are presented Dec. 10, the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death. Five Nobel Prizes were established under the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will. A sixth prize, for economics, was created by the Central Bank of Sweden in 1968 as a memorial to Nobel. Each prize carry substantial cash awards that are adjusted each year. In 2020, they came with a 10-milion krona ($1.1 million) cash award — which often is shared — along with diplomas and gold medals. The Associated Press
MILAN — AC Milan forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic is out again with injury and could miss his side’s Europa League match against Manchester United. Ibrahimovic had to come off on Sunday in the second half of a 2-1 win at Roma after injuring a muscle in his left thigh. The Swedish forward will be re-evaluated in 10 days. That is the date of the trip to Old Trafford for the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 against his former club. The 39-year-old Ibrahimovic will definitely be out for the Serie A matches against Udinese and Hellas Verona. The Associated Press
NEW YORK — The Tony Awards could bring Cynthia Erivo another Emmy. Days after the British performer belted Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t No Way” during a red carpet interview at the 2019 Tonys — explaining that it’s her guilty pleasure song — she got a call from the producers of the National Geographic series “Genius: Aretha.” “I was like, ‘I beg your pardon,’” she continued. “In my head I’m like, ‘There is another film happening and I’m excited to see that, so what is this?’” NatGeo had already completed series on Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, and wanted to focus on the life of Franklin, who died 2018 and was arguably the greatest singer of all time. When Erivo, 34, went to meet with the producers, she had a bit of an epiphany. “Nothing else was playing in the hotel, it was just mood music,” she said. “All of a sudden ‘Day Dreaming’ comes on as I go to sit down. I’m like, ‘Am I the only one that noticed that?’” Laughing with a huge smile on her face, she continued: “I was like, ‘Either you planned that or someone’s trying to tell me something.’’” Fast forward two years and Erivo is playing the Queen of Soul in the eight-episode series debuting March 21. “Respect,” a film about Franklin starring Jennifer Hudson, will be released in August. In an interview with The Associated Press, edited for clarity and brevity, the Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner talked about meeting Franklin, playing icons on-screen and more. AP: What does Aretha mean to you? ERIVO: She means the world to me. As a singer, I truly believe that my job is to communicate and tell the stories that sometimes are difficult for people to tell for themselves ... Aretha did that with her eyes closed. She had a wonderful way of communicating the things that she had been through, through song. AP: She has this thing by which she can take someone else’s song and make it her own. ERIVO: Totally and it’s such a special thing. Not only does she take the song and make it her own, she takes the song and you forget it was someone else’s. That to me, it’s a really special thing that she was able to do. I don’t know that people realize that “Respect” wasn’t her song first. She finds messaging in songs, in music that you didn’t realize were there in the first place. I don’t know how, but she always managed to find a way into a song that you didn’t know existed. I know that this might not be a popular opinion but when she did her version of (Adele’s) “Rolling in the Deep,” I was like, “Huh, never heard this song like this before. Didn’t think about this song like this before.” At that point because she was an older woman singing this song, you’re like, all the experience that this person must have gone through to get to this point, I didn’t hear this before. Now I’m hearing it with her voice. She was one of a kind, truly. AP: Did you get a chance to meet her? ERIVO: I met her the first time when she’d come to a performance of “The Color Purple.” I didn’t know she was there. When I saw her, I felt like an idiot because I was just in shock. There is Miss Aretha Franklin standing in front of me and I’ve just finished singing a show in her presence, oh my goodness. How do I do this? She was funny and lovely. She sang the last line of “I’m Here” back to me. That was a moment I had to put my heart back together. I was like, “This is happening for real.” She was wonderful. When you meet someone like that, you don’t think they’ll remember your face. I met her again at the Kennedy Center Honors. I was singing the very first time I did it. She remembered me. She said, “You’re the girl who was in that play. You can sing. You can sing.” I was like, “Yes that’s me. Thank you very much.” I remember she was wearing red. My favourite thing about that day was when I saw the recording of it, when it finally aired, during my performance they pan to Aretha and she’s singing along with her eyes closed. AP: How do you feel about the people who say, “Cynthia doesn’t really look like Aretha?” ERIVO: No, in the same way that Diana Ross didn’t really look like Billie Holiday, but she did an incredible, incredible job when she did “Lady Sings the Blues.” ... I don’t think anyone does look like Aretha. If you found someone who looks like Aretha who couldn’t do the work, who can’t sing the songs, then that’s where you have a problem. I’d rather someone that doesn’t look like her but can give me the essence. AP: Are you excited to see the Jennifer Hudson version? ERIVO: I am. I know that they were close, and I know that they had a conversation. This is something she had been dreaming of doing. I am excited to see it. AP: How’s it been playing real-life icons on-screen? ERIVO: It’s a huge honour and it’s part of what I want for my lifetime — to be able to tell these stories of women whose stories wouldn’t get the chance to be told, whose stories deserve to be told. The more I can do that whether it be Harriet, Aretha or a woman you don’t know about who I’ve done the research to find out about, I want to keep bringing these stories to the forefront because they deserve to be told. Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press
(Michael Wilson/CBC - image credit) Toronto's speed enforcement cameras issued 22,180 tickets last December, the city says, marking the first month the cameras are operating in their second round of locations. According to a city news release, the area with the most tickets issued was on Stanley Avenue near Elizabeth Street in Etobicoke, where 2,888 tickets were issued. That same area also recorded a repeat offender with the most tickets, with 15 in total. Overall, there were 2,057 repeat offenders, according to the city. Meanwhile, the most expensive ticket was issued to the owner of a vehicle travelling at 99 km/h in a 50 km/h zone on McCowan Road north of Kenhatch Boulevard in Scarborough. A ticket for over $700 was issued for that incident. The average fine handed out in December was $376, the city says. Toronto's speed enforcement cameras were moved to new spots in stages. Before they were moved, data showed a decrease in repeat offenders and a smaller number of total tickets issued, the city says. "I am certain we will see this positive impact repeat itself wherever the speed cameras are placed," said Mayor John Tory in a statement.
NICOLET. En temps normal, c’est dans les lieux publics qu’Alexandre Ayotte devrait effectuer sa tâche d’être une oreille attentive pour les aînés de Nicolet. Avec la pandémie qui a amené un isolement de la population en général et, particulièrement, chez les personnes âgées, le travailleur de milieu pour aînés les invite à ne pas hésiter à demander de l’aide. «Le travail habituel d’un travailleur de milieu pour aînés consiste à faire du repérage de personnes qui sont plus en marge du système de santé et du monde communautaire, des gens qui n’ont pas ou ont peu de famille et qui vivent de l’isolement. Ce n’est pas sans conséquence d’être isolé. Sur la santé mentale, il y a un effet c’est certain», explique Alexandre Ayotte qui a vu, avec la pandémie et ces mesures de confinement, une difficulté à identifier les personnes âgées concernées dans les lieux publics. «La donne a changé. Les restaurants et les clubs de la FADOQ sont fermés. Le contact direct n’est pas possible. Mon travail se fait maintenant par appel téléphonique et par d’autres moyens comme des lettres. Mais en ne pouvant pas rendre visite aux gens, on peut difficilement identifier des signes de perte d’autonomie ou de problèmes non verbalisés. En ce moment, on envisage de faire une vidéo promotionnelle pour promouvoir nos services», ajoute l’intervenant qui invite les aînés à le contacter pour, en premier lieu, de l’écoute. «Je suis là pour permettre aux gens de ventiler et d’avoir une oreille attentive. On va regarder ensemble ce qui pose problème et trouver des solutions», précise Alexandre Ayotte. «Quand on a vécu d’autres choses avec l’âge, on peut comprendre que l’on ne veut pas demander de l’aide. On a la conviction que l’on peut passer à travers et qu’on va faire preuve de résilience. Mais on vit une situation inhabituelle qui est déstabilisante pour tout le monde. On ne doit pas forcer personne à demander de l’aide, mais il ne faut pas avoir peur de le faire», conclut-il. Notons que l’on peut contacter Alexandre Ayotte au 819 293-4841. Stéphane Lévesque, Initiative de journalisme local, L'Hebdo Journal
TORONTO — On set they called her "COVID Cathy," or "CC" for short. As the COVID-19 supervisor on the new Toronto-shot CBC series "Pretty Hard Cases," Catherine Lang had to not only help develop pandemic protocols for the production, but also keep a close eye on the cast and crew to ensure they were following them. It can be a tricky position, having to police everyone while trying to prevent positive cases, but Lang says she was determined to keep the mood upbeat. "What I found the hardest about COVID supervising was that it's hard to spend 100 per cent of your day worrying about people's health. And unfortunately, I'm a bit of a worrier," Lang says. "Eating, breathing, sleeping — 24-7 — I couldn't get it out of my mind. Because at the beginning all I could think was, 'What if I do something or don't do something and somebody gets sick?' And that was quite a large stress for me." Lang's position, which is also sometimes called a COVID compliance officer, is a now common one on Canadian film and TV sets. And it's one she predicts will be around for another year or so. The supervisor typically works alongside the producers and a team of medical, health and safety professionals to create COVID protocols using government guidelines and ensure they're adhered to. Both industry and medical professionals can qualify for the position. "They were accepted, but definitely were the sort of hall monitors of the production shoot that can frustrate people when they're trying to do their jobs," Alex Jordan, a producer on Global's "Private Eyes," says of their COVID supervising team. "We had to be very cognizant of the mental health of everyone. To some people's opinion, you're not doing enough. And in some cases, people are like, 'This is too much. You're overkill.'" "Kim's Convenience" star Paul Sun-Hyung Lee says their COVID protocol officer was Cher Merlo, who has a background in film and TV production. She "worked tirelessly" on things like modifying the actors' masks and shields to ensure they would be effective but wouldn't disrupt their hair and makeup between takes. "She had the hardest job on set, because her job was to be the bad guy and to remind them of the protocols and of doing things like sanitizing your hands and wearing your mask and staying two metres apart," Lee says. "Pretty Hard Cases" stars Adrienne C. Moore and Meredith MacNeill say they went to great lengths to help Lang not feel "like a bad guy." "I remember when Cathy gave her first speech at the start, Adrienne and I looked at each other and then gave her the biggest cheer. We were like 'Cathy!'" says MacNeill. "We used to call her COVID Cathy. We were like 'CC, yes, in the house!' The staff knew Lang was "only trying to help," notes MacNeill. "So we approached it, and the whole crew approached it, with a 'thank you.'" Lang had worked as an assistant producer and production manager before becoming a COVID supervisor on "Pretty Hard Cases." Lang says she read everything she could about the virus and "spent many hours on the phone" with producer Wanda Chaffey and executive producer Amy Cameron. The three developed protocols for every department with a consulting physician. "As I would walk through the set, I would see people adjust their masks and pull their shields down. It was very cute," Lang says laughing. Of course, Lang also wore personal protective equipment, since she had to be in more spaces on set than most. She says she "never felt unsafe" but found the thought of somebody getting sick in the workplace "horrifying" and had to learn to stop worrying about things that were out of her control. "Eventually I had to say to myself, 'I can't stop this. I can control what happens in the workplace to an extent, but I can't control what happens outside of the workplace.'" The cast and crew were very compliant, Lang says, noting "everybody really wanted to be safe." Chassey and Cameron were with her every step of the way. In the end, they had no incident of anyone contracting COVID-19 at work, she says. While there were two positive cases, they were contracted outside production, caught through testing and had no community spread. Toronto nurse Meghan McKenna became a COVID supervisor on the CBC series "Coroner" through her employer, the third-party medical consulting firm Oncidium, which provided guidance and support to the show, including a full-time nursing staff. She hadn't worked in film and TV before and was "on a steep learning curve" in that regard as they collaborated with producers, she says. They held mandatory health sessions for everyone on set. One of McKenna's key goals was for the cast and crew to understand the uncertain nature of a pandemic, so if provincial case numbers rose and protocols changed, they would be onboard instead of feeling they were being fed misinformation. She also taught everyone how viruses or bacteria spread through communities, so when pandemic fatigue set in, they understood how to protect themselves and why every single protocol matters. The pressure on the job comes with not wanting to see the production fail, says McKenna. But her experiences working in hospital have taught her she "can't control what people are doing 100 per cent." She also likes the idea that should someone have a medical issue on set, she's able to guide them through it and manage it. McKenna's nursing background and experience in emergency rooms also helped her feel "fine with being the police" on set. "That is such a big part of health teaching, is telling people things they don't want to hear," she says. "I really like the challenge of getting through to someone over time." While producers say "Coroner" had "a few issues" with COVID-19 cases, they weren't on set, were easily contact-traced and had no community spread. And no one had to be reminded of the protocols later in production, McKenna says. "Everyone's helping remind each other," she says. "The crew is all keeping each other safe," adds "Coroner" executive producer Suzanne Colvin-Goulding. "Everybody has adopted the mentality that we are in this together." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press
(Submitted by Dylan Clark - image credit) Nunavut is reporting one new case of COVID-19 in the territory on Monday and 11 recoveries. The case brings the total number of active cases to eight, all of which are in Arviat. "Arviarmiut, we are on the right path to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the territory," Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said in a statement. "Today, as we see more people recover, it is important to remind Nunavummiut that public health measures are still in place and must be followed by everyone." All infected people currently are doing well and isolating at home, the territory says, while contact tracing is ongoing. As of Monday, Arviat has had 2,350 negative tests. To date, there have been a total of 314 cases in the community of nearly 3,000 people. The territory's rapid response team is still supporting the community health team. Travel in and out of Arviat is still restricted, unless for emergency or essential purposes, the territory says. Those in the community looking to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine can call their health centre for an appointment. So far, 7,402 Nunavummiut have received at least one dose, and the vaccine clinics are ongoing. Anyone who thinks they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call the COVID-hotline at 1-888-975-8601 between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET, or notify their community health centre immediately. They should also begin isolating at home for 14 days. Residents are asked not to go to the health centre in person.