A federal judge has rejected a Republican effort to invalidate nearly 127,000 votes in Houston. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling Monday concerned ballots cast at drive-thru polling centers that were established during the pandemic. (Nov. 2)
A federal judge has rejected a Republican effort to invalidate nearly 127,000 votes in Houston. U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling Monday concerned ballots cast at drive-thru polling centers that were established during the pandemic. (Nov. 2)
WASHINGTON — Outgoing Attorney General William Barr's decision to appoint a special counsel to investigate the handling of the Russia probe ensures his successor won't have an easy transition.The move, which Barr detailed to The Associated Press on Tuesday, could lead to heated confirmation hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's nominee, who hasn't been announced. Senate Republicans will likely use that forum to extract a pledge from the pick to commit to an independent investigation.The pressure on the new attorney general is unlikely to ease once they take office. With the special counsel continuing to work during the early days of the Biden administration, it may be tough for the Justice Department's new leadership to launch investigations of President Donald Trump and his associates without seeming to be swayed by political considerations.Barr elevated U.S. Attorney John Durham to special counsel as Trump continues to propel his claims that the Russia investigation that shadowed his presidency was a “witch hunt.” It's the latest example of efforts by Trump officials to use the final days of his administration to essentially box Biden in by enacting new rules, regulations and orders designed to cement the president's legacy.But the manoeuvring over the special counsel is especially significant because it saddles Democrats with an investigation that they've derided as tainted. Now there's little the new administration can do about it.“From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy,” Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University, wrote in an op-ed for USA Today.A special counsel can only be dismissed for cause. And as was the case during Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, such probes can sometimes stray from their origins.The Biden transition did not respond to a request for comment on the special counsel appointment.But Barr's decision could influence whom the president-elect puts forth as a nominee for attorney general. One leading candidate, Sally Yates, was already viewed skeptically by some Trump-aligned Republicans for her role in the early days of the Russia investigation. Her nomination could face even greater challenges because she's connected to some of the work that Durham is examining.As deputy attorney general, Yates signed off on the first two applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor communications of ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, a process that has been among the focuses of the Durham investigation.A Justice Department inspector general report found significant flaws and omissions in the four applications to the court, though it also found no evidence that Yates or any other senior Justice Department officials were aware of the problems.Some Democrats have privately expressed concerns – likely to deepen with Durham’s appointment as a special counsel – that nominating Yates would lead to a messy confirmation process that focuses on the Russia investigation, instead of focusing on reforms and shifting priorities at the Justice Department, people familiar with the matter have said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.Others potentially in the mix for the role include Lisa Monaco, a former homeland security adviser and senior Justice Department official in the Obama administration, and outgoing Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, who famously prosecuted Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a Birmingham church in the 1960s.The question for Biden, however, is how to balance top Cabinet picks as he attempts to fulfil his pledge for racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Many of Biden's leading nominees so far have been white, which could work against Yates, Monaco and Jones.Some Black Democrats are attempting to elevate former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who is Black and led the Justice Department's civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, in discussions about potential attorneys general.Whoever emerges as the nominee will be pressed to demonstrate independence from the new White House after Biden campaigned on a pledge to depoliticize the Justice Department.That could be tough, however, if the future attorney general faces calls for new probes into the Trump administration. Some investigations into Trump have been frozen because of the immunity he enjoys as president. Others swirling around members of his family and associates have been simmering for years.On Tuesday, an unsealed court filing revealed an investigation into a potential plot to solicit political donations in exchange for the president using his pardon power.Barr, for his part, insisted that he was trying to keep politics out of the Durham probe, explaining that is why he delayed announcing the special counsel appointment until a month after the election.“With the election approaching, I decided the best thing to do would be to appoint them under the same regulation that covered Bob Muller, to provide Durham and his team some assurance that they’d be able to complete their work regardless of the outcome of the election,” Barr said in an interview with the AP on Tuesday.“I wanted to have the team, both Durham and his team understand that they be able to finish their work,” Barr said.Durham has already been a huge disappointment for Trump and his allies, and prompted a dispute with Barr over why things weren’t moving faster and why the investigation did not yield major prosecutions in the weeks before the election. The investigation wasn’t expected to result in many more criminal charges, and there has only been one so far — a former FBI lawyer who pleaded guilty to a single charge.But the investigation is worth more politically than practically.A nearly 500-page inspector general report chronicled in great detail the errors and omissions FBI agents made in a series of applications to surveil Page. Declassified documents released by congressional Republicans have raised additional questions while not undercutting the overarching legitimacy of the Russia probe. And the facts of the one criminal case Durham has brought so far, against an FBI lawyer who admitted altering an email, were already mostly laid out in the watchdog report.There’s also been a degree of turmoil within Durham’s ranks as one of the team’s leaders, Nora Dannehy, resigned months ago, a significant departure given the active role she had played.___Miller reported from Wilmington, Delaware. Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Colleen Long in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report.Michael Balsamo And Zeke Miller, The Associated Press
Venezuela's opposition is discussing scaling back the interim government of opposition leader Juan Guaido that has won diplomatic recognition by dozens of countries that disavowed President Nicolas Maduro, nine legislators told Reuters. Guaido, the leader of Venezuela's opposition-controlled parliament, in 2019 called Maduro a usurper following his disputed re-election and assumed a parallel presidency based on articles of the constitution that make the head of the National Assembly next in line to rule the country. Guaido's lawmaker allies have said they will continue to insist that they are legitimate parliamentarians after Jan. 5, arguing that their constitutional mandate remains intact because Sunday's vote is rigged.
As Vopak Development Canada’s proposed fuel storage facility and export terminal near Prince Rupert, B.C., enters its final public comment period, environmental groups say the project fails to address risks associated with marine and rail transport. If approved, the Vopak Pacific Canada facility would bring up to 240 rail cars carrying fuels like diesel, propane, methanol and gasoline through northwest B.C. every day. The fuels would be shipped on the CN rail network from sources in B.C. and Alberta to Ridley Island, an industrial site near Prince Rupert. The terminal would also bring up to 171 tankers to the Skeena River estuary annually. “Vopak brings the risk of a spill of highly toxic diesel oil and gasoline from train derailments, tanker accidents and spills at the offloading facility,” Greg Knox, executive director of SkeenaWild Conservation Trust, told The Narwhal. “Such spills are very difficult to clean up once they enter the river or marine environment.” Retired biologist Dawn Remington with Friends of Morice-Bulkley said the project poses a risk to communities along fuel transportation routes and not enough information about how these communities will be protected has been made available to the public. “We’re going to be a corridor for hazardous petroleum products. And if this is the case, I want it to be done safely,” Remington told The Narwhal, adding her concerns aren’t about trying to stop the project. Remington said the Vopak project presents an opportunity to address the risks of rail transportation associated with several projects in the region, including another proposed fuel export facility and one that’s already under construction. Vopak recently submitted its application for an environmental assessment certificate along with its report on the project’s potential environmental impacts to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The public can now review and comment on those documents until Dec. 30. During the initial public comment period in 2018, members of the public and environmental groups asked that increased rail traffic associated with the Vopak project be included in the facility’s review. And during the First Nations consultation process, each of the six nations involved flagged increased rail traffic as an important issue that should be addressed as part of the environmental assessment. The B.C. Environmental Assessment Office said it would not include rail traffic in the assessment, deferring to Transport Canada, the federal agency responsible for regulating the rail network. “Concerns of potential spills from train derailments are not being assessed in the environmental assessment and are being completely ignored by CN, Vopak and the provincial and federal governments despite strong public concern,” Knox said. CN’s rail accidents have been steadily increasing, according to a 2019 Transportation Safety Board of Canada report. Last year, there were 169 accidents involving dangerous goods, like the ones that would be shipped to the Vopak facility. Eight of those accidents resulted in spills, twice as many as the previous year. In March, a train carrying coal and propane derailed near an elementary school east of Prince George, B.C., spilling coal into a creek and causing an emergency evacuation of the school. Other derailments in the region over the past few years have resulted in coal and wood pellets spilling into creeks and rivers. Remington has been working with communities along the rail corridor in northwest B.C. to formally request Transport Canada conduct a risk assessment of rail traffic in the region. Even though the potential for a rail accident resulting in an explosion or deadly spill is low, Remington worries a single event could have catastrophic effects. Propane — also referred to as liquified petroleum gas — is a highly-combustible fossil fuel captured as a by-product of fracking for natural gas. More propane travelling through the region means more risk, she said. “Risk is the probability of something happening times the severity of the consequences if it happens,” she explained. “So even if the probability is low, the consequences are enormous.” She stressed that without knowing the risks, the communities along the rail corridor aren’t equipped to deal with an emergency should one arise. “How do you evacuate this entire town if people have no idea?” The concern is shared along the transportation corridor, even in towns hundreds of kilometres from the proposed Vopak facility. In a recent public comment on the project, Jeanette Weir, from Hazelton, B.C., said the threat the export terminal poses to communities along rail lines has effectively been overlooked. “This project is completely ignoring the communities through which an enormous increase of rail transport of explosive dangerous goods is proposed. It should not be evaluated for the sole risks at the Prince Rupert storage facility because it will affect all of us living along the rail line.” In a document provided to First Nations outlining the potential effects of increased rail traffic, Vopak said the project would contribute to an incremental increase in the risks associated with rail transportation, including moose strikes, collisions and derailments. It also stressed that all regulations related to rail safety fall under the jurisdiction of Transport Canada. Public requests that the environmental impacts of marine traffic be included in the projects assessment were also denied by the Environmental Assessment Office, leading to lingering concerns the project will harm marine ecosystems. The proposed facility would include a number of holding tanks for fuel and a marine berth where tankers would be filled over 40-hour periods. Vopak would only be responsible for products during storage, unloading and loading. For nearly 50 years, a now-shuttered pulp mill near Ridley Island discharged contaminated materials into the marine environment, much of which is now sequestered in a layer of sediment on the ocean floor — including where Vopak would provide mooring for tankers. Although Vopak scrapped its initial plan to dredge up the contaminated sediment to make way for a permanent jetty, many worry the current plan to leave sediment — which contains highly toxic dioxins and furans as well as copper and arsenic — undisturbed is unrealistic. According to Luanne Roth, north coast campaigner for the T Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation, the new plan was submitted after the initial public comment period, so any public concerns about the redesign have yet to be addressed. “Before, with the big dredge, all of that contaminated sediment would have been gone from the area,” she said. Now the issue is what happens to the sediment when tankers are mooring. “When the boats are docked, they’re docked by really powerful tugs, so there’s going to be really powerful propeller wash,” she said. The effects of propeller wash, the movement of water by ships’ engines, on the sediment have not been studied for the Vopak project, but they were when the Pacific Northwest LNG terminal was on the books for neighbouring Lelu Island. Roth said those studies estimated five centimetres of sediment would be resuspended every day. All of that toxic sediment would then be distributed by tides and currents within the surrounding marine ecosystem. Opposite Lelu Island, and within sight of the proposed Vopak project, is Flora Bank, which has been noted as a critical juvenile salmon habitat. Given the dramatic declines in Skeena salmon populations, the effects could be felt throughout the entire Skeena watershed. Roth said there may be solutions to the problem, but the absence of any mention of the effects of propeller wash in Vopak’s environmental effects evaluation is troubling, especially because the chemicals are known to have negative effects on human health, including increased risk of autism, cancer and diabetes. “There’s a tremendous amount of food gathering in the Skeena estuary, so it’s a really big concern,” she said. In an emailed statement, Vopak communications director, Stefany Cortes, told the Narwhal “the tugboat propulsion is focused higher in the water column and, therefore, is not expected to resuspend sediment during mooring.” Roth also raised concerns about the increased marine traffic and the potential for a catastrophic spill. As The Narwhal previously reported, many of Prince Rupert’s designated anchorages are situated in water that lies atop a thin layer of mud and sediment on smooth rock. In high winds — very common during fall and winter — a ship can drag its anchor and potentially end up smashing against coastal rocks. Even just one ship spilling its fuel, not to mention its cargo of fuel, would have catastrophic effects on the marine ecosystem. According to a T Buck Suzuki study, between 2004 and 2017, the Prince Rupert port had three times as many anchor-dragging incidents as the Port of Vancouver despite having 86 per cent less vessels. This works out to 2,360 per cent more incidents per visit. Roth said there were 29 incidents in Prince Rupert last winter. Earlier this year, T Buck Suzuki commissioned an independent report to assess the safety risks associated with anchoring in the Prince Rupert area. Prepared by Ivan Todorov, a master mariner and former senior officer on oil tankers, the report noted a need to ensure that “loading be delayed when storm/hurricane warnings have been issued in order to limit the need for anchoring laden tankers in poor holding ground.” Todorov added that the Vopak project should be subject to a formal risk assessment of grounding and collision incidents. The Prince Rupert Port Authority, which is responsible for federal lands and waters in the area and is the coordinator of the environmental assessment for the proposed project, recently commissioned an independent navigational risk assessment. But when The Narwhal asked to review the document, the port said it would not make the report available to the public. Port communications director Monika Cȏté told The Narwhal in an emailed statement that the port authority has strict policies and procedures in place for the movement and anchorage of ships coming and going from the Ridley Island Propane Export Terminal, of which Vopak is part owner, and similar policies and procedures would be implemented for the proposed facility. Those procedures include port-assigned pilots and tugboat assistance. “Procedures vary depending on vessel, cargo and terminal they are going to, and what is required to mitigate navigational risk,” she wrote. “Vopak-specific procedures will be determined through a multi-agency effort that includes vessel simulation trials.” She said it is uncommon for ships to remain at anchorage once they’re loaded. “In the very rare circumstance that a loaded vessel would move to anchorage, the tug would remain in attendance with the vessel while it is at anchor,” she wrote. Roth said if the port is not able to prevent fully loaded ships from anchoring during storm events, Vopak could contractually refuse to fill a tanker if extreme weather was in the forecast. “That’s something we’d really like them to address,” she said. In the new year, Vopak Development Canada will compile all of the comments received during the public comment period and submit them to the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office. The office will then consult with the province, the port authority, local First Nations, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada and other stakeholders to resolve any outstanding issues. If no red flags are identified, the stakeholders will sign off on the project and a final decision will be made by provincial ministers. Vopak projects it will start construction in late 2021.Matt Simmons, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Narwhal
CANSO --There’s some good news coming out of the latest meeting of the Canso & Area Stakeholders Group held on Nov. 30, 2020; in this second wave of COVID-19, there have been no positive tests in the Eastern Zone. This news comes from notes provided to The Journal by group co-chair Susan O’Handley from the meeting Monday night. She also wrote that physician coverage will be supplied steadily up to the end of December at Eastern Memorial Hospital in Canso and the hospital is now fully staffed with nurses. In the continued effort to recruit permanent physicians to the area, a webpage is under development and housing has been located in Philips Harbour, if needed. The process for booking lab appointments has changed from calling the Eastern Memorial Hospital to calling a central intake number (1-855-867-8821) or booking online at booking.nshealth.ca. This system was adopted, wrote O’Handley, to reduce the amount of time lab staff were spending on the phone making appointments instead of being in the lab. The next meeting of the group will take place in mid-January. Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal
Homicide investigators say a fourth person has been charged in the Remembrance Day shooting of a man in Surrey, B.C., last year.Andrew Baldwin, 30, was killed Nov. 11, 2019, at a house in the 10700-block of 124 Street. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced Wednesday that Munroop Hayer has been charged with first-degree murder.Supt. Elija Rain with the Surrey RCMP said Hayer is well known to police in the Lower Mainland.Jordan Bottomley and Jagpal Hothi have already been charged with first-degree murder in the case.Jasman Basran, 21, was charged in May with being an accessory to murder.Baldwin was gunned down just weeks after his younger brother, 27-year-old Keith Baldwin, was shot and killed in Chilliwack, B.C. Both men were known to police.Sgt. Frank Jang with IHIT read a statement Wednesday from Baldwin's mother, Julie. "Andrew was a caring, giving person and his loyalty to his family, friends, loved ones and co-workers was unwavering," the note read. "We will all miss him, every moment of every day."
Fossil fuel production around the world must start winding down now, dropping by six per cent per year for the next decade to avoid the more extreme consequences of the climate emergency, according to a major new study backed by the United Nations. Instead, governments around the world, including Canada, expect to go in the opposite direction — producing more coal, oil or natural gas “far in excess of the levels consistent with the Paris Agreement temperature limits,” states the 2020 Production Gap report, released Wednesday. Researchers working in collaboration with the UN’s Environment Program looked at publicly available energy strategies of eight major fossil fuel-producing countries that collectively account for 60 per cent of the global fossil fuel supply. They found a planned average annual increase of about two per cent per year to carbon-intensive energy production. Such production levels would result in more than double, or 120 per cent more, high-carbon fuels by 2030 than would be consistent with holding global heating below 2 C above pre-industrial levels. “Governments are altogether still planning on producing far too many fossil fuels,” said Ploy Pattanun Achakulwisut, a scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the corresponding author of the report’s chapter on the production gap. This includes Canada, which expects its crude oil and natural gas production to keep steadily climbing over the next two decades, even as the federal Liberal government commits to net-zero emissions nationwide by 2050 and promises to increase the stringency of its 2030 emissions target. Canadian crude oil production isn’t expected to peak until at least 2039, and natural gas production isn’t expected to peak until 2040, according to projections from the federal energy regulator that were released last week. Wednesday’s report cites Canadian projections showing 6.4 million barrels of oil per day and 187 billion cubic metres of natural gas by 2030. Julia Levin, climate and energy program manager at Environmental Defence, said the report sounds the alarm over the disconnect between the climate commitments of countries and their plans for their energy sectors. As a wealthy nation, said Levin, with expertise in renewable energy and clean technology, Canada has the ability to start down a path of a managed decline of fossil fuel production, while ensuring such a transition is just and equitable for workers in the sector. “It will require courage and leadership from our elected leaders to start having honest conversations about what achieving zero emissions really means, and to stop dancing around an obvious truth: That we must transition off of fossil fuels,” she said. Canada is one of four countries examined in the report, along with Australia, the United States and Russia, that are forecasting increases in their oil and gas production. The eight countries studied also include China, India, Indonesia and Norway. The researchers — who also hailed from the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and European think tank E3G — said the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures meant to stop the spread of the virus did take a bite out of fossil fuel production, but not nearly enough to stave off harsher climate disruptions. They said preliminary estimates suggest global fossil fuel production will drop by seven per cent in 2020, relative to last year. Coal will drop by eight per cent, oil will drop by seven per cent and natural gas will drop by three per cent. Pre-COVID-19 energy plans, as well as government stimulus and recovery measures, however, could “prompt a return to pre-COVID production trajectories that lock in severe climate disruption.” “To date, governments have committed far more COVID-19 funds to fossil fuels than to clean energy,” the report states. “As of November 2020, G20 governments had committed US$233 billion to activities that support fossil fuel production and consumption, as compared with US$146 billion to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and low-carbon alternatives.” One very important fossil fuel player is missing from the report: The researchers could not find data from Saudi Arabia. But the state-controlled fossil fuel giant Saudi Aramco has indicated in a Reuters story that it will ramp up production as soon as demand returns “before a shift to cleaner energy makes crude all but worthless.” The federal government gets credit in the report for committing $1.7 billion towards cleaning up orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells, and for launching a methane emissions reduction program. Canada, with its carbon pricing system, is also one of several governments that have introduced reforms and limits to fossil fuel consumption. It is also one of three countries to have set up bodies that are helping design policies to facilitate a “just transition” away from fossil fuels. Meanwhile, Alberta is also noted for contributing $180 million to its Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction system, meant to help large industrial emitters cut their pollution. Michael Lazarus, director of SEI’s U.S. centre and co-ordinating lead author of the report, noted that even though Canadian oil production is forecasted to continue to rise, the Canada Energy Regulator had “substantially ramped down” the projections in its latest report. “I think we may begin to see other countries starting to do the same,” he said. “But the point is they need to be encouraged to do so. It doesn’t necessarily come automatically.” Canada is also listed as a “leading provider of fossil fuel producer subsidies” and Alberta’s equity and loan guarantees for the Keystone XL pipeline are also singled out. Carl Meyer / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverCarl Meyer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
As the death toll from illicit drug overdoses continues to mount unabated in B.C., advocates want more specialized services and harm reduction measures to help protect young people. Another 162 fatalities occurred in October due to toxic drug supply, for a total of 1,386 deaths in 2020, according to the BC Coroners Service's most recent figures. Of those killed this year by the overdose crisis, 19 per cent, or 269 deaths, were young people aged 29 years old or younger, with 14 of the dead under the age of 19, the coroners service figures show. Kali Sedgemore, a youth outreach worker and peer harm reduction advocate in Vancouver, said the ongoing public health emergency is in its fifth year, and COVID-19 is only exacerbating the harms. “We don’t even have time to grieve because we know we will hear about another (death) the next day,” Sedgemore said. The dangers of the toxic illicit drug supply are being compounded as people following pandemic protocols use illicit drugs alone and as harm reduction services have been reduced, or wait times have increased at overdose prevention sites (OPS) during the pandemic, Sedgemore added. Youth do not make up the largest number of fatalities, but all overdose deaths are largely unnecessary and preventable, Sedgemore said. In 2020, 70 per cent of those who have died from the toxic drug supply fall between the ages of 30 and 59, and males account for 80 per cent of the deaths to date. Most overdose fatalities involved people dying alone indoors. One immediate way to reduce the harms from toxic illicit drugs to youth is to provide harm reduction and OPS services dedicated strictly to their demographic, Sedgemore said. “Youth are vulnerable to manipulation by adults,” Sedgemore said, adding young people are at risk of being exploited sexually or for money or other reasons. Specialized harm reduction services are already hard to come by in urban areas such as Vancouver but are even more scarce in smaller communities and rural areas, Sedgemore said, noting they originally came from a small community from the northern part of Vancouver Island. Plus, young people — especially those under the age of 18 — are often deterred from using harm reduction services or supplies by providers due to their age, or can come under increased scrutiny from staff at these locations, they said. Both of these situations make youth uncomfortable, Sedgemore said. It’s also critical that medical professionals, social workers or other service providers don’t push youth into treatment before they are ready, Sedgemore stressed. Doing so only puts youth at increased risk, forcing them to be more secretive about any illicit drug use and increasing the unwillingness to use harm reduction services or call emergency services in case of an overdose. Research shows abstinence education, or the "just say no to drugs" approach, is not as effective as talking openly about illicit drugs, the associated risks and, if youth should choose to use them, how to do it safely, Sedgemore said. However, there is also the need for more youth treatment beds and shorter wait-lists for youth seeking help, Sedgemore said, especially closer to their own communities. “I don’t think it’s great sending a youth away from their own hometown and the people youth are used to seeing every day.” The B.C. government plans to double the number of treatment beds for youth aged 12 to 24 who are struggling with substance use. A total of 60 young people under the age of 24 lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning from toxic street drugs from January to June 2020, according to the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The province committed $36 million to create another 123 treatment beds for young people, in addition to 20 beds recently established at a new youth facility in the Fraser Valley. Prior to the recent announcements, B.C. had 103 treatment beds for youth. The new beds are part of a broader continuum of care the B.C. government is planning for young people that will include culturally safe, youth-specific services in both rural and smaller city centres, the ministry stated. Building on its network of youth-specific mental health and substance use services, the province will develop eight new Foundry centres, for a total of 19 youth hubs. Foundry centres provide primary care, youth and family peer supports, walk-in counselling, mental health and substance use services and social services all under one roof. Steve Ayers, program manager for the Foundry located in Campbell River on Vancouver Island, agreed that youth benefit from specialized services and being in charge of any decisions about their drug or alcohol use. “If a counsellor is going to really be impactful, they have to let the client drive the process of making changes around substance use,” Ayers said. “The objective of substance use counselling is to help youth have a better life, and what are some concrete ways that might happen, depending on their choices of course,” he said. Many youth use substances to deal with trauma or anxiety, so alternate tools or strategies need to be developed to help young people deal with that suffering, he added. It’s dangerous to assume youth overdoses due to illicit drugs are only a big-city problem, Ayers said. “It’s absolutely a misconception,” he said, adding the issues that fuel youth substance use exist in every community across Canada. However, youth generally don’t tend to be as entrenched with illicit hard drugs as some other age demographics, especially in rural areas where supply might be limited, Ayers said. “If there’s no supply (of illicit drugs) kids will find other things to do to cope with what they are struggling with,” he said. However, kids and families in rural or remote communities such as the Discovery Islands or small communities across North Vancouver Island can face additional challenges or gaps in accessing supports, Ayers said. Many Foundry services are now available online to try to mitigate the challenges for youth living in more isolated communities who need support, especially with travel limitations due to the pandemic, he said. The youth hub also works with schools to meet with students during class time for those who have to bus in and out of Campbell River. Young people and their families just need to reach out and the Foundry will try to find a fix for any stumbling blocks to service, Ayers said. “We always seem to be able to find them and reach them with help,” he said. “Unless they're just not reaching out at all. And honestly, those are the people that we’re scared for most.” Rochelle Baker / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada's National ObserverRochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 2, 2020. A Barrie Catholic elementary school is the latest to close a classroom after someone tested positive for COVID-19. St. Catherine of Siena Catholic School principal Rich Foshay sent a letter to parents Oct. 1 explaining the situation, without revealing if the infected person is a student or teacher. Foshay told parents the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit will determine who may be at risk and “ensure that school staff, families and students are provided with the appropriate information.” Foshay said he will send a voice message and email, on behalf of the health unit, to all individuals that need to take further steps as a result of this positive case. “If you do not receive a voice message and email directly, then your child is not part of the affected cohort,” his letter states. St. Catherine of Siena, located on Summerset Drive, is the sixth Simcoe Catholic elementary school to close at least one classroom due to a positive COVID case. “We all must work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19. As a school community, we will pray for all those impacted by this virus and continue to demonstrate compassion and respect for one another as we navigate this situation,” Foshay said. The school will advise the health unit of any person who came in contact with the infected person, including in before and after-school care and on a school bus. Enhanced cleaning and disinfection of all areas in the school where the person may have been has already taken place and will continue to be a priority, Foshay said. Visit the www.simcoemuskokahealth.org or contact Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or (toll free) 1-877-721-7520 ext. 5830 for more health-related information. Visit www.smcdsb.on.ca for details about the school reopening plan. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
IQALUIT, Nunavut — Nunavut's two-week lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19 was lifted in almost all communities Wednesday as the territory had more recovered than active cases for the first time. Schools, businesses and workplaces were allowed to reopen, except in Arviat, which had 65 active cases. The coastal community on the western edge of Hudson Bay is to remain shut down for at least two more weeks.Nunavut had 80 active infections Wednesday and 113 recovered cases for a total of 193. There were 11 new cases — all in Arviat. The territory had not had any cases at all until early November.Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut's chief public health officer, said his team hadn't yet determined if community transmission in Arviat is ongoing."I know this is a difficult time as these strict measures continue, but please understand it is not meant to punish Arviat. This is the best way to break community transmission and the fastest way to eventually loosening these restrictions," Patterson said. The Canadian Red Cross has been on the ground in Arviat to help people self-isolate and to contact trace. Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, in the same region as Arviat, still have active COVID-19 cases, but no evidence of community transmission.Masks remain mandatory in all public spaces in the three communities, although students in Whale Cove and Rankin Inlet do not have to wear them in classrooms as long as they are physical distancing, Patterson said.He credited Nunavut's shrinking case count with residents observing public-health orders and the work of contact tracers to "break chains of transmission."Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday that the federal government will provide rapid-testing machines to Nunavut's isolation hotels in Winnipeg. The territory's public-health orders require anyone who leaves the territory must isolate for 14 days in a southern hotel before flying home. Patterson said Winnipeg is currently the jurisdiction that poses the biggest risk to Nunavummiut who travel there. Using the Panbio COVID-19 Ag rapid-testing device, which provides results in 15 minutes, Nunavummiut staying in the hubs will be tested several times throughout their stay. "The testing will be initially offered to everybody, whether they have symptoms or not ... as a way to augment the current isolation practice and reduce the chance of COVID getting through the isolation hubs," Patterson said. Nunavut's first cases of COVID-19 were individuals who completed 14 days of isolation in Winnipeg hotels. Patterson said it's still unknown how exactly they contracted the novel coronavirus while in isolation and an investigation into how it happened continues.The Northwest Territories, which has a similar isolation rule, announced Tuesday that residents who leave the territory for non-essential travel will have to pay for their two-week isolation stays. Lorne Kusugak, Nunavut's health minister, said Nunavut has considered a similar move, but isn't making residents pay for isolation stays at this time. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.___This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News FellowshipEmma Tranter, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 7, 2020 A 22-year-old Barrie man is charged after a woman was struck and killed last month by a vehicle on Bayfield Street North in Springwater Township. Huronia West OPP charged Kraig Roberston on Oct. 6 with failing to stop at an accident causing death. Police identified the alleged vehicle and the driver a few days after the collision. Police say a woman who was standing on the side of the highway with her dog waving at passing vehicles was struck and killed at about 10:48 p.m. Sept. 15. Police have not released the woman’s name or her age. Initially, Ontario’s police watchdog began an investigation because an OPP officer was on the scene quickly and was forced to swerve around the woman’s body. The Special Investigations Unit dropped the investigation a day later. An off-duty Barrie police officer was driving behind the unmarked OPP cruiser and also pulled over. The officers performed CPR on the woman, but were unsuccessful. The accused appeared in the Ontario Court of Justice in Barrie for a bail hearing Oct. 6.Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance
La MRC de La Haute-Côte-Nord consacre la plus grande partie de son budget 2021 au développement pour la première fois en plus de 20 ans. Un montant de 4 038 837 $ est prévu pour ce poste budgétaire, soit plus du double qu’en 2020 alors qu’il bénéficiait de 1 846 393 $. C’est ce qui a été dévoilé le 25 novembre alors que le conseil des maires était réuni en assemblée ordinaire de façon virtuelle. « Il s’agit d‘une année exceptionnelle en terme de développement », a déclaré la préfète Micheline Anctil en parlant des prévisions budgétaires pour 2021. « Cette croissance en faveur du développement s’explique, entre autres, par une participation financière accrue des instances gouvernementales. Ce choix du conseil des maires en faveur du développement aura des impacts considérables au cours des trois prochaines années », explique le directeur général de la MRC, Paul Langlois. Effectivement, de nouveaux fonds verront le jour en 2021 et toucheront « à plusieurs domaines tant la relance économique, l’agroforestier que le culturel », dévoile Mme Anctil. Le Fonds pour le rayonnement des régions sera doté d’un troisième (Innovation et signature) et quatrième volets (Vitalisation et revitalisation). Ils bénéficieront respectivement de 197 000 $ et 977 000 $ annuellement pendant cinq ans. De plus, le nouveau réseau de transport mis en place par Hydro-Québec sur le territoire de la MRC permet la récolte de redevances d’un montant de 1 900 000 $ à dépenser sur deux ans selon un protocole d’entente qui sera signé en février. « Les MRC sont appelées à devenir des intermédiaires du gouvernement pour le développement économique des régions. Le ministère de l’Économie et de l’Innovation a d’ailleurs instauré de nouveaux comités de développement régional, qui auront à agir dans un avenir proche », de dévoiler le directeur général, en entrevue téléphonique. Les critères de ces nouveaux programmes d’aide financière ne sont pas encore fixés et la MRC n’est pas prête à recevoir des demandes. Ils seront établis au cours de l’année et « les fonds qui ne seront pas dépensés comme prévu, seront redistribués dans l’enveloppe 2022 », soutient M. Langlois. « Les efforts de la MRC porteront fortement sur la consolidation des entreprises, des organismes et des commerces des huit municipalités qui la composent, tout en cherchant à favoriser le développement du tourisme, de l’agroalimentaire et de l’innovation pour la création d’emplois », a précisé Micheline Anctil, lors de l’adoption du budget. Les secteurs social et communautaire feront aussi l’objet d’une attention plus intensive en 2021 « dans le but d’assurer des services de qualité, entre autres, par le biais de programmes sociaux, et de favoriser le mieux-être des personnes aînées et des moins favorisés de nos communautés », a dévoilé Mme Anctil. Revenus et dépenses En ce qui concerne les revenus, les municipalités de la Haute-Côte-Nord devront contribuer pour un total de 2 236 181 $ en quotes-parts, divisées selon la richesse foncière. La Ville de Forestville déboursera la plus importante quote-part, soit plus de 500 000 $ tandis que Portneuf-sur-Mer versera environ 99 000 $, la plus basse. Les transferts gouvernementaux totaliseront 6 213 314 $ et les services rendus procurent 1 645 595 $ à la MRC. Les autres revenus d’intérêts rapportent 31 000 $ dans les coffres et les revenus d’investissement 1 460 000 $. Quant aux dépenses, 1 710 228 $ seront décaissés pour l’administration générale, 863 624 $ pour l’aménagement, 4 038 837 $ pour le développement, 2 815 902 $ pour la gestion des matières résiduelles, 455 000 $ pour l’évaluation, 704 800 $ pour les baux, 460 700 $ pour le transport et, finalement, 40 000 $ pour la forêt privée. Les dépenses d’investissement atteindront 497 000 $. C’est donc un budget équilibré qui a été déposé par la préfète tout comme celui de l’an dernier qui s’élevait à 8 892 387 $, soit 2,6 M$ en moins.Johannie Gaudreault, Initiative de journalisme local, Journal Haute-Côte-Nord
’Tis the season of great Aubrey Plaza performances, apparently. The “Parks and Recreation” and “Legion” alum has been long overdue for a breakout film role, something fitting of her wide-ranging talent and more imaginative than just relying on her quirky deadpan and eye rolls.She’s been excellent before as a motivated teen in “The To Do List” and an empathetic social media stalker in “Ingrid Goes West” but the bigger studio comedies have largely failed her. Something finally clicked into place, though, and she has proven that she is on another level. And no, I’m not just talking about her effortlessly cool “Happiest Season” character, a side-player who became a social media favourite simply by existing.The movie is “ Black Bear,” a meta thriller about moviemaking, creativity and ego from writer-director Lawrence Michael Levine that debuted earlier this year at Sundance and is the kind of indie that can so easily get lost just because it is never going to be an Oscar contender. It also has the misfortune of being enormously tricky to describe coherently or satisfyingly: It essentially becomes a different movie halfway through. But even though it is purposefully disorienting and occasionally a little too heightened, it is never not interesting and keeps you rapt with its captivating performances, revealing dialogue and moody, lo-fi style.In the first section, Plaza plays Allison, an actor turned filmmaker who has decided to escape to a bed and breakfast in the woods on a lake to work on her next screenplay. Her movies, she says, are the small, unsuccessful ones that no one likes. And she quit acting because she was difficult or not pretty enough or, more likely, some other reason she would rather not admit to herself much less a stranger whose property she’s renting.The cabin is maintained by a young, pretty couple Gabe (Christopher Abbott), a musician, and Blair (Sarah Gadon), a dancer, who are expecting their first child. Their struggling artist life in Brooklyn was too expensive and unsuccessful to continue and they’re trying on the rustic life for a change. Although, like an unhappy couple who have been isolated for too long, the cracks are starting to show.The first act unravels like a play. The three have a long, wine-fueled dinner talking, bickering and provoking one another to the breaking point and beyond. Allison is sarcastic, evasive and quippy and finds herself allying with Gabe much to the distress of the much more direct and sincere Blair. Gabe is a very particular kind of millennial male whose artistic temperament, dismissive intellect and sensitive posturing make for a toxic combination — a theme which carries over into the second part of the film to explosive results. It’s cringey and enthralling as the three dig themselves into deeper and deeper holes and you begin to wish for any kind of release.Perhaps that’s part of the reason why “Black Bear” cuts to black and restarts with a different premise but similar themes. Gadon and Abbott are darkly excellent as they playfully skewer the worst kind of egos in their industry. And it’s here where Plaza, as actor Allison, gets some real showstopper moments within the stereotypical construct of a desperately insecure, jealous and dangerously method female lead. It’s reminiscent of and probably inspired by Gena Rowlands and puts Plaza in a different class.The film itself might not wrap up in any sort of tidy or satisfying way, but nothing leading up to the conclusion would lead you to expect something so basic.“Black Bear,” a Momentum Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “for language throughout, sexual content, drug use and some nudity.” Running time: 104 minutes. Three stars out of four.___MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.___Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahrLindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
MONTREAL — Refugee advocates are criticizing Canada's decision to resume deportations before the country irons out the details of a program to grant permanent residency to asylum-seekers who have been working in the health-care system during the COVID-19 pandemic.Frantz Andre, who advocates on behalf of asylum seekers, says the decision has heightened the feelings of insecurity among the essential workers dubbed "guardian angels" by Quebec Premier Francois Legault.The Canada Border Services Agency confirmed it resumed deportations as of Nov. 30, after halting most removals in March due to the pandemic. The agency clarified that it would not be deporting people who are likely to qualify for permanent residency under a federal program announced in August to grant a path to residency for people working in the health-care sector or in long-term care or assisted living facilities."The CBSA would like to clarify that the agency will not be removing those who may be eligible to qualify for permanent residency under the guardian angels public policy," the agency wrote in an email Tuesday.Advocates estimate that hundreds of asylum-seekers have been working in long-term care homes in Quebec, which bore the brunt of the first wave of COVID-19 this spring.Andre notes that the final details of the program have yet to be made public, leading many of the so-called guardian angels to fear they may yet be deported."So, we’re starting (deportations) three weeks before Christmas, when the program and the details of this special program for the asylum-seekers or orderlies cannot be announced," he said."I call this criminal. This is not right."Andre said the initial elation over the announcement of the program has faded, leaving many asylum-seekers feeling fearful and unsure if they'll qualify.He says some workers who could have been eligible have given up and decided to return home; others have contemplated suicide.Wilner Cayo, the president of a group that advocates for asylum-seekers and visible minorities, notes that even asylum-seekers working in long-term care — the exact group targeted by the program — are not sure they'll qualify because there are other criteria to meet, including having been issued a work permit and having a certain amount of experience and hours worked. He said the uncertainty is causing people "enormous anxiety.""When they take such a long time and the rules are not clear, we don’t know what to expect," he said in a phone interview.Quebec has a large degree of control over immigration criteria for the province, and it will select the applicants who qualify under the federal program and wish to reside in Quebec.In an email, a spokesperson for the Quebec Immigration Department said the program is expected to come into effect over the winter, and the details of how it will apply in Quebec will be announced "shortly."Cayo said the program also does not address the situation of other essential workers, including security guards and cleaning staff in care homes, truck drivers and those working in food production."These people sacrificed for Quebec, sacrificed for Canada," he said. "When many people were staying home, these people went out to work."Their contribution has shown they are not a burden to Canada, but a gift, he added.Andre believes the deportation order should be suspended until it becomes clear who exactly is eligible for the guardian angels program. But in his opinion, all the asylum-seekers who have been in the country since the pandemic began deserve to stay."I think they all have contributed economically, to saving lives, and Canada is better thanks to these people," he said.In its email, the CBSA defended its decision to deport, noting that the "timely removal of failed claimants plays a critical role in supporting the integrity of Canada’s asylum system."Removals to some regions remain suspended, including the Gaza Strip, Syria, Mali, Venezuela, Haiti, Afghanistan and Iraq.The agency also said the volume of deportations is expected to be reduced for some time, and that claimants will continue to have access to all the appeals and recourses available under the law.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press
South Peace communities are considering re-opening discussions to establish a regional handi-bus service. Wembley mayor Chris Turnmire sent out letters to councils in neighbouring municipalities inquiring about the interest in returning to the project, which was put on hold two years ago. “The focus was to identify opportunities to improve mobility options primarily for seniors and disabled residents to attend to basic needs, including medical and dental appointments,” Turnmire said. In 2017 Wembley applied to the Alberta Community Partnership program and won a grant of $67,500 to study the feasibility of a regional service. The town partnered with Beaverlodge, Sexsmith, Hythe and the city and county of Grande Prairie in the project, Turnmire said. Wembley and its partners then contracted Watt Consulting Group to conduct the study. Turnmire said $61,324 was spent on the study and the remainder was refunded to the Alberta government. In 2018 municipal councils decided to put the project on hold due to the launch of the County Connector, he said. The county-based transit service had space for wheelchairs but ended in August due to low ridership. “A regional handi-bus service would have a different focus,” Turnmire said. “This isn’t a money-making project; this is a service to individuals who may not have access to transportation to get to appointments or other places they need to go. “I suspect it’s going to have a cost attached to it, that each municipality would have to look at and (determine) what the proportional share would be.” In early November South Peace mayors and CAOs attended an intermunicipal meeting and the leaders discussed possibly renewing handi-bus talks, he said. None of the mayors rejected the idea outright and due to Wembley’s lead in the project two years ago, it was decided Turnmire would write a letter to all councils, he said. Early work completed In April 2018 Watt Consulting Group held an open house in Beaverlodge discussing plans for a regional handi-bus. The draft policy presented in 2018 called for a round trip running two days per week. Under the program, the bus would travel along the western and northern corridors connecting the city to each town and village, along with Clairmont, La Glace and Valhalla. Plans may change If the councils decide to re-open the possibility of a regional handi-bus, Turnmire said some of the 2018 plans for the service may change. The councils would establish a working group, with each appointing a councillor or staff member to re-examine the study, he said. Turnmire said with council meetings slowing down during December, he doesn’t expect the working group would be established until after the new year. Some of the municipalities have existing handi-bus services, and Turnmire said the working group would also have to consider how to avoid duplication of service and keep things efficient. COVID-19 poses another question as to how service will be affected if the health crisis is still ongoing, Turnmire added. During a recent regular meeting last week Sexsmith council approved Coun. Jonathan Siggelkow’s motion to express interest in the project. At Beaverlodge council’s last meeting Coun. Terry Dueck expressed interest in representing the town in the group. Mayor Gary Rycroft said joining the working group would allow for an exploration of various considerations. Coun. Judy Kokotilo-Bekkerus’ motion to express interest was carried.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
With senior Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema by his side and his wife former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords watching nearby, Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly was sworn into the Senate narrowing Republican control of the chamber. (Dec. 2)
For paramedics on the front line of the COVID-19 crisis, taking a moment to decompress after a harrowing call before gearing up for the next one can be critical for maintaining mental health.But in the Fraser Health Authority region right now, those breaks are few and far between.The Lower Mainland continues to see the highest transmission of the disease, with more cases of the virus reported in the Fraser Health region — which includes the cities of Surrey, Burnaby, Abbotsford and Coquitlam — than the other four regions combined.As the second wave of the pandemic batters the suburban regions of Metro Vancouver, those scrambling to save lives say it's their colleagues in the trenches, and the promise of a vaccine, that are giving them the strength to carry on."We can see there will be a light at the end of the tunnel," said Dave Leary, spokesperson for Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.But right now, Leary said paramedics are not only going to work with the fear of bringing home the virus, they're also dealing with a "never-ending" onslaught of overdose calls due to the concurrent opioid crisis."We don't have the amount of time we need in between calls to decompress," said Leary. "The mental health toll is quite high."Staff, he said, are leaning on one another, and employer stress programs, for support.According to Leary, there is also a current staffing crisis among B.C. paramedics, meaning colleagues are stepping up to cover service gaps for one another and still respond to calls as quickly as possible.And when they do pull up to area hospitals with a patient in need, the scene can be very, very busy.On Nov. 24, Burnaby Hospital, one of the region's busiest, stopped taking most new admissions after a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility, which came a little more than a week after a Nov. 15 fire in the building.While the fire disruption did not definitively cause further virus spread, it caused stress for hospital staff who had to relocate patients safely on the fly."It is a bit stressed in terms of not only the availability of beds, but also staff availability as well. But we just hold on," said respirologist Susan Kwan.Kwan said given the dire situation in the region right now, and the stress it is causing the public and patients, it is more important than ever for front-line workers to stay positive to reduce fear.Like the paramedics bringing patients to the doors, Kwan said much of the staff on the other side of those doors are turning to one another to keep morale high."We are cautiously proceeding and the staff is still in good spirits overall," said Kwan on The Early Edition on Friday. When hospital employees have been isolated at home because of virus exposure, there has been incredible support from colleagues who check in regularly to offer support and prayer, Kwan told CBC on Monday.By Kwan's last count on Nov. 27, 44 staff members at Burnaby Hospital had tested positive for COVID-19."This is a battle that we are all fighting together," she said. "Without collegial cohesion, it would be much harder."It's not just the custodians, nurses, transporters, doctors, therapists, dietitians and pharmacists where Kwan works that are helping each other out, Kwan says, but also teams at other hospitals in the region.Kwan said after the Nov. 15 fire, staff had to relocate some patients and reduce bed availability. Other hospitals admitted patients Burnaby had no space for, and Kwan says the favour will be repaid if required."If we have any capacity, we will be willing to help," said Kwan.There are now 8,796 people with active COVID-19 cases in B.C. out of 33,894 cases to date. The Fraser Health region has 6,430 of those active cases.The next update of cases is at 3 p.m. PT Wednesday.Tap here to listen to the complete interview with Dave Leary and here to listen to Dr. Susan Kwan on CBC's The Early Edition.
Community centres across the South Peace have partially closed due to three-week COVID restrictions that came into effect for enhanced-status areas last Friday. The Beaverlodge Community Centre and multi-purpose room are both closed, said Tina Letendre, Beaverlodge acting chief administrative officer. The Christmas Festival hasn’t been booked at the centre this year and that means lost revenue of approximately $1,800, she said. “We’re unable to do the Christmas Festival this year with the COVID restric- tions,” said Alysha Martin, Beaverlodge Daycare Society executive director. She said last year the festival was held at St. Mary School, which is also closed for private rentals. Letendre said most other lost rental revenue at the community centre will be “very minimal,” or about $143 in November. Planned private rentals were cancelled and postponed, with Letendre saying birthday parties, fitness classes and meetings were the most common rentals. Both the Sexsmith Community Centre and civic centre have been affected by the restrictions. Dennis Stredulinsky, an Elks member who manages bookings for the civic centre, said the centre is largely shut down. Shannon Municipal Library remains open at reduced capacity, but the Sexsmith Tumbling Club has postponed group classes in favour of Zoom classes and one-to-one appointments, he said. The civic centre had booked one church service in December, but that has been postponed until next year, he said. The Elks won’t be meeting at the civic centre again until possibly January, and that might be by phone, Stredu- linsky said. Council had also been meeting at the civic centre in recent months but moved to the community centre two weeks ago. The Sexsmith Community Centre is also mostly closed, said Beth Endresen. Council meetings will still take place there but two private parties and a yoga session had to be cancelled, she said. There won’t be much lost revenue for December, as typically the space is donated to the Sexsmith Christmas hamper campaign, Endresen said. The centre is commonly used for yoga and fitness classes, playschool and family rentals, as well as annual general meetings, she said. Endresen said the “primary user” is the Lighthouse Seventh Day Adventist Church, which holds services Saturdays. Under COVID restrictions the services will continue with one-third attendance, she said. The Hythe Community Centre is “basically closed to public access,” but Montana’s Hair Salon, the food bank and South Peace Rural Community Learning are open by appointment, said facilities manager Candy Robertson. Appointments aren’t necessary for the thrift store but the north access should be used, Robertson said. The Demmitt Community Centre is also closed, said Teresa von Tiesenhausen, a Demmitt Cultural Society volunteer board member. Von Tiesenhausen said the society had to cancel yoga classes, which have been running with a cap of 15, as well as the annual community Christmas party. Typically at this time of year the hall would see activity like dances, documentary nights, workshops and the Borderline Culture Series concerts, she said. The Saskatoon Lake Community Hall is closed as well, said Teri Ondrick, hall manager. Girl Guides, 4-H and other community group meetings and Christmas parties had to be cancelled, along with many rentals over the upcoming weeks, she said.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
THUNDER BAY — Thunder Bay police will begin publishing the names of all drivers charged with impaired driving offences in order to deter individuals from getting behind the wheel impaired as the annual Festive RIDE program officially launched on Wednesday. The number of individuals charged with impaired driving offences have been ‘staggering’ so far this year, according to Thunder Bay Police Const. Mark Cattani with the traffic unit. “We are at a point now where we are essentially running out of options,” Cattani said during a virtual news conference. At the end of last year’s festive RIDE season, police reported a record of 204 individuals charged with impaired driving for the total year. “This was by far the greatest number we had ever seen,” Cattani said. “I am discouraged and unfortunately have to report that we are at 251 impaired drivers at this point without even having started the RIDE program.” Starting Wednesday, Dec. 2, police will begin publishing the names of people who are charged with impaired driving offences in hopes of deterring individuals from driving impaired, a practice that has been in place in several other police forces in Ontario. “There is a very clear need for enforcement,” Cattani said. “We are already beyond so far where we have already been any other year.” The OPP have named alleged drunk divers for years in news releases. During Wednesday’s news conference, police reported in the last 24 hours four individuals had been charged with impaired driving. Two who were drug-impaired and two under the influence of alcohol. “We feel this is probably one of the most effective ways as a supplement to the RIDE program itself to get impaired drivers off the road potentially,” Cattani said. The festive RIDE program runs from Dec. 2 to Jan. 1, 2021.Karen Edwards, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source
Shoppers hoping to pick up a unique Christmas gift or two at the Victoria Park Gallery may be able to finish their shopping, after finding the Gallery closed for the past two weeks. Ruth Nicholson, a member of the Gallery, said that many of her colleagues, some of who are seniors, became very concerned as the number of COVID cases began to climb. Because the Gallery is not considered an essential service, the group opted to close for two weeks. “We are all retired and need to stay away from it,” said Nicholson. While the doors are closed to the public, there is renovation work taking place, updating the bathrooms and electrical systems. Once the work is done, members will do a thorough cleaning before reopening. “Christmas is a big season,” said Nicholson. “The plan right now is to open on the second of Dec. and stay open until Christmas Eve.” Nicholson said the Gallery may extend its hours to allow for more shopping. Once open, the Gallery, as in past months, will maintain strict cleaning procedures and follow all other recommendations from Public Health. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent
The Kincardine Theatre Guild has devised a way to bring live, local entertainment to the homes of residents who are pining for theatre and a boost for their Christmas spirit, during the pandemic. The 2020 Advent Calendar – a gift of theatre, will showcase short video clips, submitted by the public, to help bring some holiday spirit to the community. Earlier this year, the Guild was in the midst of preparing for its production of Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the pandemic hit and restrictions were implemented. Bringing the play to the stage was put on hold and while it had hoped to resume rehearsals and reschedule performances for later this year or early 2021, the second wave of COVID struck, and all plans have been put on indefinite hold. “We were well into rehearsals for the spring 2020 show, Curse of the Silver Pharaoh, when the Covid lockdown happened,” said Debbie Deckert, a performer and Guild board member. “We kept hoping this would be a short term thing but sadly we have had to cancel the show, but plan to put it on at a future date. The way things are now, we’ve had to cancel our 20-21 season. We’re only allowed to have three to five crew members in the theatre for maintenance work, no public access.” “Theatre can get to feel like a family and it’s really tough when we can’t be together. We’re looking at alternatives and this “Gift of Theatre” gives us an opportunity to test online performances.” The initiative, which began on Dec. 1, offers a daily clip provided by members of the public. People were invited to send in a video of a song, a dance, reading a poem, or a skit, approximately three to eight minutes in length. The daily video is available for viewing on the Guild website, www.kincardinetheatreguild.com, its YouTube page or on Facebook. The performances are free to view. In lieu of an admission payment, a donation to the Food Bank would be appreciated. “If you enjoyed this presentation, please consider making a donation to the Food Bank,” said Deckert. Deckert hopes the Guild will receive enough clips to offer a new performance every day until Dec. 24. Questions regarding the clip content or format can be directed to Jim May by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and any late submissions should be directed to Deckert at email@example.com. Tammy Lindsay Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent