With Kim MacDonald.
With Kim MacDonald.
Ottawa will not license any Indigenous "moderate livelihood" fishery in Atlantic Canada unless it operates within the commercial season, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said Wednesday, siding with a key demand from the region's commercial fishing industry, while angering Indigenous leaders. The statement is a major development in the dispute over treaty rights-based fishing that sparked violence last fall when the Sipekne'katik band launched its own self-regulated 'moderate livelihood' lobster fishery. The fishery in St. Marys Bay in southwest Nova Scotia took place outside the commercial season, angering other fishermen who said it was both unfair and bad for conservation. "Seasons ensure that stocks are harvested sustainably and they are necessary for an orderly, predictable, and well-managed fishery," Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan said in a statement, confirming a CBC News report earlier in the day. "In effort-based fisheries such as lobster, seasons are part of the overall management structure that conserves the resource, ensures there isn't overfishing, and distributes economic benefits across Atlantic Canada." WATCH | The history of the Mi'kmaw fishery: DFO indicated a willingness to discuss other details with affected First Nation communities. But Sipekne'katik Chief Mike Sack urged Mi'kmaw bands in Atlantic Canada to reject the federal government's position and told reporters his First Nation will continue to operate its fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021. "They're trying to divide and conquer and throw a carrot to a band or two and have them sign and just hurt everybody's case. So I hope that no other communities do sign. They don't take that low hanging fruit," he said. Sack restated his position that the treaty right was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada's Marshall decision, and accused DFO of trying to divide and conquer the Mi'kmaq. In 1999, the court affirmed the Mi'kmaw treaty right to fish in pursuit of a "moderate livelihood," but under federal government regulations for conservation. Ottawa spent half a billion dollars integrating Indigenous bands into the commercial fishery through licence buy-backs and training, but it never defined "moderate livelihood." Jordan cited part of the Marshall ruling to justify her authority. She noted the Supreme Court said "treaty rights are subject to regulation provided such regulation is shown by the Crown to be justified on conservation or other grounds of public importance." "That is what we are implementing," Jordan said in her statement. The department is offering Indigenous fishermen in Nova Scotia a pathway to sell lobster harvested in a moderate livelihood fishery. Right now, that catch does not have DFO's stamp of approval. Without authorization, they can't legally sell their catch to licenced buyers, such as lobster pounds and processors. Bands that accept DFO's position will receive a moderate livelihood licence that will allow them to sell the catch in 2021. Under provincial rules, only fish products harvested under federal commercial licences can be purchased by shore processors. The federal government "will balance additional First Nations access through already available licences and a willing buyer-willing seller approach, protecting our stocks and preserving the industry for generations to come," Jordan's statement said. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Michael Sack, right, halted talks with the federal Fisheries Department in December after reaching an impasse.(Paul Withers/CBC) The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaw Chiefs called the government's conditions "unacceptable" and condemned them as part of a "colonial approach" to the rights-based fishery recognized by the Supreme Court. "DFO continues to dictate and impose their rules on a fishery that is outside of their scope and mandate," said Chief Gerald Toney, the assembly's fisheries lead, in a statement. The right to a livelihood fishery isn't, and shouldn't be, driven by industry or the federal government, he said. "It is something that needs to come from the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia. Imposing restrictions independently, without input of the Mi'kmaq, on our implementation of Rights is an approach that must stop." Mi'kmaw leaders and some academics have insisted the fishery in St. Marys Bay poses no risk to stocks because it is too small. It's a claim the commercial industry rejects. One organization representing commercial fishermen said the DFO has made public what it had been telling the industry in private. "This position needs to come from them and they need to come out publicly, more often," said Martin Mallet, executive director of the Maritime Fishermen's Union. Mallet said commercial fishermen expect the DFO to enforce its rules if bands operate out of season, including pulling traps and "potentially arresting individuals that are not keeping up with the law." A group representing harvesters in southwestern Nova Scotia said the government's position "can provide certainty" for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishermen. "However, lasting and consistent enforcement that is fair to all harvesters will be critical," the Unified Fisheries Conservation Alliance said in a statement. The ambiguity over moderate livelihood led to violence last year when several bands launched self-regulated lobster fisheries — all taking place outside of commercial lobster seasons. In October, two facilities storing Mi'kmaw catches were vandalized, including one that was later burned to the ground. Indigenous harvesters also said hundreds of their traps were pulled by non-Indigenous commercial fishermen. After tensions abated, the DFO pulled hundreds of Mi'kmaw traps out of the water, many bearing band moderate livelihood tags. On Wednesday, the DFO returned to Sipekne'katik more than 200 traps it had seized last fall. Sipekne'katik First Nation Chief Mike Sack, shown in October, said Wednesday his band will continue to operate its moderate livelihood fishery outside DFO seasons in 2021.(Pat Callaghan/CBC) When defending the self-regulated fisheries, the Mi'kmaq point to the huge number of commercial traps in the water compared to those from bands. The Nova Scotia Seafood Alliance, which represents shore buyers, said that is misleading. Stewart Lamont of Tangier Lobster said he accepts the treaty right but maintains the fisheries must take place within commercial seasons. "The lobster biomass is extremely vulnerable during certain months of the year, most particularly late July, August, September, October, when lobsters are going through their annual molt," said Lamont. "They're literally hungrier than normal. They've taken on a new shell. They are far more readily embraced into a trap." He said hauling lobster at that time is short-sighted. "By the same token, they are of far lesser quality. They tend to be soft and medium shell. It's not a premium product." Commercial lobster fishing season varies across Nova Scotia, in part to maintain a steady supply to the market, and to protect stocks when they are vulnerable. MORE TOP STORIES
As COVID-19 vaccine supplies ramp up across the country, most provinces and territories have released details of who can expect to receive a shot in the coming weeks. Here's a list of their plans to date: Newfoundland and Labrador The province says it is in Phase 1 of its vaccine rollout. Health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, staff at long-term care homes, people of "advanced age" and adults in remote or isolated Indigenous communities have priority. Chief medical health officer Dr. Janice Fitzgerald has said Phase 2 will begin in April if vaccine supply remains steady. The second phase prioritizes adults over 60 years old, beginning with those over 80, as well as Indigenous adults, first responders, rotational workers and adults in marginalized populations, such as those experiencing homelessness. Adults between 16 and 59 years old will be vaccinated in the third phase of the rollout, and Fitzgerald has said she expects that to begin this summer. --- Nova Scotia Health officials in Nova Scotia announced Tuesday that vaccination rollout plans for the month included the province's first pharmacy clinics. Prototype pharmacy clinics will launch in Halifax and Shelburne on March 9, Port Hawkesbury on March 16 and Springhill on March 23. Nova Scotia plans to have vaccine available to at least 75 per cent of the population by the end of September 2021. --- Prince Edward Island Health officials in Prince Edward Island say they will shift their focus to getting a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults by July 1, even if it means delaying the second shot for some. Chief medical officer Heather Morrison has said people over the age of 80 will get a second dose based on their existing appointments. Going forward, she said, other residents will get a longer interval between their first and second doses, but she didn’t specific how long that will be. --- New Brunswick The province is also focusing on vaccinating those living in long-term care homes, health-care workers with direct patient contact, adults in First Nations communities and older New Brunswickers in the first phase, which lasts until at least March. The next phase is scheduled to begin in the spring and includes residents and staff of communal settings, other health-care workers including pharmacists, first responders and critical infrastructure employees. The government website says once the vaccine supply is continuous and in large enough quantities, the entire population will be offered the shots. --- Quebec Quebec started vaccinating older seniors Monday, after a first phase that focused largely on health-care workers, remote communities and long-term care. In Montreal, mass vaccine sites including the Olympic Stadium opened their doors to the public as the province began inoculating seniors who live in the hard-hit city. The government announced last week it would begin booking appointments for those aged 85 and up across the province, but that age limit has since dropped to 70 in some regions, including Montreal. Quebec announced Tuesday it had reached a deal with pharmacies that will allow them to start administering COVID-19 vaccines by mid-March. Health Minister Christian Dube said about 350 pharmacies in the Montreal area will start taking appointments by March 15 for people as young as 70. The program will eventually expand to more than 1,400 pharmacies across the province that will administer about two million doses. The Montreal region is being prioritized in part because of the presence of more contagious variants, such as the one first identified in the United Kingdom, Dube has said. --- Ontario The province began vaccinating people with the highest priority, including those in long-term care, high-risk retirement home residents, certain classes of health-care workers and people who live in congregate care settings. Several regions in Ontario moved ahead Monday with their plans to vaccinate the general public, while others used their own systems to allow residents aged 80 and older to schedule appointments. Toronto also began vaccinating members of its police force Monday after the province identified front-line officers as a priority group. Constables and sergeants who respond to emergency calls where medical assistance may be required are now included in the ongoing first phase of Ontario's vaccine rollout, a spokeswoman for the force said. A day earlier, Toronto said the province expanded the first phase of its vaccination drive to include residents experiencing homelessness. The provincial government has said it aims to begin vaccinating Ontarians aged 80 and older starting the week of March 15, the same day it plans to launch its vaccine booking system, which will offer a service desk and online portal. It has said the vaccine rollout will look different in each of its 34 public health units. When asked about the lack of provincewide cohesion, Health Minister Christine Elliott said that public health units know their regions best and that's why they have been given responsibility to set the pace locally. She also says the province will soon share an updated vaccine plan that factors in expected shipments of the newly approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The province will do that after getting guidance from the federal government on potentially extending the time between first and second doses, like B.C. is doing, of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to four months, Elliott says She also says Ontario seniors won't receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine since there's limited data on its effectiveness in older populations. --- Manitoba Manitoba is starting to vaccinate people in the general population. Appointments are now available for most people aged 94 and up, or 74 and up for First Nations people. Until now, vaccines have been directed to certain groups such as health-care workers and people in personal care homes. Health officials plan to reduce the age minimum, bit by bit, over the coming months. Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine task force, has said inoculations could be open to all adults in the province by August if supplies are steady. --- Saskatchewan The province is still in the first phase of its vaccination rollout, which reserves doses for long-term care residents and staff, health-care workers at elevated risk of COVID-19 exposure, seniors over the age of 70 and anyone 50 or older living in a remote area. In all, nearly 400,000 doses are required to finish this stage. The next phase will be focused on vaccinating the general population by age. It hopes to begin its mass vaccination campaign by April, but there if there isn’t enough supply that could be pushed back to June. Saskatchewan will begin immunizing the general population in 10-year increments, starting with those 60 to 69. Also included in this age group will be people living in emergency shelters, individuals with intellectual disabilities in care homes and people who are medically vulnerable. Police, corrections staff and teachers are among the front-line workers not prioritized for early access to shots. The government says supply is scarce. The province said this week that it may follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. The government says it hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. If that happens, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. --- Alberta Alberta is now offering vaccines to anyone born in 1946 or earlier, a group representing some 230,000 people. Appointments are being offered through an online portal and the 811 Health Link phone line. Shots are also being offered to this cohort at more than 100 pharmacies in Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton starting in early March and the government has said there are also plans to include doctors’ offices. Health Minister Tyler Shandro has said all eligible seniors should have their first shots by the end of March. But he said Monday that the province will not give Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone over the age of 65 after the National Advisory Committee on Immunization expressed concerned there is limited data on how well it will work in older populations. The first phase of the vaccine rollout also included anyone over 65 who lives in a First Nations or Metis community, various front-line health care workers, paramedics and emergency medical responders. Phase 2 of the rollout, to begin in April, is to start with those 65 and up, Indigenous people older than 50 and staff and residents of licensed supportive living seniors’ facilities not previously included. --- British Columbia British Columbia will extend the time between the first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccines to four months so all adults could get their initial shot by the end of July. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says evidence from the province and around the world shows protection of at least 90 per cent from the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The province launched the second phase of its immunization campaign Monday and health authorities will begin contacting residents and staff of independent living centres, those living in seniors' supportive housing as well as homecare support clients and staff. Seniors aged 90 and up can call to make their appointment starting next Monday, followed a week later by those aged 85 and over, and a week after that by those 80 and up. Henry says the approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine means some people will get their first shot sooner than planned. She says B.C. will focus its rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine among essential workers, first responders and younger people with more social interactions who would have to wait longer to receive their first doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines. It's now possible that all adults could get their first shot by July, Henry says. --- Nunavut The territory says it expects enough vaccines for 75 per cent of its population over the age of 18. After a COVID-19 vaccine is administered, patients will be tracked to ensure they are properly notified to receive their second dose. Nunavut's priority populations are being vaccinated first. They include residents of shelters, people ages 60 years and up, staff and inmates and correctional facilities, first responders and front-line health-care staff. --- Northwest Territories The Northwest Territories its priority groups — such as people over 60, front-line health workers and those living in remote communities — are being vaccinated The territory says it expects to vaccine the rest of its adult population starting this month. --- Yukon Yukon says it will receive enough vaccine to immunize 75 per cent of its adult population by the end of March. Priority for vaccinations has been given to residents and staff in long-term care homes, group homes and shelters, as well as health-care workers and personal support workers. People over the age of 80 who are not living in long-term care, and those living in rural and remote communities, including Indigenous Peoples, are also on the priority list for shots. --- This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2021. The Canadian Press
WASHINGTON — The Defence Department took more than three hours to dispatch the National Guard to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol despite a frantic request for reinforcement from police, according to testimony Wednesday that added to the finger-pointing about the government response. Maj. Gen. William Walker, commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, told senators that the then-chief of the Capitol Police requested military support in a 1:49 p.m. call, but the Defence Department's approval for that support was not relayed to him until after 5 p.m., according to prepared testimony. Guard troops who had been waiting on buses were then rushed to the Capitol. That delay stood in contrast to the immediate approval for National Guard support granted in response to the civil unrest that roiled American cities last spring as an outgrowth of racial justice protests, Walker said. As local officials pleaded for help, Army officials raised concerns about the optics of a substantial National Guard presence at the Capitol, he said. “The Army senior leadership” expressed to officials on the call “that it would not be their best military advice to have uniformed Guardsmen on the Capitol,” Walker said. The Senate hearing is the second about what went wrong on Jan. 6, with national security officials face questions about missed intelligence and botched efforts to quickly gather National Guard troops that day as a violent mob laid siege to the U.S. Capitol. Even as Walker detailed the National Guard delay, another military official noted that local officials in Washington had said days earlier that no such support was needed. Senators were eager to grill officials from the Pentagon, the National Guard and the Justice and Homeland Security departments about their preparations for that day. Supporters of then-President Donald Trump had talked online, in some cases openly, about gathering in Washington that day and interrupting the electoral count. At a hearing last week, officials who were in charge of security at the Capitol blamed one another as well as federal law enforcement for their own lack of preparation as hundreds of rioters descended on the building, easily breached the security perimeter and eventually broke into the Capitol. Five people died as a result of the rioting. So far, lawmakers conducting investigations have focused on failed efforts to gather and share intelligence about the insurrectionists’ planning before Jan. 6 and on the deliberations among officials about whether and when to call National Guard troops to protect Congress. The officials at the hearing last week, including ousted Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund, gave conflicting accounts of those negotiations. Robert Contee, the acting chief of police for the Metropolitan Police Department, told senators he was “stunned” over the delayed response and said Sund was pleading with Army officials to deploy National Guard troops as the rioting rapidly escalated. Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, one of two Democratic senators who will preside over Wednesday's hearing, said in an interview Tuesday that she believes every moment counted as the National Guard decision was delayed and police officers outside the Capitol were beaten and injured by the rioters. “Any minute that we lost, I need to know why,” Klobuchar said. The hearing comes as thousands of National Guard troops are still patrolling the fenced-in Capitol and as multiple committees across Congress are launching investigations into mistakes made on Jan. 6. The probes are largely focused on security missteps and the origins of the extremism that led hundreds of Trump supporters to break through the doors and windows of the Capitol, hunt for lawmakers and temporarily stop the counting of electoral votes. Congress has, for now, abandoned any examination of Trump’s role in the attack after the Senate acquitted him last month of inciting the riot by telling the supporters that morning to “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. As the Senate hears from the federal officials, acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman will testify before a House panel that is also looking into how security failed. In a hearing last week before the same subcommittee, she conceded there were multiple levels of failures but denied that law enforcement failed to take seriously warnings of violence before the insurrection. In the Senate, Klobuchar said there is particular interest in hearing from Walker, the commanding general of the D.C. National Guard, who was on the phone with Sund and the Department of the Army as the rioters first broke into the building. Contee, the D.C. police chief, was also on the call and told senators that the Army was initially reluctant to send troops. “While I certainly understand the importance of both planning and public perception — the factors cited by the staff on the call — these issues become secondary when you are watching your employees, vastly outnumbered by a mob, being physically assaulted,” Contee said. He said he had quickly deployed his own officers and he was “shocked” that the National Guard “could not — or would not — do the same." Contee said that Army staff said they were not refusing to send troops, but “did not like the optics of boots on the ground” at the Capitol. Also testifying at the joint hearing of the Senate Rules Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committees are Robert Salesses of the Defence Department, Melissa Smislova of the Department of Homeland Security and Jill Sanborn of the FBI, all officials who oversee aspects of intelligence and security operations. Lawmakers have grilled law enforcement officials about missed intelligence ahead of the attack, including a report from an FBI field office in Virginia that warned of online posts foreshadowing a “war” in Washington. Capitol Police leaders have said they were unaware of the report at the time, even though the FBI had forwarded it to the department. Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director Christopher Wray said the report was disseminated though the FBI’s joint terrorism task force, discussed at a command post in Washington and posted on an internet portal available to other law enforcement agencies. Though the information was raw and unverified and appeared aspirational in nature, Wray said, it was specific and concerning enough that “the smartest thing to do, the most prudent thing to do, was just push it to the people who needed to get it.” Mary Clare Jalonick And Eric Tucker, The Associated Press
REGINA — Saskatchewan is looking to follow British Columbia's lead in delaying a second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to speed up immunizations. Chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab says information from that province as well as from Quebec and the United Kingdom suggests that a first shot effectively protects against the novel coronavirus. He says he hopes a national committee that provides guidance on immunizations will support waiting up to four months to give people a second dose. Shahab says if that were to happen, the province could speed up how soon residents get their first shot. He says all adults in the province could be vaccinated with a first dose by June. Premier Scott Moe says such a shift would be a game-changer for how long public-health restrictions would stay in place. "What that (would) look like over the course of the next number of weeks as opposed to having that conversation over the course of the next number of months," Moe said during a briefing Tuesday. The province said when it first outlined its vaccine rollout that it would wait between 21 and 28 days between shots as recommended by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech. The province says about 80,000 vaccinations have been given across the province. It says at least one of the approved vaccines to fight COVID-19 has made its way into every long-term care home. Health officials say 91 per cent of residents opted to get their first shot of the two-dose vaccination. Second doses have gone into the arms of long-term residents in about 53 per cent of facilities. The province says it expects to receive about 15,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot approved by Canada last week. Shahab says Saskatchewan will follow advice from a national panel of vaccine experts that it be used on people under 65. The vaccine's effectiveness in people older than that hasn't been sufficiently determined because there were not enough seniors in clinical trials. Another 134 new cases of COVID-19 were reported Tuesday as well as two deaths. Shahab and Moe say daily case numbers and hospitalizations have stabilized and continue to decrease — signs they say could lead to some public-health measures being relaxed. Moe said he would like to see some way for people to have visitors in their homes. That hasn't been allowed under public-health orders since before Christmas. The current health order is to expire March 19. Moe said his government could provide details as soon as next week on what restrictions might be eased. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 2, 2021 Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
TOPEKA, Kan. — Former Congressman Steve Watkins of Kansas has entered a diversion program to avoid trial over allegations that he voted illegally in a 2019 municipal election. Watkins, a Republican from Topeka who served only one term in the U.S. House, was facing three felony charges. He was accused of listing a postal box at a UPS store as his home on a state registration form when he was living temporarily at his parents' home. He was also charged with lying to a detective who investigated the case. The Shawnee County district attorney filed the charges just weeks before the August 2020 primary, and Watkins lost to now-Rep. Jake LaTurner. “I regret the error in my voter registration paperwork that led to these charges. I fully co-operated from the beginning and had no intent to deceive any one, at any time. I am glad to resolve the ordeal,” Watkins said in a statement Tuesday. Watkins acknowledged he lied to the detective when he said he did not vote in the Topeka City Council election, The Kansas City Star reported. Under the diversion agreement entered into Monday, Watkins' prosecution will be deferred for six months. If he meets the terms of the agreement, the case will be dropped by September. The Associated Press
It was a special day of giving back for an elementary class from 150 Mile House this week. One by one, each student of the Grade 2 class placed their self-assembled gift bags on a trolley for the housekeeping staff of Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake Monday, March 1. Each of the 20 bags were filled with a ceramic egg cooker, key chain, bracelet, lotion and balms along with treats such as a canned drink and mints. A handmade thank you card by students was also included. Teacher Kirsty Bowers said their act of kindness followed an in-class lesson last month in which students discussed who they believed are essential community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Obviously, the hospital came up,” Bowers said. “So we talked about the nurses, doctors and housekeeping at the hospital and the students decided that they wanted to give back to the housekeeping staff.” A fundraising goal of $400 was set for the class to purchase ceramic egg cookers, which can be used to make on-the-go, individual-sized meals. One student had even donated his birthday money to the cause with others raising funds through bottle returns. The treats in each bag were donated by students with the keychains made by Bowers. Small business owners including Alaina Lipsett, Cher Sytsma, Kim Wogberg and Cindy Witte helped add their touch by donating hundreds of dollars in locally made product. “It’s so nice that the kids thought of the housekeepers,” said housekeeping staff member Pam White, who was outside to receive her gift. “This has been a team effort for all CMH staff and we’re proud to do our part.” Bowers hopes the students’ gesture reminds others of kindness during a time that has been difficult and stressful for all. After the delivery, the students enjoyed the rest of their morning at Scout Island before heading back via school bus which was paid for by the 150 Mile Elementary PAC. Care packages were prepared and delivered to CMH nurses earlier this year by 150 Mile elementary parent Kirsten Rebagliati who had hoped others would do the same. “Right before you got here, I was bawling my face off, so I guess that sums it up,” she said. Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune
The Toronto Raptors had largely dodged COVID-19 for the first half of an NBA season reeling from the global pandemic. But the Raptors are feeling the full force of it now, preparing to host the Detroit Pistons with a skeleton roster and coaching staff. Starters Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, plus Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw have all been ruled out of Toronto's rescheduled game Wednesday against visiting Detroit, along with head coach Nick Nurse and most of his coaching staff. Asked what he's learned from the team's first major brush with the virus, GM Bobby Webster said: "That you don't ever want to go through it again. "It’s what you can imagine," Webster said in a Zoom call with media on Tuesday night. "It's the emotional stress of having colleagues that potentially, obviously, can be sick. The enormous amount of stress everyone feels, everyone's walking a bit on eggshells here in the locker room and you can't necessarily be as friendly . . . "The basketball will go on, we'll play the games, but just to maintain everybody’s belonging and familiarity is really important." Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who guided Toronto to a 122-111 win over Houston on Friday, will act as head coach again Wednesday. Webster said players were cleared to do some individual work on the court Tuesday. The big takeaway, he said, was that the team's had "multiple days of no new cases." "It's been a tough couple of days, to get to here and be able to practise, we had to clear a number of hurdles," Webster said. Webster believes the five players out Wednesday will still be unavailable for Thursday's game in Boston. Jalen Harris and recently-signed big man Donta Hall joined the team from its G League affiliate, Raptors 905. Scariolo said he'll likely play De'Andre Bembry and Harris at point guard along with Kyle Lowry. The Italian, who coached Spain to the 2019 World Cup title, said there was a definite mood of concern around the players who are cleared to play. “Before practice we were always wondering how our buddies were doing — at home, and everybody is in touch with almost everybody," he said. "(But) at this point the ones that are left have to focus on the basketball task and leave everything that happened out of our gym, at least for that hour, hour and a half, and (Wednesday) in those three hours. "Even work harder to try to do our best for the guys who will not be able to be with us.” The game was originally slated for Tuesday at Tampa's Amalie Arena -- the Raptors' home this season due to Canada's border restrictions and COVID-19 health protocols in Ontario -- but was postponed due to what the league said was "positive test results and ongoing contact tracing within the Raptors organization." Sunday's game against the Chicago Bulls was also postponed. The Pistons plane was delayed more than two hours leaving Detroit as the Raptors awaited the green light from the NBA. Toronto had been one of just four remaining teams in the league that hadn't had a game postponed until Sunday's game against visiting Chicago. The league has now had 31 games scrapped due to too few healthy players. There was a sense of not if but when it would hit the Raptors, particularly making their homes in Florida, a COVID-19 hotspot. Assistants Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie are all still sidelined under health and safety protocols, while Webster said one other assistant who coached Friday is now unavailable. He didn't reveal who, but it would be either Jim Sann, Mark Tyndale, or Jamaal Magloire. Webster said keeping the team's spirits up has been a priority. "It's difficult, you can't really see people, right? So a lot of it is done via Zoom, we held an all-staff Zoom (Tuesday) just to check in on people," he said. "Some of it's really as basic as just seeing everyone's face and having some laughs and doing that. "Nothing super complicated, nothing super psychological, just actually being there for people and having them know whether they're in quarantine or they're not in quarantine that they're still part of the team." The Raptors at least have some time off coming up. Boston is their last game before the NBA all-star break. Toronto tips off the second half of the season March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press
VANCOUVER — British Columbia health officials say their plan to delay the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine to four months is based on scientific evidence and real-world experience, as Ontario and Alberta consider following the province's lead. Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.'s provincial health officer, responded Tuesday to criticism from Canada's chief science adviser. Henry said the decision was made in the context of limited supply and based on strong local and international data. "This makes sense for us, knowing that it is a critical time right now with the limited amount of vaccines that we have in the coming weeks, to be able to provide that protection ... to everybody here," Henry said at a COVID-19 briefing. "That is why we made the decision that we did." Chief science adviser Mona Nemer told the CBC on Monday that B.C.'s plan amounts to a "population-level experiment" and that the data provided so far by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech is based on an interval of three to four weeks between doses. Henry said the manufacturers structured their clinical trials that way to get the vaccines to market as quickly as possible, but research in B.C., Quebec, Israel and the United Kingdom has shown that first doses are highly effective. The B.C. Centre for Disease Control examined the effects of a single dose on long-term care residents and health-care workers and found that it reduced the risk of the virus by up to 90 per cent within two to three weeks, Henry said. "It is a little bit unfortunate that the national science adviser ... obviously was not involved in some of these discussions and decision-making and perhaps did not understand the context that this decision was made in," Henry said. Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiology lead whose work underpinned the province's plan, said Pfizer-BioNTech underestimated the efficacy of its first dose in its submissions to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Skowronski said the company included data from the first two weeks after trial participants received the shot, a time when vaccines typically aren't effective. When she and her colleagues adjusted the data, they found it was 92 per cent effective, similar to the Moderna vaccine. She said B.C.'s plan was based on the basic principles of vaccine science. The protection from a first dose of vaccine does not suddenly disappear, it gradually wanes over time, and scientists are typically more concerned about providing a second dose too soon rather than too late, she said. "I think if the public had a chance to hear and to understand that, they would say, 'OK, this is not messing around. This is really managing risk in a way that maximizes protection to as many Canadians as possible.'" B.C. has administered 283,182 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to date, including more than 86,000 second doses. The province reported 438 new cases of the virus on Tuesday and two more deaths, pushing the death toll in B.C. to 1,365. Henry said she expects a statement soon from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization aligning with the province's decision, while Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said Tuesday she wanted to wait for such a recommendation. Elliott said extending the interval between doses would allow the province to get some level of protection to more people. "This would be a considerable change," she said. "With the variants of concern out there, this could make a significant difference for Ontario in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. So, we are anxiously awaiting NACI's review of this to determine what they have to say in their recommendations." Dr. Shelley Deeks, vice-chair of the national committee, said in an email the group is expected to issue a statement on extending the dose interval on Wednesday, but she did not confirm it would align with B.C.'s plan. Alberta's health minister said a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision on whether to follow B.C.’s lead is coming. "There's fantastic evidence that's coming out," Tyler Shandro said Tuesday. "What the exact period of time (between doses) is going to be is still to be decided. We'll be announcing it soon, but we will be looking at having that length of time between first and second extended." Alberto Martin, a University of Toronto immunology professor, said there is "obviously some concern" about B.C.'s plan because he is not aware of any clinical trial that examined a four-month gap between Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna doses. However, he said difficult times — when the vaccine supply is so limited — require drastic measures. "It's a difficult decision to make. I don't know whether I'd like to be in that position, but I think it's understandable why they're doing this." Daniel Coombs, a University of British Columbia mathematician who has done COVID-19 modelling, said Nemer was right that B.C. was conducting an "experiment," but it seemed to be a necessary one. He added that the province may also be anticipating the approval of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which only requires one shot. Michael Houghton, director of the Li Ka Shing Applied Virology Institute at the University of Alberta, said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine data shows that one shot conveys 76 per cent protection for the next 12 weeks. Houghton said he is more concerned about extending the dose interval to 16 weeks for the other two approved vaccines. "These make vaccinologists nervous since, usually, we use in the real world what was tested in the clinic, but given the vaccine shortage, perhaps desperate times warrant such calculated gambles." — With files from Holly McKenzie-Sutter in Toronto and Sylvia Strojek in Edmonton. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Laura Dhillon Kane, The Canadian Press
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the decision to delay second doses of COVID-19 vaccine by four months is based on scientific evidence combined with real-world data from the province’s immunization campaign that began in late December.
Late last week the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the Good Spirit School Division's application for leave to appeal the Theodore school case to the court, ending 16 years of legal back and forth on whether non-Catholic students can receive provincial funding to attend Catholic schools. The ruling now means that funding non-Catholic students to attend Catholic schools is allowed. “The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the application for leave. So what that means is that the Court of Appeal, the unanimous Court of Appeal decision in Saskatchewan is law of the land in Saskatchewan. Practically speaking it means that nothing is really changing in education as far as Catholic education goes,” Tom Fortosky Executive Director Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) said. “We are grateful, we are relieved we don't have to carry on with this case anymore and we just want to get back to doing what we do best and that's educating children,” he added. The ruling means that the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal decision from April 2017 stands as the ruling in the case. Good Spirit has now exhausted all of their legal options in the case. “I am sure you are as happy and relieved by this decision as I am,” Prince Albert Catholic Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs said in a letter published at the division's website last week. “Even though the Government of Saskatchewan assured us they would do whatever is necessary to protect your choice for your child’s education, this decision definitively confirms what we have said and believed all along: as parents, you know what is best for your children and you should be able to choose Catholic, faith-based education if that is what you want—no matter your reason, faith background or tradition,” The case has a long and winding history in the province. “The facts that gave rise to the case started in 2003, the lawsuit started in 2005 so it has been 16 years and in education terms that's more than one person going through school starting from Kindergarten,” Fortosky said. The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal ruled in March, 2020 that provincial funding for non-Catholic students in Catholic schools was acceptable. This unanimous decision overturned a 2017 trial decision, where Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Layh declared that the funding violates “the state’s duty of religious neutrality,” which contradicts the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He explained that the decision means that Catholic education can continue as it always has by offering a distinctly Catholic education to all those who choose it for their children. The case concerns what is now known as St. Theodore Catholic School in Theodore, located 40 kilometres from Yorkton. In 2003 the public division made the decision to close what was then Theodore School and the local Catholic community petitioned to form a new Catholic Division and eventually purchased the school and opened it under a new name. The then-Yorkdale School Division (now part of Good Spirit) planned to bus students to Springside. The Good Spirit School Division launched a lawsuit in 2005 claiming the school was only created to prevent students from being bused to Springside. The case was taken to the Supreme Court by Public Schools of Saskatchewan in 2020. The Supreme Court’s decision also means the provincial government does not have to follow through on a promise to use the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause to protect the funding. The cost of funding the appeal was supported by many large and small donors and the SCSBA began fundraising when the appeal process began, Fortosky said. “We were very pleased with the support that we got. We were getting small donations from people who supported what we do in Catholic education. We had some donors like the Knights of Columbus who gave significant amounts, there was some large ones, but for the most part we had just a wide ranging support given to us for the appeal piece, so that was very gratifying to see.” “A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are pleased that we can all refocus our energy and resources on our students and families to build upon the exemplary model of education we have in this province,” Stubbs said. In the letter, Stubbs noted that if there was questions of concerns to contact her or any of the trustees on the board of education. Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald
The province believes it’s “nearly impossible” to come up with one-size-fits-all public-health orders for all types of businesses. But the idea of lumped categories for pandemic restrictions is causing frustration for many business owners across Manitoba — not just for their struggling storefronts, but also hundreds of customers and clients who depend on their services for medical or health reasons. It’s a “debilitating” problem that the operators of Winnipeg-based therapy facility FLOAT.Calm are particularly aware of. After watching their business seesaw with forced closures amid COVID-19, co-owners Brad Dauk and Leah Dawn are “disgusted” by discrepancies within current restrictions that are causing oversights for float centres such as theirs. “We spent months being shut down and called a non-essential service despite being a mental health treatment,” said Dauk. “Then, to finally open and be told we can only have one person at a time is just absolute nonsense. It doesn’t make any practical sense, or has any scientific backing.” Under the current orders, “personal services” is a grouped category that includes nail salons, spas, barbershops, tanning facilities, tattoo stores and “therapeutic treatments,” such as reflexology, Reiki and pedorthy or massage services. Every business within the category has been asked to limit the number of customers at 25 per cent of their “usual capacity” for the premises or one person, “whichever is higher.” Per those capacity limitations, FLOAT.Calm isn’t allowed to have more than one client at a time — even though they have five very large, sound-proof rooms with concrete walls in between and separate ventilation for each. In fact, customers don’t even directly interact with a worker while they’re using the float machine within each room. And they wear masks in any common areas, with the operators setting up staggered appointments to make sure there is time for a complete disinfection between each client’s usage of the isolation tank. None of that mattered, however, when provincial orders for new restrictions came into effect on Feb. 12, which allowed FLOAT.Calm to finally open. A lengthy email exchange between public health officials and the owners show the province did not provide any leeway or understanding on this matter. Instead, they threatened enforcement action. “Thanks for taking the time to explain your processes to me. Upon review of your re-opening strategy I can confirm that there is no leeway on the 25 (per cent) capacity of the premises,” reads one email addressed to Dauk and Dawn from Cristina Bueti, a public health inspector. “Various enforcement agencies are attending personal service facilities in Winnipeg to ensure compliance with the public health orders. Failure to comply may result in enforcement action.” In a statement to the Free Press Monday, a provincial spokesperson reiterated: “We must take a slow, measured approach and avoid reopening everything right away so our case numbers don’t increase in the weeks ahead. This includes limitations on things that cause risk – for example, close-contact settings. We continue to encourage people not to leave their homes for non-essential reasons. And, as has been mentioned a number of times in briefings, it is nearly impossible to account for every type of business, situation or activity when writing public health orders; however, the priority of the orders remains to protect Manitobans.” But FLOAT.Calm — which would normally have at least 500 regular customers per month — isn’t the only such facility that’s facing this problem. Owners from three others in the city said much the same. In Brandon, however, Kori Gordon who runs Natural Elements said she hasn’t been asked to limit capacity from any of the regional health inspectors. That’s why her four-room facility is allowing four customers at a time, despite the rules being different for FLOAT.Calm and others in Winnipeg. “It’s safe, socially-distanced and completely OK, from the interpretation I’ve been offered with the orders,” she said. “And frankly, I’ve learned a long time ago to not question these kind of things when they happen with pandemic protocols — there are way too many glaring discrepancies.” For Phyillis Ash-Harmon, it’s been hard not to access the float treatment at FLOAT.Calm for her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “To me it doesn’t matter what the politics of these things are,” she said Monday. “I just would like to get better, and it’s hard to understand a reason for these things when it’s a pandemic and you’re told you can’t access something which is supposed to help your health. That just boggles my mind.” Mike Zueff, another regular client agreed. “I mean this is the kind of thing that’s almost designed to be safe for COVID-19,” he said. “The rooms are alone, they’re specially ventilated and it’s called an isolation tank, for god’s sake.” “I know the government’s busy and I know they’ve got a lot on their hands,” said Lori Cohen, who also uses FLOAT.Calm for her mental health. “I’m sure they’re doing the best that they can, and they’ve got a lot of complaints already to deal with. “But this is an actual health crisis and you’re limiting active health. For that reason, I say: You can do better.” Temur Durrani, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press
MEMBERTOU — Elders in Membertou First Nation began streaming through the doors of the Membertou Entertainment Centre Tuesday morning, physically distanced of course, to receive their first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Senator Dan Christmas was the first to roll up his sleeves for the injection as part of the community's vaccine rollout. He says some people think the vaccine is for themselves but really, it's for others. "If you become infected and then begin to transmit the virus, you hurt not just yourself, but your family and your community, and the elders, so I tell people, get the vaccine." The federal government has identified Indigenous communities among groups that are particularly vulnerable to the virus, and has prioritized those communities as part of the Canadian immunization efforts. According to the most recent data, more than 100,000 doses have been administered in First Nations communities at a rate six times higher than the rest of the country. Madelaine O'Reilly says just over 180 on-reserve community members aged 55 and older will be immunized over two days. She is a registered nurse and the co-ordinator of the Membertou Wellness Home. She says it will be a relief to have the elders vaccinated. "They are our language keepers and our knowledge keepers, so we need to protect them." O'Reilly and the rest of the health-care workers at the wellness home received both doses of the vaccine early in the new year in order to give them to the rest of the community. She says staff were trained to handle and administer the Pfizer vaccine over the last few weeks. The medication is kept frozen and must be thawed for at least 30 minutes before it's used, and can sit for up to seven hours at room temperature. Appointments for the shots were made weeks ago to ensure that there would be enough doses for everyone that wanted one. O'Reilly says that by the end of this month, after the second doses are administered, the majority of elders in Membertou will be immune to the virus. Chief Terry Paul was second in line for the day's appointments and sat enthusiastically for his shot. He says the community has not had any cases of COVID-19 and he wants to keep it that way. "I just want to hand it to the community for following the rules and the guidelines ... I think everyone should take (the vaccine) and we should all work together in defeating this (pandemic)." Paul says he doesn't know yet when the immunizations will be available to the rest of the community, but he says he's hoping everyone that wants a shot will be vaccinated by early summer. Wagmatcook First Nation is also immunizing people aged 55 and older this week and Eskasoni First Nation is taking appointments now for its vaccine clinic starting on March 8. Ardelle Reynolds, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post
CALGARY — A Calgary man has admitted to slitting his girlfriend's throat and, days later, stabbing to death his mother and stepfather. Crown prosecutor Shane Parker said Tuesday that Dustin Duthie, 27, pleaded guilty to the second-degree murders of Taylor Toller and Shawn Boshuk and the first-degree murder of Alan Pennylegion. An agreed statement of facts said Toller, Duthie's girlfriend of five years, was last seen on video footage from outside her condo unit about 4 a.m. on July 26, 2018. Duthie was captured on video leaving the condo alone about an hour later. Police found Toller, 24, five days later with her throat slit and "tucked into her bed as if she was asleep." The agreed statement of facts mentions a torn-up note in which Duthie explains why he killed Toller, but the document does not detail the note's contents. On the same day Toller was found, Duthie stabbed Boshuk, his mother, six times in their home and covered her with a plastic sheet, the statement said. Boshuk had messaged Toller's grandmother a day earlier, concerned about how her son would react to police contacting him about Toller's disappearance. The statement said Pennylegion witnessed Duthie cleaning his mother's blood in the kitchen and Duthie attacked his stepfather, stabbing him eight times. Duthie and his stepfather had a tense relationship at the time and Duthie had threatened violence against Pennylegion over the years, the statement said. One of Duthie's pit bulls was stabbed but survived with surgery. Pennylegion's pet dog, Odie, found with his owner in the main floor bathroom, was also stabbed and died. The statement said Duthie shaved his head, showered, and changed his clothes after killing his mother and stepfather. About 10:50 a.m. on July 31, he called 911 and confessed to the killings. The document said he was "contemplating 'suicide-by-cop.'" A sentencing date has not yet been set. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021 The Canadian Press
The Biden administration sanctioned seven mid-level and senior Russian officials on Tuesday, along with more than a dozen government entities, over a nearly fatal nerve-agent attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his subsequent jailing. The measures, emphasizing the use of the Russian nerve agent as a banned chemical weapon, marked the Biden administration's first sanctions against associates of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian leader was a favourite of former President Donald Trump even during covert Russian hacking and social media campaigns aimed at destabilizing the U.S. The government officials included at least four whom Navalny's supporters had directly asked the West to penalize, saying they were most involved in targeting him and other dissidents and journalists. However, the U.S. list did not include any of Russia's most powerful businesspeople and bankers, oligarchs whom Navalny has long said the West would have to sanction to get the attention of Putin. Tuesday's step “was not meant to be a silver bullet or an end date to what has been a difficult relationship with Russia,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “We expect the relationship to continue to be a challenge. We’re prepared for that.” The Biden administration also announced sanctions under the U.S. Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act for Russian entities, including those the U.S. said worked to research, develop and test chemical weapons. The U.S. intelligence community concluded with high confidence that Russia's Federal Security Service used the Russian nerve agent Novichok on Navalny last August, a senior administration official said. Russia says it had no role in any attack on the dissident. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Tuesday denounced the new U.S. sanctions as part of its “meddling in our internal affairs.” “We aren’t going to tolerate that,” Zakharova said in a statement, adding that “we will respond in kind.” “Attempts to put pressure on Russia with sanctions or other tools have failed in the past and will fail again,” she said. The Biden administration has pledged to confront Putin over alleged attacks on Russian opposition figures and alleged malign actions abroad, including the hacking of U.S. government agencies and U.S. businesses. Trump spoke admiringly of Putin and resisted criticism of Putin's government. That included dismissing U.S. intelligence findings that Russia had backed Trump in its covert campaign to interfere with the 2016 presidential election. The administration co-ordinated the sanctions with the European Union, which added to its own sanctions Tuesday over the attack on Navalny. The U.S. and European Union shared concerns about “Russia’s deepening authoritarianism,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “The U.S. government has exercised its authorities to send a clear signal that Russia’s use of chemical weapons and abuse of human rights have severe consequences,” Blinken said in a statement. The individuals sanctioned by the U.S. included the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the head of prisons, Kremlin and defence figures, and Russia's prosecutor general. The Biden administration had forecast for weeks that it would take action against Russia. Besides the Navalny sanctions, officials have said the administration plans to respond soon to the massive Russian hack of federal government agencies and private corporations that laid bare vulnerabilities in the cyber supply chain and exposed potentially sensitive secrets to elite Kremlin spies. Navalny, 44, was sickened by the Russian nerve agent in an attack that the United States and others linked to Putin’s security services. After months of recuperation in Germany, Navalny flew home to Moscow in January and was arrested on arrival for an alleged parole violation. His detention sparked street protests across Russia. Police arrested thousands of demonstrators. Authorities have transferred the opposition leader to a penal colony to begin serving a sentence, after what rights groups said was a show trial. Long a target in Russian government attempts to shut down dissent, Navalny has repeatedly appealed to the West to start targeting the most powerful business and financial oligarchs of his country, saying only then would Russian leaders take international sanctions seriously. Russia critic Bill Browder, a London-based investor, tweeted that he feared the new U.S. sanctions would be “way too little and not touch Putin’s billionaire cronies.” Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the U.S. move overdue. Working with U.S. allies, “we must use an array of tools, including sanctions, to meaningfully deter, repel, and punish Moscow’s transgressions,” Schiff said in a statement. The U.S. government has previously censured behaviour by Russia that American officials saw as having violated international norms. In 2016, for instance, the Obama administration responded to interference by the Kremlin in the presidential election by expelling dozens of Russian diplomats who officials said were actually spies and by shuttering two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York. Trump's administration also took a handful of actions adverse to Moscow, including the closure of Russian consulates on the West Coast and the suspension of a nuclear arms treaty. ___ Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Aamer Madhani in Chicago, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this report. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Associated Press
VANCOUVER — The British Columbia government says the provincial health officer has to strike a balance between curbing the spread of COVID-19 and religious practice, which may at times affect certain rights under the Canadian charter. Lawyer Gareth Morley told the B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday that Dr. Bonnie Henry is using "non-pharmaceutical interventions" to ensure the population remains healthy until vaccines are prevalent. Morley, who works for the legal services branch of the Attorney General Ministry, said it is agreed that the province is in the middle of a pandemic. "And measures taken to protect public health, to protect lives, to protect people from serious illness, and to protect the ability of the health-care system itself to respond, that those are the sorts of measures that can limit charter rights, including freedom of religion." Henry has a duty under the Constitution to "proportionally and reasonably" limit freedoms by preventing the gathering of people to ensure their health and safety, Morley said. Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson asked who decides whether the limits are proportional or reasonable, adding that he wants to understand how the provincial health officer is making her decisions. "Aren't the churches entitled to know why if you go to the bar and watch a hockey game for an hour or two, you can't sit in a church for an hour or two? It is a point I struggle with." Hinkson said he understands Henry has a difficult job, but she hasn't explained why or how she is making the decisions. "If she chooses not to share her thought process with the court, there's no oversight," he said. Morley said the decisions are made after careful review by health officials and experts. So balancing religious rights and protecting people from an "out-of-control epidemic" is a matter of judgment, he said, adding that Henry met with religious leaders and health officials while making her decisions. Earlier Tuesday, a lawyer for several British Columbia churches told the court the province's COVID-19 restrictions substantially interfere with their right to freedom of religion. Paul Jaffe argued religion is far more than belief, thoughts and opinions — rather, it's the "actual practice" of those things in ways that are an important part of the faith. "There couldn't be, I say, a more substantial interference with religious freedom than to prohibit them from gathering to worship — absolutely integral to their faith," he said. Hinkson said there are no COVID-19 restrictions on people's religious freedoms and it's the safety of those who are gathering that is at issue. Jaffe said church is as much a part of people's lives as school, gyms and shopping. He repeated an earlier argument to the court, saying the orders do not prohibit outdoor assemblies over matters of public interest or controversy. Religion is a matter of public interest, but there is a restriction on gatherings, he said. "In my submission, it's entirely arbitrary," he said. "And for some reason stereotyping of churches in a way which presents them with some kind of risk." Jaffe works with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based legal advocacy group that's also asking the court to dismiss tickets of up to $2,300 each for alleged violations of the orders. His clients — which include the Riverside Calvary Chapel in Langley, Immanuel Covenant Reformed Church in Abbotsford and the Free Reformed Church of Chilliwack — have been careful to adopt safety protocols similar to those approved by Henry in places that remain open. A separate petition was filed Tuesday by representatives of 10 other churches that are part of the Canadian Reformed Churches, which has about 3,000 members. The group wants the court to quash the provincial health officer's restrictions that forbid in-person services. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Vancouver is challenging the restrictions in court as well, filing a petition on Friday arguing the orders are unconstitutional. The petition seeks an exemption to allow religious gatherings including mass, weddings and baptisms. This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021. Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
Another Ontario judge has blamed a lack of resources in the Brampton courts for extraordinary delays that led to gun charges being thrown out. In a recent ruling, Ontario court judge Paul F. Monahan said that a delay of more than 18 months bringing the case to trial violated the accused’s rights. The accused in the case, Tyranne Greenidge, had been charged with several offences arising out of a June 26, 2019 traffic stop, including the criminal charge of possession of a loaded restricted firearm. “This is a serious case,” Monahan wrote in his Jan. 27 ruling. “Guns are a major problem in our society. I have reluctantly concluded that I have no choice but to enter a stay in this case for a violation of the charter.” The judge noted that neither the Crown counsel, defence counsel, the court or the trial coordinator were to blame for the delays. Rather, he said the “die was cast” when it took roughly two months to make a judicial pretrial available and another 14 months to make a trial date available. This happened because there was a lack of resources in the Brampton Ontario court of justice (OCJ), Monahan wrote. “This is an observation that has been made in many other cases. It is not the first time this has happened in the Brampton OCJ, and it is unlikely to be the last.” Monahan noted that the total delay was 18 months and 25 days, which is above the ceiling of 18 months set out in a landmark 2016 Supreme Court ruling. Dubbed the Jordan ruling, it stipulates that once charges are laid, provincial cases must be heard within 18 months and superior court cases within 30 months, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Other judges in Peel have underscored similar concerns including another January ruling in which Superior Court Justice David Harris citing “long-standing and glaring systemic issues,” in Brampton’s bail court before staying a string of serious criminal charges, including 10 gambling and 53 illicit gaming counts, against two men who waited 12 days for a bail hearing. Harris said he reviewed more than two dozen cases and found “pervasive” bail delays had occurred with “alarming frequency” in violation of accused persons’ charter right to a bail hearing in a reasonable amount of time — typically within 24 hours or three days for more complex hearings requiring a special bail hearing. Defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who serves as vice-president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association told the Star it is one of many examples of serious criminal cases being tossed for delay because the Brampton courthouse lacks the resources necessary to prosecute cases in a constitutionally acceptable timeframe. “One solution is for the provincial government to dedicate more resources to the jurisdiction, including additional judges, courtrooms and prosecutors,” Brown said. “Care must be taken by police and prosecutors to examine whether some minor cases could be diverted from the court system earlier in the process so that our justice system has the necessary resources available to address serious criminal prosecutions like this one.” Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star
At the press conference today March 2, 2021 Premier Moe and Dr. Shahab shared that over 80,000 doses of vaccine have been given in Saskatchewan and that 100% of long-term care homes have now been able to vaccinate all the residents who chose to be vaccinated. Fifty-three per cent of those residents have been given both doses of the vaccine. Approximately nine per cent of residents in long-term care facilities did not receive the vaccination due to a change in health status, not being available at the time of the vaccinations, or declined to receive it to name but a few of the various circumstances which led to not receiving the vaccination. As for personal care homes, ninety per cent have been given their first vaccine and forty-three per cent have received both. Premier Moe stated that with the increased numbers of the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna and now the vaccine from AstraZeneca, Saskatchewan should see over 115,000 doses of vaccine arrive in the province this month. Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Shahab, stated that the province is considering following the lead of Quebec and British Columbia and extending the time between the delivery of the first and second doses of the vaccines. Current protocol for the Pfizer vaccine is 28 days but an extension up to 42 days was declared as acceptable back in January. The Moderna vaccine comes with the prescribed booster shot required in 21 days. The AstraZeneca vaccine is the only one of the three which manufacturers say has a strong efficacy for up to four months before a booster is needed. Dr. Shahab stated that his colleagues in the United Kingdom have been administering all vaccines at the same interval as the AstraZeneca and report that they have not seen any reduction in efficacy of the vaccines by doing so. Dr. Shahab will continue to review the available data before a decision is made, but if the province proceeds it will rapidly accelerate the time frame for everyone in the province who wishes to be vaccinated to receive the first dose. “Giving one dose to the vast majority of people by June and then completing the second dose … will help us prevent a potentially devastating variant-fuelled third wave,” Dr. Shahab said. The province is working closely with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and is waiting for their recommendation which he thinks will support the delay of the second dose. “If we are able to do that, we can see most of our population 18 and older potentially getting the first dose by June,” said Shahab. NACI currently is not recommending the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in individuals aged 65 years and older “due to the insufficiency of evidence of efficacy in this age group at this time.” Health Canada evaluated the data available from AstraZeneca’s clinical trials and determined that this vaccine is safe to be administered in people over 65 years of age and older, the agency said in a statement on Monday. With the current state of vaccine deliveries, the Premier and Dr. Shahab felt that most likely all residents in the 65 years and older age group would be receiving either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines since these will be the most prevalent in the province for the upcoming weeks. Also of note in the press conference was the hint that restrictions on household gatherings could be easing as early as next week. Dr. Shahab noted that when it comes to relaxing restrictions there are three key things he considers: the trend of case numbers, testing rates and contact tracing, and the hospitalizations. All three of those areas are trending in the correct direction according to Shahab. Case numbers in the province are trending downwards, testing rates are staying stable (but it would be even better if they were increasing while the test positivity rate dropped) and the hospitalization rates are trending downward. With that the Premier asked everyone to “hang tight for just a few more days.” He said that he has frequent discussions about lifting restrictions with Dr. Shahab, adding, “We should have more to say about household restrictions, possibly by early next week. We’ll be taking a close look at all of the other public health orders that are set to expire on March 19th.” Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Wakaw Recorder
Another temporary modular housing project may soon be built in Richmond. BC Housing has applied for a three-year permit for properties on Smith Street and Bridgeport Road. The intention is to construct a three-storey supportive housing building with 40 studio units. “I’m excited to see another modular housing (project) come in,” said Coun. Carol Day. The city’s director of development Wayne Craig said a memorandum of understanding will be developed between the non-profit operator, the construction company and BC Housing to ensure the security of the space. The existing modular housing project on Elmbridge Way will serve as a model for the new proposed project. “Elmbridge was very successful and it’s continuing to be successful,” said Coun. Bill McNulty. “I think we need to tell people about the successes that we have. This modular housing is working, and this is our second one, and we should continue maybe to do a third one somewhere down the road.” If approved by council, the building’s completion and occupancy is targeted for early next year. The issue will be discussed at a March 15 public hearing. Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel
CAMEROON, Cameroon — The United States demanded Tuesday that the status of tens of thousands of civilians detained in Syria during the country’s 10-year conflict be made public, and that the bodies of those who died be returned to their loved ones. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield made the demand at an informal high-level U.N. General Assembly meeting on human rights in Syria where she denounced the “brutality” and “untold suffering” caused by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and the “appalling atrocities” it has committed. “The Assad regime continues to imprison tens of thousands of innocent Syrians -- women and children, the elderly, doctors and providers, journalists, human rights defenders,” she said. “At least 14,000 Syrians have been reportedly tortured and tens of thousands forcibly disappeared.” Her demand for the status of detainees and return of bodies “with the time, place and cause of death” follows Monday’s release of a new report by the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria which said the Syrian government arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals and committed “war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of detention.” Other parties in the conflict also committed crimes by unlawfully and arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty, it said. Since Syria’s conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests that led to a civil war, rival groups have been blamed for atrocities. They run jails where wide violations are reported against detainees. The Syrian conflict has killed nearly half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including 5 million who are refugees abroad. Large parts of Syria are destroyed and tens of thousands still live in tent settlements. Thomas-Greenfield said “the United States stands with the Syrian people, Syrian civil society, and a wide group of international partners in demanding accountability and supporting a political solution” set out in a Security Council resolution adopted in December 2015 which unanimously endorsed a road map to peace in Syria adopted in Geneva on June 30, 2012. It was approved by representatives of the United Nations, Arab League, European Union, Turkey and all five permanent Security Council members — the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain. The roadmap calls for a Syrian-led political process starting with the establishment of a transitional governing body, followed by the drafting of a new constitution and ending with U.N.-supervised elections. In late January, U.N. special envoy Geir Pedersen expressed disappointment that five rounds of talks failed to lead to the start of drafting a new constitution, hinting that the Syrian government delegation was to blame for the lack of progress. Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said a political resolution must be in line with the 2015 resolution, “but this political solution can only be reached if Russia in particular puts pressure on the regime to agree to a real political solution.” He called vetoes by Russia and China of a U.N. resolution that would have kept more than one border crossing point for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria “inhumane.” And he said “it remains very disappointing that Russia blocked the International Criminal Court” from investigating possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria, stressing that accountability is key to reconciliation. Russian Senior Counselor Stepan Kuzmenkov, whose country is Syria’s most important ally, dismissed the “unverified accusations, lies and conjecture” about the country’s human rights. He said it was “a pity” that speakers didn’t talk about the real problems that Syria and its government have been dealing with -- fighting against “terrorist groups” especially in northwest Idlib and “the illegal occupation of its territory by the United States and the violation of its natural resources.” “Today’s meeting has nothing to do with international co-operation in the promotion and protection of human rights,” Kuzmenkov said. “Accordingly, the discussion imposed on us cannot help stabilize the situation in Syria or international efforts to find a settlement in that country.” Mazen Darwish, president of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, called for a nationwide cease-fire and an urgent meeting under the aegis of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of all countries concerned by the Syrian conflict to draw up a roadmap to implement the 2015 Security Council resolution “in its entirety.“ He told the assembly by video link there must also be an end to the death penalty, a list and inspection of all detention sites and detainees, and the release of all those arbitrarily detained, “first and foremost" women, children, the sick and elderly. “There cannot be lasting peace in Syria without transitional justice,” Darwish stressed. “Äny attempt to achieve a political agreement which guarantees the interest of warlords, disregarding the grievances of victims that simply want justice will ultimately only lead to a new war for revenge,” he warned. Edith M. Lederer, The Associated Press
While many things were shut down due to the pandemic, Tabitha McLoughlin and her team responded to increased demand in their community for fresh food by opening another farmers market. McLoughlin is the executive director of Grow Local Tricities, which manages the Port Moody and Coquitlam farmers markets. In June, the organization started its Port Moody summer market as an emergency response for farmers in their area. “We did it in response to knowing that we had farmer vendors who were losing contracts to restaurants and losing contracts to food suppliers, because those guys were shutting down or being closed down, and they had crops in the ground,” she said. “And it was well enough attended that we’ll continue to do it again this year.” McLoughlin has worked with Grow Local for 15 years and said she wasn’t surprised the new market was so well-received. She has seen a steady interest in farmers markets over the past five to eight years, and COVID-19 has only fast-tracked it. “I think the media really started to push ‘buy local’ ... because, as much as we have preached it for years, the importance of the economic impact that is generated by buying from places within your own community is now being seen on such a massive scale,” she said. McLoughlin said it was interesting seeing farmers markets being used in such a utilitarian manner during the pandemic, after trying on so many different hats to appeal to consumers. “What we saw was people coming specifically to buy at the market ... We have spent years building the farmers markets to be these destinations where you and your kids can do a craft, watch a food demonstration,” she said. “We had to throw all that out the window and be like, 'OK, we need you to come in and shop as fast as you possibly can.'” Jen Candela, communications manager with Vancouver Farmers Markets (VFM) since 2007, said the last decade has seen a lot of growth on their end. The VFM has operated markets since 1995 and now supports 280 small farms and businesses. “I think people are a lot more concerned about where their food comes from than they were 20 years ago,” she said. “Vancouver is also a health-conscious city, so people want the freshest, healthiest food they can find. Unless you grow your own food, farmers markets are the best place to find that.” There is little data on farmers markets in Canada. The last nationwide survey was done in 2009 by Farmers Markets Canada, a now-defunct organization. Even then, total direct sales from farmers markets across Canada was estimated to be $1.03 billion. Although the markets may be expanding and growing, McLoughlin said the sentiment behind them remains the same. “I think (people’s reasons) for putting these things together was always greater than just simply bringing the food into the community,” she said. “Now as it's become more and more common, it's not just like the hippies in the parking lots anymore. It's way more mainstream, to the point where it's almost become trendy.” Cloe Logan / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer Cloe Logan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, National Observer