Ready. Set. Chomp! This hungry kitty wastes no time enjoying a quick snack.
Ready. Set. Chomp! This hungry kitty wastes no time enjoying a quick snack.
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.
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
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is confirming that potato wart fungus has been found in soil from two fields on a farm in Queens County, Prince Edward Island.In an email to CBC News, CFIA said the potato wart was found on October 16, 2020, in soil that was being collected for routine export testing. It said there are approximately 20 hectares, in the two fields combined, on the farm where the fungus was found. The agency has not indicated where exactly the farm is located, other than specifying it was Queens County.Investigation continuesFollowing the detection, CFIA said it took immediate action to secure the farm and prevent potential spread. Potato wart poses no risk to humans or food safety, but it can be a serious disease for the infected potatoes, which become disfigured, making them unmarketable.It also prevents tuber production and can affect export markets.CFIA said potato wart can remain dormant in a field for more than 20 years. It is spread through the movement of infested tubers, soil and farm equipment.CFIA indicated it has sampled material from the fields affected to determine the possible sources of the fungus.Testing of the source fields that supplied the seed potatoes for the positive fields in 2020 has also been completed, and they are negative for potato wart. The agency said the testing of other samples continues, as does the investigation.CFIA said no seed potatoes from the 2020 harvest have been shipped from this farm, and it has prohibited movement of seed potatoes or soil from this farm to other locations.The CFIA has identified the fields where the potatoes produced in previous years were planted, and has conducted soil sampling there as well.Export suspendedIn a notice to producers in November, CFIA reported that "to address concerns raised by the United States, the export of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I. and destined to the United States has been suspended, as of Friday, November 20, 2020." It noted that this suspension does not apply to tablestock potatoes or potatoes for processing.CFIA said there have been no changes in inter-provincial movement of seed potatoes originating from P.E.I.The National Potato Council represents U.S. potato growers and supply chain partners.In response to the CFIA announcement, the council's CEO Kam Quarles released a statement about the situation on P.E.I."The National Potato Council supports CFIA's immediate action to stop all P.E.I. seed shipments into the United States and are working with our state potato organizations to inform U.S. growers who may be intending to source seed from P.E.I. for the upcoming year," the statement said. "We have been advised that no seed from the identified areas has been shipped to the United States in four years. However, we are working closely with USDA to monitor recipients of seed in years-past out of an abundance of caution."We are in communication with APHIS regarding CFIA's ongoing survey work to comprehensively determine the level of threat within Canada and are also urging CFIA to prohibit all domestic seed shipments out of P.E.I. to prevent spread within Canada until they can confirm no other farms have been jeopardized."CFIA said in its statement to CBC News that "the government of Canada will continue to work closely with the P.E.I. potato industry, the government of Prince Edward Island and the United States to resolve this trade disruption as quickly as possible."Other discoveriesIn 2000, potato wart shut down trade between P.E.I. and the United States, when it was first found on the Island. Since then, new protocols have been introduced for monitoring and controlling the spread of potato wart, and there have been no trade issues after subsequent discoveries of the fungus, including in 2012 and 2014.The border closure in 2000 cost P.E.I. potato farmers $22 million in sales.When reached for comment, the P.E.I. Potato Board referred all questions to CFIA.A spokesperson for the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Land said that because there is an ongoing investigation by CFIA, it won't be commenting on this case.According to the department, about 15 per cent of the potatoes grown on P.E.I. are used for seed, and about 80 per cent of that seed is used on Island farms.It said seed exports account for two per cent of P.E.I.'s international potato exports.The U.S. was the single biggest international buyer. In 2019, they bought $3.1 million worth of seed potatoes from P.E.I., out of $4.5 million exported.More from CBC P.E.I.
December in Saskatchewan has rolled in like a lamb. A high-pressure system hovering over Western Canada means the forecast across the province for the week ahead is downright balmy.This upward trend continues into the second week of December, with temperatures expected to almost reach double-digit positive highs. By Monday, areas like Moose Jaw and Swift Current will be seeing daytime highs around 8 C. Not only will there be lots of sunshine with limited cloud, the ever-relenting Saskatchewan wind even take a break."[There is a] large upper ridge of high pressure that has built over Western Canada bringing unseasonably mild air over all of Western Canada including the Yukon and NWT," said Terri Lang, Meteorologist with Environment Canada, Yes, you can get your capri pants back out of storage.Even northern communities like Uranium City and La Ronge will get a taste of this mild Pacific air. Seasonal daytime highs for Uranium City are usually -15 C, but in the coming days it will be closer to -3 C and later into next week there are days expected to be above freezing at 2 C.Protected prairiesSaskatchewan is being temporarily shielded from the cold by a massive flow of pressurized, sinking air, said Dave Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canad."It's clearly an atmospheric gift. You don't expect weather like this." Phillips said.This warm snap started at the end of November and looks to extend well into the second week of December.But there is also a big minus with these mild temps."[There's] the loss of valuable snow pack [moisture in the bank for farmers] plus with temperatures falling below freezing each night, the melted roads are likely to ice up." said Lang.Icy roads are being blamed for a four-vehicle crash which resulted in a death Tuesday night Delisle. Saskatchewan Highway Hotline had issued a "Travel not advised" earlier in the afternoon indicating that Highway 7 was ice covered. So when will winter return?"The ridge looks to collapse around mid next week, returning Saskatchewan to more seasonal values" said Lang.Lang also said this isn't entirely unusual for this time of year. "In southern Saskatchewan, as seen by the record temperatures for around this time, it's more unusual for Yukon & the NWT, where records are going to be set and by a fair margin."Statistics for the meteorological fall (Sept - Nov) show Saskatchewan experienced below average temperatures thanks to the extreme cold during October. Despite the massive dump of snow in mid-November, Saskatchewan also saw below average precipitation values. However you look at it, a little shot of warm air and clear skies is likely a welcome weather anomaly.
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
Renée Englot woke up in the night feeling nauseous, her mouth dry, head pounding. She was the first in her family to fall ill. Englot tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 15. Within three days, her husband, Curtis, and daughter, Sadie, 17, had also been diagnosed. Within nine days of Englot's diagnosis her eldest daughter, Georgia, 20, also contracted the disease. Like thousands of other Albertans who have been diagnosed and sent into confinement, the family's daily lives have been upended. "The reality of three people having and then one doesn't, it was so complicated to try to work through," Englot said in an interview from her home in Edmonton. "And the reality is that we were staggered, so it's a longer isolation period than 14 days. It was more complicated than we expected." 'A huge impact' Englot is urging other Albertans to take the virus seriously. She said her family has experienced mild symptoms but their time in isolation has been a frustrating ordeal. She said her family has struggled with the anxiety of being sick, the logistical challenges of quarantining from one another, and the stigma of contracting the virus. "We're lucky enough that we haven't required medical attention," Englot said Tuesday. "But it is still a huge impact. And 17 days later, it's still making its presence felt." Englot said she worries that other families will struggle with the challenges of isolation, and the ordeal of warning their close contacts that they could be infected. She said with limited contact tracing being done by provincial health officials, the onus is often on individuals to notify their close contacts and navigate isolation protocols. "I understand that we have to take some responsibility and help with it, that the system is very overwhelmed right now," she said. "But having sick people trying to read complicated instructions and reach out and follow people, it's not really a recipe for success." Englot said her diagnosis was frightening. Her results were sent via text message at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 15. "I got no sleep after that," she said. "The worry set in. You know, what will it mean for my family? Will they be OK? Who have I been in contact with? Who else might we have put at risk? And then how do we manage and keep isolated from each other?" The following morning, the rest of the family scheduled tests and started calling their short list of close contacts. The couple and their youngest daughter began quarantining in the master bedroom, their meals left at the door. For Georgia, it was a particularly stressful time. A student at the University of Alberta, she was juggling course work with the demands of three unwell family members unable to leave their rooms. By that weekend, the family switched places. The master bedroom was sanitized and Georgia moved in, in an attempt to protect her from extended interaction with her infected family members. Then, she began to feel unwell. Her third COVID test came back positive. "It was so weird, how am I supposed to stay safe now that my entire family has this?" she said. "I'm very frustrated. It's a bit like we took all of the precautions we could and still caught it, but there's nothing we can do about it." Georgia and her family, still suffering from flu-like symptoms, have a few more weeks of isolation ahead. "Being together is definitely a plus, but I'm still a bit worried, worried that if we leave isolation too early it might pass it on to people," she said. "We're definitely trying to take things slowly." It's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know. - Renee Englot Renée Englot said she still has no idea how they contracted the disease. She had no known close contacts who were sick and she and her family were following health guidelines, taking precautions. She said people who have tested positive need to speak up. She said assumptions that people who have become infected acted irresponsibly are dangerous. "We need to do more about saying, 'I have it,' so that people realize it's not just numbers, it's people. And probably people you know."
HALIFAX — Nova Scotia reported 17 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday and New Brunswick reported six as the stream of cases from ongoing outbreaks continued in both provinces.Health officials in Nova Scotia said 16 of the cases identified were in Halifax, including one at St. Margaret's Bay Elementary school that was reported late Tuesday. The other case was in the province's northern health zone and was related to travel outside of Atlantic Canada.The province's total number of active cases is 127.In New Brunswick, health officials reported six new cases of COVID-19. The Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton and Edmundston regions each had one case, while there were two in the Bathurst region. There are now 119 active cases in the province.During an online news conference Wednesday, Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill said St. Margaret's Bay Elementary was closed for cleaning and would remain closed on Thursday because of a scheduled professional development day.He said a decision on reopening would be made later this week."That is yet to be determined because the investigation hasn't been completed," he said.Churchill also said it was likely that students at two schools in Cole Harbour that were closed after cases were identified last week would return to classes on Monday.The minister, who announced a further $14.3 million in funding to help support schools during the pandemic, was asked his thoughts on the fact there have only been five cases identified to date in the school system.He credited good guidance from the provincial public health department and said Nova Scotians have followed that advice."I think our teachers, principals, support staff, our cleaners, our students should be proud," Churchill told reporters. "It seems at this point that the majority of people are doing their part to make a difference and protect people from the virus."Still, he said talks were ongoing about the possibility of extending the upcoming Christmas break if needed.The money announced for schools on Wednesday is from a federal fund announced in August, and Churchill said it would go toward a range of programs and initiatives to help keep schools safe. He said $3.8 million would be used to boost school water supplies through the purchase of 950 touch-free water-filling stations, while $2.7 million would be used to ensure maintenance and inspections of school ventilation systems."This is above and beyond the (ventilation) assessments that have been done and the regular assessments," he said. "If any issues crop up, this funding will allow us to deploy resources very quickly to deal with any maintenance issues."Another $1.5 million would be used to purchase additional personal protective equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer for students and staff, while $4.1 million would go toward new online math and literacy programs. Money would also go toward school food programs, including $500,000 to meet increased demand for the existing school healthy eating program, and $1 million to support an emergency food fund that can be accessed if at-home learning is needed.The announcement followed one last month that will see $21.5 million in federal relief money used to purchase 32,000 new computers for students and to upgrade servers and Wi-Fi systems in schools.Meanwhile, one new case of COVID-19 was reported by Newfoundland and Labrador on Wednesday, bringing its number of active cases to 30. Health officials said the case was related to travel and involved a man between 20 and 39 years old in the eastern part of the province.In Prince Edward Island, the government announced that those with lower incomes can now get free face masks at all food bank locations across the province. The province said it had collaborated with the P.E.I. Association of Food Banks to distribute three-ply, non-medical reusable masksSince Nov. 20, non-medical masks or face coverings have been mandatory in all public spaces on the Island.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Keith Doucette, The Canadian Press
Leave the snow boots, parkas and glove warmers in the closet, the 2021 Sundance Film Festival is coming down from the mountain and straight to your living room.Organizers on Wednesday said that this year they will premiere over 70 films on a custom online platform during the seven day event. There will also be some socially distanced screening opportunities around the country. The festival, which is normally held in Park City, Utah, has been preparing for various scenarios for months as the pandemic has raged on.Festival director Tabitha Jackson said that this model, “Gives us the opportunity to reach new audiences, safely, where they are.”Over the course of the festival, feature films will premiere throughout the day at a dedicated time followed by a live Q&A. Ticketholders will have a three-hour window to watch. Second screenings will be available for 24 hours two days later. The rollout, organizers said, is designed to “preserve the energy of a Festival.”There will also be limited screenings at venues across the county, including Birmingham, Alabama’s Sidewalk Drive-In, Pasadena, California’s Rose Bowl, Denver's Sie Film Center and Columbus, Ohio’s Gateway Film Center.“At the heart of all this is a belief in the power of coming together, and the desire to preserve what makes a festival unique -- a collaborative spirit, a collective energy, and a celebration of the art, artists, and ideas that leave us changed,” Jackson said.The 2021 Sundance Film Festival runs from January 28 through February 3, and tickets will be available for purchase for the general public beginning Jan. 7. The 2021 slate will be revealed in the coming weeks.Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press
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
A proposed class action suit has been launched against Dell Technologies on behalf of thousands of Canadians whose personal information was compromised in a data breach.According to a claim filed in a Nova Scotia court, the suit's proposed representative plaintiff is seeking compensation for two years of scam calls and emails he received after a 2017 data breach exposed information about him and more than 7,000 other Dell customers.In response to Wednesday's announcement of the suit, filed Oct. 1, Dell issued an emailed statement saying it "places the highest priority on the protection of customer data.""The Office of the Privacy Commissioner's related investigation found that we improved our 'security safeguards along with (our) complaint handling and breach investigation practices.' "According to the suit, which hasn't been certified as a class action, its proposed representative plaintiff suffered through years of inconvenience and anxiety as a consequence of the breach, which occurred at a call centre in India that provided customer support services for Dell.It says Dell tech support collected and stored information about the plaintiff, including service history, warranty information and model numbers as well as personal information, after he sought assistance with his computer.It says he began to get harassing calls from individuals claiming to be Dell employees, starting in January 2018.After taking steps to get Dell to deal with the problem to his satisfaction, the man filed a complaint in February 2018 with the federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner.The OPC reported earlier this year that the man had a well- founded complaint. It also uncovered additional detail about how the breach occurred.In the meantime, according to the statement of claim, the plaintiff "received five to 10 scam calls per day, seven days a week, at all hours (from January 2018 to early 2020)."The calls would wake (him) from sleep, and constantly interrupt his life. (He) was eventually left with no option but to change his work phone number used by countless clients, work contacts and employers."After the phone number changed, the suit claims its main plaintiff began to get numerous emails per day requesting that he call a number to resolve a Dell computer issue."(He) continues to suffer anxiety and distress over the materially increased risk of identity theft, being the target of additional scams, and further cybercrime," the claim says.His lawyers are asking the court to recognize him as a representative for other Canadian customers of Dell that were affected by the 2017 breach,The Wagners law firm in Halifax said in a Wednesday press statement that the suit claims that Dell Canada and its parent company were negligent and didn't sufficiently protect the privacy of its customers.The suit doesn't specify how much money the plaintiffs should get, but asks the court to award damages for breach of privacy and negligence and other compensation.The defendants named in the suit are Dell Technologies Inc., headquartered in Texas, and its Canadian subsidiary in Toronto.The federal privacy commission said in a July 2020 report it investigated two complaints from people with Dell computers and found them well-founded.One of the complainants, who the OPC didn't identify by name, fit the description of the law suit's plaintiff. The other case involved calls received by a complainant and her father, starting in July 2017."At the time of the complaints, Dell used a service provider to deliver support for its customers in a call centre located in India. Two employees of the provider inappropriately disclosed Dell customer data lists in June and November of 2017," the OPC report says.It added that "Dell is unaware what information was disclosed in the June 2017 breach, but both complainants had their personal information breached in November 2017."The report also concluded that certain safeguards "were insufficient given the sensitivity of the personal information at issue. "We also found that Dell failed to adequately investigate the circumstances of the June 2017 breach and failed to adequately respond to customer complaints."However, the privacy office said Dell made numerous changes in response to its recommendations and it considered the matter resolved.This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020David Paddon, The Canadian Press
More small- and medium-sized businesses will be able to apply for a provincial grant under a recently extended program. Applications for the small and medium enterprise (SME) relaunch grant were due last week but a second round of applications will now be available until March 31, according to the Alberta government. “A lot of our small- and medium-sized businesses have taken advantage of (the grant),” said Larry Gibson, Grande Prairie and District Chamber of Commerce chairperson. Gibson said the chamber has heard from approximately a half-dozen businesses that have applied since the program was introduced in June, including a couple near Clairmont. The SME relaunch grant benefits businesses, co-operatives and non-profits that have experienced significant revenue loss during the pandemic. The SME grant is for 15 per cent of the business’ pre-COVID monthly revenue, or a maximum of $5,000, said Justin Brattinga, Jobs, Economy and Innovation department press secretary. “Five thousand dollars doesn’t go far these days, but it is a helpful program when you’re looking at added expenses,” Gibson said. “Most of the (local businesses) are using the grant to offset some of the extra costs, in plexiglass shields, the masks and sanitization.” Gibson said Grande Prairie-area businesses that have shown interest in the grant represent a variety of sectors, including retail, small manufacturing organizations and the restaurant and hospitality industries. To qualify, a business must have fewer than 500 employees and be affected by provincial restrictions, or have revenue losses of 40 per cent, according to the Alberta government. Initially, the SME grant required the business to have revenue losses of 50 per cent, a threshold lowered to 40 per cent retroactively to March, Brattinga said. The lowered threshold will enable thousands of more businesses across the province to benefit, he said. The chamber observed many small- and medium-sized businesses experience losses in the range of 40 and 50 per cent between April and May, Gibson said. The new funding is available to businesses in enhanced-status areas of the province, such as the city and county of Grande Prairie and the municipalities within the county.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
VICTORIA — A long-running study of more than 50 dead killer whales in the Pacific Ocean concludes human activities pose deadly threats to the orcas. Killer whale deaths from Alaska to British Columbia, south to California and west to Hawaii linked to human activities were found in every age class from calves to adults, said the study published Wednesday in the open access journal Plos One. The findings indicate that understanding and being aware of each threat is vital for the management and conservation of orca populations, said Stephen Raverty, a B.C. scientist and the report's lead author. Some of the direct causes of orca deaths were attributed to blunt force trauma from collisions with ships or cuts from the propellers of vessels, while indirect causes were related to ingested fish hooks, various human-caused pollutants and malnutrition, Raverty said in an interview. "In one case in Alaska, a young animal swallowed a hook that perforated the back of the throat and resulted in bacteria entering the body and the animal died of a blood-borne bacteria infection," he said. In another necropsy conducted on an older orca, a triple-barbed fishing hook was found in the animal's colon, but it did not appear to impact its health, Raverty said. Raverty, who's a veterinary pathologist at the B.C. Agriculture Ministry and a marine mammal researcher, said the study also provides a baseline understanding of orca health necessary for future research. "There have been a variety of indirect things that have been demonstrated to impact killer whale health and what we're saying is this is more direct evidence of human activities that impact the overall well-being of these animals," he said. The study involved necropsies on the remains of 53 killer whales found from the North Pacific to Hawaii from 2004 to 2013. It also examined the data from 35 other orca deaths from 2001 to 2017, said Raverty. The study was able to confirm the cause of death in 22 of the 53 orcas, and "death related to human interaction was found in every age class." It said necropsies showed evidence of 15 infectious agents and 28 pathogens with the potential to affect orca health, but "non-infectious health concerns include impacts from accumulated persistent pollutants, human interactions including vessel collisions, interaction with fishing gear, the effects of noise and consequences of reduced prey availability." Raverty said the study's results should support federal government efforts to reduce and slow down shipping traffic and noise pollution to protect threatened orca populations, including the West Coast's southern residents that now number 73 members. The federal government recently expanded orders for B.C. whale-watching vessels, requiring them to stay 400 metres away from orcas on their viewing voyages. "You think of these animals as being very agile and being able to avoid impact with vessels, but that doesn't appear to necessarily be the case," Raverty said. "Whether it's just the vessel's speed or there's increased shipping traffic or these vessels are going into some fairly narrow channels where whales may not be able to avoid or evade these vessels, these might be some of the conditions that are occurring." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020. Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the name of the science journal Plos One.
During Wednesday's coronavirus briefing, Ontario premier Doug Ford announced more than $115 million to support 850 patients with complex care needs transition to home and community care as part of the province's COVID-19 fall preparedness plan. The funding also includes 14.5 million to expand virtual care across the province.
With just over three weeks until Christmas, going out and getting your own live Christmas tree or getting a load of wood to stay toasty over the holidays just got easier. The Alberta government announced Nov. 26 that the $5 fee for a permit to harvest trees for personal use is no longer being collected. The change will save Albertans close to $100,000. It is important to note, however, that getting a permit before harvesting Crown timber is still the law since it helps the province track how many trees are harvested. Fines for harvesting without a permit can range from $50 to several thousand dollars, as well as running the risk of further legal prosecution. Timber harvested under a Personal Use Forest Products Permit is limited to three Christmas trees, five cubic metres (or three level truckloads) of firewood, five cubic metres of roundwood and 20 tree transplants. The permit is good for 30 days. Permits can be obtained online at https://bit.ly/TreePermit, and anyone with questions is encouraged to contact one of Alberta’s forest area offices at www.alberta.ca/forestry-area-office-contacts.aspx. Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze
YEREVAN, Armenia — Thousands of demonstrators rallied in Armenia's capital Wednesday to continue to pressure the ex-Soviet nation's prime minister to resign over a peace deal with neighbouring Azerbaijan that domestic critics see as a betrayal of national interests.The Russia-brokered agreement took effect on Nov. 10 and followed 44 days of fierce fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, during which the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces and wedged deep into the separatist territory.Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has defended the deal as a painful but necessary move that prevented Azerbaijan from overrunning the entire Nagorno-Karabakh region.Some 4,000 protesters marched across downtown Yerevan Wednesday chanting “Nikol, you traitor!” and “Nikol, go away!” Police detained scores of demonstrators at a smaller protest on Tuesday, but didn't interfere with the larger rally.Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That conflict left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself but large chunks of surrounding lands in Armenian hands.The peace agreement Pashinyan signed saw the return to Azerbaijan of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh. It also obliged Armenia to hand over all of the regions it held outside the separatist region. Azerbaijan completed reclaiming those territories on Tuesday when it took over the Lachin region located between the Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.Russia deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to monitor the peace deal and to facilitate the return of refugees. The Russian troops will also ensure safe transit between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia across the Lachin region.Speaking Wednesday during a video call with the leaders of nations that are part of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization, which includes Armenia, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised Pashinyan for his personal courage in making “painful but necessary decisions” to end the fighting.Pashinyan, in his turn, thanked Putin for mediating the peace deal and hailed the Russian peacekeepers as “the guarantors of peace and security in the region."Armenian opposition leaders hold Pashinyan responsible for failing to negotiate an earlier end to the hostilities at terms that could have been more beneficial for Armenia. However, Artur Vanetsyan, the former head of the National Security Service who leads the Homeland opposition party, has emphasized that the opposition wasn’t pushing for the annulment of the peace deal.“The current authorities that have suffered a complete failure must step down immediately and allow other political forces to try to at least improve the situation,” Vanetsyan said. “Pashinyan’s resignation would offer a chance to save our dignity.”The peace agreement has been celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan, where President Ilham Aliyev on Wednesday declared a new national holiday, dubbed Victory Day, to mark the day of the deal's signing.“The Azerbaijani people's will and determination, the country's economic power, the creation of a modern army and the national unity were the key factors behind our victory,” Aliyev said in his decree.Armenia’s Health Ministry said Wednesday that at least 2,718 Armenian servicemen were killed in the 44 days of fighting. Azerbaijan’s government said 94 Azerbaijani civilians were killed and more than 400 were wounded but refused to reveal the nation’s military losses.___Associated Press writers Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow and Aida Sultanova in London contributed to this report.Avet Demourian, The Associated Press
It may sound obvious, but if you're arrested in Saskatchewan the easiest way to not spend time in jail is to not be sent there in the first place.The province's justice and corrections systems have a handful of checkpoints where someone charged with a crime may be released before going to a correctional centre.But once a person is remanded by consent, or after an unsuccessful bail hearing, the options for release dwindle dramatically.The primary tool for getting out at this point is a detention review."Every time a client of mine is remanded, I've been running their detention reviews after 90 days," said Saskatoon defence lawyer Aleida Oberholzer."The Supreme Court basically said it's mandatory that you take a look after 90 days whether or not this person should still be in custody, but especially now with what's going on at Saskatoon Correctional, people really want to want to get out of there and they really do want to run their detention reviews."These reviews take place at Court of Queen's Bench.Oberholzer said there are several points after an arrest but before remand when a person may be released, thus keeping them out of jail at least until their trial: * Immediately after their arrest, police have the discretion to release a person with a promise to appear in court. * Failing that, the person may appear off-hours (weekends or evenings) before a Justice of the Peace and be released. * A person held until their first appearance may be released by a provincial court judge that same morning. * A person not released after that appearance may then have a bail hearing, at which point they could be released.Two other programs also come into play that — if they don't lead to release — at least speed up the process.The Sunday Project and the Rapid Response to Remand (RRR) both aim to reduce the amount of time a person must wait to find out what's happening.For example, on Wednesday there were eight new arrests on the 9 a.m. docket at provincial court in Saskatoon.Three of the accused were referred to the RRR program. One person was released in the morning. Four were remanded.The Sunday Project intends to get people arrested on the weekend into court by Monday afternoon. The RRR applies the same principle to weekdays, said prosecutor Frank Impey."The idea of the (RRR) program is to pick those files where something more meaningful can happen on that very first appearance, therefore sentencing on the same day, show cause hearing on the same day, perhaps consent releases on the same day," he said."If defence, for instance, proposed a plan or presented a plan that meets public safety requirements, then that person can be released at two o'clock, whereas on the surface of the file at nine o'clock in the morning, this was not someone we were prepared to consent the release of."Impey said that the impact of COVID-19 on the correctional centres and the community plays into — but doesn't define — what prosecutors are weighing.Some people who may not have been released on a set of charges a year ago are now avoiding jail until their trial dates."You will see there will be less remands of individuals with property offences, less remands of individuals with offences against the administration of justice," Impey said."But always with a mind toward public safety."
Families across the County of Grande Prairie can benefit from a diaper drive running now until Dec. 10, courtesy of county Regional Enforcement Services. During the campaign the county will collect disposable diapers and cash donations to assist residents in need during the Christmas season. The campaign marks the first diaper drive held by Regional Enforcement Services, but it will hopefully become an annual effort, said peace officer Lindsey Hennigar. “Being a mom of three, I know first-hand diapers are not cheap,” Hennigar said. “It touches every parent’s heart to think how worrisome it would for another parent to wonder, ‘Do I have enough diapers to change my child this day?’” Hennigar said she came up with the idea after considering how food banks have food drives and other organizations collect hygiene necessities and toys. She thought Regional Enforcement Services could fill a gap with a diaper drive, she said. “We’re a family-oriented department and we thought this would be a great way to help residents in need of diapers,” she said. “It’s our way of giving back to the community.” Disposable diapers, related products like wipes and diaper cream and cash donations can be made at numerous locations. These are the Beaverlodge, Wembley, Valhalla, Sexsmith, La Glace and Elmworth libraries, Clairmont’s Wellington Resource Centre, Hythe’s village office and Bezanson’s Knelsen Centre. Monetary donations can also be made online at www.countygp.ab.ca/diaperdrive. The diapers will then be distributed by the Sexsmith and Area Food Bank. While the Sexsmith Food Bank is distributing the donations, Hennigar said families in the west county can also benefit from the program. The drive began last Thursday and she said so far there’s been a lot of interest. During COVID people may not be able to easily access stores to purchase diapers to donate, but Hennigar said Regional Enforcement Services staff will buy some with the cash donations.Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News
The recommended quarantine time for close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case is being reduced by up to a week in the United States, but while some of Canada's health experts say a similar approach could be useful here, others aren't so sure.The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Wednesday it had shortened the recommended length of quarantine after exposure from 14 days to 10 — or seven days with a negative test result.Health Canada was still recommending a 14-day quarantine period as of Wednesday, but Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious disease specialist at McMaster University, says cutting that time in half would be beneficial."It would be super important for the sake of incentivizing people to actually quarantine after exposure," he said. "And there's a lot of different things that could theoretically open up — getting health-care workers back to work, getting kids back to school — a lot of ways where this could ease the burden of potential exposure in society."The CDC had previously said the incubation period for the COVID virus could extend to 14 days, but the organization now says most people become infectious and develop symptoms between four and five days after exposure.Chagla says the 14-day window was likely inspired from SARS data, where the incubation period was longer.While isolation and quarantine are sometimes used interchangeably, Chagla says there's a difference in the terms. Isolation is for those who have tested positive, while quarantine is for people who may or may not actually have the virus, like close contacts of positive cases or those travelling into Canada. Isolation recommendations for positive cases vary, but are typically 10 days after symptom onset. Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, says a change in quarantine guidance reflects our evolving understanding of COVID-19."If you're exposed, it takes a couple days for you to become infectious, so (seven to 10 days) should be enough to tell whether you've got the virus," Tuite said. "But of course, that's assuming your experience is reflective of the typical course of infection."The key to the CDC's new guidance for Tuite is having the option to end quarantine at seven days with a negative test result. She suspects that's in place to stop people who have the virus but no symptoms from ending the quarantine period too early. A positive test at Day 7 would mean that person should continue to isolate, Tuite said, while a negative result would mean they could safely end quarantine, knowing enough time has passed since exposure to confidently assume they won't still get sick.Dr. Don Sheppard, the founder and director of the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4), says the CDC's plan makes sense scientifically, but there would be logistical issues in testing every COVID contact in Canada who wanted to end their quarantine at Day 7."It's impossible to do that," he said. "It's either 14 days of proper isolation, or it's seven days with a negative test, and right now our system cannot offer seven days plus testing to the public at large."Testing capacity does exist in certain situations, Sheppard said, like for health-care workers and other front-line staff that need a quicker quarantine to get back to work. He cautioned, however, that taking a test on Day 7 still means isolating for an extra day or two while awaiting results.Quarantine also needs to be done solo in order to work, Sheppard added, warning that the CDC guidance isn't meant as a loophole for holiday gatherings if your family isolates together for seven days before an event.He used an example of military recruits in the U.S. who were told to quarantine for 14 days before reporting to camp. A handful of positive tests (0.9 per cent) were caught upon arrival, suggesting true quarantine hadn't been followed. Those recruits were sent home while the rest underwent another group quarantine. When tested again two weeks later, the positivity rate had grown to 1.3 per cent."Why? Because there were people incubating and they turned positive. And those people infected others in their groups," Sheppard said. "So if you don't do strict, single-person isolation, you don't actually break the cycle of transmission, you just pass it around in your group."Tuite says that further illustrates the usefulness of a shortened quarantine period. A mother with young children, or someone who shares a small apartment with another person will find it harder to properly quarantine for longer periods, she said, as will someone who can't afford to take a full two weeks off work."It really comes down to having the means to do it," she said. "Can you survive for two weeks if you're not getting income? Can you isolate in a household with multiple people? "We need to have support in place so that people can quarantine, and that doesn't change whether it's for a week or 14 days. But it becomes much more challenging when it's for longer periods." This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press
Editor's note: This story was first published on Oct. 8, 2020 Barrie police has released an artist’s rendition of a sexual assault suspect and created a dedicated tip line. Investigators are looking for any information in connection with sexual assault in Hurst Park on Oct. 1 between 9 and 10 p.m. The tip line is 705-728-5629. Police say a woman was walking her dog in the park located at Hurst Drive near Pert Court when she was attacked by a male stranger. Police are releasing few details, including whether the victim was physically injured. Officers have already done a door-to-door canvas of the immediate neighbourhood looking for information. The suspect is described as: • A white male between the ages of 16 and 26, about 5-feet, 8 inches tall, with a slim build and shaved blond hair. • Wearing an Under Armour top of unknown colour. Anyone with information is asked to call 705-728-5629 or 705-725-7025, ext. 2700, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, by contacting Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477), or leave an anonymous tip online at www.p3tips.com. Rick Vanderlinde, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Barrie Advance