Homeless Moncton woman finds temporary apartment, still praying for N.B. Housing unit

After a six month "emotional roller-coaster" living in homeless shelters, Karen Brooker is looking forward to finally having a safe apartment that she can afford.

"I'll be able to shut my door at night and sleep and not worry about anything," the 59-year-old Moncton woman said.

Brooker shared her story with CBC News in December. She and a roommate had been sharing a downtown apartment, but when the property owner completed some renovations, the rent went from $800 to $1,200 per month.

With no affordable housing available and 5,000 people on the waiting list for New Brunswick Housing units, Brooker had no choice but to sleep at the House of Nazareth homeless shelter.

Last week she was offered temporary, subsidized housing at the Moncton YWCA, a non-profit group that provides supportive housing programs.

Brooker, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and receives $763 per month, won't be able to move in until Feb. 1 when she is able to pay her first month's rent and a $100 damage deposit.

She will pay 30 per cent of her gross income, or approximately $230 per month for rent. While it is a big improvement over the homeless shelter or couch-surfing, Brooker said her new home is still temporary. And she won't be able to bring her cat, Sassy Girl.

"I'm grateful that I'm getting a place but it's still frustrating because I just want my stuff out of my storage unit and I want my life back," she said. "I really need my cat to be with me." 

'I couldn't do it no more'

Brooker spent more than four months at the House of Nazareth homeless shelter on Clark Street before being moved to the new shelter on Albert Street in early December.

The new, larger space will eventually have 115 beds, but currently can accommodate 30 women and 34 men while construction continues.

It's been plagued by delays but Brooker said when the new women's dorm opened, she was hopeful it would be a bit more comfortable.

Vanessa Blanch/CBC

"Very nice there at the new place — clean and a lot more space. The beds are a little more comfortable than what they were at the other place."

But Brooker said it quickly became unbearable to live at the new "wet" shelter, which allows people who are using drugs and alcohol to stay alongside those who are sober.

You don't want to sleep because you're scared to death that something is going to happen to you or that someone's going to do something to you. - Karen Brooker

"There was a lot of drama, a lot of tension. I ended up leaving twice at 4:30 in the morning, once in my pyjamas, because I was so upset."

Brooker, who doesn't drink or use drugs, said there are separate wet and dry areas planned for the men at the new shelter, but all of the women are together.

"You don't want to sleep because you're scared to death that something is going to happen to you or that someone's going to do something to you," she said.

"When people are on drugs you don't know how they're going to react."

The third time Brooker left the shelter in the middle of the night she knew she "couldn't do it no more."

She has been couch-surfing ever since.

"I just don't get it. Why they're allowing the people in there doing drugs?"

No plans for separate women's dorms

Jean Dubé, executive director of the House of Nazareth shelter, said there have been "minor incidents" but there are no plans to have separate dorms for women who are sober and those using drugs.

"Right now I don't think it's going to be necessary but if it does become [necessary], we will adjust," he said. "We don't have any problems up there right now."

Shane Magee/CBC

Dubé said there are currently three staff on duty between the Clark Street location and the Albert Street location during overnight hours.

While it's not permitted, Dubé knows people are consuming drugs inside the shelter.

"These people have addictions — do we let them do drugs inside the shelter? No. But are we finding drugs flushed down the toilet and syringes? Yes we're finding that."

Dubé says it's either throw those who don't follow the rules out into the cold, or try to work with them. He is choosing the latter.

"It is a shelter for people with addictions and serious issues so yes there's people consuming inside for sure."

He hopes the provincial government will soon have addictions and mental health services on site when the shelter is complete.

Praying for a permanent home

Brooker, who turns 60 in December, is hoping that as a senior citizen, she will move up the waiting list and have a better chance at getting an N.B. Housing unit.

Shane Magee/CBC

According to a 2018 government report, there are 3,789 public housing units in New Brunswick. Approximately 45 per cent are occupied by seniors and 55 per cent are occupied by families.

The same report found that there were 5,000 individuals on the waiting list in 2017, which means only 42 per cent of eligible individuals were being served.

Brooker fears she will be on the waiting list for years.

"I am praying so that's why I'm asking everyone to pray for me," she said.

N.B. Housing units allow tenants to have pets and that's a pretty big deal for Brooker. Her cat keeps her calm and loves her unconditionally.

"I'm scared I'm going to lose my baby and with my post-traumatic stress disorder, she's my companion, she means everything in the world to me."

A shame that's lifting

Despite everything she has experienced as a homeless woman over the past six months, Brooker still considers herself lucky.

My shame is less … I feel the weight off my shoulders just to know that I'm going to have my own place to sleep in, that I'm going to be safe. - Karen Brooker

For now she is relieved that she won't have to sleep in a shelter any longer.

"One step forward until I can get my permanent housing," she said. "I just feel so much better knowing that I don't have to sleep there anymore."

In December, when Brooker first spoke with CBC News, she described how she's been treated, and how she's felt since becoming homeless.

"It's been despicable what people do. It's hard to explain how shame feels and I shouldn't have to feel shame just because I can't afford a place to live."

Now she said, she is feeling better.

"My shame is less … I feel the weight off my shoulders just to know that I'm going to have my own place to sleep in, that I'm going to be safe."

According to the Greater Moncton Homelessness Steering Committee, there are currently 85 women and 76 men experiencing homelessness in Moncton.

  • Trump says US won't pay for Meghan and Harry's security
    The Canadian Press

    Trump says US won't pay for Meghan and Harry's security

    LONDON — U.S. President Donald Trump has offered his opinion on the future of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, insisting the United States government won’t pay for the couple’s security if they live in the United States.Responding to reports that the couple has moved to California, Trump tweeted on Sunday: “I am a great friend and admirer of the Queen & the United Kingdom. It was reported that Harry and Meghan, who left the Kingdom, would reside permanently in Canada. Now they have left Canada for the U.S. however, the U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!"Harry —grandson of Queen Elizabeth II and sixth in line to the British throne — married the American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in May 2018, in a ceremony watched by millions around the world.But the couple later said they found scrutiny by the British media — which they said tipped into harassment — intolerable.In January they announced they planned to quit as senior royals, seek financial independence and move to North America. The split becomes official at the end of March.Since late last year, Harry and Meghan have since been based on Canada’s Vancouver Island.Last month, Canadian authorities said they would stop paying for the couple’s security once they ceased to be working royals.Mary-Liz Power, a spokeswoman for Canada's public safety minister, said in February that "the assistance will cease in the coming weeks, in keeping with their change in status."Power said that as duke and duchess of Sussex, they have been considered "internationally protected persons" who warranted security measures under international treaty.Unconfirmed reports say the couple and their 10-month-old son Archie recently flew to Los Angeles, where Meghan was raised.Representatives for Meghan did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.The Associated Press

  • Age is not the only risk for severe coronavirus disease
    The Canadian Press

    Age is not the only risk for severe coronavirus disease

    WASHINGTON — Older people remain most at risk of dying as the new coronavirus continues its rampage around the globe, but they’re far from the only ones vulnerable. One of many mysteries: Men seem to be faring worse than women.And as cases skyrocket in the U.S. and Europe, it’s becoming more clear that how healthy you were before the pandemic began plays a key role in how you fare regardless of how old you are.The majority of people who get COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms. But “majority” doesn't mean “all," and that raises an important question: Who should worry most that they'll be among the seriously ill? While it will be months before scientists have enough data to say for sure who is most at risk and why, preliminary numbers from early cases around the world are starting to offer hints.NOT JUST THE OLD WHO GET SICKSenior citizens undoubtedly are the hardest hit by COVID-19. In China, 80% of deaths were among people in their 60s or older, and that general trend is playing out elsewhere.The graying of the population means some countries face particular risk. Italy has the world’s second oldest population after Japan. While death rates fluctuate wildly early in an outbreak, Italy has reported more than 80% of deaths so far were among those 70 or older.But, “the idea that this is purely a disease that causes death in older people we need to be very, very careful with,” Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, warned.As much as 10% to 15% of people under 50 have moderate to severe infection, he said Friday.Even if they survive, the middle-aged can spend weeks in the hospital. In France, more than half of the first 300 people admitted to intensive care units were under 60.“Young people are not invincible,” WHO's Maria Van Kerkhove added, saying more information is needed about the disease in all age groups.Italy reported that a quarter of its cases so far were among people ages 19 to 50. In Spain, a third are under age 44. In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s first snapshot of cases found 29% were ages 20 to 44.Then there’s the puzzle of children, who have made up a small fraction of the world’s case counts to date. But while most appear only mildly ill, in the journal Pediatrics researchers traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year-old, and that nearly 6% were seriously ill.Another question is what role kids have in spreading the virus: “There is an urgent need for further investigation of the role children have in the chain of transmission,” researchers at Canada’s Dalhousie University wrote in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.THE RISKIEST HEALTH CONDITIONSPut aside age: Underlying health plays a big role. In China, 40% of people who required critical care had other chronic health problems. And there, deaths were highest among people who had heart disease, diabetes or chronic lung diseases before they got COVID-19.Preexisting health problems also can increase risk of infection, such as people who have weak immune systems including from cancer treatment.Other countries now are seeing how pre-pandemic health plays a role, and more such threats are likely to be discovered. Italy reported that of the first nine people younger than 40 who died of COVID-19, seven were confirmed to have “grave pathologies” such as heart disease.The more health problems, the worse they fare. Italy also reports about half of people who died with COVID-19 had three or more underlying conditions, while just 2% of deaths were in people with no preexisting ailments.Heart disease is a very broad term, but so far it looks like those most at risk have significant cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure or severely stiffened and clogged arteries, said Dr. Trish Perl, infectious disease chief at UT Southwestern Medical Center.Any sort of infection tends to make diabetes harder to control, but it’s not clear why diabetics appear to be at particular risk with COVID-19.Risks in the less healthy may have something to do with how they hold up if their immune systems overreact to the virus. Patients who die often seemed to have been improving after a week or so only to suddenly deteriorate — experiencing organ-damaging inflammation.As for preexisting lung problems, “this is really happening in people who have less lung capacity,” Perl said, because of diseases such as COPD -- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease -- or cystic fibrosis.Asthma also is on the worry list. No one really knows about the risk from very mild asthma, although even routine respiratory infections often leave patients using their inhalers more often and they’ll need monitoring with COVID-19, she said. What about a prior bout of pneumonia? Unless it was severe enough to put you on a ventilator, that alone shouldn’t have caused any significant lingering damage, she said.THE GENDER MYSTERYPerhaps the gender imbalance shouldn’t be a surprise: During previous outbreaks of SARS and MERS -- cousins to COVID-19 -- scientists noticed men seemed more susceptible than women.This time around, slightly more than half the COVID-19 deaths in China were among men. Other parts of Asia saw similar numbers. Then Europe, too, spotted what Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus co-ordinator, labeled a concerning trend.In Italy, where men so far make up 58% of infections, male deaths are outpacing female deaths and the increased risk starts at age 50, according to a report from Italy’s COVID-19 surveillance group.The U.S. CDC hasn’t yet released details. But one report about the first nearly 200 British patients admitted to critical care found about two-thirds were male.One suspect: Globally, men are more likely to have smoked more heavily and for longer periods than women. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control is urging research into smoking’s connection to COVID-19.Hormones may play a role, too. In 2017, University of Iowa researchers infected mice with SARS and, just like had happened in people, males were more likely to die. Estrogen seemed protective — when their ovaries were removed, deaths among female mice jumped, the team reported in the Journal of Immunology.—-AP writers Nicole Winfield in Rome, Maria Cheng in London and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.___The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

  • Physical distancing in Alberta: a tale of two cities

    Physical distancing in Alberta: a tale of two cities

    Whether it was the chilly start to the day, stricter rules from the province, or the constant messaging from health officials, people are responding to the calls to practice physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.Last weekend, high foot traffic locations like dog parks and walking paths in both of Alberta's major cities were flooded with people looking to get out of the house for some exercise or fresh air. But this weekend, city streets looked much different.Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson took to Twitter on Saturday to praise the actions of Calgary's city council, which announced on Friday plans to limit vehicle access on some roadways in order to make more space for people to walk, run, or cycle. Calgary's roads department, in coordination with the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, worked to identify roads where lanes could be reduced to give Calgarian's more space to be outside while maintaining physical distance.Sections of Elbow Drive and Crowchild Trail were part of the measure, among other popular walking spots in Calgary. But one city councillor previously told CBC this doesn't mean these spots should be considered walking destinations. "We're making sure that we're not sending mixed messages and declaring another Bow River Flow Festival," Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said."Because that's exactly what we're trying to avoid."Doctor's ordersThe need for people to physically distance in order to help flatten the curve has become a regular talking point of the daily updates from Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw. At the same time, Dr. Hinshaw has urged people to stay active if they are feeling well and encouraged people to get outside in appropriately-distanced ways. Signs indicate Edmontonians have also heard that message. The staircase near the Glenora Club on River Valley Road, which is commonly used by walkers, runners and people who "run the stairs" was nearly deserted late Saturday morning. Many sidewalks in the downtown core and Whyte Avenue areas were sparsely populated.One of Saturday's busier areas was the Old Strathcona Farmers Market, where strict physical distancing rules were being observed.Donna Lohstraeter, the market's CEO, said everyone has been cooperative and willingly followed the rules. She is also happy to help some people maintain a small piece of their routine."That vendor who has always brought them their eggs or their carrots to market is still here to do that," Lohstraeter said. "I think it's really important that we've been able to maintain that for people."Previously 135 vendors would have packed into the market but now that has been limited to about 60. Lohstraeter said some vendors voluntarily pulled out due to their own limitations. The market also eliminated artisans and any other non-food vendors as well for the time being. This week the Province of Alberta announced further measures that put even tighter restrictions on gatherings, lowering the limit from 50 to 15 people. It also closed all provincial parks and recreation areas to vehicle traffic in an effort to limit the number of people accessing them. All none-essential businesses, including clothing retailers and hair salons, were ordered to close. As of Saturday there were 79 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Alberta, bringing the provincial total to 621.

  • Coping with airline industry layoffs

    Coping with airline industry layoffs

    'Won't be travelling for a while,' laid-off pilot Derek Butcher tells CBC  

  • COVID-19 in Quebec: Province up to 2,840 confirmed cases, but premier sees encouraging signs

    COVID-19 in Quebec: Province up to 2,840 confirmed cases, but premier sees encouraging signs

    * Quebec has 2,840 confirmed cases and 22 deaths attributable to COVID-19. Seventy-two are in intensive care. * A drive-thru testing opened in Côte Saint-Luc today. Pedestrians are asked to use the clinic at Place-des-Festivals instead. * Travel into certain regions with vulnerable populations is being restricted by police checkpoints. * A first case has been reported in Nunavik, Que., according to the regional health authority.Quebec Premier François Legault said Sunday that the number of new COVID-19 cases in the province appears to be "stabilizing."There are now 2,840 confirmed cases in the province, an increase of 342 or about 14 per cent from the day before. Daily increases in cases last week had been over 20 per cent.There are currently 192 people hospitalized. The number of dead remains at 22."Public health authorities are telling us that our efforts are paying off, so don't give up," Legault said at his daily news conference in Quebec City.It was just over two weeks ago that Legault declared a public health emergency in the province, imposing an escalating series of measures to distance people from each other as much possible.Experts had said it would take at least two weeks for the effects of physical distancing to begin appearing in the provincial statistics. Public health officials in Montreal also said Sunday that the rate of increase in the city had stabilized in recent days, even though there is "sustained community transmission."Montreal and the Eastern Townships have been the two areas in Quebec hardest hit by the outbreak.  Legault urged the public not to move between different areas in the province. Police checkpoints have been set up to prevent non-essential travel outside of southern and central Quebec.Those more remote areas have lower per-capita infection rates, and Legault said "we want to keep it that way." Not yet time to party: ArrudaQuebec public health director Horacio Arruda said today's numbers were encouraging, but added that "we can't draw conclusions based on one day."Arruda said that while the number of new cases didn't grow as rapidly over the weekend, "we have still not attained the plateau."Watch Arruda demonstrate how he wants to see the trend of infections move:But if the trend continues, he said, the province should avoid the worst-case scenarios it had been preparing for. He thanked those conducting tests, working in labs and ensuring health-care workers have the equipment they need."I hope that we are going to have a big party all together when things are going to be over," he said.More measure to protect elderlyHealth officials remain very concerned about outbreaks within elderly and long-term care homes. There have been several outbreaks in such facilities already, and they account for a number of the deaths.Legault said he will announce more measures on Monday to further limit who can enter these homes.The premier appeared more upbeat than usual at Sunday's news conference. He had taken a day off yesterday, his first since the crisis began. He said he was happy to see that people's spirits were up when he took a walk through Quebec City the day before."Keeping our physical distance, we are closer than ever," he said.

  • 'Do something now:' Inmate's wife calls for release of non-violent offenders
    The Canadian Press

    'Do something now:' Inmate's wife calls for release of non-violent offenders

    Luciana Infusino-Tomei has been left alone to care for her young daughter during the COVID-19 pandemic after her husband was sent to prison last year on a drug-related charge.The 38-year-old woman from Vaughan, Ont., is one of many worrying about the health and safety of their incarcerated loved ones, whose living arrangements make them particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus that has so far infected thousands of people and killed dozens across the country."Sometimes I find myself having to hold back my tears," Infusino-Tomei says. "My anxiety is through the roof, and so is my husband's, because he is away from us."She says she hasn't been able to get support in caring for their 19-month-old because her parents are older and in poor health.Her husband, Adrian Tomei, is serving a three-year sentence at Beaver Creek Institution north of Toronto, after he pleaded guilty last year to possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.Infusino-Tomei says people like her 33-year-old husband — who have no other criminal history, were convicted of a non-violent crime and have a safe place to stay — should be released from prison, where she fears COVID-19 would spread uncontrollably."There is no excuse for making bad decisions," she says. "He is paying his dues. He plead guilty from the onset and he was a man from the beginning by standing up and facing the music."But she says prisoners are unable to self-isolate and have limited access to hygiene and sanitary products, so sending those who are not a risk to public safety may be the best thing during a pandemic."We know mass quarantines don't work because of those people left on cruise ships for weeks at a time," Infusino-Tomei says. "If something like that happens in prison, it's going to be far more dangerous, far more catastrophic on a far larger scale."She says her husband has applied for parole by exception and is working with a lawyer in Kingtson, Ont.Fergus J. (Chip) O'Connor, Tomei's parole lawyer, cites a section of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that allows early release for an offender for whom continued confinement would constitute an excessive hardship."My argument is that the pandemic is a public health risk for prisoners and the risk of getting the virus is a hardship that was not previously foreseen," O'Connor says.He says he has suggested to the commissioner of corrections and the Parole Board of Canada that efforts should be made to release non-violent prisoners soon, as the pandemic is expected to peak in Canada in the coming weeks.He, as well as other legal advocates in Canada, are also calling for the government to recognize parole officers as essential workers, since they play a key role in getting applications processed."I'm not asking that they let everybody out of jail," O'Connor says."But if they would just take that step, and if they had the political will to do so, then we could reduce the prison population significantly, put people in their homes and it would ... flatten the curve."He notes he has many clients who are older or have compromised immune systems that would cause major complications if they were to get the novel coronavirus.In a statement, the Correctional Service of Canada says measures such as a contingency planning for food, supplies and necessary medical equipment has been adopted."CSC has taken full inventory of existing personal protective equipment supplies and has worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada to purchase additional supplies as necessary," it says. "We have also distributed additional soap, cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer to staff and inmates and we are educating staff and inmates on the prevention and spread of illness, including the importance of good hygiene practices."The CSC, as well as the office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, says there have been no confirmed COVID-19 cases in the federal system.But, the province of Ontario confirmed Thursday that an inmate and corrections officer at the South Toronto Detention Centre tested positive. Saskatchewan announced Friday that two workers at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre also contracted the virus.It's something that worries Infusino-Tomei, who says it's just a matter of time before COVID-19 enters the federal system."If we want to get out of this with the fewest deaths ... the only way to do that is to give these inmates an opportunity to isolate," she says."Let's not look back and say we should have done something, let's do something now while there is still time to save lives." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2020.Daniela Germano, The Canadian Press

  • Canada preparing makeshift hospitals to house patients as COVID-19 pandemic stretches capacity

    Canada preparing makeshift hospitals to house patients as COVID-19 pandemic stretches capacity

    Countries in Europe and states like New York have commandeered vast spaces normally reserved for conferences or sporting events to house the thousands of patients sickened by COVID-19.Provincial and municipal leaders in this country are now preparing to do the same, in the event the pandemic overwhelms our finite hospital capacity.The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced Friday it would build 10,000 hospital beds in New York City, a global hotspot for the virus, by converting hotel rooms and college dormitories into makeshift care facilities.New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also building eight temporary hospitals and putting beds in places like the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan as the flood of cases — there are at least 29,766 cases in the city alone — overwhelms existing facilities.Leaders in Canada are not waiting for such a spike to have alternatives in place to either quarantine patients with milder symptoms or, as is the case in Laval, Que., to house patients with other conditions in order to leave existing hospitals as the designated care sites for COVID-19 patients.As many as 130 people will be transferred to the Quality Inn Laval, the province said in a memo to staff and volunteers, to make room at the neighbouring Hôpital de la Cité-de-la-Santé. Palliative care and mental health patients will be the first to make the move, starting on Sunday. Quebec is vowing to open more "non-traditional sites," as it grapples with the country's largest caseload.Helen Angus, the deputy minister of health in Ontario, and the chair of the province's COVID-19 Command Table, said she's preparing for an Italy-like situation "just in case that materializes. We're preparing for every scenario.""If Canadians actually self-isolate, you know, as requested, particularly those snowbirds who are coming back to Canada after their winter, we will be in much better shape," Angus said.With hospitals in Italy at maximum capacity, health-care providers have turned to tents and shipping containers to accommodate COVID-19 patients. A 400-bed field hospital has been erected in Milan's fairgrounds.'Not to alarm people'Don Iveson is the mayor of Edmonton, and the current chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities big city mayors' caucus. He said municipal leaders don't want a repeat of the horrors abroad here in Canada."We've seen those videos of Italian mayors at the end of their rope with citizens. We've seen horrifying accounts of ice rinks converted to morgues in Spain. We all want to avoid and stay ahead of that from a containment of the virus point of view," Iveson said."Not to alarm people but it's important that we prepare for the worst," Iveson said in an interview with CBC. Cities in Alberta, Iveson said, have also approached near-empty hotels to secure space for those in need."We've looked at the opportunity to convert major conference centres or rec centres into field hospitals, if necessary," he said. Edmonton's Expo Centre is providing day drop-in services for some 500 homeless people fleeing crowded shelters not conducive to social distancing.The City of Toronto has shuttered all of its recreational facilities and is using five dormant community centres, like Driftwood in North York and Jimmie Simpson in the city's downtown core, to shelter homeless people."We have also secured facilities for self-isolation and recovery for homeless individuals who test positive for COVID-19," a spokesperson for the city, Brad Ross, said.Dr. Andrew Willmore is the medical director of emergency management at the Ottawa Hospital. He said the hospital is working with local public health officials to "offload" some medical services from hospitals "and distribute people around the region" to more places like the reconfigured Brewer Park hockey arena that is now a COVID-19 testing centre."Planning is underway for the medium- and long-term stages of the pandemic," Willmore said.The Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association represents lodging companies in the province. The group's president, Tony Elenis, said hotels are dealing with "a catastrophic" drop in business amid this pandemic."It's the pits," Elenis said in an interview. "But we're gearing up to accommodate patients. All of us should be working in any way we can to support those who are getting rid of this virus. A lot of hotel managers really want to support this."Elenis said many hotels are ready to accept non-COVID-19 patients and quarantined travellers when public health officials come calling. "The whole system is re-prioritizing who stays in the hospital. We'll be there to offer accommodations."'Overburdened' In many provinces, the decision to cancel elective surgeries has freed up space with more of the country's 73,000 hospital beds available for COVID-19 patients, many of whom need oxygen or ventilators to cope the breathing problems that come with the virus.But, the dedicated COVID-19 floor at Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital is nearly at capacity, according to respiratory specialist Julie Nardi, and it would struggle to house many more patients if the number of cases suddenly spikes.Dr. David Williams, Ontario's chief medical officer, said Saturday some hospitals are clearly "overburdened."According to federal data released Saturday, 7 per cent of the 4,757 COVID-19 cases in Canada have required hospitalization — and 12 per cent of those cases are under 40 years old, despite the perception that the disease afflicts only the old among us. Three per cent of the total cases are critical.So far, the country has been able to handle the influx of COVID-19 cases requiring inpatient care but the unpredictable nature of this virus demands preemptive measures, said Dr. Theresa Tam, the chief public health officer of Canada.Watch: Coronavirus is not just a threat to older people, chief public health officer warns"Public health is going to do whatever it can to reduce the impact of this epidemic so that you don't go beyond your capacity to cope. Having said that, of course you have to prepare for much more worst case scenarios. So those things are absolutely happening in the provinces and territories," Tam said."All of that is at play even though right now Canada is coping," she said, pointing to B.C. as an early leader in makeshift hospital planning.At his daily briefing on Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the federal government is preparing for every eventuality."We have a health system that works pretty well to handle the needs in regular times," said Trudeau."These are not regular times and therefore it is appropriate and necessary that we look at how to expand our health system to handle unprecedented numbers in an unprecedented crisis."Watch: Trudeau says emergency measures in being put in place deal with an expected increase in COVID-19 hospitalizationsB.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has asked municipalities to compile a list of recreational centres and hotels ready to receive patients — and virtually every city in the Lower Mainland had already drafted a list of possible sites."Local governments are key partners," Farnworth said. "They're being asked to identify and make available any publicly owned facility that may be used for pandemic response, including facilities for self-isolation, medical care and testing."Community centres — and even vacant Best Buy and Bed, Bath and Beyond storefronts — have been identified as possible temporary treatment centres in the province.

  • News

    Fewer homes on the market could mean bargains for buyers still on the hunt during COVID-19

    Buying or selling a home in Alberta is becoming increasingly challenging.Some Alberta realtors are seeing sales plummet due to social distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic, just when the spring market is normally heating up."My phone isn't ringing as much and there's really no showings," said Brad Van De Walle, a Calgary-based realtor who has been in the business for more than a decade. "Realtors that I'm talking to are in tears because they don't know what they're going to do."Some clients are taking their homes off the market."Even with social distancing, we found a lot of people don't want their homes to be shown over fear the virus might come in their home," he said.Some realtors are turning to video conferencing or FaceTime calls to take clients inside a home, or only taking clients to vacant properties.In the midst of the current slowdown, some people still need to sell quickly — and that could be good news for stable-income buyers.Calgary-based mortgage broker Josh Tagg said there are many factors to take into account such as unpredictable interest rates and the day-to-day uncertainty that comes with the pandemic."We will likely see a downward movement in prices, and we'll see sellers who really, really need to get out," Tagg said."As a buyer, you'd have a stronger negotiating position."With open houses now banned, most listings are being marketed online, said realtor Steve Kabachia."We're definitely seeing higher traffic for people browsing online," Kabachia said. "The number of saying they're ready to buy is down a bit, but those that are ready to buy, they're really committed."Kabachia said the increased online traffic means that for sellers, it's more important than ever to make sure a listing is well presented with staging and photos."We're seeing how important it is to have good quality photos," Kabachia said. "Making sure that people who are looking online can see how the space works, the dimensions of the room, and how the space can be used."Van De Walle said the next 60 days will significantly impact the future of the market."The benefit of doing it now, is because people are fearful," he said."Like, look at the stock market. The reason why the stock market went down is because everybody went and pulled out their money. So, if people are sitting here and they have to sell their house and they're worried about not being able to afford it, you might be able to catch somebody and you might be able to catch a good deal right now."

  • B.C. companies step up to build medical equipment, ventilators for hospitals

    B.C. companies step up to build medical equipment, ventilators for hospitals

    Companies in B.C. have rapidly reorganized in the last two weeks to start manufacturing essential medical supplies for health care workers on the front lines in the response to COVID-19.Hospitals and local health authorities say they've been overwhelmed by the number of calls and emails coming in from individuals and companies wanting to donate equipment.Vancouver-based LNG Studios usually works with the real estate industry producing 3D architectural renderings, but CEO Leon Ng says they're now using their 3D printers to make medical face shields."We're using about five printers right now printing approximately 30 to 40 a day."Ng says the company was able to shift to printing face shields thanks to an open source file that's been used in Europe to make them."Anyone that has a standard 3-D printer should be able to print it."Ng says doctors and nurses at Vancouver General Hospital, St Paul's Hospital, Lions Gate Hospital and Richmond General Hospital have already approved the shields. He is hoping to also send prototypes to Surrey Memorial Hospital and Burnaby Hospital to get them approved for health professionals in those facilities."We're trying to get these out there to the front-line workers as soon as possible," he said. "The traditional supply chains are just strained. It takes weeks for the hospital to get these."Ng says there's a need for 300 face shields a day in the region.Province supports shift to manufacture medical suppliesLocal health authorities like Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care say they've received so many offers that they're now directing them to the provincial government.B.C.'s Health Ministry said in an email to CBC News that it supports the federal government's plan to provide support to "those who want to retool their manufacturing facilities to contribute to this fight." It says companies can access funds through the Strategic Innovation Fund to retool their machines to produce needed medical equipment and supplies.Also in B.C., a company started just eight days ago by a group of medical professionals, mechanical engineers, software engineers and entrepreneurs, says it's produced a new ventilator prototype.'New ventilator from scratch'The company, called the Ocalink Emergency Ventilator Project, says the ventilator has been reviewed by independent doctors and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and is waiting on federal approval from Health Canada."Within eight days we've created a new ventilator from scratch," said CEO Corbin Lowe. "Not only do we have the supply chain but the manufacturing capability to produce a million units within 90 days." He adds that the prototype is specifically designed to meet the needs of COVID-19 patients.Lowe says they need at least $5 million in federal funding to start production in manufacturing facilities across the country as early as next Tuesday.Both Lowe and Ng hope their companies' efforts will inspire others to do what they can to support the health care community.

  • Graphic: Three months that shook global markets

    Graphic: Three months that shook global markets

    How much damage has the coronavirus and the oil price collapse inflicted on global financial markets this year? Put simply, it has probably been the most destructive sell-off since the Great Depression. $15 trillion has been wiped of world stock markets , oil has slumped 60% as Saudi Arabia and Russia have started a price war and emerging markets like Brazil, Mexico and South Africa have seen their currencies plummet more than 20%.

  • Why this P.E.I. man is inviting people to join him — virtually — on his nature hikes

    Why this P.E.I. man is inviting people to join him — virtually — on his nature hikes

    In an effort to bring the great outdoors to Islanders in self-isolation because of COVID-19, Steven Balderston is inviting people to join him and his dog Penny on hikes through the woods — virtually, of course. Balderston has been posting his hikes through the Island's woods on his Facebook page over the past several days. "I thought I might make some videos, for anyone who's sick or can't get out and is stuck in self-isolation. Anyways, I thought this might be a nice little way to help," Balderston told viewers in one his recent videos, which virtually guides people along the Winter River.He joined CBC Mainstreet host Matt Rainnie for an interview to talk about his new project, while enjoying a hike."I go pretty much every day, the odd day I miss but I try and go every day. I just feel so much better when I make it out," Balderston said. "The rest of my day goes better," . 'You start to feel good'Balderston said he wanted to do something to alleviate the stress and anxiety Islanders are experiencing and help promote exercise during this difficult time. "After about two minutes you start to feel good. It's the exercise, plus the fresh air," he said. "In self-isolation you're probably trying to find all kinds of things to do to pass the time and I thought, here's one more thing people can do." Balderston also said he likes having the opportunity to show neat places on the Island with which people may be less familiar, as well as some of the creatures that call P.E.I. home. If you're interested in joining Balderston and Penny for a taste of the outdoors, you can head to their YouTube channel.COVID-19: What you need to knowWhat are the symptoms of COVID-19?Common symptoms include: * Fever. * Cough. * Tiredness.But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.What should I do if I feel sick?Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.How can I protect myself? * Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. * Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.More COVID-19 stories from CBC P.E.I.

  • Love during COVID-19: How cooped up couples stay connected

    Love during COVID-19: How cooped up couples stay connected

    After being married for 35 years, you'd think being at home in self isolation could get monotonous for Greg and Mary Duguay. But the high school sweethearts are truly making the most of their time together these days. "We've gone for walks, we'll have supper and then we'll play a board game or we'll play a card game or a dice game or we'll watch a movie," said Mary. "We're doing different things together but not just sitting in front of the TV and bored. We're always finding something to do."After returning from a trip to Florida on March 13, the Duguay's began their 14 day self isolation as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19. Given the message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week — "Go home and stay home" — the Duguay's likely aren't the only couples spending more together time right now. And they have some advice. "Sense of humour, sense of humour, sense of humour — It's all about funny, if you don't have a sense of humour when the sun comes up, you're not going to make," said Greg, as Mary laughed in the background of our phone conversation."You're bound to get on each other's nerves regardless of how much time you think you spend together, and if you're going to be in your own home prison for two weeks, you have to get along and everything can be funny."Staying positive together According to clinical psychologist Chris Carreira, Greg might be on to something. But there's a bit more to it than cracking jokes together. He said particularly stressful times, like a global pandemic, are not good for couples in general. So now is not the time to bring up "difficult issues.""Try not to hash out any kind of marital or family problems right now, because oftentimes what happens is when we have difficult discussions like this we often need to have a period of cooling down that comes afterwards," explained Carreira. "And when we can't exactly have that period of cooling down because you know we're in the same home or we're in very tight quarters — it doesn't give that ability for us to sort of go back and think and reflect about what we said and maybe sort of heal our hearts."Extra time together can be a definite advantage, said Carreira, especially if you're doing fun things together like the Duguays are. It's also a good time to take stock on the positive attributes in your relationship. "They can use this time to their advantage to actually strengthen their relationships by talking about things like what they like in the other person, what it is about the other person that makes them laugh, what it is that they admire in the other person," he said."Definitely avoiding the the arguments that have been going on for two or three or four or seven years and and just having more conversations about positive things like setting goals for yourselves." I can see that just the general level of anxiety in the community in general is rising. \- Chris Carreria, clinical psychologistGreg believes that all this together time could be beneficial to new couples by being "a good litmus test" to see how compatible you are with one another. "At the end of the day make sure you're happy," he said. "Whatever difference you had, you resolve during the day because they can fester in this environment just like this virus — they can really fester and It becomes something greater than it needs to be.""It's all about getting along and working together as a team to make it through this pandemic," added Mary. Anxiety for everyoneIt's not only couples that can have a hard time in self isolation said Carreira who is still regularly seeing clients via phone or video chats. "I can see that just the general level of anxiety in the community in general is rising," he said. "People were getting very bored at home and they're feeling very frustrated."Carreira is reminding people to stay active outdoors while physically distancing from other people. But there are other ways to use this time beneficially. "We can we can take the time to meditate, we can take the time to pray, we can take the time to work on personal self goals. A lot of my patients are journaling today," said Carreira. "This time where they're forced to stay home if they actually use it productively just find some kind of meaning or to find some kind of purpose in sort of rediscovering themselves in journaling about who they are and what they see their values and morals to be ... it's actually very productive and actually they they insulate very well against the potential for depression that could be just around the corner for a lot of people because of the isolation and not communicating with others."

  • News

    Farmers look ahead to spring as COVID-19 sends shockwaves through economy

    For now, things are pretty normal at Lee Moats' farm, which is near Riceton, Sask."We're concerned about what's happening in the world with COVID-19," Moats said on CBC Radio's Saskatchewan Weekend."But in our case, we're out here on the farm. We're doing mostly what we would do on any other day and getting ready for the seeding season." Machinery maintenance and repair are big for Moats right now. He said the farm supply folks he usually works with are taking necessary precautions to keep them and their products safe and that he — like every spring — is optimistic for the season. He thinks there is a difference between being concerned about what will happen in the future and being worried or fearful — and doesn't think we should panic. "I think there's good cause for concern [for the] supply chain both in and out. How do we get our products out? How do we get the inputs that we need in?"It's a good thing to be concerned and to consider what steps we need to take to ensure that our food supply is secure in Canada, but also that we're able to supply countries around the world that are also concerned about their food security."Moats' farm is a family operation. COVID-19 could push them to change the way they interact, but how that will play out that remains to be seen. Kris Mayerle, owner of Greenleaf Seeds, farms near Tisdale, Sask. He said all of his employees and their families, as well as his own family, are healthy. "The business is important but my family and my employees and their families are more important," Mayerle said. Like most people, Mayerle is taking some extra precautions now. They've tried to minimize visitors to the farm as much as possible and if someone does come, they have to meet certain criteria before they're let in.Right now, Mayerle is focused on cleaning seed and getting it ready for customers, as well as doing some grain hauling. His kids, for one, have been enjoying the fact that they can roam around freely when they're not doing school work. "My daughter said she doesn't know how she would survive if she had to live in a town or a city at this time," Mayerle said. Mayerle's biggest concern going forward is the health of his employees and family. If one person got sick, it could potentially shut the farm down for at least two weeks. And depending on the timing, that could be disastrous."There's only a short period of time for us to get that crop in the ground," Mayerle said. Otherwise, though, Mayerle said everything they need to seed the crop is available.

  • Advocates say COVID-19 will spread like 'wildfire' through homeless population unless government steps up

    Advocates say COVID-19 will spread like 'wildfire' through homeless population unless government steps up

    Those trying to get Saskatoon's most vulnerable people to safety during the COVID-19 pandemic say the slow response from Saskatchewan's Ministry of Social Services is putting people at risk. Earlier in March, two Essential Service Hubs were established in Saskatoon to help the city's homeless and hard-to-house populations access shelter and other services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the Salvation Army Temple on Bateman Crescent and the White Buffalo Youth Lodge on 20th are serving as locations.Colleen Christopherson-Cote, incident lead with the Saskatoon Community Response to COVID-19, says while communication and commitments started out well with the Ministry of Social Services, it has gradually dropped off, leaving organizers in a lurch. "Things have been changing almost hourly," said Christopherson-Cote, who is also a co-lead of the Safe Community Action Alliance. "Those connections have changed and the commitment to follow through on things the Ministry of Social Services has said they could do for us have diminished and so there's a fair amount of frustration in the sector." Reducing capacity reduces funding tooShe explained while many of the city's most vulnerable regularly access shelters through organizations like the Salvation Army, many of them have reduced their capacity to ensure best physical distancing practices can continue.Christopherson-Cote said this is a critical move to keeping COVID-19 out of the vulnerable population. She said however, due to the fact shelters are funded based on the number of beds they have in place, they're also seeing their funding reduced. "You can't run a shelter with half of the funding," she said. Organizers want to see the government implement a model where shelters are funded as if they were at max capacity, even though they're not housing as many residents. They'd also like to see dedicated hotels to be used for long-term self-isolation housing as the pandemic continues.The Ministry has allowed for "night-by-night" stays, but Christopherson-Cote says it's little help, as the need remains the next day. "We need a block of hotels and a process so that we can get people into those hotels, stable and wrap services around them so they can stay isolated," she said.She said they're also dealing with a roughly 10-day delay when it comes to applications for social assistance in Saskatchewan, which has also slowed the entire process.CBC Saskatoon requested an interview with an official from social services on Saturday, but a statement was provided instead.In the statement, the Ministry of Social Services' executive director of Income Assistance Delivery, Jeff Redekop, said the province is taking steps to try and protect the province's most vulnerable. "We are all working hard to develop strategies that will help Saskatchewan people affected by this crisis, including how to connect and maintain people in need to short and long-term housing options," he said in the statement."Saskatchewan's emergency shelters, food banks and other partners who serve vulnerable people, all have a vital role to play in this current situation."Emergency hotel staysIn the statement, he explained the government is providing funds for emergency hotel stays when emergency shelters cannot meet the needs of an individual or family because of "capacity, illness or a requirement by public health to self-isolate and provide additional resources where appropriate."The referrals are also being distributed on behalf of Social Services through mobile crisis services and the Salvation Army. "Social Services will continue to work with Saskatchewan's network of emergency shelter providers to ensure those who are homeless and lack the means to pay for their basic needs are served," the statement continued.Major Mike Hoeft, the area commander of Saskatchewan with the Salvation Army, says they have reduced capacity at both their shelters in Regina and Saskatoon to ensure physical distancing can occur, and said both are at the limit of their reduced capacity.He said the Salvation Army has a good relationship with its funding partner in the Ministry of Social Services, noting case workers are still working with clients to ensure applications are being filled out and people are being connected to services. Hoeft explained they will continue to work with social services to provide their clients. For those coming into the shelters, the situation is an unprecedented one.  "It's a very difficult time for everybody trying to figure this whole thing out and respond accordingly," he said."It's changed the way we do business to a degree, but essentially, we're still trying to make sure all of the people that come within our ministries are looked after to the best of our ability."Lack of phone, internet access a barrierIn the statement, the Government of Saskatchewan indicated those who suspected of having COVID-19 and lack money to meet their basic needs should apply for any federal benefits they might be eligible for. Those needing immediate emergency help, such as food and shelter, can contact the local service centre, their worker or the client service centre at 1-866-221-5200."Please note that we have shifted more staff to the call centre to ensure we can help those in need," the statement noted.However Jason Mercredi, who is one of the Hub leads with Saskatoon Community Response, said if the government doesn't act soon, it may be too late, as many people don't have access to a phone or internet and can no longer access services physically due to mass closures. "We're seeing a lot of bureaucratic talk, and we're not really seeing a lot of action and as a result, we're quite worried that once COVID hits the homeless population, it's going to spread like wildfire." He said as a result, he fears the the virus will become entrenched in the homeless community, and with them having little access to public spaces, like libraries, it'll only spread further through the city. "They're having to go to the only public spaces available, which is grocery stores and banks, and so it means that if COVID gets into the homeless population, it is going to get into the rest of the population much quicker." Mercredi says the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and should be treated as such. "We really need government to step up," he said.

  • Decommissioned CTrain car a dream canvas for Calgary artist

    Decommissioned CTrain car a dream canvas for Calgary artist

    As Bryan Faubert tags CTrain car 2002 he says it's bittersweet — street art culture has its roots in tagging buildings and objects without permission but here he is with full control of a massive canvas.Getting this decommissioned car to a lot in southeast Calgary was a feat. And now, it's all his to turn into a sculpture. Faubert apprenticed in New York, where he honed his hand and torch cutting skills, learning new techniques and working toward his Masters' of Fine Art thesis which he is completing at the University of Calgary.Because of his roots in street art and graffiti he was inspired, and when he returned to Calgary, Faubert said he heard the City of Calgary was decommissioning its original U2 fleet."The LRT car is like a stand-in for the New York subway system, essentially," Faubert said. "But then it builds its own narrative like it's my history. It's where I'm working … as soon as I heard about that, I reached out to the city and started a dialogue."While the city's only charging $1 for these cars, buyers have to haul the hunks of metal off City of Calgary property.   Initially, he was looking at $8,000 to $10,000 to pay a semi-truck operator, but after a lot of research and phone calls, he said he was able to find some savings. 'Needs to be done'"Yeah, you know, it's expensive, but it's one of those things where it just hits you like, this needs to be done," Faubert said. And now, the train is sitting in the NVRLND parking lot, a non-profit collective and studio in Ramsay. That's where he will work on it.  Faubert plans to replace the windows with panels that will be lit from inside."They are torch-cut steel panels that I've prepared, and they're going to go in all the window sections and then I'm going to have solar-powered lighting which will direct the light from inside the LRT and then cast the shadows of the figures all the way around," he said. The figures are created in a continuous line, Faubert explains. "I've taken the one line that graffiti artists use to tag or write their name, and I've subverted it into a figure," Faubert said. "It's a very automatic process of drawing … it's like really letting go and letting the work flow through me."In the end, his work is about connection and experience. He expects to finish this project at the beginning of August.After that? Faubert said he's looking into opportunities for the CTrain car to live as a public art piece, perhaps along the Green Line.If it doesn't find a home…"It's for my thesis and after the defence, if there's nowhere to put it, then we'll probably take the panels out and then it will get scrapped," Faubert said."I'm based in graffiti and street art, and that work is very ephemeral. So, you know, kind of ties in with all that it has a short life, sometimes it has a long life, but I see it being somewhere in the public in Calgary."

  • Tears and fears: Life behind the wheel for New Brunswick's truckers

    Tears and fears: Life behind the wheel for New Brunswick's truckers

    Life on the road as a long-haul trucker is not what it used to be, as COVID-19 precautions place more and more restrictions on the facilities truckers rely on.Some restaurants are limiting their hours, or only offering take out. Some truck stops and rest areas have shut down their facilities and closed their lounges.For Jason Briscoe, a long-haul trucker from the Moncton area, it's frustrating. "It's getting hard for us to get food, some places are shutting down their showers," he said."It's a necessity. We're living away from home. We need food, we need a place to sleep, we need bathrooms."Recently, Briscoe claimed a customer refused to let him inside to use the bathroom after he dropped off a delivery. And while he does have food packed in his truck, not having the ability to take a break from his cab and sit down at a restaurant is a small thing he didn't think he'd miss this much."It's hard as it is... being away from family. when you get businesses and people starting to do stuff like this it makes it that much more difficult."'I've had my breakdowns'Recent restrictions have some drivers feeling uneasy about travelling into the U.S. at all. Brenda Ramsay, a trucker from Natoaganeg, the Eel Ground First Nation, said she's noticed a lack of self-isolation and physical distancing in the U.S. when she goes down for deliveries, something that makes her very nervous."Right now, I'm still allowed to go through, but that risk factor once I go through… I'm feeling great today, will I be feeling great later?" she told Information Morning Moncton on Friday. Ramsay — like many truck drivers — is taking precautions. She's wearing gloves, sanitizing frequently, and wearing masks.Ramsay has been keeping her distance from family and friends back home because of all her travel into the U.S., where cases of COVID-19 have surpassed China's peak. "I've had my breakdowns, and tears behind the wheel. I have had ups and downs, because I have family out east and I'm worried about them. I personally don't want to go into my local area, because I'm afraid. It only takes one," "It's extremely stressful." Thankfully, Ramsay has company in her cab. Her 90lb poodle, Liam, rides with her on her hauls."He's three years old and he loves the truck," she said.ThankATruckerJean-Marc Picard with the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association is doing everything he can to support truckers, and keep them up to date with new information around COVID-19."It's unfortunate that we're in this situation. These women and men need to look after themselves," he said.While truckers don't have to self-isolate for 14 days after returning home, Picard said many are struggling with a lack of human contact, even on their days off."There's not much open, there's not much to do, so they're probably going to stay home… until they get back out on the road again," said Picard.The Association has been trying to boost morale however they can. "Every month we launch a driver of the month...But yesterday we put out that all drivers in Atlantic Canada were the driver of the month," said Picard. The APTA has also launched a social media campaign called thankatrucker, and are urging people to spread kind words online.Trucking companies are taking care of their own too, and many are sending drivers out with kits full of food, water and sanitizer. Finding the positivesDespite the struggles, Ramsay and Briscoe are finding silver linings.In Sussex, Briscoe was treated to a homemade meal at a truck stop, cooked by a local community group.His employer, S.A.T. Inc is also compensating drivers per mile. It has also increased service at terminals: providing meals, offering showers, and sanitizing trucks.For Ramsay, staying connected on social media keeps her going.Just the other day, she saw the thankatrucker campaign in action as she was driving home through New Brunswick."There was a big sign on the side of the road…and it said 'We love truckers,' or something like that. We ran down to the sign to get a picture," she said."It was so nice to see that truckers were being thanked."

  • News

    1 dead, more than 50 displaced after 2 Cape Breton fires

    Two overnight fires in Cape Breton have left one person dead and about 50 forced out of their homes.In New Waterford, one person died after a blaze at a seniors apartment complex, Curran Court, on Curran Street that began around 1 a.m., said Chris March, CBRM deputy fire chief and acting Emergency Management Organization (EMO) manager.March said he'd been told the residents were gathered in one room at the opposite end of the building from where the fire was located, so the heat and light were still working."I don't believe at this point that the building was a loss, but it was a serious fire," he said.March said the fire was out by at least 5:30 a.m., but New Waterford's fire department remained on the scene for some time Sunday.He had no more information about the person who died.That fire displaced about 30 residents, according to a release from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality mayor's office."At this time, it is not clear how extensive the damage is and how long before the residents will be able to return," Sheilah MacDonald, municipal spokesperson, said in the statement.Residents of Curran Court were initially taken to the New Waterford fire hall about a kilometre away, according to a release from Red Cross spokesperson Dan Bedell.He said some people were picked up by relatives while others are being assisted by the Cape Breton Regional Housing Authority for emergency lodging, and by Red Cross volunteers for other emergency needs.In Sydney, March said 11 people lost their homes when a fire broke out in a Charlotte Street building around 9 p.m., requiring it to be torn down.No injuries have been reported.Steve Andrews of Rising Tide Tattoos, located in the bottom of the Charlotte Street building, posted photos and video of the fire on social media. One shows the store in complete rubble after it had been torn down."It was a great shop with enough character for two, and we'll miss her greatly. We firmly believe that these things always have a silver lining, and we're all staying pretty positive about the whole thing," Andrews wrote.He specifically thanked all the firefighters who worked not only to keep the rest of the block safe, but also managed to get work stations from the shop out of the building."We are eternally grateful for your thoughtful actions, and know you have done us a tremendously unforgettable solid," Andrews said.He added he hopes to find a new spot for the shop in the Sydney area soon.The Charlotte Street fire caused another 11 people in a neighbouring building to be temporarily displaced from their residences. It is expected they will be allowed back in their apartments later on Sunday.Bedell said Red Cross volunteers arranged emergency lodging at area hotels for 13 international students from Cape Breton University. Those include the 11 who lived in the Charlotte Street building which was destroyed, plus two from the adjacent building for safety reasons. MORE TOP STORIES

  • Landlord challenges tenants to lip-sync contest aimed at closing the distance during COVID-19

    Landlord challenges tenants to lip-sync contest aimed at closing the distance during COVID-19

    With a clay mask smoothed onto her face and rollers in her hair, Brenda Hibbitts sits on her bed as she silently — and enthusiastically — belts out a favourite tune from her teens.It's Crazy in the Night, Kim Carnes's 1985 hit single.She's rehearsing her video entry for a lip-sync contest launched during the pandemic, and the grand prize is $1,000. But this isn't for the TV show, Lip Sync Battle. This competition is put on by her landlord in Halifax."I'm in it to win it, but I'm in it to challenge my neighbours," Hibbitts said with a chuckle about her creative take on the challenge that may help cure COVID cabin fever. "People are going a little bit stir crazy just being told they have to stay inside."As the cases of COVID-19 mount in Nova Scotia — as of Saturday, there were 110 cases — some are finding that moments of laughter can ease their fears.That's part of the reason why landlord Ron Lovett is encouraging tenants to throw down their best lip-sync as a fun distraction during long periods of time holed up in an apartment.In fact, public health officials have renamed social distancing as physical distancing to emphasize that while people should stay apart, they should still stay connected through phone calls or video chats."The gloom can be viral, it can cause mental stress and bring on mental illness," said Lovett, CEO of RFL Group.His contest, which includes gift cards for each entry submitted from his 350 tenants, will cost him $4,500. "I have the option to double down and create some hope at a time of worry," he said.Lovett and his team came up with the idea while he himself was in self-isolation after a trip. After quarantined Italians sang their hearts out on balconies, while others played ping pong between units, he wanted to do his part.But the silent sing-along isn't just a social exercise. It's also part of the business strategy for his apartment rental company, Vida Living. Over the last three years, Lovett has purchased 21 buildings, many were neglected in lower-income neighbourhoods.He even bought two buildings that were so run down and trashed by tenants, the city condemned them. But after extensive renovations, he's kept rents affordable, even as the city experiences a low vacancy rate that's sending rents through the roof.Lovett believes if tenants love their homes, they'll keep them up, which in turns keeps his operating costs down.He's held other contests and events to encourage tenants to be neighbourly. So far, his housing strategy is working, and he hopes to expand his housing portfolio.Helping to uplift tenants during an anxious time is part of his goal of community-building, he said. To show that he's walking the talk, he lip-synced the song, Wavin' Flag, by Somali-Canadian K'Naan. The battle among neighbours doesn't officially start until April 1, but already Lovett has received about a dozen entries.Hibbitts is using props. A Godzilla toy serves as backup as she mouths Carnes's song — There's a monster on my ceiling, there's a monster on the wall. There are thousands in the closet. Now they're coming down the hall.   "We do need something that's kind of going to lift our spirits, make ourselves be a little bit silly," said Hibbitts, who is without a job but fortunate to still be receiving a salary. "You can only clean your bathroom so many times."MORE TOP STORIES

  • Edmonton man loses bid to see police face disciplinary charges

    Edmonton man loses bid to see police face disciplinary charges

    An appeal launched by an Edmonton man who claimed he was the victim of excessive use of force by police has been dismissed by the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board. Joe DiGiuseppe filed a formal complaint with the Edmonton Police Service after the October 2015 incident, but the chief ultimately determined disciplinary charges were not warranted. He concluded the officers' use of force was "reasonable and necessary" under the circumstances.On Thursday, the LERB issued a 35-page decision stating, "We find the chief's disposition to be reasonable." DiGiuseppe's ordeal began when he was pulled over by Edmonton police in a high-risk vehicle stop. Officers acting on a tip thought they were taking down a man with a gun. DiGiuseppe wasn't armed, but officers didn't know that at the time. Video from a police helicopter shows DiGiuseppe getting out of his vehicle and walking toward six officers behind cover and pointing two rifles and four service revolvers. The canine unit was also on the scene. The tension escalated further when DiGiuseppe reached into his jacket pocket. He pulled out a phone, but said he panicked when officers began to yell directions at him.  A lawyer representing police told the LERB the officers felt they were "in a potentially dangerous situation and they had no choice but to take down and restrain the appellant as fast as possible."The video shows officers pushing DiGiuseppe onto the hood of a police vehicle as they try to handcuff him. DiGiuseppe said he briefly lost consciousness and sustained a concussion when his head hit the ground.He was kicked three or four times by one of the officers and sustained four breaks to three ribs. He was handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser, but released half an hour later after police determined DiGiuseppe did not have a weapon. "It is extremely unfortunate that the incident led to the appellant being fearful and confused and that he was injured, the LERB decision states, adding, "The evidence from multiple officers was that the appellant continued to resist." The three-person panel agreed with the chief that the use of force was necessary for safety reasons."Considering the circumstances as a whole, including the report of a firearm, the appellant's actions and the force used by multiple officers, the chief's reasons were intelligible, transparent, justifiable and reasonable."Last November, DiGiuseppe told CBC News he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work since the incident. Two years ago, DiGiuseppe and his wife Audrey filed a $325,000 lawsuit against police, alleging mistreatment by the arresting officers. None of the allegations have been proven in court.In a statement of defence filed by the officers, all allegations made by the DiGiuseppe's are denied. DiGiuseppe and his lawyer declined comment this week on the LERB decision.

  • COVID-19 'is threatening to us': Past epidemic leaves survivors at risk

    COVID-19 'is threatening to us': Past epidemic leaves survivors at risk

    It was an epidemic that thrived on crowds, targeted the vulnerable and had the viral might to close schools, shut down playgrounds and hold entire households hostage. It wasn't, however, COVID-19 — it was poliomyelitis, aka polio.And it's survivors today face a haunting déjà vu with this new pandemic."The coronavirus is threatening to us," says Terry Wiens. Pat McNeill is more blunt; "I probably would not live if I got it."Both of them are watching with weary eyes as this COVID-19 pandemic plays out. They've been down this viral road before.McNeill contracted polio in 1947. Wiens got it in 1953.In the first half of the 20th century, wave after wave of polio epidemics terrorized North American familiesManitoba was the hot spot.Especially in 1953. That year alone, more than 2,300 Manitobans contracted polio. 85 of them died.By the time the last epidemic had waned in 1956 (thanks to the mass introduction of a successful vaccine), tens of thousands of Canadians had contracted polio. 6,000 of them were from Manitoba.'There's been something like this'Polio had a lot in common with COVID-19."You see people today saying there's never been anything like this, but there's been something like this," says polio survivor Myrna Penner.Like COVID-19, polio was highly contagious — though it spread through contaminated food and water, as opposed to respiratory droplets. Like COVID-19, polio ravaged the vulnerable, though usually younger people rather than older adults.And like COVID-19, the epidemic closed schools, theatres and churches. "Many of the kids I knew were sent to the country, where there were fewer people, to live with a relative," McNeill recalls.And still the virus spread. Myrna Penner was a 10-year-old in Winkler, Man., at the time. "It went fairly quickly. It felt like the flu," she recalls. "A very bad headache and neck ache."Wiens was a three-year-old in St.Boniface. "They thought I had the flu, too" he says. "They wasted seven days treating me for the flu."More than a fluThe more pronounced symptoms, however, left no doubt in people's minds. Polio often destroyed nerve cells that controlled muscles, leaving some with paralyzed limbs or lungs."I got up and just crumbled to the floor. I couldn't walk," Penner recalls. Pat McNeill was just two when she got sick."Both my legs and arms were paralyzed," McNeill says. "I was basically in and out of hospital until I was able to go to school."Survivors were treated like pariahs."They put a sign on our house that said 'keep out of this house,'" recalls Wiens. "People would literally cross the street once they saw the sign on my house."The memories remain."Imagine, you're in the hospital, you're five years old and you're watching them roll a kid up into a bundle and take them out on a stretcher," Wiens says. "Those kinds of things linger in the back of my head."But today there's something more insidious than the memories of polio that defined their childhood.Now COVID-19 threatens to hijack their senior years.Post-polio syndromeMany of them live with post-polio syndrome, a debilitating condition that picks up where the polio left off. And so the epidemic of their past now leaves them physically vulnerable to this newest epidemic."There's a lot of talk about how threatening the coronavirus is to post-polio people," Wiens says. "Because of the wear and tear on the body."McNeill's now on oxygen around the clock — an unwelcome evolution of her post polio syndrome — and now feels like an open target for COVID 19."This sickness going around, it's really bothering me," McNeill says. "I can't risk getting it."Both of them say they're adhering to protocols mandated this time around — they rarely venture out of their homes, they wash their hands and keep their distance. But there is no end in sight to the immediate pandemic — and with never-ending memories of the earlier epidemic, polio survivors are bracing for the worst."There are so many similarities to what's going on now," Wiens says. "We weren't sure what was going to happen then. And we don't now."

  • Britons warned some coronavirus lockdown measures could last months

    Britons warned some coronavirus lockdown measures could last months

    Some lockdown measures to combat coronavirus in Britain could last months and only be gradually lifted, a senior medical official said on Sunday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the situation will get worse before it gets better. Britain has reported 19,522 confirmed cases of the disease and 1,228 deaths, after an increase of 209 fatalities as of 5 p.m. local time on Saturday compared with the previous day, the health ministry said. "The important thing is this is a moving target," Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries said.

  • Independent contractors wonder why they've been declared essential

    Independent contractors wonder why they've been declared essential

    Some independent contractors in the Ottawa area are asking whether they need to be considered an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the Ontario government released a list of essential workplaces that were permitted to remain open beyond the province's deadline of 11:59 p.m. on March 24.The list includes "construction work and services, including demolition services, in the industrial, commercial, institutional and residential sectors."  Some contractors like David Sheard, however, think that definition is too broad."If somebody had a hole in the roof or a plumbing leak or backup, then yes, [workers] should be allowed to go in, because that's considered an emergency service," said Sheard, who's decided to close down his business during the pandemic. However, Sheard said he's seen people posting requests on social media for non-emergency work like kitchen or bathroom renovations — and also contractors willing to take them up."My opinion [is that] renovating a bathroom or renovating a kitchen at this time should not be considered essential," he said.Families worry tooMegan feels the same.Her husband is an electrician who is still going to work. CBC Ottawa has agreed to use only her first name in order to protect his job. "We're doing everything right. And it's almost like there's no point to that, if he's going to be out and about [and] then coming back home," she said."So I know he is kind of considering [whether he should] be isolating himself away from us."While her husband's boss offered to lay him off, Megan said they worry about paying their bills since she's already receiving employment insurance due to the COVID-19 outbreak.She also wonders if creditors will give them a break if he chooses to take time off. 'It's pretty scary'For those like plumber Kevin Villeneuve, who've been out handling emergency calls, the hope is that all contractors and potential clients are taking precautions."It's pretty scary. We're working and in some pretty bad scenarios," said Villeneuve, who owns Plumbing Express. Villeneuve said most of his emergency calls are for blocked drains, which can be filled with bodily fluids.He said his team is wearing gloves and disinfecting both equipment and their own hands before and after calls. They also now ask clients questions about their health and recent travel, and only accept digital payments.And while he agrees with the decision to declare his industry essential, that doesn't make his work any less frightening. Some people are still asking for service even though they're in quarantine, Villeneuve said."We're really close to a lot of germs." Jiffy, a larger company that co-ordinates independent contractor calls, has kept working during the pandemic — as has the majority of its contractors."They obviously rely on this income," said co-founder Paul Arlin."And while some of them have chosen to just kind of shut down temporarily for the time being, the vast majority of them are taking the necessary precautions and helping homeowners."Up to each business, says province In an email, the province's ministry of labour said while it takes the well-being of all Ontarians seriously, it must also maintain critical infrastructure."Business owners, including non-profits and service delivery organizations, should review the list of essential business which are authorized to stay open, determine whether they fit into any of the categories and, if they do, make a business decision as to whether to stay open." the statement said.The ministry did not directly explain why all contractors were put on the essential list.

  • Hospitable parrot offers an interesting lunch invitation

    Hospitable parrot offers an interesting lunch invitation

    Einstein loves to perch on top of the shower and talk. Naturally, birds poop often. When nature calls and he has to relieve himself he positions himself and deposits his business over the edge. Extending a lunch invitation, he said, “Ok, eat your lunch”. To make sure that it landed safely and to ensure that it hit his intended target he always gives it a sideways glance. Offering some water, he made an incredible sound of water being poured. Thanks, Einstein, but I’ll get my own lunch today! Einstein the Talking Texan Parrot is a silly, smart, and popular parrot who loves to talk and entertain! He knows the names of several animals and likes to make their sounds. In addition to his silly vocalizations, he likes to have conversations with his owners, talking, doing animal sound imitations and acting silly. He also enjoys singing and dancing in some of his video compilations. With his amazing talking abilities and funny antics, Einstein the talking parrot’s videos will keep you entertained for hours! Einstein parrot is also famous for some of his silly quotes and sayings. Online, Einstein, the talking parrot is popular across many social media platforms. Einstein’s favorite places to talk at home is perched on the shower wall, in the kitchen on his drawer, and on his screened-in back porch. As stated on his website, Einstein’s mission statement: “To entertain and bring joy, to foster the human-parrot bond, and to convey that parrots are deserving of immeasurable amounts of patience, nurturing, and companionship.” Einstein’s website, einsteinparrot.com is designed to inform you about the care of parrots and also entertain you. As previously mentioned, Einstein is popular on many social media sites such as YouTube @einsteinparrot, Instagram @einsteinparrot, Twitter @einsteinparrot, and Facebook @einsteintexanparrot. Living with a parrot is a big commitment. Parrots live a very long time. A parrot such as Einstein can live to be 50 or 60 years old. Many larger parrots like Macaws can live to be 100 years old. They all require a lot of care, proper nutrition, training, time and patience. Parrots need a lot of attention and lots of toys and activities to keep from being bored. Parrots are also expensive, a large cage is an investment and plenty of play perches to spend their out of cage time. Specialized veterinarian care is also required. Most of all they require your companionship and a forever home. Many people decide after the first few years of parrot ownership that the responsibility is too great and the parrots become neglected and sometimes abandoned. When that happens they are sent to parrot rescue facilities to be adopted by a new family or some spend their lives in sanctuaries. It is often said, “Having a parrot is much like raising a raising a 2 to 3-year-old child for the rest of your life!”

  • COVID-19 isolation measures increase risk for those in abusive relationships

    COVID-19 isolation measures increase risk for those in abusive relationships

    Being isolated at home, without the ability to see friends or get out of the house for any reason, is tough. For a subset of Canadians, though, it can be deadly."I remember being so disappointed when there was a PA day or a day off school," says Rifaa Carter. "School and homework, those were things that gave me a little bit of relief from the abuse."Growing up in an abusive home and with a jobless parent, it was a really scary and hopeless situation," she adds.Carter is a survivor of childhood physical abuse, who now advocates for other women facing violence, through an organization called WomenattheCentrE.She got out of her dangerous situation, but thousands of women in Canada continue to experience abuse in their homes.In fact, every six days in Canada a woman is killed by her partner, according to The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Statistics Canada adds that in 2018, the number of attempted murders of women by intimate partners was the equivalent of one every five days, and more than 155,000 cases of violence against women in households were reported to police.And in this time of imposed isolation and self-distancing, they are at a higher level of risk because they are confined in a space with the very person who is hurting them."We know for some women, their homes are not safe," says Marlene Ham, executive director of The Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses. Last week, Prime Minister Trudeau recognized the potential danger in his daily press address, and announced an additional $50 million in new funding to help."For anyone fleeing domestic or gender based violence, we will boost funding for shelters that provide sanctuary when self-isolating at home is not an option," he said on March 18.Marlene Ham was one of the people relieved to hear that. She runs Ontario's 95 abuse shelters and says the federal support is very much needed."This is a very scary time for many women," says Ham. "Trudeau's statement certainly does send a message that governments are paying attention, they understand our needs, they are working with us. And we are at a time where we really do all need to work together."Ham says that since the repeated requests for people to isolate were made, she has already seen intake requests at shelters rise. Currently, 6,000 women sleep in shelters for domestic abuse in Canada on any given night, and Ham expects those numbers to rise significantly due to the effects of self-isolation on already-troubled households.Also, the way shelters and agencies like The Ontario Association of Interval and Transitional Houses support women is having to change."None of us have been through this before," says Ham. "Every policy, every procedure, and every way of moving through the world has drastically changed, so we're in a place of having to figure out new ways to cope."Some of those new strategies include support workers who can no longer do face-to-face meetings shifting to phone and skype calls with clients, where possible. However, even those approaches can prove difficult in situations where women are confined to small spaces with their partners and aren't able to communicate freely.Ham's organization has been working to help women who they know are in the most dangerous situations first, and then working down their lists according to the most pressing needs.Deepa Mattoo, executive director of The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto, says it's the isolation itself that is heightening the risk for women."We always say that women experience escalation of violence when they're isolated. So any kind of isolation is the breeding ground, and that's what we are fearful of," says Mattoo. "There is potential for her also feeling that she cannot access the services or access supports she needs."The Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which offers legal support to victims of violence, has also adapted in the past few weeks and has changed the way it is supporting clients.Even little features on the clinic's website can make a huge difference. For example, there's an icon where women can exit the site immediately by pressing a big red LEAVE button if their abusers unexpectedly enter the room behind them when they are on the computer. It's a little thing, but something that Matoo thinks can deescalate a dangerous situation."This is just the perfect storm," Mattoo says. "This is really challenging us to think outside the box."The clinic also has links to emergency services on its website, is offering support counselling and advice services online or over the phone, and is offering women updated safety planning and tips if they need to flee their homes quickly. And it expects all these services will be used."We have a high-risk team which is working on the ground still, and it's absolutely very, very hot. We are all looking at 12-hours-a-day kind of days," says Mattoo. "There will be a larger number of calls coming to us as compared to what we were dealing with before."Mattoo has partnered with other community agencies, and has also made sure her centre's services are shared on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms so that as many women as possible know that help is out there and how to reach it.Rifaa Carter, who knows what it's like to live in an abusive home, thinks the more agencies reach out directly to women who are at risk right now, the better."All the red flags are going to be missed. No one is going to notice that you didn't show up at work, no one is going to notice that you're not being yourself today, or any of the other things people notice and say 'hey what's going on is everything ok?," she says.

  • Thailand's tourist haven Pattaya devastated as coronavirus hits travel

    Thailand's tourist haven Pattaya devastated as coronavirus hits travel

    Beaches are deserted, go-go bars stand empty and cabarets have shut their doors in Thailand's tourist haven of Pattaya, as business has ground to a standstill after worldwide travel restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic. For one of the world's most famed - some might say infamous - tourism hotspots, the economic devastation is near-total and business owners say haven't seen anything like it for four decades. Pattaya is a tourist city, we rely mostly on them.