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WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
CALGARY — Police in Calgary have ticketed three organizers of an anti-mask rally held over the weekend. The province has banned outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19. Media have reported that hundreds attended the rally in the city's downtown. Artur Pawlowski has been charged under the Public Health Act with contravening a public health order, failing to wear a face covering where required and failing to have a permit for an event. David Pawlowski and Ryan Audette are also charged with contravening a public health order and failing to wear a face covering. A Calgary police spokeswoman says the public health order charges each come with a $1,200 fine and there is a $50 fine under Calgary's mask bylaw. The charge for failing to have a permit does not have a set fine but is to go to court on March 16. Investigators are seeking three additional people who face charges. The Calgary Police Service says in a statement that it's not always safe for officers to issue a ticket at the time of an alleged offence, like during a protest where "emotions are high." "In many instances, tickets are issued in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event," police said. "We know everyone is struggling right now and our intent is not to punish, but to protect the safety of Calgarians as we work together through this pandemic." This report by The Canadian Press was first published December 2, 2020. The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story; a previous version had incorrect charges and fines.
Les récréations, transitions et cours d’éducation physique ne seront plus jamais vécus de la même manière à l’École Arc-en-ciel de Sainte-Monique! Celle-ci vient de transformer une simple cour d’école en un gymnase à ciel ouvert. Car l’école Arc-en-ciel s’est dotée il y a quelques mois d’une toute nouvelle cour asphaltée et a décidé de la décorer de jeux éducatifs, ludiques et sportifs de grande qualité peints à même sa surface. Le résultat: une cour d’école colorée et multi-usage que les enfants de la maternelle et du primaire peuvent maintenant salir et parcourir sans retenue. Et surtout, y jouer à plus soif au basket-ball, au hockey, au ballon quatre-coins, au ballon chasseur, en plus d’exercer et de développer leurs habiletés motrices sur différents parcours. «Ça s’est fait la semaine avant que les élèves rentrent». Et le résultat fait un effet bœuf! Le projet connaît déjà un tel succès que d’autres écoles du Centre de services scolaire de la Riveraine cherchent à l’imiter, nous dit Stéphane Grimard, directeur des écoles Arc-en-ciel, des Arbrisseaux et de la Croisée au Centre de services scolaire de la Riveraine. «C’est une première sur notre territoire et ça fait l’envie de plusieurs écoles. J’ai des collègues qui me disent "tu nous as créé toute une demande!"». M. Grimard affirme qu’il n’hésitera pas à partager ses contacts… M. Grimard avait fait refaire l’asphalte de la cour d’école l’an dernier. Mais il la trouvait un peu vide de jeux. Et en surfant sur internet, «je suis tombé sur des compagnies qui faisaient ce type de travail. J’ai trouvé ça fantastique. On a identifié en équipe-école ce qu’on voulait comme jeux et on est allé de l’avant». M. Grimard demande aussi conseil à sa professeure d’éducation physique. «Tous ces espaces sont intégrés au plaisir et à l’éducation des jeunes lors des transitions, lors de leur présence au service de garde et durant le cours d’éducation physique», ajoute M. Grimard. Il fallait maintenant trouver les sous. En fait 6500$, asphalte non inclus bien sûr! L’équipe-école se met en branle. Le public répond présent. L’école reçoit des dons privés de plusieurs parents, de l’argent du Grand Défi Pierre-Lavoie, de la pharmacie Jean-Coutu de Nicolet, de l’Unité régionale des loisirs et des sports Centre-du-Québec, de la Course Esprit Saint, des Autobus Aston et des Viandes Rheintal. L’entrepreneur est embauché. Si les premières neiges ont déjà recouvert une partie du terrain de jeu de la cour de l’École Arc-en-ciel, les nombreux redoux en révèlent encore les contours et redonnent espoir aux enfants de pouvoir y jouer de nouveau même avant les fontes du printemps. La cour est évidemment déneigée pendant l’hiver. La cour de l’école est aussi accessible à l’ensemble de la communauté en l’absence des élèves de l’école, tient à souligner la direction de l'Arc-en-ciel. Boris Chassagne, Initiative de journalisme local, La Voix du Sud
Jasper Municipal Council had a lengthy discussion at their Dec. 1 regular meeting about the options for utility fees in Jasper in 2021, including whether they wanted to set a flat consumption rate or change tiered. Mayor Richard Ireland said utility fees had been discussed at five meetings and it was time to move ahead and council directed administration to prepare a bylaw that includes a flat consumption rate. The bylaw will generate about $750,000 of additional revenue, and will include a base rate related to meter size. The first reading of the utility fees bylaw is scheduled for Dec. 15. Administration was also directed to bring suggestions to council in the new year, for moving to a tiered consumption rate for 2022. Support for sidewalk seating A majority of businesses surveyed in Jasper want patio seating to continue in the upcoming season, Pattie Pavlov, general manager, Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce told council at their regular meeting on Dec. 1, and a decision is needed soon. There's room for fine-tuning the program that ran last summer. Suggestions from respondents included adding additional bike parking, closing Patricia Street access on the 600 block to all vehicle traffic as far as TGP, and having businesses who want to participate pay all associated costs. But the general consensus among council members was to get matters moving so businesses can prepare for next year's season. Ireland said the program was put in place this year "to give businesses the opportunity to survive”. “In fact, it was spectacularly successful,” he said. There was discussion about needing more consultation with groups including Tourism Jasper and Community Futures as well as Parks Canada. Ireland said there needs to be individual business representation as well and pointed out the program is not limited to restaurants. Overall, council approved of something similar to the pilot program that ran in 2020. A subsequent program has to be reviewed by the Planning and Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) with Parks Canada. Council hopes okaying a similar program for 2021 will lead to quick approval from Parks Canada. They're scheduled to make a decision about extended seating and retail areas at their regular meeting on Dec. 15.Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Jasper Municipal Council’s Nov. 25 public budget meeting showed the effects of the COVID pandemic, when council heard budget details from Community and Family Services and the Operations department. Community and Family Services Community and Family Services director Kathleen Waxer reiterated the need for CFS to be resilient in light of the COVID pandemic. She said management and staff helped people deal with negative impacts including food insecurity, job losses, loss of child care, family violence, challenges finding a safe place to isolate and loss of childcare facilities for working parents. Waxer said she worked hard to keep the budget amounts in each of the CFS branches at the 2019 levels. An exception is an increase of $21,625 requested from Wildflowers Childcare, the result of the additional costs of operating in the pandemic. Additional requests included the Senior Bus request for $10,000, computer costs and reallocation of maintenance costs. Waxer also made a request of $35,000 to pay for continuation of the programmer position if CFS can’t secure funding from other sources. Operations Staff from the Operations department talked about initiatives including sprinklers, fire protection, arena slab and boards project, and Activity Centre roof replacement. Acting chief administrative officer (CAO), John Greathead, said at the moment, most of the work done in the department is of a reactive nature. “We’re looking to switch to a more predictive maintenance and asset management plan than has been previously made thus far,” he said. “Our requests are to ensure we’re able to meet demands.” Gord Hutton, buildings and asset manager, said in the budget from 2019 to 2021 an $80,000 increase for contracted winter and summer services is related to utility costs, which are beyond the department’s control. “It’s a tough figure to nail down – you never know how much snow we’re going to get in the winter,” he said. In the Operations budget highlights, the net increase from 2019 ($2,319,739) to 2021 ($2,469,965) is $150,226. The overall total for the Operations department in 2021 is $3,398,574 without utilities. Mayor Richard Ireland asked if there’s a way to track and demonstrate where the costs savings are being achieved. Greathead said, the department is lacking the administrative capability at the moment. “We can get that information but it would take away from what we’re up to right now,” he said. Ireland said he appreciates it takes time and money to do the tracking. He said in previous years, council has discussed the possibility of a reserve account specific to snow clearing. Ireland said, “Are we preparing to cushion an uncertain blow each year by having a budgeted amount and putting any surplus into a reserve account so that we can equalize the payments and be prepared for differences between heavy snow years and lighter snow years?” Greathead said shortfalls were taken out of other budgets. Natasha Malenchak, director of Finance and Administration, said, there is a reserve contingency of about $50,000. A decision Council is scheduled to make a decision about the interim operating budget at their Dec. 15 meeting. It will allow Administration to continue with regular municipal business while council discusses the proposed operating budget, which should be adopted by Mar. 30, 2021, to allow enough time for the preparation of the tax rates bylaw and related documents, including tax notices to residents. Expenses incurred under the 2020 interim operating budget will match the 2019 approved expenditures levels until the final 2020 operating budget is adopted. Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh
Known Terror Squad gang member Kevin George Ackegan pleaded guilty in Prince Albert Provincial Court to weapons and drug-related charges avoiding a trial. Forty-year-old Ackegan was arrested by Prince Albert RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team during a traffic stop on Feb. 26, 2020. When police searched the vehicle they found two firearms, ammunition, a machete, a knife, bear spray, hydromorphone, methamphetamine, and Gabapentin pills. They also found U.S., Jamaican and Canadian currency. On Nov. 30 Ackegan changed his plea from not guilty to guilty. Before Ackegan’s trial, his lawyer Dale Blenner-Hassett, filed a Charter application asking the court to exclude the evidence seized during the traffic stop. Blenner-Hasset challenged whether the arresting officer had a reasonable belief that an offence was being committed. The court heard that the arresting police officer was working for the RCMP Integrated Crime Reduction Team that investigates gangs, guns and drugs. At about 8 a.m. on Feb. 26, 2020, the officer got a call from a source that told him Ackegan was in possession of guns and told him where he was in Prince Albert. The officer had used the source on eight previous occasions. The officer testified that the source has a criminal record. The court heard that the arresting officer also knew Ackegan. He had charged Ackegan previously in 2017 with breaching his parole by associating with known gang members and at the time of that arrest, Ackegan was a member of the street gang Terror Squad. On Feb. 26, 2020, when the officer received the information about Ackegan, he conducted surveillance at a residence on the 800 block of 14 Street West in Prince Albert. Another officer testified that he watched the residence for about three hours and at about 11:20 a.m. Ackegan came out of the residence and started loading several bags into the back seat and trunk of a vehicle. A woman was driving the vehicle and Ackegan was the passenger. Both officers testified that in their experience, guns could be concealed in bags. The officer who took the call from the informant testified that he conducted a CPIC inquiry on Ackegan, which confirmed he was prohibited from possessing firearms. The woman and Ackegan drove a few blocks before stopping at another residence. At this point the officers made a traffic stop and arrested Ackegan. One of the officers drove the vehicle to the police station where it was searched and police found guns in the bags, ammunition, drugs, and a cell phone. Crown Prosecutor Andreanne Dube argued that the search of the vehicle was justified as a search incidental to the lawful arrest of Ackegan. During cross-examination, Blenner-Hassett asked one of the officers the identity of the confidential informant. Judge H. M. Harradence, however, said the informant’s identity shouldn’t be disclosed and the court must ensure confidentiality is maintained. Judge Harradence dismissed the defence’s Charter application to have the evidence thrown out. He said he accepted that the arresting officer had information from a source that the accused was in possession of guns and that the information was current and firsthand because the source actually saw what was reported. Judge Harradence said there was some indication of past credibility of information from the source, three hours of surveillance that corroborated Ackegan was at the residence and was loading bags into the trunk and back seat of the vehicle. Judge Harradence also said that police testified they have investigative experience that guns have been concealed in bags and the arresting officer had personal knowledge of Ackegan’s history with illegal firearms and association with known gang members. “I find a number of factors persuasive of a strong connection between Ackegan and the illegal possession of firearms,” said Judge Harradence. Judge Harradence ruled that Ackegan’s rights weren’t violated. “In these circumstances, I find that the arrest and search of this accused and the vehicle was reasonable and lawful.” Ackegan will be sentenced in Prince Albert Provincial Court on Feb. 2. Lisa Joy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Battlefords Regional News-Optimist
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh calls on the federal government to ensure vaccines and critical medicines for Canadians can be manufactured within the country. He says the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Canadians shouldn’t be forced to rely on importing vaccines from other countries.
Good Spirit School Division (GSSD) held their regular meeting of the board for November via Zoom on Thursday, November 19th. All Trustees were in attendance at the meeting including Bob Simpson, Chairperson, Jaime Johnson, Vice-Chairperson, Trustees Jade Anderson, Chris Balyski, Gilda Dokuchie, Gord Gendur, Shannon Leson, Jan Morrison, Lois Smandych, Nicole Pohl and Steve Variyan. Division office staff in attendance included Assistant to the Director Heather Morris, Director of Education/CEO Quintin Robertson, Chief Financial Officer Keith Gervais and Deputy Director of Education Donna Kriger. Some highlights of the meeting are provided below and the full highlight report can be found at www.gssd.ca Audited Financial Statement for 2019-20 Chief Financial Officer, Keith Gervais, presented the 2019-20 Audited Financial statement to the Board of Education. He discussed the audit which was completed by Gary Kreklewich of Miller Moar Grodecki Kreklewich & Chorney. The notes from the school boar state, “The verbal report from the auditor indicated that the audit went very smooth and staff were prepared and enjoyable to work with.” All reports were filed with the Ministry of Education on time and the financial report details can be found online. Advocacy Session Advocacy groups were represented at the meeting including Karla Sastaunik, President of the CUPE 4784 local. The GSSD meeting notes stated she “began the session by sharing her appreciation for the work done at the division level during the COVID-19 pandemic. Karla referenced her conversations with CUPE members from across the province and country and expressed her gratefulness for the communication and involvement GSSD has shown to her and her members regarding the planning around the pandemic. Karla highlighted the excellent relationship that CUPE 4784 has with the leadership team of GSSD and that in many ways this was unique from other CUPE locals and their employer. Karla credited the extraordinary amount of work invested by Director Quintin Robertson, Assistant to the Director, Heather Morris and other members of the senior leadership team in keeping employees safe and in ensuring timely communication is shared across the school division.” Next, the report mentions Susan Avramenko, who made a statement representing the Deer Park Employees Association (DPEA). The highlights mentions “some of the challenges that bus drivers were experiencing regarding the failure to use proper personnel protective equipment (PPE) by a small percentage of the student ridership. Director Quintin Robertson and the Board of Education expressed their commitment to ensuring that PPE was being worn consistently and properly to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission to both students and drivers.” It was then stated that “Good Spirit Teachers Association (GSTA) President, Stuart Wilson, and LINC Chair, Ron Lutz, shared their appreciation for the measures put in place to ensure the safety of staff and students in schools. Stuart and Ron both identified that teachers are at times struggling with balancing the additional responsibilities and stresses that accompany life during a pandemic. Ron Lutz would have brought forth concerns regarding the many newly introduced technology platforms during the 2020-21 school year and asked that consideration be given to providing teachers with additional support with mastering the technology. Both Stuart and Ron expressed their genuine appreciation to Director Quintin Robertson, his leadership team and the Board of Education for the planning and communication that employees across the division have experienced since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic.” New Business Assistant to the Director Heather Morris shared that the first draft of the non-financial portion of the 2019-20 Annual Report was submitted to the Ministry for review on October 19, 2020; a second review of the draft was not required. Next, the completed financial reporting sections will be included so the annual report can be submitted and reviewed again. The approved report will then be submitted to the Ministry to be presented in the legislature and will finally be posted on the GSSD website. Organizational Meeting The Board of Education conducted its organizational meeting for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Bob Simpson was named Board Chairperson and Jaime Johnson was named Board Vice-Chair through acclamation. Committees of the Board were decided. Board indemnities and remuneration will remain unchanged for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Director’s Report Service Recognition and Sea Star Awards The Board of Education engaged in discussion regarding the presentation and awarding of the GSSD annual service recognition awards and Sea Star awards. The Sea Star awards are an annual acknowledgement of the staff throughout GSSD. Financial Update Chief Financial Officer, Keith Gervais, presented the Board of Education with an updated financial report for the current operational year. Utilizing GSSD Communiques with SCCs Director/CEO Robertson led the Board through a discussion regarding the six main roles of School Community Councils (SCC). Some of these highlighted roles included, “SCCs should have a community profile that describes the economic, social and health conditions of their community, that also identifies the community’s needs and aspirations related to children and youth learning and well-being...The purpose of SCCs is encouragement and support the involvement of parents and the community as partners to improve student learning and well-being. SCCs are an important part of the governance of the school division and a critical connecting link between both the school and community.” The report mentions how Robertson ended his discussion by sharing the many ways that GSSD has communicated with School Community Councils, endeavouring to keep them apprised of the ever-evolving business within the division. GSSD Remote Learning Donna Kriger, Deputy Director of Education, updated the Board on the GSSD Distance Learning School. The report mentioned approximately 380 students are enrolled to date in the K-12 Distance Learning School. The services of 18 full-time equivalent teachers are available to the program, along with Educational Assistants, Administrative Assistant, Interventionist, School Counselor, and Speech Pathologist, their time has been reassigned to the online school. Val Ruf (Student Services Coordinator), Mark Forsythe (Superintendent of Education) and Donna Kriger (Deputy Director) will oversee the services and operations for the program. Edsby and MySchool Sask Heather Morris, Assistant to the Director, gave a background, as well as an update regarding MySchoolSask (MSS) and Edsby; these are two new platforms that staff are using to manage student information and how they report grades. Morris allotted to what each platform is capable of accomplishing, and that the implementation of the platforms has brought some challenges. She is confident that they will bring overall improvement to the security necessary for student information, reporting student grades and increasing communication through an improved parent portal. Transportation Scan Cards The Board of Education was given an update that involves a pilot project where eight GSSD buses will use student scan cards to track ridership. The scan card project will allow the Transportation Department to track students on boarding and disembarking of division buses. The report stated that this “will allow the division to make informed decisions regarding out of attendance area requests, courtesy ridership and future fleet requirements. Most importantly, the real-time data provided by the scan cards would supply important information in the event of a lost child or bus accident. Communication will be sent to families who will be affected by the new technology. Cards will be handed out to students at the school in which they attend.”Gary Horseman, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Four-Town Journal
Two more Saskatchewan residents who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.One person was from the north zone and was in the 80 and up age category. The second person was from Regina and was in the 60 to 79 age category. The province reported 238 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday.The seven-day daily average of new cases is 274 — 22.6 new cases per 100,000 population. As of Tuesday, Saskatchewan's rate of new cases remains the third highest in Canada, after Manitoba and Alberta. Of the 8,982 reported cases in the province, 3,970 are considered active. Six of the new cases Wednesday are located in the far north west, three are in the far north central, 16 are in the far north east, 17 are in the north west, 25 are in the north central, three are in the north east, 109 are in the Saskatoon area, four are in the central east, 36 are in the Regina area, eight are in the south west, one is in the south central and three are in the south east zones. Seven of the new cases have pending locations. There are currently 132 people in hospital, 106 of whom are receiving in-patient care. One person is in the far north west, seven are in the north west, seven are in the north central, one is in the north east, 42 are in the Saskatoon zone, two are in the central east, 23 are in the Regina zone, two are in the south west, one is in the south central and 20 are in the south east. Twenty-six people are in intensive care, with five in the north central zone, 12 in Saskatoon and nine in Regina.Eighty-four people were reported recovered on Wednesday. To date a total of 4,959 people have recovered.
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room. Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on. Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.” Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.” There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center. “At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said. The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks. Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
Libraries across the County of Grande Prairie and other enhanced-status areas of the province have been limited to 25 per cent capacity under provincial COVID restrictions since Friday. The three-week measures have resulted in event cancellations, but local libraries are continuing regular services. “There’s no social gatherings at this point,” said Sheryl Pelletier, Shannon Municipal Library director in Sexsmith. “Socially-distanced rhymes,” an in-person family activity program, was cancelled a few weeks ago, Pelletier added. With Shannon Municipal Library having a capacity of 40 people, the restrictions set a limit of six people plus three staff in the library at a time, she said. She said in previous years the library has drawn in approximately 30 people at a time, as families gathered for movie nights. The library has curbside pickup but patrons can also come into the library as long as they’re wearing masks, Pelletier said. Meanwhile, Beaverlodge Public Library is largely unaffected by the new restrictions, but the annual artisan fair has been cancelled. “We’ve had a mask policy in place, people sanitizing and entrance by doorbell,” said library manager Tracy Deets. Before the restrictions, patrons largely preferred curbside pickups, so the 25-per cent capacity limit isn’t a problem, she said. The limited capacity means the library could accommodate approximately 30 people, which the library rarely sees at a single time, Deets said. Conversely, the artisan fair attracts an average of 250 people, she said. The fair is a one-day event rather than a regular market and as such had to be cancelled this year, Deets said. The library planned to have the artisan fair this Saturday. While the vendors won’t be at the library for a single event, Deets said the library is planning to have their goods on display and available for purchase over several days, up to Dec. 9. As well, the library will still be open Saturday, but as a regular service day, she said. The library also has a North Pole Postal Depot at the front desk where children who wrote to Santa can pick up their replies. Elmworth Community Library is allowing only two individuals or one cohort in at a time to satisfy protocols, said Michelle Gillis, library co-ordinator. “We continue to offer and encourage curbside pickup and private appointments,” Gillis said. Hythe Public Library is open and can accommodate eight patrons at a time, with visitors asked to wear masks, according to the library. Meanwhile, Wembley Public Library is generally closed to visitors and focusing on delivery and pick-ups, said library manager Anna Underwood.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
As the Christmas season approaches churches Island-wide are organizing to celebrate and welcome as many as safely possible to communal worship. Reverend Bonnie Fraser, with Hillcrest United Church in Montague, said her church currently has a 50-person capacity. She hopes plans to allow a second cohort of 50 might be approved by the Chief Public Health Office. “Whatever happens we will just roll with it,” Rev Fraser said. She is considering offering two services on Christmas Eve if needed to accommodate more people. The service, or services, will be live-streamed as they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. “Some plan to gather with family members to watch the service from home. This is a good option for people who are still hesitant to come out with the pandemic.” Rev Fraser said there is a bit of uncertainty about what could happen between now and Christmas. “We don’t know if it will all get shut down but we have been blessed on PEI so far.” No matter what unfolds, whether it involves a full church or not, “one thing we do know is there will be Christmas.” Norma Dingwell is an active member of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Montague. They plan to hold a church service and welcome 50 people. They will also offer their fourth annual Christmas dinner, take-out style. Ms Dingwell said typically 70 to 80 people turn out for Christmas Eve service but that won’t happen this year. The service will also be live streamed. At St Mary’s Catholic Church in Montague, Father Raju Chebattina is also looking to offer additional services. His church can seat 150 people, according to their operational plan, but other years on Christmas Eve 180 to 200 people attending wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Despite limitations all three leaders are pleased restrictions have eased since Easter, when gathering limits were more strict. “We’re grateful things have improved since the lockdown when churches were closed,” Bishop Richard Grecco said. He is especially thankful people can get to church here (on PEI) considering some provinces are locking down again and implementing small gathering limits. While Bishop Grecco has seen improvement he recognizes that not everyone who wants to go to church has been able to. Funding has also improved since March and April but hasn’t completely returned to normal with fewer people in the pews and limits on fundraisers. “Funding is a concern but we’re getting by,” Bishop Grecco said. “We have to remember our people are up against it just like we are.” To get through tough situations like this, he said, at least churches and parishioners have each other. “Together, we’re going to get through this,” he said.Rachel Collier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Graphic
The number of continuing care facilities in Alberta with COVID-19 outbreaks of two or more cases has more than tripled in three weeks, causing advocates to sound the alarm.In three weeks, the total number of active COVID-19 cases in Alberta care homes has shot to 123 from 40.As of Wednesday morning, 351 residents of long-term care facilities or supportive/home living sites have died of COVID in the province since the pandemic began, according to the government.That's 64 per cent of the 551 reported COVID deaths in Alberta."It's very challenging and quite frankly it's a situation in our province of our own making," said Mike Conroy, CEO of the Brenda Strafford Foundation, which runs a number of Calgary care homes.At one of them, Clifton Manor in southeast Calgary, an ongoing outbreak has led to 74 COVID-19 cases and three deaths.For months, Conroy has been calling for dedicated contact tracing and testing at Alberta continuing care facilities.The care homes that he's in charge of conduct asymptomatic testing every three days during an outbreak.And as recently as last week, Conroy had to wait three days for a batch of swab results — eight of which came back positive."My expectation, and I've been trying to secure a commitment, is that we should get those results in 24 hours, because it's information … the sooner we have the results, the sooner we can take action," he said.Staffing shortages more dire than in springStaffing is another major challenge for care homes as they battle through the second wave, said Lorraine Venturato, a nursing professor at the University of Calgary. "It's kind of coming in like a tsunami and there hasn't been as much attention being focused on continuing care as there was in the first wave and yet the situation is probably more dire now," she said.Venturato said continuing care centres may need to look to other industries — perhaps recruiting laid-off restaurant workers — for help with non-medical jobs."Meals need to be delivered to rooms if a site's in lockdown, so they may need extra people in the kitchen, extra people for delivery, extra people for cleaning," she said.20 hospitals also battle outbreaksCurrently, 20 Alberta hospitals are also now battling COVID-19 outbreaks.According to information published by Alberta Health Services, there are more than 190 COVID cases connected to active hospital outbreaks right now, and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreaks.Hospitals across the province are working to dedicate 2,200 beds for COVID patients, as they did last spring, Premier Jason Kenney said in the legislature on Monday. At Tuesday afternoon's provincial update, Alberta reported 1,307 new cases, with a provincial positivity rate of 8.4 per cent. Alberta has reported more than 1,000 cases a day for nearly two weeks, and ICU and hospital numbers continue to hit record highs.The total number of active cases was 16,628, an increase of 174 from the day before.Conroy adds to calls for 'circuit-breaker' style lockdownFor his part, Conroy says the province's restrictions aren't working and he thinks it's time for a so-called "circuit-breaker" style lockdown.A circuit breaker lockdown is a short period of more stringent restrictions with a defined end point where non-essential services are shut down in order to reduce spread, allowing the system to catch up to the number of cases.Kenney's UCP have fielded repeated calls from doctors and others for a circuit-breaker lockdown in past weeks.Among them, the Alberta government has received letters from groups of hundreds of physicians and three major health-care unions in the province urging the government to institute a "circuit-breaker" targeted lockdown.The retiring head of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, Tom Sampson, also called for up to a 28-day "circuit breaker" lockdown, adding it should happen now to salvage the holiday season.
TORONTO — Canada's main stock index rose with help from energy sector while the loonie hit a two-year high. The S&P/TSX composite index closed up 61.28 points to 17,358.21. In New York, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 59.87 points at 29,883.79. The S&P 500 index was up 6.56 points at 3,669.01, while the Nasdaq composite was down 5.74 points at 12,349.37. Hurting U.S. markets was Salesforce.com Inc., whose shares dropped 8.7 per cent on the S&P 500 and the Dow, after it agreed to buy workplace messaging app Slack Technologies Inc. for US$27.7 billion."Obviously, it was not very well-received by the market in general, so it's having a negative effect on the markets," said Michael Currie, vice-president and investment adviser at TD Wealth.With U.S. markets generally flat, investors focused largely on the U.K. becoming the first country to green light Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine."The big talk seems to be all about the U.K. getting ready to do the vaccine next week … faster than a lot of people expected and it's having an effect on pretty much everything," Currie said in an interview.Approval by the large G7 country reinforces the belief that it has a very good chance of passing in other major countries, he said.Vaccine optimism helped to lift oil prices despite negatives from dissent among OPEC plus Russia about extending supply cuts and a surprise buildup in U.S. oil inventories."Oil prices are up a little bit because they figure if this vaccine works then we'll get back to normal quicker and the economy will get back on track," Currie said.The January crude oil contract was up 73 cents at US$45.28 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was down 10 cents at US$2.78 per mmBTU. The energy sector gained two per cent on the day with Canada's large producers Vermilion Energy Inc., Husky Energy Inc. and Cenovus Energy Inc. seeing their share prices climb 5.6, 4.8 and 4.2 per cent, respectively.The Canadian dollar reached its highest level since October 2018 on the back of weakness from the U.S. greenback. It traded for 77.32 cents US compared with 77.21 cents US on Tuesday. Gold also rose because of the inflationary impact of a stimulus package after U.S. Democratic leaders were supportive of a bipartisan US$900-billion stimulus proposal.Although initially smaller than expected, the fiscal package is viewed as a basis for negotiations on a larger deal once Republicans concede that Joe Biden beat President Donald Trump, said Currie.The February gold contract was up US$11.30 at US$1,830.20 an ounce and the March copper contract was up 0.4 of a cent at US$3.49 a pound. That helped the materials sector to rise slightly.Health care gained 3.6 per cent on the TSX with Aurora Cannabis Inc. increasing 11.3 per cent. And technology got a lift from a 10.4 per cent increase in Lightspeed POS shares following its second U.S. acquisition in a month.Financials was also up even as shares of National Bank and Royal Bank fell 1.1 per cent and 0.6 per cent, respectively, after reporting quarterly results."Coming on the heels of very good reports out of Scotia and BMO, (it was) a little bit disappointing."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Companies in this story: (TSX:VET, TSX:HSE, TSX:CVE, TSX:NA, TSX:RY, TSX:ACB, TSX:LSPD, TSX:GSPTSE, TSX:CADUSD=X) Ross Marowits, The Canadian Press
Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) released a final decision recently on the applicable uses of the fungicide, mancozeb after a years-long process. Popular among vegetable and fruit growers, mancozeb is a broad-spectrum fungicide with a low risk of parasite resistance that has been used in Canada since the 1960s. Today, according to Health Canada’s pesticide registry, mancozeb is used in at least 40 registered products. Under the Pest Control Products Act, the PMRA regularly re-evaluates pesticides to ensure they’re safe for people and the environment. In 2018, a document outlining proposed changes to the use of mancozeb was released, revealing that the PMRA was proposing cancellation of all mancozeb use, aside from greenhouse tobacco, “due to risks to human health and the environment that were not found to be acceptable.” “I was in an apple meeting and I was told apples were cancelled, and my face went white,” said Charles Stevens of the moment he was told of the news. Stevens, an apple grower in Newcastle and chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s crop protection committee, said mancozeb is likely the most important fungicide to the apple industry — he says he’s used it on crops for over 40 years. Leading a mancozeb task force, Stevens, Craig Hunter, Caleigh Hallink-Irwin, and John Smith pushed back against the government’s proposal, meeting with then PMRA executive director, Richard Aucoin, in 2018. “It was the most important crop protection meeting of my life in this industry,” Stevens said. “They pulled the final decision back which has never happened in North America ever, so this was a big deal,” he explained. “There were a lot of things that we had presented that the executive director had not heard. He was not happy with his staff that had done the re-evaluation. That was all there was to it; tey had not done a good job and he recognized that and he put the hammer down,” Stevens said of the agency’s decision to pull back. That started the year’s long process of redoing the re-evaluation of mancozeb, which culminated in a final decision being released on Nov. 19 this year. In an emailed response to questions from Niagara This Week, Health Canada spokesperson Kathleen Marriner said the agency’s evaluation found mancozeb products meet current health and environment standards when used with new mitigation measures. Under the 2020 decision, use is approved for: ground and aerial foliar application to potatoes; and ground foliar application on apples, onions, sugar beets, ginseng, field cucumbers, field tomatoes, grapes, pumpkin, squash, and melon (but not watermelon), and in-furrow application to onions. According to Marriner’s email, use has been repealed for all seed treatments, greenhouse uses, and use on pears, carrots, celery, lettuce, watermelon, lentils, wheat, alfalfa grown for seed, as well as ornamentals and forestry uses. Mancozeb also cannot be applied using hand-held equipment, or used for commercial-class wettable powder or dust formulations. “At the end of the day, they haven't changed the amount used in Canada,” Stevens said, adding that this year’s decision has recognized how important mancozeb is to other crops. “It was worth the effort, and it got done correctly at the end of the day,” Stevens said. Jordan Snobelen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Niagara this Week
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struggled with whether to require new trials for potentially thousands of prisoners who were convicted by non-unanimous juries before the court barred the practice earlier this year. The high court ruled 6-3 in April that juries in state criminal trials must be unanimous to convict a defendant. Previously, Louisiana and Oregon as well as the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico had allowed divided votes to result in convictions. In striking down the practice, the court said Louisiana and Oregon had originally adopted their rules for racially discriminatory reasons. Now, juries everywhere must vote unanimously to convict. But the Supreme Court's decision affected only future cases and cases in which the defendants were still appealing their convictions when the high court ruled. The question for the court now is whether the decision should be made retroactive. That would benefit prisoners convicted by non-unanimous juries whose cases were final before the court's ruling, but the states and federal government said it would also be incredibly burdensome. Several justices noted the very high bar past cases have set to making similar new rules retroactive while also suggesting this case might clear it. And the case did not seem to be one that would split the court along traditional liberal-conservative lines. “Why isn't unanimity basic?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked during arguments, which the court heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Justice Samuel Alito expressed skepticism that the court should make this decision retroactive. He suggested the court has been hard pressed to find a similar case that should be made retroactive, comparing it to a “quest for an animal that was thought to have become extinct, like the Tasmanian tiger.” And Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted that the court has “a long line of cases ... where we have declined to apply a new rule retroactively” once cases have become final. Louisiana, Oregon and Puerto Rico could be forced to retry hundreds or thousands of people if the court’s decision were to be made retroactive, Louisiana has said. And several justices pressed the lawyers before them on how many people might need to be retried, with one lawyer saying it could be 1,000 to 1,600 in Louisiana alone. The Trump administration, for its part, has sided with the states and told the court that applying the decision retroactively would be “massively disruptive” in both Louisiana and Oregon and may mean “the release of violent offenders who cannot practically be retried.” The court's ruling in April produced an unusual lineup of justices, with liberals and conservatives on both sides of the decision. That’s because a key part of the case was whether to overrule a 1972 decision, and overturning precedent is a particularly charged issue on the court. This time around, it seemed votes could shift. Justice Elena Kagan, who was in dissent last time, siding against the inmate challenging a non-unanimous jury, seemed nonetheless sympathetic to the idea that the decision should be made retroactive, saying at one point: “How could it be that a rule like that does not have retroactive effect?” The case before the justices involves Louisiana prisoner Thedrick Edwards. A jury convicted Edwards of rape and multiple counts of armed robbery and kidnapping. The jury divided 10-2 on most of the robbery charges and 11-1 on the remaining charges. Edwards, who had confessed to police, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Edwards, who is Black, has argued among other things that prosecutors intentionally kept Black jurors off the case; the lone Black juror on the case voted to acquit him. Jessica Gresko, The Associated Press
April McCormack was always passionate about health, urging people to get vaccines and never missing a chance to belly dance, disco or waltz at the care centre where she spent her final year.When the vegan senior was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, she fought it hard. So, her family held out hope she'd beat COVID-19.But the 74-year-old died on Nov. 26, just eight days after first feeling fatigued, two weeks into an outbreak at the Belvedere Care Centre where she lived."We had some glimmer of hope because my mother was a fighter," said McCormack's eldest daughter, September Stokes.She's sharing her mother's story so people realize that COVID-19 is real and refusing to wear a mask or take precautions can have a devastating effect on others."She loved to zoom around with her walker to Bruno Mar's 'Uptown Funk.' It was her favourite," said Stokes.When she first heard that her mother had tested positive for COVID-19 she said she was "terrified."She says her mother never left the centre where she lived in Coquitlam for the past year-and-a-half."COVID was in there. She knew it. It spread through there really fast," said Stokes.McCormack was diabetic and had an autoimmune disease but you'd never know it, her family said. She ate a plant-based diet for 15 years and loved exercise.After testing postive for COVID Nov. 20, Stokes said her mother went from "happy and smiling" to unable to breathe in days."It hit really fast," said Stokes."[COVID-19] is real and it's not something you can just say I'm young I'll get over it. You don't know what impact you are going to have."Stokes said her step father Rob McCormack had cared for her mother at their 20-year home in Port Moody after the diagnosis of Parkinson's 11 years ago.But the Parkinson's symptoms became unmanageable, so she moved to a care home."When COVID first started we were like, we need to get her out of there. Care homes are being hit the worst."More than half of the COVID-19 deaths in B.C. have been linked to long-term care homes. As of Sept. 10, 2020, there have been 156 deaths related to B.C. care facilities, according to public health data collected by the Canadian Medical Association Journal.Stokes praises the centre where her mother lived for its efforts to prevent the virus spreading. She said her family trusted that her mother was safe and could not provide the intense 24-hour care she needed, as her Parkinson's progressed.Her family says she seemed to thrive there, sending them videos of herself dancing or in her favourite hat.Family only saw McCormack through a window or via video chat. Caregivers wore full protective gear. But she became ill, first feeling fatigue on Nov. 18. By Nov. 22, family were trying to help get her to eat, and she was admitted to hospital on the 23rd. Three days later, she was gone."After everything she fought through — it's shocking how fast it happened," said Stokes.She said her mother had four children and three grandchildren who dubbed her "Gaga.""She was fiercely independent, tough as nails, sweet as honey, and she loved our family more than anything," reads her obituary, where her husband described their 34 years of marriage as an "adventure."
Renée Englot woke up in the night feeling nauseous, her mouth dry, head pounding. She was the first in her family to fall ill. Englot tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 15. Within three days, her husband, Curtis, and daughter, Sadie, 17, had also been diagnosed. Within nine days of Englot's diagnosis her eldest daughter, Georgia, 20, also contracted the disease. Like thousands of other Albertans who have been diagnosed and sent into confinement, the family's daily lives have been upended. "The reality of three people having and then one doesn't, it was so complicated to try to work through," Englot said in an interview from her home in Edmonton. "And the reality is that we were staggered, so it's a longer isolation period than 14 days. It was more complicated than we expected." 'A huge impact' Englot is urging other Albertans to take the virus seriously. She said her family has experienced mild symptoms but their time in isolation has been a frustrating ordeal. She said her family has struggled with the anxiety of being sick, the logistical challenges of quarantining from one another, and the stigma of contracting the virus. "We're lucky enough that we haven't required medical attention," Englot said Tuesday. "But it is still a huge impact. And 17 days later, it's still making its presence felt." Englot said she worries that other families will struggle with the challenges of isolation, and the ordeal of warning their close contacts that they could be infected. She said with limited contact tracing being done by provincial health officials, the onus is often on individuals to notify their close contacts and navigate isolation protocols. "I understand that we have to take some responsibility and help with it, that the system is very overwhelmed right now," she said. "But having sick people trying to read complicated instructions and reach out and follow people, it's not really a recipe for success." Englot said her diagnosis was frightening. Her results were sent via text message at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 15. "I got no sleep after that," she said. "The worry set in. You know, what will it mean for my family? Will they be OK? Who have I been in contact with? Who else might we have put at risk? And then how do we manage and keep isolated from each other?" The following morning, the rest of the family scheduled tests and started calling their short list of close contacts. The couple and their youngest daughter began quarantining in the master bedroom, their meals left at the door. For Georgia, it was a particularly stressful time. A student at the University of Alberta, she was juggling course work with the demands of three unwell family members unable to leave their rooms. By that weekend, the family switched places. The master bedroom was sanitized and Georgia moved in, in an attempt to protect her from extended interaction with her infected family members. Then, she began to feel unwell. Her third COVID test came back positive. "It was so weird, how am I supposed to stay safe now that my entire family has this?" she said. "I'm very frustrated. It's a bit like we took all of the precautions we could and still caught it, but there's nothing we can do about it." Georgia and her family, still suffering from flu-like symptoms, have a few more weeks of isolation ahead. "Being together is definitely a plus, but I'm still a bit worried, worried that if we leave isolation too early it might pass it on to people," she said. "We're definitely trying to take things slowly." It's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know. - Renee Englot Renée Englot said she still has no idea how they contracted the disease. She had no known close contacts who were sick and she and her family were following health guidelines, taking precautions. She said people who have tested positive need to speak up. She said assumptions that people who have become infected acted irresponsibly are dangerous. "We need to do more about saying, 'I have it,' so that people realize it's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know."