This trick shot expert shows one of his trademark shots - nailing a thin can with a knife in midair. How cool is that?! @_fulltangclan
This trick shot expert shows one of his trademark shots - nailing a thin can with a knife in midair. How cool is that?! @_fulltangclan
The Burmese-Canadian community is calling on the federal government to provide more material support to anti-military protesters after a week that saw some of the deadliest clashes between police and demonstrators in Myanmar since the military coup in that country. The Burmese Canadian Action Network (BCAN) sent a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Marc Garneau this week, just one day after police killed 18 people and wounded 30, according to the United Nations. "We, Burmese Canadians across Canada, are calling on the Government of Canada to provide tangible support for Burmese people struggling for freedom and democracy," the letter reads. The crisis began after Aung San Suu Kyi won a landslide re-election as state counsellor of Myanmar — a position equivalent to a prime minister -- on Nov. 8 last year. The military questioned the results, accusing the winning party of fraud, before seizing power and placing Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government under arrest on Feb. 1. Since then, dozens of protesters have died -- 34 on Wednesday alone -- at the hands of police and more than 1,000 civilians and elected officials have been arrested. Anti-coup protesters maintain their position behind a barricade despite smoke from tear gas in San Chaung township in Yangon, Myanmar, on Friday, Mar. 5, 2021. Demonstrators defy growing violence by security forces and stage more anti-coup protests ahead of a special UN Security Council meeting on the country’s political crisis.(The Associated Press) From pot-banging to protesters taking to the streets clad in hard-hats and goggles to protect themselves from assaults by police, the demonstrations are happening daily, in spite of bans on political protests and on social media. The letter to Trudeau and Garneau says Canada should take further action, including helping people who are now struggling with food scarcity. The civil unrest has caused major shutdowns in the country and interrupted the people's daily lives, especially those who joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). BCAN appealed to Canada to send food and material support via UN agencies and civil society organizations. "We encourage you to find ways to provide such essential assistance urgently," its letter reads. The letter also calls on Canada to officially recognize the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Htaw (CRPH). The CRPH, which was created soon after the coup with the support of 400 elected MPs, combines the Lower and Upper Houses of Myanmar's parliament. Protesters hold up placards demanding the release of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on March 4, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images) According to Tin Maung Htoo, spokesperson for the BCAN, the CRPH is currently working underground in defiance of the police and supporting the demonstrators under the radar, by releasing information and making announcements to the public. "We are quite encouraged by the [Canadian] government's stand and this stand and actions from the government is very encouraging for people on the ground in Burma, especially," he said, referring to a move by Canada and Britain to impose economic sanctions on Myanmar. The two countries made the move under the Special Economic Measures Act on Feb 18 after police violence escalated against demonstrators. We don't want to go back 20, 30 years -- back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can. - Tin Maung Htoo Maung Htoo was a student when he fled Myanmar during in 1988 after organizing protests against the military dictatorship. "More than 3,000 people, mostly students, were killed in the streets," Maung Htoo recalled. "There was no freedom of expression, association, student unions were banned." The regime lasted over 20 years, finally ending when Myanmar achieved partial democracy in 2010. Tin Maung Htoo, with the Burmese Canadian Action Network, says the people of Myanmar 'are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country.'(Submitted by Tin Maung Htoo) Two years before the country opened itself to the world, the military wrote a new constitution, which allowed it to keep some of its former powers, including 25 per cent of seats in parliament and control of the defence, border affairs and home ministries. When the military moved to take power in February, General Min Aung Hlaing announced the removal of 24 democratically elected ministers, naming 11 replacements.. Maung Htoo said he believes the coup is an act of desperation. He said the the military was gradually losing not only political control under Suu Kyi's leadership but also economic power, since big business organizations are military-backed and military-owned. "People are showing their strong stand and support for democratization in the country." Maung Htoo said. "We don't want to go back 20, 30 years ... back to the dark age. That is why this is the time for us to do whatever we can."
This spring, Winnipeg’s civil service will unveil its new master plan for public transit, coming on the heels of Ottawa’s announcement to shovel billions of dollars into programs across the country over the next decade in an effort to lower emissions from the transportation sector. This convergence of public money and planning seems to offer Winnipeg a chance to reimagine what is possible in the realm of transit — what the system could be going forward, despite past failings. However, it is quickly becoming clear there are no visions of streetcars or light rail dancing in their heads. Dreams for Winnipeg’s transit system are much smaller, even among its biggest proponents, which speaks to how far the system still has to go in order to meet a threshold of service that would successfully convince people to leave their cars at home. Or, even more radically, not buy a car in the first place. Breaking people of their car-driving habit is a key aspect of national and municipal climate plans. More than 40 per cent of greenhouse-gas emissions in Manitoba came from the transportation sector in 2018. Of the emissions from transportation, about 37 per cent comes from vehicles classified as light-duty cars and trucks. Electrification will help lower passenger-vehicle emissions, but prospective civic policies also rely on getting more people out of their vehicles altogether and on to bikes, buses and trains. “Investments in public transit will also require some behavioural changes on the part of commuters,” declared the Senate’s 2017 report on decarbonizing the transportation sector. “Unless taking transit is easier, faster and cheaper than taking a car for one’s daily commute, investments will not result in the desired emission reductions.” Ideally, all of the pieces are meant to come together to help solve the emissions problem. But in Winnipeg, the road forward is shaping up to be a long, slow one. ● ● ● Coun. Vivian Santos grew up getting around the city by bus, accepting the hour-long commute between her Southdale home and downtown that would otherwise take 15 minutes by car. As she got older, a bike became a better alternative to the bus, cutting her commute time in half. “I stopped taking transit because it was just, to be honest, a waste of my time in the morning,” she says. In the decades since, bus service hasn’t really improved, but her financial flexibility did, plus she added kids to the mix. And so, the Point Douglas councillor made the same choice most Winnipeggers who can afford it make, and she bought a car. There are now two in her household to shuffle her family around the city. Her children are getting to the age where they could start taking transit on their own — and she’d like to encourage them to do so — but it’s not realistic, based on where they live in the northwest part of the city. “There’s actually no transit service out here, to be honest with you. So if my son were to take transit, he would actually have to walk 10 minutes to McPhillips. Or he’d have to walk maybe seven minutes the other way down towards Pipeline and Templeton. So we’re really kind of outside of the transit system,” she says. Winnipeg has some of the lowest transit use rates per capita in the country, according to a recent report from Climate Reality Canada, the Canadian arm of former U.S. vice-president Al Gore’s international environmental non-profit organization. Among large cities with more than 600,000 residents, Winnipeg came in last, with an average of 67 transit trips per person annually. The next lowest was Calgary with 84. The Canadian leader in transit trips per capita is Montreal, with 236. Nationally, transit ridership has increased from roughly 1.8 billion regular service trips in 2009 to 2.1 billion in 2017, according to the Canadian Urban Transit Association. But in Winnipeg, ridership stalled and even declined in that same time period, according to city statistics. The last census revealed Winnipeg was the only Canadian city where commuting by public transit had declined over the preceding 20-year period. Santos believes getting more people on transit isn’t about building rail lines or any other flashy, grand plans. To her, it’s much more simple — it’s about making transit more frequently accessible and reliable, and charging less money to use it. “I think a good balance of both should be done,” she says. “They need to be done together. Because I understand that if we lower the fees, we’re going to have more people come on, we’re gonna see an uptick rate of people taking the transit. So obviously, we need to increase purchasing buses, and we need to better our frequency.” To that end, she put a motion before the city’s public works committee in February to study what the impact of lower fares might be in Winnipeg. It was rejected in a 2-2 vote. Curt Hull, director of Winnipeg’s Climate Change Connection, agrees with Santos’s evaluation of what’s needed to bring the transit system up to speed, and explains why aiming higher at this point isn’t practical. “Implementing rapid transit by rail is really a long ways further from where we are. You don’t start with that. You start with building the demand with things like developing frequent service, and then once you get enough demand, enough ridership on a particular route, then you make it rail. So we’re a long ways away from that,” Hull says. Efforts to regenerate the transit system with rapid bus instrastructure — the second leg of the Southwest Transitway was completed last spring — have proven lacklustre, Hull says, but he is hopeful new, less capital-intensive improvements will help deliver more riders. In addition to Santos’s hopes for more frequent, cheaper service, Hull adds a couple of things to the wish list. The routes need to be simple, he says, and access to lines criss-crossing the city needs to be easy. He envisions something like an on-demand service for suburban neighbourhoods, where a small van or a similar vehicle shuttles a rider to the main bus lines. Having regular but empty buses running through those neighbourhoods doesn’t make sense, he says, but you can’t cut them off from the network, either. “The issue is the availability of funding for it,” he says. ●●● Winnipeg relies more heavily on the fare box to fund transit than any other city in the country on a per capita basis, which pins the system’s progress directly to ridership. It’s a chicken-and-egg scenario — the system can’t be improved until ridership increases, but that won’t happen without system improvements. It also puts the system at risk for ridership fluctuations, as was the case for most of last year because of the pandemic. Across the country, transit ridership fell by more than 60 per cent in 2020, according to Statistics Canada. While it rebounded somewhat in the summer months, those minor gains were lost again amid the second wave in late fall and early winter. “That hits our system that much more than other systems,” says Coun. Matt Allard, chair of Winnipeg’s public works committee. Winnipeg’s reliance on fare-box revenues was cemented in 2017 when the provincial government moved away from its 50-50 funding agreement with the city. In 2019, fares represented 45 per cent of total expenditures on transit, which amounted to $91.7 million of $204 million. At the public works committee meeting in February where Santos put forward the idea of free or lower-fare transit, the conversation quickly turned from one that was simply about buses and dollar figures to a much more complicated question: is public transit something Winnipeggers consider to be a public good? Taxpayers who are childless or do not have school-age children still contribute money to the education system. Taxpayers who do not borrow books from the library still pay to keep the lights on and the shelves stocked. Those who do not drive still pay to keep the roads maintained. And all of those services are free of direct costs to the user. Winnipeggers have come to an implicit agreement that some things are in the public’s interest to fund. But so far, Winnipeg and its residents have yet to bring public transit under that umbrella. As long as the system relies heavily on the fare box, it will not be viewed as a public good. At least not to the same extent that other services are. Much like parents not bringing their children to a park with broken swings and garbage strewn everywhere, a neglected transit system will not yield higher ridership. It will not be a civic source of pride, as it is in many other cities. “Convenient access to public transit” is among the United Nations’ indicators for sustainable development goals. Yet, Winnipeg fails to meet measures of success that were created as goals in developing countries. International Institute for Sustainable Development targets for appropriate wait times and distance to the closest bus stop are unattainable for a third of Winnipeggers. Transit investments have been found to have significant positive spillover effects in economic development, especially in sectors such as tourism. It also stands to reason riders save money that would have otherwise have been spent on a car. Then there’s the significant shared benefits between climate interests in transit and equity policy across different socio-economic classes. “If you see transportation as a way of participating in society — which it certainly is — the more accessible transit is, the more people can easily get around and the more their experience becomes comparable to somebody who owns a vehicle, who’s more economically advantaged,” Allard says. The push for change has become louder as the urgency of climate action increases. Carolyn Kim, the director of transportation at the Pembina Institute, argues that making the decision as a city to invest in transit would be transformational, in itself. “If you’re able to increase the level of service, and people can ride a bus that is more frequent, it’s more reliable. It’s affordable,” Kim says. Also critical to the conversation is deliberately targeting dense housing and business development along the main transit arteries, she adds. Getting people onto transit is about making it a more convenient, cheaper alternative to driving. So the flip side of the equation, though often unpopular politically, is to find ways to increase the cost of driving through increased parking rates, lowering parking availability and other planning tools. It’s another avenue to pursue transformational changes, Kim says. Take London, as an example. The British city has created an “ultra-low emission zone” where, depending on how much your vehicle pollutes the air, you are charged a daily fee to drive in certain areas. Cities are free to get creative with policies and find solutions that work for them, Kim says, but they have the power to set priorities and pathways that change residents’ behaviour. ●●● Winnipeg is also contemplating where the electrification of buses fits into the picture. A pilot project for the use of both battery-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell buses will be considered by council this spring. Allard says he’s looking forward to debate on the topic, but to him, more buses on the road — regardless of how they’re powered — is the priority, since the transit fleet is responsible for such a small fraction of emissions in the city compared to personal passenger vehicles. Joanna Kyriazis, a senior policy adviser with Clean Energy Canada, warns against that kind of thinking, pointing out that electric buses actually stand to save cities money, since operation and maintenance costs are so much lower, even if up-front costs to purchase the vehicles are still higher. “The life of a bus is 12 to 18 years. And so if we keep making diesel bus purchases today, that that decision has consequences for another two decades,” she says. And the added allure of electric buses might be another way for the city to persuade drivers to park and ride, she says. Along with electrification, the new buses also come with GPS to track where they are on routes, and that information can then be sent to users. Generally, they also come with electronic-pass scanners, so riders don’t need to fumble with correct change and tickets. All of these upgrades make the transit experience better, she says. Plus, no more diesel fumes. “It’s also a great way for people to experience an electric vehicle for the first time. And the more we see them on our streets, the more we ride them, the more we see how many benefits they deliver, the more likely those riders are to go and buy an electric car themselves. So there are these spillover effects,” Kyriazis says. “Doing the same thing we’ve always done isn’t working. And so modernizing and connecting these vehicles is going to help improve the rider experience.” In Winnipeg, transformational changes might not be as big and headline-grabbing as they are in other cities, but this city is coming from behind and has more ground to make up if transit is going to become a priority. Rail lines or a world-class network of multi-modal transit aren’t on anyone’s realistic wish list. But perhaps Winnipeg is on the verge of a different radical change. One where transit isn’t looked at as a lost cause, but rather something to be invested in for the good of the community. Sarah Lawrynuik, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
Golden Hill School Division (GHSD) held a board meeting on Feb. 23, focusing on a range of topics, including setting next year’s budget, this year’s election, enrolment trends and changes to its transportation program. Budget development The government of Alberta released its 2021 budget on Feb. 25, which will shape GHSD’s budget next year. According to the province, funding for kindergarten to Grade 12 is being maintained, despite lower-than-expected enrolment. However, GHSD will review the specifics of the budget in developing its own budget for next year, through a multistep process. At this time of year, the board is focused on its overarching budgeting principles, explained superintendent Bevan Daverne. “One of those principles is that we live within our means and make (GHSD’s budget) work within the funding we receive,” he said. While GHSD may access reserve funding for its budget, it is not permitted to run an overall deficit. Another principle is ensuring GHSD’s priorities continue to align with its overall education plan. “We’ll continue to focus on those things that matter most for learning,” said Daverne. Once the budget is released, the province’s minister of education calls all the division chairs across Alberta to communicate the highlights of the budget, explained Laurie Huntley, GHSD board chair. The board will later receive the budget in its entirety for review. “That’s when the rubber hits the road and our people start crunching the numbers and comparing things from last year to this year,” she said. The board will review the specifics of the provincial budget and its impact during the next meeting in March, added Daverne. Election 2021 This year, a provincial school board of trustee election will be held on Oct. 18. Trustees are responsible for setting school division goals and priorities, developing a budget and policies, ensuring communication with residents, advocating for the division and evaluating the superintendent. GHSD has six trustees, each representing a different ward. One of the changes to this year’s election was the nomination period, which started on Jan. 1, earlier than previous years. During the Feb. 23 meeting, the board passed an updated bylaw outlining the identification requirements of nominees. The current trustees on the board have been “outstanding,” said Daverne. “They think about what’s best for students as a whole, they are very good listeners and they are very considerate in the decisions they make.” Advocacy is a key part of trustee’s work, including advocating for changes to funding, regulations and rules with provincial decisions makers, he added. Huntley (Ward 5, Carseland and Wheatland Crossing), Rob Pirie (Ward 4, Strathmore) and Jennifer Mertz (Ward 4, Strathmore) are all seeking reelection. Enrolment changes During the Feb. 23 meeting, GHSD’s headcount was shown to have increased from December 2020 to January 2021 by 135 students. This trend was driven by increases in its online learning programs, including 127 added to its Golden Hills Learning Academy and 26 to its NorthStar Academy. The jump was due to the pandemic, said Huntley. “We think you can sum up the reason in five letters: C-O-V-I-D,” she said. But this increase is not due to children in the division moving from learning at school to learning at home, she explained. Instead, these programs are offered to students throughout Alberta, so the increases are due to students from other jurisdictions entering the program. From the start of last year, these programs have doubled in size, noted Daverne. To meet this new demand, GHSD has had to make some quick adjustments, such as hiring more teachers. But within the division, the opposite trend is being seen, where students are moving back into schools from at-home learning. “Our families have been really happy to be able to get back to face-to-face classroom learning,” said Daverne. Transportation monitoring report GHSD’s yearly transportation monitoring report was also discussed during the Feb. 23 meeting, focusing on GHSD’s school bus program. A new operating training program has been implemented, called mandatory entry-level training (MELT), established in March 2019 as a provincial requirement for large vehicle operators. The training requires set hourly training requirements for drivers (53.5 hours total), including increased requirements for classroom, in-yard and on-road training. Existing GHSD policies already required 62 hours of training, with some of the training performed over a year. But the change with MELT is the training is required up front. This is not necessarily an improvement, because drivers require regular supervision, ride alongs and support to develop, said Daverne. “We’re going to help you continue becoming a better driver, and we’re going to continue to supervise over time,” he said. GHSD is also pursuing several initiatives for its transportation program, including ongoing efforts to implement online attendance tracking systems, new cleaning protocols and adding live cameras to the buses. “We’re looking at ways to monitor students’ attendance on a bus automatically – where they get on and where they get off,” he said. Each of GHSD’s buses has GPS tracking, which will be considered in a review of the department’s inclement weather policy. The buses also each have WiFi for students, providing a filtered internet from which they can access their Google Classroom. “School bus transportation is very different today than it once was,” said Daverne. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The latest numbers on COVID-19 vaccinations in Canada as of 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. In Canada, the provinces are reporting 85,376 new vaccinations administered for a total of 2,253,514 doses given. Nationwide, 561,238 people or 1.5 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated. The provinces have administered doses at a rate of 5,946.061 per 100,000. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to the provinces and territories for a total of 2,622,210 doses delivered so far. The provinces and territories have used 85.94 per cent of their available vaccine supply. Please note that Newfoundland, P.E.I., Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories typically do not report on a daily basis. Newfoundland is reporting 4,472 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 24,757 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 47.279 per 1,000. In the province, 1.61 per cent (8,427) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Newfoundland for a total of 35,620 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.8 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 69.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. P.E.I. is reporting 1,105 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 13,281 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 83.724 per 1,000. In the province, 3.32 per cent (5,273) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to P.E.I. for a total of 14,715 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.25 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nova Scotia is reporting 6,657 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 38,676 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 39.631 per 1,000. In the province, 1.48 per cent (14,395) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nova Scotia for a total of 61,980 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.4 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 62.4 per cent of its available vaccine supply. New Brunswick is reporting 7,424 new vaccinations administered over the past seven days for a total of 33,741 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 43.255 per 1,000. In the province, 1.56 per cent (12,142) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to New Brunswick for a total of 46,775 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.0 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 72.13 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Quebec is reporting 19,975 new vaccinations administered for a total of 510,479 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 59.659 per 1,000. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Quebec for a total of 638,445 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 79.96 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Ontario is reporting 35,886 new vaccinations administered for a total of 820,714 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 55.872 per 1,000. In the province, 1.83 per cent (269,063) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Ontario for a total of 903,285 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 90.86 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Manitoba is reporting 2,358 new vaccinations administered for a total of 84,937 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 61.682 per 1,000. In the province, 2.17 per cent (29,847) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were 8,190 new vaccines delivered to Manitoba for a total of 124,840 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 9.1 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 68.04 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Saskatchewan is reporting 2,789 new vaccinations administered for a total of 86,879 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 73.679 per 1,000. In the province, 2.37 per cent (27,945) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Saskatchewan for a total of 74,605 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.3 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 116.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Alberta is reporting 9,488 new vaccinations administered for a total of 275,719 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 62.634 per 1,000. In the province, 2.06 per cent (90,486) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Alberta for a total of 274,965 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 6.2 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 100.3 per cent of its available vaccine supply. British Columbia is reporting 12,357 new vaccinations administered for a total of 311,208 doses given. The province has administered doses at a rate of 60.646 per 1,000. In the province, 1.69 per cent (86,865) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to British Columbia for a total of 385,080 doses delivered so far. The province has received enough of the vaccine to give 7.5 per cent of its population a single dose. The province has used 80.82 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Yukon is reporting 1,279 new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,437 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 465.769 per 1,000. In the territory, 17.00 per cent (7,093) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Yukon for a total of 18,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 45 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 102.8 per cent of its available vaccine supply. The Northwest Territories are reporting zero new vaccinations administered for a total of 19,775 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 438.285 per 1,000. In the territory, 10.10 per cent (4,558) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to the Northwest Territories for a total of 19,100 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 42 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 103.5 per cent of its available vaccine supply. Nunavut is reporting 158 new vaccinations administered for a total of 13,911 doses given. The territory has administered doses at a rate of 359.216 per 1,000. In the territory, 13.28 per cent (5,144) of the population has been fully vaccinated. There were zero new vaccines delivered to Nunavut for a total of 23,900 doses delivered so far. The territory has received enough of the vaccine to give 62 per cent of its population a single dose. The territory has used 58.21 per cent of its available vaccine supply. *Notes on data: The figures are compiled by the COVID-19 Open Data Working Group based on the latest publicly available data and are subject to change. Note that some provinces report weekly, while others report same-day or figures from the previous day. Vaccine doses administered is not equivalent to the number of people inoculated as the approved vaccines require two doses per person. The vaccines are currently not being administered to children under 18 and those with certain health conditions. In some cases the number of doses administered may appear to exceed the number of doses distributed as some provinces have been drawing extra doses per vial. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
A motion to share costs on a road project with the Rural Municipality of Prince Albert to upgrade a part of 48th Street East was defeated during Prince Albert City Council’s Executive Committee meeting on Monday. Surface Works Manager Marcel Gareau recommended that the proposal be moved to future budget deliberations after Marquis Road is upgraded between Central Avenue and 4th Avenue East. The focus on Marquis Road upgrades was a contentious issue with council in making their decision. In his report to council, Gareau emphasized that upgrading that section of road was listed as a high priority in the 2017 Transportation Master Plan. The two options were to include the 48th Street upgrade in the 2022 budget or decline it. Mayor Greg Dionne made the motion to decline the proposal. “I’m still confused. We have a request from the RM, so I expect administration to come back with a report denying the request for cost sharing because there is no positive benefit for us,” Dionne said during the meeting. “I don’t want to talk about Marquis Road. I am here today to talk about 48th Street. We have a request, I read it, from the RM about cost sharing. (Administration) has just told us there is no benefit, so the recommendation should be that we notify the RM (that) at this point we are not prepared to cost share (for) the road.” Dionne said that the discussion was over after Gareau explained that no benefit for the city existed at this time. “We are not twinning Marquis from Central to Fourth I don’t know why the department keeps bringing that up. So I am here to deal with 48th Street and I just heard from him now that there is no benefit so the request from the RM be denied at this time,” Dionne said. Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick disagreed with Dionne on the substance of the upgrade on Marquis but agreed on the denial of the proposal. He explained that the project on Marquis should be undertaken at a latr date. “I don’t see any advantage in spending money on that particular upgrade when we have Elevator Road, which is in the RM, that I see is a primary grid and then we have Marquis Road which also goes east west,” Ogrodnick said. Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards also did not support the original motion because it was tied to Marquis Road. He understood the idea but did not see a reason to link the two. “I do have some concerns about upgrading 48th and spending money on it and I think that it can be addressed today,” Edwards said. Edwards asked what the purpose of upgrading 48th Street East would be at this time. “From the administration point of view there is no reason to upgrade 48th street at this time because we already have the infrastructure to handle the traffic volume,” Gareau said. In the report it explained that the upgrade to four lanes of that section of Marquis Road was unfunded in the 2021 budget and remains a priority for administration. The report states that upgrading 48th Street for use by heavy trucks as an alternate route does not solve the main issue of the bottleneck on Marquis Road. Marquis Road needs to be upgraded to support growth in the West Hill, Crescent Acres and the new recreation centre project, administration said. According to the report, the pavement condition on Marquis Road at that section in currently poor. The RM has hired a consultant who recommended that the street be built to primary grid heavy haul standards and that the right-of-way be widened. The report explained that the city of Prince Albert has no plans to expand into the area. The main developments are in the West Hill and Crescent Heights and expected to continue for at least 20 years. RM of Prince Albert Reeve Eric Schmalz was disappointed, but respected council’s decision. “The city has some budgetary commitments that they need to meet before they can pursue partnership with the RM apparently, so we respect that and we look forward to discussing it with them in the future,” Schmalz said. “We are still in a relationship. They are our partners in the region and we need to focus on the entire relationship, not just on one particular aspect. I think that we can still move forward beyond this.” Schmalz said the RM has other projects to focus on, like the construction of a new shop and office, and the building of other roads. The total cost of the project is estimated at $371,000. It would have been split to $185,500 each for the RM and city under the proposal. The proposal would have seen RM equipment and labour used during construction. The idea dates back to Nov. 5, 2019, when the RM sent a letter to the Mayor’s Office requesting joint funding for the upgrade. In March, 2020 the proposal was declined and sent to 2021 budget deliberations. The RM sent a letter updating the proposal to city council. In December 2020, executive committee moved that the report from administration be prepared by Public Works. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former President Donald Trump on Friday endorsed South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster's bid for a second full term in 2022, continuing their yearslong alliance in a move to strengthen ties with the early-voting state that Trump won twice. In a statement through his Save America PAC, Trump commended McMaster's efforts on behalf of the military, veterans and law enforcement, saying the Republican “has my Complete and Total Endorsement as he runs for re-election!” The endorsement, along with other recent moves, continues to signal Trump's desire to maintain ties with South Carolina, home of the first presidential primary votes in the South. Earlier this week, Trump formally endorsed U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in his own 2022 reelect bid, also complimenting Scott’s work on behalf of the military, law enforcement and veterans. Last month, Trump gave backing to Drew McKissick for a third term as chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, signalling a desire to wade not only into state-level politics but also to play a role in maintaining the local party framework in places that backed his presidency and where his support remains steady. But the former president’s relationship with McMaster goes deeper, predating either man’s administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump’s presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so. That summer, McMaster was one of two speakers to formally nominate Trump at the Republican National Convention. The move helped boost Trump to a double-digit victory in South Carolina’s early primary. It also surprised many allies and friends of McMaster, a longtime member of South Carolina’s establishment GOP circles. But McMaster’s wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor’s office, a post he had long sought. In 2018, as McMaster sought his first full term in office, Trump campaigned for his ally roughly 12 hours before polls opened in a GOP runoff race, which McMaster ultimately won. ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Meg Kinnard, The Associated Press
A tree disease caused by a fungus has been identified in Wheatland County and, if left unchecked, may result in the stunting or death of trees. Black knot, caused by the fungus Apiosporina morbosa, is a disease affecting certain fruit trees (in the genus Prunus), including cherries and plums. The stems of affected trees show a blackish growth or swelling. On Feb. 17, Wheatland County announced its maintenance crews identified black knot in some of its communities. The county’s hamlet operations foreman said black knot was seen a few years ago, and while it does not seem widespread, residents should be aware of it and how to deal with it, wrote Mackenzie Maier, the county’s communication specialist, in an email. While the disease is considered common and widespread in Alberta, if it is left to progress, it can disfigure and reduce the growth of branches, sometimes leading to the death of the tree. It also stresses the infected tree, leaving it more prone to infection from other pathogens. The county cut the infected portions out of the trees areas it maintains. However, diseased branches were identified on private properties, so the county is asking landowners to assess their properties for its presence and remove any infected materials. To control black knot, all knot-bearing branches should be pruned out in late fall, winter or early spring, when plants are dormant and knots visible. Infected branches should be removed six to eight inches below the knot. To avoid spreading the spores of the fungus, shears should be cleaned and disinfected after use. Diseased wood should be either burned or removed from the site, as they may release spores for up to four months after removal. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 9:15 p.m. ET on Friday, March 5, 2021. There are 881,761 confirmed cases in Canada. _ Canada: 881,761 confirmed cases (30,146 active, 829,423 resolved, 22,192 deaths).*The total case count includes 13 confirmed cases among repatriated travellers. There were 3,370 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 79.32 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 20,214 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 2,888. There were 41 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 277 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 40. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 58.39 per 100,000 people. There have been 24,938,790 tests completed. _ Newfoundland and Labrador: 1,003 confirmed cases (117 active, 880 resolved, six deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 22.41 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 27 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is four. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there has been one new reported death. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.03 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 1.15 per 100,000 people. There have been 200,703 tests completed. _ Prince Edward Island: 139 confirmed cases (24 active, 115 resolved, zero deaths). There was one new case Friday. The rate of active cases is 15.04 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there has been 18 new case. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 110,916 tests completed. _ Nova Scotia: 1,651 confirmed cases (31 active, 1,555 resolved, 65 deaths). There were two new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 3.17 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 6.64 per 100,000 people. There have been 356,686 tests completed. _ New Brunswick: 1,447 confirmed cases (34 active, 1,385 resolved, 28 deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 4.35 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 19 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is three. There were zero new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of two new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is zero. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.04 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 3.58 per 100,000 people. There have been 240,032 tests completed. _ Quebec: 291,175 confirmed cases (7,290 active, 273,430 resolved, 10,455 deaths). There were 798 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 85.02 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 5,030 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 719. There were 10 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 83 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 12. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.14 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 121.93 per 100,000 people. There have been 6,397,936 tests completed. _ Ontario: 306,007 confirmed cases (10,378 active, 288,583 resolved, 7,046 deaths). There were 1,250 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 70.44 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 7,438 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 1,063. There were 22 new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 102 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is 15. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.1 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 47.82 per 100,000 people. There have been 11,082,737 tests completed. _ Manitoba: 32,104 confirmed cases (1,133 active, 30,067 resolved, 904 deaths). There were 53 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 82.15 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 385 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 55. There was one new reported death Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 15 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 65.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 539,166 tests completed. _ Saskatchewan: 29,432 confirmed cases (1,507 active, 27,532 resolved, 393 deaths). There were 212 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 127.85 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 1,088 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 155. There were two new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 13 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is two. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.16 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 33.34 per 100,000 people. There have been 584,905 tests completed. _ Alberta: 135,196 confirmed cases (4,639 active, 128,644 resolved, 1,913 deaths). There were 411 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 104.91 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 2,408 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 344. There were two new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 36 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is five. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.12 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 43.26 per 100,000 people. There have been 3,434,748 tests completed. _ British Columbia: 83,107 confirmed cases (4,975 active, 76,752 resolved, 1,380 deaths). There were 634 new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 96.64 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 3,767 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is 538. There were four new reported deaths Friday. Over the past seven days there have been a total of 25 new reported deaths. The seven-day rolling average of new reported deaths is four. The seven-day rolling average of the death rate is 0.07 per 100,000 people. The overall death rate is 26.81 per 100,000 people. There have been 1,959,060 tests completed. _ Yukon: 72 confirmed cases (zero active, 71 resolved, one deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.38 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,216 tests completed. _ Northwest Territories: 42 confirmed cases (one active, 41 resolved, zero deaths). There were zero new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 2.21 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of zero new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is zero. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is zero per 100,000 people. There have been 14,790 tests completed. _ Nunavut: 373 confirmed cases (17 active, 355 resolved, one deaths). There were four new cases Friday. The rate of active cases is 43.2 per 100,000 people. Over the past seven days, there have been a total of 17 new cases. The seven-day rolling average of new cases is two. There have been no deaths reported over the past week. The overall death rate is 2.54 per 100,000 people. There have been 8,819 tests completed. This report was automatically generated by The Canadian Press Digital Data Desk and was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccination program is being extended into pharmacies, but only in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer for now. All Albertans aged 75 and older can book an appointment to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. In addition to Alberta Health Services (AHS) sites, a list of participating pharmacies is available through the website of Alberta Blue Cross (ab.bluecross.ca). Appointments at participating pharmacies are starting this week. As more doses become available, more pharmacies will begin to offer the vaccine, including in more communities. “As the vaccine supply increases in the province, we look forward to expanding the program to include all community pharmacists in pharmacies across the province,” said Margaret Wing, Alberta Pharmacists’ Association CEO, in a Feb. 24 government news release. By providing flu and other vaccines in the past, pharmacies have the skills needed to safely provide COVID-19 vaccines, according to the government. Albertans are being encouraged to have both doses of vaccine at the same location, so any first doses booked at a community pharmacy will be followed by the second dose at the same place. The pharmacies must be called directly to book an appointment through them. Residents must select the pharmacy that is located closest to them. No walk-ins are permitted. Booking for vaccination at AHS sites can still be made online (albertahealthservices.ca) or by calling 811. On Feb. 25, the government announced more than 100,000 Alberta seniors and 22,000 other seniors in congregate care settings have booked for a vaccination appointment. Combined with the 28,000 seniors in long-term already vaccinated, over half of Alberta’s 75-plus population either have already been vaccinated or are scheduled to receive a first dose. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
VANCOUVER — Dentists, teachers and bus drivers are among the essential workers who hope to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in British Columbia, as a provincial committee decides who should be prioritized for the shot. BC Teachers' Federation president Teri Mooring said her members should be included in the plan expected to be released by the B.C. Immunization Committee around March 18. Education staff have had the second-highest number of COVID-19 claims accepted by WorkSafeBC, behind only health-care workers, and teachers have faced challenging conditions, Mooring said. "It's been a very difficult and stressful environment for teachers in B.C.," she said Friday. "Teachers have not, from the very start, been satisfied with the preventative measures that have been in place in classrooms. What we see is one of the most lax mask policies in all of Canada." The province does not require elementary students to wear masks, unlike in Ontario and high-risk areas of Quebec. B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said young children don't get as sick from COVID-19 or pass it on as well as others. Henry has said the immunization committee will use public health principles, vaccine science and an ethical framework to reach its decision on which essential workers and first responders should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Once the plan is finalized, the vaccine will be administered in a parallel program to the province's age-based strategy for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix said in a joint statement Friday that the newly approved Johnson & Johnson vaccine will become another tool in its program to accelerate the protection of more people in the province. The officials reported 634 new cases and four more fatalities, pushing the death toll to 1,380 in B.C. Four new cases were confirmed to be variants of concern, bringing the total to 250. The BC Dental Association said in a statement it would be "extremely pleased" if its members were included in the group to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot. Dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely, work in very close proximity to the mouth and often use aerosol-generating procedures, it said. The association also pointed out that dentists, dental hygienists and certified dental assistants are included in Henry's recent order to help administer the vaccines. "We would expect that any dentist choosing to participate in mass vaccination clinics would be required to have been vaccinated themselves prior to providing them," it said. Balbir Mann, president of Unifor Local 111, which represents Metro Vancouver bus drivers, said his members should receive the vaccine because they have been at risk throughout the pandemic. "When people get on the bus to pay their bus fare, they're literally a couple feet away. Our members, day to day, they're scared of the sneezes and coughs they have to deal with on a daily basis." Henry has suggested that workers in food processing plants will be prioritized because there have been a number of outbreaks in the facilities that have led to broader community transmission. James Donaldson, CEO of BC Food and Beverage, said his organization has been advocating for food production workers to receive priority access to vaccines since they became available. "Our industry is essential as it ensures the continuity of the food supply for people in B.C. and around the world," he said. Kim Novak, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada Local 1518, represents food plant workers including those at Grand River Foods in Abbotsford who recently grappled with a COVID-19 outbreak. "It's because of the nature of the work. People are working in close proximity. Even with enhanced (personal protective equipment), staggering breaks and other health and safety protocols that have been implemented, there is still a high level of exposure," she said. Novak's union also represents grocery store workers and she hopes they will be included in the plan for the vaccine. "In grocery stores in particular, there is a lot of exposure to different people in the public," she said. "That exposure not only is a risk for our members ... but also the public who interact with them." BC Trucking Association president Dave Earle, meanwhile, said his group represents both long-haul truckers and local drivers who return home every night. He wants to hear from the province about where the COVID-19 hot spots are in the transportation system. For example, in B.C., there are 300,000 people with a Class 1 licence allowing them to operate a semi-trailer truck, Earle said. "Not everybody with a Class 1 licence operates a heavy truck at the moment and many of those who do don't do it in an environment where they're at any greater risk than you and I just going about our daily lives," he said. In some European countries, people have been hesitant to receive the AstraZeneca shot because of fears it is less effective than the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization has also not recommended AstraZeneca for people over 65, while Health Canada has approved it for all adults. Henry sought on Thursday to assure essential workers that the AstraZeneca vaccine is extremely effective. The clinical trials for all three vaccines were done under different conditions and cannot be fairly compared, she said. The groups representing essential workers said Friday they hadn't heard any concerns about the AstraZeneca shot from members. Earle said his association takes guidance from public health officials and they've been abundantly clear. "Whatever you're offered, take it. Let's get out of this." This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — Cole Maier had a pair of goals as the Manitoba Moose downed the Belleville Senators 3-1 on Friday in American Hockey League play. Mikhail Berdin made 21 saves to help Manitoba halt a four-game slide. C.J Suess also scored for the Moose (5-6-0), AHL affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets. Cody Goloubef found the back of the net for the Senators (1-5-0), who have dropped three straight games. Filip Gustavsson stopped 24-of-26 shots for the Ottawa Senators' AHL affiliate. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2021. The Canadian Press
A group that advocates for people with disabilities says they should be prioritized for early vaccination, but Nova Scotia's top doctor, whose son has severe disabilities, disagrees. We talk to the mother of a girl with Down syndrome, which puts her daughter at greater risk of harm from COVID-19.
Ulukhaktok, N.W.T. residents are hunkering down at home as they face a blizzard, but thankfully, their internet has been restored. "This the longest [internet outage] it's been," said Ulukhaktok Mayor Joshua Oliktoak. "I guess it was getting hard for some people, so I'm very thankful that it was resolved so people are able to get what they need before they have to stay in … everything is shut-down except for the stores." The internet was in and out for nearly eight days before Northwestel fixed the issue Thursday evening, the company confirmed. It said a "technical issue" had caused "internet network congestion" in the community. Residents had been trying to alert the company to the internet problem, but, said a Northwestel spokesperson, during the outage period "data was still flowing in and out of the community and we did not fully realize the impact it was having on customers." The internet outage was so widespread that it even affected residents' ability to pay for groceries and gas. Oliktoak said Friday afternoon that the internet returning meant community members could pick up groceries and supplies before the blizzard got too bad. "We are fortunate it got fixed before the weekend," said Oliktoak. "Right now it's real bad. Some people can't see across the road."
Frances Wesley said a sense of relief could be felt in the room at the first vaccine clinic held for off-reserve First Nations members living in Thunder Bay. The smell of sage burning from the smudge bowl used to bless the Pfizer COVID-19 doses and the nurses administering them also filled the room with reassurance as a lineup formed outside of people scheduled to get their first shot. Ms. Wesley, the executive director of the Matawa Health Co-op, an organization that serves nine First Nations communities in Northern Ontario, said close to 200 doses were administered to its off-reserve members in a clinic that first opened this week. She said the Matawa group prioritized vulnerable people including those older than 60, the homeless or precariously housed and those with mental-health illnesses. Thunder Bay moved back into the province’s grey lockdown zone last week as it continues to struggle to get a handle on the virus, which has spread significantly among the city’s homeless and precariously housed, many of whom are Indigenous and First Nations. Chief Chris Moonias from Neskantaga, one of the Matawa First Nations, declared a state of emergency last month after an outbreak infected 12 members living in the city. Chief Moonias said most of those cases have been resolved, however one of his nephews remains in the ICU. According to a 2018 community report, close to 500 people are in homeless situations, such as couch surfing or accessing emergency shelters in Thunder Bay. Ms. Wesley said the doses for Matawa’s clinics are being provided by the Thunder Bay health unit based on how many people register. She said Matawa was able to move quickly because it has extensive health care resources, including nurses and physicians on staff. She said Matawa worked with health directors from each of their communities to get a list of those living in the city for registration. There are about 4,000 members from the nine Matawa First Nations who live in Thunder Bay, according to Ms. Wesley. “Some people will say no,” she said. “Others are so excited they can hardly wait.” She said they’ve already been approached by other First Nations and groups about holding clinics for their off-reserve members and communities accessible by road. Remote Indigenous communities were given immediate priority because of their isolation and inadequate access to health care. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political organization representing 49 mostly remote First Nations, said more than 9,000 members living in remote communities have been vaccinated so far as Operation Remote Immunity nears completion. Meanwhile, public-health units and regional health authorities are leading the rollout in urban Indigenous and road-access communities. Nishnawbe Aski Nation noted there’s a sense of urgency for those close to hot spots such as Thunder Bay as COVID-19 cases and outbreaks in the city continue to put lives at risk. Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald is a member of the provincial vaccine task force and says the goal is to vaccinate all First Nations in Ontario by April 30. She said clinics to vaccinate people 55 years and older have already begun in some urban locations such as Anishnawbe Health Toronto and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre in Sudbury. The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it’s already vaccinating the homeless population in the city with partners at different clinics and that many road-access communities in the district have received their first doses. The health unit said it is still in the planning stages with Indigenous organizations for vaccinating off-reserve members in the district. Ontario announced Friday its plans to move to Phase 2 of its vaccine rollout plan based on age and risk, focusing on ages. Indigenous communities and people were identified as a priority group at the beginning of the pandemic and vaccine rollout because of higher rates of poorer health outcomes and higher risk of COVID-19 infections and transmission. Thunder Bay wasn’t listed as a COVID-19 hot spot region slated to get additional doses in the province’s transitional plan. Dr. Dirk Huyer said it was based on historical, not current, data of hot spots such as Peel and Toronto. Willow Fiddler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Globe and Mail
A federal judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by three Democratic state attorneys general that had sought to force the federal government to recognize Virginia's vote last year to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and add it to the Constitution. Shortly after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment that supporters say will guarantee women equal rights under the law, the archivist of the United States declared he would take no action to certify the amendment's adoption, citing an opinion from the Department of Justice under the Trump administration. constitutional amendments must be ratified by three-quarters of the states, or 38, but Congress enacted a ratification deadline for the ERA that passed decades ago. In a ruling Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras said that Nevada, Illinois and Virginia's motives were “laudable” but that they came too late because the U.S. Congress set deadlines for ratifying the ERA long ago. Contreras also said the Archivist's publication and certification of an amendment are “formalities with no legal effect” so the archivist's failure to do that doesn't cause harm and there's no standing for the states to sue. In their lawsuit, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul argued that the deadline, which was first set for 1979 and later extended to 1982, was not binding. Herring said in a statement after the judge's ruling that he is not giving up the fight and is considering an appeal, hopeful of backing from Democrat Joe Biden's administration and Congress. “While I do not believe that the arbitrary deadline Congress imposed on the Equal Rights Amendment is binding in any way, I welcome any support from both the Biden Administration and Congress in ensuring that this amendment is recognized as part of the Constitution once and for all," he said. The U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the archivist of the United States David Ferriero, declined to comment. An emailed message seeking comment from the press office of the National Archives and Records Administration was not immediately returned. In a January 2020 opinion, the Justice Department said it was too late for states to sign off because of the deadline set by Congress decades earlier. Ford in Nevada said in a statement Friday that women have always been endowed with equal rights but it's past time for the country to recognize that. “Unfortunately, today’s decision requires women to continue waiting. Though I’m disheartened by this decision, all women can rest assured that, regardless of this court’s decision, my fight for your equal rights does not end today, tomorrow, or any day," he said. The ERA states, in part, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” Supporters contend the amendment would offer stronger protections in sex discrimination cases and give Congress firmer ground to pass anti-discrimination laws, among other protections. Opponents of the measure warn it could be used to erase protections such as workplace accommodations during pregnancy. Anti-abortion activists worry that the amendment could be used by supporters of abortions rights to eliminate abortions restrictions on the grounds that they discriminate against women. Michelle L. Price, The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration insisted Friday that a quest for scientific accuracy, not political concerns, prompted members of his COVID-19 task force to ask the state health department to delete data last summer from a report on nursing home patients killed by the coronavirus. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, citing documents and people with knowledge of the administration’s internal discussions, reported late Thursday that aides including secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa pushed state health officials to edit the July report so it counted only residents who died inside long-term care facilities, and not those who died later after being transferred to a hospital. At the time, Cuomo was trying to deflect criticism that his administration hadn't done enough to protect nursing home residents from the virus. About a third of the state's nursing home fatalities were excluded from the report as a result of the change. The revelations about the removal of the higher fatality number come as the Democrat also faces accusations he sexually harassed two former aides and a woman that he met at a wedding. Cuomo had apologized Wednesday for acting “in a way that made people feel uncomfortable” but rejected calls for his resignation and said he would fully co-operate with the state attorney general's investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Federal investigators are scrutinizing his administration’s handling of nursing home data. Top Democrats in the state have said they want those investigations to conclude before they make a judgment about Cuomo's conduct, but in the wake of Thursday night's report, a few state lawmakers renewed calls for the governor to either resign or be ousted. “And Cuomo hid the numbers. Impeach,” tweeted Queens Assembly member Ron Kim, who said Cuomo bullied him for criticizing how Cuomo withheld nursing home data. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that the allegations that Cuomo aides deleted data from the report was “troubling” and said the White House “certainly would support any outside investigation.” The July nursing home report was released to rebut criticism of Cuomo over a March 25 directive that barred nursing homes from rejecting recovering coronavirus patients being discharged from hospitals. Some nursing homes complained at the time that the policy could help spread the virus. The report concluded the policy didn't play a major role in spreading infection. The state's analysis was based partly on what officials acknowledged at the time was an imprecise statistic. The report said 6,432 people had died in the state's nursing homes. State officials acknowledged even then that the true number of deaths was higher because the report was excluding patients who died in hospitals. But they declined at the time to give any estimate of that larger number of deaths, saying the numbers still needed to be verified. In fact, the original drafts of the report had included that number, then more than 9,200 deaths, until Cuomo's aides said it should be taken out. State officials insisted Thursday that the edits were made because of concerns about accuracy. The administration initially released data about how many nursing home residents died at both hospitals and nursing homes, but quietly stopped in early May. “While early versions of the report included out of facility deaths, the COVID task force was not satisfied that the data had been verified against hospital data and so the final report used only data for in facility deaths, which was disclosed in the report,” Department of Health Spokesperson Gary Holmes said. The governor's office didn't respond to questions from The Associated Press about whether Cuomo himself was involved in removing the higher death total from the report. Scientists, health care professionals and elected officials assailed the report at the time for flawed methodology and selective stats that sidestepped the actual impact of the directive. The administration refused for months to release more complete data. A court order and state attorney general report in January forced the state to acknowledge the nursing home resident death toll was higher than the count previously made public. DeRosa told lawmakers earlier this month that the administration didn't turn over the data to legislators in August because of worries the information would be used against them by President Donald Trump's administration. “Basically, we froze, because then we were in a position where we weren’t sure if what we were going to give to the Department of Justice or what we give to you guys, what we start saying was going to be used against us while we weren’t sure if there was going to be an investigation,” DeRosa said. Cuomo and his health commissioner recently defended the March directive, saying it was the best option at the time to help free up desperately needed beds at the state’s hospitals. And they've argued community spread is the biggest risk factor for nursing homes, and that it's unlikely that most hospital patients treated for COVID-19 were contagious once they arrived. “We made the right public health decision at the time. And faced with the same facts, we would make the same decision again,” Health Commissioner Howard Zucker said Feb. 19. The state now acknowledges that at least 15,000 long-term care residents died, compared to a figure of 8,700 it had publicized as of late January that didn’t include residents who died after being transferred to hospitals. The Associated Press
A Strathmore resident who came to Canada as a refugee from Syria has opened a new barbershop in the downtown core. Sam Al-Mubaied, together with business partner Ahmad Asheti, have opened the Strathmore Barbershop, located in the Strathmore Centre. A grand opening celebration was held on March 1, attended by Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule and Councillors Bob Sobol and Denise Peterson, along with other members of the community. The opening culminates Al-Mubaied’s relocation to Canada with his wife and family from Damascus, Syria in 2016 because of the Syrian civil war. “We weren’t safe there, especially the kids, so we had to leave,” he said. The Hope Community Covenant Church, along with five sponsors, helped Al-Mubaied and his family settle in Strathmore. Since then, Al-Mubaied and his family have adjusted to life here. “I love Strathmore – I feel like it’s my own town and my own community,” he said. “We’re so happy to be safe here.” The business has been ready to open for a few months, but was delayed by COVID-19 public health measures. So, Al-Mubaied took a “wait and see” approach to opening while many businesses were closed. But with personal and wellness businesses services open again (by appointment), Al-Mubaied decided the time was right to launch the new business venture. Like other barbers and hairdressers in town, Al-Mubaied will be working within the confines of COVID-19 protocols. “We’re working under the government’s rules,” he said. Al-Mubaied has been cutting hair for over 10 years and does not think his approach to the craft will be much different than in Syria. “Hair is hair, but every year, there are new styles,” he said. “I’m so excited to start serving the people of Strathmore.” At the reopening, Fule said that having businesses downtown, such as the Strathmore Barbershop, being successful is important to Strathmore’s downtown revitalization. Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times
Squamish Nation council has presented a survey of 300 of its community members’ concerns regarding ongoing disruptions from rail operations just metres from their homes to CN Rail this week, in the hope immediate short-term changes will be made. With three rail tracks just 30 metres from some homes in the community of Eslhá7an, near Mosquito Creek in North Vancouver, residents say they have been putting up with unacceptable levels of noise, pollution and health impacts for far too long. “Think of a loud muscle car or motorcycle revving up outside your house late at night,” said Keith Nahanee, who lives just 45 metres from the tracks in Eslhá7an. “Now times that noise by 10. That’s what it’s like.” Nahanee, who has been dealing with the rail issue his whole life, said CN Rail trains were left idling just across from homes routinely at around 11 p.m. each night. “Not only do we hear the engines humming, but some houses rattle because of the engines,” the 48-year-old said, adding that he was consistently woken by the loud diesel engines and train cooling systems. “If they're going by, that's fine but they sit out here and idle. Sometimes the guy ends his shift out here. He’ll leave the train there and he'll go home and it's idling from around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., or midnight, until someone picks it up the next day.” Nahanee is one of the residents, mostly elders, – from Eslhá7an to Yekwaupsum – who filled out the survey detailing their concerns regarding the rail operations. But it’s not the first time he or other residents have made their voices heard, saying he had been sending complaints to CN Rail three times a month since he could remember. He said the response, if received, from CN Rail was the same each time, which explained idling was necessary for most of its locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. Nahanee said the first thing the community really wanted was for the trains to idle somewhere else during the middle of the night, further from homes. “I mean, that’s all we want,” he said. “Between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., just let us sleep.” Khelsilem, Dustin Rivers, spokesperson for Squamish Nation, said the nation conducted the survey after a virtual meeting was held with CN Rail on Oct. 3, 2020, between nation council members and CN senior executives to reopen discussions on how to solve the ongoing disturbances to residents in the communities of Eslhá7an and Yekwaupsum. “The Squamish Nation has been dealing with these issues over many, many, many years and it seems like every so often we get some progress and then after a number of years the issues come up again,” he said, adding it was “frustrating” to be back at this stage. “Our leadership is really upset with CN and how they are treating our residents of our community, and while the Oct. 3 meeting was diplomatic and a point to sort of re-establish a relationship, we're still not seeing the kind of action that we would like to see on the ground to respect our residents and our elders in our community.” Khelsilem said leadership was hoping that would change and communications would become more fluid again with CN, after presenting the results of the survey on March 3. He said community members provided “a lot of explicit and specific feedback regarding issues around shunting, whistling, and idling which is basically directly in front of a lot of people's houses.” “The biggest issue, of course, for our members, is that there's a significant amount of activity, noise, pollution, and disruption happening during the evening and late into the night,” he said. “We have a number of families with young children, we have families who work and are trying to make a living for their families to provide for them, we have elders who are recovering from significant health issues … all of whom are being severely impacted.” While CN Rail has progressed on various initiatives over the past several years to reduce noise, such as train whistling cessation, rail lubrication, and installing automated gates at at-grade crossings, Khelsilem said more operational changes were needed. “There needs to be a change and a moratorium on when some of their operations are happening around our reserves,” he said, adding that the nation was calling for an end to locomotive idling adjacent to residential properties as a short term solution. Khelsilem said the issue dates back to the colonial history of the railways within Canada and how they were developed. “If you were to apply contemporary standards to rail lines, they would never allow rail lines to be built that close to a residential area like ours is,” he said. “If you look at the rest of the North Shore, there's not a lot of areas where there are rail lines in that close proximity, but because of the colonial history of governments unilaterally deciding and making these decisions, including the expropriation of reserve lands to suit the rail line expansions, we have this sort of horrible legacy of racist decisions that today we're feeling the impacts of in our community.” He said future long-term goals would be to see some of the rail lines near the community of Eslhá7an decommissioned and the idea to move the railway underground or below grade be explored. In response to complaints in July last year, CN Rail issued a statement saying the whistles are required by law for safety reasons and that idling is necessary for almost half of its fleet of locomotives, which are not designed to be easily turned on and off. “As a backbone of the Canadian and British Columbian economy, we operate our railroad 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; therefore, there will always be some noise associated with these operations,” the statement read. “CN is aware of the fact that it operates in close proximity to the communities through which we travel and is committed to make every effort to minimize the effects that may occur as a result of these operations.” CN Rail is now reviewing the results of the nation’s community complaints survey. Khelsilem said the nation would continue communications with CN Rail on short-term and long-term solutions. "They're open to potential changes, but no commitments have been made," he said. Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News
Booking a provincial campsite is a high-stakes venture — like getting a front row seat to a concert. Everyone goes in with a plan, refreshing and calling furiously just to snag a coveted spot. And now, some worry about another parallel: campsite scalpers. Alberta Parks acknowledged the concern Friday on its social media channels after receiving several reports and complaints from campers. "We're committed to ensuring access to camping in Alberta Parks is fair and equitable," read a statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. While the ministry told CBC News that reselling is rare, it has posted a reminder on social media because it's something it wants to prevent. "We had some social media followers reach out to us today saying there were a couple of resale ads online," the Facebook post says. "We ask Albertans if they see any ads or posts attempting to resell reservations to call our Contact Centre at 1 (877) 537-2757. We will cancel the reservations of those trying to resell their campsites." By the time staff were able to look into reports, the solicitations had already been pulled, Parks told CBC. For many, May long weekend is the kickoff of camping season in Alberta. They take a chance on spring weather to secure a spot. With all the competition, it can be tough to land a site that weekend. Camping enthusiast Lisa Gabruck said she's already seen at least one for sale on Facebook groups. "The non-refundable reservation fee is too low at the moment," Gabruck said. "Most resellers are willing to take the hit as they will make it back on other sites they are reselling." According to the Alberta Parks website, changing a reservation costs $5, the campsite reservation fee is $12 and non-refundable. 'I have an extra site' Last year, Nathan Larson missed out on reservations and saw upselling behaviour first hand. He wanted a site and messaged a couple of people advertising provincial sites for sale. He said they were looking for $20 to $30 on top of the typical cost of the site. This year, he's turned to private sites to avoid the hassle and the crowds. But on opening day this week, Larson was curious if the Alberta Parks reservation system had improved this year. He hopped on Facebook groups to see what campers were saying. What he saw on some social media groups was frustrating. "I kept seeing people saying, 'I have an extra site here, I have an extra site there,'" Larson said. "It just seemed a little odd you would spend all this time and effort, frustration, to book multiple sites and immediately go online and try to offload them." Booking should be fair, says camper Opening day 2021 produced 23,830 bookings by the end of the day, compared with 11,628 reservations for last year's opening. By Friday at 1:30 p.m., there were 27,538 bookings. This flood of activity came with issues. Alberta Parks' reservation site crashed, and people were repeatedly told to be patient. Larson isn't sure how the reservation system can improve, but it's frustrating enough for him to avoid the provincial park system altogether. "It's supposed to be a fair site for everybody to use," he said. Alberta Parks says there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead.(CBC) When she first moved to Alberta from Ontario years ago, Tamara Higgins said she was surprised at how difficult it can be to get a provincial campsite. She has also decided to primarily book through private campgrounds because of repeated issues and frustrations. The problem, Higgins said, is a complicated combination of a poor booking system, desperation to get a site, and little enforcement of the rules. Higgins doesn't believe people are making extra cash from the practice. Many, she thinks, are prone to overbook to secure a spot for themselves and a group before their plans have firmed up, and sometimes plans change, or life happens. The overbooking then leads to those who genuinely want a site for a certain time and date missing out, and those who have sites to spare with a place to make an arrangement. "Because of the rush to book, they just book a whole bunch and then they start selling them off as they realize they are not able to go," Higgins said. In the past, despite the warnings that sites aren't transferable, Higgins said she's been able to pick up a stranger's reservation. Alberta Parks told CBC News there has been a surge in demand over the past couple of years — people aren't able to book vacations so they are exploring parks instead. "We encourage those who aren't able to use their sites to please let us know because there are a lot of people who could use them," read the statement from Alberta Environment and Parks. "Albertans can get a full refund, minus the reservation fee, three days ahead of their arrival date."
Over the February break there was an important symbol put in place at St. Francis School in Prince Albert. Maintenance from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division placed a handcrafted cross in the school's gymnasium. The cross was crafted by St. Francis Principal Richard Rapin's brother. It was the last stage of a large renovation beginning in 2019 when a flood swept through the school. “In the middle of the summer, we knew we needed a cross at that particular time to finish off our gym because it is the largest gathering place in our school,” Richard said. The other parts of the renovation included painting and new flooring. The gymnasium is currently in use as the place for physical education classes. The gymnasium serves as much more than just a place for sports. It acts as a gathering place for important events at the school including events such as liturgies, Grade 8 farewells and other milestones. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that is not possible but when the pandemic is over, staff and students will once again gather in the space to celebrate together. “So we wanted a special cross for our gym and I approached my brother Phil who has made a number of them in Saskatoon and I asked him if he would be willing to build a cross for our gym and he said absolutely,” Richard said. “He phoned me a couple weeks later and I drove up to Saskatoon. I picked it up and our school division maintenance department mounted it on the wall. It sits there today and will be a permanent symbol in our school for decades to come.” He explained that there is a cross in every room in the school and this large cross suits the size of the gymnasium. This particular cross is nearly six feet tall and placed in a place of prominence next to both the stage and a Prayer of St. Francis, the Patron Saint of the school. “It really is a symbol that grabs every person's eye when they walk into the gymnasium,” he said. Phil Rapin has constructed a number of crosses located across Saskatoon where he is also employed as a teacher in the Catholic School system. Richard mused that when he enters buildings in Saskatoon he often wonders if his brother crafted the cross. The brothers are both originally from Prince Albert. Richard explained that once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, there will be a celebration of the cross overlooked by the Parish Priest for St. Francis. Richard explained that his brother did not craft and donate the cross for any type of recognition. “A cross is a tremendously important symbol in our Catholic faith, there is no getting around that and to have a cross in our school that is so visible is such a powerful symbol in our building,” Richard said. The cross was crafted by Phil from wood and steel with a design that he found on the Internet. He describes himself as a craftsman rather than an artist. He explained that he took the design and used a computer-driven steel cutting machine and cut the shape. The size of the design was too large for the machine and had to be done in two steps and welded together based on the original. He then polished the piece, cleaned it up, laminated a large piece of wood and traced and cut the wood. Phil explained that when he saw the design he was immediately struck by the beauty of it. The original intent was to have a cross that was lit from the back, similar to another one that he has constructed. Phil explained that the design represents more of a risen Jesus Christ as opposed to the crucified Jesus Christ. “It's just a different interpretation or look,” Phil said. The cross was donated so as to not create extra paperwork and because it promoted what the Catholic faith stands for. The piece is about itself rather, than who constructed it. Director of education Lorel Trumier detailed the cross to the regular board of education meeting on Monday and was proud to have it in a school in the division. “To get a cross made with that size and with that level of craftsmanship and carpentry it's really a gift to our Catholic education community at St. Francis,” Trumier said. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald