VICTORIA — Premier John Horgan says he has already begun pressing the federal government to reverse a decision requiring passengers on major BC Ferries routes to leave their vehicles on enclosed decks.The company announced Wednesday that Transport Canada had rescinded the temporary flexibility granted to ferry operators that allowed passengers to remain in their cars to allow them to self-isolate during the COVID-19 pandemic."We're in the throes of moving resources into public transit whether it be BC Transit, TransLink and BC Ferries, just so we can stabilize our public transit systems," Horgan said."This is an unwelcome intrusion by the federal government at this time and we're going to pursue this aggressively."Horgan described the rule as "heavy-handed" and said he has raised the issue with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.Transport Canada granted the flexibility in the spring as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold to allow for increased physical distancing.BC Ferries said Wednesday that beginning Sept. 30, customers must leave enclosed vehicle decks aboard most large vessels.The ferry company has implemented a number of additional health and safety measures since the pandemic began including cleaning, sanitizing and mandatory mask use, it said.The company will also reopen certain areas of the vessels, such as the Pacific Buffet on "spirit class" vessels for seating only, as a way to provide passengers with more space.The procedure for clearing the main vehicle deck will be reapplied on three Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island routes, as well as sailings between Comox and Powell River, and Tsawwassen and the southern Gulf Islands.However, BC Ferries said Transport Canada granted its approval to allow passengers to remain in their vehicles on the main car deck between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale."The vessels on the Horseshoe Bay-Langdale route operate in 'sheltered' waters as defined by Transport Canada," BC Ferries says in a service notice."BC Ferries received approval from Transport Canada to operate the ships on that route with the stern doors open, which makes the deck an 'open' vehicle deck."The company also added a new steel barrier gate across the opening for safety and warns that if the stern doors need to be closed for any reason, customers will be asked to leave their vehicles.Horgan said the marine highway is an integral part of the province's transportation network and BC Ferries is an essential service for many British Columbians."We believe that we can safely transport people provided that we have support, co-operation from Ottawa. This is not something we sought, this is something that's being opposed."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.The Canadian Press
Two COVID-19 outbreaks have been declared at high schools in southern Alberta.Alberta Health Services says in a statement that two or more people attended school while infectious at both Chinook High School in Lethbridge and Henry Wise Wood High School in southwest Calgary."AHS is working directly with the schools to limit risk of spread," said the statement Thursday. Officials say that includes assessing the classrooms and identifying close contacts of the people who have COVID-19."Any individual considered exposed to these cases will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services, per standard contact tracing procedures," the statement added.AHS says infection prevention control measures — physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene and environmental cleaning — have been reviewed with the schools.Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical health officer, said Wednesday that Alberta Health Services has confirmed 16 COVID-19 infections in 16 different schools and that in all cases, the virus was acquired outside those institutions.Support Our Students Alberta, a non-partisan, non-profit public education advocacy group, has put the number at 36, according to its online COVID-19 tracker.Hinshaw said the numbers the Alberta government is releasing are based on whether an individual with COVID-19 was infectious when they were in a school."Other numbers are not relevant to school transmission risk and simply cause confusion and anxiety."For instance, she said, learning that a teacher or a student caught COVID-19 at a gathering or on vacation, and was not in their school, isn't helpful.Hinshaw said the government is launching a new online map that will list every school where there have been two or more cases within a 14-day period and where the disease could have spread in the school.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 10, 2020.The Canadian Press
For Cherie Wong, the threats of rape and murder she receives on social media are only a semi-constant reminder that many supporters of the Chinese Communist Party see her as an enemy.They're not what scares her the most.Back in January, Wong — executive director and co-founder of Alliance Canada Hong Kong, a group pressing the Canadian government to defend the former British colony's democracy — flew to Vancouver for events associated with the alliance's launch. Someone had been keeping tabs on her, she said."My hotel room was booked by someone else as a security measure. And two days after the launch ... I received a threatening phone call to my hotel room demanding that I leave immediately, that these people are coming to collect me," she said."That was something that really shocked me."Wong said she still doesn't know how her whereabouts were disclosed. She said she reported the call to the police but was told there was little they could do.Wong's experience is one of a number of disturbing incidents reported to a new parliamentary committee tasked with looking into Canada's fraught relationship with China. The committee's proceedings were interrupted by the Trudeau government's decision to prorogue Parliament until later this month.Doxxed in the diasporaWong said activists in her group had a foretaste of the impotence of Canadian police in the face of such harassment on August 17, 2019, when members of the Hong Kong diaspora rallied in 30 cities around the world to back Hong Kong's anti-extradition protests. They were met by counter-protesters waving Chinese flags.Wong said she was one of a number of protest participants who were subsequently "doxxed" by online antagonists. "They took photos of me and started digging up my personal information, my email address, where I was living, my phone number," she said. "And [they] shared that kind of information maliciously through WeChat channels."Hong Kong activists point to the similarities between the counter-protests that occurred in August 2019 — in almost every city that saw pro-Hong Kong demonstrations — as evidence that they are being centrally organized.They point to the behaviour of the counter-protesters, who often arrive and leave in large groups and carry brand-new Chinese flags with the ironing creases still visible. But they know that it's hard to prove top-down coordination."What we saw is a pattern, whether it is in Canada, in the U.S., in Germany in Japan in Taiwan," said Wong. "The counter-protesters show up with Chinese flags singing the Chinese national anthem. Their slogans are similar: 'Hong Kong is a part of China', 'Say no to violence, say no to riots.'"We have seen evidence of these counter-protesters being paid. We saw large scale coordination on WeChat and Weibo and I think there's more to be seen than just angry individuals."While CBC News has not seen conclusive evidence that Hong Kong counter-protesters are being paid, it has spoken to Canadians who received cash payments to appear at another pro-Beijing demonstration in support of detained Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou.Wong said that while she doesn't object to counter-protesters exercising their right to free expression, she's alarmed by the fact that some of them have been spotted photographing pro-Hong Kong demonstrators."These individuals who show up to protest are also saying that they are part of the Chinese Communist Party, that they are sending this information back to the consulate, to the embassy," she said. "And coming from an authoritarian regime like the Chinese Communist Party, [which] has been known to conduct surveillance operations, suppression tactics, we can't just dismiss this as just counter-protesters."A history of harassmentPhil Gurski heads Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting in Ottawa. Before joining the private sector he spent three decades as a security intelligence analyst, much of it at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).He said Chinese-Canadian dissidents have been harassed in Canada by organs of the Chinese state "since Adam and Eve" — but the Chinese embassy would take care to avoid the appearance of direct involvement in the most provocative activities."Obviously the people in the embassy have to be a little more careful because they are here in Canada," he said. "And if it is found out that they are engaged in activities not consistent with a diplomatic posting, they could in fact be declared persona non grata and expelled from the country."Gurski said China can employ more subtle forms of pressure than loud aggressive counter-protests — such as threats and warnings issued directly to dissidents in person, by phone, or through social media.That kind of pressure from diplomatic missions in Canada "is something we've been warning about for decades," he added.And critics of the regime say that the fact that many Chinese-Canadians still have family members in China gives Beijing durable leverage over them.The embassy reactsCBC News asked the Chinese embassy about some of the allegations of harassment that have emerged from the committee's hearings. The embassy didn't answer that question directly but appeared to respond to another concern that came up at the Canada-China committee: the extraterritorial nature of China's new "national security" law, which makes no distinction between pro-democracy political activity in Hong Kong and similar protests in Canada.The law "only targets a very narrow category of acts that seriously jeopardize national security," the embassy said in a written statement."Hong Kong is under the rule of law, where no one has extra-judicial privilege. In any country, every right or freedom has its legal boundaries. In exercising rights or freedoms, one must abide by the requirements of law. Anyone who crosses the boundaries and limits of the law shall be brought to justice."Hong Kong is part of China and Hong Kong affairs are purely China's internal affairs. We urge the Canadian side to have a clear understanding of the reality and the overwhelming trend, and stop interfering in the affairs and judicial independence of Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region]."Hostages to fortune"'We know where your parents live,'" said Cheuk Kwan of the Toronto Association for Democracy in China. "This is the phrase that they use all the time."You know, it could be just a little kind of phone call that says, 'Hey, by the way, I see your parents are doing well in ... somewhere.' You right away know that they know where your parents live."People would say, 'OK, I better be quiet, I better shut up or I better not do something.' And ... if you talk to people, the RCMP or CSIS, they will say, well, you can't prevent people from calling people up and saying, 'How are your parents doing?' Right?"Gurski acknowledges that it's difficult for Canadian authorities to thwart that kind of back-channel pressure."I absolutely agree [that] if these are people who are engaged in activity here in Canada which the government of the People's Republic of China would see as threatening or besmirching the reputation of the PRC, they would certainly reach out to them and threaten them exactly that way," he said."The problem is if I call up and say, 'Hey, how's Mom and Dad?', you and I may know exactly what I'm talking about, but how do you prove that is actually a very subtle yet very direct threat against one's family, with the intended impact that you'll stop what you're doing? And if you don't ... then you may have something happen to your relatives back home?"It may be as obvious as the nose on your face [but that's] just not the same as proving it in a court of law."'In an authoritarian country, this kind of subtle threat is very deep in the sense that people have an awareness that you're supposed to act certain way when you receive a message like that," said Kwan."And I've seen a lot of people getting that – even people in the Chinese-language media or editors of TV or newspapers, who might get a phone call from the Chinese consulate or their proxies ... saying, 'Hey, we don't like what you just published. Please be careful next time.'"Kwan said Chinese authorities can deploy even more subtle forms of coercion, such as leaning on Beijing-friendly businesses to withhold advertising spending from certain outlets seen as hostile to Beijing.Far from home, but not from fearIn the past, said Kwan, implied threats to family members were more alarming for immigrants from mainland China than for Hong Kong ex-pats — who had reason to believe their families were safer. That's beginning to change, he added.Davin Wong (no relation to Cherie) said he's felt that change personally. The former acting head of the Student Union of the University of Hong Kong fled the island city last year following a targeted attack. He has no family members in mainland China."Canada, of course, is a society with greater freedom and at least I feel more secure here than in Hong Kong," he said. "But at the same time, what I have witnessed is that other activists who are fighting for Hong Kong in Canada ... were facing harassment or maybe intimidation as well. So I would say I do not feel entirely safe here ..."I do have family members back in Hong Kong and that is one of the concerns that has always been in the back of my mind, because what we can see is that the freedom and also autonomy of Hong Kong has been deteriorating so fast in the past two years that Hong Kong is no longer a distinctive city apart from any other cities in China."I think it is fair to say that having family members back in Hong Kong ... feels as the same risk of having family members in China."Wong said he applauds the Trudeau government's decision to end Canada's extradition treaty with Hong Kong in response to China's new national security law. But he said the federal government's efforts to help Hong Kong's pro-democracy camp would be better served by recognizing that welcoming Hong Kong's dissidents to Canada while leaving their family members behind allows Beijing to maintain a hold over them."Activists like myself feel the same risk and the same pressure as if we hadn't left Hong Kong at all."
LOS ANGELES — It's a party of five for Alec Baldwin and his wife Hilaria Baldwin.The couple on Wednesday announced the arrival of a baby boy, their fifth child together.“We had a baby last night,” Hilaria Baldwin said on Instagram with a photo of parents and child. “He is perfect and we couldn’t be happier. Stay tuned for a name.”Alec Baldwin later shared the same photo, adding the Spanish caption, “Nu´mero Cinco esta´ aqui.....(Para mi, nu´mero seis)," or “Number five is here.....(For me number six).”Baldwin has a 24-year-old daughter, Ireland Baldwin, from his previous marriage to Kim Basinger.Alec Baldwin, former star of “30 Rock” and “The Hunt for Red October" and current host of ABC's “The Match Game,” and Hilaria Baldwin, a podcast host and fitness guru, married in 2012. They now have a daughter and four sons.The Associated Press
The COVID-19 pandemic is placing Ontario's already precarious school bus industry under additional strain, parents and advocates argued Wednesday amid mounting reports of masse route cancellations and overcrowded vehicles.They said the growing list of problems, emerging just two days into the province's return to school, come on top of a long-standing bus driver shortage across Ontario and are compounding a situation that was troubling long before the global outbreak.Debbie Montgomery, president of Unifor Local 4268 which represents bus drivers, said the full picture of driver retention and recruitment is still taking shape.But she said lack of clarity around safety protocols and access to personal protective equipment has contributed to the situation unfolding across the province."Now we're hearing that routes are just being cancelled. There's nothing else they can do," Montgomery said in a telephone interview."They can't attract new people and they can't keep those they had. The vehicle might be there but the operator is not."Twelve bus routes were cancelled in both the Grey-Bruce and Thunder Bay regions as of Wednesday.In Sudbury, Ont., the student services consortium announced Monday that 23 routes will not run for at least the first week of school because not enough drivers returned to work.Providers cited the pandemic and related health concerns as reasons for keeping drivers off the job."The school bus industry has been struggling with a driver shortage for more than five years and the global COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the problem for this school year," Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay said in a statement.The statement said the average age of a bus driver in the area is 57, with some in their 70s, and many drivers have decided to remain off the job due to age-related health risks from COVID-19."We respect their right to make this decision regarding their safety," the statement read. "Unfortunately, we are now faced with the unfortunate situation of having to suspend some bus routes at the start of the school year."Montgomery said around 60 per cent of bus drivers are over the age of 60 and many are feeling pressure from their families who argue a job paying between $16 and $20 per hour is not worth the health risk."When you can't feel confident in your protection, that's huge," she said. "Every day, there's at least another person saying, 'I can't risk this.'"The cancellations come weeks after the union raised concerns over driver well-being and called for better health and safety guidance for the industry.Montgomery said the union's requests, including calls for greater compensation for new duties like taking attendance and making sure kids stay in their assigned seats, have not been addressed.A spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce pointed to $100 million in funding the ministry has committed for various aspects of transportation to schools during the pandemic, including protective equipment for drivers and driver recruitment."We will never hesitate from taking further action to protect the health and safety of Ontario's students and education staff," spokeswoman Caitlin Clark said in an statement.Brandi Gowan, a mother in the Bruce County area, said the uncertainty around transportation is making a challenging back-to-school year even more difficult."Families are already feeling stress ... from the pandemic, stress around job security and stress from sending their child back to school, and now we have to worry about busing and whether we have anyone to look after or drive our children into school," Gowan said in an email.Busing has posed challenges as classes resume across the country, with concerns raised about physical distancing on packed routes and drivers on strike in Winnipeg this week.Regulations vary across provinces and school boards. Some governments such as Quebec have introduced limits on the number of students allowed on a bus.New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and British Columbia are allowing for barriers between the drivers and passengers. A similar precaution has not been guaranteed in Ontario, sparking concern among drivers, Montgomery said. Parents have been encouraged to arrange rides for their children to address the space shortage, but it isn't an option for all families, especially those with a long commute to school.And even for families with operational bus routes, sending kids off on a bus and into the classroom has been an emotional transition.Jennifer McLean, a mother based in the central Ontario community of Oro-Medonte, Ont., her Grade 10 daughter texted from the bus Wednesday morning reporting that little had changed on her route, where she was seated centimetres away from another rider.With health issues preventing her from driving her child to school, McLean said the initial reports are scary as their small family bubble grows "exponentially" with the return to class."I hugged her goodbye this morning and she knows that she can't hug me when she comes home," she said. "We don't know how to deal with this."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — Parents keeping their children home from schools that offer limited or no remote learning options are concerned spots in speciality programs could be lost unless the British Columbia government takes action.Students will be back at school Thursday but some will not return because of their own or a family member's health or general fears about contracting COVID-19.Theresia Reid said her daughter Sydney was excited to start her first year at a new arts and technology program at a middle school in Chilliwack but needs to stay home to protect her father.Chris Reid is in remission from testicular cancer that spread to his kidneys and lungs. So Sydney, entering Grade 7, and her high school siblings can't go to class."My kids didn't go back to school in June, they stayed home and we were led to expect that that's how it would be in September, with a hybrid model," Theresia Reid said about a mix of in-class and online learning, which is being offered at some schools in B.C."I think there should have been, from the beginning, more online options. And not the fear of losing places."Reid said that before a temporary five-week remote learning option was offered, parents were told they could enrol their children in home schooling or distributed learning, which involves online instruction with students being connected to a teacher in a district, not their school."They are overwhelmed with inquiries. No one's contacted me back after my inquiry," she said, adding Sydney would have lost her spot in the arts and technology program if she'd been registered in either program.The principal at Sydney's school told Reid late last week that the temporary option could be extended, but the family is still awaiting details on what that could mean, she said.Reid's older children, Danica in Grade 11 and Aiden in Grade 9, are autistic and their school is also offering a similar temporary online option.Her husband may be forced to move to Kamloops to live with his parents if their children have to return to class, Reid said.The province left parents scrambling to deal with principals over the summer instead of taking families' needs into consideration and allowing their kids to continue remote learning that was already in place at the end of the last school year, she said.A one-size-fits-all approach of in-class learning promoted by the Education Ministry is unworkable, she said."It just feels like all the eggs were put in one basket. And there need to be multiple baskets. I feel really badly for the principals. They're the ones making all these phone calls to the parents, and their hands are tied."Education Minister Rob Fleming said districts are making efforts to meet families' needs based on their responses to a survey."As long as I'm seeing districts, and this is what I am seeing, being compassionate and supportive and trying to keep kids and their families connected to schools that's what we expect," Fleming said late last week.Amy Cochand said her daughters in Grades 6 and 10 are registered in French immersion at schools with only in-class instruction."Right now our options are basically distributed learning or home schooling and losing their French immersion spots," Cochand said from Golden."French immersion's a big deal," she said, adding her older daughter started the program in kindergarten."Ten years of schooling in French and to lose it now would be ridiculous."Cochand said her family has worked hard to keep their contacts to a small number of people but having their kids in larger groups at school poses too much of a health risk as COVID-19 cases rise in B.C.So-called learning groups or cohorts at elementary and middle schools are capped at 60 people while high schools can include up to 120 students based on guidance from the provincial health officer.The principal at her younger daughter's school has said distributed learning is the only option for students that will not be in school full time, Cochand said."But she can't be in French immersion if she does that, so she would lose her spot."B.C. Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring said parents who have the skills to advocate for their children were left to phone principals, and superintendents in some cases, to make "special deals for themselves.""The province completely abdicated its responsibility when it just sort of let school districts decide what they were going to do," Mooring said, adding that created inequities in the public school system."What we are advocating for is that the space be protected and a teacher teaches those children that are learning remotely. That allows that child to remain connected to their school."Mooring said that would require the province to hire more teachers."We learned in the spring that teachers teaching in class and teaching remotely does not work. It adds to their workload to a degree that is not OK."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.Camille Bains, The Canadian Press
On a brisk September afternoon, Zechariah Dereje and Joel Boadi-Boateng are putting up shots and playing one-on-one on an outdoor basketball court at a Toronto Community Housing high-rise building near Jane and Finch.In an ordinary year, they'd have been getting ready for the coming high school basketball season, with hopes of making a run to the playoffs to punctuate their last year of high school.Instead, the gym at C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute is off limits, and the school's sports teams are on an indefinite hiatus."It's really frustrating because all your four years of high school, you work really hard to get where you want to go for post-secondary, and for COVID to come through and crush everything, it sucks," said Dereje, who plays centre for the senior team."We were trying to make the playoffs, trying to go far, trying to show our worth and [the worth] of this community," added Boadi-Boateng, who also hoped a strong season might help him land a college or university athletic scholarship."I feel like basketball could be a way for me, especially money-wise when it comes to tuition."But the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) has put organized sports and extracurricular activities on hold to start the school year, though it says individual schools can explore options to resume some activities if they conform to provincial guidelines."The board's current plan will also see schools close after lunch every day, when most students will be sent home to learn remotely.'Did I have fun?'The tightened restrictions are in place to help prevent COVID-19 outbreaks when students head back to class next week, but for those heading into Grade 12, the loss of extracurriculars will have a profound effect on their high school experience."A big part of school is the extracurricular activities," said Mays Saifan, a Grade 12 student at L'Amoreaux Collegiate Institute and a TDSB student trustee."You can go to school, you can study, but you're going to come home and think, 'Did I have fun? Did I enjoy it?'"Like many graduating students, Saifan had been counting on extracurriculars to bolster her university applications. With the status of sports teams and clubs now up in the air, she's unsure about how she'll reflect on her last year of high school."Some of them [ask] 'What did you learn from your high school experience?' It's kind of hard to talk about that without talking about extracurriculars that you did," she said.A 'mixed bag' of approaches across OntarioOntario's school reopening guidelines say schools are permitted to offer clubs and organized sports, though only "if physical distancing is possible and equipment and spaces are cleaned and disinfected between each use."The union representing Ontario's high school teachers says school boards across the province are taking "multiple approaches" as a result of those directions, meaning students' access to extracurricular activities may depend on where they live."It's very much a mixed bag," said Harvey Bischof, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation.Bischof said some boards, like the TDSB, have ruled out extracurricular activities to start the year, while others might still host clubs and allow sports that allow for greater physical distancing, such as golf and tennis.Whether teachers will be willing to oversee those activities is another question. Teachers are not obligated to participate, and Bischof said concerns around contracting the virus may push some educators to take a year off from coaching or organizing clubs."Lots of them love doing extracurriculars; it's one of the highlights of their work with students, but I'm sure there will be a fair bit of trepidation around adding to their contacts," he said.Can some clubs function online?While the prospect of resuming extracurricular activities involving contact sports seems doubtful, other school clubs may be able to continue online.Firdaus Shallo, a Grade 12 student at C.W. Jefferys C.I. and TDSB student trustee, said some clubs had success moving to an online-only format when schools were closed in March, though she worries that others will be more difficult to run virtually.Shallo helps run a mental health and student outreach program at her school called Smile Warriors, which she fears will be among the clubs that will suffer from a lack of in-person interaction."It changes up everything and it changes up all the plans that I had," she said. "But this year's not going to be normal for anyone."Saifan listed theatre clubs as another likely casualty of what figures to be a largely virtual school year. She said she still feels the sting of a cancelled theatre trip in the spring."There are clubs that you can do online. And then there are clubs that you just can't do online," she said.
Last week New Brunswick Liberals travelled to Saint John and set up in a Boston Pizza parking lot for leader Kevin Vickers to make a point about the need for wholesale liquor pricing for restaurants.But for Saint John Mayor Don Darling the location spoke to a more urgent political issue that needs addressing by all political parties, the fact the Boston Pizza building behind Vickers carries a property tax bill of $61,173 with only $33,544 of that paid to the city.New Brunswick's property tax take from businesses operating inside municipalities is the largest in Canada and New Brunswick mayors claim it is at the heart of all kinds of financial distortions that are holding cities back and restricting growth in the provincial economy."We're being governed by 1960's tax legislation," Darling said."I think if we were able to get a tax system that was very similar to other provinces then I think the city would thrive and we can move on from being in a state of crises on an annual basis."Province collected $46.4M from Saint John in 2019 Most provinces operate like neighbouring Nova Scotia where the overwhelming amount of property tax collected from businesses, as with residences, goes to the municipality where the business is located. That allows for lower tax rates overall but higher revenue to the communities themselvesFor example the Boston Pizza on Portland Street in Dartmouth pays a property tax bill 20 percent less than in Saint John ($47,890) but the regional municipality of Halifax receives 30 percent more from the company ($43,174) because the provincial property tax on business is a fraction of what is charged in New Brunswick. Multiplied over thousands of businesses, the difference amounts to millions of dollars in higher property taxes businesses have to pay in New Brunswick but with less revenue making it through to municipalities.According to government of New Brunswick estimates the province took $46.4 million out of Saint John alone last year in property taxes for itself. Although it returned $17.2 million back in municipal funding grants to the city, Darling said the overall net loss is the difference between a prosperous and struggling local government."Give us our money back and let us get on and let us grow this city," said DarlingMiramichi mayor Adam Lordon told CBC News at the start of the election a municipal property tax system reworked to match models used in other provinces would transform urban environments in every New Brunswick city."If municipalities in New Brunswick were able to keep all of the property tax revenue as they do in other provinces, that would effectively help us pay for that infrastructure deficit we're (all) aware of," said Lordon."We need vibrant cities with good infrastructure in order to attract and retain citizens."Cities association wants province to abandon its cutLordon is head of the Cities of New Brunswick Association, which has been among the most vocal during the election calling for property tax changes. The group represents the province's eight urban centres — Moncton, Dieppe, Saint John, Fredericton, Edmundston, Miramichi, Bathurst and Campbellton — and it is not advocating for tinkering, or minor changes. It wants the province to largely abandon its take of commercial, industrial and apartment building property taxes in municipalities, which it estimates to be worth $360 million per year, and let cities and towns use the money or cut taxes as they see fit.To soften the cost of that to the province the association suggests cancelling the municipal grant and equalization program, worth $68.6 million and charging property owners in rural, unincorporated areas significantly more on their tax bills."We're asking for a review or a reform of that system so that every New Brunswicker will pay their fair share for the services they use," said Lordon.None of the parties have endorsed the cities' full plan but most have acknowledged something is wrong with municipal government and has to change.Greens promise public inquiry At his Boston Pizza appearance Liberal leader Kevin Vickers suggested he was willing to look at municipalities like Saint John keeping at least their industrial property taxes.The Green Party has promised a public inquiry into New Brunswick's entire income, inheritance and property tax system with the NDP also proposing a comprehensive review. People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin told the CBC's Leaders on the Record event Wednesday the province should stop collecting property tax entirely in municipalities and last week PC leader Blaine Higgs said he is open to whatever municipalities propose. "As we move toward municipal reform we need municipalities to define what that looks like," said Higgs. "They know best what's needed in their community and I want to find ways to fund them appropriately."Those commitments may be vague, but Darling feels it is beginning to sink in with voters and political parties that being the province draining the most property tax revenue out of its cities might be worth a review."I've seen more conversations happening in the last couple of weeks on municipal reform, taxation reform," said Darling. "We're getting good traction. I think it is positive we are having so many people talk about and understand how critically important municipal and taxation reform is."
OTTAWA — WE Charity says it is closing its Canadian operations, blaming COVID-19 and the political fallout from the Liberal government's plan to have it run a multimillion-dollar student-volunteer program for leaving it in financial ruin.Craig and Marc Kielburger, who are also planning to step down from the organization they co-founded, released an open letter Wednesday explaining the move."COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of our work," the brothers wrote in the letter. "The fallout from the Canada Student Service Grant has placed us as a charity in the middle of political battles and misinformation that we are ill-equipped to fight."The financial math for the charity's future is clear."The Toronto-based youth organization shared the news with its Canadian-based staff on Wednesday.WE's operations in Britain and the U.S will not be immediately affected. Neither will its for-profit affiliate, ME to WE, which makes money through leadership courses, retail sales and travel programs.The move represents a stunning fall for the charity, which the Kielburgers first created in 1995 as a way for youth in Canada to help less-fortunate kids around the world.Few could have foreseen the degree to which the government's spring decision to have WE administer the now-defunct student grant program would hurt both the Liberals and the charity.The deal would have seen WE paid up to $43.5 million to run the program. The federal government had budgeted $912 million for the program, which was designed to cover up to $5,000 in education costs for students who volunteered during the COVID-19 pandemic. The sole-sourced contract with WE pegged the cost at $543 million and stipulated the organization would not make money on the deal.News of the deal prompted immediate questions about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's ties to WE. The controversy has since expanded to include former finance minister Bill Morneau. Both face investigations by the federal ethics watchdog into whether they violated the Conflict of Interest Act. Both have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision to award WE the contract.A spokesman for Trudeau declined to comment on the news Wednesday.WE backed out of the deal in early July, citing the political controversy. Many of its corporate sponsors eventually cut ties with the organization at a time when it was already struggling to make ends meet because of the pandemic-related shutdown.WE says it plans to lay off 115 Canadian staff and sell all its property in Canada in the coming months, including its landmark $15-million Global Learning Centre in downtown Toronto, which opened in 2017.It follows news last month that WE would be laying off dozens of employees in Canada and the United Kingdom. At the time, WE said it would assess its real estate holdings but planned to keep its headquarters in Toronto.The net profits will be put in an endowment fund that will be overseen by a new board of governors and used to complete several projects in communities in Latin America, Asia and Africa that were started by WE but remain unfinished.The fund will also cover the operating costs of several large-scale infrastructure projects, such as a hospital and college in Kenya and an agricultural centre in Ecuador. However, no new projects or programs will be launched.All future WE Day events are also being cancelled while the organization says it will no longer have staff to work with teachers, though existing resources will be digitized and available online. WE says it was active in 7,000 schools across Canada."Without decisive action, WE Charity's ongoing costs to operate in Canada would exceed revenue and consume savings that are essential to establish the endowment fund," wrote the Kielburgers, who plan to leave after the transition is finished."We calculate that this action preserves as many humanitarian and educational programs as possible, for as long as possible. Putting children first means prioritizing them above the charity. This is a heartbreaking decision."Asked who will oversee the sale of the charity's property, WE executive director Dalal Al-Waheidi said in a statement that a special committee of the board of directors comprised of individuals with legal, financial and property experience will be responsible."One hundred per cent of all proceeds will be directed to the charity and/or towards the formation of the future charitable endowment," she added. "For the sake of absolute clarity, no individual(s) will benefit in any way from the transactions."The question of how and why WE was selected to run the Canada Student Service Grant is expected to feature prominently when the House of Commons returns on Sept. 23, after Trudeau prorogued Parliament last month.The Liberals insist the charity was recommended by the non-partisan public service, but thousands of documents released by the government last month suggested bureaucrats may have been pushed in that direction by their political masters.Much of the focus has been around the ties that Trudeau and his family have to WE. The prime minister has been a featured speaker at six WE Day rallies while his wife, mother and brother have all received money from the organization.Several parliamentary committees launched investigations into the deal over the summer, but they were halted because of prorogation. Opposition parties have promised to resume those studies when Parliament returns.In testimony to the finance committee in July, the Kielburgers said they agreed to run the grant program to help Canadian students, adding that if they'd known how things would have played out, they wouldn't have answered the government's phone call.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 9, 2020.Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday there was a "substantial chance" that the suspected poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was ordered by senior Russian officials. "There is a substantial chance that this actually came from senior Russian officials," Pompeo told the Ben Shapiro radio program, according to a transcript released by the State Department.
EDMONTON — Alberta has no plans to follow its western neighbour in closing or constraining businesses, despite a recent surge in COVID-19 infections.British Columbia on Tuesday ordered new restrictions on establishments that serve alcohol in response to a spike in cases linked to those venues. Those measures include shutting down nightclubs and banquet halls, earlier closures at bars and restaurants, and sound limits so patrons don't need to speak loudly.Alberta reported 98 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, following a four-day span over the long weekend that saw a daily average of 155."We should be concerned about recent increases in the total number of active cases," Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday."But ultimately, Alberta's belief was that we're not going to micromanage our way out of this. We're only going to get through this if people exercise personal responsibility and that's what we call on Albertans to do."B.C. had 1,386 active COVID-19 cases out of a population of 5.1 million as of Tuesday, while Alberta reported 1,585 active cases out of a population of 4.4 million in its most recent update.In B.C., there are 32 people in hospital being treated for the novel coronavirus and in Alberta there are 45.Since June, Alberta has had no cap on the number of people allowed in restaurants, cafes, lounges and bars, provided public health measures are being followed. Unlike B.C., nightclubs in Alberta have never reopened.Kenney said his government is focused on not just saving lives, but livelihoods."We want to do everything we possibly can to avoid jerking around people, indiscriminately shutting down their businesses, their jobs and their livelihoods," Kenney said."Because the ultimate downstream consequences of constantly shutting down businesses and laying people off will be depression, potentially addiction, huge family challenges, pushing people into poverty — and that is unacceptable."Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical health officer, said authorities have been looking into whether adding restrictions to certain businesses would be worthwhile."We have not found one particular type of business or location where we think that creating those additional restrictions would reduce our daily case numbers," she said."Rather, it seems that the majority of our new cases are coming from close contact, potentially household transmission, social gatherings ... events that aren't necessarily easily controlled by formal public-health restrictions and measures."Hinshaw noted that there have been some outbreaks linked to religious gatherings and she'll be meeting with faith leaders to discuss the importance of their congregations following public health guidance.She also said that Alberta Health Services has confirmed 16 COVID-19 infections in 16 different schools and that in all cases, the virus was acquired outside those institutions. Support Our Students Alberta, a non-partisan, non-profit public education advocacy group, has put the number at 32, according to its online COVID-19 tracker.Hinshaw said the numbers the Alberta government is releasing are based on whether an individual with COVID-19 was infectious when they were in a school."Other numbers are not relevant to school transmission risk and simply cause confusion and anxiety."For instance, she said, learning that a teacher or a student caught COVID-19 at a gathering or on vacation, and was not in their school, isn't helpful.Hinshaw said the government is launching a new online map that will list every school where there have been two or more cases within a 14-day period and where the disease could have spread in the school.This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Sept. 9, 2020.— By Lauren Krugel in CalgaryThe Canadian Press
With children going back to school across the country, some infectious disease experts say it's time to rethink our social bubbles in order to protect our most vulnerable populations from contracting COVID-19.That could mean veering back to virtual visits for grandma and grandpa, or at the very least, reintroducing distancing and mask-wearing when seeing them.Dr. Barry Pakes, a public health physician and professor at the University of Toronto, says there is plenty to consider in deciding whether to kick grandparents out of your bubble, including how old your kids are, how big their classes are, and whether their schools are implementing remote or in-person learning."It's going to be hard for parents to factor in all those elements and make a decision, but I think the simplest thing is just rethinking how our bubbles are looking and potentially reintroducing more masking and distancing around people who are vulnerable," Pakes said. "Certainly distancing completely from grandparents is going to be the safest option, but that isn't going to be in the best interest of everybody's mental health."Most provinces cap social circles or bubbles at 10 people, though some, including Alberta, allow 15. Bubbles are safe in theory if everyone in one bubble agrees to only interact with people in that same circle.But with children going back to school and interacting with teachers and other students every day, our bubbles are suddenly expanding "almost infinitely," Pakes said.And while he doesn't think we need to throw bubbles out the window completely, we do need to reassess them.Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta, agrees, saying the "idea of a bubble still has validity."But as that bubble expands, it becomes weaker and weaker. The more individuals in that bubble, the more likely there's going to be a breach. ... And soon the bubble becomes so porous that it really has no protective value at all."Schwartz says it's a "delicate balance" determining when a bubble has become too expansive, but limiting class size in schools can help it from getting out of control. "The smaller that bubble, the more hope there is for it to retain its integrity," he said.Individual families will have to determine the level of risk they're comfortable with when debating excluding grandparents from their social circles, Schwartz said.The more people students interact with on a daily basis, the higher the risk of being exposed to the novel coronavirus. And while most young people won't experience bad COVID outcomes, older people are at a greater risk for severe illness.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says risk increases with age, so people in their 60s or 70s are more likely to experience severe outcomes than those in their 40s or 50s. The greatest risk for severe illness from COVID-19 is among those aged 85 or older.Schwartz says waiting until the pandemic is over before grandparents can see their grandchildren again isn't practical."The virus isn't going away any time soon," he said. "But as long as people are educated about the activities that put them at risk and the ways to mitigate that, I think we can make informed decisions."For instance, it's best to avoid hugging or touching, especially without a mask, Schwartz said, and outdoor meet-ups are still preferred to indoor events. As the weather gets cooler and social activities are forced indoors, however, Schwartz says well-ventilated areas — while distance is maintained or masks are being worn — can still be safe.Pakes says social bubbles offer just one layer or protection, and things like hand-washing, mask-wearing and physical distancing shouldn't be ignored, especially when it comes to interacting with more vulnerable segments of population.He says now is a good time to gradually reintroduce those measures for grandparents already in our bubbles, rather than shutting them off completely as soon as children return to class."You don't want kids to link going to school with not being able to see their grandparents," he said. "But if families can (shift) these interactions, consider doing things outside while it's still somewhat warm out, we can mimic normal as much as possible."Dr. Zahid Butt, an assistant professor and infectious disease specialist at the University of Waterloo, says now is a critical time to take extra precautions when it comes to older populations, however.COVID-19 cases are on the rise in parts of Canada, with 3,955 people testing positive last week — a significant jump from the 3,044 positive tests in the week prior.And since we may not know the potential transmission impact of reopening school for at least a month, Butt says it's best to avoid interacting with grandparents altogether until then.Bringing back socializing methods used early in the pandemic, like Facetiming or conversing from the front yard while grandma stays on the porch, could be temporary solutions. "That would be a better approach at this time because we're not really sure what will happen when all of the children return to school," he said. "So at least for the initial weeks or maybe months, I think it's better to hold off the (in-person) interactions."This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
A front-running team in the race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine has put its late-stage trial on hold after a reported "unexplained illness" in one of the trial volunteers. Here's what that means for the quick development of a COVID-19 vaccine.What kind of vaccine trial got put on hold?The trial was a Phase 3 clinical trial for a vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.It's the largest type of clinical trial, requiring thousands of volunteers, and is the last of three stages of human testing before a vaccine can be approved for use. Its main goals are to: * Test the efficacy of the vaccine at preventing the disease compared with a placebo * Get a better idea of possible side effects and how often they happen, including rare side effects that might not show up in smaller trials.The company is running Phase 3 trials involving thousands of people in the United Kingdom and smaller numbers of people in Brazil and South Africa. It is also recruiting 30,000 people in the United States for its largest study.The vaccine being tested is a non-replicating viral vector vaccine.The federal government reported on Aug. 31 that it was close to a deal to secure doses of this particular vaccine for Canadians.Why was the trial suspended?AstraZeneca reported Tuesday evening that there was a "potentially unexplained illness" in one of its trials in the U.K.That triggered a "standard review process," intended to ensure safety when that happens.While the trial is suspended, the incident will be investigated by independent reviewers not involved in the trial itself.What kind of illness was it?AstraZeneca said Wednesday that the patient had neurological symptoms associated with a spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis, but a final diagnosis was still pending as more tests are carried out, Reuters reported.That involves localized inflammation of the spinal cord, which can cause symptoms such as weakness, loss of sensation or even paralysis of the arms and legs. It can be caused by autoimmune diseases, viral, bacterial or fungal infections or parasites, but it has also been reported as potentially a rare side effect of vaccinations for diseases such as hepatitis B, influenza or measles-mumps-rubella.However, researchers who have studied it note that it's difficult to confirm or exclude the link between the disease and vaccination, since it can occur coincidentally due to other causes after vaccination.The U.S.-based Mayo Clinic said that the association so far is not strong enough to warrant limiting any vaccine.WATCH | AstraZeneca CEO on why the vaccine trial was paused:What is the goal of the review?It will try to determine whether the illness was related to the vaccine.Because trials like this are typically double-blinded, the researchers don't know whether a given volunteer received the vaccine or a placebo. That's one of the reasons why the review needs to be conducted by an independent committee that is not doing other analyses in the study.Even if the volunteer received the vaccine, the timing of the illness could still be coincidental and unrelated to the vaccine.Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease specialist at Trillium Health Partners in Toronto, told CBC News Network that if the patient does have transverse myelitis, he or she will likely be tested for different types of infections to see if a cause can be determined."I've seen many of these cases myself, and we often come up with viral causes," he said.If that happens, the review may be able to rule out the vaccine as the cause and allow the trial to resume.WATCH | Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti explains pauses in vaccine trials:How often do pauses like this happen?On the one hand, they're not triggered by "mild" side effects, and there haven't been any publicized for any COVID-19 vaccine trials so far, despite the large number underway. However, AstraZeneca disclosed Wednesday that it had briefly paused a COVID-19 vaccine trial in July after a study volunteer was found to have multiple sclerosis. An independent review panel concluded the illness was not related to the vaccine.Dr. Samir Gupta, associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, said that "it's not a routine thing to stop a massive trial mid-course like this."However, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said Thursday that such pauses are "very common actually." "Many experts will tell you this," he said. "The difference with other vaccine trials is that the whole world is not watching them of course so they stop, they study and they restart."Such an event is not unexpected, given the size of the trial, said Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist at Women's College Hospital in Toronto."I would argue for probably every vaccine that's ever come to market, there's been an event like this," Gardam said."When you're giving vaccine to tens of thousands of people, something's going to happen to one of them. And chances are it's happenstance ... it's not linked to the vaccine. But each time, you have to investigate it."WATCH | How COVID-19 vaccines are being created quickly and safely:Will the pause slow down development of a vaccine?"Not necessarily, it depends on what they find when they do the investigation," British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Wednesday.Gardam said he doesn't think it will cause a significant delay.Investigators will try to figure out "a reasonable explanation" for the cause of the illness, Gardam said, which may take some time.A pause occurred during the Phase 1 trial of a Canadian-made Ebola vaccine in 2014 after several volunteers reported joint pain. An investigation found that the side effect was likely caused by the vaccine, and the study resumed three weeks later with a lower dose.In this case, Gardam said he thinks it will be hard to draw any conclusion based on one illness and that the University of Oxford researchers will be able to "quite quickly get back up and running again."However, they will need to collect more data to see if others show similar illnesses. If that happens, he said, "then that's a completely different story."WATCH | When will a COVID-19 vaccine be ready?How worried should we be about this pause?If it turns out that this is a potential adverse effect of this vaccine, "that would obviously be a substantial showstopper for this vaccine," said Dr. Andrew Morris, an infectious disease specialist at Sinai Health, the University Health Network and the University of Toronto. He's concerned there wouldn't be access to the vaccine, which is in advanced stages of development. It's also one that many countries are pinning their hopes on, with substantial investment from and billions of doses reserved by governments around the world and by the COVAX Facility, which aims to provide access to 172 countries, including many in the developing world. The company says it is close to having the capacity to produce three billion doses around the world to prevent governments from restricting distribution.Morris said he's also concerned that the media coverage will discourage people from enrolling in vaccine studies or increase anti-vaccination hype."Any step back is really a setback for all of us," he said.But at the same time, researchers such as Gardam say in some ways, the pause should ease people's concerns, as it shows that the system is working and highlights the importance of Phase 3 clinical trials to ensure the safety of vaccines."This in and of itself isn't a big deal," he said. "This is what is supposed to happen.... This gives me some comfort."The fact that this has been stopped appropriately, it'll be investigated. We'll learn about it and then presumably the trial will start up again. That's exactly what's supposed to happen."
In The News is a roundup of stories from The Canadian Press designed to kickstart your day. Here is what's on the radar of our editors for the morning of Sept. 10 ...What we are watching in Canada ... OTTAWA — The demise of WE's Canadian operations won't take the heat off Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over his government's decision to hire the charity to run a now-defunct student volunteer program.NDP MP Charlie Angus says WE's announcement Wednesday that it is shuttering its Canadian operations only underscores the lack of due diligence done by the government before handing administration of the program over to an organization that was evidently in financial distress.Two months before the government gave the contract to WE in late June, Angus notes that the organization had laid off hundreds of staff and replaced almost its entire board of directors, which had been denied access to the charity's financial reports.Angus says WE was "desperate" and cashed in on its connections to Trudeau, his family and his former finance minister, Bill Morneau, in order to persuade them to pay the organization to run the student service grant program.Trudeau himself has been a featured speaker at half a dozen WE events and his wife, mother and brother have been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years in expenses and speaking fees.Trudeau and Morneau have apologized for not recusing themselves from the decision to pay WE up to $43.5 million to administer the program and are both under investigation by the federal ethics watchdog for possible breaches of the Conflict of Interest Act.\---Also this ...VANCOUVER — Students in British Columbia are returning to school today, but parents who have opted for online learning fear their kids will lose coveted spots in specialty programs.Thereisa Reid's daughter Sydney was looking forward to her first day in a new arts and technology program at a middle school in Chilliwack but will be staying home to protect her father's health in case she contracts COVID-19.Reid says her husband is in remission from testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and kidneys and may need to move to his parents' place in Kamloops if their kids, including two in high school, have to learn in class.Principals at both schools have said a temporary five-week online learning option is available but Reid says that's too risky for her family, which needs remote instruction for the year as COVID-19 cases increase in B.C.Parents with children in French immersion say online learning isn't available so keeping their kids at home could mean losing those spots.Education Minister Rob Fleming says school districts are trying to meet families' needs but B-C Teachers Federation president Teri Mooring says the province should have taken leadership instead of leaving families to make deals for themselves with principals.\---What we are watching in the U.S. ...OROVILLE, Calif. — A Northern California wildfire is threatening thousands of homes after winds whipped it into a monster that incinerated houses in a small mountain community and killed at least three people.The North Complex fire northeast of San Francisco exploded to six times its previous size between Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to gusting winds.The winds have subsided but only after flames critically burned several people and damaged or destroyed hundreds, if not thousands, of homes and other buildings.Some 20,000 people are under evacuation orders or warnings in three counties.Other large fires are burning around the state and the West.\---What we are watching in the rest of the world ...ATHENS — A second fire in Greece's notoriously overcrowded Moria refugee camp has destroyed nearly everything that had been spared in the original blaze, Greece's migration ministry says, leaving thousands more people in need of emergency housing.Early this morning, former residents of the country's largest camp, which had been under coronavirus lockdown, returned to the area to pick through the charred remains of their belongings, salvaging what they could.Many had spent the night sleeping in the open by the side of the road.Aid agencies have long warned of dire conditions at Moria, where more than 12,500 people were living in and around a facility built to house just over 2,750.\---On this day in 2000 ...Tiger Woods won the Canadian Open golf championship at Glen Abbey golf course in Oakville, Ont. He became the second golfer (Lee Trevino in 1971) to win the U.S. Open, the British Open and the Canadian Open in the same year.\---News you can use ...With children going back to school across the country, some infectious disease experts say it's time to rethink our social bubbles to protect our most vulnerable populations from contracting COVID-19.That could mean veering back to virtual visits for grandma and grandpa, or at the very least, reintroducing distancing and mask-wearing when seeing them.Dr. Barry Pakes, a public health physician and professor at the University of Toronto, says there is plenty to consider in deciding whether to kick grandparents out of your bubble, including how old your kids are, how big their classes are, and whether their schools are implementing remote or in-person learning."It's going to be hard for parents to factor in all those elements and make a decision, but I think the simplest thing is just rethinking how our bubbles are looking and potentially reintroducing more masking and distancing around people who are vulnerable," Pakes said. "Certainly distancing completely from grandparents is going to be the safest option, but that isn't going to be in the best interest of everybody's mental health."Most provinces cap social circles or bubbles at 10 people, though some, including Alberta, allow 15. Bubbles are safe in theory if everyone in one bubble agrees to only interact with people in that same circle.But with children going back to school and interacting with teachers and other students every day, our bubbles are suddenly expanding "almost infinitely," Pakes said.And while he doesn't think we need to throw bubbles out the window completely, we do need to reassess them.Dr. Ilan Schwartz, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alberta, agrees, saying the "idea of a bubble still has validity."But as that bubble expands, it becomes weaker and weaker. The more individuals in that bubble, the more likely there's going to be a breach. ... And soon the bubble becomes so porous that it really has no protective value at all."Schwartz says it's a "delicate balance" determining when a bubble has become too expansive, but limiting class size in schools can help it from getting out of control. "The smaller that bubble, the more hope there is for it to retain its integrity," he said.Individual families will have to determine the level of risk they're comfortable with when debating excluding grandparents from their social circles, Schwartz said.\---ICYMI ...VICTORIA — A python that twice escaped from its owner in the Victoria area has not survived its second bid for freedom.Saanich police say the snake, which was nearly 1.5 metres long, was found Sunday on the lawn of a home.A police statement says the ball python had been dead for some time.Police say its owner was contacted and he confirmed the remains were those of the non-venomous snake that slipped out of his backpack as he slept on Aug. 19.Seven days earlier, it was found under a car near downtown Victoria, several kilometres from where it was reported missing on Aug. 4.The snake was checked by a veterinarian when it was recaptured last month and was returned to its owner, reportedly in good health.Ball pythons, sometimes called royal pythons, are the smallest of the non-venomous constrictor pythons found in Africa.\---Entertainment news ...TORONTO — Broadway percussionist Jacqueline Acevedo says hunkering down for 14 days of self-isolation was worth it to be able to attend tonight's premiere of "David Byrne's American Utopia" at a Toronto drive-in cinema.The Toronto-born artist returned to Canada to show her support for the Spike Lee-directed concert film she stars in, which kicks off this year's pandemic edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.It's a much smaller version of the usual TIFF, with about 60 features screening over the next week and a half, compared to the usual selection of several hundred.The socially potent "American Utopia" opens the TIFF festivities in the most unusual way: by playing at three outdoor theatres.Two of the screens will be drive-in locations while the other is an open-air cinema with a physically distanced audience.Acevedo plans to attend one of the drive-in screenings, and she says the biggest question for her right now is what kind of evening attire will comfortably fit into her car.The 45th edition of TIFF runs through Sept. 19, with tickets for virtual screenings available across the country.\---This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020The Canadian Press
A P.E.I. barber who specializes in cutting Black people's hair is setting up shop in downtown Charlottetown, to fill what he says is a need on the Island.Luke Ignace, who also calls himself the Breaking Barber, has been cutting his friends' hair out of his home for almost two years. He's done so largely because of how few options there are on P.E.I., with many hairdressers unable to properly cut Black hair or too afraid to try.It's a problem Ignace and many of his friends in the Black community have faced. Few options meant many had to cut their own hair or were left to grow it out.'You look good, you feel good'It's why Ignace has officially moved his clippers out of his home and will soon be offering haircuts at a salon he's renting on Victoria Row, three days a week. "This is not a Black-only barbershop. This is for everyone. I'm just creating a niche because I know that Black people need this service," he said.The service is one that friend Gessy Robin Gislain has been struggling to find until now, recalling experiences with barbers who didn't know the techniques needed to cut his hair."They say 'you look good, you feel good,'" he said."I know how much a haircut kind of affects my, you know, my well-being in some way, me feeling good, confident and all that. So it kind of is draining a little bit," he said.Space to 'empower' communityThe shop won't just be a place for people to get their haircut, Ignace said, but a space for P.E.I.'s Black community to come together."[A] Black barber serves as the glue for the community. He pulls them together and he also helps them connect to others in that community," Ignace said."Why not get into a space where I can actually talk to them, empower them? They can empower me and we can then just start working together to make a change out here, you know?"Robin Gislain agreed, saying a a barbershop in Black culture "is different.""We talk different. We chat different. Our tones, everything is different."He said in a barbershop "you get to chat with all the people who've been in your shoes way back then and they know the way around everything and that's a blessing to have that kind of council." Plans to expandIgnace said he hopes to be able to eventually expand the services his shop offers to women as well, who have their own unique set of needs when it comes to hair.And even though the shop is operating part time for now, Ignace said being able to make the move from his home to a salon in downtown Charlottetown and create a space dedicated to the Black community is something he's proud of."I finally made it to a place where I could move up a bit. You know, I'm just so proud of that. I'm hoping that the community can also be proud of that."For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of.More from CBC P.E.I.
Public health officials in Ottawa and Gatineau are trying to figure out how the National Capital Region became a COVID-19 "hot spot," and how to go about preventing further spread of the illness.According to a colour-coded system, versions of which are now used in both Ontario and Quebec, Ottawa is currently orange, or "restricted," while the Outaouais sits one level below at yellow, or "caution." Green indicates limited risk while red means the situation is critical.On Tuesday, after days of high case numbers in Ottawa, Premier Doug Ford lumped the city in with Toronto and Brampton as Ontario's COVID-19 "hot spots."On Wednesday, the city's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, reassured councillors that the local situation has stabilized, but warned against complacency.> This disease has a way of exploding when you least expect it. \- Raywat Deonandan, epidemiologist"We can't relax. We're not red … but we're not yellow either," Etches said, referring to the colour-coded map of the province."We see that it doesn't take much if we relax our physical distancing, our wearing masks indoors, our staying home when we're sick, that we can get rapid resurgences," she said.Etches pointed out that Ottawa was the biggest city in Ontario to enter stages 2 and 3 of reopening, and said that could partly explain the spike in cases the city is seeing now. So is the fact that the city is connected by several bridges to the Outaouais, she said."We're very much one connected population. We see that when it comes to following up situations where COVID was identified in people who live and work back and forth," Etches said.No plans to limit border crossingsIn Quebec, the Outaouais is one of four regions in yellow, or the early warning tier of the system, along with Quebec City, the Eastern Townships and Laval. The province's other regions, including Montreal, currently reside in the lowest tier.In the Outaouais, health officials report that since the beginning of August the largest increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases has been among the 20-29 age group.In an update Wednesday morning, Dr. Brigitte Pinard, the regional director of public health, said contact tracing is proving difficult among those younger people."We have confirmed cases in which the infected person has had close contact with more than 20 people," Pinard said. "Some patients had trouble identifying all the people they had close contact with because they went to events or get-togethers or parties where there was a high number of participants."While Pinard echoed Etches's comments on the interconnectivity between the two regions, she insisted there's no plan to close interprovincial crossings, as was done in April and May."We're not there yet," said Pinard. "If the situation evolves in a negative way in the coming weeks, we'll see if the need arises to impose additional measures. Right now it's about everyone following the protocols."'A dangerous time'The rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region comes as no surprise to University of Ottawa epidemiologist and associate professor Raywat Deonandan."This disease has a way of exploding when you least expect it," said Deonandan. "You never know when you're safe, and the lesson for me is, you've got to remain vigilant all the time."Doenandan said Ontario may need to follow the example of B.C., where after months of relatively low infection rates, officials moved Tuesday to close nightclubs and banquet halls following a recent jump in new cases."Maybe take a step back, close some things while keeping the economy overall open, reassess in a couple of months and see where we are," said Deonandan.Compounding the concern is the imminent reopening of schools, the arrival of post-secondary students and the cooling temperatures that will soon be pushing more of us indoors."This is a dangerous time," said Deonandan. "We're entering dangerous territory, and we have to make some tough choices."
OTTAWA — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the quarantine system is "broken" because federal health officers are not charging people ignoring self-isolation orders for COVID-19.Since the end of March, an emergency order under the federal Quarantine Act has required most people arriving from outside Canada to isolate themselves for 14 days, even if they don't have symptoms.While more than 2.5 million border-crossings have been recorded since then, only a fraction of those travellers are ordered to quarantine, while the rest are exempt as essential workers, such as truck drivers, front-line health staff or airline crew.Those essential workers must not work with anyone over the age of 65 for at least two weeks, and must wear masks if they can't physically distance from others.If someone breaches a quarantine order, federal quarantine officers can lay charges with penalties of up to six months in jail and fines of up to $750,000, while police can issue tickets of up to $1,000.Between March 25 and Sept. 3, police have been asked to check on the whereabouts of 87,338 people ordered to quarantine. Data provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada lists zero arrests for ignoring a quarantine order, one summons to appear in court, and 42 police-issued tickets.The RCMP separately said that in addition to tickets, its officers had charged two people under the Quarantine Act for not remaining in quarantine for the required 14 days. The RCMP did not say in which province the offences took place or the status of those charges.However, Ford says Ontario police checks have uncovered 622 quarantine-order scofflaws and is frustrated about the lack of penalties."The system is broken," he said Thursday."You can't have people going out there breaking the federal Quarantine Act and not being held accountable. It's not like they're going to be thrown in jail or something but they should get a fine. You can't just say a slap on the wrist, 'OK guys don't worry about it because if you do it again we'll slap you on the wrist again.' It doesn't make sense."Ford said he planned to raise the matter with the federal government during a conference call between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and premiers Thursday."We'll get it fixed," he said, expressing faith in Ottawa to help.A spokesman for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said police have to answer for why they aren't issuing more tickets.A statement issued by federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu's office did not directly address the lack of charges being laid."The rules are clear: those who contravene the mandatory requirements may be subject to a range of enforcement measures, from verbal and written warnings, to fines and arrest," the statement said. "We will continue to work with the government of Ontario to protect Canadians."The Ontario Provincial Police have at times publicized the tickets issued, including two people ticketed near Fort Frances, Ont., in July after crossing into Canada from Minnesota and stopping at stores after being told to go straight to their property and stay there for two weeks. Two other seniors were ticketed by the OPP in North Bay, Ont. on July 9, after arriving from Florida to go to their summer cottage and failing to quarantine for two weeks.The Public Health Agency of Canada did not provide information about the one summons to appear in court.The compliance system is in the hands of multiple agencies. Canada Border Services Agency officers issue the quarantine orders when people arrive at the border, and in that process identify to the federal public health agency the people they believe to be at highest risk of ignoring the orders.Health officers will use phone calls or emails to check in with those people. If health officers are concerned someone is ignoring an order, they will ask the RCMP to physically verify the compliance, and the RCMP will either do the check or pass it on to a local police agency.A statement from the RCMP in April said officers "will use a risk-based, measured approach to non-compliance, focusing on education and encouragement" and that arrests would be a measure of last resort.Canada's quarantine order is less strict than some other countries. Iceland, for example, requires a pre-arrival declaration of no symptoms, and either a COVID-19 test upon arrival or a two-week quarantine. Australia quarantines all arriving passengers for two weeks at government facilities.With a few exceptions for essential workers, currently only Canadians and permanent residents, and their immediate family members, are allowed to cross into Canada by land, sea or air.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 10, 2020.Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press
Local Caledon resident Devon Caltagirone has launched an online petition calling on area school boards to remove their mandatory mask order for young students returning to the classroom. Students from grades one to 12 have been instructed to wear a face covering while attending in-person classes at all Peel District School Board facilities. Kindergarten students are also being “strongly encouraged” to wear masks.
Should bars and banquet halls shut down? Should group gatherings be limited? Those questions became a bit of a political hot potato Wednesday as both the province and City of Toronto tried to calm concerns about rising COVID-19 case numbers. Travis Dhanraj has more.